Benedict XVI visit to Ancona (Eucharistic Congress, September 2011)

 

On the Virgin's "Fiat"
The Risen Christ Is the "Source of Hope and Comfort for Daily Life"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus. The Holy Father had just finished celebrating Mass during his visit to conclude the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress in Ancona.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before ending this solemn Eucharistic celebration, the Angelus prayer invites us to mirror ourselves in Mary Most Holy to contemplate the abyss of love from which the Sacrament of the Eucharist comes. Thanks to the Virgin's "fiat," the Word became flesh and came to dwell among us. Meditating on the mystery of the Incarnation, we all turn with our minds and hearts to the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, only a few kilometers from here. The Marche region is illumined by the spiritual presence of Mary in her historic shrine, which makes these hills still more beautiful and enjoyable! To her I entrust at this time the city of Ancona, the diocese, the Marche and the whole of Italy, so that faith in the Eucharistic mystery will always be alive in the Italian people, who in every city and in every country, from the Alps to Sicily, render present the Risen Christ, source of hope and comfort for daily life, especially in difficult moments.

Today our thought goes to Sept. 11 ten years ago. In remembering to the Lord of Life the victims of the attacks carried out that day and their families, I invite the leaders of nations and men of good will to always reject violence as a solution to problems, to resist the temptation to hatred and to act in society, inspired by the principles of solidarity, justice and peace.

Finally, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy I pray that the Lord will recompense all those who worked for the preparation and organization of this National Eucharistic Congress, and to them I express my most heartfelt gratitude!

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Papal Address to Engaged Couples
"Educate Yourselves Henceforth in the Liberty of Fidelity"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 12, 2011- Here is a translation of the address to engaged couples that Benedict XVI gave Sunday during his visit to Ancona. He made a one-day trip to the Italian port city for the close of the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

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Dear engaged couples,

I am happy to conclude this intense day, the culmination of the National Eucharistic Congress, by meeting with you, almost as though wishing to entrust the legacy of this event of grace to your young lives. Moreover, the Eucharist, Christ's gift for the salvation of the world, points to and contains the truest dimension of the experience you are living: the love of Christ as the plenitude of human love. I thank the archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, for his cordial greeting, and all of you for your lively participation; thank you also for the words you addressed to me and which I receive trusting in the Lord Jesus' presence in our midst: He alone has words of eternal life, words of life for you and for your future!

The questions you pose, in the present social context, take on an even greater weight. I would like to give you just one guideline as an answer. For these aspects, ours is not an easy time, above all for you young people. The table is full of many delicious things, but, as in the Gospel episode of the Wedding of Cana, it seems that wine is lacking from the celebration. Above all, the difficulty of finding stable work spreads a veil of uncertainty over the future. This condition contributes to [people choosing to] leave definitive commitments for later, and influences the growth of society in a negative way. Society is not able to appreciate fully the wealth of energies, competencies and creativity of your generation.

The wine of celebration is also lacking from a culture that tends to put aside clear moral criteria: In this disorientation, everyone is seen striving to move in an individual and autonomous way, often only within the perimeter of the present. The fragmentation of the communal fabric is reflected in a relativism that hides essential values; a consonance in sensations, states of mind and emotions seems more important than sharing a plan of life. Also fundamental decisions become vulnerable, exposed to a perennial revocability, which often is considered an expression of liberty, though actually, it points rather to a lack of liberty. The apparent exaltation of the body belongs also to a culture deprived of the wine of celebration, [an apparent exaltation] which in reality trivializes sexuality and tends to make it exist outside a context of communion of life and love.

Dear young people, do not be afraid to face these challenges! Never lose hope. Have courage, also in difficulties, remaining firm in the faith. Be sure that, in every circumstance, you are loved and protected by the love of God, which is our strength. Because of this, it is important that an encounter with him, above all in personal and community prayer, be constant, faithful -- precisely as the path for your love: to love God and to feel that he loves me. Nothing can separate us from the love of God!

Be sure, moreover, that the Church is also close to you, supports you, and does not fail to regard you with great confidence. She knows that you are thirsty for values, the true values upon which it is worthwhile to build your home. The value of faith, of the person, of the family, of human relations, of justice. Do not lose courage in face of the needs that seem to extinguish joy at the table of life. At the Wedding of Cana, when wine was lacking, Mary invited the servants to go to Jesus and she gave them a precise indication: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5). Treasure these words, the last of Mary's taken up in the Gospels -- virtually a spiritual testament -- and you will always have the joy of the celebration: Jesus is the wine of the celebration!

As engaged couples you are living a unique stage, which opens to the wonder of encounter and which makes one discover the beauty of existing and of being precious to someone, of being able to say to one another: You are important to me. Live this path with intensity, gradualness and truth. Do not give up on pursuing the lofty ideal of love, which is a reflection and testimony of the love of God!

But, how should this phase of your life be lived? How can you give a witness of love in the community? I would like to suggest to you first of all that you avoid enclosing yourselves in intimate relations, which are falsely tranquilizing; instead, make your relationship become leaven in an active and responsible presence in the community. Moreover, do not forget that to be genuine, love also requires a journey of maturing: beginning from the initial attraction and "feeling well" with the other, educate yourselves to "love well," to "want the good" of the other. Love lives from gratuitousness, self-sacrifice, forgiveness and respect for the other.

Dear friends, all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that has created us, and whose grace sanctifies the decision of a man and a woman to give themselves reciprocally to the life of matrimony. Live this time of engagement in confident waiting for this gift, which must be received by following a path of knowledge, respect, and attentions that you must never neglect. Only under this condition will the language of love become meaningful also with the passing of the years. Hence, educate yourselves henceforth in the liberty of fidelity, which leads to protecting one another, to the point of the one living for the other. Prepare yourselves to choose with conviction the "for ever" that distinguishes love: indissolubility, more than a condition, is a gift that must be desired, requested and lived, beyond any changing human situation. And do not think, along with the widespread mentality, that living together is a guarantee for the future. If you skip the steps of intimacy, which require respect for time and a gradual progression of expressions, you will “get burned” in love; love needs room for Christ, who is capable of making a human love faithful, happy and indissoluble. The fidelity and enduring nature of your love will also make you capable of being open to life, of being parents: The stability of your union in the sacrament of matrimony will enable the children that God wishes to give you to grow confident in the goodness of life. Fidelity, indissolubility and transmission of life are the pillars of every family, a true common good, a precious patrimony for the whole society. Henceforth, found on them your path to matrimony and give witness of this to your contemporaries: This is a precious service! Be grateful to those who with commitment, competence and willingness accompany you in formation: They are the sign of the attention and care that the Christian community reserves for you. You are not alone: Seek and receive in the first place the company of the Church.

I would like to return again to an essential point: the experience of love has within itself a tension toward God. True love promises the infinite! Hence, make of this time of preparation for matrimony an itinerary of faith: Rediscover for your life as a couple the centrality of Jesus Christ and of walking with the Church. Mary teaches us that the good of each one depends on listening with docility to the word of the Son. In those who trust in him, the water of daily life is transformed into the wine of a love that makes life good, beautiful and fruitful. Cana, in fact, is a proclamation and anticipation of the gift of the new wine of the Eucharist, the sacrifice and banquet in which the Lord reaches us, renews us and transforms us. Do not neglect the vital importance of this encounter; may the Sunday liturgical assembly find you active participants: From the Eucharist springs the Christian meaning of existence and a new way of living (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 72-73). Hence, do not be afraid to take on the committed responsibility of the conjugal choice; do not fear to enter into this "great mystery," in which two persons become one flesh (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32).

Very dear young people, I entrust you to the protection of St. Joseph and Mary Most Holy; following the invitation of the Virgin Mother "Do whatever he tells you," you will not lack the pleasure of the real celebration and you will be able to take the best "wine," the one that Christ gives for the Church and for the world.

I would like to tell you that I am also close to you and to those, like you, who live this wonderful journey of love. I bless you with all my heart!

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Papal Address to Priests and Parents
"No Vocation Is a Private Issue"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 12, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address to priests and families that Benedict XVI gave Sunday during his visit to Ancona. He made a one-day trip to the Italian port city for the close of the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

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Dear priests and dear spouses,

The hill on which this cathedral is built has enabled us to have a most beautiful view of the city and the sea; but if one crosses the majestic portico, the soul is fascinated by the harmony of the Romanesque style, enriched by an interweaving of Byzantine influences and Gothic elements. Also in your presence, priests and married couples from various Italian dioceses, [we can] perceive the beauty of the harmony and complementarity of your different vocations. Mutual knowledge and esteem, and sharing the same faith, lead to appreciating the other's charism and to recognizing one another within the one "spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5) that, having Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone, grows well ordered to be a holy temple in the Lord (cf. Ephesians 2:20-21). Thank you, therefore, for this meeting: thank you to the beloved archbishop, Edoardo Menichelli, also for the kind words with which he presented this meeting, and to each one of you.

I would like to pause briefly on the need to lead holy orders and matrimony back to their unique Eucharistic source. Both states of life have -- in the love of Christ, who gives himself for the salvation of humanity -- the same root; they are called to a common mission: to give witness and to make present this love for the good of the community, for the building up of the People of God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1534). This perspective makes it possible above all to surmount a reductive vision of the family, which considers it as a mere recipient of pastoral work. It is true that, in this difficult time, the family needs particular care. Not because of this, however, must its identity be diminished or its specific responsibility be denied. The family is richness for the spouses, most irreplaceable for children, the indispensable foundation of society, and a vital community for the journey of the Church.

At the ecclesial level, to appreciate the family means to recognize its importance in pastoral activity. The ministry born from the sacrament of matrimony is important for the life of the Church: The family is the privileged place for human and Christian education and continues to be, for this end, the best ally of the priestly ministry; it is a precious gift for the building up of the community. The priest's closeness to the family helps him in turn to become aware of his own profound reality and his own mission, fostering the development of a strong ecclesial sensitivity. No vocation is a private issue, and matrimony much less so, because its horizon is the whole Church. Hence, in pastoral work, it is a question of being able to integrate and harmonize the priestly ministry with "the authentic Gospel of matrimony and of the family" (encyclical "Familiaris Consortio," 8), for a real and fraternal communion. And the Eucharist is the center and the source of this unity, which animates all the action of the Church.

Dear priests, by the gift that you received at ordination, you are called to serve the ecclesial community as pastors, this community that is a "family of families," and, hence, you are called to love each one with a paternal heart, with genuine forgetfulness of yourselves, with full, continual and faithful dedication. You are the living sign that points to Christ Jesus, the only Good Shepherd. Conform yourselves to him, to his style of life, with that total and exclusive service of which celibacy is an expression. The priest also has a spousal dimension; it is to be lost in the heart of Christ the Spouse, who gives his life for the Church his Bride (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 24). Cultivate a profound familiarity with the Word of God, Light on your way. May the daily and faithful celebration of the Eucharist be the place to obtain the strength to give of yourselves every day in the ministry and to live constantly in the presence of God: He is your abode and heritage. You must be witnesses of this for the family and for every person that the Lord puts on your path, also in the most difficult circumstances (cf. ibid., 80). Encourage spouses, share their educational responsibilities, help them to continually renew the grace of their marriage. Make the family a protagonist in pastoral work. Be hospitable and merciful, also with those for whom it is most difficult to fulfill the commitments they assumed in the matrimonial bond and with all those who, unfortunately, have failed.

Dear spouses, your matrimony is rooted in the faith that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and that to follow Christ means "to abide in love" (cf. John 15:9-10). Your union -- as the Apostle Paul teaches -- is a sacramental sign of the love of Christ for the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:32), a love that culminates on the cross and which is "signified and made present in the Eucharist" (apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 29). May the Eucharistic Mystery influence ever more profoundly your daily life: You will draw inspiration and strength from this sacrament for your conjugal relationship and for the educational mission to which you are called. Build your families in unity, a gift that comes from on high and which nourishes your commitment in the Church and in promoting a just and fraternal world. Love your priests, express to them your appreciation for the service they carry out. May you be able also to bear with their limitations, without ever ceasing to ask them to be exemplary ministers among you, who speak to you of God and who lead you to him. Your fellowship is for them a valuable spiritual help and support in the trials of life.

Dear priests and dear spouses, may you be able to find always in Holy Mass the strength to live your membership in Christ and his Church, in forgiveness and in the gift of self and in gratitude. May your daily work have its origin and center in sacramental communion, so that all is done for the glory of God. In this way, Christ's sacrifice of love will transform you, until it makes you in him "one body and one Spirit" (cf. Ephesians 4:4-6). Educating new generations in the faith is linked to your coherence too. Give them a witness of the demanding beauty of Christian life, with the trust and patience of the one who knows the power of the seed thrown to the earth. As in the evangelical passage we have heard (Mark 5:21-24.35-43), be for all those entrusted to your responsibility a sign of the benevolence and tenderness of Jesus: He makes visible how the God who loves life is not foreign to or distant from human vicissitudes, but is the friend who never abandons. And in the moments when the temptation is insinuated that all educational commitment is vain, obtain from the Eucharist the light to reinforce faith, certain that the grace and power of Jesus Christ can reach man in every situation, including the most difficult.

Dear friends, I entrust you all to the protection of Mary, venerated in this cathedral with the title "Queen of All Saints." Tradition joins her image to the ex-voto of a sailor, in thanksgiving for the salvation of his son, who came through a storm at sea unharmed. May the maternal gaze of the Mother also accompany your steps in holiness to a port of peace.

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Papal Homily at Close of Eucharistic Congress
"A Eucharistic Spirituality Is a Real Antidote to Individualism"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave during the Mass he celebrated today for the close of the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

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Dearest Brothers and Sisters!

Six years ago, the first apostolic journey in Italy of my pontificate led me to Bari, for the 24th National Eucharistic Congress. Today I came to solemnly conclude the 25th, here in Ancona. I thank the Lord for these intense ecclesial moments, which strengthen our love for the Eucharist and see us united around the Eucharist! Bari and Ancona, two fascinating cities on the Adriatic Sea; two cities rich in history and Christian life; two cities open to the East, to its culture and its spirituality; two cities brought closer by the themes of the Eucharistic Congresses: In Bari we recalled how "we cannot live without Sunday"; today our coming together is under the banner the "Eucharist for daily life."

Before offering you some thoughts, I would like to thank you for your wholehearted participation: In you I spiritually embrace the whole Church in Italy. I address a grateful greeting to the president of the episcopal conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, for the cordial words he addressed to me also on behalf of all of you; to my Legate to this Congress, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re; to the Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Edoardo Menichelli, to the bishops of the metropolis, of the Marche and to the numerous people gathered from all parts of the country. Along with them, I greet the priests, the deacons the consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful, among whom I see many families and many young people. My gratitude goes also to the civil and military authorities and to all those who, in different capacities, have contributed to the success of this event.

"This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (John 6:60). Confronted with Jesus' discourse on the bread of life, in the Synagogue of Capernaum, the reaction of the disciples, many of whom abandoned Jesus, is not very far from our resistance before the total gift that He makes of himself. Because to really accept this gift means to lose oneself, to allow oneself to be drawn in and transformed to the point of living from Him, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in the Second Reading: "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8).

"This is a hard saying!" It is hard because we often confuse liberty with the absence of chains, with the conviction of being able to make do by ourselves, without God, who is seen as a limit to liberty. This is an illusion that is soon turned into delusion, generating unrest and fear and leading, paradoxically, to longing for the chains of the past: "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt," said the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16:3), as we heard. In reality, it is only in openness to God, in the acceptance of his gift, that we become truly free, free from the slavery of sin that disfigures man and the capacity to serve the real good of brethren.

"This is a hard saying!" It is hard because man often falls into the illusion of being able to "transform the stones into bread." After having put God aside, or having tolerated him as a private choice that must not interfere with public life, certain ideologies have aimed at organizing society with the force of power and the economy. History shows us, tragically, how the objective of ensuring development, material well-being and peace to all, doing without God and his revelation, has resulted in giving men stones instead of bread. Bread, dear brothers and sisters, is the "fruit of man's work," and enclosed in this truth is all the responsibility entrusted to our hands and to our ingeniousness; but bread is also, and even first "fruit of the earth," which receives from on High sun and rain: It is a gift to be requested, which takes away all arrogance and makes us invoke with the trust of the humble: "Father (...), give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).

Man is incapable of giving life to himself, he is understood only from God: it is the relationship with Him that gives consistency to our humanity and renders our life good and just. In the Our Father we pray that His name be hallowed, that His will be done. It is first of all the primacy of God that we must recover in our world and in our lives, because it is this primacy that enables us to rediscover the truth of what we are, and it is in knowing and following the will of God that we find our true good -- to give time and space to God, so that He will be the vital center of our existence.

From whence should we start, as the source, to recover and reaffirm the primacy of God? From the Eucharist: Here God makes Himself so close as to become our food, here He becomes the strength on the way that is so often difficult, here he makes himself a friendly presence that transforms. Already the Law given through Moses was considered as "bread of Heaven," thanks to which Israel became the people of God, but in Jesus the last and definitive Word of God becomes flesh, comes to meet us as Person. He, the Eternal Word, is the true manna, he is the bread of life (cf. John 6:32-35) and to carry out the works of God is to believe in Him (cf. John 6:28-29). In the Last Supper, Jesus summarizes his whole existence in a gesture that is inscribed in the great Paschal Blessing of God, a gesture that He lives as Son as thanksgiving to the Father for his immense love. Jesus breaks the bread and shares it, but with a new profundity, because He gives himself. He takes the chalice and shares it, so that all can drink from it, but with this gesture He gives the "new covenant in his blood," he gives himself. Jesus anticipates the act of supreme love, in obedience to the will of the Father: the sacrifice of the Cross. His life will be taken from him on the Cross, but already now He offers it on his own. Thus Christ's death is not reduced to a violent execution, but is transformed by Him into a free act of love, of self-giving; he goes victoriously through death itself and confirms the goodness of creation which came from the hands of God, humiliated by sin and finally redeemed. This immense gift is accessible to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: God gives himself to us, to open our existence to Him, to link it to the mystery of love of the Cross, to render it a participant in the eternal mystery from which we come and to anticipate the new condition of full life in God, in the expectation of which we live.

However, what does this starting from the Eucharist to reaffirm the primacy of God entail for our daily life? Eucharistic communion, dear friends, tears us away from our individualism, it communicates the spirit of Christ dead and risen, it conforms us to Him; it unites us intimately to brethren in that mystery of communion which is the Church, where the one Bread makes of many just one body (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17), carrying out the prayer of the early Christian community reported in the book of the Didache: "as this broken bread was scattered on the hills, and gathered became only one thing, thus your Church from the confines of the earth is gathered in your Kingdom" (IX, 4). The Eucharist sustains and transforms the whole of daily life. As I reminded in my first encyclical, "Eucharistic communion includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn," for which reason "a Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented" ("Deus Caritas Est," 14).

The 2,000-year history of the Church is studded with men and women saints whose life is an eloquent sign of how in fact from communion with the Lord, from the Eucharist a new and intense assumption of responsibility is born at all levels of community life; born hence is a positive social development, which has the person at the center, especially the poor, the sick and the straitened. To be nourished by Christ is the way not to remain foreign and indifferent to the fortunes of our brothers, but to enter into the very logic of love and of gift of the sacrifice of the Cross; he who is able to kneel before the Eucharist, who receives the Lord's body cannot fail to be attentive, in the ordinary course of the days, to situations unworthy of man, and is able to bend down personally to attend to need, is able to break his bread with the hungry, share water with the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (cf. Matthew 25:34-36). He will be able to see in every person the Lord who did not hesitate to give the whole of himself for us and for our salvation. Hence, a Eucharistic spirituality is a real antidote to individualism and egoism that often characterize daily life, and leads to the rediscovery of gratuitousness, the centrality of relationships, beginning with the family, with a particular care for binding the wounds of the broken. A Eucharistic spirituality is the soul of an ecclesial community that overcomes divisions and oppositions and appreciates the diversity of charisms and ministries putting them at the service of the unity of the Church, of her vitality and of her mission. A Eucharistic spirituality is a way to restore dignity to man's days and, hence, to his work, in the quest for reconciliation with the times of celebration and the family and in the commitment to surmount the uncertainty of precariousness and the problem of unemployment. A Eucharistic spirituality will also help us to approach the different forms of human fragility conscious that they do not obfuscate the value of the person, but require closeness, acceptance and help. Drawn from the Bread of life will be the vigor of a renewed educational capacity, attentive to witnessing the fundamental values of life, of learning, of the spiritual and cultural patrimony; its vitality will make us inhabit the city of men with the willingness to spend ourselves on the horizon of the common good for the building of a more equitable and fraternal society.

Dear friends, let us leave the Marche land with the strength of the Eucharist in a constant osmosis between the mystery that we celebrate and our daily situations. There is nothing that is genuinely human that does not find in the Eucharist the right way to live it in fullness: hence, daily life becomes the place of spiritual worship, to live the primacy of God in all circumstances, within a relationship with Christ and as an offering to the Father (cf. Postsynodal Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 17). Yes, "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4): We live from obedience to this word, which is living bread, to the point of entrusting ourselves, like Peter, with the intelligence of love: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).

Like the Virgin Mary, let us also become a "womb" willing to offer Jesus to the people of our time, reawakening the profound desire for that salvation that comes only from Him. Good journey, with Christ the Bread of life, to all the Church that is in Italy!

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