Benedict XVI Visit to Arezzo and Sansepolcro, Italy, May 14, 2012


On Our Lady of Comfort
"Mary Most Holy always wants to comfort her children in moments of great difficulty and suffering"

AREZZO, Italy, MAY 14, 2012 - Here is a translation of the brief address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Regina Caeli on Sunday in Arezzo. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

At the conclusion of this eucharistic celebration, the time of the Marian prayer invites us all to go in spirit before the image of Our Lady of Comfort in the cathedral.

As Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy always wants to comfort her children in moments of great difficulty and suffering. And this city has experienced her maternal succor many times. Thus, today also, we entrust to her intercession all of the persons and families of your community that find themselves in situations of great need.

At the same time, through Mary, we ask moral comfort of God that the community of Arezzo and all of Italy reject the temptation of discouragement and, strong in the great humanistic tradition also, decisively set out again upon the path of spiritual and ethical renewal, which alone can lead to an authentic improvement of social and civil life. Everyone can and must make a contribution to this task.

O Mary, Our Lady of Comfort, pray for us!


Pope's Homily in Arezzo
"God loved us first and wants us to enter his communion of love"

AREZZO, Italy, MAY 14, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday in Arezzo. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

It is my great joy to be able to break the bread of the Word of God and the Eucharist with you. I offer my cordial greeting to all of you and I thank you for the warm welcome! I greet your bishop, Monsignor Riccardo Fontana, whom I thank for the courteous words of welcome, and I greet the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, the representatives of the ecclesial associations and movements. A deferential greeting to the mayor, the advocate Giuseppe Fanfani. I am grateful for his speech and welcome. A deferential greeting to Prime Minister Senator Mario Monti, and to the other civil and military authorities. A special thanks to those who generously worked together for my pastoral visit.

Today I am received by an ancient Church, who is an expert in relations and praiseworthy for her commitment over the centuries to building the city of man in the image of the City of God. In the land of Tuscany the community of Arezzo has in fact many times distinguished itself in the course of history for its sense of freedom and capacity for dialogue with different social constituencies. Coming among you for the first time, my wish is that this city will always know how to make this precious legacy bear fruit.

In past centuries the Church in Arezzo has been enriched and animated by multiple expressions of the Christian faith, among which the highest is that of the saints. I think especially of St. Donatus, your patron, whose life of witness, which fascinated the Christianity of the Middle Ages, is still relevant today. He was an intrepid evangelizer, working for all to be liberated from pagan customs and rediscover in the Word of God the power to affirm the dignity of every person and the true meaning of freedom. Through his preaching, prayer and the Eucharist he reunited the people whose bishop he was. The broken chalice that Donatus put back together, of which St. Gregory the Great speaks (cf. Dialogues I, 7, 3), is the image of the work of peace that the Church carries out in society, for the common good. Thus St. Peter Damian attests to you and with him the great Camadolese tradition that for 1000 years, from Casentino, has offered its spiritual wealth to this diocesan Church and to the universal Church.

In your cathedral is interred Blessed Gregory X, pope, as if to show, through the diversity of times and cultures, the continuity of the service that Church of Christ means to render to the world. He, sustained by the light that shined from the nascent mendicant orders, from theologians and saints – among whom St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio – dealt with the great problems of his time: the reform of the Church; the healing of the schism with the Christian East, which he attempted to do with the Council of Lyon; the attentiveness to the Holy Land; peace and relations between peoples – he was the first one in the West to exchange ambassadors with Kublai Khan in China.

Dear friends! The first reading presented us with an important moment in which the universality of the Christian message and the Church is manifested: St. Peter, in the house of Cornelius, baptized the first pagans. In the Old Testament God wanted the blessing of the Jewish people not to be exclusive but to extend to all nations. From the very calling of Abraham he said: “In you all the families of the earth will be called blessed” (Genesis 12:3). And thus Peter, inspired from above, understood that “God does not respect distinction of persons, but welcomes those who fear him and practice justice, regardless of the nation to which they belong” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s gesture becomes the image of the Church open to all of humanity. Following the great tradition of your Church and of your communities, be authentic witnesses of God’s love for all people!

But how can we, with our weakness, be bearers of this love? St. John in the second reading, forcefully tells us that the liberation from sin is not the result of our effort but comes from God. We were not the ones who loved him, but it is he who loved us and took upon himself our sin and washed it away with the blood of Christ. God loved us first and wants us to enter his communion of love, to cooperate in his redemptive work.

The Lord’s invitation resounded in the reading from the Gospel: “I appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (John 15:16). It is a word addressed to the apostles in a specific way, but in a general way regards all of Jesus’ disciples. The whole Church, all of us are sent into the world to bring the Gospel and salvation. But the initiative is always God’s, who calls many servants that each one might do his part for the common good. Called to the ministerial priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the married life, to a task in the world, all are asked to respond with generosity to the Lord, sustained by his Word that enlightens us: “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).

Dear Friends! I know about your Church’s commitment to promoting Christian life. Be a ferment in society, be Christians who are present, active and consistent. The city of Arezzo, with its multi-millennial history, is a précis of significant expressions of culture and values. Among the treasures of your tradition is the pride in a Christian identity, testified to by many signs and by traditional devotions like the one to Our Lady of Comfort. This land, in which many great figures of the Renaissance were born, from Petrarch to Vasari, played an active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on the history of Europe, drawing strength from Christian values. In recent times too, there belongs to the ideal patrimony of your city what some of its children, in research in universities and institutions, knew how to elaborate about the concept itself of “civitas,” expressing the Christian ideal of the age of the commune in contemporary categories. In the context of the Church in Italy, committed to the theme of education these last 10 years, we must ask ourselves – above all in the region where the Renaissance was born – what vision of man are we are able to propose to the new generations. The Word of God that we have heard is a powerful invitation to live God’s love towards all, and, the culture of these lands has, among its distinctive values, solidarity, attention to the weakest, respect for the dignity of each person. The welcome, that even in recent times you knew how to offer to those who came here in search of freedom and work, is well-known. Being in solidarity with the poor is recognizing the plan of God the Creator, who has made everyone a single family.

Of course, your province has also been severely tried by the economic crisis. The complexity of the problems makes it difficult to identify quick and effective solutions to escape from the present situation which affects the weakest especially, and greatly worries young people. Since the remotest centuries, attention to others has moved the Church to be in concrete solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against a culture of the ephemeral, which has disappointed many and caused a profound spiritual crisis. May this diocesan Church, enriched by the shining witness of the Poverello of Assisi [St. Francis], continue to be attentive and solidary towards those who find themselves in need, but also know how to teach how to overcome purely materialistic mentalities that often mark our age and end up clouding our sense of solidarity and charity

Witnessing to the love of God by caring for the least is tied to the defense of life, from its beginning to its natural end. In your region, ensuring everyone dignity, health and fundamental rights, is rightly felt to be an indispensable good. The defense of the family, through laws that are just and capable of protecting the weakest as well, always constitutes an important point that keeps the fabric of society strong and offers perspectives of hope for the future. Just as in the Middle Ages, the statutes of your city were an instrument that ensured inalienable rights to many, so may they continue that task today of promoting a city with an ever more human face. In this the Church offers her contribution so that the love of God may always be accompanied by love of one’s neighbor.

Dear brothers and sisters! Pursue the service of God and man according to Jesus’ teaching, the luminous example of your saints and the tradition of your people. May you be accompanied and sustained in this by the maternal protection of Our Lady of Comfort, who is so loved and venerated by you. Amen!


Papal Address on Contemplating the Cross
"The contemplation of the Crucified is the work of the mind, but it is unable to soar the heights without the support, without the force of love"

ROME, MAY 14, 2012 .- During Benedict XVI's one-day apostolic visit Sunday, the La Verna stop was cancelled due to inclement weather. Nonetheless, here is a translation of the address that the Holy Father had prepared for the occasion.

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Dear Friars Minor

Dear Sisters of Holy Mother Clare,

Dear brothers and sisters: may the Lord give you peace!

To contemplate the Cross of Christ! We have come as pilgrims to the Sasso Spicco of La Verna where "two years before his death" (Celano, Vita Prima, III, 94: FF, 484) St. Francis had the wounds of the glorious passion of Christ impressed upon his body. His journey as a disciple brought him to a union with the Lord so profound that he shared even the outward signs of His supreme act of love on the Cross. It was a journey that began at San Damiano before the Crucifix, which he contemplated with mind and heart. Continual meditation on the Cross in this holy place has been a way of sanctification for so many Christians, who over the course of eight centuries, have knelt here in prayer, silence and recollection.

The glorious Cross of Christ sums up the world's sufferings, but it is above all a tangible sign of love, the measure of God's goodness to man. In this place, we too are called to rediscover life's supernatural dimension, to lift our eyes from what is contingent, and to return to complete reliance upon the Lord, with a free heart and in perfect joy, by contemplating the Crucified, that He may wound us with His love.

"Almighty, omnipotent, good Lord, Thine be the praise, the glory and the honor, and every benediction" (Canticle of Brother Sun: FF, 263). It is only by allowing himself to be illumined by the light of God's love that man and the entire creation may be redeemed, that beauty may finally reflect the splendor of the face of Christ, as the moon reflects the sun. The Blood of the Crucified flowing from the glorious Cross vivifies the dried bones of Adam who is in us, so that each of us might rediscover the joy of setting off on the path of sanctity, of climbing upwards, towards God. From this blessed place, I unite myself to the prayer of all Franciscans on earth: "We adore you O Christ and we bless You, because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world."

Enraptured by the love of Christ! We cannot ascend La Verna without allowing ourselves to be guided by the prayer of St. Francis, by the absorbeat, which reads: "May the ardent and sweet strength of Your love, I beg you O Lord, so absorb my heart as to withdraw it from all that is under heaven, so that I may die for love of Your love, as you have deigned to die for love of my love" (The Prayer "absorbeat", 1: FF, 277). The contemplation of the Crucified is the work of the mind, but it is unable to soar the heights without the support, without the force of love. In this same place, Brother Bonaventure of Bagnoregio -- the illustrious son of St. Francis -- worked out his Itinerarium mentis in Deum, pointing out to us the way to follow in order to set off for the heights, there to meet God. This great Doctor of the Church communicates to us his own experience by inviting us to prayer. First, the mind should turn to the Passion of the Lord, since it is the sacrifice of the Cross that blots out our sin, a lack that can only be filled by God's love: "I exhort the reader – he writes – to cry out in prayer through Christ Crucified, whose blood cleanses us of the stain of our sins" (Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prol. 4). But to be effective, our prayer needs our tears; that is, our interior involvement, our love, which responds to the love of God. Then what is needed is that admiratio, which St. Bonaventure sees in the humble ones of the Gospel, who are capable of experiencing wonder before Christ's saving work. And humility is the door to every virtue. For it is not through the intellectual pride of a search enclosed upon itself that one attains to God, but rather through humility, according to the famous expression of St. Bonaventure: "May [man] not believe that it suffices to read without unction, to speculate without devotion, to investigate without wonder, to examine without exultation, to work without piety, to know without love, to understand without humility, to study without divine grace, to see without wisdom divinely inspired" (ibidem.).

The contemplation of the Crucified has an extraordinary efficacy, for it causes us to pass from the order of things thought, to that of experience lived; from hoped-for salvation to the sweet and blessed homeland. St. Bonaventure affirms: "He who gazes intently [upon the Crucified] … makes the Passover with Him – that is, the passage (ibid., VII, 2). This is the heart of the experience of La Verna, of the Poverello of Assisi's experience here. On this Sacred Mount, St. Francis lived in his own person the profound unity of sequela, imitatio and conformatio Christi. And so he tells us, too, that it is not enough to call ourselves Christians to be Christians, nor is it enough to seek to perform good works. We need to conform ourselves to Jesus through a slow, steady commitment to the transformation of our being to the image of the Lord, so that through divine grace, every member of His Body, which is the Church, might show forth the necessary likeness with its Head, Christ the Lord. And we begin this journey -- as the medieval masters teach us on the basis of St. Augustine -- with self-knowledge, with the humility of looking within ourselves with honesty.

To bear the love of Christ! How many pilgrims have climbed and continue to climb this Holy Mount in order to contemplate the love of the Crucified God and to allow themselves to be enraptured by Him. How many pilgrims have ascended in the search for God, which is the true reason for the Church existence: to be a bridge between God and man. And here they encounter you as well, sons and daughters of St. Francis. Always remember that the consecrated life has the specific task of bearing witness -- through words and by the example of a life lived in accordance with the evangelical counsels -- to the enchanting love story between God and humanity, which transcends history.

The medieval Franciscan left an indelible mark on this, your Church of Arezzo. The repeated passages of the Poverello of Assisi as well as his sojourn in your region are a precious treasure. La Verna was a unique and foundational event, due to the singularity of the stigmata impressed upon the body of the seraphic Father Francis but also because of the collective history of his friars and of your people, who continue to discover at the Sasso Spicco the centrality of Christ in the life of the believer. Montauto di Anghiari, the Cells of Cortona and the Hermitage of Monecasale as well as that of Cerbaiolo, but also other places of lesser stature for Franciscan life in Tuscany, continue to mark the identity of the communities of Arezzo, Cortona and of Sansepolcro.

So many lights have illuminated these lands, such as St. Margaret of Cortona, a little-known figure devoted to Franciscan penitence, who was able to revive the charism of the Poverello of Assisi within herself with extraordinary vivacity, by uniting the contemplation of the Crucified with charity toward the least and the forgotten. The love of God and neighbor continues to animate the precious work of the Franciscans in your ecclesial Communities. The profession of the evangelical counsels is a royal road to living out the charity of Christ. In this blessed place, I ask the Lord to continue to send laborers into his vineyard and, especially to the young, I address a pressing invitation so that he who is being called by God may respond with generosity and may have the courage to make a gift of himself in the consecrated life and in priestly ministry.

I came as a pilgrim to La Verna, as the Successor of Peter, and I would like for us all to listen once again to Jesus' question to Peter: "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these? … Feed my lambs" (John 21:15). Love for Christ is the basis for the Pastor's life, as well as for he who is consecrated; a love that does not fear commitment and hardship. Bring this love to the men of our times, who are often closed in within their own individualism; be a sign of God's immense mercy. Priestly piety teaches priests to love what they celebrate, to break open their lives for those whom we encounter by sharing in their suffering, by attentiveness to their problems, by accompanying them along the journey of faith.

Thank you to the Minister General José Carballo for his words, to the entire Franciscan family and to you all. May you persevere like your Holy Father [Francis] in the imitation of Christ, so that those whom you meet may encounter St. Francis, and in encountering St. Francis may encounter the Lord.


Pope's Address in Sansepolcro
"I invite young people to think big: have the courage to be daring!"

SANSEPOLCRO, Italy, MAY 15, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday in Sansepolcro. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I am happy to find myself at Sansepolcro and to join in your thanksgiving to God for the millenary of the city’s foundation, for the wonders of grace and for all of the benefits that, in 10 centuries, providence has bestowed. In this historic piazza, we repeat the words of today’s responsorial Psalm: “Sing to the Lord a new song, because he has done marvelous deeds ... All the earth acclaim the Lord, cry out, exult, sing hymns” (Psalm 97).

Dear friends of Sansepolcro, I greet all of you with affection. I am grateful for this welcome. Despite the somewhat inclement weather, our heart is full of light, warmth and joy. I greet everyone, beginning with Archbishop Monsignor Riccardo Fontana; along with him I greet the priests, the consecrated persons and the lay faithful who actively dedicate themselves to the apostolate. A address a deferential greeting to the civil and military authorities, especially the mayor, Dr. Daniela Frullani, whom I thank for the cordial words she spoke to me and for the beautiful gifts. Thank you!

One thousand years ago, the holy pilgrims Arcanus and Aegidius, in the face of the great transformations of the time, set out in search of the truth and of the meaning of life, heading for the Holy Land. Upon their return, they brought with them not only the stones gathered from Mt. Zion, but the special idea that they worked out in the land of Jesus: to build in the Alta Valle del Tevere the “civitas hominis” (city of man) in the image of Jerusalem, which in its very name evokes justice and peace. A project that recalls the great vision of St. Augustine in the work “City of God.” When Alaric’s Goths entered Rome and the pagan world accused the God of the Christians of not having saved Rome “caput mundi” (capital of the world), the holy bishop of Hippo explained what we must expect from God, the just relation between the political sphere and the religious sphere. He sees the presence of two loves in history: “love of self,” to the point of indifference to God and others, and “love of God,” which leads to complete availability for others and to the building up of the city of man guided by justice and peace (cf. “City of God,” XIV, 28).

This vision was certainly not foreign to the founders of Sansepolcro. They conceived the model of a city organized and filled by a hope for the future in which the disciples of Christ were called to be the engine of society in the promotion of peace through the practice of justice. That courageous challenge became reality because of perseverance on a path that – with the support of the Benedictine charism at the beginning and that of the Camaldolese monks subsequently – continued for generations. A firm commitment was necessary to found a monastic community and then, around the abbey church, your city. The position of the cathedral is not the result of a superficial city planning but has a deep symbolic value: it is the point of reference according to which everyone can know where they are going on the street, but even more so they can see where they are going in life; it constitutes a powerful reminder to raise our eyes, to get beyond the everyday, to look heavenward, in a continual movement toward spiritual values and toward communion with God, who does not alienate us from the ordinary but gives it meaning and helps us to live in it more intensely. This perspective is also valid today; it aids us in recovering a taste for seeking the “true,” for seeing life as a path that leads us to the “true” and the “just.”

Dear friends, the ideal of your founders remains in our time and constitutes not only the center of the identity of Sansepolcro and the diocesan Church but also a challenge to conserve and promote the Christian thinking that is the origin of this city. Sansepolcro’s millennial celebration is the occasion to engage in a reflection that is both an interior journey of faith and an obligation to rediscover your Christian roots so that the evangelical values might continue to fecundate your consciousness and your daily lives. Today there is a particular need that the Church’s service to the world be expressed by enlightened lay faithful who are able to work within the city of man with a desire to serve that is not controlled by private or party interests. The common good counts more than the individual good, and compels Christians too to contribute to the birth of a new public ethic. The splendid figure of the newly-beatified Giuseppe Toniolo reminds us of this. In opposition to diffidence toward political and social engagement Christians, especially young people, are called to embrace commitment and love for responsibility, animated by evangelical charity, which demands that we do not be shut up in ourselves but take on the burdens of others. I invite young people to think big: have the courage to be daring! Be ready to give a new flavor to the whole of civil society with the salt of honesty and disinterested altruism. It is necessary to rediscover solid reasons to serve the good of our fellow citizens.

The challenge that lies before this ancient city is that of harmonizing the rediscovery of its own 1,000-year-old identity with the welcoming and incorporation of different cultures and sensibilities. St. Paul teaches us that the Church, but also the whole of society, are like a human body in which every part is different from the others but all work together for the good of the organism (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). We thank God that your diocesan community has developed an ardent missionary openness over the years, which is testified to by the partnership with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. I was happy to learn that it has borne the fruit of collaboration and charitable works on behalf of needy brothers in the Holy Land. Ancient bonds led your forbears to build a replica in stone of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem to fashion the identity of the citizens and to keep alive devotion and prayer for the Holy City. May this connection continue and make it so that everything that affects the Holy Land be seen by you as a reality that touches you as well; just as in Jerusalem your name and the presence of pilgrims from your diocese invigorates the fraternal relationships between your two cities. In this regard I am certain that you will be open to new possibilities of solidarity, inspiring a renewed apostolic zeal in the service of the Gospel. And this will be one of the most significant results of your city’s jubilee celebrations.

One more word about the cathedral, where I contemplated the beauty of the “Holy Face.” This basilica is the place of the whole city’s praise of God, the site of the rediscovered harmony between times of worship and civic life, the point of reference for the refreshment of souls. And as your fathers knew how to make a splendid temple of stone, that it might be a sign and a call to communion of life, it is your responsibility to make the meaning of the sacred place visible and credible, living in peace in ecclesial and civil community. At the height of the Renaissance the people of this city asked the painter Durante Alberti to depict Bethlehem in the mother church that no one would forget that God is with us in the poverty of the manger. Remembering the past and attentive to the present, but also projected toward the future, you Christians of the Diocese of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro know that the spiritual progress of your ecclesial community and the very promotion of the common good of the civil communities requires an ever more vital engagement of the parishes and associations of this area. May the journey that you undertake and the faith that animates you give you courage and zeal to continue. Looking to your rich spiritual patrimony, may you be a Church alive to the service of the Gospel! May you be a hospitable and generous Church that with her witness makes present God’s love for every human being, especially for the suffering and needy.

May the Holy Virgin, who is especially venerated during this month of May, keep watch over each of you and sustain the efforts for a better future. O Mary, Queen of Peace, hear our prayer: make us witnesses of your Son and tireless builders of justice and peace. Thank you!