COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on his arrival at the Cologne-Bonn airport, after being greeted by German President Horst Köhler.
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Distinguished Political and Civil Authorities,
Your Eminences and Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Citizens of the Federal Republic,
My Dear Young People!
With deep joy I find myself for the first time after my election to the Chair of Peter in my beloved homeland, in Germany. With deep emotion I thank God who has enabled me to begin my pastoral visits outside Italy with this visit to the nation of my birth. I have come to Cologne for the 20th World Youth Day, which had already been planned by my predecessor, the unforgettable Pope John Paul II.
I am sincerely grateful to all present for the warm welcome given to me. My respectful greeting goes first to the president of the Federal Republic, Mr. Horst Köhler, whom I thank for the gracious words of welcome which he addressed to me in the name of all the citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany. I also express my gratitude to the representatives of the government, the members of the diplomatic corps and the civil and military authorities. With fraternal affection I greet the pastor of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner. My greeting also goes to the other bishops, the priests, men and women religious, and to all those engaged in various pastoral activities in the German-speaking dioceses. At this moment I also greet with affection all those living in the different Länder of the Federal Republic of Germany.
In these days of intense preparation for the World Youth Day, the dioceses of Germany, and the diocese and city of Cologne in particular, have been enlivened by the presence of very many young people from different parts of the world. I wish to thank all those who have so competently and generously helped to organize this worldwide ecclesial event. I am grateful to the parishes, religious institutes, associations, civil organizations and the many individuals who have offered hospitality and so friendly a welcome to the thousands of pilgrims coming here from different continents. The Church in Germany and the people of the German Federal Republic can be proud of their long tradition of openness to the global community; among other things, this is seen in their many initiatives of solidarity, particularly on behalf of developing countries.
In this spirit of esteem and acceptance toward all those who come from different cultures and traditions, we are about to experience World Youth Day in Cologne. That so many young people have come to meet the Successor of Peter is a sign of the Church's vitality. I am happy to be with them, to confirm their faith and to enliven their hope. At the same time, I am sure that I will also receive something from them, especially from their enthusiasm, their sensitivity and their readiness to face the challenges of the future.
And so I greet the young people themselves, and all those who have welcomed them in these event-filled days. In addition to intense moments of prayer, reflection and celebration with them and with all those taking part in the various scheduled events, I will have an opportunity to meet the bishops, to whom even now I extend a warm greeting. I will also meet the representatives of the other churches and ecclesial communities, make a visit to the synagogue for a meeting with the Jewish community, and also welcome the representatives of some Islamic communities. These meetings are important steps along the journey of dialogue and cooperation in our shared commitment to building a more just and fraternal future, a future which is truly more human.
During this World Youth Day we will reflect together on the theme: "We Have Come To Worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). This is a precious opportunity for thinking more deeply about the meaning of life as a "pilgrimage," guided by a "star," in search of the Lord. Together we shall consider the Magi, who, coming from various distant lands, were among the first to recognize the promised Messiah in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of the Virgin Mary, and to bow down in worship before him (cf. Matthew 2:1-12).
The ecclesial community and the city of Cologne have a special link with these emblematic figures. Like the Magi, all believers -- and young people in particular -- have been called to set out on the journey of life in search of truth, justice and love. The ultimate goal of the journey can only be found through an encounter with Christ, an encounter which cannot take place without faith.
Along this interior journey we can be guided by the many signs with which a long and rich Christian tradition has indelibly marked this land of Germany: from great historical monuments to countless works of art found throughout the country, from documents preserved in libraries to lively popular traditions, from philosophical inquiry to the theological reflection of her many great thinkers, from the spiritual traditions to the mystical experience of a vast array of saints. Here we find a rich cultural and spiritual heritage which even today, in the heart of Europe, testifies to the fruitfulness of the Christian faith and tradition.
The diocese and the region of Cologne, in particular, keep the living memory of great witnesses to Christian civilization. Among others, I think of Saint Boniface, Saint Ursula, Saint Albert the Great, and, in more recent times, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Blessed Adolph Kolping. May these, our illustrious brothers and sisters in the faith, who down the centuries have held high the torch of holiness, be "models" and "patrons" of the World Youth Day which we now celebrate.
To all of you here present I renew my deep gratitude for your gracious welcome, and I pray to the Lord for the future of the Church and of society as a whole in this Federal Republic of Germany, so dear to my heart. May this country's long history and her great social, economic and cultural attainments be an incentive to renewed commitment in the pursuit of authentic progress, solidarity and development, not only for the German nation, but for the other peoples of the Continent as well.
May the Virgin Mary, who presented the Child Jesus to the Magi when they arrived in Bethlehem to worship the Savior, continue to intercede for us, just as for centuries she has kept watch over the German people from her many shrines throughout the German Länder. May the Lord bless everyone here present, together with all the pilgrims and all who live in this land. May God protect the Federal Republic of Germany!
[Translation of the German original issued by the Vatican press office]
Pope's Message to Young People
"Let Yourselves Be Surprised by Christ!"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI addressed from a ship on the Rhine River this afternoon to young people gathered in Cologne.
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Dear Young People,
I am delighted to meet you here in Cologne on the banks of the Rhine! You have come from various parts of Germany, Europe and the rest of the world as pilgrims in the footsteps of the Magi. Following their route, you too want to find Jesus. Like them, you have begun this journey in order to contemplate, both personally and with others, the face of God revealed by the Child in the manger. Like yourselves, I too have set out to join you in kneeling before the consecrated white Host in which the eyes of faith recognize the real presence of the Savior of the world. Together, we will continue to meditate on the theme of this World Youth Day: "We Have Come To Worship Him" (Matthew 2:2).
With great joy I welcome you, dear young people. You have come here from near and far, walking the streets of the world and the pathways of life. My particular greeting goes to those who, like the Magi, have come from the East. You are the representatives of so many of our brothers and sisters who are waiting, without realizing it, for the star to rise in their skies and lead them to Christ, Light of the Nations, in whom they will find the fullest response to their hearts' deepest desires. I also greet with affection those among you who have not been baptized, and those of you who do not yet know Christ or have not yet found a home in his Church. Pope John Paul II had invited you in particular to come to this gathering; I thank you for deciding to come to Cologne.
Some of you might perhaps describe your adolescence in the words with which Edith Stein, who later lived in the Carmel in Cologne, described her own: "I consciously and deliberately lost the habit of praying."
During these days, you can once again have a moving experience of prayer as dialogue with God, the God who we know loves us and whom we in turn wish to love. To all of you I appeal: Open wide your hearts to God! Let yourselves be surprised by Christ! Let him have "the right of free speech" during these days! Open the doors of your freedom to his merciful love! Share your joys and pains with Christ, and let him enlighten your minds with his light and touch your hearts with his grace. In these days blessed with sharing and joy, may you have a liberating experience of the Church as the place where God's merciful love reaches out to all people. In the Church and through the Church you will meet Christ, who is waiting for you.
Today, as I arrive in Cologne to take part with you in the 20th World Youth Day, I naturally recall with deep gratitude the Servant of God so greatly loved by us all, Pope John Paul II, who had the inspired idea of calling young people from all over the world to join in celebrating Christ, the one Redeemer of the human race. Thanks to the profound dialogue which developed over more than 20 years between the Pope and young people, many of them were able to deepen their faith, forge bonds of communion, develop a love for the Good News of salvation in Christ and a desire to proclaim it throughout the world. That great Pope understood the challenges faced by young people today and, as a sign of his trust in them, he did not hesitate to spur them on to be courageous heralds of the Gospel and intrepid builders of the civilization of truth, love and peace.
Today it is my turn to take up this extraordinary spiritual legacy bequeathed to us by Pope John Paul II. He loved you -- you realized that and you returned his love with all your youthful enthusiasm. Now all of us together have to put his teaching into practice. It is this commitment which has brought us here to Cologne, as pilgrims in the footsteps of the Magi.
According to tradition, the names of the Magi in Greek were Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar. Matthew, in his Gospel, tells of the question which burned in the hearts of the Magi: "Where is the infant king of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2). It was in order to search for him that they set out on the long journey to Jerusalem. This was why they withstood hardships and sacrifices, and never yielded to discouragement or the temptation to give up and go home. Now that they were close to their goal, they had no other question than this.
We too have come to Cologne because in our hearts we have the same urgent question that prompted the Magi from the East to set out on their journey, even if it is differently expressed. It is true that today we are no longer looking for a king, but we are concerned for the state of the world and we are asking: "Where do I find standards to live by, what are the criteria that govern responsible cooperation in building the present and the future of our world? On whom can I rely? To whom shall I entrust myself? Where is the One who can offer me the response capable of satisfying my heart's deepest desires?"
The fact that we ask questions like these means that we realize our journey is not over until we meet the One who has the power to establish that universal Kingdom of justice and peace to which all people aspire but which they are unable to build by themselves. Asking such questions also means searching for Someone who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and who therefore can offer a certainty so solid that we can live for it and, if need be, even die for it.
Dear friends, when questions like these appear on the horizon of life, we must be able to make the necessary choices. It is like finding ourselves at a crossroads: which direction do we take? The one prompted by the passions or the one indicated by the star which shines in your conscience? The Magi heard the answer: "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet" (Matthew 2:5), and, enlightened by these words, they chose to press forward to the very end. From Jerusalem they went on to Bethlehem. In other words, they went from the word which showed them where to find the King of the Jews whom they were seeking, all the way to the end, to an encounter with the King who was at the same time the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Those words are also spoken for us. We too have a choice to make. If we think about it, this is precisely our experience when we share in the Eucharist. For in every Mass the liturgy of the Word introduces us to our participation in the mystery of the cross and resurrection of Christ and hence introduces us to the Eucharistic Meal, to union with Christ. Present on the altar is the One whom the Magi saw lying in the manger: Christ, the living Bread who came down from heaven to give life to the world, the true Lamb who gives his own life for the salvation of humanity. Enlightened by the Word, it is in Bethlehem -- the "House of Bread" -- that we can always encounter the inconceivable greatness of a God who humbled himself even to appearing in a manger, to giving himself as food on the altar.
We can imagine the awe which the Magi experienced before the Child in swaddling clothes. Only faith enabled them to recognize in the face of that Child the King whom they were seeking, the God to whom the star had guided them. In him, crossing the abyss between the finite and the infinite, the visible and the invisible, the Eternal entered time, the Mystery became known by entrusting himself to us in the frail body of a small child. "The Magi are filled with awe by what they see; heaven on earth and earth in heaven; man in God and God in man; they see enclosed in a tiny body the One whom the entire world cannot contain" (St. Peter Chrysologus, Serm. 160, No. 2). In these days, during this "Year of the Eucharist," we will turn with the same awe to Christ present in the Tabernacle of mercy, in the Sacrament of the Altar.
Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: It is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! With Mary, say your own "yes" to God, for he wishes to give himself to you. I repeat today what I said at the beginning of my pontificate: "If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation" (Homily at the Mass of Inauguration, April 24). Be completely convinced of this: Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection for the glory of God, the happiness of men and women, and the salvation of the world.
In these days I encourage you to commit yourselves without reserve to serving Christ, whatever the cost. The encounter with Jesus Christ will allow you to experience in your hearts the joy of his living and life-giving presence, and enable you to bear witness to it before others. Let your presence in this city be the first sign and proclamation of the Gospel, thanks to the witness of your actions and your joy. Let us raise our hearts in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the many blessings he has given us and for the gift of faith which we will celebrate together, making it manifest to the world from this land in the heart of Europe, a Europe which owes so much to the Gospel and its witnesses down the centuries.
And now I shall go as a pilgrim to the Cathedral of Cologne, to venerate the relics of the holy Magi who left everything to follow the star which was guiding them to the Savior of the human race. You too, dear young people, have already had, or will have, the opportunity to make the same pilgrimage. These relics are only the poor and frail sign of what those men were and what they experienced so many centuries ago.
The relics direct us toward God himself: it is he who, by the power of his grace, grants to weak human beings the courage to bear witness to him before the world. By inviting us to venerate the mortal remains of the martyrs and saints, the Church does not forget that, in the end, these are indeed just human bones, but they are bones that belonged to individuals touched by the transcendent power of God. The relics of the saints are traces of that invisible but real presence which sheds light upon the shadows of the world and reveals the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst. They cry out with us and for us: "Maranatha!" -- "Come Lord Jesus!" My dear friends, I make these words my farewell, and I invite you to the Saturday evening Vigil. I shall see you then!
Papal Address After Visit to Cologne Cathedral
"We Become Aware of the Legacy of Values Handed Down to Us"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered from the Roncalliplatz after visiting the Cathedral of Cologne today, the first day of his visit to Germany for World Youth Day.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to be with you this evening in Cologne, a city that I love for the many memories which it evokes for me. For a number of years I lived in the neighboring city of Bonn as a professor, and from there I would often come to Cologne where I had many friends. It was, I am convinced, by a special design of Providence that I soon became a friend of the then archbishop, Cardinal Joseph Frings, who gave me his full confidence and called me to be his theologian for the Second Vatican Council, which meant that I was able to play an active part in that historic event.
I also came to know his successor, Cardinal Joseph Höffner, with whom I was associated for many years, first as a fraternal colleague in the German Bishops' Conference and later through working together for various offices of the Roman Curia. Your present archbishop, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, is a good friend of mine, and I thank him for his warm words of welcome and for his hard work over the past months in preparing for World Youth Day.
I also wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the president of the German Bishops' Conference, for all his dedication, and through him I thank the bishops and all those involved in marshalling the different sectors of the Church in this country for today's great ecclesial event.
I am grateful to all those who for many months have been preparing for this important moment, so eagerly awaited: in particular, the Planning Committee in Cologne, but also the dioceses and local communities which have welcomed the young people in recent days. I can well imagine what all of this entails in terms of energy spent and sacrifices accepted, and I pray that it will bear abundant fruit in the spiritual success of this World Youth Day. Finally I cannot fail to express my profound gratitude to the civil and military authorities, the leaders of the city and region, and the police and security forces of Germany and North Rhine-Westphalia. In the person of the mayor I thank the people of Cologne for their understanding in the face of this "invasion" by so many young people from all over the world.
The city of Cologne would not be what it is without the Magi, who have had so great an impact on its history, its culture and its faith. Here, in some sense, the Church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany every day of the year! And so, before addressing you in the presence of this magnificent cathedral, I paused for a moment of prayer before the reliquary of the three Magi and gave thanks to God for their witness of faith, hope and love. The relics of the Magi were brought from Milan in 1164 by the archbishop of Cologne, Reinald von Dassel; after crossing the Alps, they were received in Cologne with great jubilation.
On their pilgrimage across Europe the relics of the Magi left traces behind them which are still evident today, both in place names and in popular devotions. In honor of the Magi the inhabitants of Cologne produced the most exquisite reliquary of the whole Christian world and, as if that were not sufficient, they raised above it an even greater reliquary, this stupendous Gothic cathedral which, after the ravages of war, once more stands before visitors in all the splendor of its beauty. Along with Jerusalem the "Holy City," Rome the "Eternal City" and Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Cologne, thanks to the Magi, has become down the centuries one of the most important places of pilgrimage in the Christian West.
Yet Cologne is not just the city of the Magi. It has been deeply marked by the presence of many saints; these holy men and women, through the witness of their lives and the imprint they left on the history of the German people, have helped Europe to grow from Christian roots. I think above all of the martyrs of the first centuries, like young Saint Ursula and her companions, who, according to tradition, were martyred under Diocletian. How can one fail to remember Saint Boniface, the apostle of Germany, whose election as bishop of Cologne in 745 was confirmed by Pope Zachary? The name of Saint Albert the Great is also linked to this city; his body rests nearby in the crypt of the Church of Saint Andrew.
In Cologne Saint Thomas Aquinas was a disciple of Saint Albert and later a professor. Nor can we forget Blessed Adolph Kolping, who died in Cologne in 1865; from a shoemaker he became a priest and founded many social initiatives, especially in the area of professional training.
Closer to our own times, our thoughts turn to Edith Stein, the eminent 20th-century Jewish philosopher who entered the Carmelite Convent in Cologne taking the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and later died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Pope John Paul II canonized her and declared her a co-patroness of Europe, together with Saint Bridget of Sweden and Saint Catherine of Siena.
In these and all the other saints, both known and unknown, we discover the deepest and truest face of this city and we become aware of the legacy of values handed down to us by the generations of Christians who have gone before us. It is a very rich legacy. We need to be worthy of it. It is a responsibility of which the very stones of the city's ancient buildings remind us. Indeed it is these spiritual values that make possible mutual comprehension between individuals and peoples, between different cultures and civilizations. In this context, I offer a warm greeting to the representatives of the different Christian denominations and those from other religions. I thank all of you for your presence in Cologne at this great gathering, in the hope that it will mark a step forward on the path toward reconciliation and unity.
For Cologne does not speak to us of Europe alone; it opens us to the universality of the Church and of the world. Here, one of the three Magi was seen as a Moorish King, and, as such, the representative of the continent of Africa. Here, according to tradition, Saint Gereon and his companions of the Theban Legion died as martyrs. Irrespective of the strictly historical reliability of these traditions, the centuries-old devotion toward those saints testifies to the universal outlook and openness of the faithful of Cologne and, in a wider sense, of the Church which emerged in Germany through Saint Boniface's apostolic activity.
This openness has been confirmed in recent years by great charitable initiatives such as Misereor, Adveniat, Missio and Renovabis. Themselves originating in Cologne, these societies have brought the love of Christ to all continents.
Now you yourselves are here, dear young people from throughout the world. You represent those distant peoples who came to know Christ through the Magi and who were brought together as the new People of God, the Church, which gathers men and women from every culture. Today it is your task to live and breathe the Church's universality. Let yourselves be inflamed by the fire of the Spirit, so that a new Pentecost will renew your hearts. Through you, may other young people everywhere come to recognize in Christ the true answer to their deepest aspirations, and may they open their hearts to receive the Word of God Incarnate, who died and rose from the dead for the salvation of the world.
Benedict XVI's Homily to Seminarians in Cologne
"If You Abide in Christ, You Will Bear Much Fruit"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Benedict XVI addressed to seminarians, attending World Youth Day, in St. Pantaleon's Church today.
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I greet all of you with great affection and gratitude for your festive welcome and particularly for the fact that you have come to this gathering from so many countries the world over. In a special way my heartfelt thanks go to the seminarian, the priest and the bishop who have given us their own personal witness. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to be with you.
I had asked that the program of these days in Cologne should include a special meeting with young seminarians, so that the vocational dimension which is always a part of World Youth Day would be even more clearly and strongly evident. Naturally, you are taking part in this experience in your own particular way, since you are seminarians, that is to say, young people devoting an intense period of your lives to seeking Christ and spending time with him in preparation for your important mission in the Church.
This is what a seminary is: More than a place, it is a significant time in the life of a follower of Jesus. I can imagine how you yourselves relate to the theme of this Twentieth World Youth Day -- "We Have Come To Worship Him" -- and the entire Gospel account of the Magi from which the theme has been drawn. This passage has a special meaning for you, precisely because you are engaged in discerning and confirming your call to the priesthood. Let us pause and reflect on this theme.
Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the "star" which they saw "in the East" and which they recognized as the star of the "King of the Jews," that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (cf. Matthew 2:2). So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them toward the King of the Jews, toward the kingship of God himself. The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin.
Dear friends, this is the mystery of God's call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely. The seminarian experiences the beauty of that call in a moment of grace which could be defined as "falling in love." His soul is filled with amazement, which makes him ask in prayer: "Lord, why me?" But love knows no "why"; it is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self.
The seminary years are devoted to formation and discernment. Formation, as you well know, has different strands which converge in the unity of the person: It includes human, spiritual and cultural dimensions. Its deepest goal is to bring the student to an intimate knowledge of the God who has revealed his face in Jesus Christ. For this, in-depth study of Sacred Scripture is needed, and also of the faith and life of the Church in which the Scripture dwells as the Word of life. This must all be linked with the questions prompted by our reason and with the broader context of modern life. Such study can at times seem arduous, but it is an indispensable part of our encounter with Christ and our vocation to proclaim him.
All this is aimed at shaping a steady and balanced personality, one capable of receiving validly and fulfilling responsibly the priestly mission. The role of formators is decisive: The quality of the presbyterate in a particular Church depends greatly on that of the seminary, and consequently on the quality of those responsible for formation.
Dear seminarians, for this very reason we pray today with genuine gratitude for your superiors, professors and educators, who are spiritually present at this meeting. Let us ask the Lord to help them carry out as well as possible the important task entrusted to them.
The seminary years are a time of journeying, of exploration, but above all of discovering Christ. It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord’s will and consequently his own vocation. The better you know Jesus the more his mystery attracts you. The more you discover him, the more you are moved to seek him. This is a movement of the spirit which lasts throughout life, and which makes the seminary a time of immense promise, a true "springtime."
When the Magi came to Bethlehem, "going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him" (Matthew 2:11). Here at last was the long-awaited moment -- their encounter with Jesus. "Going into the house": this house in some sense represents the Church. In order to find the Savior, one has to enter the house, which is the Church. During his time in the seminary, a particularly important process of maturation takes place in the consciousness of the young seminarian: he no longer sees the Church "from the outside," but rather, as it were, "from the inside," and he comes to sense that she is his "home," in as much as she is the home of Christ, where "Mary his mother" dwells.
It is Mary who shows him Jesus her Son; she introduces him and in a sense enables him to see and touch Jesus, and to take him into his arms. Mary teaches the seminarian to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of the heart and to make Jesus his very life. Each moment of seminary life can be an opportunity for loving experience of the presence of our Lady, who introduces everyone to an encounter with Christ in the silence of meditation, prayer and fraternity. Mary helps us to meet the Lord above all in the celebration of the Eucharist, when, in the Word and in the consecrated Bread, he becomes our daily spiritual nourishment.
"They fell down and worshipped him ... and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11-12). Here is the culmination of the whole journey: encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary, the Son of God made man. How can we fail to see prefigured in this gesture of the Magi the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles, the faith of Paul and of all the saints, particularly of the many saintly seminarians and priests who have graced the two thousand years of the Church's history?
The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will. Saint Ambrose said: "Christ is everything for us"; and Saint Benedict warned against putting anything before the love of Christ. May Christ be everything for you. Dear seminarians, be the first to offer him what is most precious to you, as Pope John Paul II suggested in his Message for this World Youth Day: the gold of your freedom, the incense of your ardent prayer, the myrrh of your most profound affection (cf. No. 4).
The seminary years are a time of preparing for mission. The Magi "departed for their own country" and most certainly bore witness to their encounter with the King of the Jews. You too, after your long, necessary program of seminary formation, will be sent forth as ministers of Christ; indeed, each of you will return as an "alter Christus." On their homeward journey, the Magi surely had to deal with dangers, weariness, disorientation, doubts. … The star was no longer there to guide them! The light was now within them. Their task was to guard and nourish it in the constant memory of Christ, of his Holy Face, of his ineffable Love.
Dear seminarians! One day, God willing, by the consecration of the Holy Spirit you too will begin your mission. Remember always the words of Jesus: "Abide in my love" (John 15:9). If you abide in Christ, you will bear much fruit. You have not chosen him, he has chosen you (cf. John 15:16). Here is the secret of your vocation and your mission! It is kept in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who watches over each one of you with a mother's love. Have recourse to her, often and with confidence. I assure you of my affection and my daily prayers. And I bless all of you from my heart.
Pope's Address in Synagogue
"We Must Come to Know One Another Much More and Much Better"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered in German today in Cologne's synagogue after being greeted by Rabbi Netanel Teitelbaum.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
"Shalom lechem!" It has been my deep desire, during my first visit to Germany since my election as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, to meet the Jewish community of Cologne and the representatives of Judaism in Germany. By this visit I would like to return in spirit to the meeting that took place in Mainz on Nov. 17, 1980, between my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, then making his first visit to this country, and members of the Central Jewish Committee in Germany and the Rabbinic Conference. Today too I wish to reaffirm that I intend to continue on the path toward improved relations and friendship with the Jewish People, following the decisive lead given by Pope John Paul II (cf. "Address to the Delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations," June 9, 2005: "L'Osservatore Romano," June 10, 2005, p. 5).
The Jewish community in Cologne can truly feel "at home" in this city. Cologne is, in fact, the oldest site of a Jewish community on German soil, dating back to the Colonia of Roman times. The history of relations between the Jewish and Christian communities has been complex and often painful. There were times when the two lived together peacefully, but there was also the expulsion of the Jews from Cologne in the year 1424. And in the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry.
The result has passed into history as the "Shoah." The victims of this unspeakable and previously unimaginable crime amounted to 7,000 named individuals in Cologne alone; the real figure was surely much higher. The holiness of God was no longer recognized, and consequently contempt was shown for the sacredness of human life.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, in which millions of Jews -- men, women and children -- were put to death in the gas chambers and ovens. I make my own the words written by my venerable Predecessor on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and I too say: "I bow my head before all those who experienced this manifestation of the 'mysterium iniquitatis.'"
"The terrible events of that time must "never cease to rouse consciences, to resolve conflicts, to inspire the building of peace" ("Message for the Liberation of Auschwitz," Jan. 15, 2005). Together we must remember God and his wise plan for the world which he created. As we read in the Book of Wisdom, he is the "lover of life" (11:26).
This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council's declaration "Nostra Aetate," which opened up new prospects for Jewish-Christian relations in terms of dialogue and solidarity. This declaration, in the fourth chapter, recalls the common roots and the immensely rich spiritual heritage that Jews and Christians share. Both Jews and Christians recognize in Abraham their father in faith (cf. Galatians 3:7, Romans 4:11ff.) and they look to the teachings of Moses and the prophets. Jewish spirituality, like its Christian counterpart, draws nourishment from the psalms. With Saint Paul, Christians are convinced that "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29, cf. 9:6,11; 11:1ff.). In considering the Jewish roots of Christianity (cf. Romans 11:16-24), my venerable Predecessor, quoting a statement by the German Bishops, affirmed that: "whoever meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism" ("Insegnamenti," vol. III/2, 1980, p. 1272).
The conciliar declaration "Nostra Aetate" therefore "deplores feelings of hatred, persecutions and demonstrations of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at whatever time and by whomsoever" (No. 4). God created us all "in his image" (cf. Genesis 1:27) and thus honored us with a transcendent dignity. Before God, all men and women have the same dignity, whatever their nation, culture or religion. Hence the declaration "Nostra Aetate" also speaks with great esteem of Muslims (cf. No. 3) and of the followers of other religions (cf. No. 2).
On the basis of our shared human dignity the Catholic Church "condemns as foreign to the mind of Christ any kind of discrimination whatsoever between people, or harassment of them, done by reason of race or color, class or religion" (No. 5). The Church is conscious of her duty to transmit this teaching, in her catechesis and in every aspect of her life, to the younger generations which did not witness the terrible events that took place before and during the Second World War. It is a particularly important task, since today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility toward foreigners. How can we fail to see in this a reason for concern and vigilance? The Catholic Church is committed -- I reaffirm this again today -- to tolerance, respect, friendship and peace between all peoples, cultures and religions.
In the 40 years that have passed since the conciliar Declaration "Nostra Aetate," much progress has been made, in Germany and throughout the world, towards better and closer relations between Jews and Christians. Alongside official relationships, due above all to cooperation between specialists in the biblical sciences, many friendships have been born. In this regard, I would mention the various declarations by the German Episcopal Conference and the charitable work done by the "Society for Jewish-Christian Cooperation in Cologne," which since 1945 have enabled the Jewish community to feel once again "at home" here in Cologne and to establish good relations with the Christian communities. Yet much still remains to be done.
We must come to know one another much more and much better. Consequently, I would encourage sincere and trustful dialogue between Jews and Christians, for only in this way will it be possible to arrive at a shared interpretation of disputed historical questions, and, above all, to make progress towards a theological evaluation of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed precisely in those areas, we need to show respect for one another.
Finally, our gaze should not only be directed to the past, but should also look forward to the tasks that await us today and tomorrow. Our rich common heritage and our fraternal and more trusting relations call upon us to join in giving an ever more harmonious witness and to work together on the practical level for the defense and promotion of human rights and the sacredness of human life, for family values, for social justice and for peace in the world. The Decalogue (cf. Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) is for us a shared legacy and commitment. The Ten Commandments are not a burden, but a sign-post showing the path leading to a successful life. This is particularly the case for the young people whom I am meeting in these days and who are so dear to me. My wish is that they may be able to recognize in the Decalogue a lamp for their steps, a light for their path (cf. Psalm 119:105).
Adults have the responsibility of handing down to young people the torch of hope that God has given to Jews and to Christians, so that "never again" will the forces of evil come to power, and that future generations, with God's help, may be able to build a more just and peaceful world, in which all people have equal rights and are equally at home.
I conclude with the words of Psalm 29, which express both a wish and a prayer: "May the Lord give strength to his people, may he bless his people with peace." May he hear our prayer!
Benedict XVI's Address to Christians Meeting in
Among Christians, Fraternity Is Not Just a Vague Sentiment
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 19, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address, delivered in German, to representatives of different Christian confessions with whom he met in the archbishop's palace in Cologne.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our common Lord!
It is a pleasure for me to meet you, the representatives of other Churches and ecclesial Communities, during my visit to Germany. I greet you all most cordially!
As a native of this country, I am quite aware of the painful situation which the rupture of unity in the profession of the faith has entailed for so many individuals and families. This was one of the reasons why, immediately following my election as Bishop of Rome, I declared, as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, my firm commitment to making the recovery of full and visible Christian unity a priority of my Pontificate. In doing so, I wished consciously to follow in the footsteps of two of my great Predecessors: Pope Paul VI, who 40 years ago signed the conciliar decree on ecumenism "Unitatis Redintegratio" and Pope John Paul II, who made that document the inspiration for his activity.
In ecumenical dialogue Germany has a place of particular importance. Not only is it the place where the Reformation began; it is also one of those countries where the ecumenical movement of the 20th century originated. With the successive waves of immigration in the last century, Christians from the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Churches of the East also found a new homeland in this country. This certainly favored greater contact and exchanges. Together we can rejoice in the fact that ecumenical dialogue, with the passage of time, has brought about a renewed sense of fraternity and has created a more open and trusting climate between Christians belonging to the various Churches and ecclesial Communities. My venerable Predecessor, in his encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" (1995) saw this as an especially significant fruit of dialogue (cf. Nos. 41ff; 64).
Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. It is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one baptism which makes us members of the one Body of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Colossians 2:12). Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5) and we emphasize that together we are members of his Body (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," 22; "Ut Unum Sint," 42). On this shared foundation dialogue has borne its fruits. I would like to mention the re-examination of the mutual condemnations, called for by John Paul II during his first visit to Germany in 1980, and above all the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" (1999), which grew out of that re-examination and led to an agreement on basic issues that had been a subject of controversy since the 16th century.
We should also acknowledge with gratitude the results of our common stand on important matters such as the fundamental questions involving the defense of life and the promotion of justice and peace. I am well aware that many Christians in this country, and not only in this country, expect further concrete steps to bring us closer together. I myself have the same expectation. It is the Lord’s command, but also the imperative of the present hour, to carry on dialogue, with conviction, at all levels of the Church's life. This must obviously take place with sincerity and realism, with patience and perseverance, in complete fidelity to the dictates of one's conscience. There can be no dialogue at the expense of truth; the dialogue must advance in charity and in truth.
I do not intend here to outline a program for the immediate themes of dialogue -- this task belongs to theologians working alongside the bishops. I simply wish to make an observation: Ecclesiological issues, and especially the question of the sacred ministry or priesthood, are inseparably linked with that of the relationship between Scripture and Church, that is to say the correct interpretation of the Word of God and its development within the life of the Church.
Another urgent priority in ecumenical dialogue arises from the great ethical questions of our time; in this area, modern research rightly expects a common response on the part of Christians, which, thanks be to God, has often been forthcoming. But not always, alas. Because of contradictory positions in these areas, our witness to the Gospel and the ethical guidance which we owe to the faithful and to society lose their impact and often appear too vague, with the result that we fail in our duty to provide the witness that is needed in our time. Our divisions are contrary to the will of Jesus and they disappoint the expectations of our contemporaries.
What does it mean to restore the unity of all Christians? The Catholic Church has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various documents (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 8, 13; "Unitatis Redintegratio," 2, 4, etc.). This unity subsists, we are convinced, in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," 4). This does not, however, mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline.
Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity: in my homily for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29, I insisted that full unity and full catholicity go together. As a necessary condition for the achievement of this coexistence, the commitment to unity must be constantly purified and renewed; it must constantly grow and mature. To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, it is an exchange of gifts (cf. "Ut Unum Sint," 28), in which the Churches and the ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 8, 15; "Unitatis Redintegratio," 3, 14ff; "Ut Unum Sint, 10-14).
As a result of this commitment, the journey can move forward step by step along the path to full unity, when at last we will all "attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). It is obvious that, in the end, this dialogue can develop only in a context of sincere and committed spirituality. We cannot "bring about" unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism -- prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life -- constitute the heart of the ecumenical movement (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," 8; "Ut Unum Sint," 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel.
I see good reason for optimism in the fact that today a kind of "network" of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity. The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an "invisible cloister" which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church.
I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves to the Lord’s prayer "that all may be one" (John 17:21), then this prayer, made in the name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. John 14:13; 15:7, 16, etc.) With the help that comes from on high, we will also find practical solutions to the different questions which remain open, and in the end our desire for unity will come to fulfillment, whenever and however the Lord wills. I invite all of you to join me in following this path.
[Translation of German original issued by the Vatican press office]
Pope's Address to Muslim Representatives
"Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue … a Vital Necessity"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 20, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during his meeting at World Youth day with representatives of some Muslim communities.
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Dear Muslim Friends!
It gives me great joy to be able to be with you and to offer you my heartfelt greetings. I have come here to meet young people from every part of Europe and the world. Young people are the future of humanity and the hope of the nations. My beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, once said to the young Muslims assembled in the stadium at Casablanca (Morocco): "The young can build a better future if they first put their faith in God and if they pledge themselves to build this new world in accordance with God's plan, with wisdom and trust" ("Insegnamenti," VIII/2, 1985, p. 500). It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.
I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up as one of our concerns the spread of terrorism. Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, sowing death and destruction, and plunging many of our brothers and sisters into grief and despair. Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together.
Terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel decision which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil society. If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancor, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace. The task is difficult but not impossible. The believer knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.
Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values. The dignity of the person and the defense of the rights which that dignity confers must represent the goal of every social endeavor and of every effort to bring it to fruition. This message is conveyed to us unmistakably by the quiet but clear voice of conscience. It is a message which must be heeded and communicated to others: Should it ever cease to find an echo in peoples' hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new barbarism. Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of ideologies.
During my meeting last April with the delegates of Churches and Christian communities and with representatives of the various religious traditions, I affirmed that "the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole" (L'Osservatore Romano, 25 April 2005, p. 4). Past experience teaches us that relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and even wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the name of God, as if fighting and killing the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other's identity. The defense of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization.
In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims. "The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves wholeheartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God. ... Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people" (declaration "Nostra Aetate," No. 3).
You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith. Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. As Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.
Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends. Young people from many parts of the world are here in Cologne as living witnesses of solidarity, brotherhood and love. They are the first fruits of a new dawn for humanity. I pray with all my heart, dear Muslim friends, that the merciful and compassionate God may protect you, bless you and enlighten you always. May the God of peace lift up our hearts, nourish our hope and guide our steps on the paths of the world.
[Translation distributed by Vatican press office]
Benedict XVI's Address at World Youth Day Vigil
"Only From God Does True Revolution Come"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 20, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at this evening's vigil at World Youth Day.
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Dear young friends,
In our pilgrimage with the mysterious Magi from the East, we have arrived at the moment which Saint Matthew describes in his Gospel with these words: "Going into the house (over which the star had halted), they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him" (Matthew 2:11). Outwardly, their journey was now over. They had reached their goal. But at this point a new journey began for them, an inner pilgrimage which changed their whole lives. Their mental picture of the infant King they were expecting to find must have been very different.
They had stopped at Jerusalem specifically in order to ask the King who lived there for news of the promised King who had been born. They knew that the world was in disorder, and for that reason their hearts were troubled. They were sure that God existed and that he was a just and gentle God. And perhaps they also knew of the great prophecies of Israel foretelling a King who would be intimately united with God, a King who would restore order to the world, acting for God and in his name. It was in order to seek this King that they had set off on their journey: Deep within themselves they felt prompted to go in search of the true justice that can only come from God, and they wanted to serve this King, to fall prostrate at his feet and so play their part in the renewal of the world. They were among those "who hunger and thirst for justice" (Matthew 5:6). This hunger and thirst had spurred them on in their pilgrimage -- they had become pilgrims in search of the justice that they expected from God, intending to devote themselves to its service.
Even if those who had stayed at home may have considered them Utopian dreamers, they were actually people with their feet on the ground, and they knew that in order to change the world it is necessary to have power. Hence they were hardly likely to seek the promised child anywhere but in the King's palace. Yet now they were bowing down before the child of poor people, and they soon came to realize that Herod, the King they had consulted, intended to use his power to lay a trap for him, forcing the family to flee into exile. The new King, to whom they now paid homage, was quite unlike what they were expecting. In this way they had to learn that God is not as we usually imagine him to be. This was where their inner journey began. It started at the very moment when they knelt down before this child and recognized him as the promised King. But they still had to assimilate these joyful gestures internally.
They had to change their ideas about power, about God and about man, and in so doing, they also had to change themselves. Now they were able to see that God's power is not like that of the powerful of this world. God's ways are not as we imagine them or as we might wish to them to be. God does not enter into competition with earthly powers in this world. He does not marshal his divisions alongside other divisions. God did not send twelve legions of angels to assist Jesus in the Garden of Olives (cf. Matthew 26:53). He contrasts the noisy and ostentatious power of this world with the defenseless power of love, which succumbs to death on the Cross, and dies ever anew throughout history; yet it is this same love which constitutes the new divine intervention that opposes injustice and ushers in the Kingdom of God. God is different -- this is what they now come to realize. And it means that they themselves must now become different, they must learn God's ways.
They had come to place themselves at the service of this King, to model their own kingship on his. That was the meaning of their act of homage, their adoration. Included in this were their gifts -- gold, frankincense and myrrh -- gifts offered to a King held to be divine. Adoration has a content and it involves giving. Through this act of adoration, these men from the East wished to recognize the child as their King and to place their own power and potential at his disposal, and in this they were certainly on the right path. By serving and following him, they wanted, together with him, to serve the cause of good and the cause of justice in the world.
In this they were right. Now, though, they have to learn that this cannot be achieved simply through issuing commands from a throne on high. Now they have to learn to give themselves -- no lesser gift would be sufficient for this King. Now they have to learn that their lives must be conformed to this divine way of exercising power, to God's own way of being. They must become men of truth, of justice, of goodness, of forgiveness, of mercy. They will no longer ask: How can this serve me? Instead they will have to ask: How can I serve God's presence in the world? They must learn to lose their life and in this way to find it. Having left Jerusalem behind, they must not deviate from the path marked out by the true King, as they follow Jesus.
Dear friends, what does all this mean for us? What we have just been saying about the nature of God being different, and about the way our lives must be shaped accordingly, sounds very fine, but remains rather vague and unfocussed. That is why God has given us examples. The Magi from the East are just the first in a long procession of men and women who have constantly tried to gaze upon God's star in their lives, going in search of the God who has drawn close to us and shows us the way. It is the great multitude of the saints -- both known and unknown -- in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today. In their lives, as if in a great picture-book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed. They are the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history and is still tracing today.
My venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II beatified and canonized a great many people from both the distant and the recent past. Through these individuals he wanted to show us how to be Christian; how to live life as it should be lived -- according to God's way. The saints and the blessed did not doggedly seek their own happiness, but simply wanted to give themselves, because the light of Christ had shone upon them. They show us the way to attain happiness, they show us how to be truly human. Through all the ups and downs of history, they were the true reformers who constantly rescued it from plunging into the valley of darkness; it was they who constantly shed upon it the light that was needed to make sense -- even in the midst of suffering -- of God's words spoken at the end of the work of creation: "It is very good."
One need only think of such figures as Saint Benedict, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Charles Borromeo, the founders of 19th-century religious orders who inspired and guided the social movement, or the saints of our own day -- Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa, Padre Pio. In contemplating these figures we learn what it means "to adore" and what it means to live according to the measure of the child of Bethlehem, by the measure of Jesus Christ and of God himself.
The saints, as we said, are the true reformers. Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world. In the last century we experienced revolutions with a common program -- expecting nothing more from God, they assumed total responsibility for the cause of the world in order to change it. And this, as we saw, meant that a human and partial point of view was always taken as an absolute guiding principle. Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism. It does not liberate man, but takes away his dignity and enslaves him. It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true. True revolution consists in simply turning to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?
Dear friends! Allow me to add just two brief thoughts. There are many who speak of God; some even preach hatred and perpetrate violence in God's name. So it is important to discover the true face of God. The Magi from the East found it, when they knelt down before the child of Bethlehem. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father," said Jesus to Philip (John 14:9). In Jesus Christ, who allowed his heart to be pierced for us, the true face of God is seen. We will follow him together with the great multitude of those who went before us. Then we will be traveling along the right path.
This means that we are not constructing a private God, a private Jesus, but that we believe and worship the Jesus who is manifested to us by the sacred Scriptures and who reveals himself to be alive in the great procession of the faithful called the Church, always alongside us and always before us. There is much that could be criticized in the Church. We know this and the Lord himself told us so: It is a net with good fish and bad fish, a field with wheat and darnel. Pope John Paul II, as well as revealing the true face of the Church in the many saints that he canonized, also asked pardon for the wrong that was done in the course of history through the words and deeds of members of the Church. In this way he showed us our own true image and urged us to take our place, with all our faults and weaknesses, in the procession of the saints that began with the Magi from the East.
It is actually consoling to realize that there is darnel in the Church. In this way, despite all our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of Jesus, who came to call sinners. The Church is like a human family, but at the same time it is also the great family of God, through which he establishes an overarching communion and unity that embraces every continent, culture and nation. So we are glad to belong to this great family; we are glad to have brothers and friends all over the world. Here in Cologne we discover the joy of belonging to a family as vast as the world, including heaven and earth, the past, the present, the future and every part of the earth. In this great band of pilgrims we walk side by side with Christ, we walk with the star that enlightens our history.
"Going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him" (Matthew 2:11). Dear friends, this is not a distant story that took place long ago. It is with us now. Here in the sacred Host he is present before us and in our midst. As at that time, so now he is mysteriously veiled in a sacred silence; as at that time, it is here that the true face of God is revealed. For us he became a grain of wheat that falls on the ground and dies and bears fruit until the end of the world (cf. John 12:24). He is present now as he was then in Bethlehem. He invites us to that inner pilgrimage which is called adoration. Let us set off on this pilgrimage of the spirit and let us ask him to be our guide. Amen.
[Translation distributed by the Vatican press office]
At World Youth Day's Closing Mass
"Bring to All the Joy of Christ That You Have Found Here"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered in various languages at the end of the closing Mass of World Youth Day, before praying the Angelus.
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We have come to the conclusion of this marvelous celebration and indeed of the 20th World Youth Day. In my heart I sense welling up within me a single thought: "Thank you!" I am sure that this thought finds an echo in each one of you. God himself has implanted it in our hearts and he has sealed it with this Eucharist which literally means "thanksgiving." Yes, dear young people, our gratitude, born from faith, is expressed in our song of praise to Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has given us yet another sign of his immense love.
Our words of thanks rise up to God through the gift of this unforgettable meeting, and are now extended to all those who have been involved in its preparation and organization. I wish to renew my gratitude particularly to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, under its president, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, ably assisted by the secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens, and also to my confreres from the German Bishops' Conference, in the first place to the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner. I am grateful to the political and administrative authorities who have ensured that each event has run smoothly; I thank the many volunteers from German dioceses and from different countries. A cordial word of thanks goes also to the many contemplative communities who have supported us in prayer during this World Youth Day.
And now, as the living presence of the Risen Christ in our midst nourishes our faith and hope, I am pleased to announce that the next World Youth Day will take place in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. We entrust to the maternal guidance of Mary most holy, the future course of the young people of the whole world.
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]
[In French] I greet affectionately the French-speaking young people. Thank you dear friends, for your participation, and I trust that you return home bringing within, you like the Magi, the joy of having found Christ, the Son of the living God.
[In English] I extend a warm greeting to the English-speaking young people from all parts of the world at the conclusion of these unforgettable days. May the light of Christ, which you have followed on your way to Cologne, shine ever more brightly and strongly in your lives!
[In Spanish] Dear Spanish-speaking young people! You have come to worship Christ. Now that you have found him, continue to worship him in your hearts, always prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Have a pleasant return home!
[In Italian] My dear Italian-speaking friends! This 20th World Youth Day is ending, but the Eucharistic celebration must continue in our lives: Bring to all the joy of Christ that you have found here.
[In Polish] To all the young Polish people, I extend a warm embrace! As the great Pope John Paul II would say: Keep the flame of faith alive in your lives and in your people. May Our Lady, Mother of Christ, guide your steps always.
[In Portuguese] I greet with affection the Portuguese-speaking young people. I pray, dear friends, that you will always live in friendship with Jesus, so as to know true joy and communicate it to others, especially to young people in difficulty.
[In Tagalog] My dear Tagalog-speaking friends and all the young people of Asia! Like the Magi, you too have come from the East to worship Christ.
Now that you have found him, return to your countries bringing in your hearts the light of his love.
[In Swahili] A warm greeting also to you, young people from Africa! Bring to your great and beloved Continent the hope that Christ has given you.
Be everywhere sowers of peace and brotherhood.
[In German] Dear friends who understand me in my own language, I thank you for the affection with which you have sustained me in these days. Be close to me in prayer. Walk together in unity. Always be faithful to Christ and to the Church. May the peace and the joy of Christ be with you always!
[Translation of the text issued by the Vatican press office]
Benedict XVI's Address
to German Bishops
"Church in Germany Needs to Become Ever More Missionary"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 21, 2005 (HREF="http://www.zenit.org">Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in Cologne's seminary to the bishops of Germany.
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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I bless the Lord who has given me the joy of meeting you here, on German soil, at the conclusion of this 20th World Youth Day. I think we could say that the hand of Providence has been visible during these days, and not only has it given encouragement to me, the Successor of Peter, but it has also offered a sign of hope to the Church in this country, and above all to you, her Pastors. To all of you I renew my heartfelt thanks for the effort you have made in preparing for the event. I particularly thank Cardinal Joachim Meisner and his auxiliaries, and the president of the episcopal conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, together with all who have assisted in any way.
As I said this morning at the conclusion of the great Eucharistic celebration at Marienfeld, Germany has witnessed a remarkable pilgrimage in recent days. This was no ordinary group of pilgrims, but a pilgrimage of young people! This event, which the Diocese of Cologne and all of you worked so hard to prepare, has now ended: and what a cause it is for thanksgiving to God, for reflection and for renewed commitment! The much-beloved Pope John Paul II, founder of the World Youth Days, used to say that on these pilgrimages the young people are the protagonists and the Pope, in a certain sense, follows them. A humorous observation, but one which points to a profound truth: Young people, who are searching for the fullness of life despite their weaknesses and limitations, urge their pastors to listen to their questions and to do everything possible to help them understand the one true answer, which is Christ. We need, then, to cherish this gift which God has given to the Church in Germany, to accept the challenge that it presents, and to make good use of the potential it provides.
It should be stressed that this event, while exceptional, is not unique. The Cathedral in Cologne is not, to quote a familiar _expression, "a Cathedral in the desert." I am thinking of the many gifts which enrich the Church in Germany. It brings joy to my heart to list them briefly here with you, in the same spirit of praise and thanksgiving that has marked these days of grace. Many people in this country live their faith in an exemplary manner, with great love for the Church, for its pastors and for the Successor of Peter. A good number voluntarily take on what are sometimes demanding responsibilities in diocesan and parish life, in associations and movements, especially in order to help young people.
Many priests, religious and lay people carry out faithful service in pastoral situations that are often difficult. And German Catholics are very generous toward the poor. Many "Fidei Donum" priests and German missionaries carry out their apostolate in distant lands. The Catholic Church maintains a presence in public life through many different institutions. Significant work is being done by the various charitable agencies: Misereor, Adveniat, Missio, Renovabis, as well as diocesan and parish Caritas organizations. Equally vast is the educational work carried out in Catholic schools and other Catholic institutions and organizations on behalf of young people. These are just a few brief examples, incomplete yet significant, which sketch as it were the portrait of a living Church, the Church which gave birth to us in faith and which we have the honor and the joy to serve.
We know that on the face of this Church there are unfortunately also wrinkles, shadows that obscure her splendor. These too we should keep before us, in a spirit of unfailing love, at this moment of celebration and thanksgiving. Secularism and de-Christianization continue to advance. The influence of Catholic ethics and morals is in constant decline. Many people abandon the Church or, if they remain, they accept only a part of Catholic teaching. The religious situation in the East is particularly worrying, since the majority of the population is unbaptized and has no contact with the Church. In each of these problems we recognize a fresh challenge.
You yourselves are more aware of this than anyone, as is evident from your pastoral letter of Sept. 21, 2004, in commemoration of the 1,250th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Boniface. In that letter, quoting the Jesuit Father Alfred Delp, you stated that "we have become a mission territory." As a native of this country that I hold so dear, I feel particularly affected by its problems. Today I want to assure you of my affection and solidarity, along with that of the entire College of Bishops, and I encourage you to remain united and to persevere undaunted in your mission. The Church in Germany needs to become ever more missionary, committed to finding the best ways to pass on the faith to future generations.
This is the panorama that World Youth Day opens up before us: It invites us to look to the future. For the Church, and especially for pastors, parents and educators, young people are a living call to faith and hope. My venerable Predecessor, in choosing for this 20th World Youth Day the theme: "We Have Come To Worship Him" (Matthew 2:2), implicitly confirmed this call. He marked out a clear path for young people to follow. He urged them to seek Christ, with the Magi as their model; he invited them to follow the star, a reflection of Christ in the firmament of personal and social life; he trained them, by his strong but gentle example, to bend the knee before God made man, the Son of the Virgin Mary, and to acknowledge in him the Redeemer of humanity.
That same model which he proposed to young people, John Paul II also offered to their pastors, as a means of guiding their ministry among the younger generation and the whole family of the Church. The Way, the Truth and the Life which everyone seeks, particularly every young person, have been entrusted to us pastors by Christ himself, who has made us his witnesses and ministers of his Gospel (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). Consequently we must neither lessen the intensity of the search nor conceal the truth, but rather maintain the fruitful tension that exists between these two poles: a tension that corresponds profoundly to the character of modern man. With the light and strength that come from this gift, namely the Gospel which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly makes alive and active, we can proclaim Christ fearlessly and invite everyone not to be afraid to open their hearts to him, for we are convinced that in him is found the fullness of life and happiness.
This means being a Church open to the future, and therefore one full of promise for coming generations. Young people, in fact, are not looking for a Church which panders to youth but one which is truly young in spirit; a Church completely open to Christ, the new Man. This is the commitment that we wish to make today, at this truly significant moment, at the conclusion of this great event for youth, an event which has forced us to think about the future of the Church and of society. It is in this positive and hope-filled light that we can confidently confront the most difficult issues facing the Church in Germany. Once again young people are providing us, their pastors, with a salutary stimulus, for they are asking us to be consistent, united and courageous. We for our part must train them in patience, in discernment, in healthy realism. Yet there can be no false compromise, no watering down of the Gospel.
Dear Brothers, the experience of the last 20 years has taught us that every World Youth Day represents a kind of new beginning for the pastoral care of young people in the host country. Preparing for the event mobilizes people and resources and celebrating it brings about a surge of enthusiasm that needs to be channeled in the best possible way. It contains enormous potential energy which can grow greater the wider it spreads. Here I am thinking of parishes, lay associations, movements; and of priests, religious, catechists and youth workers. I imagine that in Germany an enormous number of them have been involved in this event. I pray that for everyone it will be the occasion of a real growth in love for Christ and for the Church, and I encourage all to continue to cooperate, in a renewed spirit of service, for the improved pastoral care of young people.
The majority of young Germans live in comfortable social and economic circumstances, yet difficult situations are not lacking. In all social strata a growing number of young people come from broken families. Unemployment among young people in Germany has unfortunately increased. Moreover many young men and women find themselves confused, lacking real answers to their questions about the meaning of life and death, about their present and their future. Many of the ideas put forward by modern society have led nowhere, and many young people have ended up mired in alcohol and drugs or in the clutches of extremist groups. Some young Germans, especially in the East, have never had a personal encounter with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Even in traditionally Catholic areas, the teaching of religion and catechesis do not always manage to forge lasting bonds between young people and the Church community. For this reason the Church in Germany is committed to finding new ways of reaching out to young people in order to proclaim Christ to them. World Youth Day is always, to use an _expression dear to Pope John Paul II, an outstanding "laboratory" for this.
It is also a laboratory of vocations, because in the course of these days the Lord will not have failed to make his call heard in the hearts of many young people. It is a call which naturally must be received and internalized, if it is to put forth deep roots and thus bear good and lasting fruit. So many of the testimonies of young people and couples show that the experience of these world meetings, when it unfolds within a journey of faith, discernment and ecclesial service, can lead to mature decisions for marriage, religious life, priestly and missionary service. In the light of the shortage of priests and religious, which is reaching dramatic proportions here in Germany, I encourage you, dear brothers, to promote the pastoral care of vocations with renewed vigor, in order to reach parishes, educational centers and families.
The pastoral care of young people and of vocations is ultimately connected with that of the family. I am saying nothing new when I observe that the family today faces many problems and difficulties. I warmly exhort you not to be discouraged, but to carry out with confidence your commitment to support the Christian family. The goal we seek is to ensure that married couples are able to accomplish their mission fully, and particularly the evangelization of children and young people.
Among young people, an important role is played by associations and movements, which are clearly a source of great enrichment. The Church must value them and at the same time she must guide them with pastoral prudence, so that they will contribute in the best possible way, through their varied gifts, to building up the community, without ever entering into competition but respecting one another and working together in order to awaken in young people the joy of faith, love for the Church and passion for the Kingdom of God. For this purpose it is essential that those who are engaged with and for young people should themselves be convinced witnesses to Christ and faithful to the teaching of the Church. The same applies in the field of Catholic education and catechesis: I am confident that you will take care to ensure that the persons chosen to be teachers of religion and catechists are well-prepared and faithful to the Church's magisterium. A useful aid in this commitment to the Christian formation of the younger generation will surely be the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which collects and synthesizes all the essential elements of Catholic faith and morality in clear and accessible language.
Dear brothers in the episcopate, please God there will be other opportunities to explore further the many issues which demand your pastoral care and mine. On this occasion I wished to reflect with you on the message of this great pilgrimage of young people. It seems to me that, having come to the end of this experience, the young people have this to say to us: "We have come to worship him. We have found him. Help us now to become his disciples and witnesses."
It is a challenging appeal, but what great consolation it brings to the heart of a pastor! May the memory of these hope-filled days spent in Cologne sustain your ministry, our ministry. I offer you my affectionate encouragement, together with a fervent fraternal request to live and work together in unity, on the basis of a communion that has its summit and its inexhaustible source in the Eucharist. Entrusting you to Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and of the Church, I cordially impart to each of you and to all your communities a special apostolic blessing.
[Translation of German original issued by the Vatican press office]
Papal Homily at Closing Mass of World Youth Day
"Let Us Go Forward With Christ!"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during the closing Mass of World Youth Day, celebrated in the Marienfield near Cologne.
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Dear young friends,
Yesterday evening we came together in the presence of the Sacred Host, in which Jesus becomes for us the bread that sustains and feeds us (cf. John 6:35), and there we began our inner journey of adoration. In the Eucharist, adoration must become union. At the celebration of the Eucharist, we find ourselves in the "hour" of Jesus, to use the language of John's Gospel. Through the Eucharist this "hour" of Jesus becomes our own hour, his presence in our midst. Together with the disciples he celebrated the Passover of Israel, the memorial of God's liberating action that led Israel from slavery to freedom. Jesus follows the rites of Israel. He recites over the bread the prayer of praise and blessing.
But then something new happens. He thanks God not only for the great works of the past; he thanks him for his own exaltation, soon to be accomplished through the Cross and Resurrection, and he speaks to the disciples in words that sum up the whole of the Law and the Prophets: "This is my Body, given in sacrifice for you. This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood." He then distributes the bread and the cup, and instructs them to repeat his words and actions of that moment over and over again in his memory.
What is happening? How can Jesus distribute his Body and his Blood? By making the bread into his Body and the wine into his Blood, he anticipates his death, he accepts it in his heart and he transforms it into an action of love. What on the outside is simply brutal violence, from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28). In their hearts, people always and everywhere have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world. Here now is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world: Violence is transformed into love, and death into life.
Since this act transmutes death into love, death as such is already conquered from within, the Resurrection is already present in it. Death is, so to speak, mortally wounded, so that it can no longer have the last word. To use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being -- the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death. Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world. All other changes remain superficial and cannot save. For this reason we speak of redemption: What had to happen at the most intimate level has indeed happened, and we can enter into its dynamic. Jesus can distribute his Body, because he truly gives himself.
This first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life, brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine becomes his Body and Blood. But it must not stop there, on the contrary, the process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own flesh and blood. We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way, adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God no longer simply stands before us, as the one who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world.
I like to illustrate this new step urged upon us by the Last Supper by drawing out the different nuances of the word "adoration" in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is "proskynesis." It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good. This gesture is necessary even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it. We can only fully accept it when we take the second step that the Last Supper proposes to us. The Latin word for adoration is "ad-oratio" -- mouth-to-mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within.
Let us return once more to the Last Supper. The new element to emerge here was the deeper meaning given to Israel's ancient prayer of blessing, which from that point on became the word of transformation, enabling us to participate in the "hour" of Christ. Jesus did not instruct us to repeat the Passover meal, which in any event, given that it is an anniversary, is not repeatable at will. He instructed us to enter into his "hour." We enter into it through the sacred power of the words of consecration -- a transformation brought about through the prayer of praise which places us in continuity with Israel and the whole of salvation history, and at the same time ushers in the new, to which the older prayer at its deepest level was pointing. The new prayer -- which the Church calls the "Eucharistic Prayer" -- brings the Eucharist into being. It is the word of power which transforms the gifts of the earth in an entirely new way into God's gift of himself and it draws us into this process of transformation. That is why we call this action "Eucharist," which is a translation of the Hebrew word "beracha" -- thanksgiving, praise, blessing, and a transformation worked by the Lord -- the presence of his "hour."
Jesus' hour is the hour in which love triumphs. In other words: it is God who has triumphed, because he is Love. Jesus' hour seeks to become our own hour and will indeed become so if we allow ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to be drawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to bring about. The Eucharist must become the center of our lives. If the Church tells us that the Eucharist is an essential part of Sunday, this is no mere positivism or thirst for power. On Easter morning, first the women and then the disciples had the grace of seeing the Lord. From that moment on, they knew that the first day of the week, Sunday, would be his day, the day of Christ the Lord. The day when creation began became the day when creation was renewed. Creation and redemption belong together. That is why Sunday is so important. It is good that today, in many cultures, Sunday is a free day, and is often combined with Saturday so as to constitute a "weekend" of free time. Yet this free time is empty if God is not present.
Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for Mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your free time. Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too. This is because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it. Let us pledge ourselves to do this -- it is worth the effort! Let us discover the intimate riches of the Church's liturgy and its true greatness: It is not we who are celebrating for ourselves, but it is the living God himself who is preparing a banquet for us. Through your love for the Eucharist you will also rediscover the sacrament of Reconciliation, in which the merciful goodness of God always allows us to make a fresh start in our lives.
Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on. In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him. But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything. People tend to exclaim: "This cannot be what life is about!" Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion. I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery. Yet if it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a "do-it-yourself" basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves. Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction.
This is why love for sacred Scripture is so important, and in consequence, it is important to know the faith of the Church which opens up for us the meaning of Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church as her faith grows, causing her to enter ever more deeply into the truth (cf. John 16:13). Pope John Paul II gave us a wonderful work in which the faith of centuries is explained synthetically: the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I myself recently presented the Compendium of the Catechism, prepared at the request of the late Holy Father. These are two fundamental texts which I recommend to all of you.
Obviously books alone are not enough. Form communities based on faith! In recent decades movements and communities have come to birth in which the power of the Gospel is keenly felt. Seek communion in faith, like fellow travelers who continue together to follow the path of the great pilgrimage that the Magi from the East first pointed out to us. The spontaneity of new communities is important, but it is also important to preserve communion with the Pope and with the bishops. It is they who guarantee that we are not seeking private paths, but are living as God's great family, founded by the Lord through the Twelve Apostles.
Once again, I must return to the Eucharist. "Because there is one bread, we, though many, are one body," says St. Paul (1 Corinthians 10:17). By this he meant: Since we receive the same Lord and he gathers us together and draws us into himself, we ourselves are one. This must be evident in our lives. It must be seen in our capacity to forgive. It must be seen in our sensitivity to the needs of others. It must be seen in our willingness to share. It must be seen in our commitment to our neighbors, both those close at hand and those physically far away, whom we nevertheless consider to be close. Today there are many forms of voluntary assistance, models of mutual service, of which our society has urgent need. We must not, for example, abandon the elderly to their solitude, we must not pass by when we meet people who are suffering. If we think and live according to our communion with Christ, then our eyes will be opened.
Then we will no longer be content to scrape a living just for ourselves, but we will see where and how we are needed. Living and acting thus, we will soon realize that it is much better to be useful and at the disposal of others than to be concerned only with the comforts that are offered to us. I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world. Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ; in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to discover the star that we follow as believers.
Let us go forward with Christ and let us live our lives as true worshippers of God! Amen.
[Translation of text issued by the Vatican press office]
Benedict XVI's Farewell Address at Airport
"I Hope That This Event Will Remain Impressed on the Life of Germany's Catholics"
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation Benedict XVI's farewell address to Germany, which he delivered today in the Cologne-Bonn airport.
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At the conclusion of this, my first visit to Germany as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, I must express once again my heartfelt gratitude for the welcome given to me, to my collaborators and especially to the many young people who came to Cologne from every continent for this World Youth Day. The Lord has called me to succeed our beloved Pope John Paul II, whose inspired idea it was to initiate the series of World Youth Days. I have taken up this legacy with joy, and I give thanks to God for giving me the opportunity to experience in the company of so many young people this further step along their spiritual pilgrimage from continent to continent, following the Cross of Christ.
I am grateful to all those who have so effectively ensured that every phase of this extraordinary gathering could take place in an orderly and serene fashion. These days spent together have given many young men and women from the whole world the opportunity to become better acquainted with Germany. We are all well aware of the evil that emerged from our homeland during the 20th century, and we acknowledge it with shame and suffering. During these days, thanks be to God, it has become quite evident that there was and is another Germany, a land of singular human, cultural and spiritual resources. I hope and pray that these resources, thanks, not least, to the events of recent days, may once more spread throughout the world!
Now young people from all over the world can return home enriched by their contacts and their experiences of dialogue and fellowship in the different regions of our homeland. I am certain that their stay, marked by their youthful enthusiasm, will remain as a pleasant memory with the people who have offered them such generous hospitality, and that it will also be a sign of hope for Germany. Indeed one can say that during these days Germany has been the center of the Catholic world. Young people from every continent and culture, gathered in faith around their pastors and the Successor of Peter, have shown us a young Church, one that seeks with imagination and courage to shape the face of a more just and generous humanity. Following the example of the Magi, these young men and women set out to encounter Christ, in accordance with the theme of this World Youth Day. Now they are returning to their own regions and cities to testify to the light, the beauty and the power of the Gospel which they have experienced anew.
I must also express thanks to all who have opened their hearts and their homes to the countless young pilgrims. I am grateful to the government authorities, to the political leaders and the various civil and military departments, as well as the security services and the many volunteer organizations which have put so much effort into the preparation and realization of each of the initiatives and events of this World Youth Day. A special word of thanks goes to all who planned the moments of prayer and reflection, as well as the liturgical celebrations, eloquent examples of the joyful vitality of the faith that animates the generation in our time. I would also like to express my gratitude to the leaders of other churches and ecclesial communities, and to the representatives of other religions who wished to be present at this important meeting. I express my hope that we can strengthen our common commitment to train the younger generation in the human and spiritual values which are indispensable for building a future of true freedom and peace.
My deep gratitude goes to Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, the diocese that hosted this international meeting, to the bishops of Germany, led by the president of the bishops' conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, to the priests, to men and women religious, and to the parish communities, lay associations and movements who have devoted such energy to helping the young people present to reap the spiritual fruits of their stay. I offer a special word of thanks to the young people from Germany, who in a variety of ways have helped to welcome other young people and to share with them moments of faith that have been truly memorable. I hope that this event will remain impressed on the life of Germany's Catholics and will be an incentive for a renewed spiritual and apostolic outreach! May the Gospel be received in its integrity and witnessed with profound conviction by all Christ's disciples, so that it becomes a source of authentic renewal for all of German society, thanks also to dialogue with the different Christian communities and the followers of other religions.
Finally, my respectful and cordial greetings go to the political, civil and diplomatic authorities present at this departure ceremony. In particular I thank you, Mr. Chancellor, and I ask you kindly to convey my deep gratitude to the president of the republic, the members of the government and all the German people. Filled with the emotions and memories of these days, I now return to Rome. Upon all of you I invoke God's abundant blessings for a future of serene prosperity, harmony and peace.
[Translation of German original issued by the Vatican press office]
Benedict XVI Reflects on His Trip to Germany
"Young People Relaunched … the Message of Hope"
VATICAN CITY, AUG. 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope reflected on his first foreign apostolic trip to Germany, for World Youth Day.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
As our beloved John Paul II used to do after every apostolic pilgrimage, today I would also like to review with you the days spent in Cologne on the occasion of World Youth Day. Divine Providence willed that my first pastoral trip outside of Italy should have, precisely as its object, my country of origin and that it should be on the occasion of the great meeting of young people of the world, 20 years after the institution of World Youth Day, established with prophetic intuition by my unforgettable Predecessor.
After my return, I thank God from the depth of my heart for the gift of this pilgrimage, of which I have fond memories. We all felt it was a gift from God. Of course, many collaborated, but in the end the grace of this meeting was a gift from on High, from the Lord. At the same time I am grateful to all those who, with commitment and love, prepared and organized this meeting in all its phases: in the first place, the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the episcopal conference, and the bishops of Germany, with whom I met, in fact, at the end of my visit.
Then I would like to thank the authorities, organizations and volunteers who made their contribution. I am also grateful to the persons and communities that, in every part of the world, sustained the meeting with prayer, and to the sick, who offered their suffering for the spiritual success of this important meeting.
The ideal embrace with young participants in the World Youth Day began from the moment of my arrival at the Cologne-Bonn airport and became ever more charged with emotions when sailing on the Rhine from the Rodenkirchenbruecke pier to Cologne escorted by five other vessels representing the five continents. Evocative, also, was the pause in front of the Poller Rheinwiesen wharf where thousands upon thousands of young people awaited, with whom I had the first official meeting, called appropriately "welcome festival" and which had as its motto the words of the Magi "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2a).
It was precisely the Magi who were the "guides" of those young pilgrims to Christ. How significant it is that all this took place as we prepare for the conclusion of the Eucharistic Year called by John Paul II! "We Have Come to Worship Him": The theme of the meeting invited everyone theoretically to follow the Magi, and to undertake together with them an interior journey of conversion to the Emmanuel, the God-with-us, to know him, meet him, adore him, and after meeting and adoring him, to then depart bearing in spirit, in the depth of our being, his light and joy.
In Cologne, young people had repeated opportunities to reflect profoundly on these spiritual themes and felt themselves driven by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Christ, who in the Eucharist has promised to remain really present among us until the end of the world. I recall the different moments that I had the joy of sharing with them, especially in the Saturday evening Vigil and Sunday's concluding celebration. Millions of other young people from all corners of the earth were joined to these thought-provoking manifestations of faith thanks to providential radio and television connections.
But I would like to recall here a singular meeting, the one with the seminarians, young men called to a more radical following of Christ, Teacher and Shepherd. I wished to have a specific time dedicated to them, to highlight also the vocational dimension typical of World Youth Day. Not a few vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life have flowered in these 20 years, privileged occasions in which the Holy Spirit makes his call heard.
Very well placed in the rich context of hope of the Cologne Day, was the ecumenical meeting with representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities. Germany's role in the ecumenical dialogue is important whether because of the sad history of divisions or the significant part played in the path of reconciliation. I hope, moreover, that the dialogue, as a reciprocal exchange of gifts and not just of words, will contribute to make that ordered and harmonious "symphony" grow, which is Catholic unity. In such a perspective, World Youth Day represents a valid ecumenical "laboratory."
And how can I not relive with emotion the visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, where the oldest Jewish community has its headquarters? With our Jewish brothers I remembered the Shoah and the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. This year, moreover, marks the 40th anniversary of the conciliar declaration "Nostra Aetate," which opened a new season of dialogue and spiritual solidarity between Jews and Christians, as well as of esteem for the other great religious traditions. Among these, a particular place is held by Islam, whose followers worship the one God and refer gladly to the Patriarch Abraham. For this reason I wanted to meet with representatives of some Muslim communities, to which I expressed the hopes and concerns of the difficult historical moment that we are going through, hoping that fanaticism and violence will be extirpated and that we will be able to collaborate together in defending always the dignity of the human person and in protecting his fundamental rights.
Dear brothers and sisters, from the heart of "old" Europe, which in the past century, unfortunately, knew horrendous conflicts and inhuman regimes, young people relaunched to the humanity of our time the message of hope that does not disappoint, because it is founded on the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, dead and risen for our salvation. In Cologne, young people met and worshipped the Emmanuel, the God-with-us, in the mystery of the Eucharist and understood better that the Church is the great family through which God creates a space of communion and unity among all continents, cultures and races, a -- so to speak -- "great group of pilgrims" led by Christ, radiant star that illuminates history.
Jesus makes himself our travel companion in the Eucharist, and, in the Eucharist -- as I said in the homily of the concluding celebration, borrowing a well-known image from physics -- effects a "nuclear fission" in the depth of the being. Only this profound explosion of goodness that overcomes evil can give life to the other transformations necessary to change the world. Let us pray therefore so that the young people of Cologne will bear with them the light of Christ, who is truth and love and will spread it everywhere. In this way we will be able to witness a springtime of hope in Germany, Europe and the whole world.
Opus Dei Prelate on a Springtime for Church in
Bishop Echevarría Evaluates World Youth Day
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 24, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Among the 1 million people who gathered in Cologne for World Youth Day was the prelate of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría.
In this interview with ZENIT the 73-year-old bishop evaluates World Youth Day.
Q: Given that your "diocese" is not limited territorially, as the prelate of Opus Dei you know people from all over the world. Do they all share the same "hunger for God" of which the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner spoke, or, on the contrary, is it the people of the south, by their mentality, who are closer to God than the Germans or those of the north in general?
Bishop Echevarría: In the first place, I wish to clarify that the Opus Dei is a personal prelature and, therefore, forms part of the hierarchical structure of the Church, but it is not a diocese.
Opus Dei is certainly spread across the whole world. The faithful of the prelature belong to many different nationalities, but they all have as common denominator, the certainty that we are children of God with a "hunger to relate to God," which they try to increase every day.
It is an obvious fact, as anyone can see, that we are all different: people from the north and south, from the east and west. But we all struggle joyfully to live close to God.
I make no exclusions; on the contrary, I think that in Germany there is a rich treasure of people that wishes to be close to God; many people -- with their German mentality -- spend their days in relationship with the Lord -- in the family, at work, in traffic, in amusements -- and with the desire to bring many other people close to this great ideal of man -- his closeness with God.
Q: What was special in these days in Cologne for the world and especially for Germany?
Bishop Echevarría: What was special for me in this pastoral visit is that the Successor of Peter came and, around the Successor of Peter -- because of the communion of saints -- the whole Church tried to be united to the intentions of the common father, the Pope.
Therefore, what happened in Cologne these days is very important for Germany and for the world, because it makes shows that the Church is alive, that the Church is young, with a youth that is also true of elderly people, of mature individuals, of the sick, of people subsumed in poverty -- since what matters is the youth of the soul and all these people have great youth, to be able to offer God to others, precisely because it is what they are lacking.
Q: Will the visit of the Holy Father Benedict XVI imply the beginning of a spiritual springtime of the Church in his homeland?
Bishop Echevarría: Of course. We will always be in a situation of growth in the Church.
Although apparently there can be moments in which we experience a sort of complete stop, such a complete stop does not exist, because here -- in this wonderful country which Germany is -- we now count on the great wealth of prayer of many unknown men and women.
The Church is not built only by what is seen exteriorly, but also with the wealth of the holiness of many people. There are certainly many holy people in Germany, who thank God for their belonging to the Catholic Church and who want to love all of the citizens of Germany and of the world with the love of Christ.
Q: The Holy Father would like to show that joy comes from being a Christian. What kind of joy is this?
Bishop Echevarría: The Holy Father has emphasized recently that, far from what some people would like one to believe, Christianity is not a weight; rather, the ensemble of precepts are those wings of which Benedict XVI has spoken, which help us to fly to the Creator, to God, who follows each one of us close up.
Therefore, the joy consists of knowing that, in all the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we have a Father who never abandons us and who takes care of us in all those situations.
In human life there is no lack of pain and sacrifice, as it was not lacking for him who is the model for all Christians -- our Lord Jesus Christ -- and for the person who was closest to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary.
This does not mean masochism, but is the result of love, because -- even in what is most human -- there is no love or self-giving, without sacrifice, which consists in spending oneself happily for others.
Q: Your predecessor, St. Josemaría [Escrivá], founded Opus Dei to teach all people that they can be saints, without doing extraordinary things. What, therefore, is holiness? How does one become a saint?
Bishop Echevarría: St. Josemaría took up the teachings and the preaching of Jesus Christ, who "coepit facere et docere," who first began to do, and then preached -- at the beginning, with his humble birth, poor, in a cave, surrounded by the love of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds -- poor men, but with a great capacity to love -- and then also by the Wise Men who went to worship him.
Although the latter had human means, at that moment of search for the King of the Jews, they let us see that they had the same or greater need than the shepherds.
Holiness is to try to see God in what occupies us at any given moment. To identify oneself with Christ without having to take recourse to extraordinary things; great abnegations are not an imperative -- though they must not be excluded if they come -- or sought freely and voluntarily if the Lord does not ask them.
That is why, what is important is to do the will of
at every moment, carrying out heroically the duty of every moment,
drawing back from the suggestion of fidelity that precisely Christ asks
of us, in what is pleasant or unpleasant.
Q: What help does Opus Dei provide on that journey
Bishop Echevarríía: Opus Dei has reminded the whole world that holiness is not something of the privileged; that is, all of us can come close to God exactly where we are. To people, to each one, Jesus Christ has said: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Opus Dei reminds us of the need to transform all activities, including the apparently trivial, into a dialogue with God. And it also reminds us of the need for the sacramental life, as without the sacraments the life of grace cannot increase, given that the sacraments are the means that our Lord Jesus Christ has left us, to renew us and to identify ourselves with him.
Q: The theme of World Youth Day was "We Have Come to Worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). Today we are living in radically changing times in which one easily loses sight of the essential, and of recollection; silence is often regarded as unbearable. How can one arrive at this attitude of adoration? In what does it consist? How can one speak with God?
Bishop Echevarríía: Before answering this question, I would like to tell you something that is fundamental in a Christian's life, in the life of a child of God: optimism. We cannot focus on things or situations with a pessimism that, at times, can contaminate the environment.
The child of God knows that he is able to transform all circumstances into joy, including those which others might see as a contradiction. Silence and recollection, of course, are essential if one is to have a dialogue with God.
This cannot be considered unbearable, as dialogue or being with the person one loves would never be regarded as unbearable. And all of us people are those who are loved, God's favorites, as he himself has said. In the Bible it is revealed to us that his delight is to be with the children of men.
If we take part in that dialogue, we will be women and men who participate in that happiness, in that satisfaction that God has in each one of us. How can one speak with God? With simplicity, naturalness, as one speaks with a friend, with a brother.
St. Josemaríía Escriváá counseled us to speak to God about our life, because to pray is to speak about our soul, about our small and great struggles; and he receives us, listens to us as the most concerned Father, with great affection and with the desire to help us in all that we need, although at times -- as all good fathers -- he allows a trial or contradiction to continue, precisely so that we will mature and count more on the help of his grace.
Q: The Holy Father granted all participants in World Youth Day a plenary indulgence. What role do indulgences play in the life of the Church? What relationship do they have to the sacrament of penance?
Bishop Echevarríía: Indulgences play a vital role, because they are the application to the soul of the infinite merits of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
They make us participate in that glorious life to which we are all called; therefore, indulgences make it easier for us to approach God, forgiving us the remaining punishment merited for sins already forgiven and so making us able to go forward with greater docility and ease to receive the grace in the sacrament of confession.
In this sacrament, where Christ forgives mortal sins completely, because another means -- with the exception of extraordinary circumstances -- does not exist, although the Church teaches that a perfect contrition remits sins, including mortal sins.
However, who can be certain that his contrition is perfect? Man needs the certainty of the forgiveness of that God who listens to us, who cares for us, and who also takes away the sadness of failure, precisely in the sacrament of confession.
Q: What message does St. Josemaríía give to the young people of the world who have been in Cologne these days?
Bishop Echevarríía: I would summarize St. Josemaríía's message in a few words, which he wrote when he was a very young priest. [……] He said: "Don't forget that many great things depend on your and my behaving as God wills."
Many great things depend on the good behavior of those who have been in Cologne these days, that youth which surrounds us: for their souls and for the souls they relate to, and also for their countries and for the souls of the whole world.
Evaluation of Benedict XVI's Visit to Cologne
By French Journalist Jean-Marie Guénois
COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI established a style, and a direction, in the addresses he delivered during his first international apostolic trip, says Jean-Marie Guénois, a writer for the Parisian newspaper La Croix.
Guénois, who is regarded as one of the leading experts in religious journalism in France, was for a decade a correspondent in Rome, where he founded the news agency I-Media. He also is the host of a religious news program on French public television.
Q: Has Benedict XVI passed the test?
Guénois: The new Pope was not expected as a messiah but as a German Pope returning to this native country, as well as by the "John Paul II generation." The way Benedict XVI descended from the plane on his arrival, in a discreet manner, without straining for effects, concerned not to trip on the steps, already marked the tone.
Aware of the importance of the moment, he gave himself at times with some timidity, often uncomfortable before the huge crowd, always with much humanity, paying attention to each one, to the degree possible.
He read his addresses with care, without rhetoric, wearing his large spectacles. He was not seeking to seduce but chose measured words, not hoping for the immediate effect of applause, but for long-term rooting. Those who were expecting a strong gesture might be disappointed, but the majority has already adopted him.
Q: Has a "Benedict XVI generation" been born?
Guénois: He certainly doesn't like the term at all. Above all, however, it is too early to evaluate seriously the new Pope's impact on young people.
However, it is impressive to see how he addressed them. He did not bring up moral issues, preferring to become a catechist to begin in a certain sense from zero and share the joy of being a Christian. Instead of John Paul II's "charism of gestures," to which the masses responded, Benedict XVI brought the "charism of the word" of a teacher.
Very pedagogic, very concrete, at times Benedict XVI was striking, as when in his first interview he deplored that Christian wisdom is not something of "a stale taste" or when he spoke of adoration as "mouth to mouth contact," or of "nuclear fission" to illustrate the power of the sacrament.
Therefore, one cannot say that he did not succeed in communicating with young people. He is different. A "Benedict XVI generation" might be created, especially among adolescents who knew John Paul II when his strength had waned. "It is odd to see a Pope who walks," one of them observed.
Q: Has Germany reconciled with Rome?
Guénois: It was not the main objective of World Youth Day, scheduled three years ago in Germany, and it has taken place in the recently elected Pope's homeland.
Three meetings made bonds possible whose solidity will have to be verified: the reception at the airport, where the happiness and pride of the president of the republic seemed to be in unison with that of the people, at least at that moment; the visit to the synagogue, which allowed Benedict XVI to turn symbolically before the eyes of the whole world a dark and tragic page of the nation's collective conscience; [and] the meeting with German bishops on Sunday, August 21, in which the Pope affirmed his closeness to this Church, inviting it to capitalize on all the energies it mobilized for World Youth Day.
Q: What message did he leave?
Guénois: At the political level, he launched two signs of warning: the growth of anti-Semitism, against which the Pope firmly cautioned in this visit to the synagogue; and terrorism of religious origin, mentioned before Muslim leaders, to whom the Pope pointed out as the best way the struggle against intolerance and the need for respect, rejecting the fatality of hatred to build a civilization of peace.
At the pastoral level, two strong lines may be discerned. In the first place, continuity with his predecessor and with the line of the Second Vatican Council to advance toward Christian unity, ecumenism, as well as in the dialogue with Judaism and Islam, on the condition of having thorough knowledge and understanding of the implied differences, which cannot be given up.
In the second place, there was a novelty in the program proposed to young people. On the first day, in the Saturday Vigil or the Sunday Mass, the Holy Father proposed an ambitious idea: no more and no less than "changing the world." But not with the force of power, or "commands from a throne on high," but by learning "God's ways," not by constructing "a private God" for ourselves; there are "no private ways" in the Church, explained Benedict XVI. Young people must develop a "sensitivity to the needs of others" which "must be seen in our willingness to share."
Written by Max Polak
Friday, 26 August 2005
Successful World Youth Days in Cologne this year and in Sydney in 2008 could signal a revival of Christian faith in the listless West.
Like mega-events? Here in Australia people generally do. In 2000 we had the Sydney Olympics and in 2003 the World Rugby Cup. In 2006 we will have the Commonwealth Games. Apart from that, rugby finals, cricket tests and Aussie Rules finals draw big crowds (to say nothing of horse racing). The Melbourne Cricket Ground often hosts 100,000. Not bad for a nation of 20 million.
Yet Australia will have never experienced anything
quite like a World Youth Day, now set to take place in Sydney in 2008.
For one thing, most Aussie mega-events centre on sport. World Youth Day
centres on religion: on faith, worship and prayer. Sound uninteresting?
Have a look at what happened in Cologne last week.
When it comes to these papal-inspired gatherings,
superlatives fall short. One might have to speak of mega-mega. Imagine
a multitude of young people –– a million or more in Cologne, Rome
(2000) and Paris (1997) and several million in Manila (1995) ––
converging to attend a Mass. Imagine hundreds of thousands of very
agile and enthusiastic 15 to 25-year-olds filling city streets over the
course of a week, singing, joking and chatting in dozens of different
languages. Imagine that they share a common interest and purpose -- to
discover or reinforce a positive sense of what it means to be alive by
practising their Catholic beliefs. Such an event is likely to have an
impact not only on the participants, but even on sceptical on-lookers.
This is what has invariably happened. In Denver, back in 1993, the
crime rate dropped to a third of its previous level for months
World Youth Days were the bold idea of John Paul II.
Vienna’s Cardinal Christoph Schöönborn calls them a “stroke
of genius.” A number of analysts had wondered, however, whether their
success might be dependent on John Paul’s extraordinary personality. So
there was considerable curiosity to see what would happen at Cologne.
Now it has become apparent that young people are responding not so much
to a person as to a role –– the role of fatherly truth-bearer.
The New York Times interviewed one young chap from
the US state of Montana who represented a view common among the
pilgrims: “There was a lot of misguided teachings that I grew up with.
Knowing that there is someone up there who has made his entire
cardinal’s career out of straightening out those heresies and defending
the solid teachings of the Church is something I am very, very excited
for the youth.”
Joseph Ratzinger is certainly a different sort to Papa Wojtyla, though they were close friends and collaborators. The media misread the German cardinal’s temperament, portraying him as an austere and implacable foe of heresy. Now that he can be himself his true colours have emerged. He is a man who is kindly, sensitive and somewhat reticent, though extremely intelligent and aware of what is making the modern world –– especially its Western variant –– tick.
Cologne’s Cardinal Joachim Meisner has referred to
Benedict XVI as the “Mozart of theology.” Schöönborn speaks
of the “providential” impact he expects the new Pope and the Cologne
World Youth Day experience to have on a tired and confused Europe. The
vitality of World Youth Day is badly needed in Europe, he says.
European society is "lacking energy, in emotional trouble, in real
constitutional trouble, in need of people who can give reasons for hope
and show the decisive points, the options that will shape the future."
Pope Benedict is exactly such a person, he argued, and thus his
election to the papacy was a watershed for Europe.
The Pope himself was looking forward to this
encounter. In an interview given in Castelgandolfo before departing for
Germany, he spoke of young people’s search for meaning. “I would like
to show them how beautiful it is to be Christian, because the
widespread idea which continues to exist is that Christianity is
composed of laws and bans which one has to keep and, hence, is
something toilsome and burdensome –– that one is freer without such a
burden.” But this is false, he said. Christianity is “like having
wings…….It is not a burden to be carried by a great love and
realisation. It is wonderful to be a Christian with this knowledge that
gives us a great breadth, a large community. As Christians we are never
alone –– in the sense that God is always with us, but also in the sense
that we are always standing together in a large community, a community
for 'the Way', that we have a project for the future."
What the Catholic Church’s mega-event will mean for
Australia one can only guess. Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell
(interviewed by MercatorNet last year), must take most of the credit
for convincing the Vatican to hold the 2008 event in Australia. He
seems sure that it will draw multitudes yet again and immensely benefit
a young, highly secularised and ambitious nation still on the path to
When all is said and done, World Youth Days are not just gigantic parties celebrating youthful exuberance. For the more thoughtful and searching they provide a serious, albeit limited, formative dimension that motivates further study. They instil provocative thoughts of what the future might hold if committed Christians were to follow their dreams of generosity and service. Most of the pilgrims will not return to become priests or nuns, but they will take their work, families and studies more to heart. That must surely have a good effect on their surroundings. The idea of a vital Christian culture may be dead in the corridors of the European Union in Brussels, but not amongst youth. And they stand to be around a lot longer than those ageing bureaucrats.