Pope Benedict's Address to the General Assembly of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo
"I thank the Lord for this Gift of your Fraternity"

VATICAN CITY, February 07, 2013  - At the end of the General Audience yesterday, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience in Paul VI Hall the participants to the General Assembly of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo which elected a new Superior General, Fr. Paolo Sottopietra. Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address.

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Dear Brothers,

It gives me great joy to be with you. I remember well my visits to Palazzo Borromeo, next to St. Mary's Major Basilica, where I personally met Fr. Giussani; I have known his faith, his joy, his strength and the richness of his ideas, the creativity of his faith. A true friendship developed between us; and so, through him I got to know even better the community of Communion and Liberation.

And I am glad that his successor is with us, who continues this great work and inspires so many people, so many lay people, men and women, priests and laity, to collaborate in spreading the Gospel and the growth of the Kingdom of God. And among you I have also had the opportunity to get to know Massimo Camisasca; we have talked about different things; I have gotten to know his creativity in art, his ability to see, to interpret the signs of the times, his great gift as a teacher, a priest. I once even had the honour to ordain some priests in Porto Santa Rufina, and it was nice to know that here a new Priestly Fraternity is arising in the spirit of St. Charles Borromeo, who always remains the great model of a Pastor who is truly stimulated by the love of Christ, who seeks out the small, who loves them and so truly creates faith and builds up the Church.

Now your Fraternity is large, and it is a sign that there are vocations. But there is also a need to be open to finding, accompanying, guiding and helping vocations mature. This is the thing for which I thank Don Camisasca, who has been a great educator. And today, education is always important to the growth of the truth, for us to grow in our status as children of God and brothers of Jesus Christ.

Now, thanks be to God, I have also known for a long time your new Superior General, who has also been in touch somewhat with my theology. So, I am glad that I can be spiritually and intellectually with you and that we can offer fruitful help to each other through our work.

May the Lord bless you all. I thank the Lord for this gift of your Fraternity: may it grow and deepen always, even more in the love of Christ, in the love of men for Christ. The Lord accompanies you.

I give you my Blessing, sure that you pray for me, that you accompany me with your prayers. Thank you all!



Pope's Feb. 2 Homily for Day of Consecrated Life
"Old and New Testament Join Together in a Marvelous Way in Giving Thanks for the Gift of the Light"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave last Thursday at vespers on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after Jesus' birth, shows us Mary and Joseph, who in obedience to the Mosaic Law travel to the temple of Jerusalem to offer the child, as the first born, to the Lord and ransom him by a sacrifice (cf. Luke 2:22-24). It is one of the cases in which the liturgical time reflects historical time, because today it has been precisely 40 days since the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord; the theme of Christ the Light, which has characterized the cycle of Christmas feasts and culminates in the Solemnity of Epiphany, is taken up again and prolonged in today's feast.

The ritual gesture of Jesus' parents, which takes place in the form of the humble discretion that characterizes the Incarnation of the Son of God, is received in a unique way by the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. By divine inspiration they recognize in that child the Messiah announced by the prophets. In the meeting between the venerable old Simeon and Mary, the young mother, the Old and the New Testament join together in a marvelous way in giving thanks for the gift of the Light, which shown in the darkness and prevented it from taking over: Christ the Lord, light to enlighten the nations and the glory of his people Israel (cf. Luke 2:32).

On the day in which the Church recalls the presentation of Jesus in the temple, we celebrate the Day of Consecrated Life. In effect, the Gospel episode to which we refer constitutes a significant icon of the self-donation of those who have been called to represent, in the Church and in the world, the characteristic traits of Jesus: virgin, poor, obedient, the Consecrated One of the Father. Thus in today's feast we celebrate the mystery of consecration: the consecration of Jesus, the consecration of Mary, the consecration of all those who place themselves in the following of Jesus for the love of the Kingdom of God.

Following the ideas of Blessed John Paul II, who celebrated it for the first time in 1997, the day dedicated to the consecrated life has some particular purposes. It intends to respond first of all to the need to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of this state of life, which pertains to the sanctity of the Church. To each consecrated person today is dedicated the prayer of the whole Community, who gives thanks to God the Father, giver of every good gift, for the gift of this vocation, and with faith calls upon him once more. Moreover, this occasion aims to increase more and more the recognition of the value of the witness of those who have chosen to follow Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels by promoting knowledge and esteem for the consecrated life among the People of God. Finally, the Day of Consecrated Life intends to be, above all for you, dear brothers and sisters, who have embraced this state in the Church, a precious occasion to renew the decisions and revive the sentiments that have inspired and inspire your gift of yourselves to the Lord. This we wish to do today; this is a task that you are called to accomplish every day of your life.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, I have, as you know, called for the Year of Faith, which will open in October. All of the faithful, but in a special way the members of the institutes of consecrated life, have welcomed this initiative as a gift, and I hope that they will live the Year of Faith as a favorable time for interior renewal -- for which one always feels the need -- with a deepening of the essential values and of the demands of their consecration. During the Year of Faith you, who have accepted the call to follow Christ more closely through the profession of the evangelical counsels, are called to deepen still further your relationship with God. The evangelical counsels, accepted as an authentic rule of life, reinforce the faith, hope and charity that unite us to God. This profound nearness to the Lord, which must be the element that has priority and that characterizes your existence, will bring you to a renewed commitment to him and it will have a positive influence on your particular presence and the form of your apostolate among the People of God, through the contribution of your charisms, in fidelity to the magisterium, with the goal of being witnesses of faith and grace, credible witnesses for the Church and the world of today.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the means that it will judge adequate, will suggest directions and do its best to ensure that this Year of Faith constitutes for all of you a year of renewal and fidelity, so that all consecrated men and women engage in the new evangelization with enthusiasm. While I address my cordial greeting to the prefect of that dicastery, Monsignor Joăo Braz de Aviz -- whom I have chosen to be among those whom I will make cardinals at the next consistory -- I gladly welcome this moment to thank him and his collaborators in the precious service that they give to the Holy See and to the whole Church.


Pope's Address to Carthusian Monks
"A Whole Life Barely Suffices to Enter Into This Union With God"

LAMEZIA TERME, Italy, OCT. 11, 2011 - Here is a L'Osservatore Romano translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday during vespers celebrated in the Carthusian monastery of St. Bruno. The Pope was on a one-day pastoral visit to Lamezia Terme and Serra San Bruno in the region of Calabria, Italy.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Carthusian Brothers,

Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord who has brought me to this place of faith and prayer, the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno. In renewing my grateful greeting to Archbishop Vincenzo Bertolone of Catanzaro-Squillace, I address this Carthusian Community, each one of its members, with deep affection, starting with the Prior, Father Jacques Dupont, whom I warmly thank for his words, while I ask him to communicate my grateful thoughts and my blessing to the Minister General and to the Nuns of the Order.

I am first of all eager to stress that this Visit comes in continuity with certain signs of strong communion between the Apostolic See and the Carthusian Order, which became apparent in the past century. In 1924, Pope Pius XI issued an Apostolic Constitution with which he approved the Statutes of the Order, revised in the light of the Code of Canon Law. In May 1984, Blessed John Paul II addressed a special letter to the Minister General, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the foundation by St Bruno of the first community at the Chartreuse [Charterhouse] near Grenoble. On 5 October that same year my beloved Predecessor came here and the memory of his passing between these walls is still vivid.

Today I come to you in the wake of these events, past but ever timely, and I would like our meeting to highlight the deep bond that exists between Peter and Bruno, between pastoral service to the Church's unity and the contemplative vocation in the Church. Ecclesial communion, in fact, demands an inner force, that force which Father Prior has just recalled, citing the expression "captus ab Uno," ascribed to St Bruno: "grasped by the One," by God, "Unus potens per omnia," as we sang in the Vespers hymn. From the contemplative community the ministry of pastors draws a vital sap that comes from God.

"Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare": to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp the eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (cf. Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 13): the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone.

Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13:44-46); you have responded radically to Jesus' invitation: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). Every monastery -- male or female -- is an oasis in which the deep well, from which to draw "living water" to quench our deepest thirst, is constantly being dug with prayer and meditation. However, the charterhouse is a special oasis in which silence and solitude are preserved with special care, in accordance with the form of life founded by St Bruno and which has remained unchanged down the centuries. "I live in a rather faraway hermitage... with some religious brothers", is the concise sentence that your Founder wrote (Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 4). The Successor of Peter's Visit to this historical Charterhouse is not only intended to strengthen those of you who live here but the entire Order in its mission which is more than ever timely and meaningful in today's world.

Technical progress, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always a lingering background noise, in some areas even at night. In the recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality that risks getting the upper hand over reality. Unbeknown to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, as for fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude.

I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. I shall sum it up like this: by withdrawing into silence and solitude, human beings, so to speak, "expose" themselves to reality in their nakedness, to that apparent "void," which I mentioned at the outset, in order to experience instead Fullness, the presence of God, of the most royal Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every created thing: in the air that we breathe, in the light that we see and that warms us, in the grass, in stones.... God, Creator omnium, [the Creator of all], passes through all things but is beyond them and for this very reason is the foundation of them all.

The monk, in leaving all, "takes a risk," as it were: he exposes himself to solitude and silence in order to live on nothing but the essential, and precisely in living the essential he also finds a deep communion with his brethren, with every human being.

Some might think that it would suffice to come here to take this "leap." But it is not like this. This vocation, like every vocation, finds an answer in an ongoing process, in the searching of a whole life. Indeed it is not enough to withdraw to a place such as this in order to learn to be in God's presence. Just as in marriage it is not enough to celebrate the Sacrament to become effectively one but it is necessary to let God's grace act and to walk together through the daily routine of conjugal life, so becoming monks requires time, practice and patience, "in a divine and persevering vigilance," as St Bruno said, they "await the return of their Lord so that they might be able to open the door for him as soon as he knocks" (Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 4); and the beauty of every vocation in the Church consists precisely in this: giving God time to act with his Spirit and to one's own humanity to form itself, to grow in that special state of life according to the measure of the maturity of Christ.

In Christ there is everything, fullness; we need time to make one of the dimensions of his mystery our own. We could say that this is a journey of transformation in which the mystery of Christ's resurrection is brought about and made manifest in us, a mystery to which the word of God in the biblical Reading from the Letter to the Romans has recalled us this evening: the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and will give life even to our mortal bodies (cf. Rom 8:11) is the One who also brings about our configuration to Christ in accordance with each one's vocation, a journey that unwinds from the baptismal font to death, a passing on to the Father's house. In the world's eyes it sometimes seems impossible to spend one's whole life in a monastery but in fact a whole life barely suffices to enter into this union with God, into this essential and profound Reality which is Jesus Christ.

I have come here for this reason, dear Brothers who make up the Carthusian Community of Serra San Bruno! To tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church. Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes. We are one body, in which every member is important and has the same dignity, and is inseparable from the whole. You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through your veins.

Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis [the cross is steady while the world is turning], your motto says. The Cross of Christ is the firm point in the midst of the world's changes and upheavals. Life in a Charterhouse shares in the stability of the Cross which is that of God, of God's faithful love. By remaining firmly united to Christ, like the branches to the Vine, may you too, dear Carthusian Brothers, be associated to his mystery of salvation, like the Virgin Mary who stabat (stood) beneath the Cross, united with her Son in the same sacrifice of love.

Thus, like Mary and with her, you too are deeply inserted in the mystery of the Church, a sacrament of union of men with God and with each other. In this you are unusually close to my ministry. May the Most Holy Mother of the Church therefore watch over us and the holy Father Bruno always bless your community from Heaven. Amen.


Pope's Message to Somascan Fathers
"Poverty of Love": "Root of Every Serious Human Problem"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message to the superior of the Somascan Fathers, on the occasion of the jubilee to be celebrated by the order to mark the 500th anniversary of the founder's miraculous release from prison.

The founder, St. Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537), is the patron of orphans and abandoned children.

The celebrations will open in Venice on Sept. 25, with a Mass in St. Mark's Basilica, and will continue throughout the year with a series of historical meetings dedicated to the person and spirituality of the saint. The jubilee will conclude with a nighttime youth pilgrimage to the shrine of the Great Virgin of Treviso, in Italy. The official closing will take place in Somasca on Sept. 30, 2012.

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To the Reverend Father Franco Moscone, CRS

Minister-General of the Order of the Somasca Regular Clerics

I have learned with profound satisfaction that this order is preparing to celebrate with a jubilee year a joyous and important date for its history and charism. Next Sept. 27 is, in fact, the fifth centenary of the miraculous release from prison, wrought by Mary Most Holy, of the founder, St. Jerome Emiliani, universal patron of orphans and abandoned youth: a prodigious event that, at the same time, changed the course of a human life and began a highly significant experience of consecrated life for the history of the Church.

The life of Venetian layman Gerolamo Miani was as though "re-founded" on the night of Sept. 27, 1511, when after sincerely vowing to the Great Virgin of Treviso that he would change his conduct, he was freed from the chains of prison through the intercession of the Mother of God. He himself placed these chains before the altar of the Virgin.

"Dirupisti vincula mea" (Psalm 116:16). The verse of the psalm expresses the genuine interior revolution that took place after that liberation, linked to the tormented political vicissitudes of the age. It became an integral renewal of Jerome's personality: By divine intervention he was liberated from the fetters of egoism, pride, and the search for personal affirmation, so that his existence, initially oriented especially to temporal goods, was centered solely on God, whom he loved and served in a particular way in orphaned, sick and abandoned youth.

Marked by his family vicissitudes, because of which he had become the tutor of all his nephews who had been orphaned, St. Jerome developed the idea that youth, in order to grow up with health -- and especially the neediest -- cannot be abandoned, but that love is an essential requisite. In him, love went beyond resourcefulness, and given that it was a love that arose from the very charity of God, it was full of patience and understanding: attentive, tender, ready for sacrifice, like that of a mother.

The Church of the 16th century, divided by the Protestant schism and in search also of a serious internal reform, enjoyed a re-flowering of holiness that became the first and most original answer to requests for renewal. The testimony of saints shows that one must only have confidence in God: Trials, in fact, both on the personal as well as the institutional level, serve to increase faith. God has his plans, even when we do not succeed in understanding his ordinances.

Care of youth and their human and Christian education, which characterizes the charism of the Somascans, continues to be a commitment of the Church, at all times and in all places. It is necessary that the growth of the new generations is nourished not only by cultural and technical notions, but above all by love, which conquers individualism and egoism and enables one to pay attention to the needs of every brother and sister, even when they cannot be changed, and even more, precisely then.

The luminous example of St. Jerome Emiliani, described by Blessed John Paul II as a "layman who inspired laymen," helps us to be concerned about all the poverties experienced by our youth: moral, physical, existential and above all, the poverty of love, the root of every serious human problem.

Continuing to guide us with her support will be the Virgin Mary, unsurpassable model of faith and charity. Just as she released the chains that kept St. Jerome prisoner, with her maternal goodness may she continue to liberate men from the fetters of sin and the prison of a life deprived of love for God and for neighbor, offering the keys that open God's heart to us and our hearts to God.

With these sentiments, I impart to you, Reverend Father, to all the members of the Somascan Family, and to all those who will join the jubilee celebrations with faith, a special apostolic blessing.

Castel Gandolfo, July 20, 2011


Pope's Homily on Day for Consecrated Life
"A Life Dedicated to Listening and to Proclaiming His Word"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today during evening vespers on the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life, which is observed on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The liturgical service took place in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In today's feast we contemplate the Lord Jesus whom Mary and Joseph take to the Temple "to present him to the Lord" (Luke 2:22). Revealed in this evangelical scene is the mystery of the Son of the Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father, who came into the world to carry out his will faithfully (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7).

Simeon points to him as "light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), and proclaims with prophetic word his supreme offer to God and his final victory (cf. Luke 2:32-35). It is the meeting of the two Testaments, the Old and the New. Jesus enters the ancient Temple, He who is the new Temple of God: He comes to visit his people, bringing to fulfillment obedience to the Law and inaugurating the end times of salvation.

It is interesting to observe close up this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the Temple, in the great "coming and going" of so many people, seized by their endeavors: the priests and the Levites with their turns of service, the numerous devotees and pilgrims, desirous of encountering the Holy God of Israel. None of these, however, notice anything. Jesus is a child like others, first born son of two very simple parents. Even the priests are incapable of accepting the signs of the new and particular presence of the Messiah and Savior. Only two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover the great novelty. Led by the Holy Spirit, they see in that Child the fulfillment of their long expectation and vigilance. Both contemplate the light of God that comes to illumine the world, with their prophetic gaze open to the future, as proclamation of the Messiah: "Lumen ad revelationem gentium!" (Luke 2:32). In the prophetic attitude of two old people is the entire Ancient Covenant, which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. On seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna intuit that it is in fact Him, the One Awaited.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total donation of the life for all those men and women who are called to reproduce in the Church and in the world, through the evangelical counsels, the characteristic features of Jesus virgin, poor and obedient" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Vita Consecrata," No. 1). That is why today's feast was chosen by the Venerable John Paul II to celebrate the annual Day of Consecrated Life. In this context, I address a cordial and grateful greeting to Archbishop Joăo Bráz de Aviz, whom I recently appointed prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the secretary and the collaborators. I greet affectionately the Superiors General present and all consecrated persons.

I would like to propose three brief thoughts for reflection on this feast. The first: the evangelical icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple contains the essential symbol of light; the light that, coming from Christ, shines on Mary and Joseph, on Simeon and Anna and, through them, on everyone. The Fathers of the Church linked this radiation to the spiritual journey. Consecrated life expresses this journey, in a special way as "philocalia," love of divine beauty, reflection of the goodness of God (cf. ibid., No. 19). Resplendent on Christ's face is this beauty. "The Church contemplates the transfigured face of Christ, to be confirmed in the faith and not risk dismay before his disfigured face on the Cross ... she is the Bride before her Spouse, sharing his mystery, enveloped by his light, [from which] are gathered all his children ... But a singular experience of the light that emanates from the Word incarnate are certainly those called to the consecrated life. In fact, the profession of the evangelical counsels places them as sign and prophecy for the community of brothers and for the world" (ibid., No. 15).

In the second place, the evangelical icon manifests the prophecy, gift of the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna, contemplating the Child Jesus, perceive his destiny of death and resurrection for the salvation of all peoples and proclaim this mystery as universal salvation. Consecrated life is called to this prophetic witness, linked to its twofold attitude, contemplative and active. Given to consecrated men and women, in fact, is to manifest the primacy of God, passion for the Gospel practiced as a way of life and proclaimed to the poor and to the last of the earth. "In the strength of such primacy nothing can be preferred to personal love for Christ and for the poor in which He lives. True prophecy is born from God, from friendship with Him, from attentive listening to his Word in the different circumstances of history" (ibid., No. 84). In this way consecrated life, in its daily living on the paths of humanity, manifests the Gospel and the Kingdom already present and operative.

In the third place, the evangelical icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple manifests the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, the wisdom of a life dedicated totally to the search of the face of God, of his signs, of his will; a life dedicated to listening and to proclaiming his Word.

"'Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram': thy face, O Lord, do I seek" (Psalm 26:8). Hence, the consecrated person witnesses the joyful and laborious commitment, the assiduous and wise search of the divine will" (cf. Congress for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction The Service of Authority and Obedience. Faciem tuam Domine requiram [2008], No. 1).

Dear brothers and sisters, be assiduous listeners of the Word, because every wisdom of life is born of the Word of the Lord! Be scrutinizers of the Word, through Lectio Divina, because consecrated life "is born from listening to the Word of God and accepting the Gospel as its norm of life. To live following the chaste, poor and obedient Christ is in this way a living "exegesis" of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, in the strength of which the Bible was written, is the same who illumines the Word of God to men and women founders with new light. From it flows every charism and every rule is an expression of it, giving origin to itineraries of Christian life marked by evangelical radicalism" (postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," No. 83).

Today we live above all in the most developed societies, a condition often marked by a radical pluralism, by the progressive marginalization of religion from the public sphere, by a relativism that touches fundamental values. This calls for our Christian witness to be luminous and consistent and for our educational effort to be ever more attentive and generous. In particular your apostolic action, dear brothers and sisters, must become a life commitment, which accedes with persevering passion, to wisdom as truth and beauty "splendor of the truth." Be able to orient your life with wisdom, and with trust in the inexhaustible possibilities of true education, and the intelligence and the heart of men and women of our time to the "good life of the Gospel."

At this moment, my thought goes with special affection to all consecrated men and women, in every part of the earth, and I entrust them to the Blessed Virgin Mary:

O Mary, Mother of the Church,
I entrust to you consecrated life,
So that you will obtain for it the fullness of divine light:
That it may live in listening to the Word of God,
In the humility of the following of Jesus your Son and our Lord,
In the acceptance of the visit of the Holy Spirit,
In the daily joy of the Magnificat,
So that the Church is built by the holiness of life
Of these your sons and daughters,
In the commandment of love. Amen.


Papal Address to Union of Superiors General
"Consecrated Life Has its Origin in the Lord"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2010 - Here is an address given Friday by Benedict XVI in an audience with participants in a biannual general assembly of the Union of Superiors General of religious congregations.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the half-yearly assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which you are celebrating -- in continuity with that of last May -- on the theme of consecrated life in Europe. I greet the president Don Pascual Chávez, whom I thank for the words that he addressed to me, and the executive council; a special greeting to the directive committee of the International Union of Superiors General and to the numerous superiors general. I extend my thoughts to all of the members of your orders and institutes throughout the world, especially those who suffer persecution for witness to the Gospel. I would like to express my sincere thanks for what you do in the Church and with the Church on behalf of evangelization and of man. I think of the multiple pastoral activities in the parishes, in the shrines and the centers of worship, for the catechesis and Christian formation of children, of young people and of adults, manifesting your passion for Christ and for humanity. I think of the great work in the field of education, in the universities and in the schools; of the multiple social works, through which you encounter the brothers who are most in need with God's love itself. I think also of the witness, at times dangerous, of the evangelical life in the missions "ad gentes," in often difficult circumstances.

Your last two assemblies have been dedicated to considering the future of consecrated life in Europe. This has meant rethinking the meaning of your vocation itself, which entails, first of all, seeking God, quaerere Deum: you are seekers of God by vocation. To this pursuit you consecrate the most precious energies of your life. You pass from secondary things to those that are essential, to what is truly important; you seek the definitive, you seek God, keeping your gaze fixed upon him. Like the first monks, you cultivate an eschatological orientation: Behind the provisory you seek what remains, what does not pass (Cf. Address at the Collčge des Bernardins, Paris, September 12, 2008). You seek God in the confreres whom have been given to you, with whom you share the same life and mission. You seek him in the men and women of our time, to whom you have been sent to offer, with your life and with your words, the gift of the Gospel. You seek him especially in the poor, the first to hear the Good News (cf. Luke 4:18). You seek him in the Church, where the Lord is present, above all in the Eucharist and the other sacraments, and in his Word, which is the master way of the pursuit of God; it leads us into conversation with him and it reveals to us his true face. Always be passionate pursuers and witnesses of God!

The profound renewal of the consecrated life begins with the centrality of the Word of God, and more concretely in the Gospel, supreme rule for all of you, as the Second Vatican Council affirms in the decree "Perfectae Caritatis" (cf. n. 2) and as your founders well understood: The consecrated life is a plant with a wealth of branches that has its roots in the Gospel. This is demonstrated by the history of your institutes, in which the firm will to live the message of Christ and configure your life to him, is and remains the fundamental criterion of vocational discernment and of your personal and communal discernment. The Gospel lived daily is the element that gives beauty to the consecrated life and presents you before the world as a trustworthy alternative. Contemporary society needs and the Church expects you to be a living Gospel.

Another fundamental aspect of the consecrated life that I would like to stress is fraternity: "confession Trinitatis" (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation "Vita Consecrata," 41) and parable of the Church as communion. The witness of your consecration passes through it. Fraternal life is one of the aspects greatly sought by young people when they draw near to your life; it is an important prophetic element that you offer to a fundamentally individualistic society. I know the efforts that you are making in this field, as I also know the difficulties that communal life has. There is need of serious and constant discernment to listen to what the Spirit says to the communities (cf. Revelation 2:7), to recognize what comes from the Lord and what is contrary to him (cf. "Vita Consecrata," 73). Without discernment accompanied by prayer and by reflection, the consecrated life runs the risk of accommodating itself to the criteria of this world: individualism, consumerism, materialism; criteria that eliminate fraternity and deprive consecrated life of what is striking and attractive about it. Be masters of discernment so that your brothers and sisters assume this "habitus" and your communities become an eloquent sign for the world of today. You who exercise the service of authority, and who have the task of leadership and planning for the future of your religious institutes, remember that an important part of the spiritual animation and government is the common pursuit of means to promote communion, mutual communication, warmth and truth in reciprocal relations.

A last element that I would like to highlight is mission. Mission is the Church's mode of being and, in it, of the consecrated life itself; it is part of your identity; it moves you to bring the Gospel to everyone, without limits. Mission, supported by a powerful experience of God, by a robust formation and by a fraternal life in community, is a key for understanding and revitalizing consecrated life. Go, then, and in creative fidelity make the challenge of the new evangelization your own. Renew your presence in the Areopaguses of today to proclaim, as St. Paul did in Athens, the "unknown" God (cf. Address at the Collčge des Bernardins).

Dear Superiors General, for many institutes the present moment presents the datum of numeric diminishment, especially in Europe. The difficulties, however, must not make us forget that the consecrated life has its origin in the Lord: It is willed by him for the building up and the holiness of his Church, and thus the Church itself will never be deprived of it. As I encourage you to walk in faith and in hope, I ask you for a renewed effort in vocations work and in initial and permanent formation. I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to your holy founders and patrons, while from my heart I impart to you my apostolic blessing, which I extend to your religious families.


Papal Message for Mother Teresa's 100th Birthday
Christ's "Thirst for Souls Is Quenched by Your Ministry"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 26, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the Missionaries of Charity on the occasion of today's 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, founder of the order. The message was directed to the superior-general of the order, Sister Mary Prema.

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I send cordial greetings to you and to all the Missionaries of Charity at the start of the celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Blessed Mother Teresa, founder of your order and exemplary model of Christian virtues. I trust that this year will be for the Church and for the world an occasion of fervent gratitude to God for the invaluable gift that Mother Teresa was in the course of her life and that she continues to be through the loving and tireless work that you, her spiritual daughters, carry out.

To prepare for this year, you have sought to come closer to the person of Jesus, whose thirst for souls is quenched by your ministry for him among the poorest of the poor. Having responded with trust to the direct call of the Lord, Mother Teresa exemplified excellently the words of St. John: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. ... [I]f we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us" (1 John 4:11-12).

May this love continue to inspire you, Missionaries of Charity, to give yourselves generously to Jesus, to all those you see and serve, that is, to the poor, the marginalized, the abandoned. I encourage you to draw constantly from the spirituality and the example of Mother Teresa and, following in her footsteps, to accept Christ's invitation: "Come and be my light."

Participating spiritually in the celebrations for the centenary, with great affection in the Lord, I impart to the Missionaries of Charity and to all those you serve, my heartfelt paternal Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Message to Rogationist Fathers
"Spread Ever More the Spirit of Prayer ... for All Vocations in the Church"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the 11th General Chapter of the Rogationist Fathers, which began Monday.

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To the Delegates to the Chapter Meeting of Rogationists of the Heart of Jesus

On the occasion of your 11th General Chapter, I wish to unite myself spiritually to you, who are living an event of grace: it is a strong call to return ever more to the roots of your congregation, to deepen the charism to then be able to incarnate it in the present sociocultural context, in the most suitable ways.

In these intense days, you wish to focus your attention on the topic "The Rule of Life, Expression of the Consecration, Guarantee of the Charismatic Identity, Support of Fraternal Communion, Mission Plan." You intend to review and approve the constitutions and norms of your institute to adapt them especially to the new ecclesial sensibility stemming from the Second Vatican Council and codified in the current Code of Canon Law. Such a commitment is of particular importance, because it is about presenting to the whole religious family the reference texts to which everyone will have to conform their own experience of fraternal and apostolic life, to be an eloquent sign of the love of God and instrument of salvation in every environment.

May God bless your plans! To be fruitful you must faithfully preserve the spiritual patrimony handed down to you by your founder, St. Annibale Maria di Francia, who loved Christ intensely, and was always inspired by him in carrying out a prudent vocational apostolate as well as courageous work in favor of his needy neighbors. Follow his example and joyfully continue his mission, still valid today, even though the social conditions in which we live have changed. In particular, spread ever more the spirit of prayer and of solicitude for all vocations in the Church; be eager laborers for the coming of the Kingdom of God, dedicating yourselves with every energy to evangelization and human development.

The great challenge of inculturation asks you today to proclaim the Good News with comprehensible languages and ways to the men of our time, involved in rapidly changing social and cultural processes. Vast, hence, is the field of apostolate that opens before you! Like your founder, give your existence to all those who are "thirsty" for hope, cultivate an authentic passion to educate, above all for young people, spend yourselves with a generous pastoral activity among people, especially in favor of all those who suffer in body and spirit.

To this end, I am pleased to repeat to you what I said recently, almost at the end of the Year for Priests: "Every Pastor, therefore, is a means through whom Christ himself loves men: it is through our ministry, dear priests, it is through us that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them" (General Audience, May 27, 2010).

Your congregation boasts a long history, written by courageous witnesses of Christ and the Gospel. You are called to walk in these footsteps today with renewed zeal to drive yourselves with prophetic liberty and wise discernment, on bold apostolic roads and missionary frontiers, cultivating a close collaboration with the bishops and the other components of the ecclesial community. The vast horizons of evangelization and the urgent need to witness the evangelical message to all, without distinction, constitute the field of your apostolate. So many still wait to know Jesus, only redeemer of man, and not a few situations of injustice and of moral and material hardship summon believers.

Such an urgent mission requires incessant personal and community conversion. Only hearts totally open to the action of grace are able to interpret the signs of the times and to receive the appeals of humanity in need of hope and peace.

May faithful adherence to Christ and to his Gospel shine in the various fields of your ecclesial service. May the Holy Virgin, queen of vocations and mother of priests protect you, help you and be the sure guide on the path of your religious family, so that it will be able to bring to fulfillment every good project.

With these hopes, while assuring you of my affectionate remembrance in prayer for each one of you and for your chapter, I impart to you my heartfelt blessing, which I gladly extend to all Rogationists, to the Daughters of Divine Zeal and to all those you meet in your daily apostolate.


Papal Homily During Visit to Dominican Cloister
"You Were Consecrated to Jesus, to Belong to Him Exclusively"

ROME, JUNE 24, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today during his visit to cloistered nuns of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria del Rosario in Rome's Monte Mario district.

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Dear Sisters,

I address to each one of you the words of Psalm 124 (125), which we just prayed: "Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!" (v. 4). I greet you above all with this wish: the goodness of the Lord be upon you. In particular, I greet your Mother Prioress and thank her from my heart for the kind expressions she addressed to me in the name of the community. With great joy I accepted the invitation to visit this convent, to be able to pause with you at the feet of the image of St. Sixtus' acheropita Virgin, now protector of the Roman convents of St. Mary in Tempulo and of St. Sixtus.

Together we have prayed the midday prayer, a small part of this Liturgical Prayer that, as cloistered, marks the rhythm of your days and makes you interpreters of the Church-Bride which unites her, in a special way, with her Lord. With this choral prayer, which finds its culmination in the daily participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, your consecration to the Lord in silence and seclusion becomes fecund and full of fruits, not only for the path of sanctification and purification, but also for the apostolate of intercession that you carry out for the whole Church, so that it can appear pure and holy in the presence of the Lord. You, who know well the efficacy of prayer, experience every day the many graces of holiness it can obtain in the Church.

Dear Sisters, the community you make up is a place where you can dwell in the Lord; it is for you the New Jerusalem, to which the tribes of the Lord go up to praise the name of the Lord (cf. Psalm121:4). Be grateful to Divine Providence for the sublime and gratuitous gift of the monastic vocation, to which the Lord has called you without any merit of yours. With Isaiah, you can affirm "the Lord formed me from the womb" (Isaiah 49:5). Even before you were born, the Lord had kept your heart for himself to be able to fill it with his love. Through the sacrament of baptism you received Divine grace in yourselves, immersed in his Death and Resurrection, you were consecrated to Jesus, to belong to him exclusively. The way of contemplative life, which you received from St. Dominic in the form of cloister, places you, as living and vital members, in the heart of the Lord's Mystical Body, which is the Church; and as the heart makes the blood circulate and maintains the whole body alive, so your hidden existence with Christ, interlaced with work and prayer, contributes to sustain the Church, instrument of salvation for every man whom the Lord redeemed with his blood.

It is this inexhaustible source that you approach with prayer, presenting in the presence of the Most High the spiritual and material needs of so many brothers in difficulty, the strayed life of all those who separate themselves from the Lord. How can one not be moved by compassion for those who seem to wander aimlessly? How can one not wish that in their life they will encounter Jesus, the only one who gives meaning to existence? The holy desire that the Kingdom of God be established in the heart of every man, is identified with prayer itself, as St. Augustine teaches us: Ipsum desiderium tuum, oratio tua est; et si continuum desiderium, continue oratio (cf. Ep. 130, 18-20); because of this, as fire that burns and is never extinguished, the heart remains alert, it never ceases to desire and it always raises a hymn of praise to God.

Recognize because of this, Dear Sisters, that in everything you do, beyond the personal moments of prayer, your heart continues to be led by the desire to love God. With the Bishop of Hippo, acknowledge that the Lord has put his love in your hearts, desire that dilates the heart, until it makes it capable of receiving God himself (cf. In. O. Ev. tr. 40, 10). This is the horizon of the earthly pilgrimage! This is your goal! This is why you have chosen to live in obscurity and in the renunciation of earthly goods: to desire above all that good which has no equal, that precious pearl that merits the renunciation of any other good to enter into its possession.

May you be able to pronounce every day your "yes" to God's designs, with the same humility with which the Holy Virgin said her "yes." May she, who in silence received the Word of God, guide you in your daily virginal consecration, so that you will be able to experience in obscurity the profound intimacy she lived with Jesus. Invoking her maternal protection, together with that of St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena and of the many men and women saints of the Dominican Order, I impart to you all a special Apostolic blessing, which I willingly extend to the persons who entrust themselves to your prayers.


Pope's Homily on Day of Consecrated Life
"A School of Trust in the Mercy of God"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during vespers on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, which is also the 14th Day of Consecrated Life.

Present at the liturgical celebration were members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a celebration of a mystery of the life of Christ, linked to the precept of the Mosaic law that prescribed for parents, 40 days after the birth of their first-born, to go to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer their son to the Lord and for the ritual purification of the mother (cf Exodus 13:1-2.11-16; Leviticus 12:1-8).

Mary and Joseph also fulfilled this rite, offering -- according to the law -- a couple of turtle doves or pigeons. Reading things in greater depth, we understand that at that moment it was God himself who presented his Only-begotten Son to men, through the words of the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Simeon, in fact, proclaimed Jesus as "salvation" of humanity, as "light" of all nations and "sign of contradiction," because he would reveal the thoughts of hearts (cf Luke 2:29-35).

In the East this feast was called Hypapante, feast of meeting: In fact, Simeon and Anna, who met Jesus in the Temple and recognized in him the Messiah so awaited, represent humanity that meets its Lord in the Church. Subsequently, this feast spread also to the West, developing above all the symbol of light, and the procession with candles, which gave origin to the term "Candlemas." With this visible sign one wishes to signify that the Church meets in faith him who is "the light of men" and receives him with all the impulse of her faith to take this "light" to the world.

In concomitance with this liturgical feast, Venerable John Paul II, beginning in 1997, wished that the whole Church should celebrate a special Day of Consecrated Life. In fact, the oblation of the Son of God -- symbolized by his presentation in the Temple -- is the model for every man and woman that consecrates all his or her life to the Lord.

The purpose of this day is threefold: first of all to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of consecrated life; in the second place, to promote the knowledge and appreciation by all the People of God; finally, to invite all those who have fully dedicated their life to the cause of the Gospel to celebrate the marvels that the Lord has operated in them.

In thanking you for having gathered in such numbers, on this day dedicated particularly to you, I wish to greet each one of you with great affection: men and women religious and consecrated persons, expressing to you my cordial closeness and heartfelt appreciation for the good you do in the service of the People of God.

The brief reading, which was just proclaimed, treats of the Letter to the Hebrews, which brings together well the motives that were at the origin of this significant and beautiful event and offers us some ideas for reflection. This text -- which has two verses, but very charged with significance -- opens the second part of the Letter to the Hebrews, introducing the central theme of Christ the high priest.

One should really consider as well the immediately preceding verse, which says: "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Hebrews 4:14). This verse shows Jesus who ascends to the Father; while the subsequent one presents him descending toward men. Christ is presented as the Mediator: He is true God and true man -- that is why he really belongs to the divine and to the human world.

In reality, it is properly and only from this faith, from this profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the only and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life has meaning in the Church, a life consecrated to God through Christ. It has meaning only if he is truly Mediator between God and us, otherwise it would only be a form of sublimation or evasion.

If Christ was not truly God, and was not, at the same time, fully man, the foundation of Christian life as such would come to naught, and in an altogether particular way, the foundation of every Christian consecration of man and woman would come to naught. Consecrated life, in fact, witnesses and expresses in a "powerful" way the reciprocal seeking of God and man, the love that attracts them to one another. The consecrated person, by the very fact of his or her being, represents something like a "bridge" to God for all those he or she meets -- a call, a return. And all this by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Father's Consecrated One. He is the foundation! He who shared our frailty so that we could participate in his divine nature.

Our text insists on more than on faith, but rather on "trust" with which we can approach the "throne of grace," from the moment that our high priest was himself "put to the test in everything like us." We can approach to "receive mercy," "find grace," and "to be helped in the opportune moment." It seems to me that these words contain a great truth and also a great comfort for us who have received the gift and commitment of a special consecration in the Church.

I am thinking in particular of you, dear sisters and brothers. You approached with full trust the "throne of grace" that is Christ, his Cross, his Heart, to his divine presence in the Eucharist. Each one of you has approached him as the source of pure and faithful love, a love so great and beautiful as to merit all, in fact, more than our all, because a whole life is not enough to return what Christ is and what he has done for us. But you approached him, and every day you approach him, also to be helped in the opportune moment and in the hour of trial.

Consecrated persons are called in a particular way to be witnesses of this mercy of the Lord, in which man finds his salvation. They have the vivid experience of God's forgiveness, because they have the awareness of being saved persons, of being great when they recognize themselves to be small, of feeling renewed and enveloped by the holiness of God when they recognize their own sin. Because of this, also for the man of today, consecrated life remains a privileged school of "compunction of heart," of the humble recognition of one's misery but, likewise, it remains a school of trust in the mercy of God, in his love that never abandons. In reality, the closer we come to God, and the closer one is to him, the more useful one is to others. Consecrated persons experience the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God not only for themselves, but also for their brothers, being called to carry in their heart and prayer the anxieties and expectations of men, especially of those who are far from God.

In particular, communities that live in cloister, with their specific commitment of fidelity in "being with the Lord," in "being under the cross," often carry out this vicarious role, united to Christ of the Passion, taking on themselves the sufferings and trials of others and offering everything with joy for the salvation of the world.

Finally, dear friends, we wish to raise to the Lord a hymn of thanksgiving and praise for consecrated life itself. If it did not exist, how much poorer the world would be! Beyond the superficial valuations of functionality, consecrated life is important precisely for its being a sign of gratuitousness and of love, and this all the more so in a society that risks being suffocated in the vortex of the ephemeral and the useful (cf Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Consecrated Life, 105). Consecrated life, instead, witnesses to the superabundance of the Lord's love, who first "lost" his life for us. At this moment I am thinking of the consecrated persons who feel the weight of the daily effort lacking in human gratification, I am thinking of elderly men and women religious, the sick, of all those who feel difficulties in their apostolate. Not one of these is futile, because the Lord associates them to the "throne of grace." Instead, they are a precious gift for the Church and the world, thirsty for God and his Word.

Full of trust and gratitude, let us then also renew the gesture of the total offering of ourselves, presenting ourselves in the Temple. May the Year for Priests be a further occasion, for priests religious to intensify the journey of sanctification, and for all consecrated men and women, a stimulus to support and sustain their ministry with fervent prayer.

This year of grace will have a culminating moment in Rome, next June, in the international meeting of priests, to which I invite all those who exercise the Sacred Ministry. We approach the thrice Holy to offer our life and our mission, personal and community, of men and women consecrated to the Kingdom of God. Let us carry out this interior gesture in profound spiritual communion with the Virgin Mary: while contemplating her in the act of presenting the Child Jesus in the Temple, we venerate her as the first and perfect consecrated one, carried by that God she carries in her arms; Virgin, poor and obedient, totally dedicated to us because totally of God. In her school, and with her maternal help, we renew our "here I am" and our "fiat." Amen.


Pope's Letter for St. Anselm Celebration
"One of the Brightest Figures in the Tradition of the Church"

AOSTA, Italy, APRIL 28, 2009 - Here is the text of the letter Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm. The message was read April 21, the saint's feast day, at a solemn Mass in the Aosta cathedral in honor of the philosopher and theologian.

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In view of the celebrations in which you, venerable brother, will take part as my legate in the illustrious city of Aosta in honor of the ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm, which took place in Canterbury on 21 April 1109, I would like to give you a special message in which I wish recall the main features of this great monk, theologian and pastor of souls, whose work has left a deep mark on the history of the Church.

The anniversary is indeed an opportunity not to be missed to renew the memory of one of the brightest figures in the tradition of the Church and in the history of Western European thought. The exemplary monastic experience of Anselm, his original method of rethinking the Christian mystery, his subtle philosophical and theological doctrine, his teaching on the inviolable value of conscience and on freedom as the responsible adherence to truth and goodness, his passionate work as a shepherd of souls, dedicated with all his strength to the promotion of "freedom of the Church," have never ceased to arouse in the past the deepest interest, which the memory of his death is happily reigniting and encouraging in many ways and in different places.

In this memorial of the "Magnificent Doctor" -- as St. Anselm is called -- the Church of Aosta cannot but be recognized, the Church in which he was born and which is rightly pleased to consider Anselm as her most illustrious son. Even when he left Aosta in the time of his youth, he continued to carry in his memory and in his heart the bundle of memories that was never far from his thoughts in the most important moments of life. Among those memories, a particular place was certainly reserved for the sweet image of his mother and the majestic mountains of his valley with their high peaks, and perennial snow, in which he saw represented, as if in a fascinating and suggestive symbol, the sublimity of God. To Anselm - "a child raised in the mountains," as Admero his biographer calls him, ("Vita Sancti Anselmi," i, 2) - God appears to be that of which you cannot think of something bigger: perhaps his intuition was not unrelated to the childhood view of those inaccessible peaks. Already as a child he thought that in order to find God it was necessary to "climb to the summit of the mountain" (ibid.). In fact, he will realize more and more that God remains at an inaccessible height, located beyond the horizons which man is able to reach, since God is beyond the thinkable. Because of this, the journey in search of God, at least on this earth, will never end, but will always be thought and desire, the rigorous process of the intellect and the imploring inquiry of the heart.

The intense desire to know and the innate propensity for clarity and logical rigor will push Anselm towards the "scholeae" [schools] of his time. He will therefore join the monastery of Le Bec, where his inclination for dialectic reflection will be satisfied and above all, where his cloistered vocation will enkindle. To dwell on the years of the monastic life of Anselm is to encounter a faithful religious, "constantly occupied in God alone and in the disciplines of heaven" -- as his biographer writes -- in order to achieve "such a summit of divine speculation that would enable him by a path opened by God to penetrate, and, once penetrated, to explain the most obscure and previously unresolved questions concerning the divinity of God and our faith and to prove with clear reasons that what he stated belonged to sure Catholic doctrine" ("Vita Sancti Anselmi," i, 7). With these words, his biographer describes the theological method of St. Anselm, whose thought was ignited and illuminated in prayer. It is he himself that confesses, in his famous work, that the understanding of faith is an approach toward a vision, which we all yearn for and which we all hope to enjoy at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, "Quoniam inter fidem et speciem intellectum quem in hac vita capimus esse medium intelligo: quanto aliquis ad illum proficit, tanto eum propinquare speciei, ad quam omnes anhelamus, existimo (Cur Deus homo, Commendatio).

The saint desired to achieve the vision of the logical relationships inherent to the mystery, to perceive the "clarity of truth," and thus to grasp the evidence of the "necessary reasons," intimately bound to the mystery. A bold plan certainly, and it is one whose success still occupies the reflections of the students of Anselm today. In fact, his search of the "intellectus" [intellect] positioned between "fides" [faith] and "species" [vision] comes out of the source of the same faith and is sustained by confidence in reason, through which faith in a certain way is illuminated. The intent of Anselm is clear: "to raise the mind to contemplation of God" (Proslogion, Proemium). There remain, in any event, for every theological research, his programmatic words: "I do not try, Lord, to penetrate your depth, because I cannot, even from a distance, compare it with my intellect, but I want to understand, at least up to a certain point, your truth, which my heart believes and loves. I do not seek, in fact, to try to understand it in order to believe it, but I believe in order to understand it."[Non quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam] (Proslogion, 1).

In Anselm, prior and abbot of Le Bec, we underline some characteristics that further define his personal profile. What strikes us, first of all, is his charism as an expert teacher of spiritual life, one who knows and wisely illustrates the ways of monastic perfection. At the same time, one is fascinated by his instructive geniality, which is expressed in that discernment method -- which he names, the "via discretionis" (Ep. 61) -- which is a small image of his whole life, an image composed of both mercy and firmness. The peculiar ability which he demonstrates in initiating disciples to the experience of authentic prayer is very peculiar: in particular, his "Orationes sive Meditationes," eagerly requested and widely used, which have contributed to making many people of his time " anime oranti" [praying souls], as with his other works, have proved themselves a valuable catalyst in making the Middle Ages a "thinking" and, we might add, "conscientious" period. One would say that the most authentic Anselm can be found at Le Bec, where he remained thirty three years, and where he was much loved. Thanks to the maturity that he acquired in a similar environment of reflection and prayer, he will be able, as well in the midst of the subsequent trials as bishop, to declare: "I will not retain in my heart any resentment for any one" (Ep. 321).

The nostalgia of the monastery will accompany him for the rest of his life. He confessed it himself when he was constrained, to his deepest sorrow and that of his monks, to leave the monastery to assume the Episcopal ministry to which did not feel well disposed: "It is well known to many," he wrote to Pope Urban II, "the violence which was done to me, and how much I was reluctant and contrary, when I was brought as a bishop to England and how I explained the reasons of nature, age, weakness and ignorance, which were opposed to this office and that absolutely detest and shun scholastic duties, which I cannot dedicate myself to at all without endangering the salvation of my soul" (Ep. 206). He confides later with his monks in these terms: "I have lived for 33 years a monk -- three years without responsibility, 15 as prior, and as many as abbot -- in such a way that all the good people that knew me loved me, certainly not by my own merits but for the grace of God, and the ones that loved me most were those that knew me most intimately and with greatest familiarity" (Ep. 156). And he added: "You have been many to come to Le Bec ... Many of you I surrounded with a love so tender and sweet that each one had the impression that I did not love anyone else in the same way" (ibid.).

Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and beginning, in this way, his most troubled journey, his "love of truth" (Ep. 327), his uprightness, his strict loyalty to conscience, his "Episcopal freedom" (Ep. 206), his " Episcopal honesty" (Ep. 314), his tireless work for the liberation of the Church from the temporal conditionings and from the servitude of calculations that are incompatible with his spiritual nature will appear in their full light. His words to King Henry remain exemplary in this respect, "I reply that in neither baptism nor in any other ordination that I have received, did I promised to observe the law or the custom of your father or of the Archbishop Lanfranco, but the law of God and of all the orders received" (Ep. 319). For Anselm, the primate of the Church of England, one principle applies: "I am a Christian, I am a monk, I am a Bishop: I desire to be faithful to all, according to the debt I have with each" (Ep. 314). In this vein he does not hesitate to say: "I prefer to be in disagreement with men than, agreeing with them, to be in disagreement with God" (Ep. 314). Precisely for this reason he feels ready even for the supreme sacrifice: "I am not afraid to shed my blood, I fear no wound in my body nor the loss of any material good" (Ep. 311).

It is understandable that, for all these reasons, Anselm still retains a great actuality and a strong appeal, in as much as it is fruitful to revisit and republish his writings, and together meditate continuously on his life. For this reason I have rejoiced that Aosta, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the death of the saint, has distinguished itself with a set of appropriate and intelligent initiatives -- especially with the careful edition of his works -- with the intention to make known and loved the teachings and examples of this, its illustrious son. I entrust to you, Venerable Brother, the task of bringing to the faithful of the ancient and beloved city of Aosta the exhortation to remember with admiration and affection this great fellow citizen of theirs, whose light continues to shine throughout the Church, especially where the love for the truths of faith and the desire for their study by the light of reason are cultivated. And, in fact, faith and reason -- "fides et ratio" -- are united admirably in Anselm. I send, with these heartfelt sentiments through you, venerable brother, to the Bishop, Monsignor Giuseppe Anfossi, the clergy, the religious and the faithful of Aosta and to all those who take part in the celebrations in honor of the "Magnificent Doctor," a special apostolic blessing, propitiatory of an abundant outpouring of heavenly favours.


Benedict XVI's Address to the Franciscan Family
"Attract to Christ Men and Women of All Ages"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 20, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday at the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, in an audience with members of the Franciscan family participating in the "Chapter of Mats."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Franciscan family!

With great joy I welcome you all at this happy and historic occasion that has gathered you all together: the eighth centenary of the approval of the "protoregola" [monastic rule] of St. Francis by Pope Innocent III. Eight hundred years have passed, and those dozen friars have become a multitude, scattered all over the world and now here, by you, worthily represented. In recent days you have gathered in Assisi for what you wanted to call the "Chapter of Mats" to recall your origins. And at the end of this extraordinary experience you have come together with the "Signor Papa" [Lord Pope], as your seraphic founder would say. I greet you all with affection: the Friars Minor of the three branches, guided by the respective Ministers General, among whom I thank Father José Rodriguez Carballo for his kind words, the members of the Third Order, with their Minister General; the Franciscan women religious and members of the Franciscan secular institutes, and knowing them spiritually present, the Poor Clares, which constitute the "second order."

I am pleased to welcome some Franciscan bishops, and in particular I greet the bishop of Assisi, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, who represents the Church of Assisi, the home of Francis and Clare, and spiritually, of all the Franciscans. We know how important it was for Francis, the link with the bishop of Assisi at the time, Guido, who acknowledged his charisma and supported it. It was Guido who presented Francis to Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, who then introduced him to the Pope and encouraged the adoption of the Rule. Charism and institution are always complementary for the edification of the Church.

What should I tell you, dear friends? First of all I would like to join you in giving thanks to God for the path that he has marked out for you, filling you with his benefits. And as Pastor of the Church, I want to thank him for the precious gift that you are for the entire Christian people. From the small stream that flowed from the foot of Mount Subasio, it has formed a great river, which has made a significant contribution to the universal spread of the Gospel. It all began from the conversion of Francis, who, following the example of Jesus "emptied himself" (cf. Phil 2:7) and, by marrying Lady Poverty, became a witness and herald of the Father who is in heaven. To the "Poverello" [little poor man], one can apply literally some expressions that the apostle Paul uses to refer to himself and which I like to remember in this Pauline Year: "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And this life, I live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God who has loved me and given himself for me" (Gal. 2:19-20). And again: "From now on let no one bother me: for I wear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Gal 6:17).

Francis reflects perfectly the footsteps of Paul and in truth can say with him: "For me, to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21). He has experienced the power of divine grace and he is as one who has died and risen. All his previous wealth, any source of pride and security, everything becomes a "loss" from the moment of encounter with the crucified and risen Jesus (cf. Phil 3:7-11). The leaving of everything at that point becomes almost necessary to express the abundance of the gift received. A gift so great as to require a total detachment, which itself isn't enough; it requires a entire life lived "according to the form of the holy Gospel" (2 Tests, 14: the Franciscan Sources, 116).

And here we come to the point that surely lies at the heart of our meeting. I would summarize it as follows: the Gospel as a rule of life. "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:" this is what Francis writes at the beginning of his Rule (Rb I, 1: FF, 75). He defined himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his charm. This is his enduring relevance. Thomas of Celano relates that the Poverello "always held himself in the heart of Jesus. Jesus on the lips, Jesus in his ears, Jesus is his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all the other members [...] In fact finding himself often traveling and meditating or singing about Jesus, he would forget he was traveling and would stop to invite all creatures to praise Jesus" (1 Cel., II, 9, 115: FF115). So the Poverello has become a living gospel, able to attract to Christ men and women of all ages, especially young people, who prefer radical idealism to half-measures. The Bishop of Assisi, Guido, and then Pope Innocent III recognized in the proposal of Francis and his companions the authenticity of the Gospel, and knew how to encourage their commitment for the good of the Church.

Here is a spontaneous reflection: Francis could have also not gone to the Pope. Many religious groups and movements were forming during that time, and some of them were opposed to the Church as an institution, or at least didn't seek the Churches' approval. Certainly a polemical attitude towards the hierarchy would have won Francis many followers. Instead, he immediately thought to put his journey and that of his companions into the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. This fact reveals his true ecclesial spirit. The little "we" that had started with his first friars he conceived from the outset inside the context of the great "we" of the one and universal Church. And the Pope recognized and appreciated this. The Pope, in fact, on his part, could have not approved the project of the life of Francis. Indeed, we can well imagine that among the collaborators of Innocent III, some counseled him to that effect, perhaps fearing that his group of monks would end up resembling other heretical groups and pauperisms of the time. Instead the Roman Pontiff, well informed by the Bishop of Assisi and Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, was able to discern the initiative of the Holy Spirit and welcomed, blessed and encouraged the nascent community of "Friars Minor."

Dear brothers and sisters, eight centuries have passed, and now you have wanted to renew this gesture of your founder. You are all sons and heirs of those origins, of that "good seed" which was Francis, who was conformed to the "grain of wheat" which is the Lord Jesus, died and risen to bring forth much fruit (cf. Jn 12:24). The saints propose anew the fruitfulness of Christ. As Francis and Clare of Assisi, you also commit yourselves to follow the same logic: to lose your lives for Jesus and the Gospel, to save them and make them abundantly fruitful. While you praise and thank the Lord who has called you to be part of such a great and beautiful family, stay attentive to what the Spirit says to it today, in each of its components, to continue to proclaim with passion the Kingdom of God, the footsteps of your seraphic father. Every brother and every sister should keep always a contemplative mood, happy and simple; always begin from Christ, as Francis set out from the gaze of the Crucifix of San Damiano and from the meeting with the leper, to see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters who suffer and bring to all his peace. Be witnesses to the "beauty" of God, which Francis was able to sing contemplating the wonders of creation, and that made him exclaim to the Most High: "You are beauty!" (Praises of God Most High, 4.6: FF 261).

Dear friends, the last word I would like to leave with you is the same that the risen Jesus gave to his disciples: "Go!" (cf. Mt 28:19, Mk 16:15). Go and continue to "repair the house" of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church. In recent days, the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region has severely damaged many churches, and you from Assisi know what this means. But there is another "ruin" that is far more serious: that of people and communities! Like Francis, always start with yourselves. We are the first house that God wants to restore. If you are always able to renew yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, you will continue to assist the pastors of the Church to make more and more beautiful the Church's face, that of the bride of Christ. The Pope, now the same as then, expects this of you. Thank you for coming! Now go and bring to all the peace and love of Christ the Savior. May Mary Immaculate, "Virgin made Church" (cf. Greetings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1 FF, 259), accompany you always. And may my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to all of you here present, and the entire Franciscan family, support you as well.

[Translation by Matthew Pollock]

[The Holy Father greeted the Franciscans in various languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome in a special way the Minister Generals gathered with the priests, Sisters and Brothers of the worldwide Franciscan community present at this audience. As you mark the Eight-hundredth anniversary of the approval of the Rule of Saint Francis, I pray that through the intercession of the Poverello, Franciscans everywhere will continue to offer themselves completely at the service of others, especially the poor. May the Lord bless you in your Apostolates and shower your communities with abundant vocations.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Benedictine Sisters
"Mary's Heart Is the Cloister Where the Word Continues to Speak in Silence"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 9 upon visiting the monastery of the Benedictine Oblate Sisters of St. Frances of Rome at Tor de' Specchi.

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Dear Oblate Sisters,

After my Visit to the nearby Municipal Hall on the Capitoline Hill, I come with great joy to meet you at this historic Monastery of Santa Francesca Romana, while you are still celebrating the fourth centenary of her canonization on 29 May 1608. Moreover, the Feast of this great Saint occurs this very day, commemorating the date of her birth in Heaven. I am therefore particularly grateful to the Lord to be able to pay this tribute to the "most Roman of women Saints", in felicitous continuity with the meeting I have just had with the Administrators at the municipal headquarters. As I address my cordial greeting to your community, and in particular to the President, Mother Maria Camilla Rea whom I thank for her courteous words expressing your common sentiments I also extend my greeting to Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, to the students who live here and to everyone present.

As you know, together with my collaborators in the Roman Curia, I have just completed the Spiritual Exercises which coincided with the first week of Lent. In these days I have experienced once again how indispensable silence and prayer are. And I also thought of St Frances of Rome, of her unreserved dedication to God and neighbour which gave rise to the experience of community life here, at Tor de' Specchi. Contemplation and action, prayer and charitable service, the monastic ideal and social involvement: all this has found here a "laboratory" rich in fruits, in close connection with the Olivetan nuns of Santa Maria Nova. But the real impetus behind all that was achieved in the course of time was the heart of Frances, into which the Holy Spirit had poured out his spiritual gifts and at the same time inspired a multitude of good initiatives.

Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual "lung" of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual "breath", the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints.

In our day too, Rome needs women and of course also men but here I wish to emphasize the feminine dimension women, as I was saying, who belong wholly to God and wholly to their neighbour; women who are capable of recollection and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey their Pastors but also how to support them and encourage them with their suggestions, developed in conversation with Christ and in first-hand experience in the area of charity, assistance to the sick, to the marginalized, to minors in difficulty. This is the gift of a motherhood that is one with religious self-gift, after the model of Mary Most Holy. Let us think of the mystery of the Visitation. Immediately after conceiving the Word of God in her heart and in her flesh, Mary set out to go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary's heart is the cloister where the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time it is the crucible of a charity that is conducive to courageous gestures, as well as to a persevering and hidden sharing.

Dear Sisters, thank you for the prayers with which you always accompany the ministry of the Successor of Peter and thank you for your invaluable presence in the heart of Rome. I hope that you will experience every day the joy of preferring nothing to love of Christ, a motto we have inherited from St Benedict but which clearly mirrors the spirituality of the Apostle Paul, venerated by you as Patron of your Congregation. To you, to the Olivetan monks and to everyone present here, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Speech to Religious of Genoa
"Persevere in Your Institutions and Especially in Your Presence"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's May 18 address to members of the Cathedral Chapter and consecrated religious, gathered at St. Lawrence's Cathedral in Genoa. The gathering took place during the Pontiff's two-day pastoral visit to the Italian region of Liguria.
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Your Eminences,
Dear Members of the Cathedral Chapter,
Dear Men and Women Religious,

In this brief but intense Pastoral Visit to Genoa I could not omit a visit to your famous Cathedral, dedicated to St Lawrence, which preserves the relics of St John the Baptist, the Precursor of Jesus. I am happy to meet the Canons of the venerable Metropolitan Chapter and the men and women Religious present and working in the Archdiocese. This church, surrounded by a network of alleys, seems to be the point of convergence and arrival of every path as though people desired to come out from the shade of the narrow streets into the light of their Cathedral, as if they wanted to come out into the light of God that welcomes, embraces, illumines and restores all. I offer my cordial greeting to each one of you. I address a special greeting to Mons. Mario Grone, Head of the Cathedral Chapter, and Fr Domenico Rossi, Diocesan Delegate for Consecrated Life who have expressed your devout sentiments.

In past centuries, the Church of Genoa had a rich tradition of holiness and generous service to the brethren, thanks to the work of zealous priests and men and women religious of both active and contemplative life. Here the names of various Saints and Blesseds spring to mind: Antonio Maria Gianelli, Agostino Roscelli, Tommaso Reggio, Francesco Maria da Camporosso, Caterina Fieschi Adorno, Virginia Centurione Bracelli, Paola Frassinetti, Eugenia Ravasco, Maria Repetto, Benedetta Cambiagio Frassinello. But even now, notwithstanding the difficulties that society is going through, the enthusiasm for evangelization is strong in your communities. What has grown in particular is the common desire to have closer relations of ever more brotherly understanding in order to collaborate in the missionary action promoted throughout the Archdiocese. In fact, in compliance with the guidelines of the Italian Bishops' Conference, you wish to adopt an ongoing state of mission as a testimony of the joy of the Gospel and an explicit invitation to encounter Jesus Christ that is addressed to all. Here I am among you, dear friends, to encourage you to walk in this direction.

In particular, I would like to point out to you as an example the Apostle Paul, whose special Jubilee we are preparing to celebrate on the occasion of the 2,000th anniversary of his birth. After his conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus he dedicated himself without reserve to the Gospel cause. For Christ he faced trials of all kinds and stayed faithful to him until the sacrifice of his life. Having come to the end of his earthly pilgrimage, he wrote to Timothy his faithful disciple: "For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (II Tim 4: 6-7). May each one of us, dear brothers and sisters, be able to say the same thing on the last day of his/her own life. In order for this to happen, and it is what the Lord expects of his friends, we must cultivate the same missionary spirit that animated St Paul with constant spiritual, ascetic and pastoral formation. Above all, we must become "specialists" in listening to God and credible examples of a holiness that is expressed in fidelity to the Gospel without yielding to the spirit of the world. As Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, a zealous Pastor of this Archdiocese for several decades and now buried in this Cathedral of yours, wrote: "Religious life pivots around God and arranges all things around God and thus becomes a witness of God and the call of God" (Letter to all the Women Religious Praying and Working in the Diocese of Genoa on the Congress on: "Worship of the Lord", 15 August 1953).
Dear Members of the Chapter of Canons of the Cathedral, in attending to the liturgies which take place here, may you remember that everything in us is invigorated by personal and liturgical prayer. Once again it was Cardinal Siri who stressed that "the most venerable and holiest action, worthy of all consideration and regard, of all honour and distinction which is carried out in a diocese is the solemn celebration of the Divine Office, in other words what you do.... The entire Diocese, and in a certain sense the entire Church, prays through your lips. The debt of the diocesan family of the faithful is discharged before God primarily with this prayer of yours" (Towards the Congress on "Worship of the Lord", Pastoral Letter to the Canons, 24 January 1953).

Dear brothers and sisters and in particular you Consecrated People, I thank you for your presence. It is a presence old and ever new, despite your dwindling numbers and strength. But be confident: our times are not those of God and of his Providence. It is necessary to pray and to increase in personal and community holiness. The Lord provides. I ask you never to consider yourselves as though you were in the "twilight" of life: Christ is the eternal dawn, our light. I ask you to persevere in your institutions and especially in your presence: the death of your communities impoverishes you but also Genoa. The poor, the sick, families, children, our Parishes: all this forms a valuable context for service and gift in order to build the Church and serve humankind. I especially recommend to you the education of children and young people: you know that it is the educational challenge which is most urgent because without an authentic human education it is impossible to go far. And all of you, although in different ways, have had an educational experience in the past. We must help parents in their extraordinary and difficult educational task; we must help Parishes and groups; we must continue even with great sacrifices, Catholic schools which are a great treasure of the Christian community and a true resource for the Country.

Dear Canons and dear men and women Religious, the long spiritual tradition of Genoa includes six Popes, among whom I remember above all Benedict XV of venerable memory, the Pope of peace.

In Humani Generis Redemptionem he wrote, "What gives a man's words life and vigour and makes them promote wonderfully the salvation of souls is divine grace" [n. 17]. Let us never forget it: being called to proclaim together the joy of Christ and the beauty of the Church is what binds us. This joy and this beauty, which come from the Spirit, are a gift and a sign of God's presence in our souls. In order to be witnesses and heralds of the saving message we cannot rely solely on our human forces. It is God's own fidelity that encourages and shapes fidelity to him: for this reason let us be guided by the Spirit of truth and love. This is the invitation that I address to each one of you, corroborating it with a special remembrance in prayer. I entrust you all to the Madonna della Guardia, to St Lawrence, to St John the Baptist and to your Patron Saints. With these sentiments I bless you wholeheartedly.


Pope's Address to Participants of Salesian General Chapter
"Don Bosco Is a Shining Example of a Life Marked by Apostolic Zeal"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 10, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 31 upon receiving in audience the participants of the 26th General Chapter of the Congregation of Don Bosco.

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Your Eminence, Dear Members of the General Chapter of the Salesian Congregation, I am pleased to meet you today as your Chapter is now reaching its conclusion. I first of all thank Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva, Rector Major, for the sentiments he has expressed on behalf of you all, confirming the Congregation's will to work with the Church and for the Church always, in full harmony with the Successor of Peter. I thank him too for the generous service he has carried out in the past six years and offer him my good wishes for his recent renewal in office. I also greet the members of the new General Council who will help the Rector Major in his task of animation and in the governance of your whole Congregation. ?In the Message I addressed to the Rector Major at the beginning of the Chapter, and through him to you, the Chapter Members, I expressed certain expectations that the Church has of you Salesians and I also offered several ideas for the progress of your Congregation. Today, I intend to take up again and examine some of these recommendations in the light of the work you are doing. Your 26th Chapter is being celebrated in a period of great social, economic and political change, of heightened ethical, cultural and environmental problems and unresolved conflicts between races and nations. Moreover, in our time, communication between peoples is more intense, there are new opportunities for knowledge and dialogue and a livelier exchange on the spiritual values that give meaning to life. ?In particular, the appeals young people make to us and especially their questions about the fundamental problems are linked to their intense longing for a full life, authentic love and constructive freedom. They are situations that test the Church and her ability to proclaim Christ's Gospel today with its promise full of hope. ?I therefore warmly hope that the entire Salesian Congregation, thanks to the results of your General Chapter, may live with renewed dynamism and fervour the mission for which, through the maternal intervention of Mary, Help of Christians, the Holy Spirit brought it into being in the Church. I want today to encourage you and all Salesians to continue on the path of this mission in full fidelity to your original charism, already in the context of the upcoming second centenary of Don Bosco's birth. With the theme "Give me souls, take away all else", your General Chapter's aim was to revive apostolic zeal in every Salesian and throughout the Congregation. This will help give Salesians a better defined profile so that they may become increasingly aware of their identity as people consecrated "for the glory of God" and increasingly on fire with pastoral zeal "for the salvation of souls".
Strong religious vocations

Don Bosco wanted the choice of consecrated life to guarantee the continuity of his charism in the Church. Today too, the Salesian movement can only grow in fidelity to its charism if a strong and vital nucleus of consecrated people continues to form its core. ?Thus, in order to strengthen the identity of the Congregation as a whole your first commitment consists in reinforcing the vocation of each Salesian so that he may live in full fidelity to his call to the consecrated life. ?The entire Congregation must strive to be ceaselessly "a living memorial of Jesus' way of living and acting as the Incarnate Word in relation to the Father and in relation to the brethren" (Vita Consecrata, n. 22). May Christ be the centre of your lives!

It is necessary to let oneself be seized by him and to start out afresh from him always. May everything else be counted "as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus" and as "refuse, in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil 3: 8). It is here that ardent love for the Lord Jesus is born, the aspiration to identify oneself with him, assuming his sentiments and way of life, trusting abandonment in the Father and dedication to the evangelizing mission that must characterize every Salesian: he must feel chosen to follow the obedient, poor and chaste Christ in conformity with Don Bosco's teaching and example. The secularization process gaining ground in contemporary culture unfortunately does not spare even communities of consecrated life. For this reason it is necessary to watch over forms and lifestyles that risk weakening Gospel witness as well as rendering pastoral action ineffective and the vocational response fragile.

I therefore ask you to help your confreres preserve and revive their faithfulness to the call. Jesus' prayer to the Father before his Passion, asking that he keep in his name all the disciples that he had given him and that none of them be lost (cf. Jn 17: 11-12), is particularly appropriate for vocations of special consecration. "The spiritual life must therefore have first place in the programme" of your Congregation (Vita Consecrata, n. 93). ?May the Word of God and the Liturgy be sources of Salesian spirituality! In particular, may lectio divina, practised daily by every Salesian, and the Eucharist celebrated every day in the community, nourish and support Salesian spirituality! From this will be born the authentic spirituality of apostolic dedication and ecclesial communion.

The flourishing of your Congregation will be guaranteed by fidelity to the Gospel lived "sine glossa" and to your Rule of Life, particularly an austere way of life and Gospel poverty practised consistently, with faithful love for the Church and the generous gift of yourselves to youth, especially the neediest and most disadvantaged. Don Bosco is a shining example of a life marked by apostolic zeal, lived at the service of the Church in the Congregation and in the Salesian Family. At the school of St Joseph Cafasso, your Founder learned to make his own the motto "Give me souls, take away all else", as the synthesis of a model of pastoral action inspired by the figure and spirituality of St Francis de Sales. ?This model fits into the horizon of the absolute primacy of God's love, a love that succeeds in shaping passionate personalities eager to contribute to Christ's mission to set the whole earth ablaze with the fire of his love (cf. Lk 12: 49).

Precious good of souls

Besides the ardour of God's love, another characteristic of the Salesian model is awareness of the inestimable value of "souls". This perception by contrast generates an acute sense of sin and its devastating consequences in time and in eternity. The apostle is called to cooperate with the Saviour's redeeming action in order that no one be lost. "Saving souls", precisely as St Peter said, was thus Don Bosco's raison d'être. His immediate successor, Bl. Michele Rua, summed up the life of your beloved Father and Founder in these words: "He did not give way, he did not speak, did not turn his hand to any task that did not aim at the salvation of young people.... He truly had only their souls at heart". This is what Bl. Michele Rua said of Don Bosco.

Today, it is also urgently necessary to nourish this passion in every Salesian's heart. Thus, he will not hesitate to venture daringly into the most difficult milieus of evangelizing action for young people, especially for those who are materially and spiritually the poorest.?He will have the patience and courage even to propose to young people that they live in total dedication in consecrated life. He will have an open mind in order to identify the new needs of young people and listen to their prayers for help, possibly leaving to others areas that have already been consolidated by pastoral interventions.

For this reason the Salesian will face the totalizing demands of the mission with a simple, poor and austere life, sharing the living conditions of the poorest of the poor, and will have the joy of giving more to those who have received less in their lives. ?May his apostolic enthusiasm become so contagious that others also catch it. The Salesian thus becomes a champion of what the apostolate means, helping first of all young people to know and love the Lord Jesus, to let themselves be fascinated by him, to cultivate evangelizing commitment, to love their own peers, to be apostles to other young people like St Dominic Savio, Bl. Laura Vicuña and Bl. Zepherin Namuncurà and the five young Blessed Martyrs of the Oratory of Poznan.?Dear Salesians, may you be committed to forming lay people with apostolic hearts, inviting them all to walk in the holiness of life that develops courageous disciples and authentic apostles.
The challenges of educating

In the Message I addressed to the Rector Major at the beginning of your General Chapter, I wished to present in spirit to all Salesians the Letter I recently sent to the faithful of Rome concerning the anxiety about what I called a great educational emergency. ?"Educating has never been an easy undertaking and seems to be becoming increasingly difficult today; thus, many parents and teachers are tempted to give up their task and do not even succeed in understanding what the mission entrusted to them truly is. Indeed, too many uncertainties, too many doubts are circulating in our society and our culture, too many distorted images are transmitted by the media. "It thus becomes difficult to propose to the new generations something valid and reliable, rules of conduct and worthwhile objectives to which to devote one's life" (Address at the Presentation of a Letter on "The Urgent Task of Education", 23 February 2008; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 March, p. 5).

Actually, the most serious aspect of the educational crisis is the sense of discouragement that overcomes many educators, parents and teachers in particular as they face the difficulties of their task today. I therefore wrote in the Letter cited: "The soul of education, as of the whole of life, can only be a dependable hope. Today, our hope is threatened on many sides and we even risk becoming, like the ancient pagans, people "having no hope and without God in the world', as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus (Eph 2: 12).

"What may be the deepest difficulty for a true educational endeavour consists precisely in this: the fact that at the root of the crisis of education lies a crisis of trust in life", which is basically nothing other than distrust in the God who called us to life. In the education of youth it is extremely important that the family play an active role. Families frequently have difficulty in facing the challenges of education; they are often unable to make their own contribution or are absent.

The special tenderness and commitment to young people that are characteristic of Don Bosco's charism must be expressed in an equal commitment to the involvement and formation of families.

Your youth ministry, therefore, must be decisively open to family ministry. Caring for families does not mean taking people away from work for young people; on the contrary, it means making it more permanent and effective. ?I thus encourage you to deepen the forms of this commitment on which you have set out; this will prove advantageous to the education and evangelization of the young. ?In the face of these multiple tasks, your Congregation must assure its members in particular a sound formation.

The Church urgently needs people with a solid and profound faith, an up-dated cultural training, genuine human sensitivity and a strong pastoral sense. She needs consecrated people who devote their lives to being on these boundaries. Only in this way will it be possible to evangelize effectively, proclaiming the God of Jesus Christ and thus the joy of life.

Your Congregation must therefore devote itself to this formative commitment as one of its priorities. It must continue to take great pains in training its members without being satisfied with mediocrity, overcoming the difficulties of vocational weakness, encouraging solid spiritual guidance and guaranteeing educational and pastoral quality in continuing formation.

I conclude by thanking God for the presence of your charism at the service of the Church. I encourage you in achieving the goals that your General Chapter will propose to the entire Congregation. I assure you of my prayers for the implementation of what the Spirit will suggest to you for the good of youth, families and all the lay people involved in the spirit and mission of Don Bosco.?With these sentiments and as a pledge of abundant heavenly gifts, I now impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Papal Address to Members of Jesuit General Congregation
"Rediscover the Fullest Meaning of Your Characteristic '4th Vow' of Obedience"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Feb. 21 upon receiving in audience members of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.

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Dear Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus,

I am pleased to welcome you today as your demanding work is reaching its conclusion. I thank the new Superior General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás, for expressing your sentiments and your commitment to respond to the expectations that the Church has of you. I spoke to you of this in the Message I addressed to Rev. Fr Kolvenbach and -- through him -- to the entire Congregation at the beginning of its work. I once again thank Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach for the valuable service he has rendered to your Order in governing it for almost a quarter of a century. I also greet the members of the new General Council and the Assistants who will help the Superior General in his most delicate task as the religious and apostolic guide of your entire Society.

Your Congregation is being held during a period of great social, economic and political change; of conspicuous ethical, cultural and environmental problems, of conflicts of all kinds; yet also of more intense communication between peoples, of new possibilities for knowledge and dialogue, of profound aspirations for peace. These are situations that deeply challenge the Catholic Church and her capacity for proclaiming to our contemporaries the word of hope and salvation. I therefore ardently hope that thanks to the results of your Congregation the entire Society of Jesus will be able to live out with renewed dynamism and fervour the mission for which the Spirit willed it in the Church and has preserved it for more than four and a half centuries with extraordinary apostolic fruitfulness. Today, in the ecclesial and social context that marks the beginning of this millennium, I would like to encourage you and your confreres to continue on the path of this mission in full fidelity to your original charism. As my Predecessors have said to you on various occasions, the Church needs you, relies on you and continues to turn to you with trust, particularly to reach those physical and spiritual places which others do not reach or have difficulty in reaching. Paul VI's words remain engraved on your hearts: "Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme fields, at the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, there has been and there is confrontation between the burning exigencies of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, here also there have been, and there are, Jesuits" (Address to the 32nd General Congregation of the Jesuits, 3 December 1974; ORE, 12 December, n. 2, p. 4.).

As the Formula of your Institute says, the Society of Jesus was founded in the first place "for the defence and propagation of the faith". In an age when new geographical horizons were unfolding, Ignatius' first companions placed themselves at the Pope's disposal so that "he might use them wherever he deemed it would be for the greater glory of God and the benefit of souls" (Autobiography, n. 85). Thus, they were sent to proclaim the Lord to peoples and cultures that did not yet know him. They did so with a courage and zeal that have lived on to our day as an exemplary inspiration. The name of Francis Xavier is the most famous of all, but how many others one could give! The new peoples, who do not know the Lord or who do not know him well so that they cannot recognize him as the Saviour, are distant today not so much from the geographical as rather from the cultural viewpoint. It is not oceans or immense distances that challenge the heralds of the Gospel but the boundaries resulting from an erroneous or superficial vision of God and man that stand between faith and human knowledge, faith and modern science, faith and the commitment to justice.

The Church thus urgently needs people with a deep and sound faith, a well-grounded culture and genuine human and social sensitivity, of Religious and priests who dedicate their lives to being on these very frontiers to bear witness and to help people understand that on the contrary there is profound harmony between faith and reason, between the Gospel spirit, the thirst for justice and initiatives for peace. Only in this way will it be possible to make the Lord's true Face known to the many for whom he is still concealed or unrecognizable. The Society of Jesus should therefore give preferential attention to this. Faithful to its best tradition, it must persevere in taking great pains to form its members in knowledge and virtue and not to be content with mediocrity, since confrontation and dialogue with the very different social and cultural contexts and the diverse mentalities of today's world is one of the most difficult and demanding tasks. This quest for quality and for human, spiritual and cultural validity must also characterize the whole of the Jesuits' many-facetted formative and educative activities as they come into contact with people of every sort wherever they may happen to be.

In its history, the Society of Jesus has lived extraordinary experiences of proclamation and encounter between the Gospel and world cultures -- it suffices to think of Matteo Ricci in China, Roberto De Nobili in India or of the "Reductions" in Latin America. And you are rightly proud of them. I feel it is my duty today to urge you to set out once again in the tracks of your predecessors with the same courage and intelligence, but also with an equally profound motivation of faith and enthusiasm to serve the Lord and his Church. However, while you seek to recognize the signs of God's presence and work in every corner of the world, even beyond the bounds of the visible Church, while you strive to build bridges of understanding and dialogue with those who do not belong to the Church or have difficulty in accepting her outlook or messages, at the same time you must loyally take on the Church's fundamental duty to remain faithful to her mandate and to adhere totally to the Word of God and to the Magisterium's task of preserving the integral truth and unity of Catholic doctrine. This not only applies to the personal commitment of individual Jesuits: since you are working as members of an apostolic body, you must also take care that your work and institutions always maintain a clear and explicit identity, so that the goal of your apostolic activity is neither ambiguous nor obscure and that many others may share in your ideals and join you effectively and enthusiastically, collaborating in your commitment to serve God and man.

As you are well aware, since in the Spiritual Exercises you have often undertaken meditation on "the two flags" under St Ignatius' guidance, our world is the theatre of a battle between good and evil where powerful negative forces are at work. These are what cause the dramatic situations of spiritual and material enslavement of our contemporaries which you have several times declared you wished to combat, committing yourselves to the service of faith and the promotion of justice. These forces are manifest today in many ways but are especially evident in such overriding cultural trends as subjectivism, relativism, hedonism and practical materialism. This is the reason why I asked you for a renewed commitment to promoting and defending Catholic doctrine, "especially... its key points, under severe attack today by the secular culture" (Letter to Fr Kolvenbach, 10 January 2008), of which I gave some examples in my Letter. The themes, continuously discussed and called into question today, of the salvation of all humanity in Christ, of sexual morality, of marriage and the family, must be explored and illumined in the context of contemporary reality but preserving that harmony with the Magisterium which avoids causing confusion and dismay among the People of God.

I know and understand well that this is a particularly sensitive and demanding point for you and for some of your confreres, especially those involved in theological research, interreligious dialogue and dialogue with contemporary cultures. For this very reason I have invited you and also invite you today to reflect in order to rediscover the fullest meaning of your characteristic "fourth vow" of obedience to the Successor of Peter, which does not only involve the readiness to be sent on mission to distant lands but also -- in the most genuine Ignatian spirit of "feeling with the Church and in the Church" -- "to love and serve" the Vicar of Christ on earth with that "effective and affective devotion" which must make you his invaluable and irreplaceable collaborators in his service for the universal Church.

At the same time, I encourage you to continue and to renew your mission among the poor and with the poor. Unfortunately, new causes of poverty and marginalization are not absent in a world marked by grave financial and environmental imbalances, from globalization processes prompted by selfishness rather than solidarity and by devastating and senseless armed conflicts. As I was able to reaffirm to the Latin American Bishops gathered at the Shrine of Aparecida, "the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty (cf. II Cor 8: 9)". It is therefore natural that those who truly want to be a companion of Jesus really share in his love for the poor. For us, the option for the poor is not ideological but is born from the Gospel.

Situations of injustice and poverty in today's world are numerous and tragic, and if it is necessary to seek to understand them and fight their structural causes, it is also necessary to penetrate to the very heart of man, to extirpate the deep roots of evil and sin that cut him off from God, without forgetting to meet people's most urgent needs in the spirit of Christ's charity. Gathering and developing one of Fr Arrupe's last far-sighted intuitions, your Society continues to do praiseworthy work in the service for refugees, who are often the poorest of the poor and in need not only of material aid but also of the deeper spiritual, human and psychological closeness that is very much a part of your service.

Lastly, I ask you to focus special attention on that ministry of Spiritual Exercises which has been a characteristic feature of your Society from the outset. The Exercises are not only the source of your spirituality and the matrix of your Constitutions but also a gift which the Spirit of the Lord has made to the entire Church. It is your task to continue to make them a valuable and effective means for the spiritual growth of souls, for their initiation to prayer, to meditation in this secularized world where God seems to be absent. Only last week I myself benefited from the Spiritual Exercises, together with my closest collaborators of the Roman Curia, under the guidance of a distinguished confrere of yours, Cardinal Albert Vanhoye. In a time like ours when the confusion and multiplicity of messages and the speed of changes and situations makes it particularly difficult for our contemporaries to put order into their lives and respond with determination and joy to the call the Lord addresses to each one of us, the Spiritual Exercises are a particularly precious means and method with which to seek God, within us, around us and in all things, to know his will and to put it into practice.

In this spirit of obedience to God's will, to Jesus Christ, which also becomes humble obedience to the Church, I ask you to continue carrying out your Congregation's work and I join you in the prayer St Ignatius taught us at the end of the Exercises - a prayer which to me always seems too sublime in the sense that I hardly dare to say it, yet we must always be able to return to it: "Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom. My memory, my understanding and my will. All that I have and cherish you have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by your will. Your grace and your love are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more" (n. 234).


Papal Address on World Day for Consecrated Life
"Nourish Your Day With Prayer, Meditation and Listening to the Word of God"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the 12th World Day of Consecrated Life. The Pope spoke after a Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Basilica, presided over by Cardinal Franc Rode, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and attended by thousands of consecrated men and women.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very pleased to meet you on the occasion of the World Day of Consecrated Life, a traditional gathering whose significance is enhanced by the liturgical context of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. I thank Cardinal Franc Rodé, who has celebrated the Eucharist for you, and with him the Secretary and the other collaborators of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. With great affection I greet the Superiors General present and all of you who form this unique assembly, an expression of the varied richness of the Consecrated Life in the Church.

In his account of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, at least three times the Evangelist Luke emphasizes that Mary and Joseph acted in accordance with "the Law of the Lord" (cf. Lk 2: 22, 23, 39), moreover they always appear to be listening attentively to the Word of God. This attitude is an eloquent example for you, men and women religious; and for you, members of Secular Institutes and of other forms of Consecrated Life. The next Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated to The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church: dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to make your contribution to this ecclesial commitment, witnessing to the importance, especially for those who like you, the Lord calls to a more intimate "sequela", of placing the Word of God at the centre of all things. In fact, the Consecrated Life is rooted in the Gospel. Down the centuries, the Gospel - as it were, its supreme rule - has continued to inspire it and the Consecrated Life is called to refer constantly to the Gospel, to remain alive and fertile, bearing fruit for the salvation of souls.

At the root of the different expressions of Consecrated Life there is always a strong Gospel inspiration. I think of St Anthony Abbot who was moved by listening to Christ's words: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19: 21) (cf. Vita Antonii, 2, 4). Anthony listened to these words as if they were addressed to him personally by the Lord. St Francis of Assisi in his turn affirmed that it was God who revealed to him that he should live according to the form of the holy Gospel (Testament, 17; Franciscan Omnibus 116). "Francis", wrote Thomas of Celano, "who heard that Christ's disciples were supposed to possess neither gold, nor silver, nor money, nor purse; were to have neither bread nor staff, were to have neither shoes nor two tunics... rejoicing in the Holy Spirit said: "This is what I want! This is what I ask! This is what I want to do from the bottom of my heart!'" (I Celano 83; Franciscan Omnibus 670, 672).

The Instruction Starting Afresh from Christ recalls: "It was the Holy Spirit who sparked the Word of God with new light for the Founders and Foundresses. Every charism and every Rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it" (n. 24). And indeed, the Holy Spirit attracts some people to live the Gospel in a radical way and translate it into a style of more generous following. So it is that a work, a religious family, is born which with its very presence becomes in turn a living "exegisis" of the Word of God. The Second Vatican Council says that the succession of charisms in the Consecrated Life can therefore be read as an unfolding of Christ down the ages, as a living Gospel that is actualized in ever new forms (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 46). The mystery of Christ is reflected in the works of Foundresses and Founders, a word of his, an illuminating ray of his radiant Face, the splendour of the Father (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, n. 16).

In the course of the centuries the proposal of the following of Christ without compromise, as it is presented to us in the Gospel, has therefore constituted the ultimate and supreme rule for religious life (cf. Perfectae Caritatis, n. 2). In his Rule St Benedict refers to Scripture as the "most exact rule of human life" (n. 73: 2-5). St Dominic, whose words and works proclaimed him a man of the Gospel at all times (cf. Libellus de Principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum, 104: in P. Lippini, San Domenico visto dai suoi contemporanei, Ed. Studio Dom., Bologna, 1982, 110) desired his brother preachers also to be "men of the Gospel" (First Constitutions or Consuetudines, 31). St Clare of Assisi imitated Francis' experience to the full: "The form of life of the Order of the Poor Sisters", she wrote, "is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rule, I, 1-2; Franciscan Omnibus, n. 2750). St Vincent Pallotti said: "Since the life of Jesus Christ is the fundamental rule of our small Congregation... we must aim at what is most perfect always and in everything" (cf. Complete Works, II, 541-546; VIII, 63, 67, 253, 254, 466). And St Luigi Orione wrote: "Our first Rule and life is to observe the holy Gospel, in great humility and in loving sweetness and on fire with God" (Letters of Don Orione, Rome, 1969, Vol. II, 278).

This rich tradition attests that Consecrated Life is "deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord" (Vita Consecrata, n. 1) and can be compared to "a plant with many branches which sinks its roots into the Gospel and brings forth abundant fruit in every season of the Church's life" (ibid., n. 5). Its mission is to recall that all Christians are brought together by the Word, to live of the Word and to remain under its lordship. It is therefore the special duty of men and women religious "to remind the baptized of the fundamental values of the Gospel" (Vita Consecrata, n. 33). By so doing their witness imbues the Church with "a much-needed incentive towards ever greater fidelity to the Gospel" (ibid., n. 3) and indeed, we might say, is an "eloquent, albeit often silent, proclamation of the Gospel" (ibid., n. 25). This is why, in my two Encyclicals as on other occasions, I have not failed to cite the example set by Saints and Blesseds belonging to Institutes of Consecrated Life.

Dear brothers and sisters, nourish your day with prayer, meditation and listening to the Word of God. May you, who are familiar with the ancient practice of lectio divina, help the faithful to appreciate it in their daily lives too. And may you know how to express what the Word suggests, letting yourself be formed by it so that you bring forth abundant fruit, like a seed that has fallen into good soil. Thus, you will be ever docile to the Spirit and you will grow in union with God, you will cultivate fraternal communion among yourselves and will be ready to serve your brethren generously, especially those in need. May people see your good works, a fruit of the Word of God that lives in you, and glorify your Heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5: 16)! In entrusting these reflections to you, I thank you for the precious service you render to the Church and, as I invoke the protection of Mary and of the Saints and Blesseds, Founders of your Institutes, I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to your respective religious families, with a special thought for the young men and women in formation and for your brothers and sisters who are sick, elderly or in difficulty. To all, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Letter to Jesuits' 35th General Congregation
"Evangelization Demands a Total and Faithful Adhesion to the Word of God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2007 - Here is a translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to the outgoing superior general of the Society of Jesus, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, on the occasion of the 35th General Congregation of the order.

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To the Reverend Father

Peter-Hans Kolvenbach
Superior General of the Society of Jesus

On the occasion of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, it is my fervent desire to extend to you and to all those taking part in the Assembly my most cordial greetings, together with an assurance of my affection and of my constant spiritual nearness to you. I know how important for the life of the Society is this event that you are celebrating, and I further know that, consequently, it has been prepared with great care. This is a providential occasion for impressing upon the Society of Jesus that renewed ascetic and apostolic impulse which is wished by all, so that Jesuits might fulfill completely their mission and confront the challenges of the modern world with that faith to Christ and to the Church which distinguished the prophetic action of St. Ignatius of Loyola and his first companions.

The Apostle writes to the faithful of Thessalonica of having announced to them the Gospel of God, "encouraging you and imploring you" -- Paul specifies -- "to comport yourselves in a manner worthy of God who calls you to his kingdom and to his glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and he adds: "Indeed on account of this we continually thank God because, having received the divine word preached by us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as the word of God, which works in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The word of God therefore is first "received," i.e., heard, and then -- penetrating all the way to the heart -- it is "welcomed," and who receives it recognizes that God speaks through the agent sent to deliver it: In this way the word acts in believers.

As then, so even today evangelization demands a total and faithful adhesion to the word of God: adhesion first of all to Christ and to attentive listening to his Spirit which guides the Church; humble obedience to the pastors whom God has placed to guide his people; and prudent and frank dialogue with the social, cultural and religious appeals of our time. All this presupposes, as we know, an intimate communion with him who calls us to be friends and disciples, a unity of life and of action which is fed by listening to his word, by contemplation and by prayer, by detachment from the mentality of the world and by unceasing conversion toward his love so that it may be he, the Christ, who lives and works in each of us. Here is the secret of authentic success for the apostolic and missionary commitment of every Christian, and even more of all those called to a more direct service of the Gospel.

Such an awareness is certainly well present among those taking part in the General Congregation, and I am eager to honor the great work already completed by the preparatory commission which in the course of 2007 has examined the postulates sent by provinces and indicated the themes to be faced. I would like to direct my thoughts of gratitude in the first place to you, dear and venerated Father superior general, who since 1983 has guided the Society of Jesus in an enlightened, wise and prudent manner, seeking in every way to maintain it in the channel of its founding charism.

For objective reasons, you have at various times asked to be relieved of so heavy a post, assumed with a great sense of responsibility at a moment in your order's history which was not easy. I express to you my most heartfelt gratitude for the service you have rendered to the Society of Jesus and, more generally, to the Church. My sentiments of gratitude extend to your closest collaborators, to the participants of the General Congregation, and to all Jesuits scattered in every part of the world. To all and to each should arrive this greeting from the Successor of Peter, who follows with affection and esteem the multiple and appreciated apostolic works of the Jesuits, and who encourages all to continue in the path opened by your holy founder and walked by innumerable hosts of your brothers dedicated to the cause of Christ, many of whom are inscribed by the Church among its saints and blessed. From heaven, may they protect and sustain the Society of Jesus in the mission which it carries out in this our current age, marked by numerous and complex social, cultural and religious challenges.

Indeed regarding this theme, how can one not recognize the valid contribution that the Society offers to the Church's activity in various fields and in many ways? Truly a great and meritorious contribution, one that only the Lord will be able to rightly reward! As did my venerated predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, I too gladly wish to take this opportunity of a General Congregation to bring such a contribution to light and, at the same time, to offer for your common reflection some considerations which might be of encouragement for you and a stimulus to implement ever better the ideal of the Society, in full fidelity to the magisterium of the Church, such as described in the following formula which is well familiar to you: "To serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the Cross and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth" ("Apostolic Letter Exposcit Debitum," July, 21, 1550).

One treats here of a "peculiar" fidelity confirmed also, by not a few among you, in a vow of immediate obedience to the Successor of Peter "perinde ac cadaver." The Church has even more need today of this fidelity of yours, which constitutes a distinctive sign of your order, in this era which warns of the urgency of transmitting in an integral manner to our contemporaries -- distracted by many discordant voices -- the unique and immutable message of salvation which is the Gospel, "not as the word of men, but as it truly is, as the word of God," which works in those who believe.

That this might come to pass, it is indispensable -- as earlier the beloved John Paul II reminded participants of the 34th General Congregation -- that the life of the members of the Society of Jesus, as also their doctrinal research, be always animated by a true spirit of faith and communion in "humble fidelity to the teachings of the magisterium" (Insegnamenti, vol. I, pp. 25-32). I heartily hope that the present Congregation affirms with clarity the authentic charism of the founder so as to encourage all Jesuits to promote true and healthy Catholic doctrine.

As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I had the opportunity to appreciate the valid collaboration of Jesuit consultors and experts, who, in full fidelity to their charism, contributed in a considerable way to the faithful promotion and reception of the magisterium. Certainly this is not a simple undertaking, especially when called to announce the Gospel in very different social and cultural contexts and when having to deal with different mentalities. I therefore sincerely appreciate such labor placed at the service of Christ, labor which is fruitful for the true good of souls in the measure in which one lets oneself be guided by the Spirit, remaining humble as regard the teachings of the magisterium, having reference to those key principles of the ecclesial vocation of the theologian which are delineated in the instruction "Donum Veritatis."

The evangelizing work of the Church very much counts on the formative responsibility that the Society has in the areas of theology, of spirituality and of mission. And, really so as to offer the entire Society of Jesus a clear orientation which might be a support for generous and faithful apostolic dedication, it could prove extremely useful that the General Congregation reaffirm, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, its own total adhesion to Catholic doctrine, in particular on those neuralgic points which today are strongly attacked by secular culture, as for example the relationship between Christ and religions; some aspects of the theology of liberation; and various points of sexual morality, especially as regards the indissolubility of marriage and the pastoral care of homosexual persons.

Reverend and dear Father, I am convinced that the Society senses the historic importance of this General Congregation and, guided by the Holy Spirit, wants once again -- as the beloved John Paul II said in January 1995 -- to reaffirm "unequivocally and without any hesitation its specific way to God, which St. Ignatius sketched in the 'Formula Instituti': loving fidelity to your charism will be the certain source of renewed effectiveness" (Insegnamenti, vol. XVIII/1, 1995, p. 26).

Furthermore, the words my venerated Predecessor Paul VI directed to the Society in another analogous circumstance appear so very current: "All of us must be vigilant so that the necessary adaptation will not be accomplished to the detriment of the fundamental identity or essential character of the role of the Jesuit as is described in the 'Formula Instituti' as the history and particular spirituality of the Order propose it, and as the authentic interpretation of the very needs of the times seem still to require it. This image must not be altered; it must not be distorted." (Insegnamenti, vol. XII, 1974, pp. 1181-1182)

The continuity of the teachings of the Successors of Peter stands to demonstrate the great attention and care which they show toward the Jesuits, their esteem for you and the desire to be able to count always on the precious contribution of the Society to the life of the Church and to the evangelization of the world. I entrust the General Congregation and the entire Society of Jesus to the intercession of your holy founder and the saints of your Order, and to the maternal protection of Mary, so that every spiritual son of St. Ignatius might be able to keep before his eyes "first of all God and then the nature of this his institute" ("Formula Instituti," 1). With such sentiments, I assure you of a constant remembrance in prayer and in a heartfelt way I impart to you, Reverend Father, and to the fathers of the General Congregation and to the entire Society of Jesus, a special apostolic blessing.

Vatican, Jan. 10, 2008

Benedict PP XVI


Papal Message to Franciscan General Chapter
"To Everyone Take Peace, Received and Given"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the June 17 message Benedict XVI addressed to the participants of the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual during the Pope's trip to Assisi.

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To Reverend Fr Marco Tasca
Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual

I greet you with great joy, Most Reverend Father, and all the Friars Minor Conventual gathered in Assisi for the 199th General Chapter. I am pleased to do so in this Papal Basilica in which splendid works of art tell of the marvels of grace that the Lord wrought in St Francis.

I find it providential that this should happen in the context of the Eighth Centenary of the conversion of St Francis. With my Visit today, in fact, I wished to emphasize the meaning of this event to which we must always refer if we are to understand Francis and his message.

Francis himself, as if to sum up his inner experience in a single word, found no concept more pregnant with meaning than that of "penance". "Thus did the Lord grant to me, Friar Francis, to begin to do penance" (Testament, 1).

So it was that he saw himself essentially as a "penitent", as it were, in a permanent state of conversion. Abandoning himself to the Holy Spirit's action, Francis was converted ever more closely to Christ, transformed into a living image of him on the paths of poverty, love and mission.

Thus, it is your task to witness to his message with enthusiasm and coherency! You are called to do so with that ecclesial harmony which distinguished Francis in his relationship with the Vicar of Christ and with all the Church's Bishops.

In this regard, I am grateful to you for the prompt obedience with which, together with the Friars Minor and complying with the special ties of affection which have always bound you to the Apostolic See, you accepted the measures of the "Motu Proprio" Totius Orbis concerning the new relationship of the two Papal Basilicas, St Francis and St Mary of the Angels, with this particular Church which gave birth to the "Poverello" and played such an important part in his life.

I address a special greeting to you, Friar Marco Tasca, whom the trust of your Confreres has called to the demanding office of Minister General.

May the event of the 750th anniversary of St Bonaventure's election as Minister of the Order also be a good omen for you.

After the examples of St Francis and St Bonaventure, together with the elected Definitors, may you guide the great Family of the Order with wise prudence, faithful to the origins of the Franciscan experience and with attention to the "signs of the times".

The General Chapter gathers together Friars from many countries and different cultures to listen and speak to one another in the one language of the Spirit, thereby reviving the memory of Francis' holiness. This is truly an extraordinary opportunity to share the "marvellous things" that the Lord still works today through the sons of the "Poverello" scattered across the world.

I therefore hope that while the Chapter Fathers thank God for the growth of the Order, especially in the mission countries, they will make the most of this meeting to question themselves on all that the Spirit is asking of them, so that they may continue to proclaim passionately, in the footsteps of their Seraphic Father, the Kingdom of God in this first part of the Third Christian Millennium.

I learned with interest that "Formation for the mission" has been chosen as the principal theme for reflection during the Chapter Meeting, stressing that this formation is never imparted once and for all, but rather must be considered as an ongoing journey. In fact, it is a process with multiple dimensions but is centred on the ability to let oneself be moulded by the Spirit, to be ready to go wherever he calls you.

It cannot be based on anything except listening to the Word in an atmosphere of intense and ceaseless prayer. Only on this condition is it possible to understand the true needs of the men and women of our time and offer them responses drawn from God's wisdom, proclaiming what one has experienced profoundly in one's own life.

The large Family of Friars Minor Conventual must continue to let itself be inspired by the words that Francis heard from the Crucifix in San Damiano: "Go and repair my house" (2 Cel I, 6, 10).

It is therefore necessary for every Friar to be a true contemplative, his eyes fixed on the eyes of Christ. Like St Francis when he came face to face with the leper, the Friar must be able to see the Face of Christ in the suffering brethren, bringing to them all the proclamation of peace.

To this end, he must make his own the process of conformation to the Lord Jesus which Francis lived out in the various symbolic places on his journey of holiness: from San Damiano to Rivotorto, from St Mary of the Angels to La Verna.

Thus, for every son of St Francis may the firm principle be what the "Poverello" said with simple words: "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Reg. B. I, 1).

In this regard, I am pleased to know that the Minors Conventual too, together with the whole large Franciscan Family, are engaged in reliving the stages which led Francis to formulate his "propositum vitae", approved by Innocent III in about 1209.

Called to live "according to the form of the Holy Gospel" (Test. 21), the "Poverello" completely understood himself in the light of the Gospel.

It was precisely this that gave birth to the perennial timeliness of his witness.

His "prophecy" teaches us how to make the Gospel the criterion for dealing with the challenges of every epoch, including our own, resisting the deceptive fascination of fleeting fashions, to be rooted in God's plan and thus to discern the true needs of humanity.

My hope is that the Friars will be able to accept this "programme" with renewed impetus and courage, trusting in the power that comes from on high.

The Minors Conventual are called in the first place to be heralds of Christ. May they approach everyone with gentleness and trust in the attitude of dialogue, but always bearing a passionate witness to the one Saviour.

May they be witnesses of God's "beauty", which Francis praised as he contemplated the marvels of creation. Among the wonderful pictorial cycles which decorate this Basilica and in every other corner of that marvellous temple which is nature, may they have on their lips the prayer that Francis uttered after his mystical ecstasy on Mount La Verna, which made him exclaim twice: "You are beauty!" (The Praises of God Most High, 4, 6).

Yes, Francis was a great teacher of the "via pulchritudinis". May the Friars imitate him in radiating the beauty that saves; may they do so in particular in this stupendous Basilica, not only by means of the art treasures preserved here, but also and above all in the intensity and decorum of the liturgy and fervent proclamation of the Christian mystery.

I express to the Chapter Religious the hope that they will return to their respective communities with the freshness and timeliness of the Franciscan message. I say to you all: take back to your Confreres the experience of brotherhood of these days as light and strength that can illumine the horizon which is not always clear of the clouds of daily life; to everyone take peace, received and given.

Thinking of the Immaculate Virgin, the "Tota pulchra", and imploring the intercession of St Francis and of St Clare, to whom I entrust the success of the work of this General Chapter, I impart as a pledge of my special affection to you, Most Reverend Father, to the Chapter Fathers and to all the members of the Order my Apostolic Blessing.

Assisi, 17 June 2007



Hall of Blessings
Monday, 7 May 2007

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Sisters,

I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General. I greet and thank Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for the cordial words addressed to me.

I extend my thanks to the President of your Union, Sr Therezinha Rasera, who has been the interpreter not only of your affectionate sentiments but also of the women religious of the entire world.

Then, I greet each one of you, dear Superiors General, who represent 794 female religious families working in 85 countries on the five continents. And I thank you for the immense army of witnesses of Christ's love, who work on the frontiers of evangelization, education and social charity.

As your President recalled, the theme of the Plenary Assembly, which is being held in these days, is particularly interesting: "Called to weave a new spirituality that generates hope and life for all of humanity". The topic you have chosen is the fruit of an ample reflection on the following question: "In contemplating our world, listening to its cries, its needs, its thirst and its aspirations, what thread are we Religious, responsible for our Congregations, called to weave in this moment in order to become prophetic and mystic "weavers of God'?".

The careful analysis of the responses received have helped your Union's Executive Council to understand that the chosen symbol of "weaving" is a typically feminine image used in all cultures, and it responds to what the Superiors General felt to be a spiritual and apostolic urgency of the present moment.

In the same responses some "threads" have been emphasized -- the woman, migrants, the earth and its sacredness, laity, dialogue with the religions of the world -- that you deem useful in order to "weave" in this, our age, a renewed spirituality of Consecrated Life and to launch an apostolic approach that corresponds more to people's longings. And it is exactly on these themes that you have been reflecting during the work of your Plenary.

You are aware that each Superior General is called to be an animator and promoter, as your President opportunely emphasized, of a "mystic and prophetic" Consecrated Life, strongly committed to the realization of the Kingdom of God.

These are the "threads" with which the Lord urges you today, dear women Religious, to "weave" the living fabric of a useful service to the Church and to an eloquent Gospel witness, "ever ancient and ever new" in its fidelity to the radicalness of the Gospel and courageously incarnated in contemporary reality, especially where there is greater human and spiritual poverty.

Certainly, the social, economic and religious challenges that Consecrated Life in our day must face are not few! The five pastoral areas that you emphasized constitute other "threads" to be woven and inserted into the complex web of daily life, interpersonal relationships and apostolate.

Often, it means taking unexplored missionary and spiritual paths, yet always maintaining solid interior relations with Christ. In fact, only from this union with God can that "prophetic" role of your mission flow and be nourished, which consists of "proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven", an indispensable announcement in every age and in every society.

Never cede, therefore, to the temptation to distance yourself from intimacy with your Heavenly Spouse by allowing yourselves to be overly attracted by the interests and problems of daily life.

The Founders and Foundresses of your Institutes have been "prophetic pioneers" in the Church because they never lost the acute awareness of being in the world, but not of the world, according to the clear teaching of Jesus (cf. John 17:14). Following his example they tried to communicate God's love with words and concrete gestures through the total gift of themselves, always keeping their gaze and their heart fixed on him.

Dear Religious Sisters, if you want to walk faithfully in the footsteps of your Founders and Foundresses to help your own Sisters to follow their examples, cultivate the "mystical" dimension of Consecrated Life, that is, always keeping your soul united to God through contemplation.

As the Scriptures teach, the "prophet" first listens and contemplates, then speaks, allowing himself to be totally permeated by that love for God which fears nothing and is even stronger than death.

The authentic prophet, therefore, is not concerned so much to accomplish works, which undoubtedly are important but never essential. Above all, he tries to be a witness of God's love, seeking to live it among the realities of the world, even if his presence can sometimes be "uncomfortable" because he offers and incarnates alternative values.

May it be your prime concern, therefore, to help your own Sisters to seek Christ above all else and to place themselves generously at the service of the Gospel. Never tire of taking every possible care in the human, cultural and spiritual formation of the persons entrusted to you, so that they are able to respond to today's cultural and social challenges.

Be the first to set an example by fleeing commodities, comforts, convenience in order to bring your mission to fulfilment. Share the richness of your charisms with those who are committed to the one mission of the Church, which is to build the Kingdom.

For this purpose establish a serene and cordial collaboration with priests, the lay faithful and especially families in order to meet the suffering, the needs, the material and above all the spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries.

In addition, cultivate a sincere communion and a genuine collaboration with Bishops, the first to be responsible for evangelization in the particular Churches.

Dear Sisters, your General Assembly is taking place during the Easter Season, when the liturgy invites us to proclaim with constant exultance: "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!".

May the joy and peace of Easter accompany you and always dwell in you and in each of your communities.

In every circumstance be messengers of this Easter joy like the women who went to the tomb, found it empty and had the gift of meeting the Risen Christ. Happily, then, they ran to give the news to the Apostles.

May Mary, Queen of Virgins, and your Saints and blessed Founders and Foundresses watch over you and your respective Religious Families.

In entrusting yourselves to their intercession, I assure you from my heart of a prayerful remembrance and willingly impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Address for Symposium of Secular Institutes

"God Is All and Will Be All In Your Lives"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave at the Vatican to the participants in the International Symposium of Secular Institutes on Feb. 3.

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Clementine Hall

Saturday, 3 February 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters

I am pleased to be with you today, members of Secular Institutes whom I am meeting for the first time since my election to the Chair of the Apostle Peter. I greet you all with affection. I greet Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and I thank him for his words of filial devotion and spiritual closeness, also on your behalf. I greet Cardinal Cottier and the Secretary of your Congregation.

I greet the President of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, who has expressed the sentiments and expectations of all of you who have gathered here from different countries, from all the continents, to celebrate an International Symposium on the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia.

Sixty years have passed, as has already been said, since that 2 February 1947, when my Predecessor Pius XII promulgated this Apostolic Constitution, thereby giving a theological and juridical basis to an experience that matured in the previous decades and recognizing in Secular Institutes one of the innumerable gifts with which the Holy Spirit accompanies the Church on her journey and renews her down through all the ages.

That juridical act was not the goal but rather the starting point of a process that aimed to outline a new form of consecration: the consecration of faithful lay people and diocesan priests, called to live with Gospel radicalism precisely that secularity in which they are immersed by virtue of their state of life or pastoral ministry.

You are here today to continue to mark out that path plotted 60 years ago, which sees you as increasingly impassioned messengers in Jesus Christ of the meaning of the world and of history.

Your fervor is born from having discovered the beauty of Christ and of his unique way of loving, healing and meeting the needs of life and of enlivening and comforting it. And your lives aim to sing the praise of this beauty so that your being in the world may be a sign of your being in Christ.

Indeed, it is the mystery of the Incarnation that makes your integration in human events a place of theology: ("God so loved the world that he gave his only Son", Jn 3:16). The work of salvation was not wrought in opposition to the history of humankind but rather in and through it.

In this regard, the Letter to the Hebrews notes: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (1:1-2a).

This redeeming act was itself brought about in the context of time and history, and implies obedience to the plan of God inscribed in the work that came from his hands.

It is once again this same text from the Letter to the Hebrews, an inspired text, which points out: "When he said, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings' -- these are offered according to the law --, he then added, "Lo I have come to do your will'" (Heb 10: 8-9a).

These words of the Psalm and the Letter to the Hebrews, expressed through intra-Trinitarian dialogue, are words of the Son who says to the Father: "I have come to do your will". Thus, the Incarnation comes about: "Lo, I have come to do your will". The Lord involves us in his words which become our own: here I am, Lord, with the Son, to do your will.

In this way, the process of your sanctification is clearly marked out: self-sacrificing adherence to the saving plan manifested in the revealed Word, solidarity with history, the search for the Lord's will inscribed in human events governed by his Providence.

And at the same time, the characteristics of the secular mission are outlined: the witness to human virtues such as "righteousness and peace and joy" (Rom 14:17), the "good conduct" of which Peter speaks in his First Letter (cf. 2:12), echoing the Teacher's words: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven" (Mt 5:16).

Also part of the secular mission is the commitment to build a society that recognizes in the various environments the dignity of the person and the indispensable values for its total fulfilment: from politics to the economy, from education to the commitment to public health, from the management of services to scientific research.

The aim of every specific reality proper to and lived by the Christian, his own work and his own material interests that retain their relative consistency, is found in their being embraced by the same purpose for which the Son of God came into the world.

Therefore, may you feel challenged by every suffering, every injustice and every search for truth, beauty and goodness. This is not because you can come up with the solution to all problems; rather, it is because every circumstance in which human beings live and die is an opportunity for you to witness to God's saving work. This is your mission.

On the one hand, your consecration highlights the special grace that comes to you from the Spirit for the fulfilment of your vocation, and on the other, it commits you to total docility of mind, heart and will to the project of God the Father revealed in Jesus Christ, whom you have been called to follow radically.

Every encounter with Christ demands a profound change of attitude, but for some, as it was for you, the Lord's request is particularly demanding: you are asked to leave everything, because God is all and will be all in your lives. It is not merely a question of a different way of relating to Christ and of expressing your attachment to him, but of an option for God that requires of you constant, absolute and total trust in him.

Conforming your own lives to the life of Christ by entering into this words, conforming your own life to the life of Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels, is a fundamental and binding feature which, in its specificity, demands the concrete and binding commitment of "mountaineers of the spirit", as venerable Pope Paul VI called you (Address to Participants in the First International Congress of Secular Institutes, 26 September 1970; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 8 October, p. 5).

The secular nature of your consecration brings to the fore, on the one hand, the means you use to fulfil it, that is, the means proper to every man and woman who live in ordinary conditions in the world, and on the other, the form of its development, that is, a profound relationship with the signs of the times which you are called to discern personally and as a community in the light of the Gospel.

Your charism has been authoritatively recognized several times precisely in this discernment in order for you to be a workshop of dialogue with the world, that "experimental workshop in which the Church ascertains practical ways for her relations with the world" (Pope Paul VI, Address to the Council of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and the International Union of Male and Female Superiors General, 6 November 1976; cf. ORE, 18 November, p. 3).

The enduring timeliness of your charism derives precisely from this, for this discernment must not take place from outside reality but from within it, through full involvement. This takes place in the daily relationships that you can weave in family and social relations, in professional activity, in the fabric of the civil and ecclesial communities.

The encounter with Christ and the act of following him, which impels and opens people, "must necessarily be reflected "ad extra' and expand naturally" in an encounter with one and all, for if God fulfils himself only in communion, it is also only in Trinitarian communion that human beings are fulfilled.

You are not called to establish special forms of living, of apostolic commitment or social intervention, but rather, forms that can come into being through personal relations, a source of prophetic riches. May your lives be like the yeast that leavens all the dough (cf. Mt 13:33), sometimes silent and hidden, but always with a positive and encouraging outreach capable of generating hope.

The place of your apostolate is therefore the whole human being, not only within the Christian community -- where the relationship materializes in listening to the Word and in sacramental life from which you draw to sustain your baptismal identity -- I say the place of your apostolate is the human being in his entirety, both within the Christian community and in the civil community, where relationships are formed in the search for the common good, in dialogue with all, called to witness to that Christian anthropology which constitutes a sensible proposal in a society bewildered and confused by its multicultural and multireligious profile.

You come from different countries and the cultural, political and even religious situations in which you live, work and grow old are different. In all of these situations, may you be seekers of the Truth, of the human revelation of God in life. We know it is a long journey, distressing at the present time, but its outcome is certain. Proclaim the beauty of God and of his creation.

Following Christ's example, be obedient to love, be men and women of gentleness and mercy, capable of taking to the highways of the world, doing only good. May yours be a life that is focused on the Beatitudes, that contradicts human logic to express unconditional trust in God, who wants human beings to be happy.

The Church also needs you to give completeness to her mission. Be seeds of holiness scattered by the handful in the furrows of history. Rooted in the freely given and effective action with which the Lord's Spirit guides human events, may you bear fruits of genuine faith, writing with your life and your witness trajectories of hope, writing them with the actions suggested by "creativity' in charity" (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," n. 50).

With these hopes, as I assure you of my constant prayers in support of your apostolic and charitable projects, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you.


Papal Address on World Day of Consecrated Life
"That God Reign in Our Will, in Our Hearts, in the World"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave in St. Peter's Basilica on the World Day of Consecrated Life, Feb. 2.

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Vatican Basilica
Friday, 2 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am glad to meet you at the end of the Eucharistic Celebration that has gathered you in this Basilica this year too, on an occasion so meaningful for you who belong to Congregations, Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life and New Forms of Consecrated Life; you constitute a particularly important element of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Today's liturgy recalls the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the feast chosen by my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, as the "Day of Consecrated Life".

With great pleasure I address my cordial greetings to each one of you present here, beginning with Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of your Dicastery, to whom I am grateful for his kind words on your behalf. I then greet the Secretary and all the members of the Congregation which looks after a vital sector of the Church. Today's celebration is especially appropriate for asking the Lord for the gift of an ever more consistent and incisive presence of men and women religious and consecrated persons in the Church journeying along the roads of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Feast day we are celebrating reminds us that your Gospel witness, to be truly effective, must stem from a response without reserve to the initiative of God who has consecrated you to him with a special act of love.

Just as the elderly Simeon and Anna longed to see the Messiah before they died and spoke of him "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (cf. Lk 2:26,38) so also in our time, especially among young people, there is a widespread need to encounter God.

Those who are chosen by God for the consecrated life make this spiritual longing their own in a definitive way. In it, in fact, they have one expectation: the Kingdom of God: that God reign in our will, in our hearts, in the world. In them burns a unique thirst for love which can be quenched by the Eternal One alone.

By their example they proclaim to a world which is often bewildered but, in fact, increasingly in search of meaning, that God is the Lord of life and that his "steadfast love is better than life" (Ps 63[62]:4[3]).

By choosing obedience, poverty and chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven, they demonstrate that any attachment or love for people and things is incapable of definitively satisfying the heart; that earthly existence is a longer or shorter period of waiting for the "face-to-face" encounter with the divine Bridegroom, an expectation to be lived with an ever vigilant heart, to be ready to recognize and welcome him when he comes.

Consecrated life, therefore, is by its nature a total and definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God (cf. "Vita Consecrata," n. 17). And so, when one renounces everything to follow Christ, when one gives to him all that one holds most dear, braving every sacrifice as did the divine Teacher, the consecrated person who follows in Christ's footsteps necessarily also becomes "a sign of contradiction", because his/her way of thinking and living is often in opposition to the logic of the world, as it is almost always presented in the media.

Indeed, in choosing Christ we let ourselves be "conquered" by him without reserve. How many people thirsting for the truth are struck by this courage and attracted by those who do not hesitate to give their life, their own life, for their belief.

Is not this the radical evangelical fidelity to which every consecrated person is called in our time too? Let us give thanks to the Lord so that many Religious men and women in all the corners of the earth may continue to offer a supreme and faithful witness of love to God and to the brethren, a witness that is often marked by the blood of martyrdom. Let us also thank God so that these examples may continue to inspire in the souls of many young people the desire to follow Christ always in an intimate and total way.

Dear brothers and sisters, never forget that the consecrated life is a divine gift and that it is the Lord in the first place who ensures its success in accordance with his plans. This certainty that the Lord leads us to a successful conclusion despite our weakness; this certainty must be a comfort to you, protecting you from the temptation of discouragement in the face of the inevitable difficulties of life and the many challenges of the modern epoch. Indeed, in the difficult period in which we live many Institutes may feel a sense of dismay at the failings they discover within them and the many obstacles they encounter in carrying out their mission.

Today that Child Jesus who is presented at the Temple is alive among us and invisibly supports us so that we may cooperate faithfully with him in the work of salvation, and he does not abandon us.

Today's liturgy is particularly evocative because it is marked by the symbol of light. The solemn procession with candles which you made at the beginning of the celebration points to Christ, the true light of the world who shines in the night of history and illumines every seeker of the truth. Dear consecrated men and women, burn with this flame and make it radiant with your life so that a gleam of the brightness that shone from Jesus, the splendour of the truth, may shine everywhere.

By dedicating yourselves exclusively to him (cf. "Vita Consecrata," n. 15), you witness to the fascination of the truth of Christ and the joy that derives from love for him. In contemplation and in activity, in solitude and in fraternity, in service to the poor and the lowly, in personal guidance and in the modern areopaghi, be ready to proclaim and to witness that God is Love and that to love him is sweet.

May Mary, the Tota Pulchra, teach you to transmit to men and women today this divine fascination that must transpire from your words and actions. As I express to you my grateful appreciation for the service you render to the Church, I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer and I warmly bless you all.


Pope's May 22 Address to Religious Superiors
"Service of Authority Demands a Persevering Presence"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 8, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 22 in Paul VI Hall to superiors general of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.

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Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for me to meet with you, superiors general, representatives and those responsible for consecrated life. I address my cordial greeting to all.

With fraternal affection I greet in particular Cardinal Franc Rodé, and I thank him for interpreting -- together with your other representatives -- your sentiments. I greet the secretary and collaborators of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, grateful for the service that this dicastery offers to the Church in the important sector of consecrated life.

In this moment, my thought goes with lively gratitude to all of the men and women religious, consecrated persons and members of the societies of apostolic life who spread in the Church and the world the "bonus odor Christi" (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15).

I ask that you, major superiors, transmit a word of special kindness to those who are in difficulty, the elderly and sick, to those who are living moments of crisis and solitude, to those who suffer and feel lost, and also to the young men and women who still today are knocking at the door of your houses, asking to be able to give themselves to Jesus Christ in the radicalness of the Gospel.

I wish that this moment of meeting and of profound communion with the Pope may be for each of you one of encouragement and comfort in the fulfillment of a duty that is evermore demanding and at times opposed.

The service of authority demands a persevering presence, able to enliven and take initiative, to recall the raison d'être of consecrated life, to help the persons entrusted to you to correspond with ever-renewed fidelity to the call of the Spirit.

Your duty is often accompanied by the cross and sometimes by a solitude that requires a profound sense of responsibility, a generosity that does not falter, and continual self-denial. You are called to sustain and to guide your brothers and sisters in a difficult epoch, one marked by numerous temptations.

Consecrated men and women of today have the duty to be witnesses of the transfiguring presence of God in a world that is evermore disoriented and confused, a world where toning down has substituted sharp and distinctive colors.

The ability to look at our time with the gaze of faith means to be able to look at men and women, the world and history in the light of the crucified and risen Christ, the only One able to direct "men and women as they strive to make their way amid the pressures of an immanentist habit of mind and the constrictions of a technocratic logic" (encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," No. 15).

In these last years, consecrated life has been re-examined with a more evangelical, ecclesial and apostolic spirit; but we cannot ignore that some concrete choices have not offered to the world the authentic and vivifying face of Christ.

In fact, the secularized culture has penetrated the mind and heart of not a few consecrated persons, who understand it as a way to enter modernity and a modality of approach to the contemporary world.

As a result, in addition to an undoubted thrust of generosity capable of witness and of total giving, consecrated life today knows the temptation of mediocrity, of middle-class ways and of a consumeristic mentality.

In the Gospel, Jesus warned us that there are two ways: One is the narrow way that leads to life, the other is wide that leads to destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-14). The true alternative is, and will always be, the acceptance of the living God through obedient, faithful service, or the rejection of him.

One priority condition to the following of Christ, therefore, is abnegation, detachment from all that is not him. The Lord wants men and women who are free, not bound, able to give up everything to follow him and to find in him alone their very all.

Courageous choices must be made, both at the personal and communal levels, which give a new discipline to the life of consecrated persons and bring them to rediscover the all-encompassing dimension of the "sequela Christi."

Belonging to the Lord means to be on fire with his incandescent love, to be transformed into the splendor of his beauty: Our littleness is offered to him as a sacrifice of sweet fragrance so that it becomes a witness of the greatness of his presence for our epoch, which has great need to be inebriated by the richness of his grace.

Belonging to the Lord: This is the mission of the men and women who have chosen to follow Christ -- chaste, poor and obedient -- so that the world may believe and be saved. To belong completely to Christ so as to become a permanent confession of faith, an unequivocal proclamation of truth that frees us from the seduction of the false idols that deceive the world.

To belong to Christ means to keep the flame of love always burning in our heart, continually fed by the richness of faith, not only when this brings with it interior joy but also when it is joined to difficulty, aridity and suffering. Prayer is the nourishment for the interior life, intimate conversation of the consecrated soul with the divine Spouse.

Even richer nourishment is daily participation in the ineffable mystery of the divine Eucharist, where the Risen Christ makes himself continually present in his corporeal reality.

To belong completely to the Lord, consecrated persons embrace a chaste lifestyle. Consecrated virginity cannot be inscribed in the framework of worldly logic; it is the most "nonsensical" of Christian paradoxes and it is not given to all to understand and to live it (cf. Matthew 19:11-12).

To live a chaste life also means to give up the need to belong, to take on a lifestyle that is sober and modest. Men and women religious are called to show this also in the choice of habit, a simple habit that is a sign of poverty lived in union with the One who, rich as he was, became poor to make us rich with his poverty (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9).

In this way, and only in this way, can one follow Christ crucified and poor without reserve, immersing oneself in his mystery and making his choices of humility, poverty and meekness one's own.

The theme of the last plenary meeting of the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life was "The Service of Authority." Dear superiors general, it is an occasion to deepen reflection on the exercise of authority and obedience so that it will be evermore inspired by the Gospel.

The burden of one who is called to accomplish the delicate task of superior at all levels will be much easier the more consecrated persons know how to rediscover the value of professed obedience -- which has Abraham, our father in the faith, as its model -- and even more so that of Christ. It is necessary to take refuge from voluntarism and spontaneity to embrace the logic of the cross.

In conclusion, consecrated men and women are called to be credible and luminous signs of the Gospel and its paradoxes in the world without conforming to the mentality of this world, but to continually transform and renew one's own duty, to be able to discern God's will, what is good, acceptable and perfect to him (cf. Romans 12:2).

This is precisely my wish, dear brothers and sisters; it is a wish upon which I invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, unsurpassable model of every consecrated life. With these sentiments, I affectionately impart the apostolic blessing, willingly extending it to all who belong to your numerous spiritual families.


Pontiff's Address to Jesuits
"A Precious Spiritual Legacy That Must Not Be Lost"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered April 22 in St. Peter's Basilica to the Jesuits on pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter.

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Dear Fathers and Brothers of the Society of Jesus,

I meet you with great joy in this historical Basilica of St. Peter's after the holy Mass celebrated for you by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my secretary of state, on the occasion of combined jubilees of the Ignatian Family. I address my cordial greeting to you all.

I greet in the first place the superior general, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, and thank him for his courteous words expressing your common sentiments to me. I greet the cardinals with the bishops and priests and all those who have desired to participate in this event.

Together with the Fathers and Brothers, I also greet the friends of the Society of Jesus present here, and among them, the many men and women religious, members of the Communities of Christian Life and of the Apostolate of Prayer, the students and alumnae with their families from Rome, from Italy and from Stonyhurst in England, the teachers and students of the academic institutions and the many collaborators.

Your visit today gives me the opportunity to thank the Lord with you for having granted your Society the gift of men of extraordinary holiness and exceptional apostolic zeal, such as St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and Blessed Peter Faber. For you they are the fathers and founders: It is therefore appropriate that in this centenary year you commemorate them with gratitude and look to them as enlightened and reliable guides on your spiritual journey and in your apostolic activities.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was first and foremost a man of God who in his life put God, his greatest glory and his greatest service, first. He was a profoundly prayerful man for whom the daily celebration of the Eucharist was the heart and crowning point of his day.

Thus, he left his followers a precious spiritual legacy that must not be lost or forgotten. Precisely because he was a man of God, St. Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church, in which he saw and venerated the Bride of the Lord and the Mother of Christians. And the special vow of obedience to the Pope, which he himself describes as "our first and principal foundation" (MI, Series III, I., p. 162), was born from his desire to serve the Church in the most beneficial way possible.

This ecclesial characteristic, so specific to the Society of Jesus, lives on in you and in your apostolic activities, dear Jesuits, so that you may faithfully meet the urgent needs of the Church today.

Among these, it is important in my opinion to point out your cultural commitment in the areas of theology and philosophy in which the Society of Jesus has traditionally been present, as well as the dialogue with modern culture, which, if it boasts on the one hand of the marvelous progress in the scientific field, remains heavily marked by positivist and materialist scientism.

Naturally, the effort to promote a culture inspired by Gospel values in cordial collaboration with the other ecclesial realities demands an intense spiritual and cultural training. For this very reason, St. Ignatius wanted young Jesuits to be formed for many years in spiritual life and in study. It is good that this tradition be maintained and reinforced, also given the growing complexity and vastness of modern culture.

Another of his great concerns was the Christian education and cultural formation of young people: hence, the impetus he gave to the foundation of "colleges," which after his death spread in Europe and throughout the world. Continue, dear Jesuits, this important apostolate, keeping the spirit of your founder unchanged.

In speaking of St. Ignatius, I cannot overlook the fact that the fifth centenary of St. Francis Xavier's birth was celebrated last April 7. Not only is their history interwoven through long years in Paris and Rome, but a single aspiration -- one might say, a single passion -- stirred and sustained them, even in their different human situations: the passion for working for the ever greater glory of God-the-Trinity and for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who did not know him.

St. Francis Xavier, whom my Predecessor Pius XI, of venerable memory, proclaimed the "Patron of Catholic Missions," saw as his own mission "opening new ways of access" to the Gospel "in the immense continent of Asia." His apostolate in the Orient lasted barely 10 years, but in the four and half centuries that the Society of Jesus has existed it has proven wonderfully fruitful, for his example inspired a multitude of missionary vocations among young Jesuits and he remains a reference point for the continuation of missionary activity in the great countries of the Asian continent.

If St. Francis Xavier worked in the countries of the Orient, his confrere and friend since the years in Paris, Blessed Peter Faber, a Savoiard who was born on April 13, 1506, worked in the European countries where the Christian faithful aspired to a true reform of the Church.

He was a modest, sensitive man with a profound inner life. He was endowed with the gift of making friends with people from every walk of life and consequently attracted many young men to the Society.

Blessed Faber spent his short life in various European countries, especially Germany, where, at the order of Paul III, he took part in the Diets of Worms, Ratisbon and Speyer and in conversations with the leaders of the Reformation. He consequently had an exceptional opportunity to practice the special vow of obedience to the Pope "regarding the missions" and became a model to follow for all future Jesuits.

Dear Fathers and Brothers of the Society, today you look with special devotion at the Blessed Virgin Mary, remembering that on April 22, 1541, St. Ignatius and his first companions made their solemn vows before the image of Mary in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

May Mary continue to watch over the Society of Jesus so that every member may carry in his person the "image" of the crucified Christ, in order to share in his resurrection. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for this, as I willingly impart my blessing to each of you present here and to your entire spiritual family, which I also extend to all the other religious and consecrated persons who are present at this audience.


Pope's Homily on World Day of Consecrated Life
"An Eloquent Sign of the Presence of God's Kingdom"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2006 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Feb. 2, World Day of Consecrated Life, in St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope spoke at an evening Mass for religious on the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's Feast of Jesus' Presentation at the temple 40 days after his birth places before our eyes a special moment in the life of the Holy Family: Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic law, took the tiny Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem to offer him to the Lord (cf. Luke 2:22). Simeon and Anna, inspired by God, recognized that Child as the long-awaited Messiah and prophesied about him. We are in the presence of a mystery, both simple and solemn, in which Holy Church celebrates Christ, the Anointed One of the Father, the firstborn of the new humanity.

The evocative candlelight procession at the beginning of our celebration has made us relive the majestic entrance, as we sang in the Responsorial Psalm, of the One who is "the King of glory," "the Lord, mighty in battle" (Psalm 24[23]:7,8). But who is the powerful God who enters the temple? It is a Child; it is the Infant Jesus in the arms of his Mother, the Virgin Mary. The Holy Family was complying with what the Law prescribed: the purification of the mother, the offering of the firstborn child to God and his redemption through a sacrifice.

In the First Reading the Liturgy speaks of the oracle of the Prophet Malachi: "The Lord ... will suddenly come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1). These words communicated the full intensity of the desire that had given life to the expectation of the Jewish People down the centuries. "The angel of the Covenant" at last entered his house and submitted to the Law: He came to Jerusalem to enter God's house in an attitude of obedience.

The meaning of this act acquires a broader perspective in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, proclaimed as the Second Reading today. Christ, the mediator who unites God and man, abolishing distances, eliminating every division and tearing down every wall of separation, is presented to us here.

Christ comes as a new "merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). Thus, we note that mediation with God no longer takes place in the holiness-separation of the ancient priesthood, but in liberating solidarity with human beings.

While yet a Child, he sets out on the path of obedience that he was to follow to the very end.
The Letter to the Hebrews highlights this clearly when it says: "In the days of his earthly life Jesus offered up prayers and supplications ... to him who was able to save him from death .... Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (cf. Hebrews 5:7-9).

The first person to be associated with Christ on the path of obedience, proven faith and shared suffering was his Mother, Mary. The Gospel text portrays her in the act of offering her Son: an unconditional offering that involves her in the first person.

Mary is the Mother of the One who is "the glory of [his] people Israel" and a "light for revelation to the Gentiles," but also "a sign that is spoken against" (cf. Luke 2:32,34). And in her immaculate soul, she herself was to be pierced by the sword of sorrow, thus showing that her role in the history of salvation did not end in the mystery of the Incarnation but was completed in loving and sorrowful participation in the death and Resurrection of her Son.

Bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother offered him to God as a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She held him out to Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption; she presented him to all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love.

The words that came to the lips of the elderly Simeon: "My eyes have seen your salvation" (Luke 2:30), are echoed in the heart of the prophetess Anna. These good and devout people, enveloped in Christ's light, were able to see in the Child Jesus "the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25). So it was that their expectation was transformed into a light that illuminates history.
Simeon was the bearer of an ancient hope and the Spirit of the Lord spoke to his heart: for this reason he could contemplate the One whom numerous prophets and kings had desired to see: Christ, light of revelation for the Gentiles.

He recognized that Child as the Savior, but he foresaw in the Spirit that the destinies of humanity would be played out around him and that he would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him; he proclaimed the identity and mission of the Messiah with words that form one of the hymns of the newborn Church, radiant with the full communitarian and eschatological exultation of the fulfillment of the expectation of salvation. The enthusiasm was so great that to live and to die were one and the same, and the "light" and "glory" became a universal revelation.

Anna is a "prophetess," a wise and pious woman who interpreted the deep meaning of historical events and of God's message concealed within them. Consequently, she could "give thanks to God" and "[speak of the Child] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).

Her long widowhood devoted to worship in the temple, fidelity to weekly fasting and participation in the expectation of those who yearned for the redemption of Israel culminated in her meeting with the Child Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this feast of the Presentation of the Lord the Church is celebrating the Day of Consecrated Life. This is an appropriate occasion to praise the Lord and thank him for the precious gift represented by the consecrated life in its different forms; at the same time it is an incentive to encourage in all the People of God knowledge and esteem for those who are totally consecrated to God.

Indeed, just as Jesus' life in his obedience and dedication to the Father is a living parable of the "God-with-us," so the concrete dedication of consecrated persons to God and to their brethren becomes an eloquent sign for today's world of the presence of God's Kingdom.

Your way of living and working can vividly express full belonging to the one Lord; placing yourselves without reserve in the hands of Christ and of the Church is a strong and clear proclamation of God's presence in a language understandable to our contemporaries. This is the first service that the consecrated life offers to the Church and to the world.

Consecrated persons are like watchmen among the People of God who perceive and proclaim the new life already present in our history.

I now address you in a special way, dear brothers and sisters who have embraced the vocation of special consecration, to greet you with affection and thank you warmly for your presence.
I extend a special greeting to Archbishop Franc Rodéé, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and to his collaborators who are concelebrating with me at this Holy Mass.

May the Lord renew in you and in all consecrated people each day the joyful response to his freely given and faithful love. Dear brothers and sisters, like lighted candles, always and everywhere shine with the love of Christ, Light of the world. May Mary Most Holy, the consecrated Woman, help you to live to the full your special vocation and mission in the Church for the world's salvation.


Benedict XVI's Letter on Consecrated Life
"Live in Complete Conformity With the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Here is translation of the letter sent to participants in the plenary assembly of the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, held Sept. 26-27.

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To my Venerable Brother
Archbishop Franc Rodéé, C.M.
Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

On the occasion of this Congregation's Plenary Assembly, I very gladly address my cordial greeting to all the participants. In particular, I greet you, the Secretary and all who work in the Dicastery that you head.

With my greetings, I also express my gratitude and joy: gratitude because you share with me attention and service to consecrated persons; joy, because through you I know I am addressing the world of consecrated women and men who follow Christ on the path of the evangelical counsels and of their respective charism, inspired by the Spirit.

The Church's history is marked by interventions of the Holy Spirit, who has not only enriched her with his gifts of wisdom, prophecy and holiness, but has endowed her with ever new forms of evangelical life through the work of the founders and foundresses who have passed on their charism to the family of their spiritual sons and daughters.

This has meant that today, in monasteries and spirituality centers, monks, religious and consecrated persons can offer the faithful oases of contemplation and schools of prayer, education in the faith and of spiritual guidance.

Above all, however, consecrated persons continue the great work of evangelization and witness on all the continents, even on the front lines of the faith, with generosity and often with the sacrifice of their lives, even to the point of martyrdom.

Many of them are totally dedicated to catechesis, education, teaching, the advancement of culture and the ministry of communications. They are close to young people and their families, the poor, the elderly, the sick and lonely people.

There is no human or ecclesial context where they are not present, frequently silent but always effective and creative, a continuation as it were of the presence of Jesus who went about doing good works to all (cf. Acts 10: 38).

The Church is grateful for the witness of fidelity and holiness borne by so many of the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life, for the ceaseless prayers of praise and intercession raised by their communities, and for their life spent at the service of the People of God.
Today, the consecrated life, like other sectors of ecclesial life, certainly has no lack of trials and problems. "The great treasure of the gift of God", you recalled at the end of your last Plenary Assembly, "is held in fragile earthen vessels (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7), and the mystery of evil also threatens those who dedicate their whole lives to God" (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, "Starting Afresh from Christ," n. 11).

Rather than listing the difficulties that consecrated life encounters today, I would like to confirm to all consecrated men and women the closeness, concern and love for them of the whole Church.

At the beginning of the new millennium, the consecrated life is facing formidable challenges that it can only confront in communion with the whole People of God, their Pastors and all the faithful. The attention of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life fits into this context at your Plenary Assembly, which is addressing three very precise themes.

The first theme concerns the exercise of authority.

To assure an authentically fraternal life in the search for God's will, this is a precious and necessary service. In fact, it is the Risen Lord himself, newly present among the brothers and sisters gathered in his name (cf. "Perfectae Caritatis," n. 15), who points out the path to take.

Only if the Superior himself or herself lives in obedience to Christ and sincerely observes the rule can the community members clearly see not only that their obedience to the Superior is not contrary to the freedom of God's children but that it leads them to maturity in conformity with Christ, obedient to the Father (cf. ibid., n. 14).

The other theme chosen for the Plenary Meeting concerns the criteria for the discernment and approval of new forms of consecrated life.

"Those who have charge over the Church should judge the genuineness and proper use of these gifts through their office", the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium" recalls, speaking of charisms in general, "not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good" (n. 12).

And this is what you too are seeking to do in these days, not forgetting that you must carry out your precious and delicate work in a context of gratitude to God, who continues still today to enrich his Church with ever new charisms with the creativity and generosity of his Spirit.

The third theme you have addressed concerns monastic life.

Starting with the contingent situations that also require wise and effective practical interventions, you mean to survey the vast horizon of this reality which has been and still is so important in the Church's history. You seek appropriate ways to relaunch in the new millennium the monastic experience of which the Church today stands in so great a need, for she recognizes in it an eloquent witness to the primacy of God, constantly praised, adored, served and loved with the whole heart, the whole soul and the whole mind (cf. Mt 22: 37).

Lastly, I am pleased to note that the Plenary Meeting is taking place within the framework of the solemn celebration that the Dicastery has organized on the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the conciliar Decree "Perfectae Caritatis" on the renewal of religious life.

I hope that the fundamental guidelines offered by the Council Fathers at that time for the progress of the consecrated life will also be a source of inspiration today for all who dedicate their lives to the service of the Kingdom of God.

I am referring primarily to what the Decree "Perfectae Caritatis" describes as "vitae religiosae ultima norma," "the final norm of the religious life," that is, the "sequela Christi." A genuine recovery of religious life is impossible without seeking to live in complete conformity with the Gospel, without putting anything before the one Love, but finding in Christ and in his words the essence that is deeper than any Founder's or Foundress' charism.

Another basic directive of the Council was to give oneself generously and creatively to one's brothers and sisters, never giving in to the temptation of withdrawal into self, never being content with past achievement and never indulging in pessimism or weariness.

The flame of love that the Spirit kindles in hearts is an incentive to questioning oneself constantly on humanity's needs and on how to respond to them, knowing well that only those who recognize and live the primacy of God can truly respond to the real needs of men and women, made in the image of God.

I would like to take up yet another of the very important directives presented by the Council Fathers in the Decree Perfectae Caritatis: the consecrated person's constant commitment to cultivate a sincere life of communion (cf. n. 15), not only in the individual communities but with the whole Church, because charisms should always be safeguarded, deepened and constantly developed "in harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the process of growth" ("Mutuae Relationes," n. 11).

These are the thoughts on the themes treated at your Plenary Assembly which I am eager to entrust to you for reflection. I accompany you with my prayers, and as I invoke God's help and the protection of the Most Holy Virgin upon you and your activity, I impart my Blessing to each one of you as a pledge of my affection.

From Castel Gandolfo, Sept. 27, 2005, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul.

[Vatican translation]