Benedict XVI's Homily at Diocesan Parish
"Try to Grow Evermore in Communion With Everyone"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2010 - Here is the translation of a homily given today by
Benedict XVI during a pastoral visit to the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe of
the Diocese of Rome.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of San Massimiliano Kolbe! Live this
personal and communal path of following the Lord in a committed way. Advent is a
powerful invitation to everyone to allow God to enter more and more into our
life, into our houses, into our neighborhoods, into our communities, to have a
light in the midst of many shadows, the many daily toils.
Dear Friends, I am very happy to be among you today to celebrate the Lord's Day,
the Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday of joy. I cordially greet the cardinal vicar,
the auxiliary bishop of the sector, your parish priest, whom I thank for the
words that he addressed to me in the name of all of you, and the parish vicar. I
greet those who are active in the parish: the catechists, the members of various
groups, along with the numerous members of the Neocatechumenal Way. I greatly
appreciate the decision to give a place to Eucharistic adoration, and I thank
you for your prayers that you offer for me before the Blessed Sacrament. My
thoughts are with all the inhabitants of this quarter, especially the elderly,
the sick, the people are alone and in difficulty. I remember all and each in
Together with all of you I admire this new church and the parish buildings and
with my presence I desire to encourage you to realize in an ever better way the
Church of living stones that you yourselves are. I know the many and significant
efforts at evangelization that you are engaged in. I exhort all of the faithful
to make your own contribution to the building up of the community, in particular
in the field of catechesis, the liturgy and charity -- pillars of the Christian
life -- in communion with the whole Diocese of Rome. No community can live as a
cell that is isolated from the diocesan context; it must rather be a living
expression of the beauty of the Church that, under the bishop's leadership --
and in the parish, under the pastor's leadership -- walks in communion toward
the Kingdom of Heaven.
I address a special thought to families; I accompany them with the wish that
they may fully realize their vocation of love with generosity and perseverance.
Even when difficulties in conjugal life and in the relationships with their
children present themselves, the spouses must never cease to remain faithful to
that fundamental "yes" that they pronounced before God and each other on their
wedding day, recalling that faithfulness to their vocation demands courage,
generosity and sacrifice.
Your community includes within it many families who have come from central and
southern Italy in search of work and better conditions of life. With the passing
of time the community has grown and it has changed in part with the arrival of
many people from Eastern Europe and other countries. Precisely starting from
this concrete situation of the parish you must try to grow evermore in communion
with everyone: it is important to create occasions of dialogue and to promote
mutual understanding between persons from different cultures, models of life and
social conditions. But it is above all necessary to help them become involved in
the Christian life through care that is attentive to the real needs of each
person. Here, as in every parish, it is necessary to leave those who are "near"
to reach out to those who are "far away," to bring an evangelical presence to
the realms of life and work. All must be able to find in the parish adequate
paths of formation and experience that communal dimension that is a fundamental
characteristic of Christian life. In this way they are encouraged to rediscover
the beauty of Christ and of being part of his Church.
Know, then, how to form a community with everyone, united in listening to the
Word of God and in the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
In this respect the diocesan pastoral verification that is underway on the theme
"Sunday Eucharist and the Witness of Charity" is a propitious occasion to
reflect upon and better live these two fundamental components of the life and
mission of the Church and of every individual believer, that is, the Sunday
Eucharist and the practice of charity. Gathered around the Eucharist we more
easily feel that the mission of every Christian community is that of bringing
the message of God's love to all men. This is why it is important that the
Eucharist always be at the heart of the life of the faithful.
I would like to offer a special word of affection and friendship to you, dear
young people who are listening to me and to your peers who live in this parish.
The Church expects much from you, from your enthusiasm, from your capacity to
look ahead and from your desire for radicality in the choices of life. Feel that
you are true protagonists in the parish, putting all of your fresh energies and
your life at the service of God and the brothers.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, along with the invitation to joy, today's liturgy --
with the words of St. James that we have heard -- tells us also to be constant
and patient in waiting for the Lord who comes, and to be this together, as a
community, avoiding complaining and judging others (cf. James 5:7-10).
We have heard in the Gospel the question of the Baptist who finds himself in
prison; the Baptist announced the coming of the Judge who changes the world, and
now it feels as if the world has stayed the same. He makes his disciples ask
Jesus: "Are you the one who must come? Or must we look for another? Are you he
or must we look for another?" In the last two or three centuries many have
asked: "But are you really the one? Or must the world be changed in a truly
radical way? Are you not doing it?" And many prophets, ideologies and dictators
have come and said: "It isn't him! He didn't change the world! We are the ones!"
And they created their empires, their dictatorships, their totalitarianism that
was supposed to change the world. And they changed it, but in a destructive way.
Today we know that of these great promises there has only remained a great void
and great destruction. They were not the ones.
And so we must again see Christ and ask Christ: "Are you the one?" The Lord, in
the silent way that is characteristic of him, answers: "See what I have done. I
did not start a bloody revolution, I did not change the world by force, but I
lit many lights that form, in the meantime, a great path of light through the
Let us begin here, in our parish: St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered to starve to
death to save the father of a family. What a great light he became! What light
has come from this figure and encouraged others to give themselves, to be near
to the suffering, to the oppressed! Let us think of Damien de Veuster who was a
father to the lepers. He lived and died with and for the lepers and thus brought
light into this community. Let us think of Mother Teresa, who gave so much light
to people, who, after a life without light, died with a smile, because they were
touched by the light of God's love.
We could go on and we would see how the Lord said in his answer to John, that it
is not the violent revolution in the world, it is not the great promises that
change the world, but it is the silent light of the truth, of the goodness of
God that is the sign of his presence and that gives us the certainty that we are
loved completely and that we are not forgotten, we are not a product of chance,
but of a will of love.
In this way we can live, we can feel God's nearness. "God is near," today's
first reading tells us, he is near, but we are often far away. Let us draw near,
let us go to the presence of his light, we pray to the Lord and in the contact
of prayer we ourselves become light for others.
And this is precisely also the meaning of the parish Church: Enter here, enter
into dialogue, into contact with Jesus, with the Son of God, so that we
ourselves become one of those little lights that he has lit and carry light into
the world that feels that it has been redeemed.
Our spirit must open up to this invitation and thus we walk with joy to meet
Christmas, imitating the Virgin Mary, who waited in prayer, with intimate and
joyous trepidation, the birth of the Redeemer. Amen!
© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Papal Address at Rome's Diocesan Conference
"The Sunday Eucharist Is the Testimony of Charity"
ROME, JUNE 17, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave
Tuesday at the inauguration of the ecclesial convention of the Diocese of Rome,
held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
The theme of the three-day convention, which ends today, is "'If They Opened
Their Eyes, They Would Recognize Him and Proclaim Him.' The Sunday Eucharist Is
the Testimony of Charity"
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The Psalm says: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in
unity!" (Psalm 133:1). It really is like this: it is a profound motive of joy
for me to meet again with you and share the great good that the parishes and the
other ecclesial realities of Rome have realized in this pastoral year. I greet
with fraternal affection the cardinal vicar and I thank him for the courteous
words he addressed to me and for the diligence he dedicates daily to the
governance of the diocese, in supporting priests and the parish communities. I
greet the auxiliary bishops, the entire presbyterate and each one of you. I
address a cordial thought to all those who are sick and in particular
difficulties, assuring them of my prayer.
As Cardinal Vallini recalled, we are engaged, since last year, in the
verification of ordinary pastoral care. This evening we will reflect on two
points of primary importance: "Sunday Eucharist and Testimony of Charity." I am
aware of the great work that the parishes, the associations and the movements
have realized, through meetings of formation and encounter, to deepen and live
better these two fundamental components of the life and the mission of the
Church and of every individual believer. This has also fostered that pastoral
responsibility that, in the diversity of ministries and charisms, must be
diffused ever more if we really want the Gospel to reach the heart of every
inhabitant of Rome. So much has been done, and we thank the Lord; but still much
remains to be done, always with his help.
Faith can never be presupposed, because every generation needs to receive this
gift through the proclamation of the Gospel and to know the truth that Christ
has revealed to us. The Church, therefore, is always engaged in proposing to all
the deposit of the faith; contained in it also is the doctrine on the Eucharist
-- central mystery in which "is enclosed all the spiritual good of the Church,
namely, Christ himself, our Pasch" ("Presbyterorum Ordinis," No. 5) -- doctrine
that today, unfortunately, is not sufficiently understood in its profound value
and in its relevance for the existence of believers. Because of this, it is
important that a more profound knowledge of the mystery of the Body and Blood of
the Lord be seen as an exigency of the different communities of our diocese of
Rome. At the same time, in the missionary spirit that we wish to nourish, it is
necessary to spread the commitment to proclaim such Eucharistic faith, so that
every man will encounter Jesus Christ who has revealed the "close" God, friend
of humanity, and to witness it with an eloquent life of charity.
In all his public life, through the preaching of the Gospel and miraculous
signs, Jesus proclaimed the goodness and mercy of the Father towards man. This
mission reached its culmination on Golgotha, where the crucified Christ revealed
the face of God, so that man, contemplating the Cross, be able to recognize the
fullness of love (cf. Benedict XVI, "Deus Caritas Est," No. 12). The sacrifice
of Calvary is mysteriously anticipated in the Last Supper, when Jesus, sharing
with the Twelve the bread and wine, transforms them into his body and his blood,
which shortly after he would offer as immolated Lamb. The Eucharist is the
memorial of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, of his love to the end
for each one of us, memorial that He willed to entrust to the Church so that it
would be celebrated throughout the centuries. According to the meaning of the
Hebrew word "zakar," the "memorial" is not simply the memory of something that
happened in the past, but a celebration which actualizes that event, so as to
reproduce its salvific force and efficacy. Thus, "the sacrifice that Christ
offered to the Father, once and for all, on the Cross in favor of humanity, is
rendered present and actual" (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic
Church, No. 280). Dear brothers and sisters, in our time the word sacrifice is
not liked, rather it seems to belong to other times and to another way of
understanding life. However, properly understood, it is and remains fundamental,
because it reveals to us with what love God loves us in Christ.
In the offering that Jesus makes of himself we find all the novelty of Christian
worship. In ancient times men offered in sacrifice to the divinity the animals
or first fruits of the earth. Jesus, instead, offers himself, his body and his
whole existence: He himself in person becomes the sacrifice that the liturgy
offers in the Holy Mass. In fact, with the consecration of the bread and wine
they become his true body and blood. Saint Augustine invited his faithful not to
pause on what appeared to their sight, but to go beyond: "Recognize in the bread
-- he said -- that same body that hung on the cross, and in the chalice that
same blood that gushed from his side" (Disc. 228 B, 2). To explain this
transformation, theology has coined the word "transubstantiation," word that
resounded for the first time in this Basilica during the IV Lateran Council, of
which in five years will be the 8th centenary. On that occasion the following
expressions were inserted in the profession of faith: "his body and his blood
are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar, under the species of bread
and wine, because the bread is transubstantiated into the body, and the wine
into the blood by divine power" (DS, 802). Therefore, it is essential to stress,
in the itineraries of education of children in the faith, of adolescents and of
young people, as well as in "centers of listening" to the Word of God, that in
the sacrament of the Eucharist Christ is truly, really and substantially
The Holy Mass, celebrated in the respect of the liturgical norms and with a
fitting appreciation of the richness of the signs and gestures, fosters and
promotes the growth of Eucharistic faith. In the Eucharistic celebration we do
not invent something, but we enter into a reality that precedes us, more than
that, which embraces heaven and earth and, hence, also the past, the future and
the present. This universal openness, this encounter with all the sons and
daughters of God is the grandeur of the Eucharist: we go to meet the reality of
God present in the body and blood of the Risen One among us. Hence, the
liturgical prescriptions dictated by the Church are not external things, but
express concretely this reality of the revelation of the body and blood of
Christ and thus the prayer reveals the faith according to the ancient principle
"lex orandi - lex credendi." And because of this we can say "the best catechesis
on the Eucharist is the Eucharist itself well celebrated" (Benedict XVI,
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," No. 64). It is
necessary that in the liturgy the transcendent dimension emerge with clarity,
that of the mystery, of the encounter with the Divine, which also illumines and
elevates the "horizontal," that is the bond of communion and of solidarity that
exists between all those who belong to the Church. In fact, when the latter
prevails, the beauty, profundity and importance of the mystery celebrated is
fully understood. Dear brothers in the priesthood, to you the bishop has
entrusted, on the day of your priestly Ordination, the task to preside over the
Eucharist. Always have at heart the exercise of this mission: celebrate the
divine mysteries with intense interior participation, so that the men and women
of our City can be sanctified, put into contact with God, absolute truth and
And let us also keep present that the Eucharist, joined to the cross and
resurrection of the Lord, has dictated a new structure to our time. The Risen
One was manifested the day after Saturday, the first day of the week, day of the
sun and of creation. From the beginning Christians have celebrated their
encounter with the Risen One, the Eucharist, on this first day, on this new day
of the true sun of history, the Risen Christ. And thus time always begins again
with the encounter with the Risen One and this encounter gives content and
strength to everyday life. Because of this, it is very important for us
Christians, to follow this new rhythm of time, to meet with the Risen One on
Sunday and thus "to take" with us his presence, which transforms us and
transforms our time. Moreover, I invite all to rediscover the fecundity of
Eucharistic adoration: before the Most Holy sacrament we experience in an
altogether particular way that "abiding" of Jesus, which He himself, in the
Gospel of John, posits as necessary condition to bear much fruit (cf. John 15:5)
and to avoid our apostolic action being reduced to sterile activism, but that
instead it be testimony of the love of God.
Communion with Christ is always communion also with his body, which is the
Church, as the Apostle Paul reminds, saying: "The bread which we break, is it
not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who
are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1
Corinthians:16-17). It is, in fact, the Eucharist that transforms a simple group
of persons into ecclesial community: the Eucharist makes the Church. Therefore,
it is fundamental that the celebration of the Holy Mass be effectively the
culmination, the "bearing structure" of the life of every parish community.
I exhort all to take better care, also through apposite liturgical groups, of
the preparation and celebration of the Eucharist, so that all who participate
can encounter the Lord. It is the Risen Christ, who renders himself present in
our today and gathers us around himself. Feeding on Him we are freed from the
bonds of individualism and, through communion with Him, we ourselves become,
together, one thing, his mystical Body. Thus the differences are surmounted due
to profession, to class, to nationality so that we discover ourselves members of
one great family, that of the children of God, in which to each is given a
particular grace for common usefulness. The world and men do not have need of a
another social aggregation, but have need of the Church, which is in Christ as a
sacrament, "which is sign and instrument of the profound union with God and of
the unity of the whole human race" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 1), called to make the
light of the Risen Lord shine on all people.
Jesus came to reveal to us the love of the Father, because "man cannot live
without love" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Hominis," No. 10). Love is, in fact,
the fundamental experience of every human being, what has given meaning to daily
living. Nourished by the Eucharist we also, following the example of Christ,
live for Him, to be witnesses of love. Receiving the Sacrament, we enter into
communion of blood with Jesus Christ. In the Hebrew conception, blood indicates
life; thus we can say that being nourished by the Body of Christ we receive the
life of God and learn to look at reality with his eyes, abandoning the logic of
the world to follow the divine logic of gift and gratuitousness.
St. Augustine recalls that during a vision he thought he heard the voice of the
Lord who said to him: "I am the nourishment of adults. Grow up, and you will eat
me, without, because of this, my being transformed into you, as the nutriment of
your flesh; but you are transformed into me" (cf. Confessions VII, 10, 16). When
we receive Christ, the love of God expands in our innermost self, modifies our
heart radically and makes us capable of gestures that, by the expansive force of
good, can transform the life of those that are next to us. Charity is able to
generate an authentic and permanent change of society, acting in the hearts and
minds of men, and when it is lived in truth "it is the principal propelling
force for the true development of every person and of the whole of humanity"
(Benedict XVI, Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, 1). For the disciples of Jesus,
the testimony of charity is not a passing sentiment, but on the contrary it is
what molds life in every circumstance. I encourage all, in particular the
Caritas and Deacons, to be committed in the delicate and essential field of
education to charity, as permanent dimension of personal and community life.
This City of ours asks of Christ's disciples, with a renewed proclamation of the
Gospel, a clearer and more limpid testimony of charity. It is with the language
of love, desirous of the integral good of man, that the Church speaks to the
inhabitants of Rome. In these years of my ministry as your Bishop, I have been
able to visit several places where charity is lived intensely. I am grateful to
all those who are engaged in the different charitable structures, for the
dedication and generosity with which they serve the poor and the marginalized.
The needs and poverty of so many men and women interpellate us profoundly: it is
Christ himself who every day, in the poor, asks us to assuage his hunger and
thirst, to visit him in hospitals and prisons, to accept and dress him. A
celebrated Eucharist imposes on us and at the same time renders us capable of
becoming, in our turn, bread broken for brothers, coming to meet their needs and
giving ourselves. Because of this, a Eucharistic celebration that does not lead
to meet men where they live, work and suffer, to take to them the love of God,
does not manifest the love it encloses. To be faithful to the mystery that is
celebrated on the altars we must, as the Apostle Paul exhorts us, offer our
bodies, ourselves, in spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God (cf. Romans 12:1) in
those circumstances that require dying to our I and constitute our daily
"altar." Gestures of sharing create communion, renew the fabric of interpersonal
relations, marking them with gratuitousness and gift, and allowing for the
construction of the civilization of love. In a time such as the present of
economic and social crisis, let us be in solidarity with those who live in
indigence to offer all the hope of a better tomorrow worthy of man. If we really
live as disciples of the God-Charity, we will help the inhabitants of Rome to
discover themselves brothers and children of the one Father.
The very nature of love requires definitive and irrevocable choices of life. I
turn to you in particular, dearly beloved young people: do not be afraid to
choose love as the supreme rule of life. Do not be afraid to love Christ in the
priesthood and, if you perceive in your heart the call of the Lord, follow him
in this extraordinary adventure of love, abandon yourselves with trust to him!
Do not be afraid to form Christian families that live faithful, indissoluble
love open to life! Give witness that love, as Christ lived it and as the
magisterium of the Church teaches, does not take anything away from our
happiness, but on the contrary it gives that profound joy that Christ promised
to his disciples.
May the Virgin Mary accompany the path of our Church of Rome with her maternal
intercession. Mary, who in an altogether singular way lived communion with God
and the sacrifice of her own Son on Calvary, enable us to live ever more
intensely, piously and consciously the mystery of the Eucharist, to proclaim
with the word and life the love that God has for every man. Dear friends, I
assure you of my prayer and impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Papal Homily at Roman Parish
"He Is Concerned About Our Good, Our Happiness, Our
ROME, MARCH 7, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily that Benedict XVI gave
during a pastoral visit this morning to the parish of San Giovanni della Croce
in Colle Salario in the northern part of the Diocese of Rome.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters!
“Convert, says the Lord, the kingdom of heaven is near!” We pronounced these
words before the Gospel for this Third Sunday of Lent. They present us with the
fundamental theme of this “difficult time” of the liturgical year: the
invitation to conversion and the doing of works of penitence. Jesus, as we
heard, mentions two historical events: the Romans’ brutal treatment of a group
of Jews in the temple (cf. Luke 13:1) and the tragedy of the 18 people who were
killed when a tower in Siloam collapsed (13:4). The people took these episodes
to be divine punishment of the victims for their sins and, thinking themselves
righteous, believe that they are safe from such things, not being in need of
conversion in their lives. But Jesus denounces this attitude as an illusion: “Do
you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater
sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not
repent, you will all perish as they did!” (13:2-3). And he invites us to reflect
on these facts in view of a greater commitment to conversion, for it is
precisely closing oneself to the Lord, not walking the road of the conversion of
ourselves, that leads to death, the death of the soul.
During Lent each of us is invited by God to bring about a change in our lives,
thinking and living according to the Gospel, correcting something in our way of
praying, of acting, of working and in our relations with others. Jesus makes
this appeal to us not with a severity that is an end in itself but precisely
because he is concerned about our good, our happiness, our salvation. On our
part we have to answer him with a sincere interior effort, asking him to make us
understand those particular things about us that we need to change.
The conclusion of the Gospel passage returns to the perspective of mercy,
showing the necessity and the urgency of the return to God, the renewal of life
according to God’s will. Referring to a custom of his time, Jesus presents the
parable of the fig tree planted in an orchard; this fig tree does not bear fruit
(cf. Luke 13:6-9). The dialogue that develops between the owner and the gardener
manifests, on one hand, God’s mercy, which is patient and allows man, all of us,
time for conversion; and, on the other hand, the necessity of immediately making
the interior and exterior changes of life so as not to lose the opportunities
that God’s mercy offers us to overcome our spiritual laziness and to return
God’s love with our filial love. St. Paul too, in the reading that we heard,
exhorts us not to deceive ourselves: It is not enough to be baptized and be
nourished at the same Eucharistic meal if one does not live as a Christian and
is not attentive to the signs from the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of San Giovanni della Croce! I am very
glad to be among you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day. I cordially greet the
cardinal vicar, the auxiliary bishop of the district, your pastor, Father Enrico
Gemma, whom I thank for the beautiful words he addressed to me on your behalf,
and the other priests who assist him. My thoughts go out to all those who live
in this quarter, especially the elderly, the sick, those who are alone and those
in difficulty. I remember all of you in this Holy Mass.
I know that your parish is young. In fact, it began its pastoral activity in
1989, for a period of 12 years in a provisory location, and then in the new
parish complex. Now that you have a new sacred edifice, my visit aims to
encourage you to realize more and more that Church of living stones that you
are. I know that the experience of the first 12 years formed a way of life that
still remains. The lack of adequate structures and consolidated traditions moved
you, indeed, to entrust yourselves to the strength of the Word of God, which has
been the light along your way and bore concrete fruit of conversion, of
participation in the sacraments, especially the Sunday Eucharist, and of
I exhort you now to make this Church a place in which you learn the Lord better
and listen to him who speaks to us in the sacred Scriptures. These will remain
the vivifying center of your community so that it becomes a continual school of
Christian life, from which every pastoral activity begins. The building of the
new parish church has led you to a joint apostolic commitment, with special
attention to the field of catechesis and the liturgy. I congratulate you on the
pastoral efforts that you are undertaking. I know that various groups of the
faithful gather to pray, form themselves in the school of the Gospel,
participate in the sacraments -- above all penance and the Eucharist -- and live
that essential dimension of the Christian life that is charity. I acknowledge
with gratitude those who contribute to help the community to participate more in
the liturgical celebrations and make them more lively as well as those who, with
the parish Caritas and the Sant’Egidio group, try to meet the many exigencies of
the area, especially those of the poor and needy. Finally, I acknowledge those
who praiseworthily help families by seeing to the Christian education of the
children and those who come to the oratory.
From the very beginning this parish was open to the movements and to the new
ecclesial communities, thus developing a wider awareness of the Church and
experiencing new forms of evangelization. I call on you to continue in this
direction with courage but also to dedicate yourselves to bring all of these
realities together into a unified pastoral project. I was happy to hear that
your community wishes to promote, in regard to the vocations and the role of
consecrated persons and the laity, the co-responsibility of all the members of
the People of God. As I already noted, this demands a change in mentality, above
all with regard to the laity, “moving from considering them ‘collaborators’ of
the clergy to recognizing them as truly ‘co-responsible’ for the being and
action of the Church, promoting a mature and dedicated laity in this way” (cf.
“Address a the Opening of the Pastoral Conference of the Diocese of Rome,” May
Dear Christian families, dear young people, who live in this area and who attend
this parish, let yourselves be more and more drawn by the desire to proclaim the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not wait until others bring you other messages that
do not lead to life, but make yourselves missionaries of Christ for the brothers
and sisters where you live, work, study or only pass your free time. You should
also establish here a strong and organic vocational program that educates
families and young people in prayer and the living of life as a gift that comes
Dear brothers and sisters! The difficult time of Lent invites all of us to
recognize the mystery of God, which makes itself present in our life, as we
heard in the first reading. Moses sees a burning bush in the desert, but the
fire does not consume the bush. In a first moment, moved by curiosity he comes
nearer to see this mysterious event when a voice from the bush calls to him,
saying: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the
God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). And it is precisely this God who sends him into
Egypt with the task of leading the people of Israel into the promised land,
demanding from Pharaoh, in the name of this God, the freedom of Israel.
At this point Moses asks God what his name is, the name with which God shows his
particular authority so that he can present it to the people and then to
Pharaoh. God’s answer might seem strange; it seems to be an answer and not an
answer. God simply says of himself: “I am he who is!” “He is,” and this must
suffice. Thus, God did not reject Moses request, he manifests his name and in
this way made it possible to invoke him, to call him, enter into relation with
him. This means that he delivers himself over, in a certain way, to our human
world, becoming accessible, almost one of us. He confronts the risk of relation,
of being with us. What began at the burning bush in the desert finishes at the
burning bush of the cross, where God, who became accessible in his Son made man,
made truly one of us, is delivered into our hands and, in this way, realizes the
liberation of humanity. On Golgotha, God, who during the night of the flight
from Egypt revealed himself as he who frees from slavery, reveals himself as he
who embraces every man with the salvific power of the cross and resurrection and
frees man from sin and death. He accepts him in his embrace of love.
Let us remain in the contemplation of this mystery of the name of God to better
understand the mystery of Lent, and to live as individuals and as community in
permanent conversion, in a way to be a constant epiphany in the world, witness
of the living God, for love, frees and saves. Amen.
to Rome Diocesan Convention
"There Is Talk of a
Great 'Educational Emergency'"
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a
Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to Rome's diocesan
convention on June 11 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
* * *
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE CONVENTION
OF THE DIOCESE OF ROME
Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Monday, 11 June 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
For the third consecutive year our diocesan Convention
gives me the possibility of meeting and speaking to you all, addressing
the theme on which the Church of Rome will be focusing in the coming
pastoral year, in close continuity with the work carried out in the
year now drawing to a close.
I greet with affection each one of you, Bishops,
priests, deacons, men and women religious, lay people who generously
take part in the Church's mission. I thank the Cardinal Vicar in
particular for the words he has addressed to me on behalf of you all.
The theme of the Convention is "Jesus is Lord:
educating in the faith, in the "sequela', in witnessing": a theme that
concerns us all because every disciple professes that Jesus is Lord and
is called to grow in adherence to him, giving and receiving help from
the great company of brothers and sisters in the faith.
Nevertheless, the verb "to educate", as part of the
title of the Convention, suggests special attention to children, boys
and girls and young people, and highlights the duty proper first of all
to the family: thus, we are continuing the programme that has been a
feature of the pastoral work of our Diocese in recent years.
It is important to start by reflecting on the first
affirmation, which gives our Convention its tone and meaning: "Jesus is
Lord". We find it in the solemn declaration that concludes Peter's
discourse at Pentecost, in which the head of the Apostles said: "Let
all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him
both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36). The
conclusion of the great hymn to Christ contained in Paul's Letter to
the Philippians is similar: "every tongue [should] confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (2: 11).
Again, in the final salutation of his First Letter to
the Corinthians, St Paul exclaimed: "If any one has no love for the
Lord, let him be accursed. Maranà tha: Our Lord, come!" (I
16:22), thereby handing on to us the very ancient Aramaic invocation of
Jesus as Lord.
Various other citations could be added: I am thinking
of the 12th chapter of the same Letter to the Corinthians in which St
Paul says: "No one can say "Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit"
(I Corinthians 12:3).
Thus, the Apostle declares that this is the
fundamental confession of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. We
might think also of the 10th chapter of the Letter to the Romans where
the Apostle says, "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord"
(Romans 10:9), thus reminding the Christians of Rome that these words,
"Jesus is Lord", form the common confession of the Church, the sure
foundation of the Church's entire life.
The whole confession of the Apostolic Creed, of the
Nicene Creed, developed from these words. St Paul also says in another
passage of his First Letter to the Corinthians: "Although there may be
so-called gods in heaven or on earth..." -- and we know that today too
there are many so-called "gods" on earth -- for us there is only "one
God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and
one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we
exist" (I Corinthians 8: 5-6).
Thus, from the outset the disciples recognized the
Risen Jesus as the One who is our brother in humanity but is also one
with God; the One who, with his coming into the world and throughout
his life, in his death and in his Resurrection, brought us God and in a
new and unique way made God present in the world: the One, therefore,
who gives meaning and hope to our life; in fact, it is in him that we
encounter the true Face of God that we find what we really need in
order to live.
Educating in the faith, in the sequela, and in
witnessing means helping our brothers and sisters, or rather, helping
one another to enter into a living relationship with Christ and with
the Father. This has been from the start the fundamental task of the
Church as the community of believers, disciples and friends of Jesus.
The Church, the Body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit, is that
dependable company within which we have been brought forth and educated
to become, in Christ, sons and heirs of God.
In the Church, we receive the Spirit through whom "we
cry, "Abba! Father!'" (cf. Romans 8:14-17). We have just heard in St
Augustine's homily that God is not remote, that he has become the "Way"
and the "Way" himself has come to us. He said: "Stand up, you idler,
and start walking!". Starting to walk means moving along the path that
is Christ himself, in the company of believers; it means while walking,
helping one another to become truly friends of Jesus Christ and
children of God.
Daily experience tells us -- as we all know -- that
precisely in our day educating in the faith is no easy undertaking.
Today, in fact, every educational task seems more and more arduous and
precarious. Consequently, there is talk of a great "educational
emergency", of the increasing difficulty encountered in transmitting
the basic values of life and correct behaviour to the new generations,
a difficulty that involves both schools and families and, one might
say, any other body with educational aims.
We may add that this is an inevitable emergency: in a
society, in a culture, which all too often make relativism its creed --
relativism has become a sort of dogma -- in such a society the light of
truth is missing; indeed, it is considered dangerous and
"authoritarian" to speak of truth, and the end result is doubt about
the goodness of life -- is it good to be a person? is it good to be
alive? -- and in the validity of the relationships and commitments in
which it consists.
So how would it be possible to suggest to children and
to pass on from generation to generation something sound and
dependable, rules of life, an authentic meaning and convincing
objectives for human existence both as an individual and as a community?
For this reason, education tends to be broadly reduced
to the transmission of specific abilities or capacities for doing,
while people endeavour to satisfy the desire for happiness of the new
generations by showering them with consumer goods and transitory
gratification. Thus, both parents and teachers are easily tempted to
abdicate their educational duties and even no longer to understand what
their role, or rather, the mission entrusted to them, is.
Yet, in this way we are not offering to young people,
to the young generations, what it is our duty to pass on to them.
Moreover, we owe them the true values which give life a foundation.
However, this situation obviously fails to satisfy; it
cannot satisfy because it ignores the essential aim of education which
is the formation of a person to enable him or her to live to the full
and to make his or her own contribution to the common good. However, on
many sides the demand for authentic education and the rediscovery of
the need for educators who are truly such is increasing.
Parents, concerned and often worried about their
children's future, are asking for it, many teachers who are going
through the sad experience of the deterioration of their schools are
asking for it, society overall is asking for it, in Italy as in many
other nations, because it sees the educational crisis cast doubt on the
very foundations of coexistence.
In a similar context, the Church's commitment to
providing education in the faith, in discipleship and in witnessing to
the Lord Jesus is more than ever acquiring the value of a contribution
to extracting the society in which we live from the educational crisis
that afflicts it, clamping down on distrust and on that strange "self
hatred" that seems to have become a hallmark of our civilization.
However, none of this diminishes the difficulties we
encounter in leading children, adolescents and young people to meet
Jesus Christ and to establish a lasting and profound relationship with
him. Yet precisely this is the crucial challenge for the future of the
faith, of the Church and of Christianity, and it is therefore an
essential priority of our pastoral work: to bring close to Christ and
to the Father the new generation that lives in a world largely distant
Dear brothers and sisters, we must always be aware
that we cannot carry out such a task with our own strength but only
with the power of the Spirit. We need enlightenment and grace that come
from God and act within hearts and consciences. For education and
Christian formation, therefore, it is above all prayer and our personal
friendship with Jesus that are crucial: only those who know and love
Jesus Christ can introduce their brothers and sisters into a living
relationship with him. Indeed, moved by this need, I thought: it would
be helpful to write a book on Jesus to make him known.
Let us never forget the words of Jesus: "I have called
you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known
to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that
you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (John
Our communities will thus be able to work fruitfully
and to teach the faith and discipleship of Christ while being in
themselves authentic "schools" of prayer (cf. Apostolic Letter "Novo
Millennio Ineunte," n. 33), where the primacy of God is lived.
Furthermore, it is education and especially Christian
education which shapes life based on God who is love (cf. I John
4:8,16), and has need of that closeness which is proper to love.
Especially today, when isolation and loneliness are a widespread
condition to which noise and group conformity is no real remedy,
personal guidance becomes essential, giving those who are growing up
the assurance that they are loved, understood and listened to.
In practice, this guidance must make tangible the fact
that our faith is not something of the past, that it can be lived today
and that in living it we really find our good. Thus, boys and girls and
young people may be helped to free themselves from common prejudices
and will realize that the Christian way of life is possible and
reasonable, indeed, is by far the most reasonable.
The entire Christian community, with all its many
branches and components, is challenged by the important task of leading
the new generations to the encounter with Christ: on this terrain,
therefore, we must express and manifest particularly clearly our
communion with the Lord and with one another, as well as our
willingness and readiness to work together to "build a network", to
achieve with an open and sincere mind every useful form of synergy,
starting with the precious contribution of those women and men who have
consecrated their lives to adoring God and interceding for their
However, it is very obvious that in educating and
forming people in the faith the family has its own fundamental role and
primary responsibility. Parents, in fact, are those through whom the
child at the start of life has the first and crucial experience of
love, of a love which is actually not only human but also a reflection
of God's love for him.
Therefore, the Christian family, the small "domestic
Church", and the larger family of the Church must take care to develop
the closest collaboration, especially with regard to the education of
children (cf. "Lumen Gentium," n. 11).
Everything that has matured in the three years in
which our diocesan pastoral ministry has devoted special attention to
the family should not only be implemented but also further increased.
For example, the attempts to involve parents and even
godparents more closely, before and after Baptism, in order to help
them understand and put into practice their mission as educators in the
faith have already produced appreciable results and deserve to be
continued and to become the common heritage of each parish. The same
applies for the participation of families in catechesis and in the
entire process of the Christian initiation of children and adolescents.
Of course, many families are unprepared for this task
and there is no lack of families which -- if they are not actually
opposed to it -- do not seem to be interested in the Christian
education of their own children: the consequences of the crisis in so
many marriages are making themselves felt here.
Yet, it is rare to meet parents who are wholly
indifferent to the human and moral formation of their children and
consequently unwilling to be assisted in an educational task which they
perceive as ever more difficult.
Therefore, an area of commitment and service opens up
for our parishes, oratories, youth communities and above all for
Christian families themselves, called to be near other families to
encourage and assist them in raising their children, thereby helping
them to find the meaning and purpose of life as a married couple.
Let us now move on to other subjects concerning
education in the faith.
As children gradually grow up, their inner desire for
personal autonomy naturally increases. Especially in adolescence, this
can easily lead to them taking a critical distance from their family.
Here, the closeness which can be guaranteed by the priest, Religious,
catechist or other educators capable of making the friendly Face of the
Church and love of Christ concrete for the young person, becomes
If it is to produce positive effects that endure in
time, our closeness must take into account that the education offered
is a free encounter and that Christian education itself is formation in
true freedom. Indeed, there is no real educational proposal, however
respectful and loving it may be, which is not an incentive to making a
decision, and the proposal of Christianity itself calls freedom
profoundly into question, calling it to faith and conversion.
As I said at the Ecclesial Convention in Verona: "A
true education must awaken the courage to make definitive decisions,
which today are considered a mortifying bind to our freedom. In
reality, they are indispensable for growth and in order to achieve
something great in life, in particular, to cause love to mature in all
its beauty: therefore, to give consistency and meaning to freedom
itself" (Address, 19 October 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English
edition, 25 October 2006, p. 9).
When they feel that their freedom is respected and
taken seriously, adolescents and young people, despite their
changeability and frailty, are not in fact unwilling to let themselves
be challenged by demanding proposals: indeed, they often feel attracted
and fascinated by them.
They also wish to show their generosity in adhering to
the great, perennial values that constitute life's foundations. The
authentic educator likewise takes seriously the intellectual curiosity
which already exists in children and, as the years pass, is more
consciously cultivated. Constantly exposed to, and often confused by,
the multiplicity of information, and by the contrasting ideas and
interpretations presented to them, young people today nevertheless
still have a great inner need for truth. They are consequently open to
Jesus Christ who, as Tertullian reminds us, "called himself truth, not
custom" ("De virginibus velandis," I, 1).
It is up to us to seek to respond to the question of
truth, fearlessly juxtaposing the proposal of faith with the reason of
our time. In this way we will help young people to broaden the horizons
of their intelligence, to open themselves to the mystery of God, in
whom is found life's meaning and direction, and to overcome the
conditioning of a rationality which trusts only what can be the object
of experiment and calculation. Thus, it is very important to develop
what last year we called "the pastoral care of intelligence".
The task of education passes through freedom but also
requires authority. Therefore, especially when it is a matter of
educating in faith, the figure of the witness and the role of
witnessing is central. A witness of Christ does not merely transmit
information but is personally involved with the truth Christ proposes
and, through the coherency of his own life, becomes a dependable
However, he does not refer to himself, but to Someone
who is infinitely greater than he is, in whom he has trusted and whose
trustworthy goodness he has experienced. The authentic Christian
educator is therefore a witness who finds his model in Jesus Christ,
the witness of the Father who said nothing about himself but spoke as
the Father had taught him (cf. John 8:28). This relationship with
Christ and with the Father is for each one of us, dear brothers and
sisters, the fundamental condition for being effective educators in the
Our Convention very rightly speaks of education not
only in faith and discipleship but also in witnessing to the Lord
Jesus. Bearing an active witness to Christ does not, therefore, concern
only priests, women religious and lay people who as formation teachers
have tasks in our communities, but children and young people
themselves, and all who are educated in the faith.
Therefore, the awareness of being called to become
witnesses of Christ is not a corollary, a consequence somehow external
to Christian formation, such as, unfortunately, has often been thought
and today too people continue to think. On the contrary, it is an
intrinsic and essential dimension of education in the faith and
discipleship, just as the Church is missionary by her very nature (cf.
"Ad Gentes," n. 2).
If children, through a gradual process from the
beginning of their formation, are to achieve permanent formation as
Christian adults, the desire to be and the conviction of being sharers
in the Church's missionary vocation in all the situations and
circumstances of life must take root in the believers' soul. Indeed, we
cannot keep to ourselves the joy of the faith. We must spread it and
pass it on, and thereby also strengthen it in our own hearts.
If faith is truly the joy of having discovered truth
and love, we inevitably feel the desire to transmit it, to communicate
it to others. The new evangelization to which our beloved Pope John
Paul II called us passes mainly through this process.
A concrete experience that will increase in the youth
of the parishes and of the various ecclesial groups the desire to
witness to their own faith is the "Young People's Mission" which you
are planning, after the success of the great "City Mission".
By educating in the faith, a very important task is
entrusted to Catholic schools. Indeed, they must carry out their
mission on the basis of an educational project which places the Gospel
at the centre and keeps it as a decisive reference point for the
person's formation and for the entire cultural programme.
In convinced synergy with families and with the
Ecclesial Community, Catholic schools should therefore seek to foster
that unity between faith, culture and life which is the fundamental
goal of Christian education. State schools too can be sustained in
their educational task in various ways by the presence of teachers who
are believers -- in the first place, but not exclusively, teachers of
Catholic religion -- and of students with a Christian formation, as
well as by the collaboration of many families and of the Christian
The healthy secularism of schools, like that of the
other State institutions, does not in fact imply closure to
Transcendence or a false neutrality with regard to those moral values
which form the basis of an authentic formation of the person. A similar
discourse naturally applies for universities and it is truly a good
omen that university ministry in Rome has been able to develop in all
the Athenaeums, among teachers as much as students, and that a fruitful
collaboration has developed between the civil and Pontifical academic
Today, more than in the past, the education and
formation of the person are influenced by the messages and general
climate spread by the great means of communication and which are
inspired by a mindset and culture marked by relativism, consumerism and
a false and destructive exaltation, or rather, profanation, of the body
and of sexuality.
Therefore, precisely because of the great "yes" that
as believers in Christ we say to the man loved by God, we certainly
cannot fail to take interest in the overall orientation of the society
to which we belong, in the trends that motivate it and in the positive
or negative influence that it exercises on the formation of the new
The very presence of the community of believers, its
educational and cultural commitment, the message of faith, trust and
love it bears are in fact an invaluable service to the common good and
especially to the children and youth who are being trained and prepared
Dear brothers and sisters, there is one last point to
which I would like to draw your attention: it is supremely important
for the Church's mission and requires our commitment and first of all
our prayer. I am referring to vocations to follow the Lord Jesus more
closely in the ministerial priesthood and in the consecrated life.
In recent decades, the Diocese of Rome has been
gladdened by the gift of many priestly ordinations which have made it
possible to bridge the gap in the previous period, and also to meet the
requests of many Sister Churches in need of clergy; but the most recent
indications seem less favourable and prompt the whole of our diocesan
community to renew to the Lord, with humility and trust, its request
for labourers for his harvest (cf. Matthew 9:37-38; Luke 10:2).
With delicacy and respect we must address a special
but clear and courageous invitation to follow Jesus to those young men
and women who appear to be the most attracted and fascinated by
friendship with him. In this perspective, the Diocese will designate
several new priests specifically to the care of vocations, but we know
well that prayer and the overall quality of our Christian witness, the
example of life set by priests and consecrated souls, the generosity of
the people called and of the families they come from, are crucial in
Dear brothers and sisters, I entrust to you these
reflections as a contribution to the dialogue of these evenings, and to
the work of the next pastoral year. May the Lord always give us the joy
of believing in him, of growing in his friendship, of following him in
the journey of life and of bearing witness to him in every situation,
so that we may be able to pass on to those who will come after us the
immense riches and beauty of faith in Jesus Christ. May my affection
and my blessing accompany you in your work. Thank you for your
Pope's December 10 (2006) Homily at a
"The Word of God Rebuilds the City"
PASTORAL VISIT TO OUR LADY
STAR OF EVANGELIZATION PARISH OF ROME
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
II Sunday of Advent, 10 December 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the
Parish of Our Lady Star of Evangelization,
I am pleased to be with you for the dedication of this beautiful new
parish church: the first that I have dedicated to the Lord since I took
up office as Bishop of Rome. The solemn liturgy for the dedication of a
church is a moment of intense and common spiritual joy for all God's
people who live in the area: I wholeheartedly join in your joy today.
I greet with affection the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Camillo Ruini,
Bishop Paolino Schiavon, Auxiliary Bishop of the Southern Sector, and
Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, Secretary of the Roman Commission for
the Preservation of Faith and for the Provision of New Churches in
Rome. I extend my deep gratitude to them and to all who have
contributed in various capacities to making this new parish centre a
This church is being inaugurated during the Season of Advent, which the
Diocese of Rome for the past 16 years has dedicated to increasing
awareness and collecting funds in order to build new churches on the
city's outskirts. It comes in addition to more than 50 parish complexes
that have already been built in recent years, thanks to the financial
efforts of the Vicariate, the contributions of numerous faithful and
the attention of the civil Authorities.
I ask all the faithful and citizens of good will to persevere
generously in this task so that neighbourhoods that are still without a
church may have their parish centre as soon as possible.
Especially in our broadly secularized social context, the parish is a
beacon that radiates the light of the faith and thus responds to the
deepest and truest desires of the human heart, giving meaning and hope
to the lives of individuals and families.
I greet your parish priest, the priests who work with him, the members
of the Parish Pastoral Council and the other lay people involved in the
various pastoral activities. I greet each one of you with affection.
Your community is lively and young!
It is young because it was founded in 1989, and especially because of
the effective beginning of its activities. It is young because in this
North Torrino district the majority of families are young, so children
and young people abound.
Thus, the laborious but fascinating task of educating children in the
life and joy of faith is incumbent on your community. I am confident
that together, in a spirit of sincere communion, you will be involved
in preparation for the sacraments of Christian initiation and will help
your children, who from now on will find here welcoming premises and
adequate structures to grow in love and in fidelity to the Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have dedicated a church -- a building in
which God and man desire to meet: a house that unites us, in which we
are attracted to God, and being with God unites us with one another.
The three Readings of this solemn liturgy are intended to show us under
very different aspects the meaning of a sacred building as a house of
God and a house of men and women.
We have before us, in these three Readings that we have heard, three
important themes: the Word of God, which gathers people together, in
the First Reading; the city of God, which in the Second Reading appears
at the same time as a bride; and lastly, the profession of Jesus Christ
as the Son of God Incarnate, expressed first of all by Peter, who thus
founded the living Church which is manifest in the physical building of
every church. Let us now listen more attentively to what the three
Readings tell us.
First of all, there is the account of the rebuilding of the People of
Israel, of the Holy City Jerusalem and of the temple subsequent to
their return from the Exile. After the great optimism of the
homecoming, the people -- on arrival -- found themselves facing a
wasteland. How were they to rebuild it?
The external rebuilding, so necessary, could not proceed unless the
people were first rebuilt as a people -- unless a common criterion of
justice was developed that would unite them all and regulate the life
and activity of each one.
The people who had returned needed, so to speak, a "constitution", a
fundamental law for their life. And they knew that this constitution,
if it was to be just and lasting, if it was to lead definitively to
justice, could not be the result of their own autonomous intention.
True justice cannot be invented by man: rather, it has to be
discovered. In other words, it must come from God, who is justice. The
Word of God, therefore, rebuilds the city.
What the Reading tells us is a reminder of the Sinai event. It brings
to life the event of Sinai: the holy Word of God, which shows men and
women the way of justice, is solemnly read and explained. Thus, it
becomes present as a force from within which builds the country anew.
This happens on New Year's Day. God's Word ushers in a new year, it
ushers in a period of history.
The Word of God is always a renewing force which gives meaning and
order to our time. At the end of the Reading is joy: people are invited
to the solemn banquet; they are urged to make a gift to those who have
nothing and thereby to unite everyone in the joyful communion that is
based on the Word of God.
This Reading ends in these beautiful words: the joy of the Lord is our
strength. I believe that it is not difficult to see that these words of
the Old Testament are really true for us today.
The church building exists so that God's Word may be listened to,
explained and understood by us; it exists so that God's Word may be
active among us as a force that creates justice and love. It exists in
particular so that in it the celebration in which God wants humanity to
participate may begin, not only at the end of time but already today.
It exists so that the knowledge of justice and goodness may be awakened
within us, and there is no other source for knowing and strengthening
this knowledge of justice and goodness other than the Word of God. It
exists so that we may learn to live the joy of the Lord who is our
Let us pray to the Lord to gladden us with his Word; to gladden us with
faith, so that this joy may renew us and the world!
Thus, may the reading of the Word of God, the renewal of the revelation
of Sinai after the Exile, serve then for communion with God and among
men and women. This communion is expressed in the rebuilding of the
temple, the city and its walls.
The Word of God and the rebuilding of the city in the Book of Nehemiah
are closely connected: on the one hand, without the Word of God there
is neither city nor community; on the other, the Word of God does not
remain only a discourse but leads to constructing, it is a Word that
The following texts from the Book of Nehemiah on the construction of
city walls seem at first reading to be very practical and even prosaic
in their details. However, they constitute a truly spiritual and
A prophetic word of that age states that God himself built a wall of
fire to encircle Jerusalem (cf. Zec 2:8ff.). God himself is the city's
living defence, and not only in that time but always. Thus, the Old
Testament account introduces us into the vision of the Apocalypse,
which we heard as the Second Reading.
I would like to stress two aspects of this vision. The city is the
bride. It is not merely a building of stone. All that is said about the
city in grandiose images refers to something alive: to the Church of
living stones, where even now the future city is being formed.
It refers to the new people who, in the breaking of the bread, become
one body with Christ (cf. I Cor 10:16ff.).
Just as in their love man and woman become "one flesh", so Christ and
humanity gathered in the Church become through Christ's love "one
spirit" (cf. I Cor 6:17; Eph 5:29ff.). Paul calls Christ the new, the
last Adam: definitive man. And he calls him "a life-giving spirit" (I
Cor 15:45). With him, we become one; with him, the Church becomes a
life-giving spirit. The holy City, where there is no longer a temple
because it is inhabited by God, is the image of this community that is
formed from Christ.
The other aspect that I wanted to mention are the 12 foundations of the
city, above which are the names of the Twelve Apostles. The foundations
of the city are not built of material stones but of living beings --
they are the Apostles, with the witness of their faith. The Apostles
remain the pillars that support the new city, the Church, through the
ministry of Apostolic Succession: through the Bishops.
The candles we light on the walls of the church in the places where
anointings will take place are reminiscent precisely of the Apostles:
their faith is the true light that illumines the Church and at the same
time, the foundation that supports the Church. The Apostles' faith is
not something antiquated. Since it is a truth, it is the foundation on
which we stand, the light by which we see.
We come to the Gospel. How often have we heard it! Peter's profession
of faith is the steadfast foundation of the Church. With Peter, let us
say to Jesus: "You are Christ, the Son of the living God". The Word of
God is not only a word. In Jesus Christ it is present in our midst as a
This is the deepest purpose of this sacred building's existence: the
church exists so that in it we may encounter Christ, Son of the living
God. God has a Face. God has a Name. In Christ, God was made flesh and
gave himself to us in the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.
The Word is flesh. It is given to us under the appearances of bread and
thus truly becomes the Bread on which we live. We live on Truth. This
Truth is a Person: he speaks to us and we speak to him. The Church is
the place of our encounter with the Son of the living God and thus
becomes the place for the encounter among ourselves. This is the joy
that God gives us: that he made himself one of us, that we can touch
him and that he dwells among us. The joy of God is our strength.
Thus, the Gospel finally introduces us into the period in which we live
today. It leads us towards Mary, whom we honour as the Star of
At a crucial time in history, Mary offered herself, her body and soul,
to God as a dwelling place. In her and from her the Son of God took
flesh. Through her the Word was made flesh (cf. Jn 1:14).
Thus, it is Mary who tells us what Advent is: going forth to meet the
Lord who comes to meet us; waiting for him, listening to him, looking
Mary tells us why church buildings exist: they exist so that room may
be made within us for the Word of God; so that within us and through us
the Word may also be made flesh today.
Thus, we greet her as the Star of Evangelization: Holy Mary, Mother of
God, pray for us so that we may live the Gospel. Help us not to hide
the light of the Gospel under the bushel of our meagre faith. Help us
by virtue of the Gospel to be the light of the world, so that men and
women may see goodness and glorify the Father who is in Heaven (cf. Mt
March 26 Homily at
"God Continues to Love Us Even When He Punishes Us"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 11, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the
homily Benedict XVI delivered March 26 during his pastoral visit to the
Parish of God the Merciful Father, in Rome.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as "Laetare Sunday," is
permeated with a joy which, to some extent, attenuates the penitential
atmosphere of this holy season: "Rejoice Jerusalem!" the Church says in
the entrance antiphon. "Be glad for her ... you who mourned for her."
The refrain of the responsorial psalm echoes this invitation: "The
memory of you, Lord, is our joy."
To think of God gives joy. We spontaneously ask ourselves: But why
should we rejoice? One reason, of course, is the approach of Easter.
The expectation of Easter gives us a foretaste of the joy of the
encounter with the Risen Christ.
The deepest reason, however, lies in the message offered by the
biblical readings that the liturgy presents to us today and that we
have heard. They remind us that despite our unworthiness, God's
infinite mercy is destined for us. God loves us in a way that we might
call "obstinate" and enfolds us in his inexhaustible tenderness.
This is what already emerges from the First Reading from the Book of
Chronicles in the Old Testament (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23). The
sacred author offers us a concise and meaningful interpretation of the
history of the Chosen People, who suffered God's punishment as a
consequence of their rebellious behavior: The temple was destroyed and
the people in exile no longer had a land; it truly seemed that God had
Then, however, they saw that God, through punishment, pursues a plan of
mercy. It was to be the destruction of the Holy City and the temple --
as I said -- it was to be an exile that would move the people's hearts
and bring them back to their God so that they might know him more
And then the Lord, demonstrating the absolute primacy of his initiative
over every purely human effort, was to make use of a pagan, King Cyrus
of Persia, to set Israel free. In the text we have heard, the anger and
mercy of the Lord alternate in a dramatic sequence, but love triumphs
in the end, for God is love.
How can we fail to grasp from the memory of those distant events a
message valid for all times, including our own? In thinking of the past
centuries, we can see that God continues to love us even when he
punishes us. Even when God's plans pass through trial and punishment,
they always aim at an outcome of mercy and forgiveness.
This is what the Apostle Paul confirmed for us in the Second Reading,
recalling that "God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with
which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made
us alive together with Christ" (Ephesians 2:4-5).
To express this reality of salvation the Apostle, together with the
term "mercy," "eleos" in Greek, uses the word for love, "agape," taken
up and further amplified in the most beautiful statement which we heard
in the Gospel passage: "God so loved the world that he gave his
Only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but
have eternal life" (John 3:16).
As we know, that "giving" on the part of the Father had a dramatic
development: It even went to the point of the sacrifice of the Son on
the Cross. If Jesus' entire mission in history is an eloquent sign of
God's love, his death, in which God's redeeming tenderness is fully
expressed, is quite uniquely so. Always, but particularly in this
Lenten season, our meditation must be centered on the cross. In it we
contemplate the glory of the Lord that shines out in the martyred body
God's greatness, his being love, becomes visible precisely in this
total gift of himself. It is the glory of the Crucified One that every
Christian is called to understand, live and bear witness to with his
life. The cross -- the giving of himself on the part of the Son of God
-- is the definitive "sign" par excellence given to us so that we might
understand the truth about man and the truth about God: We have all
been created and redeemed by a God who sacrificed his only Son out of
This is why the Crucifixion, as I wrote in the encyclical "Deus Caritas
Est," "is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in
which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is
love in its most radical form" (No. 12).
How should we respond to this radical love of the Lord? The Gospel
presents to us a person by the name of Nicodemus, a member of the
Sanhedrin of Jerusalem who sought out Jesus by night. He was a
well-to-do man, attracted by the Lord's words and example, but one who
hesitated to take the leap of faith because he was fearful of others.
He felt the fascination of this Rabbi, so different from the others,
but could not manage to rid himself of the conditioning of his
environment that was hostile to Jesus, and stood irresolute on the
threshold of faith.
How many people also in our time are in search of God, in search of
Jesus and of his Church, in search of divine mercy, and are waiting for
a "sign" that will touch their minds and their hearts! Today, as then,
the Evangelist reminds us that the only "sign" is Jesus raised on the
cross: Jesus who died and rose is the absolutely sufficient sign.
Through him we can understand the truth about life and obtain salvation.
This is the principal proclamation of the Church, which remains
unchanged down the ages. The Christian faith, therefore, is not an
ideology but a personal encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ.
From this experience, both individual and communitarian, flows a new
way of thinking and acting: an existence marked by love is born, as the
Dear friends, this mystery is particularly eloquent in your parish,
dedicated to "God, the Merciful Father." It was desired, as we well
know, by my beloved predecessor John Paul II in memory of the Great
Jubilee of the Year 2000, to effectively condense that extraordinary
In meditating on the Lord's mercy that was revealed totally and
definitively in the mystery of the cross, the text that John Paul II
had prepared for his meeting with the faithful on April 3, Sunday "in
Albis," the Second Sunday of Easter last year, comes to my mind.
In the divine plans it was written that he would leave us precisely on
the eve of that day, Saturday, April 2 -- we all remember it well --
and for that reason he was unable to address his words to you. I would
like to address them to you now, dear brothers and sisters. "To
humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power
of evil, selfishness and fear, the Risen Lord offers his love that
pardons, reconciles and reopens hearts to hope. It is a love that
converts hearts and gives peace."
The Pope, in this last text which is like a testament, then added: "How
much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!" (Regina
Caeli reflection, read by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the
Secretariat of State, to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square,
April 3, 2005; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, April 6, p. 1, n.
To understand and accept God's merciful love: May this be your
commitment, first of all in your families and then in every
neighborhood milieu. I hope for this with all my heart as I offer you
my cordial greeting, starting with the priests who care for your
community under the guidance of the parish priest, Father Gianfranco
Corbino, to whom I offer sincere thanks for having interpreted your
sentiments in a beautiful presentation of this building, this "barque"
of Peter and of the Lord.
I next extend my greeting to the cardinal vicar, Cardinal Camillo
Ruini, and to Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the titular of your church, to
the vice gerent and the bishop of the Eastern sector of Rome and to all
those who cooperate actively in the various parish services.
I know that yours is a young community, barely 10 years old, which
spent its early days in precarious conditions while waiting for the
completion of its current structures. I also know that rather than
discouraging you, the initial problems impelled you to unanimous
apostolic work with special attention to the area of catechesis, the
liturgy and charity.
Continue, dear friends, on the path on which you have set out, striving
to make your parish a true family in which fidelity to the Word of God
and the Church's Tradition may become, day after day, more and more
your rule of life.
I know, moreover, that because of its original architectural structure,
your church attracts many visitors. Make them appreciate not only the
particular beauty of this sacred building, but especially the riches of
a lively community, eager to witness to the love of God, the merciful
Father. That love is the true secret of Christian joy to which today,
Laetare Sunday, invites us.
As we turn our gaze to Mary, "Mother of holy joy," let us ask her to
help us deepen the reasons for our faith, so that, as today's liturgy
urges us, renewed in the spirit and with a joyful heart, we may respond
to the eternal and boundless love of God. Amen!
Pope's Address at a
Delivered Without Using Notes
Church in This City Is Not an "Ecclesiastical Bureaucracy"
ROME, MARCH 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address
Benedict XVI delivered last Sunday, after Mass, in the parish hall of
the Church of God the Merciful Father, in Rome's Tor Tre Teste
neighborhood. The Pope delivered the address without referring to notes.
* * *
Dear Parish Priest, Dear friends:
I see that you are really a living parish, where all collaborate, where
one bears the burden of the other -- as St. Paul says -- and in this
way you foster the growth of the living edifice of the Lord, which is
the Church. The latter was not made of material stones, but of living
stones, of baptized people, who feel all the faith's responsibility for
others, all the joy of being baptized and of knowing God in the face of
Jesus. For this reason, you commit yourselves so that this parish may
We are nearing Easter and two aspects of Christian life are presented
to us: One is a climb, an ascent, which can even be somewhat difficult;
the other is always constituted by the light of God, the light of our
I would simply like to thank you for your commitment. To see so many
active persons in a parish, who visit the sick, help those in
difficulty, collaborate with the parish priest, ensure a good
celebration of the liturgy, is a joy for the Bishop of Rome, which I
am, though the concrete activity is carried out by the cardinal vicar.
However, I feel this responsibility and I am really happy to see that
Rome, the "old Rome," is a "young Rome" and really lives in lively
The faith must be promoted because outside of Italy it is thought that
in Rome there are only ceremonies and ecclesiastical bureaucracy, but
that there is no great ecclesial life. The latter, however, can be seen
precisely on the outskirts of Rome. Rome is young, the Church is always
young again. For me it is lovely to see this participation and I can
only say thank you and encourage you to continue, under the guidance of
your parish priest.
And already now, I wish you all a happy Easter!
Homily at Vatican's Parish Church
"A Heartfelt 'Thank You' to All the Women ……" (February 16,
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the
homily Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 5 when visiting St. Anne's Parish in
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Gospel [passage] we have just listened to begins with a very nice,
beautiful episode but is also full of meaning. The Lord went to the
house of Simon Peter and Andrew and found Peter's mother-in-law sick
with a fever. He took her by the hand and raised her, the fever left
her, and she served them.
Jesus' entire mission is symbolically portrayed in this episode. Jesus,
coming from the Father, visited peoples' homes on our earth and found a
humanity that was sick, sick with fever, the fever of ideologies,
idolatry, forgetfulness of God. The Lord gives us his hand, lifts us up
and heals us.
And he does so in all ages; he takes us by the hand with his Word,
thereby dispelling the fog of ideologies and forms of idolatry. He
takes us by the hand in the sacraments, he heals us from the fever of
our passions and sins through absolution in the sacrament of
He gives us the possibility to raise ourselves, to stand before God and
before men and women. And precisely with this content of the Sunday
liturgy, the Lord comes to meet us, he takes us by the hand, raises us
and heals us ever anew with the gift of his words, the gift of himself.
But the second part of this episode is also important. This woman who
has just been healed, the Gospel says, begins to serve them. She sets
to work immediately to be available to others, and thus becomes a
representative of so many good women, mothers, grandmothers, women in
various professions, who are available, who get up and serve and are
the soul of the family, the soul of the parish.
And here, on looking at the painting above the altar, we see that they
do not only perform external services; St. Anne is introducing her
great daughter, Our Lady, to the sacred Scriptures, to the hope of
Israel, for which she was precisely to be the place of its fulfillment.
Moreover, women were the first messengers of the word of God in the
Gospel, they were true evangelists. And it seems to me that this
Gospel, with this apparently very modest episode, is offering us in
this very Church of St. Anne an opportunity to say a heartfelt "thank
you" to all the women who care for the parish, the women who serve in
all its dimensions, who help us to know the Word of God ever anew, not
only with our minds but also with our hearts.
Let us return to the Gospel: Jesus slept at Peter's house, but he rose
before dawn while it was still dark and went out to find a deserted
place to pray. And here the true center of the mystery of Jesus appears.
Jesus was conversing with the Father and raised his human spirit in
communion with the Person of the Son, so that the humanity of the Son,
united to him, might speak in the Trinitarian dialogue with the Father;
and thus, he also made true prayer possible for us. In the liturgy
Jesus prays with us, we pray with Jesus, and so we enter into real
contact with God, we enter into the mystery of eternal love of the Most
Jesus speaks to the Father: This is the source and center of all Jesus'
activities; we see his preaching, his cures, his miracles and lastly
the passion, and they spring from this center of his being with the
And in this way this Gospel teaches us that the center of our faith and
our lives is indeed the primacy of God. Whenever God is not there, the
human being is no longer respected either. Only if God's splendor
shines on the human face, is the human image of God protected by a
dignity which subsequently no one must violate.
The primacy of God
Let us see how the first three requests in the "Our Father" refer
precisely to this primacy of God: that God's Name be sanctified, that
respect for the divine mystery be alive and enliven the whole of our
lives; that "may God's Kingdom come" and "may [his] will be done" are
two sides of the same coin; where God's will is done heaven already
exists, a little bit of heaven also begins on earth, and where God's
will is done the Kingdom of God is present.
Since the Kingdom of God is not a series of things, the Kingdom of God
is the presence of God, the person's union with God. It is to this
destination that Jesus wants to guide us.
The center of his proclamation is the Kingdom of God, that is, God as
the source and center of our lives, and he tells us: God alone is the
redemption of man. And we can see in the history of the last century
that in the states where God was abolished, not only was the economy
destroyed, but above all the souls.
Moral destruction and the destruction of human dignity are fundamental
forms of destruction, and renewal can only come from God's return, that
is, from recognition of God's centrality.
A bishop from Congo on an "ad limina" visit in these days said to me:
Europeans generously give us many things for development, but there is
a hesitation in helping us in pastoral ministry; it seems as though
they considered pastoral ministry useless, that only technological and
material development were important. But the contrary is true, he said;
where the Word of God does not exist, development fails to function and
has no positive results. Only if God's Word is put first, only if man
is reconciled with God, can material things also go smoothly.
The continuation of the Gospel itself powerfully confirms this. The
Apostles said to Jesus: Come back, everyone is looking for you. And he
said no, I must go on to the next towns that I may proclaim God and
cast out demons, the forces of evil; for that is why I came.
Jesus came -- the Greek text says, "I came out from the Father" -- not
to bring us the comforts of life but to bring the fundamental condition
of our dignity, to bring us the proclamation of God, the presence of
God, and thus to overcome the forces of evil. He indicated this
priority with great clarity: I did not come to heal -- I also do this,
but as a sign -- I came to reconcile you with God. God is our Creator,
God has given us life, our dignity: And it is above all to him that we
And as Father Gioele has said, today, the Church in Italy is
celebrating Pro-Life Day. In their message, the Italian bishops have
wanted to recall the priority duty to "respect life," since it is an
"unavailable" good. Man is not the master of life; rather, he is its
custodian and steward, and under God's primacy, this priority of
administrating and preserving human life, created by God, comes
automatically into being.
This truth that man is the custodian and steward of life is a clearly
defined point of natural law, fully illumined by biblical revelation.
It appears today as a "sign of contradiction" in comparison with the
prevalent mindset. Indeed, we note that although there is broad
convergence generally on the value of life, yet when this point is
reached, that is, the point of the "availability" or "unavailability"
to life, the two mindsets are irreconcilably opposed.
In simpler terms, we might say: One of the two mindsets maintains that
human life is in human hands, whereas the other recognizes that it is
in God's hands. Modern culture has legitimately emphasized the autonomy
of the human person and earthly realities, thereby developing a
perspective dear to Christianity, the Incarnation of God.
However, as the Second Vatican Council clearly asserted, if this
autonomy leads us to think that "material being does not depend on God
and that man can use it as if it had no relation to its Creator,”” a
deep imbalance will result, for "without a Creator there can be no
creature" ("Gaudium et Spes," No. 36).
It is significant that in the passage cited, the conciliar document
states that this capacity to recognize the voice and manifestation of
God in the beauty of creation belongs to all believers, regardless of
their religion. From this we can conclude that full respect for life is
linked to a religious sense, to the inner attitude with which the human
being faces reality, as master or as custodian.
Moreover, the word "respect" derives from the Latin word "respicere,"
to look at, and means a way of looking at things and people that leads
to recognizing their substantial character, not to appropriate them but
rather to treat them with respect and to take care of them.
In the final analysis, if creatures are deprived of their reference to
God as a transcendent basis, they risk being at the mercy of the will
of man who, as we see, can make an improper use of it.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke together St. Anne's
intercession for your parish community, which I greet with affection.
I greet in particular your parish priest, Father Gioele, and I thank
him for his words to me at the beginning. I then greet the Augustinian
confreres with their Prior General; I greet Archbishop Angelo Comastri,
my vicar general for Vatican City, Archbishop Rizzato, my almoner, and
everyone present, especially the children, young people and all those
who regularly use this church.
May St. Anne, your heavenly patroness, watch over you all and obtain
for each one the gift of being a witness of the God of life and love.