Monday, October 25, 2021

Reflections on the Thirty-First Sunday of
Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0306: Reflections on the Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary 

Time by Pope Benedict XVI 

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 30 October 2005, 5 November 2006, 4 November 2007, 2 November 2008, 1 November 2009, 31 October 2010, 30 October 2011, and 4 November 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus delivered on these occasions.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 30 October 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Forty years ago, on 28 October 1965, the Seventh Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was held. Three more followed shortly thereafter, and the last one, on 8 December, marked the end of the Council.

In the last phase of that historic ecclesial event, which began three years earlier, the major part of the Conciliar Documents received approval. Some of them are well known and are frequently cited, while others are not so well known; however, all are worth mention because they retain their value and reveal a reality that, under certain aspects, has actually increased.

Today, I would like to call to mind the five Documents that the Servant of God Pope Paul VI and the Council Fathers signed on 28 October 1965. They are: the Decree Christus Dominus on the pastoral office of Bishop; the Decree Perfectae Caritatis on the renewal of Religious life; the Decree Optatam Totius on the formation of priests; the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis on Christian education; and lastly, the Declaration Nostra Aetate on the relations of the Church to non-Christian religions.

The themes on the formation of priests, consecrated life and the episcopal ministry were the object of three Ordinary Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops in 1990, 1995 and in 2001. They sounded and deepened the teachings of Vatican II extensively, proof of which are the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations Pastores Dabo Vobis, Vita Consecrata and Pastores Gregis of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II.

Instead, less known is the Document on Education. The Church has always been dedicated to the education of young people, recognized by the Council as something of “paramount importance” for both the life of men and women and for social progress (see Gravissimum Educationis, Preface).

Today too, in an era of global communication, the Ecclesial Community perceives the importance of an educational system that recognizes the primacy of man as a person, open to truth and to good. Parents are the primary and principal educators and are assisted by civil society in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity (see ibid., no. 3).

The Church, to whom Christ entrusted the duty to proclaim the “way of salvation” (see ibid.), feels she has a special educational responsibility. In different ways, she seeks to fulfil this mission: in families, in the parish, through associations, movements and groups of formation and of evangelical commitment and, in a specific way, in schools, institutes of advanced studies and in universities (see ibid., nos. 5-12).

Even the Declaration Nostra Aetate is very relevant because it regards the attitude of the Ecclesial Community in relation to non-Christian religions. Starting with the principle that “all men and women form but one community” and that the Church has the duty “to foster unity and charity” among individuals (no. 1), the Council “rejects nothing of what is true and holy” in other religions and to everyone proclaims Christ, “the way, the truth and the life”, in whom men and women find the “fullness of their religious life” (no. 2).

With the Declaration Nostra Aetate the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council proposed some fundamental truths: they clearly mentioned the special bond that joins Christians to Jews (no. 4); they confirmed their high regard for the Muslims (no. 3) and the followers of other religions (no. 2); and they confirmed the spirit of universal fraternity that rejects any form of discrimination or religious persecution (no. 5).

Dear brothers and sisters, as I invite you to look at these Documents again, I encourage you, together with me, to pray to the Virgin Mary so that she may help all believers in Christ to keep the spirit of the Second Vatican Council alive, to contribute to the foundation of that universal fraternity in the world which responds to the will of God for men and women, created in his image.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 5 November 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these days following the liturgical commemoration of the faithful departed, the Octave of the Dead is celebrated in many parishes. It is a fitting occasion to remember our loved ones in prayer and to meditate on the reality of death, which the so-called “affluent society” often seeks to remove from the consciousness of people, totally taken up by the concerns of daily life.

In fact, death is part of life, and not only at its end but, upon a closer look, at every moment. Yet, despite all the distractions, the loss of a loved one enables us to rediscover the “problem” by making us sense death as a presence radically hostile and contrary to our natural vocation to life and happiness.

Jesus revolutionized the meaning of death. He did so with his teaching, but especially by facing death himself. “By dying he destroyed our death”, the Liturgy of the Easter Season says.

“With the Spirit who could not die”, a Father of the Church wrote, “Christ killed death that was killing man” (Melito of Sardis, On Easter, 66).

The Son of God thus desired to share our human condition to the very end, to reopen it to hope. After all, he was born to be able to die and thereby free us from the slavery of death. The Letter to the Hebrews says: ”so that he might taste death for everyone” (Heb 2: 9).

Since then, death has not been the same: it was deprived, so to speak, of its “venom”. Indeed, God’s love working in Jesus gave new meaning to the whole of human existence, and thus transformed death as well. If, in Christ, human life is a “[departure] from this world to the Father” (Jn 13: 1), the hour of death is the moment when it is concretely brought about once and for all.

Anyone who strives to live as he did, is freed from the fear of death, which no longer shows the sarcastic sneer of an enemy but, as St Francis wrote in his Canticle of the Creature, the friendly face of a “sister” for whom one can also bless the Lord: ”Praised be the Lord for our Sister, bodily Death”.

Faith reminds us that there is no need to be afraid of the death of the body because, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s [Rm 14: 8]. And with St Paul, we know that even if we are separated from our bodies we are with Christ, whose Risen Body, which we receive in the Eucharist, is our eternal and indestructible dwelling place.

True death, on the other hand, which is to be feared, is the death of the soul which the Book of Revelation calls “the second death” (see Rv 20: 14-15; 21: 8). In fact, those who die in mortal sin without repentance, locked into their proud rejection of God’s love, exclude themselves from the Kingdom of life.

Let us invoke from the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy and of St Joseph, the grace to prepare ourselves serenely to depart this world whenever he may desire to call us, in the hope of being able to dwell for ever with him in the company of the Saints and of our departed loved ones.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 November 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the liturgy presents for our meditation the well-known Gospel episode of Jesus’ meeting with Zacchaeus in the city of Jericho. Who was Zacchaeus? A rich man who was a “publican” by profession, that is, a tax collector for the Roman authorities, hence, viewed as a public sinner. Having heard that Jesus would be passing through Jericho, the man was consumed by a great desire to see him, and because he was small of stature, he climbed up into a tree. Jesus stopped exactly under that tree and addressed him by name: “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Lk 19: 5). What a message this simple sentence contains! “Zacchaeus”: Jesus called by name a man despised by all. “Today”: yes, this very moment was the moment of his salvation. “I must stay”: why “I must”? Because the Father, rich in mercy, wants Jesus “to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19: 10). The grace of that unexpected meeting was such that it completely changed Zacchaeus’ life: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Lk 19: 8). Once again, the Gospel tells us that love, born in God’s heart and working through man’s heart, is the power that renews the world.

This truth shines out in a special way in the testimony of the Saint whose Memorial is celebrated today: Charles Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan. His figure stands out in the 16th century as a model of an exemplary Pastor because of his charity, doctrine, apostolic zeal and above all, his prayer. “Souls are won”, he said, “on one’s knees”. Charles Borromeo was consecrated a Bishop when he was only 25 years old. He enforced the teaching of the Council of Trent that obliged Pastors to reside in their respective dioceses, and gave himself heart and soul to the Ambrosian Church. He travelled up and down his Diocese three times; he convoked six provincial and 11 diocesan synods; he founded seminaries to train a new generation of priests; he built hospitals and earmarked his family riches for the service of the poor; he renewed religious life and founded a new congregation of secular priests, the Oblates. In 1576, when the plague was raging in Milan, he visited, comforted and spent all his money on the sick. His motto consisted in one word: “Humilitas”. It was humility that motivated him, like the Lord Jesus, to renounce himself in order to make himself the servant of all.

Recalling my venerable Predecessor John Paul II who bore his name with devotion - today is his name day - let us entrust to St Charles’ intercession all the Bishops of the world, for whom we invoke as always the heavenly protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church.




St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 November 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday the feast of All Saints brought us to contemplate “your holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother” (Preface, All Saints). Today, with our heart still turned toward this ultimate reality, we commemorate all of the faithful departed, who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith and... who sleep in Christ” (Eucharistic Prayer I). It is very important that we Christians live a relationship of the truth of the faith with the deceased and that we view death and the afterlife in the light of Revelation. Already the Apostle Paul, writing to the first communities, exhorted the faithful to “not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since”, he wrote, “we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thes 4: 13-14). Today too, it is necessary to evangelize about the reality of death and eternal life, realities particularly subject to superstitious beliefs and syncretisms, so that the Christian truth does not risk mixing itself with myths of various types.

In my Encyclical on Christian hope, I questioned myself about the mystery of eternal life (see Spe salvi, nos. 10-12). I asked myself: “Is the Christian faith a hope that transforms and sustains the lives of people still today?” (see ibid., no. 10). And more radically: “Do men and women of our time still long for eternal life? Or has earthly existence perhaps become their only horizon?” In reality, as St Augustine had already observed, all of us want a “blessed life”, happiness. We rarely know what it is like or how it will be, but we feel attracted to it. This is a universal hope, common to men and women of all times and all places. The expression “eternal life” aims to give a name to this irrepressible longing; it is not an unending succession of days, but an immersion of oneself in the ocean of infinite love, in which time, before and after, no longer exists. A fullness of life and of joy: it is this that we hope and await from our being with Christ (see ibid, no. 12).

Today we renew the hope in eternal life, truly founded on Christ’s death and Resurrection. “I am risen and I am with you always”, the Lord tells us, and my hand supports you. Wherever you may fall, you will fall into my hands and I will be there even to the gates of death. Where no one can accompany you any longer and where you can take nothing with you, there I will wait for you to transform for you the darkness into light. Christian hope, however, is not solely individual, it is also always a hope for others. Our lives are profoundly linked, one to the other, and the good and the bad that each of us does always effects others too. Hence, the prayer of a pilgrim soul in the world can help another soul that is being purified after death. This is why the Church invites us today to pray for our beloved deceased and to pause at their tombs in the cemeteries. Mary, Star of Hope, renders our faith in eternal life stronger and more authentic, and supports our prayer of suffrage for our deceased brethren.




St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1 November 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday coincides with the Solemnity of All Saints, which invites the pilgrim Church on earth to a foretaste of the everlasting feast in the community of Heaven, and to revive our hope in eternal life. This year marks 14 centuries since the Pantheon one of the oldest and most famous of the Roman monuments was dedicated to Christian worship and named after the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs: Sancta Maria ad Martyres. The temple of all the pagan divinities was thus converted to commemorate all those who, as the Book of Revelation says, “have come out of the great tribulations; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7: 14).

Subsequently, the celebration of all the martyrs was extended to all the saints: “a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev 7: 9) according to St John. In this Year for Priests, I would like to remember with special veneration all the priest saints those whom the Church has canonized upholding them as examples of spiritual and pastoral virtue, and those much more numerous who are known to the Lord. Each one of us treasures a grateful memory of some of them who have helped us to grow in faith and made us feel the goodness and closeness of God.

Tomorrow, then, is the annual commemoration of All Souls’ Day, of all the faithful departed. I would like to invite you to live this occasion in an authentic Christian spirit, that is, in the light that comes from the Paschal Mystery. Christ died and rose again, and has opened for us the way to the house of the Father, the Kingdom of life and peace. Whoever follows Jesus in this life is welcome where he has preceded us. Therefore, as we visit the cemeteries, let us remember that resting in those tombs are merely the mortal remains of our dear ones who await the final resurrection. Their souls, as Scripture tells us, are already “in the hand of God” (Wis 3: 1). Thus, the most proper and effective way to honour them is to pray for them, offering acts of faith, hope and charity. In union with the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we can intercede for their eternal salvation, and experience the most profound communion in the expectation of being together, enjoying forever the Love which created and redeemed us.

Dear friends, how beautiful and comforting is the communion of Saints! It is a reality that instils a different dimension into our whole life. We are never alone! We are part of a spiritual “company” where profound solidarity reigns: the good of each one is for the benefit of everyone, and vice versa, common happiness shines on every individual. It is a mystery which, in some measure, we can already experience in this world, in the family, in friendship, and especially in the spiritual community of the Church. May Mary Most Holy help us to walk quickly on the way to holiness, and may she be the Mother of mercy for the souls of the departed.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 31 October 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Evangelist St Luke pays special attention to the theme of Jesus’ mercy. In fact, in his narration we find some episodes that highlight the merciful love of God and of Christ, who said that he had come to call, not the just, but sinners (see Lk 5:32). Among Luke’s typical accounts there is that of the conversion of Zacchaeus, which is read in this Sunday’s Liturgy. Zacchaeus is a publican, indeed, he is the head of the publicans of Jericho, an important city on the River Jordan. The publicans were the tax collectors who collected the tribute that the Jews had to pay to the Roman Emperor, and already for this reason they were considered public sinners. What is more, they often took advantage of their position to extort money from the people. Because of this Zacchaeus was very rich but despised by his fellow citizens. So when Jesus was passing through Jericho and stopped at the house of Zacchaeus, he caused a general scandal. The Lord, however, knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted, so to speak, to gamble, and he won the bet: Zacchaeus, deeply moved by Jesus’ visit, decided to change his life, and promised to restore four times what he had stolen. “Today salvation has come to this house”, Jesus says, and concludes: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”.

God excludes no one, neither the poor nor the rich. God does not let himself be conditioned by our human prejudices, but sees in everyone a soul to save and is especially attracted to those who are judged as lost and who think themselves so. Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of God, has demonstrated this immense mercy, which takes nothing away from the gravity of sin, but aims always at saving the sinner, at offering him the possibility of redemption, of starting again from the beginning, of converting. In another passage of the Gospel Jesus states that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (see Mt 19:23). In the case of Zacchaeus we see that precisely what seems impossible actually happens: “He”, St Jerome comments, “gave away his wealth and immediately replaced it with the wealth of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Homily on Psalm 83:3). And St Maximus of Turin adds: “Riches, for the foolish, feed dishonesty, but for the wise they are a help to virtue; for the latter they offer a chance of salvation, for the former they procure a stumbling block and perdition” (Sermons, 95).

Dear Friends, Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus and he converted because Jesus first welcomed him! He did not condemn him but he met his desire for salvation. Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, perfect model of communion with Jesus, to be renewed by his love, so that we too may experience the joy of being visited by the Son of God, of being renewed by his love and of transmitting his mercy to others.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 30 October 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Liturgy, the Apostle Paul invites us to draw near to the Gospel “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thess 2:13). Thus we can accept with faith the warning that Jesus offers to our conscience, in order to conform our way of living to it. In today’s passage he rebukes the scribes and the Pharisees, who were the teachers of the community, because their own conduct was openly in conflict with the teaching they rigorously taught others. Jesus underlines that they “preach, but do not practise” (Mt 23:3); rather “they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (Mt 23:4). Good teaching must be received but it risks being contradicted by inconsistent behaviour. Thus Jesus says: “practise and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do” (Mt 23:3). Jesus’ attitude is exactly the opposite: he is the first to practise the commandment of love, which he teaches to everyone, and he can say the burden is light and easy because he helps us carry it (see Mt 11:29-30).

Thinking of teachers who oppress the freedom of others in the name of authority, St Bonaventure points out who the authentic teacher is, affirming that, “No one can teach or practise, or reach knowable truths unless the Son of God is present” (Sermo I de Tempore, Dom. XXII post Pentecosten, Opera omnia, IX, Quaracchi, 1901, 442). “Jesus sits on the cathedra of Moses... as the greater Moses, who broadens the Covenant to include all nations” (see Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York, 2007, p. 66). He is our true and only Teacher! We are, therefore, called to follow the Son of God, the Word Incarnate, who expresses the truth of his teaching through his faithfulness to the will of the Father, through the gift of himself. Bl. Antonio Rosmini writes: “The first teacher trains all the other teachers, as he also trains the same disciples themselves, because they exist only in virtue of that first tacit, but very powerful Magisterium” (Idea della Sapienza, 82, in: Introduzione alla filosofia, vol. II, Rome, 1934, 143). Jesus also firmly condemns vanity and observes that “deeds to be seen by men” (Mt 23:5), places them at the mercy of human approval, undermining the values that found the authenticity of the person.

Dear friends, the Lord Jesus presented himself to the world as a servant, completely stripping himself and lowering himself to give on the Cross the most eloquent lesson of humility and love. His example gives rise to a proposal of life: “He who is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mt 23:11). We invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy and we ask especially for those in Christian communities, who are called to the ministry of teaching, that they may always witness by their works to the truths that they communicate by their words.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 November 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 12:28-34) offers us Jesus’ teaching on the greatest commandment, the commandment of love, which is two-fold: love of God and love of neighbour. The Saints, who we have recently celebrated together in a single solemn Feast are precisely those who, trusting in God’s grace, tried to live according to this fundamental law. In fact, those who live a profound relationship with God, just as a child becomes capable of loving, starting from a good relationship with his mother and father, may put the commandment of love fully into practice. St John of Avila, who I recently proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, writes at the beginning of his Treatise on the Love of God: “the cause”, he says, “that mostly pushes our hearts to love of God is considering deeply the love that He had for us.... This, beyond any benefit, pushes the heart to love; because he who gives something of benefit to another, gives him something he possesses; but he who loves, gives himself with everything he has, until he has nothing left to give” (no. 1). Before being a command — love is not a command — it is a gift, a reality that God allows us to know and experience, so that, like a seed, it can also germinate within us and develop throughout our life.

If the love of God has planted deep roots in a person, then he is able to love even those who do not deserve it, as God does us. Fathers and mothers do not love their children only when they deserve love; they always love them, though of course, they make them understand when they are wrong. We learn from God to seek only what is good and never what is evil. We learn to look at each other not only with our eyes, but with the eyes of God, which is the gaze of Jesus Christ. A gaze that begins in the heart and does not stop at the surface, that goes beyond appearances and manages to capture the deepest aspirations of the other: waiting to be heard, for caring attention, in a word: love. But the opposite is also true: that by opening myself to another, just as he or she is, by reaching out, by making myself available, I am also opening myself to know God, to feel that he is there and is good. Love of God and love of neighbour are inseparable and are mutually related. Jesus did not invent one or the other but revealed that they are essentially a single commandment and did so not only through the Word, but especially with his testimony: the person of Jesus and his whole Mystery embody the unity of love of God and neighbour, like the two arms of the Cross, vertical and horizontal. In the Eucharist he gives us this two-fold love, giving himself, because, nourished by this Bread, we love one another as he has loved us.

Dear friends, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we pray that every Christian may know how to show his/her faith in the one true God with a clear witness to love of neighbour. 

© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, October 18, 2021

Reflections on the Thirtieth Sunday of
Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0304: Reflections on the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary 

Time by Pope Benedict XVI 

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 23 October 2005, 29 October 2006, 28 October 2007, 26 October 2008, 25 October 2009, 24 October 2010, 23 October 2011, and 28 October 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and six homilies delivered on these occasions.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 October 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With today’s Eucharistic celebration in St Peter’s Square, the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was closed. At the same time the Year of the Eucharist was concluded, which the beloved Pope John Paul II opened in October 2004.

To the dear and venerable Synod Fathers, with whom I was able to share three weeks of intense work in a climate of fraternal communion, I renew the expression of my cordial gratitude. Their reflections, testimonies, experiences and propositions on the theme, The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, have been gathered together to be elaborated in a Post-Synodal Exhortation which, taking into account the different world realities, helps to portray the face of the “Catholic” community, and to live united, amid the plurality of cultures, the central mystery of the faith: the Incarnation of Redemption, of which the Eucharist is the living presence.

Moreover, as the exposed tapestries on the facade of the Vatican Basilica show, I had the joy today of proclaiming five new saints which, at the end of the Eucharistic Year, I am pleased to point out their exemplary fruits of communion of life with Christ. They are Jozef Bilczewski, Archbishop of Lviv for Latins; Gaetano Catanoso, priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face; Zygmunt Gorazdowski, Polish priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph; Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, priest of the Society of Jesus, from Chile; and the Capuchin Felix of Nicosia.

Each of these disciples of Jesus was interiorly formed by his divine presence, welcomed, celebrated and adored in the Eucharist. Each of them, moreover, nourished with different hues a tender and filial devotion to Mary, Mother of Christ.

These new saints, whom we contemplate in heavenly glory, invite us to make recourse in every circumstance to the maternal protection of Mary, in order to advance ever more on the road of evangelical perfection, sustained by constant union with the Lord truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

In such a way we will be able to live the vocation to which each Christian is called: that of being “bread broken for the life of the world”, as World Mission Sunday aptly reminds us.

How very significant is the bond between the Church’s mission and the Eucharist. In fact, missionary and evangelizing action is the apostolic diffusion of love that is, as it were, concentrated in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Whoever receives Christ in the reality of his Body and Blood cannot keep this gift to himself, but is impelled to share in courageous witness to the Gospel, in service to brothers and sisters in need, in pardoning offences.

For some, then, the Eucharist is the seed of a specific call to leave all and go to proclaim Christ to those who still do not know him.

To Mary Most Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, let us entrust the spiritual fruits of the Synod and the Year of the Eucharist. May she keep watch over the Church’s journey and teach us to grow in communion with the Lord Jesus, to be witnesses of his love, in which is the secret of joy.




Saint Peter’s Square, World Mission Sunday, 23 October 2005

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, our Eucharistic celebration is enriched for various reasons that impel us to give thanks to God.

The Year of the Eucharist and the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated precisely to the mystery of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church, have concurrently come to an end. And in a short while, five Blesseds will be canonized: Archbishop Jozef Bilczewski; Gaetano Catanoso, Zygmunt Gorazdowski and Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, priests; and Felix of Nicosia, a Religious Capuchin Friar.

Furthermore, today is “World Mission Sunday”, a yearly appointment that reawakens missionary ardour in the Ecclesial Community.

With joy I greet all who are present; first, the Synod Fathers, and then, the pilgrims who have come from various nations, together with their Pastors, to celebrate the new Saints.

Today’s liturgy invites us to contemplate the Eucharist as the source of holiness and spiritual nourishment for our mission in the world: this supreme “gift and mystery” manifests and communicates to us the fullness of God’s love.

The Word of the Lord, just proclaimed in the Gospel, has reminded us that all of divine law is summed up in love. The dual commandment to love God and neighbour contains the two aspects of a single dynamism of the heart and of life. Jesus thus brings to completion the ancient revelation, not by adding an unheard-of commandment, but by realizing in himself and in his work of salvation the living synthesis of the two great commands of the Old Covenant: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart...” and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (see Dt 6: 5; Lv 19: 18).

In the Eucharist we contemplate the Sacrament of this living synthesis of the law: Christ offers to us, in himself, the complete fulfilment of love for God and love for our brothers and sisters. He communicates his love to us when we are nourished by his Body and Blood.

In this way, St Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in today’s Second Reading are brought to completion in us: “You turned to God from idols, to serve him who is the living and true God” (I Thes 1: 9). This conversion is the beginning of the walk of holiness that the Christian is called to achieve in his own life.

The saint is the person who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by his perfect truth as to be progressively transformed by it. Because of this beauty and truth, he is ready to renounce everything, even himself. Love of God is enough for him, experienced in humble and disinterested service to one’s neighbour, especially towards those who cannot give back in return.

In this perspective, how providential it is today that the Church points out to all her members five new saints who, nourished by Christ, the Living Bread, were converted to love; this marked their entire life!

In different situations and with different charisms, they loved the Lord with all their heart and their neighbour as themselves, so as to become “a model for all believers” (I Thes 1: 6-7).

St Jozef Bilczewski was a man of prayer. The Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, meditation, the Rosary and other pious practices formed part of his daily life. A particularly long time was dedicated to Eucharistic adoration.

St Zygmunt Gorazdowski also became famous for his devotion founded on the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist. Living Christ’s offering urged him toward the sick, the poor and the needy.

The deep knowledge of theology, faith and Eucharistic devotion of Jozef Bilczewski made him an example for priests and a witness for all the faithful.

In founding the Association of Priests, the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph and many other charitable institutions, Zygmunt Gorazdowski always allowed himself to be guided by the spirit of communion, fully revealed in the Eucharist.

“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.... You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22: 37, 39). This was the programme of life of St Alberto Hurtado, who wished to identify himself with the Lord and to love the poor with this same love. The formation received in the Society of Jesus, strengthened by prayer and adoration of the Eucharist, allowed him to be won over by Christ, being a true contemplative in action. In love and in the total gift of self to God’s will, he found strength for the apostolate.

He founded El Hogar de Cristo for the most needy and the homeless, offering them a family atmosphere full of human warmth. In his priestly ministry he was distinguished for his simplicity and availability towards others, being a living image of the Teacher, “meek and humble of heart”. In his last days, amid the strong pains caused by illness, he still had the strength to repeat: “I am content, Lord”, thus expressing the joy with which he always lived.

St Gaetano Catanoso was a lover and apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus. “The Holy Face”, he affirmed, “is my life. He is my strength”. With joyful intuition he joined this devotion to Eucharistic piety.

He would say: “If we wish to adore the real Face of Jesus..., we can find it in the divine Eucharist, where with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of Our Lord is hidden under the white veil of the Host”.

Daily Mass and frequent adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar were the soul of his priesthood: with ardent and untiring pastoral charity he dedicated himself to preaching, catechesis, the ministry of confession, and to the poor, the sick and the care of priestly vocations. To the Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, which he founded, he transmitted the spirit of charity, humility and sacrifice which enlivened his entire life.

St Felix of Nicosia loved to repeat in all situations, joyful or sad: “So be it, for the love of God”. In this way we can well understand how intense and concrete his experience was of the love of God, revealed to humankind in Christ.

This humble Capuchin Friar, illustrious son of the land of Sicily, austere and penitent, faithful to the most genuine expressions of the Franciscan tradition, was gradually shaped and transformed by God’s love, lived and carried out in love of neighbour.

Bro. Felix helps us to discover the value of the little things that make our lives more precious, and teaches us to understand the meaning of family and of service to our brothers and sisters, showing us that true and lasting joy, for which every human heart yearns, is the fruit of love.

Dear and venerable Synod Fathers, for three weeks we have lived together an atmosphere of renewed Eucharistic fervour. Now I would like, with you and in the name of the entire Episcopacy, to extend a fraternal greeting to the Bishops of the Church in China.

With deep sorrow we felt the absence of their representatives. Nevertheless, I want to assure all of the Chinese Bishops that, in prayer, we are close to them and to their priests and faithful. The painful journey of the communities entrusted to their pastoral care is present in our heart: it does not remain fruitless, because it is a participation in the Paschal Mystery, to the glory of the Father.

The work of the Synod enabled us to deepen the important aspects of this mystery, given to the Church from the beginning. Contemplation of the Eucharist must urge all the members of the Church, priests in the first place, ministers of the Eucharist, to revive their commitment of faithfulness. The celibacy that priests have received as a precious gift and the sign of undivided love towards God and neighbour is founded upon the mystery of the Eucharist, celebrated and adored.

For lay persons too, Eucharistic spirituality must be the interior motor of every activity, and no dichotomy is acceptable between faith and life in their mission of spreading the spirit of Christianity in the world.

With the closing of the Year of the Eucharist, how can we not give thanks to God for the many gifts granted to the Church during this time? And how can we not take up once again the invitation of our beloved Pope John Paul II to “start afresh from Christ”?

Like the disciples of Emmaus, whose hearts were kindled by the words of the Risen One and enlightened by his living presence recognized in the breaking of the bread, who hurriedly returned to Jerusalem and became messengers of Christ’s Resurrection, we too must take up the path again, enlivened by the fervent desire to witness to the mystery of this love that gives hope to the world.

It is in this Eucharistic perspective that today’s World Mission Sunday is well situated, to which the venerated Servant of God John Paul II gave as the theme for reflection: Mission: bread broken for the life of the world.

When the Ecclesial Community celebrates the Eucharist, especially on Sunday, the Day of the Lord, it better understands that Christ’s sacrifice is “for all” (Mt 26: 28), and that the Eucharist urges Christians to be “bread broken” for others, to commit themselves to a more just and fraternal world.

Even today, faced with the crowds, Christ continues to exhort his disciples: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Mt 14: 16), and in his Name, missionaries proclaim and witness to the Gospel, sometimes with the sacrifice of their lives.

Dear friends, we must all start afresh from the Eucharist. Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, will help us to “fall in love” with it, she will help us to “remain” in Christ’s love, to be deeply renewed by him.

Docile to the Spirit’s action and attentive to the needs of others, the Church will be evermore a beacon of light, of true joy and hope, fully achieving its mission as “sign and instrument... of unity among all men” (Lumen Gentium, no. 1).



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 29 October 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 10: 46-52), we read that while the Lord passed through the streets of Jericho a blind man called Bartimaeus cried out loudly to him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”. This prayer moved the heart of Jesus, who stopped, had him called over and healed him.

The decisive moment was the direct, personal encounter between the Lord and that suffering man. They found each other face to face:  God with his desire to heal and the man with his desire to be healed; two freedoms, two converging desires. “What do you want me to do for you?” the Lord asks him. “Master, let me receive my sight”, the blind man answers. “Go your way, your faith has saved you”.

With these words, the miracle was worked: God’s joy and the man’s joy. And Bartimaeus, who had come into the light, as the Gospel narrates, “followed him on the way”; that is, he became a disciple of the Lord and went up to Jerusalem with the Master to take part with him in the great mystery of salvation. This account, in the essentiality of its passages, recalls the catechumen’s journey towards the Sacrament of Baptism, which in the ancient Church was also known as “Illumination”.

Faith is a journey of illumination: it starts with the humility of recognizing oneself as needy of salvation and arrives at the personal encounter with Christ, who calls one to follow him on the way of love. On this model the Church has formulated the itinerary of Christian initiation to prepare for Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrism) and the Eucharist.

In places evangelized of old, where the Baptism of children is widespread, young people and adults are offered catechetical and spiritual experiences that enable them to follow the path of a mature and conscious rediscovery of faith in order to then take on a consistent commitment to witness to it.

How important is the work that Pastors and catechists do in this field! The rediscovery of the value of one’s own Baptism is at the root of every Christian’s missionary commitment, because as we see in the Gospel, those who allow themselves to be fascinated by Christ cannot fail to witness to the joy of following in his footsteps.

In this month of October, especially dedicated to missions, we understand ever more that it is precisely in virtue of Baptism that we possess a co-natural missionary vocation.

Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary so that missionaries of the Gospel may multiply.

May every baptized person, closely united to the Lord, feel that he is called to proclaim God’s love to everyone with the witness of his own life.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 28 October 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning, here in St Peter’s Square, 498 Martyrs killed in Spain in the 1930s have been beatified. I thank Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who has presided at the celebration, and I address my cordial greeting to the pilgrims gathered here for this happy event. Today’s addition to the roll of Blesseds of such a large number of Martyrs shows that the supreme witness of blood is not an exception reserved for only a few individuals, but a realistic possibility for the entire Christian People. Indeed, they are men and women of different ages, vocations and social classes who paid with their lives for their faithfulness to Christ and his Church. St Paul’s words which resounded in this Sunday’s liturgy can be well applied to them: “I for my part am already being poured out like a libation”, he writes to the Apostle Timothy. “The time of my dissolution is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Tm 4: 6-7). Paul, in prison in Rome, saw death approaching and sketched an evaluation full of recognition and hope. He was at peace with God and with himself and faced death serenely, in the knowledge that he had spent his whole life, sparing no effort, at the service of the Gospel.

The month of October, dedicated in a special way to missionary commitment, thus ends with the shining witness of the Spanish Martyrs, who come in addition to the Martyrs Albertina Berkenbrock, Emmanuel Gómez Gonzàlez and Adílio Daronch, and Franz Jägerstätter, beatified a few days ago in Brazil and in Austria. Their example testifies that Baptism commits Christians to participating courageously in the spreading of the Kingdom of God, if need be cooperating with the sacrifice of life itself. Of course, not everyone is called to martyrdom by bloodshed. In fact, there is a non-bloody “martyrdom” which is equally significant, such as that of Celina Chludzińska Borzęcka, wife, mother of a family, widow and Religious, who was beatified yesterday in Rome: this is the silent and heroic witness of so many Christians who live the Gospel without compromise, doing their duty and dedicating themselves generously to the service of the poor.

This martyrdom of ordinary life constitutes a particularly important witness in the secularized society of our time. It is the peaceful battle of love which every Christian, like Paul, must fight without flagging: the race to spread the Gospel that involves us until our death. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Martyrs and Star of Evangelization, help us in our daily witness.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 October 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the Eucharistic celebration in St Peter’s Basilica this morning, the 12th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church” came to a conclusion. Every Synodal Assembly is a powerful experience of ecclesial communion, but this one was even more so because it focused on what illumines and guides the Church: the Word of God: Christ in person. And we lived every day in religious listening, conscious of all of the grace and beauty of being his disciples and servants. In accordance with the original meaning of the term “church”, we experienced the joy of being gathered together by the Word and, especially in the liturgy, found ourselves on our way within it, as in our promised land, which gives us a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven.

One aspect very deeply reflected upon was the relationship between the Word and words, that is, between the Divine Word and the Scriptures that express it. As the Second Vatican Council teaches in the Constitution Dei Verbum (no. 12), a good biblical exegesis demands both the historical-critical and theological methods since Sacred Scripture is the Word of God in human words. This means that every text must be read and interpreted keeping in mind the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the Church and the light of the faith. If it is true that the Bible is also a literary work even the great codex of universal culture it is also true that it should not be stripped of the divine element but must be read in the same Spirit in which it was composed. Scientific exegesis and lectio divina are therefore both necessary and complementary in order to seek, through the literal meaning, the spiritual meaning that God wants to communicate to us today.

At the end of the Synodal Assembly, the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches launched an appeal, which I make my own, in order to call the attention of the international community, religious leaders and all men and women of good will, to the tragedy that is bearing its toll on several Eastern countries where Christians are the victims of intolerance and cruel violence, killed, threatened and forced to abandon their homes and wander in search of refuge. I am thinking at this moment above all of Iraq and India. I am certain that the ancient and noble peoples of those nations have learned, over the course of centuries respectful coexistence, to appreciate the contribution that the small but hardworking and well-qualified Christian minorities make to the growth of the common homeland. They do not ask for privileges but desire only to be able to continue to live in their country with their fellow citizens as they have always lived. I ask the civil and religious Authorities concerned to spare no efforts to ensure that legality and civil coexistence are soon re-established so that honest and loyal citizens may be able to count on the adequate protection of State institutions. I also hope that the civil and religious leaders of all countries, aware of their role as a guide and reference for the population, will make significant and explicit gestures of friendship and consideration to minorities whether they are Christian or belong to other religions and make the defence of their legitimate rights a point of honour.

I am also pleased to inform you who are present here of what I announced a little while ago during Holy Mass: the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa will be held here in Rome in October of next year. Before then, please God, I intend to go to Africa in the month of March, to visit first Cameroon, where I shall present to the Bishops of the Continent the Instrumentum laboris of the Synod, and then Angola, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that country. Let us entrust the sufferings mentioned above, as well as the hopes that we all carry in our hearts, and in particular the prospects for the Synod of Africa, to the intercession of Mary Most Holy.



Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 26 October 2008

Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Word of the Lord, resounding a short while ago in the Gospel, reminded us that the whole divine law is summarized in love. The Evangelist Matthew narrates that after Jesus had answered the Sadducees, silencing them, the Pharisees met to put him to the test (see 22: 34-35). One of them, a doctor of law, asked him: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” (22: 36). The question makes apparent the concern, present in ancient Jewish tradition, over finding a unifying principle in the various formulations of God’s will. This was not an easy question, considering that in the law of Moses, a good 613 precepts and prohibitions are contemplated. How does one discern, among all of these, which is the most important? But Jesus does not hesitate, and readily responds: “You shall love the Lord your God with your all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (22: 37-38). Jesus quotes the Shemà in his answer, the prayer the pious Israelite recites several times a day, especially in the morning and in the evening (see Dt 6: 4-9; 11: 13-21; Nm 15: 37-41): the proclamation of the integral and total love due to God, as the only Lord. Emphasis is placed on the totality of this dedication to God, listing the three faculties that define man in his deep psychological structures: heart, soul and mind. The word mind, diánoia, contains the rational element. God is not only the object of love, commitment, will and sentiment, but also of the intellect, which should not be excluded from this milieu. Then, however, Jesus adds something which, in truth, had not been asked by the doctor of law: “And a second is like it, You must love your neighbour as yourself” (22: 39). The surprising aspect of Jesus’ answer consists in the fact that he establishes a similarity between the first and the second commandments, defined this time too with a biblical formula drawn from the Levitical code of holiness (see Lv 19: 18). And thus by the end of the passage the two commandments become connected in the role of a fundamental union upon which all of biblical Revelation rests: “On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well” (Mt 22: 40).

The Gospel passage on which we are focusing makes clear that being disciples of Christ means practicing his teachings, which can be summarized in the first and greatest commandment of the divine law, the commandment of love. Even the First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, insists on the duty of love; a love witnessed concretely in relationships between persons, which must be relationships of respect, collaboration, generous help. The neighbour to be loved is the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the needy, in other words, those citizens who have no “defender”. The holy author goes into details, as in the case of the object pawned by one of these poor persons (see Ex 22: 25-26). In this case God himself is the one to vouch for the neighbour’s position.

In the Second Reading, we can find a concrete application of the supreme commandment of love in one of the first Christian communities. St Paul writes to the Thessalonians, leading them to understand that, while having known them for such a short time, he appreciates them and holds them dear in his heart. Because of this, he pinpoints them as “a model for all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Thes 1: 7). Weaknesses and difficulties are not lacking in this recently founded community, but it is love that surpasses all, renews all, conquers all: the love of those who, knowing their own limits, docilely follow the words of Christ, the divine Teacher, passed down through one of his faithful disciples. “You, in turn, became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word despite great trials, with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit”, the Apostle wrote. He continued: “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (1 Thes 1: 6, 8). The lesson that we can draw from the Thessalonians’ experience, an experience that is truly common in every authentic Christian community, is that neighbourly love is born from docile listening to the divine Word. It is a love that will even withstand difficult trials for the truth of the divine Word, and in this way true love grows and truth shines in all its splendour. How important it is to listen to the Word and incarnate it in personal and community life!

In this Eucharistic celebration, which closes the work of the Synod, we sense, in a particular way, the bond that exists between the loving listening to the Word of God and disinterested service of the brethren. How many times, in the past days, we have heard experiences and reflections that highlight today’s emerging need for a more intimate listening to God, for a truer knowledge of his Word of salvation; for a more sincere sharing of faith which is constantly nourished at the table of the divine Word! Dear and venerable Brothers, thank you for the contribution each of you has offered in analysing the Synod’s theme: “The Word of God in the life and the mission of the Church”. I greet you all with great affection. I address a special greeting to the Cardinals, the Delegate Presidents of the Synod and the General Secretary, whom I thank for their constant dedication. I greet you, dear brothers and sisters, who have come from every continent bringing your enriching experience. In returning home, give everyone an affectionate greeting from the Bishop of Rome.

I greet the Fraternal Delegates, the Experts, the Auditors and the Invited Guests, the members of the General Secretariat of the Synod, all those who work with the press. A special thought goes to the Bishops of Continental China, who could not be represented during this Synodal Assembly. I would like to speak on behalf of them and thank God for their love for Christ, their communion with the universal Church and their faithfulness to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They are present in our prayer, along with all the faithful who are entrusted to their pastoral care. We ask the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pt 5: 4) of the sheep to give them joy, strength, and apostolic zeal to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China that we love so dearly.

All of us who have taken part in the work of the Synod will carry with us the renewed awareness that the Church’s principal task, at the start of this new millennium, is above all to nourish herself on the Word of God, in order to make new evangelization, the proclamation in our day, more effective. What is needed now is that this ecclesial experience reach every community; it is necessary to understand the need to translate the Word we have heard into gestures of love, because this is the only way to make the Gospel proclamation credible, despite the human weaknesses that mark individuals. First of all this requires a more intimate knowledge of Christ and an ever more docile listening to his Word.

In this Pauline year, making the words of the Apostle our own: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9: 16), I hope with all my heart that this yearning of Paul’s will be felt in every community with ever greater conviction as a vocation in the service of the Gospel for the world. At the start of the Synod I recalled Jesus’ appeal: “the harvest is rich” (Mt 9: 37), an appeal we must never tire of responding to, no matter what difficulties we might encounter. So many people are seeking, sometimes unknowingly, to encounter Christ and his Gospel; many need to find in him the meaning of their lives. To give a clear and common witness to a life according to the Word of God, demonstrated by Jesus, is therefore an indispensable criterion to verify the mission of the Church.

The Readings today’s liturgy offers for our meditation remind us that the fulness of the law, as all of the divine Scriptures, is love. Therefore anyone who believes they have understood the Scriptures, or at least some part of them, without undertaking to build, by means of their intelligence, the twofold love of God and neighbour, in reality proves to be still a long way from having grasped its deeper meaning. But how can we put this commandment into practice, how can we live the love of God and our brothers without a living and intense contact with the Sacred Scriptures? The Second Vatican Council asserts that “access to sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful” (Dei Verbum, 22), so that persons, encountering the truth, may grow in authentic love. This is a requisite that is indispensable for evangelization today. And since often the encounter with Scriptures is in danger of being not “a fact” of the Church, but informed by subjectivity and arbitrariness, a robust and credible pastoral promotion of the knowledge of Sacred Scripture to announce, celebrate and live the Word in the Christian community becomes indispensable, dialoguing with the cultures of our time, placing ourselves at the service of truth and not of current ideologies, and increasing the dialogue God wishes to have with all men (see ibid, 21). To this end special care should be given to the preparation of pastors, who are then ready to take whatever action is necessary to spread the biblical movement with appropriate means. Ongoing efforts to give life to the biblical movement among lay people should be encouraged, along with the formation of group leaders, with particular attention being paid to the young. We must also support the effort to allow faith to be known through the Word of God to those who are “far away” as well and especially those who are sincerely seeking the meaning of life.

Many other reflections could be added but I will limit myself to underlining that the privileged place where the Word of God resounds, which edifies the Church, as was said many times in the Synod, is undoubtedly the liturgy. This is where it appears that the Bible is a book of the people and for the people: a heritage, a testament consigned to readers so that the salvation history witnessed in the text becomes concrete in their own lives. There is therefore a vital, reciprocal relationship of belonging between the people and the Book: the Bible remains a living Book with the people its subject who read it. The people cannot exist without the Book, because in it they find their reason for being, their vocation and their identity. This mutual belonging between people and Sacred Scripture is celebrated in every liturgical assembly, which, thanks to the Holy Spirit, listens to Christ, since it is he who speaks when the Scripture is read in the Church and welcomes the Covenant that God renews with his people. Scripture and liturgy converge, therefore, with the single aim of bringing the people to dialogue with the Lord and to obedience to the will of the Lord. The Word issued from the mouth of God and witnessed in the Scriptures returns to him in the form of a prayerful response, a response that is lived, a response that wells up from love (see Is 55: 10-11).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray that from renewed listening to the Word of God, guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, an authentic renewal in the universal Church and in every Christian community may spring forth. We entrust the fruit of this Synodal Assembly to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. I also entrust to her the Second Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa, that will take place in Rome in October of next year. Next March I intend to go to Cameroon to deliver the Instrumentum laboris of that Synodal Assembly to representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa. From there, God willing, I will proceed to Angola to pay homage to one of the most ancient sub-saharan Churches. May Mary Most Holy, who offered her life as the “servant of the Lord” (Lk 1: 38), so that everything would happen according to the divine will and who exhorts us to do whatever Jesus would tell us (see Jn 2: 5), teach us to recognize in our lives the primacy of the Word that alone can grant us salvation. Amen!



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 October 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A short while ago, with the Eucharistic celebration in St Peter’s Basilica, the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops ended. Three weeks of mutual prayer and listening, to discern what the Holy Spirit says today to the Church who lives in the African Continent, but at the same time to the Universal Church. The Synodal Fathers, having come from all the Countries in Africa, presented the richness of the local Churches’ realities. Together we shared their joys for the dynamism of the Christian communities, which continue to grow in quantity and quality. We thank God for the missionary impetus that found a fertile terrain in many dioceses and which expresses itself by sending missionaries to other African Countries and to other Continents. Special emphasis was given to the family, which also in Africa constitutes the primary cell of society, but which today is threatened by ideological currents coming from outside as well. Then what can be said about the young people exposed to this sort of pressure, influenced by models of thought and behavior that contrast with the human and Christian values of the African peoples? Naturally during this Assembly, today’s problems in Africa came out, as well as its great need for reconciliation, justice and peace. To this the Church answers re-proposing, with renewed impetus, proclaiming the Gospel and the act of human promotion. Enlivened by the Word of God and the Eucharist, it strives to make everyone have what is necessary to live so that all may live an existence worthy of a human being.

Remembering the Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola I made last March, which also had the aim of beginning the immediate preparation for the second Synod for Africa, today I would like to speak to all the African populations, in particular those who share the Christian faith, to give them the Final Message of this Synodal Assembly. It is a Message that comes from Rome, the See of Peter’s Successor, who presides universal communion, but we can say, from another true sense, originates in Africa, gathering its experiences, expectations, projects and now returns to Africa, bearing the richness of a profound communion in the Holy Spirit. Dear brothers and sisters who are listening to me from Africa! I entrust to your prayer the fruits of the work of the Synodal Fathers’ work in a special way and I encourage you with the words of the Lord Jesus: be the salt and the light of the beloved African land!

While this Synod is ending, I would like to remind you now that a Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops is scheduled for next year. On the occasion of my Visit to Cyprus, I will have the pleasure of presenting the Instrumentum Laboris for that assize. Let us thank the Lord, who never tires of building his Church in communion, and we invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary with trust.



Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 25 October 2009

Venerable Brothers,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Here is a message of hope for Africa: we have just listened to the Word of God. It is the message that the Lord of history never tires of renewing for the oppressed and overcome humanity of every era and every land, since the time he revealed to Moses his will for the Israelite slaves of Egypt: “I have witnessed the affliction of my people... and have heard their cry... so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them... and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3: 7-8). What is this land? Is it not the Kingdom of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace, to which all of humanity is called? God’s plan does not change. It is the same as that prophesied by Jeremiah, in the magnificent oracles called “The Book of Consolation”, from which today the First Reading is taken. It is an announcement of hope for the people of Israel, laid low by the invasion of the army of Nebuchadnezzar, by the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple and the deportation to Babylonia. A message of joy for the “remainder” of Jacob’s sons, which announces a future for them, because the Lord will lead them back to their lands, by a straight and easy road. The persons needing support, like the blind or the crippled, the pregnant woman and the woman in labor, will all experience the strength and tenderness of the Lord: he is a father for Israel, ready to care for it as if it were his firstborn (see Jer 31: 7-9).

God’s plan does not change. Through the centuries and turns of history, he always aims at the same finality: the Kingdom of liberty and peace for all. And this implies his predilection for those deprived of freedom and peace, for those violated in their dignity as human beings. We think in particular of our brothers and sisters who in Africa suffer poverty, diseases, injustice, wars and violence, forced migration. These favorite children of the heavenly Father are like the blind man in the Gospel, Bartimaeus (Mk 10: 46) at the gates of Jericho. Jesus the Nazarene passed that way. It is the road that leads to Jerusalem, where the Paschal Event will take place, his sacrificial Easter, towards which the Messiah goes for us. It is the road of his exodus which is also ours: the only way that leads to the land of reconciliation, justice and peace. On that road, the Lord meets Bartimaeus, who has lost his sight. Their paths cross, they become a single path. The blind man calls out, full of faith “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!”. Jesus replies: “Call him!”, and adds: “What do you want me to do for you?”. God is light and the Creator of light. Man is the son of light, made to see the light, but has lost his sight, and is forced to beg. The Lord, who became a beggar for us, walks next to him: thirsting for our faith and our love. “What do you want me to do for you?”. God knows the answer, but asks; he wants the man to speak. He wants the man to stand up, to find the courage to ask for what is needed for his dignity. The Father wants to hear in the son’s own voice the free choice to see the light once again, the light, the reason for Creation. “Master, I want to see!” And Jesus says to him: “Go your way; your faith has saved you’. Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way” (Mk 10: 51-52).

Dear Brothers, we give thanks because this “mysterious encounter between our poverty and the greatness” of God was achieved also in the Synodal Assembly for Africa that has ended today. God renewed his call: “Take courage! Get up...” (Mk 10: 49). And the Church in Africa, through its Pastors, having come from all the countries in the continent, from Madagascar and the other islands, has embraced the message of hope and light to walk on the path that leads to the Kingdom of God. “Go your way; your faith has saved you” (Mk 10: 52). Yes, faith in Jesus Christ when properly understood and experienced guides men and peoples to liberty in truth, or, to use the three words of the Synodal theme, to reconciliation, to justice and to peace. Bartimaeus who, healed, follows Jesus along the road, is the image of that humanity that, illuminated by faith, walks on the path towards the promised land. Bartimaeus becomes in turn a witness of the light, telling and demonstrating in the first person about being healed, renewed, regenerated. This is the Church in the world: a community of reconciled persons, operators of justice and peace; “salt and light” amongst the society of men and nations. Therefore the Synod strongly confirmed and manifested this that the Church is the Family of God, in which there can be no divisions based on ethnic, language or cultural groups. Moving witnesses showed us that, even in the darkest moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work and transforming the hearts of the victims and the persecutors, that they may know each other as brothers. The reconciled Church is the potent leaven of reconciliation in each country and in the whole African continent.

The Second Reading offers another perspective: the Church, the community that follows Christ on the path of love, has a sacerdotal form. The category of priesthood, as the interpretive key of the Mystery of Christ and, consequently, of the Church, was introduced in the New Testament, by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. His intuition originates from Psalm 110, quoted in today’s words, where the Lord God assures the Messiah with a solemn promise: “You are a priest for ever of the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110: 4). A reference which leads to another, taken from Psalm 2, in which the Messiah announces the Lord’s decree which says about him: “You are my son, today have I fathered you” (Ps 2: 7). From these texts derives the attribution to Jesus Christ of a sacerdotal character, not in the generic sense, rather “of the order of Melchizedek”, in other words the supreme and eternal priesthood, of divine not human origins. If each supreme priest “is taken from among men and made their representative before God” (Heb 5: 1), He alone, Christ, the Son of God, possesses a ministry that can be identified to his own person, a singular and transcendent ministry, on which universal salvation relies. Christ transmitted this ministry of his to the Church through the Holy Spirit; therefore the Church has in itself, in each of its members, because of Baptism, a sacerdotal characteristic. However here is a decisive aspect the priesthood of Jesus Christ is no longer primarily ritual, rather it is existential. The dimension of the rite is not abolished, but, as clearly seen in the institution of the Eucharist, takes its meaning from the Paschal Mystery, which completes the ancient sacrifices and surpasses them. Thus contemporarily a new sacrifice, a new ministry and a new temple are born, and all three coincide with the Mystery of Jesus Christ. United to him through the Sacraments, the Church prolongs its saving action, allowing man to be healed, like the blindman Bartimaeus. Thus the ecclesial community, in the steps of its Master and Lord, is called to walk decisively along the path of service, to share the condition of men and women in its time, to witness to all the love of God and thus sow hope.

Dear friends, this message of salvation is always transmitted by the Church by joining evangelization and the promotion of humanity. Let us take the example of the historical Encyclical Popolorum Progressio: what the Servant of God Paul VI elaborated in terms of reflection, the missionaries created and continue to create in the field, promoting a development that respects local cultures and the environment, following a logic that now, more than 40 years later, appears to be the only one capable of allowing the African people to emerge from the slavery of hunger and sickness. This means transmitting the announcement of hope, following a “sacerdotal form”, that is, living the Gospel in the first person, trying to translate it into projects and undertakings that are consistent with its principle dynamic foundation, which is love. In these three weeks, the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops has confirmed what my venerable Predecessor John Paul II had already clearly focused on, and that I also wanted to look at more closely in the recent Encyclical Caritas in Veritate: what is necessary, therefore, is the renewal of the model of global development, in such a way that it be capable of “including within its range all peoples and not just the better off” (no. 39). What the social doctrine of the Church has always maintained is what is required today of globalization (see ibid.). This we must remember should not be understood fatalistically as though its dynamics were produced by anonymous impersonal forces or structures independent of the human will. Globalization is a human reality and as such can be modified in line with one or another cultural impositions. The Church works with its personalist and community concept to steer the globalization of humanity in relational terms, in terms of communion and the sharing of goods (see ibid. no. 42).

“Take courage! Get up”... This is how the Lord of life and hope addresses the Church and peoples of Africa at the end of these weeks of Synodal reflection. Get up, Church in Africa, Family of God, because you are being called by the Heavenly Father whom your ancestors invoked as Creator, before knowing his merciful closeness, revealed in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Set out on the path of a new evangelization with the courage that comes from the Holy Spirit. The urgent action of evangelization which has been spoken about so much in these days also involves an urgent appeal for reconciliation, an indispensable condition for instilling in Africa justice among men and building a fair and lasting peace that respects each individual and people; a peace that requires and is open to the contribution of all people of good will irrespective of their religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds. In such a challenging mission, pilgrim Church in Africa of the third millennium, you are not alone. The whole Catholic Church is near to you with its prayer and active solidarity, and from heaven you are accompanied by the African saints who, with their lives to the point of martyrdom sometimes, testified to the fullness of their faith in Christ.

Courage! Get up, African continent, land that welcomed the Savior of the World when as a child he had to take refuge with Joseph and Mary in Egypt to save his life from the persecution of King Herod. Welcome with renewed enthusiasm the Gospel proclamation so that the Face of Christ may light with its splendor the multiplicity of cultures and languages of your peoples. As it offers the bread of the Word and the Eucharist, the Church also undertakes to operate, with every means at its disposal, to ensure that no African should be deprived of his or her daily bread. For this reason, along with the work of primary importance of evangelization, Christians are actively involved in interventions in favor of promoting humanity.

Dear Synodal Fathers, at the end of these reflections of mine, I want to salute you most warmly, and thank you for your edifying participation. Return home, you, pastors of the Church in Africa, take my blessing to your communities. Transmit to everyone the oft-heard appeal of this Synod for reconciliation, justice and peace. As the Synodal Assembly draws to a close, I have to renew my most vivid thanks to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and all their collaborators. I express my grateful thoughts to the choirs of the Nigerian community in Rome and the Ethiopian College who are contributing to the celebration of this liturgy. And finally I would like to thank everyone who has accompanied the Synodal work with their prayer. May the Virgin Mary recompense each and every one of them, and allow the Church in Africa to grow in every part of that great continent, spreading the “salt” and “light” of the Gospel everywhere.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 October 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning at the Vatican Basilica the solemn Celebration concluded the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops with the theme with the slogan: “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: communion and witness”. Moreover this Sunday is also World Mission Day: “The construction of Ecclesial Communion is the key to the Mission”. This motto displays a similarity between the themes of both ecclesial events. Each invite us to look at the Church as a mystery of communion that, by her nature, is destined for the whole person and for all people. The Servant of God Pope Paul vi stated the Church “exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in Holy Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection” (Apostolic Exortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 8 December 1975, no. 14: p. 8 ). So the next Ordinary General Synod of Bishops in 2012 will have the theme: “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”. At any time or any place, even today in the Middle East, the Church is present and works to welcome every person and offer him/her the fullness of life in Christ. As the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini once wrote, “The reality of the ‘Church’ implies a complete fullness of being Christian, which grows as it embraces the fullness the human being in relation to God” (see Formazione liturgica, Brescia, 2008, pp. 106-107).

Dear friends, in the today’s Liturgy we read the testimony of St Paul concerning the final reward that the Lord will grant “to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4:8). This testimony does not mean an idle or solitary waiting. Quite the contrary! The Apostle lived in communion with the Risen Christ to “proclaim the Word [Gospel] fully” so that “all the Gentiles might hear it” (2 Tim 4:17). The missionary task is not to revolutionize the world, rather to transfigure it, drawing upon the strength of Jesus Christ who “summons us to the banquet of his word and of the Eucharist, to taste the gift of his presence, to be formed at his school and to live ever more closely united to him, our teacher and Lord” (Message for the 84th World Mission Sunday). Also, Christians of today – as it is written in the Epistle to Diognetus – “show how marvellous and... extraordinary their associated life is. They spend their life on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their way of living go beyond these laws... They are condemned to death, from which they draw life. While doing good, they are... persecuted and they grow in number every day” (v,; vi 9, no. 33, Paris 1951, 62-66).

To the Virgin Mary, that from Jesus crucified received the new mission to be the Mother of all those who desire to believe in and follow Him, we entrust the Christian community of the Middle East and all missionaries of the Gospel.



Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 24 October 2010

Venerable Brothers,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Two weeks from the opening Celebration, we are gathered once again on the Lord’s day, at the Altar of the Confession in St Peter’s Basilica, to conclude the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. In our hearts is a deep gratitude towards God who has afforded us this truly extraordinary experience, not just for us, but for the good of the Church, for the People of God who live in the lands between the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia. As Bishop of Rome, I would like to express my gratitude to you, Venerable Synod Fathers: Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops. I wish to especially thank the Secretary General, the four Presidents Delegate, the Relator General, the Special Secretary and all the collaborators, who have worked tirelessly in these days. This morning we left the Synod Hall and came to “the temple to pray”: in this, we are touched directly by the parable of the pharisee and the publican, told by Jesus and recounted by the Evangelist St Luke (see 18:9-14). We too may be tempted, like the pharisee, to tell God of our merits, perhaps thinking of our work during these days. However, to rise up to Heaven, prayer must emanate from a poor, humble heart. And therefore we too, at the conclusion of this ecclesial event, wish to first and foremost give thanks to God, not for our merits, but for the gift that He has given us. We recognize ourselves as small and in need of salvation, of mercy; we recognize all that comes from Him and that only with his Grace we may realize what the Holy Spirit told us. Only in this manner may we “return home” truly enriched, made more just and more able to walk in the path of the Lord.

The First Reading and the responsorial Psalm stress the theme of prayer, emphasizing that it is much more powerful to God’s heart when those who pray are in a condition of need and are afflicted. “The prayer of the humble pierces the clouds” affirms Ecclesiasticus (35:21); and the Psalmist adds: “Yahweh is near to the broken-hearted, he helps those whose spirit is crushed” (34:18). Our thoughts go to our numerous brothers and sisters who live in the region of the Middle East and who find themselves in trying situations, at times very burdensome, both for the material poverty and for the discouragement, the state of tension and at times of fear. Today the Word of God also offers us a light of consoling hope, there where He presents prayer, personified, that “until he has eliminated the hordes of the arrogant and broken the sceptres of the wicked, until he has repaid all people as their deeds deserve and human actions as their intentions merit” (Ecc 35:21-22). This link too, between prayer and justice makes us think of many situations in the world, particularly in the Middle East. The cry of the poor and oppressed finds an immediate echo in God, who desires to intervene to open up a way out, to restore a future of freedom, a horizon of hope.

This faith in God who is near, who frees his friends, is what the Apostle Paul witnesses to in today’s epistle, in the Second Letter to Timothy. Realizing that the end of his earthly life was near, Paul makes an assessment: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). For each one of us, dear brothers in the episcopacy, this is a model to imitate: may Divine Goodness allow us to make a similar judgment of ourselves! St Paul continues, “the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed for all the gentiles to hear” (2 Tim 4:17). It is a word which resounds with particular strength on this Sunday in which we celebrate World Mission Day! Communion with Jesus crucified and risen, witness of his love. The Apostle’s experience is a model for every Christian, especially for us Shepherds. We have shared a powerful moment of ecclesial communion. We now leave each other so that each may return to his own mission, but we know that we remain united, we remain in his love.

The Synodal Assembly which concludes today has always kept in mind the icon of the first Christian community, described in the Acts of the Apostles: “The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul” (Acts 4:32). It is a reality that we experienced in these past days, in which we have shared the joys and the pains, the concerns and the hopes of Christians in the Middle East. We experienced the unity of the Church in the variety of Churches present in that region. Led by the Holy Spirit, we became “united, heart and soul” in faith, in hope, and in charity, most of all during the Eucharistic celebrations, source and summit of ecclesial communion, and in the Liturgy of the Hours as well, celebrated every morning according to one of the seven Catholic rites of the Middle East. We have thus enhanced the liturgical, spiritual and theological wealth of the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as of the Latin Church. It involved an exchange of precious gifts, from which all the Synodal Fathers benefited. It is hoped that this positive experience repeats itself in the respective communities of the Middle East, encouraging the participation of the faithful in liturgical celebrations of other Catholic rites, thus opening themselves to the dimensions of the Universal Church.

Common prayer helped us to face the challenges of the Catholic Church in the Middle East as well. One of these is communion within each sui iuris Church, as well as in the relationships between the various Catholic Churches of different traditions. As today’s Gospel reminded us (see Lk 18:9-14), we need humility, in order to recognize our limitations, our errors and omissions, in order to be able to truly be “united, heart and soul”. A fuller communion within the Catholic Church favours ecumenical dialogue with other Churches and ecclesial communities as well. The Catholic Church reiterated in this Synodal meeting its deep conviction to pursuing such dialogue as well, so that the prayer of the Lord Jesus might be completely fulfilled: “May they all be one” (Jn 17:21).

The words of the Lord Jesus may be applied to Christians in the Middle East: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). Indeed, even if they are few, they are bearers of the Good News of the love of God for man, love which revealed itself in the Holy Land in the person of Jesus Christ. This Word of salvation, strengthened with the grace of the Sacraments, resounds with particular potency in the places in which, by Divine Providence, it was written, and it is the only Word which is able to break that vicious circle of vengeance, hate, and violence. From a purified heart, in peace with God and neighbour, may intentions and initiatives for peace at local, national, and international levels be born. In these actions, to whose accomplishment the whole international community is called, Christians as full-fledged citizens can and must do their part with the spirit of the Beatitudes, becoming builders of peace and apostles of reconciliation to the benefit of all society.

Conflicts, wars, violence and terrorism have gone on for too long in the Middle East. Peace, which is a gift of God, is also the result of the efforts of men of goodwill, of the national and international institutions, in particular of the states most involved in the search for a solution to conflicts. We must never resign ourselves to the absence of peace. Peace is possible. Peace is urgent. Peace is the indispensable condition for a life worthy of humanity and society. Peace is also the best remedy to avoid emigration from the Middle East. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” we are told in the Psalm (122:6). We pray for peace in the Holy Land. We pray for peace in the Middle East, undertaking to try to ensure that this gift of God to men of goodwill should spread through the whole world.

Another contribution that Christians can bring to society is the promotion of an authentic freedom of religion and conscience, one of the fundamental human rights that each state should always respect. In numerous countries of the Middle East there exists freedom of belief, while the space given to the freedom to practice religion is often quite limited. Increasing this space of freedom becomes essential to guarantee to all the members of the various religious communities the true freedom to live and profess their faith. This topic could become the subject of dialogue between Christians and Muslims, a dialogue whose urgency and usefulness was reiterated by the Synodal Fathers.

During the work of the Synod what was often underlined was the need to offer the Gospel anew to people who do not know it very well or who have even moved away from the Church. What was often evoked was the need for a new evangelization for the Middle East as well. This was quite a widespread theme, especially in the countries where Christianity has ancient roots. The recent creation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization also responds to this profound need. For this reason, after having consulted the episcopacy of the whole world and after having listened to the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, I have decided to dedicate the next Ordinary General Assembly, in 2012, to the following theme: “Nova evangelizatio ad christianam fidem tradendam — The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith”.

Dear brothers and sisters of the Middle East! May the experience of these days assure you that you are never alone, that you are always accompanied by the Holy See and the whole Church, which, having been born in Jerusalem, spread through the Middle East and then the rest of the world. We entrust the results of the Special Assembly for the Middle East, as well as the preparation for the Ordinary General Assembly, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Peace. Amen.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 October 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before concluding this solemn celebration, I would like to cordially greet everyone. I turn first to the pilgrims who have come to pay homage to St Guido Maria Conforti and St Luigi Guanella, with a thought of special affection and encouragement for the members of the Institutes founded by them: the Xavieran Missionaries, the Daughters of St Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity. I greet the Bishops and Civil Authorities and thank each of them for their presence. Once again, Italy has offered the Church and the world exemplary witnesses of the Gospel; let us give glory to God and let us pray that in this nation the faith may never cease to renew itself and bear good fruit.


LUIGI GUANELLA (1842-1915)


Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 October 2011

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For various reasons, our Sunday Liturgy today is enriched by thanksgiving and supplication to God. While we are celebrating with the whole Church World Mission Day — an annual event aiming to awaken enthusiasm and commitment to mission — we praise the Lord for the three new Saints: Bishop Guido Maria Conforti, the priest Aloysius [also known as Luigi] Guanella and the religious Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. I joyfully greet all those present, in particular the official Delegations and the many pilgrims who have come to celebrate these three exemplary disciples of Christ.

The Word of the Lord, which was proclaimed just a moment ago in the Gospel Reading, reminds us that the whole of the Divine Law can be summed up in love. The Evangelist Matthew recounts that the Pharisees, after Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, met to put him to the test (see 22:34-35). One of these interlocutors, a doctor of law, asked him: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (v. 36). Jesus answered the deliberately tricky question, saying quite simply: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (vv. 37-38). In fact, the main requirement for each one of us is that God be present in our lives. He should, as the Scripture says, penetrate all levels of our being and fill them completely. The heart should know him and let itself be touched by him, and thus also the soul, the energies of our will and determination, as well as intelligence and thought. One could say, as St Paul did, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Jesus immediately adds something that the doctor of law did not actually ask: “And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22:39). By declaring that the second commandment is similar to the first, Jesus implies that loving your neighbour is as important as loving God. In fact, a visible sign that the Christian can show the world in order to witness to God’s love is love for our brothers and sisters. How providential it is that precisely today the Church holds up to her members three new Saints, who allowed themselves to be transformed by the divine love, that imbued their entire existence. Through various situations and with different charisms, they loved the Lord with all their heart and loved their neighbour as themselves: thus becoming “an example to all the believers” (1 Thess 1:7).

Psalm 17, just read, invites us to abandon ourselves with trust into the hands of the Lord, who is “steadfast... to his anointed” (Ps 18[17]:51). This interior attitude guided the life and ministry of St Guido Maria Conforti. Since, as a boy, he had had to overcome his father’s opposition to his entering the Seminary. He displayed strong character in following God’s will and by conforming in everything to the caritas Christi, that, in the contemplation of the Crucifix, attracted him to it. He felt strongly the urgency to announce this love to those who had not yet received the news and the motto “Caritas Christi urget nos” (see 2 Cor 5:14), summed up the Missionary Institute’s programme, to which he, after just turning 30-years-old, brought to life: a religious family completely at the service of evangelization, under the patronage of the great “Patron of the Orient”, St Francis Xavier. St Guido Maria was called to live this apostolic zeal in his episcopal ministry first in Ravenna and then in Parma. With all his strength he dedicated himself to the good of the souls entrusted to him, especially those who had moved away from the Lord’s path. His life was marked by numerous trials, even serious ones. He understood how to accept every situation with docility, welcoming it as an indication of the path traced for him by Divine Providence. In every circumstance, even in debilitating periods of illness, he knew how to recognize God’s plan, which led him to build his Kingdom, above all through self-denial and the daily acceptance of God’s will, ever more complete with a trusting abandonment. He first experienced and testified what he taught his missionaries, namely, that perfection consists in doing the will of God, following the model of the crucified Jesus. St Guido Maria Conforti fixed his interior gaze on the Cross, which sweetly attracted him. In contemplating the Cross he saw the horizon of the entire world open wide to him, he perceived the “urgent” desire, hidden in the heart of every person, to receive and welcome the good news of the only love that saves.

The human and spiritual testimony of St Luigi Guanella is a special gift of grace for the whole Church. During his earthly life he lived with courage and determination the Gospel of Love and the “great commandment”, which today too, the Word of God has recalled. Thanks to the profound and continuing union with Christ, in the contemplation of his love, Don Guanella, led by Divine Providence, became a companion and teacher, comfort and support to the poorest and weakest. The love of God aroused in him the desire for the good of the people who were entrusted to him in the routine of daily life. He paid caring attention to each one and respected the pace of their development. He cultivated the hope in his heart that every human being, created in the image and likeness of God, by tasting the joy of being loved by him — Father of all — can receive and give to others the best of himself. Today, let us praise and thank the Lord, who gave us a prophet and an apostle of love in St Luigi Guanella. In his testimony, so full of humanity and attention to the least, we recognize a bright sign of the presence and charitable action of God, the God — as we heard in the First Reading — who defends the stranger, the widow, the orphan, the poor person obliged to give his garment in pledge... his only covering for the night (see Ex 22:20-26). May this new Saint of love be for everyone, especially for the members of the Congregations founded by him, a model of profound and fruitful synthesis between contemplation and action that he himself lived and put into practice. We can summarize his whole human and spiritual life in his last words on his death-bed: “in caritate Christi”. It is Christ’s love that illumines the life of every person, revealing through the gift of himself to others that nothing is lost but is fully realized for our happiness. May St Luigi Guanella obtain that we may grow in friendship with the Lord to be bearers of the fullness of God’s love in our time, to promote life in all of its forms and conditions, and to ensure that human society increasingly become the family of God’s children.

In Spanish the Pope said: In the Second Reading we heard a passage from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, a text that uses the metaphor of manual labour to describe the work of evangelization and which, in a certain sense, can be applied also to the virtues of St Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. When St Paul writes the Letter, he is working to earn his bread and it becomes evident, from the tone and the examples he uses, that in the shop where he preaches he meets his first disciples. This same intuition motivated St Bonifacia who, from the beginning understood how to combine her following of Jesus Christ with painstaking daily work. Work, as she had done since she was a child, was not only a way not to burden people but also implied the freedom to pursue one’s vocation. At the same time it gave her the chance to attract and train other women, who in the workshop could meet God and listen to his loving call, discerning the plan for their life and preparing themselves to carry it out. Thus the Servants of St Joseph came into being in the humility and simplicity of the Gospel, which in the family of Nazareth presents a school of Christian life. The Apostle continues in his Letter that the love he entertains for the community is not without effort and difficulty, since it always means emulating Christ’s self-gift to man, without asking or looking for any reward, except to please God. Mother Bonifacia, who dedicated herself with joy to the apostolate and began to obtain the first fruits of her endeavours, also experienced abandonment and rejection by her disciples, and through it she learned a new dimension of the sequela of Christ: the Cross. She accepted it with the steadiness of hope, offering her own life for the unity of the work born of her hands. The new Saint may be seen as an ideal model in whom the work of God resounds, an echo that invites her daughters, the Servants of St Joseph, and also all of us to welcome her testimony with the joy of the Holy Spirit, fearing no difficulty in spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven everywhere. We entrust ourselves to her intercession and we ask God for all the workers, especially those engaged in the more modest trades and who at times are not sufficiently esteemed, so that in their daily work, they may discover the friendly hand of God and witness to his love, transforming their own effort into a song of praise to the Creator.

“I love you, Lord, my strength”, we have just proclaimed this, dear brothers and sisters, in the Responsorial Psalm. These three new Saints are an eloquent sign of this passionate love for God. Let us follow their example, let us be guided by their teachings so that our whole life may become a witness of authentic love of God and neighbour. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, and the intercession of St Guido Maria Conforti, of St Luigi Guanella e St Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro obtain this grace for us. Amen.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 28 October 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the Holy Mass celebrated this morning in the Basilica of St Peter’s, we have concluded the 13th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. For three weeks we looked at the reality of the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith: the entire Church was represented and, therefore, involved in this task, which will not fail to bear fruit, with the grace of the Lord. Before all else, however, the Synod is always a moment of strong ecclesial communion, and thus I desire with all of you to give thanks to God, who yet again has made us experience the beauty of being the Church, and of being this today, in this world just as it is, in the midst of this humanity with all its toil and all its hopes.

The coincidence of this Synodal Assembly with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council is very significant, and thus with the start of the Year of Faith. Thinking back to Blessed John XXIII, to the Servant of God Paul VI, to the conciliar season, has been more fruitful than ever, because it helped us to remember that the new evangelization is not of our invention, but rather it is a dynamism that developed in the Church in a special way over the past 50 years, when it appeared evident that even those countries of ancient Christian tradition had become, as the saying goes, “mission territory.”

Thus arose the need for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in secular societies, with the double certainty that, one the one hand, it is only he, Jesus Christ, the true newness who answers the longings of man from every age, and on the other, that his message calls to be transmitted in an adequate way in the changed social and cultural context.

What can we say at the end of these intense days of work? For my part, I have listened and gathered much food for reflection and many propositions, that, with the help of the Secretariat of the Synod and my Collaborators, I will seek to order and elaborate on, so as to offer to the whole of the Church an organic synthesis and coherent indications. Until now we can say that from this Synod comes a reinforced commitment to the spiritual renewal of the Church herself, to enable her to spiritually renew the secularized world; and this renewal comes from the rediscovery of Jesus Christ, of his truth and of his grace, of his “face”, both human and divine, upon which shines resplendent the transcendent mystery of God.

Let us entrust to the Virgin Mary the fruits of the work of this Synodal Assembly just concluded. May she, the Star of the New Evangelization, teach us and help us to bring Christ to all, with courage and with joy.



Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 28 October 2012

Dear Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The miracle of the healing of blind Bartimaeus comes at a significant point in the structure of Saint Mark’s Gospel.  It is situated at the end of the section on the “journey to Jerusalem”, that is, Jesus’ last pilgrimage to the Holy City, for the Passover, in which he knows that his passion, death and resurrection await him.  In order to ascend to Jerusalem from the Jordan valley, Jesus passes through Jericho, and the meeting with Bartimaeus occurs as he leaves the city – in the evangelist’s words, “as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude” (10:46).  This is the multitude that soon afterwards would acclaim Jesus as Messiah on his entry into Jerusalem.  Sitting and begging by the side of the road was Bartimaeus, whose name means “son of Timaeus”, as the evangelist tells us.  The whole of Mark’s Gospel is a journey of faith, which develops gradually under Jesus’ tutelage.  The disciples are the first actors on this journey of discovery, but there are also other characters who play an important role, and Bartimaeus is one of them.  His is the last miraculous healing that Jesus performs before his passion, and it is no accident that it should be that of a blind person, someone whose eyes have lost the light.  We know from other texts too that the state of blindness has great significance in the Gospels.  It represents man who needs God’s light, the light of faith, if he is to know reality truly and to walk the path of life.  It is essential to acknowledge one’s blindness, one’s need for this light, otherwise one could remain blind for ever (see Jn 9:39-41).

Bartimaeus, then, at that strategic point of Mark’s account, is presented as a model.  He was not blind from birth, but he lost his sight.  He represents man who has lost the light and knows it, but has not lost hope: he knows how to seize the opportunity to encounter Jesus and he entrusts himself to him for healing.  Indeed, when he hears that the Master is passing along the road, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:47), and he repeats it even louder (v. 48).  And when Jesus calls him and asks what he wants from him, he replies: “Master, let me receive my sight!” (v. 51).  Bartimaeus represents man aware of his pain and crying out to the Lord, confident of being healed.  His simple and sincere plea is exemplary, and indeed – like that of the publican in the Temple: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13) – it has found its way into the tradition of Christian prayer.  In the encounter with Christ, lived with faith, Bartimaeus regains the light he had lost, and with it the fullness of his dignity: he gets back onto his feet and resumes the journey, which from that moment has a guide, Jesus, and a path, the same that Jesus is travelling.  The evangelist tells us nothing more about Bartimaeus, but in him he shows us what discipleship is: following Jesus “along the way” (v. 52), in the light of faith.

Saint Augustine, in one of his writings, makes a striking comment about the figure of Bartimaeus, which can be interesting and important for us today.  He reflects on the fact that in this case Mark indicates not only the name of the person who is healed, but also the name of his father, and he concludes that “Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, had fallen from some position of great prosperity, and was now regarded as an object of the most notorious and the most remarkable wretchedness, because, in addition to being blind, he had also to sit begging. And this is also the reason, then, why Mark has chosen to mention only the one whose restoration to sight acquired for the miracle a fame as widespread as was the notoriety which the man’s misfortune itself had gained” (On the Consensus of the Evangelists, 2, 65, 125: PL 34, 1138).  Those are Saint Augustine’s words.

This interpretation, that Bartimaeus was a man who had fallen from a condition of “great prosperity”, causes us to think.  It invites us to reflect on the fact that our lives contain precious riches that we can lose, and I am not speaking of material riches here.  From this perspective, Bartimaeus could represent those who live in regions that were evangelized long ago, where the light of faith has grown dim and people have drifted away from God, no longer considering him relevant for their lives.  These people have therefore lost a precious treasure, they have “fallen” from a lofty dignity – not financially or in terms of earthly power, but in a Christian sense – their lives have lost a secure and sound direction and they have become, often unconsciously, beggars for the meaning of existence.  They are the many in need of a new evangelization, that is, a new encounter with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God (see Mk 1:1), who can open their eyes afresh and teach them the path.  It is significant that the liturgy puts the Gospel of Bartimaeus before us today, as we conclude the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization.  This biblical passage has something particular to say to us as we grapple with the urgent need to proclaim Christ anew in places where the light of faith has been weakened, in places where the fire of God is more like smouldering cinders, crying out to be stirred up, so that they can become a living flame that gives light and heat to the whole house.

The new evangelization applies to the whole of the Church’s life.  It applies, in the first instance, to the ordinary pastoral ministry that must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful who regularly take part in community worship and gather on the Lord’s day to be nourished by his word and by the bread of eternal life.  I would like here to highlight three pastoral themes that have emerged from the Synod.  The first concerns the sacraments of Christian initiation.  It has been reaffirmed that appropriate catechesis must accompany preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  The importance of Confession, the sacrament of God’s mercy, has also been emphasized.  This sacramental journey is where we encounter the Lord’s call to holiness, addressed to all Christians.  In fact it has often been said that the real protagonists of the new evangelization are the saints: they speak a language intelligible to all through the example of their lives and their works of charity.

Secondly, the new evangelization is essentially linked to the Missio ad Gentes.  The Church’s task is to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not yet know Jesus Christ.  During the Synod, it was emphasized that there are still many regions in Africa, Asia and Oceania whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel.  So we must ask the Holy Spirit to arouse in the Church a new missionary dynamism, whose progatonists are, in particular, pastoral workers and the lay faithful.  Globalization has led to a remarkable migration of peoples.  So the first proclamation is needed even in countries that were evangelized long ago.  All people have a right to know Jesus Christ and his Gospel: and Christians, all Christians – priests, religious and lay faithful – have a corresponding duty to proclaim the Good News.

A third aspect concerns the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism.  During the Synod, it was emphasized that such people are found in all continents, especially in the most secularized countries.  The Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful.  Besides traditional and perennially valid pastoral methods, the Church seeks to adopt new ones, developing new language attuned to the different world cultures, proposing the truth of Christ with an attitude of dialogue and friendship rooted in God who is Love.  In various parts of the world, the Church has already set out on this path of pastoral creativity, so as to bring back those who have drifted away or are seeking the meaning of life, happiness and, ultimately, God.  We may recall some important city missions, the “Courtyard of the Gentiles”, the continental mission, and so on.  There is no doubt that the Lord, the Good Shepherd, will abundantly bless these efforts which proceed from zeal for his Person and his Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters, Bartimaeus, on regaining his sight from Jesus, joined the crowd of disciples, which must certainly have included others like him, who had been healed by the Master.  New evangelizers are like that: people who have had the experience of being healed by God, through Jesus Christ.  And characteristic of them all is a joyful heart that cries out with the Psalmist: “What marvels the Lord worked for us: indeed we were glad” (Ps 125:3).  Today, we too turn to the Lord Jesus, Redemptor hominis  and lumen gentium, with joyful gratitude, making our own a prayer of Saint Clement of Alexandria: “until now I wandered in the hope of finding God, but since you enlighten me, O Lord, I find God through you and I receive the Father from you, I become your coheir, since you did not shrink from having me for your brother.  Let us put away, then, let us put away all blindness to the truth, all ignorance: and removing the darkness that obscures our vision like fog before the eyes, let us contemplate the true God ...; since a light from heaven shone down upon us who were buried in darkness and imprisoned in the shadow of death, [a light] purer than the sun, sweeter than life on this earth” (Protrepticus, 113: 2 – 114:1).  Amen. 

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