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12/15/2005 7:25 PM
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This section is for the full or partial texts of Pope Benedict's homilies, discourses and messages as released by the Vatican Press Office in English translation. Unofficial English translations by Zenit or other agencies may be posted until the official translation is available.

Texts of Angelus remarks and catecheses at the General Audiences will be posted in the Audience and Angelus thread.

Any texts before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope will be found in the section IN HIS OWN WORDS.

1/1/2009 As of today, all homilies will be posted with the AUDIENCE & ANGELUS TEXTS, under the new heading HOMILIES, AUDIENCE & ANGELUS TEXTS - in order to keep the primarily spiritual texts together. All other addresses, discourses and emsssages will be posted on this thread, to be renamed ADDRESSES, DISCOURSES, MESSAGES.

To start off, here is the Vatican translation of the Pope's homily on December 8, published by Zenit.

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2005 ( Here is a translation of the homily delivered by Benedict XVI at the Mass commemorating the 40th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. The Mass was on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception last Thursday in St. Peter's Basilica.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Pope Paul VI solemnly concluded the Second Vatican Council in the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica 40 years ago, on 8 December 1965. It had been inaugurated, in accordance with John XXIII's wishes, on 11 October 1962, which was then the feast of Mary's Motherhood, and ended on the day of the Immaculate Conception.

The Council took place in a Marian setting. It was actually far more than a setting: It was the orientation of its entire process. It refers us, as it referred the Council Fathers at that time, to the image of the Virgin who listens and lives in the Word of God, who cherishes in her heart the words that God addresses to her and, piecing them together like a mosaic, learns to understand them (cf. Luke 2:19,51).

It refers us to the great Believer who, full of faith, put herself in God's hands, abandoning herself to his will; it refers us to the humble Mother who, when the Son's mission so required, became part of it, and at the same time, to the courageous woman who stood beneath the Cross while the disciples fled.

In his discourse on the occasion of the promulgation of the dogmatic constitution on the Church, Paul VI described Mary as "tutrix huius Concilii" -- "Patroness of this Council" (cf. "Oecumenicum Concilium Vaticanum II, Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes," Vatican City, 1966, p. 983) and, with an unmistakable allusion to the account of Pentecost transmitted by Luke (cf. Acts 1:12-14), said that the Fathers were gathered in the Council Hall "cum Maria, Matre Iesu" and would also have left it in her name (p. 985).

Indelibly printed in my memory is the moment when, hearing his words: "Mariam Sanctissimam declaramus Matrem Ecclesiae" -- "We declare Mary the Most Holy Mother of the Church," the Fathers spontaneously rose at once and paid homage to the Mother of God, to our Mother, to the Mother of the Church, with a standing ovation.

Indeed, with this title the Pope summed up the Marian teaching of the Council and provided the key to understanding it. Not only does Mary have a unique relationship with Christ, the Son of God who, as man, chose to become her Son. Since she was totally united to Christ, she also totally belongs to us. Yes, we can say that Mary is close to us as no other human being is, because Christ becomes man for all men and women and his entire being is "being here for us."

Christ, the Fathers said, as the Head, is inseparable from his Body which is the Church, forming with her, so to speak, a single living subject. The Mother of the Head is also the Mother of all the Church; she is, so to speak, totally emptied of herself; she has given herself entirely to Christ and with him is given as a gift to us all. Indeed, the more the human person gives himself, the more he finds himself.

The Council intended to tell us this: Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church that she and the Church are inseparable, just as she and Christ are inseparable. Mary mirrors the Church, anticipates the Church in her person, and in all the turbulence that affects the suffering, struggling Church she always remains the Star of salvation. In her lies the true center in which we trust, even if its peripheries very often weigh on our soul.

In the context of the promulgation of the constitution on the Church, Paul VI shed light on all this through a new title deeply rooted in Tradition, precisely with the intention of illuminating the inner structure of the Church's teaching, which was developed at the Council. The Second Vatican Council had to pronounce on the institutional components of the Church: on the bishops and on the Pontiff, on the priests, lay people and religious, in their communion and in their relations; it had to describe the Church journeying on, "clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification ..." ("Lumen Gentium," No. 8).

This "Petrine" aspect of the Church, however, is included in that "Marian" aspect. In Mary, the Immaculate, we find the essence of the Church without distortion. We ourselves must learn from her to become "ecclesial souls," as the Fathers said, so that we too may be able, in accordance with St. Paul's words, to present ourselves "blameless" in the sight of the Lord, as he wanted us from the very beginning (cf. Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 1:4).

But now we must ask ourselves: What does "Mary, the Immaculate" mean? Does this title have something to tell us? Today, the liturgy illuminates the content of these words for us in two great images.

First of all comes the marvelous narrative of the annunciation of the Messiah's coming to Mary, the Virgin of Nazareth. The Angel's greeting is interwoven with threads from the Old Testament, especially from the Prophet Zephaniah. He shows that Mary, the humble provincial woman who comes from a priestly race and bears within her the great priestly patrimony of Israel, is "the holy remnant" of Israel to which the prophets referred in all the periods of trial and darkness.

In her is present the true Zion, the pure, living dwelling-place of God. In her the Lord dwells, in her he finds the place of his repose. She is the living house of God, who does not dwell in buildings of stone but in the heart of living man. She is the shoot which sprouts from the stump of David in the dark winter night of history. In her, the words of the Psalm are fulfilled: "The earth has yielded its fruits" (Psalm 67:7).

She is the offshoot from which grew the tree of redemption and of the redeemed. God has not failed, as it might have seemed formerly at the beginning of history with Adam and Eve or during the period of the Babylonian Exile, and as it seemed anew in Mary's time when Israel had become a people with no importance in an occupied region and with very few recognizable signs of its holiness.

God did not fail. In the humility of the house in Nazareth lived holy Israel, the pure remnant. God saved and saves his people. From the felled tree trunk Israel's history shone out anew, becoming a living force that guides and pervades the world. Mary is holy Israel: She says "yes" to the Lord, she puts herself totally at his disposal and thus becomes the living temple of God.

The second image is much more difficult and obscure. This metaphor from the Book of Genesis speaks to us from a great historical distance and can only be explained with difficulty; only in the course of history has it been possible to develop a deeper understanding of what it refers to.

It was foretold that the struggle between humanity and the serpent, that is, between man and the forces of evil and death, would continue throughout history. It was also foretold, however, that the "offspring" of a woman would one day triumph and would crush the head of the serpent to death; it was foretold that the offspring of the woman -- and in this offspring the woman and the mother herself -- would be victorious and that thus, through man, God would triumph.

If we set ourselves with the believing and praying Church to listen to this text, then we can begin to understand what original sin, inherited sin, is and also what the protection against this inherited sin is, what redemption is.

What picture does this passage show us? The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbors the suspicion that in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom.

The human being lives in the suspicion that God's love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself. Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God.

He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God's level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.

Love is not dependence but a gift that makes us live. The freedom of a human being is the freedom of a limited being, and therefore is itself limited. We can possess it only as a shared freedom, in the communion of freedom: Only if we live in the right way, with one another and for one another, can freedom develop.

We live in the right way if we live in accordance with the truth of our being, and that is, in accordance with God's will. For God's will is not a law for the human being imposed from the outside and that constrains him, but the intrinsic measure of his nature, a measure that is engraved within him and makes him the image of God, hence, a free creature.

If we live in opposition to love and against the truth -- in opposition to God -- then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis.

We call this drop of poison "original sin." Precisely on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one's own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves.

In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being. We think that Mephistopheles -- the tempter -- is right when he says he is the power "that always wants evil and always does good" (J.W. von Goethe, "Faust" I, 3). We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary.

If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us we can see that this is not so; in other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer or wealthier, but harms and belittles them.

This is something we should indeed learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: The person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's puppet, a boring "yes man"; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.

The person who turns to God does not become smaller but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself. The person who puts himself in God's hands does not distance himself from others, withdrawing into his private salvation; on the contrary, it is only then that his heart truly awakens and he becomes a sensitive, hence, benevolent and open person.

The closer a person is to God, the closer he is to people. We see this in Mary. The fact that she is totally with God is the reason why she is so close to human beings. For this reason she can be the Mother of every consolation and every help, a Mother whom anyone can dare to address in any kind of need in weakness and in sin, for she has understanding for everything and is for everyone the open power of creative goodness.

In her, God has impressed his own image, the image of the One who follows the lost sheep even up into the mountains and among the briars and thornbushes of the sins of this world, letting himself be spiked by the crown of thorns of these sins in order to take the sheep on his shoulders and bring it home.

As a merciful Mother, Mary is the anticipated figure and everlasting portrait of the Son. Thus, we see that the image of the Sorrowful Virgin, of the Mother who shares her suffering and her love, is also a true image of the Immaculate Conception. Her heart was enlarged by being and feeling together with God. In her, God's goodness came very close to us.

Mary thus stands before us as a sign of comfort, encouragement and hope. She turns to us, saying: "Have the courage to dare with God! Try it! Do not be afraid of him! Have the courage to risk with faith! Have the courage to risk with goodness! Have the courage to risk with a pure heart! Commit yourselves to God, then you will see that it is precisely by doing so that your life will become broad and light, not boring but filled with infinite surprises, for God's infinite goodness is never depleted!"

On this feast day, let us thank the Lord for the great sign of his goodness which he has given us in Mary, his Mother and the Mother of the Church. Let us pray to him to put Mary on our path like a light that also helps us to become a light and to carry this light into the nights of history. Amen.

[Translation distributed by the Holy See]

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 15/12/2005 23.57]

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 16/12/2005 0.00]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 1/1/2009 8:02 PM]
12/15/2005 11:52 PM
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Ratzigirl kindly posted on the News thread the full text of this message the day it was released last week, but just to keep the major Papal texts together in the same thread, I am re-posting it here.


1 JANUARY 2006


1. In this traditional Message for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of the New Year, I offer cordial greetings and good wishes to men and women everywhere, especially those who are suffering as a result of violence and armed conflicts. My greeting is one filled with hope for a more serene world, a world in which more and more individuals and communities are committed to the paths of justice and peace.

2. Before all else, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Predecessors, the great Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who were astute promoters of peace. Guided by the spirit of the Beatitudes, they discerned in the many historical events which marked their respective Pontificates the providential intervention of God, who never ceases to be concerned for the future of the human race. As tireless heralds of the Gospel, they constantly invited everyone to make God the starting-point of their efforts on behalf of concord and peace throughout the world. This, my first Message for the World Day of Peace, is meant to follow in the path of their noble teaching; with it, I wish to reiterate the steadfast resolve of the Holy See to continue serving the cause of peace. The very name Benedict, which I chose on the day of my election to the Chair of Peter, is a sign of my personal commitment to peace. In taking this name, I wanted to evoke both the Patron Saint of Europe, who inspired a civilization of peace on the whole continent, and Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a ''useless slaughter''(1) and worked for a universal acknowledgment of the lofty demands of peace.

3. The theme chosen for this year's reflection—In truth, peace — expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, promulgated forty years ago at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, stated that mankind will not succeed in ''building a truly more human world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace''.(2) But what do those words, ''the truth of peace'', really mean? To respond adequately to this question, we must realize that peace cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as ''the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder'', an order ''which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice''.(3) As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds ''to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us''.(4)

4. Seen in this way, peace appears as a heavenly gift and a divine grace which demands at every level the exercise of the highest responsibility: that of conforming human history—in truth, justice, freedom and love—to the divine order. Whenever there is a loss of fidelity to the transcendent order, and a loss of respect for that ''grammar'' of dialogue which is the universal moral law written on human hearts,(5) whenever the integral development of the person and the protection of his fundamental rights are hindered or denied, whenever countless people are forced to endure intolerable injustices and inequalities, how can we hope that the good of peace will be realized? The essential elements which make up the truth of that good are missing. Saint Augustine described peace as tranquillitas ordinis,(6) the tranquillity of order. By this, he meant a situation which ultimately enables the truth about man to be fully respected and realized.

5. Who and what, then, can prevent the coming of peace? Sacred Scripture, in its very first book, Genesis, points to the lie told at the very beginning of history by the animal with a forked tongue, whom the Evangelist John calls ''the father of lies'' (Jn 8:44). Lying is also one of the sins spoken of in the final chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, which bars liars from the heavenly Jerusalem: ''outside are... all who love falsehood'' (22:15). Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations. We need but think of the events of the past century, when aberrant ideological and political systems wilfully twisted the truth and brought about the exploitation and murder of an appalling number of men and women, wiping out entire families and communities. After experiences like these, how can we fail to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world. Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet.

6. Peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person, regardless of his or her particular cultural identity. Consequently, everyone should feel committed to service of this great good, and should strive to prevent any form of untruth from poisoning relationships. All people are members of one and the same family. An extreme exaltation of differences clashes with this fundamental truth. We need to regain an awareness that we share a common destiny which is ultimately transcendent, so as to maximize our historical and cultural differences, not in opposition to, but in cooperation with, people belonging to other cultures. These simple truths are what make peace possible; they are easily understood whenever we listen to our own hearts with pure intentions. Peace thus comes to be seen in a new light: not as the mere absence of war, but as a harmonious coexistence of individual citizens within a society governed by justice, one in which the good is also achieved, to the extent possible, for each of them. The truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word. In a particular way, the followers of Christ, recognizing the insidious presence of evil and the need for that liberation brought by the divine Master, look to him with confidence, in the knowledge that ''he committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips'' (1 Pet 2:22; cf. Is 53:9). Jesus defined himself as the Truth in person, and, in addressing the seer of the Book of Revelation, he states his complete aversion to ''every one who loves and practices falsehood'' (Rev 22:15). He has disclosed the full truth about humanity and about human history. The power of his grace makes it possible to live ''in'' and ''by'' truth, since he alone is completely true and faithful. Jesus is the truth which gives us peace.

7. The truth of peace must also let its beneficial light shine even amid the tragedy of war. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, pointed out that ''not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced''.(7) As a means of limiting the devastating consequences of war as much as possible, especially for civilians, the international community has created an international humanitarian law. In a variety of situations and in different settings, the Holy See has expressed its support for this humanitarian law, and has called for it to be respected and promptly implemented, out of the conviction that the truth of peace exists even in the midst of war. International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace. Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples. Its value must be appreciated and its correct application ensured; it must also be brought up to date by precise norms applicable to the changing scenarios of today's armed conflicts and the use of ever newer and more sophisticated weapons.

8. Here I wish to express gratitude to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international humanitarian law. Nor can I fail to mention the many soldiers engaged in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the necessary conditions for peace. I wish to remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council: ''All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and, in carrying out this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace''.(8) On this demanding front the Catholic Church's military ordinariates carry out their pastoral activity: I encourage both the military Ordinaries and military chaplains to be, in every situation and context, faithful heralds of the truth of peace.

9. Nowadays, the truth of peace continues to be dramatically compromised and rejected by terrorism, whose criminal threats and attacks leave the world in a state of fear and insecurity. My predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II frequently pointed out the awful responsibility borne by terrorists, while at the same time condemning their senseless and deadly strategies. These are often the fruit of a tragic and disturbing nihilism which Pope John Paul II described in these words: ''Those who kill by acts of terrorism actually despair of humanity, of life, of the future. In their view, everything is to be hated and destroyed''.(9) Not only nihilism, but also religious fanaticism, today often labeled fundamentalism, can inspire and encourage terrorist thinking and activity. From the beginning, John Paul II was aware of the explosive danger represented by fanatical fundamentalism, and he condemned it unsparingly, while warning against attempts to impose, rather than to propose for others freely to accept, one's own convictions about the truth. As he wrote: ''To try to impose on others by violent means what we consider to be the truth is an offence against the dignity of the human being, and ultimately an offence against God in whose image he is made''.(10)

10. Looked at closely, nihilism and the fundamentalism of which we are speaking share an erroneous relationship to truth: the nihilist denies the very existence of truth, while the fundamentalist claims to be able to impose it by force. Despite their different origins and cultural backgrounds, both show a dangerous contempt for human beings and human life, and ultimately for God himself. Indeed, this shared tragic outcome results from a distortion of the full truth about God: nihilism denies God's existence and his provident presence in history, while fanatical fundamentalism disfigures his loving and merciful countenance, replacing him with idols made in its own image. In analyzing the causes of the contemporary phenomenon of terrorism, consideration should be given, not only to its political and social causes, but also to its deeper cultural, religious and ideological motivations.

11. In view of the risks which humanity is facing in our time, all Catholics in every part of the world have a duty to proclaim and embody ever more fully the ''Gospel of Peace'', and to show that acknowledgment of the full truth of God is the first, indispensable condition for consolidating the truth of peace. God is Love which saves, a loving Father who wants to see his children look upon one another as brothers and sisters, working responsibly to place their various talents at the service of the common good of the human family. God is the unfailing source of the hope which gives meaning to personal and community life. God, and God alone, brings to fulfilment every work of good and of peace. History has amply demonstrated that declaring war on God in order to eradicate him from human hearts only leads a fearful and impoverished humanity toward decisions which are ultimately futile. This realization must impel believers in Christ to become convincing witnesses of the God who is inseparably truth and love, placing themselves at the service of peace in broad cooperation with other Christians, the followers of other religions and with all men and women of good will.

12. Looking at the present world situation, we can note with satisfaction certain signs of hope in the work of building peace. I think, for example, of the decrease in the number of armed conflicts. Here we are speaking of a few, very tentative steps forward along the path of peace, yet ones which even now are able to hold out a future of greater serenity, particularly for the suffering people of Palestine, the land of Jesus, and for those living in some areas of Africa and Asia, who have waited for years for the positive conclusion of the ongoing processes of pacification and reconciliation. These are reassuring signs which need to be confirmed and consolidated by tireless cooperation and activity, above all on the part of the international community and its agencies charged with preventing conflicts and providing a peaceful solution to those in course.

13. All this must not, however, lead to a naive optimism. It must not be forgotten that, tragically, violent fratricidal conflicts and devastating wars still continue to sow tears and death in vast parts of the world. Situations exist where conflict, hidden like flame beneath ashes, can flare up anew and cause immense destruction. Those authorities who, rather than making every effort to promote peace, incite their citizens to hostility towards other nations, bear a heavy burden of responsibility: in regions particularly at risk, they jeopardize the delicate balance achieved at the cost of patient negotiations and thus help make the future of humanity more uncertain and ominous. What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all —whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them— agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.

14. In this regard, one can only note with dismay the evidence of a continuing growth in military expenditure and the flourishing arms trade, while the political and juridic process established by the international community for promoting disarmament is bogged down in general indifference. How can there ever be a future of peace when investments are still made in the production of arms and in research aimed at developing new ones? It can only be hoped that the international community will find the wisdom and courage to take up once more, jointly and with renewed conviction, the process of disarmament, and thus concretely ensure the right to peace enjoyed by every individual and every people. By their commitment to safeguarding the good of peace, the various agencies of the international community will regain the authority needed to make their initiatives credible and effective.

15. The first to benefit from a decisive choice for disarmament will be the poor countries, which rightly demand, after having heard so many promises, the concrete implementation of their right to development. That right was solemnly reaffirmed in the recent General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, which this year celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its foundation. The Catholic Church, while confirming her confidence in this international body, calls for the institutional and operative renewal which would enable it to respond to the changed needs of the present time, characterized by the vast phenomenon of globalization. The United Nations Organization must become a more efficient instrument for promoting the values of justice, solidarity and peace in the world. For her part, the Church, in fidelity to the mission she has received from her Founder, is committed to proclaiming everywhere ''the Gospel of peace''. In the firm conviction that she offers an indispensable service to all those who strive to promote peace, she reminds everyone that, if peace is to be authentic and lasting, it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and the truth about man. This truth alone can create a sensitivity to justice and openness to love and solidarity, while encouraging everyone to work for a truly free and harmonious human family. The foundations of authentic peace rest on the truth about God and man.

16. At the conclusion of this Message, I would like to address a particular word to all believers in Christ, inviting them once again to be attentive and generous disciples of the Lord. When we hear the Gospel, dear brothers and sisters, we learn to build peace on the truth of a daily life inspired by the commandment of love. Every community should undertake an extensive process of education and witness aimed at making everyone more aware of the need for a fuller appreciation of the truth of peace. At the same time I ask for an increase of prayers, since peace is above all a gift of God, a gift to be implored incessantly. By God's help, our proclamation and witness to the truth of peace will be all the more convincing and illuminating. With confidence and filial abandonment let us lift up our eyes to Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace. At the beginning of this New Year, let us ask her to help all God's People, wherever they may be, to work for peace and to be guided by the light of the truth that sets man free (cf. Jn 8:32). Through Mary's intercession, may all mankind grow in esteem for this fundamental good and strive to make it ever more present in our world, and, in this way, to offer a safer and more serene future to generations yet to come.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2005.



(1) Appeal to the Heads of the Warring Peoples (1 August 1917): AAS 9 (1917), 423.

(2) No. 77.

(3) Ibid., 78.

(4) John Paul II, Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 9.

(5) Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations (5 October 1995), No. 3.

(6) De Civitate Dei, XIX, 13.

(7) No. 79.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 6.

(10) Ibid.

© Copyright 2005 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
12/19/2005 10:32 PM
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Yesterday, on his first parochial visit as Bishop of Rome to his old titular church, Santa Maria Consolatrice, in Rome, Pope Benedict discarded a prepared text after reading the initial salutations, and proceeded to deliver his homily extemporaneously (in Italian, obviously). The Vatican Press Office has released the transcript of the homily, and I am providing herewith my translation temporarily, until an official translation comes from the Vatican or from Zenit.

Dear brothers and sisters:

For me it truly is a great joy to be here with you this morning and celebrate the Holy Mass with you and for you. This visit to Santa Maria Consolatrice – the first Roman parish I am visiting since the Lord called me to be Bishop of Rome, is for me a homecoming in a very real and concrete sense. I remember very well that day on October 15, 1977, when I took possession of this as my titular church. Don Ennio Appignanesi was the parish priest, and his vicars were Don Enrico Pomili and Don Franco Camaldo. The ceremonial master assigned to me was Monsignor Piero Marini. And we are all here together again! So for me, it truly is a great joy.

From then on, our reciprocal ties have progressively become stronger, more profound. A bond in our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Eucharistic Sacrifice I have celebrated and whose Sacraments I have administered so many times in this church. A bpnd of affection and friendship, which has truly warned my heart, and warms it even now. A bond which has united me to all of you, especially to your parish priest and to the other priests in the parish.

It is a bond which did not loosen even when I became titular Cardinal of the diocese of Velletri-Segni, and which has acquired a new dimension and more depth now that I am Bishop of Rome, and therefore, your Bishop.

I am also particularly happy that my visit today – as Don Enrico said earlier – takes place in the year when you celebrate the 60th anniversary of the erection of this parish, the 50th anniversary of our dearest Monsignor Pomili’s sacerdotal ordination, and finally, the 25th anniversary of Monsignor Appignanesi’s episcopate. Therefore, a year in which we all have special reasons for giving thanks to the Lord.

Now, I salute affectionately Monsignor Enrico and thank him for the very kind words he said about me. I salute my Vicar, Cardinal Camillo Ruini; Cardinal Ricardo Maria Carles Gordo, who is now the titular cardinal of this Church, and therefore, my successor here; Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, already your much-loved parish priest; the Vice-Regent and Bishop of the eastern sector of Rome, Mons. Luigi Moretti; Mons. Appignanesi, whom we have greeted, and Mons. Maassimo Giustetti, who was your parish vicar.

I also extend an affectionate greeting to your present parish vicars and to the nuns of Santa Maria Consolatrice, much valued collaborators in this parish and true bearers of mercy and comfort in this quarter, especially for the poor and for the children. With the same affection, I greet each of you, all the families of the parish, and those who serve the parish in many different ways.

* * *
[Here begins the extemporaneous portion]

We will now meditate briefly on the beautiful Gospel of this fourth Sunday in Advent, which I consider one of the most beautiful pages in Sacred Scriptures. I would want – in order not to go on too long - to reflect only on three words in this rich Gospel.

The first word I wish to meditate on with you is the Angel’s greeting to Mary. In the Italian translation, the Angel says: “I greet you, Mary.” But the underlying Greek word for the greeting, “Kaire”, means by itself “rejoice”, “be happy.” And here is the first surprise: the greeting used among Jews was “Shalom,”- “Peace.” whereas the greeting used in the Greek world was “Kaire” – “Rejoice.”

It is surprising that the Angel, entering the house of Mary, should greet her with the Greek form “Kaire” – “Rejoice, be happy.” The Greeks, when they read this Gospel 40 years later, could see an important message here: they understood that with the beginning of the New Testament, to which this page from Luke refers, it was also an opening to the world of all peoples, to the universality of the people of God, (a phrase) which from now on, would embrace not only the Jewish people, but the world in its totality, all the peoples of the world. In this Greek salute by the Angel, we see the new universality of the Kingdom of the real Son of David.

But it must be pointed out right away that the words of the Angel to Mary reprise a prophetic promise found in the book of the prophet Sofonia. We find that promise repeated almost word for word in today’s Gospel. The prophet Sofonia, inspired by God, tells Israel: “Rejoice, daughter of Sion; the Lord is with you and takes his dwelling in you.” We know that Mary knew the Sacred Scriptures well. Her Magnificatn is woven out of threads from the Old Testament. We can be certain, therefore, that the Holy Virgin immediately understood that these were the words of the prophet Sofonia addressed to Israel, to the “daughter of Sion” considered to be the dwelling of God.

And so, the surprising thing to Mary is that these words, addressed to all Israel, are now directed specially to her. So it appears clear to her that she herself is the “daughter of Sion” of whom the old prophet spoke, that therefore the Lord had a special mission for her, that she was called to be the true dwelling of God, a dwelling not made of stone, but of living flesh, a living heart, and that God indeed intended to make her, the Virgin, his true temple. What a sign! We can therefore understand how Mary started to reflect with particular intensity on what the Angel’s greeting meant.

But let us consider above all the first word: “Rejoice, be happy.” This is the first word that is heard in the New Testament as such, because the announcement made by the angel to Zachariah about the birth of John the Baptist are words which were uttered on the threshold between the two Testaments.
Only with this dialog that the angel Gabriel has with Mary does the New Testmanet really begin.

We can therefore say that the first word of the New Testament is an invitation to joy: “Rejoice,” “Be happy.” The New Testament is truly “Gospel,” the “Good News” that brings us joy. God is not far from us, unknown, enigmatic, maybe even dangerous. God is near us, so near that he became a baby, and we can address this God with a familiar “you.”

Thus, the Greek world took notice of this news, took profound notice of the joyous news, because for them, it was not clear whether there was a good God or a bad God or simply no God at all. Their religion in those days gave them so many divinities. They therefore felt surrounded by a variety of these gods, one against the other, such that they were always fearful that if they did something in favor of one divinity, another one could take offense and take his vengeance. So they lived in a world of fear, surrounded by dangerous demons, never knowing how to save themselves from these competing forces.

In this world of fear and of darkness, suddenly they hear: “Rejoice, these demons are nothing, there is a true God, and he is good, he loves us, he knows us, he is with us, he is with us so much that he has been made flesh!” This is the great joy which Christinaity announces. To know this God is truly the “good news”, a promise of redemption.

Maybe we Catholics, who have always known this, are no longer surprised, we no longer experience acutely that liberating joy. But if we look at the world today, where God is absent, we will realize that our world too is now dominated by fear and uncertainty: Is it good to be a man or not? Is it good to live or not? Maybe everything is negative? (Such men) live in a world of darkness, in fact; they need to be anesthetized in order to go on living. And so, the words, “Rejoice, because God is with you and with us” are words that truly open up a new age. Dearest ones, with an act of faith, we should accept
again and understand in the depth of our hearts this liberating word, “Rejoice!”

This joy that one receives cannot be kept to oneself; joy should always be shared. Joy must be communicated. Mary immediately set forth to communicate her joy to her cousin Elizabeth. And since she was assumed into Heaven, she distributes joy throughout the world, she has become the great Comforter – our mother, who communicates joy, trust, goodness, and invites us to share the joy around.

This is the true commitment of Advent – to bring joy to others. Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive things which cost money and time. And we can communicate this joy in simple ways – with a smile, with a good deed, with a small act of assistance, with a pardon. Let us bring this joy to others, and the joy we give will come back to us. Let us try, most especially, to bring the joy that is most profound, that of knowing God in Christ. Let us pray that in our lives this liberating joy from God shines through.

The second word that I would like to meditate on is still the Angel’s: “Do not be afraid, Mary,” he said. In fact, she had reason to be afraid: to carry the weight of the world, to be the mother of the universal King, the mother of the Son of God –it was a burden beyond the strength of any human being. But the Angel said, “Do not be afraid! Yes, you will carry God, but God carries you. Do not be afraid!”

This admonition surely penetrated to the depths of Mary’s heart. We can imagine the many different situations in which the Virgin had to come back again and again to those words, had to listen to them again. When Simeon told her: “Your son will be a sign of contradiction, and a sword will pierce your heart” – in those moments when she could have yielded to fear, Mary turns back to the Angel’s words and hears it echo within her: “Do not be afraid, God will carry you.” When later, during his public life, Jesus aroused all sorts of contradictions, and many said of him, “He is mad!”, she thought to herself, “Do not be afraid,” and went on ahead. Finally, when she met her son on the way to Calvary, and later, under the Cross, when her whole world seemed to have crumbled, she hears the Angel’s words again in her heart, “Do not be afraid.” And so, courageously, she stays by her dying son, and sustained by faith, she goes on towards the Resurection, towards Pentecost, towards the founding of a new family, the Church.

“Do not be afraid.” Mary also tells us this. I have already said that we live in a world of fear – fear of misery and of poverty, fear of disease and suffering, fear of being alone, fear of death. We have, to be sure, a well-developed system of social security. But we know that at the moment of deepest suffering, at the moment of ultimate aloneness in death, no insurance can protect us. The only valid insurance at that time will be that which comes from the Lord who will tell us then, “Do not be afraid, I am always with you.” We may fall down, but we will fall into the hands of God, and the hands of God are good.

The third word: At the end of their dialog, Mary answers the Angel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.” In that way Mary anticipates the third invocation in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy will be done.” She says Yes to the grand will of God, a design too great for any human being. But Mary says Yes to the divine will, she places herself within it; with that Yes, she puts her whole existence under the will of God and thus opens the door of the world to God. Adam and Eve with their “No” to God’s will had closed this door.

“Let God’s will be done!” Mary invites us to learn to say Yes, which at times appears most difficult to do. We are tempted to do as we please, but she tells us: “Take courage, say like I did, ‘Thy will be done’, because God’s will is good.” Initially, it may appear like an almost insupportable weight, like a yoke that one cannot possibly carry, but God’s will is never a weight, God’s will gives us wings to soar, and so, we can dare like Mary did to open the doors of our life to God, the doors of this world, by saying Yes to his will, knowing full well that this will is the true good which will lead us to true happiness.

Let us pray to Mary the Comforter, our Mother, the Mother of the Church, so that she may give us the courage to say Yes, and that she give us also the joy of being with God, that she guide us to her Son who is the true Life. Amen.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 20/12/2005 1.07]

12/22/2005 7:03 AM
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After a Christmas concert in his honor by the Sistine Chapel Choir on 12/20/05, the Pope delivered extemporaneous remarks to the boys of the choir and their teachers. His remarks underscored not only his appreciation of sacred music but also the importance he attaches to the celebration of liturgy and the role of music in church liturgy. Herewith, a translation -

Dear singers, teachers and collaborators:

I did not find the time to prepare a speech even if my idea was quite simple: to tell you that these days before Christmas are days to give thanks for gifts received; to give you thanks for all you have given us during the year, for your great contribution for the glory of God and to the joy of men on earth.

On the night that the Savior was born, the angels announced Christ's birth to the shepherds with the words: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to men on earth.” Tradition has been convinced that the angels did not simply speak as men do, but that they sang the news, and that it was a song of celestial beauty, which revealed the beauty of Heaven itself. Tradition is also convinced that a chorus of white voices can let us hear a taste of angelic song. And it is true that in the singing of the Sistine Chapel Choir during the great liturgies, we can sense the presence of heavenly liturgy, the beauty with which the Lord wishes to communicate his joy to us.

In fact, the praise of God needs song. That is why in all the Old Testament- with Moses and with David, up to the New Testament – in the Apocalypse, we hear anew the songs of the celestial liturgy, which offer a lesson for our liturgy in the Church of God.

Therefore, your contribution is essential to liturgy; it is not a marginal ornament, since liturgy by itself requires this beauty, it requires song to praise God and to give joy to those who participate.

For your great contribution I want to say thank you to all, with all my heart. The Pope's liturgy, the liturgy in St. Peter’s, must be the exemplary liturgy for the world. You know that through television and radio, many today throughout the world follow these liturgies. They learn from here, or do not learn, what liturgy is, how liturgy should be celebrated. That is why it is so important, not only that our ceremonial masters teach the Pope how to celebrate liturgy well, but also that the Sistine Chapel Choir be an example of how singing in praise of God should be made beautiful.

I know – since my brother has allowed me to have close experience with the beauty of a choir of white voices – that achieving this beauty requires a lot of commitment and even many sacrifices on your part. You boys must get up early to go to school – I know Roman traffic and I can therefore guess how difficult it is to arrive in time. Then, you have to work hard in order to achieve this perfection, this competence which we have just heard once more.

So for all this, I thank you. Especially since during these holidays, while your other friends are away on vacation trips, you must stay here to sing, sometimes even having to wait an hour or more before you can sing, despite which you are always ready to do your part.

I feel this gratitude every time, and I want to communicate it to you on this occasion. Christmas is the feast of giving. God himself has given us the greatest gift in giving us himself. He became man, he came to us as a baby. God has given us the true gift and in this way, invites us to give as well, to give with our hearts, to give to God and to our neighbor a little bit of ourselves. Even by giving signs of good will, of the will to share joy with others. And so even I have tried to make my thanks visible through some gifts as a sign of that thanks which I cannot say enough with words.
12/24/2005 3:24 AM
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do we already have his message for the Curia? [SM=g27816] [SM=g27816]
12/24/2005 3:28 AM
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No, there is no full translation available yet, but if you check out NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT, the artile by Sandro Magister carries a major excerpt (what the Pope says about Vatican-II) in English translation.
12/24/2005 3:28 AM
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(Sorry- the above post was duplicated inadvertently, so I just erased it here)

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 24/12/2005 3.29]

12/24/2005 4:35 PM
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At noon yesterday, December 23, the Holy Father had a Christmas reception at the Sala Clementina of the Apostolic Palace for the workers who carried out the extensive renovation of the papal apartments last summer. Typically, the Pope turned the occasion into a little catechesis on the nobility of manual labor as exemplified by Jesus before he started his public ministry. It is significant that he received them in the Sala Clementina, the most important reception hall in the Apostolic Palace, where John Paul II first lay in state. Equally significant, he addresses them as "co-workers" (collaboratori e collaboratrici).Herewith, a translation of his impromptu remarks -
Cari Collaboratori e Collaboratrici,

Unfortunately, because of many commitments these days, I have not been able to prepare a speech worthy of the work which you have done, and I beg your parDOn. I can only talk to you, as they say, off the cuff (a braccio), but the words truly come from my heart.

I have only one thing to say. Grazie. But this word, said with full conviction, is a heartfelt Thank you from the depth of my heart. In less than three months, you accomplished an immense task in renovating my apartment. I am convinced – since in Germany I had the experience of having a small house built for me- that elsewhere this job would have taken at least a year or perhaps more. So I have seen how you have worked - and with what dedication, competence and collaboration with the various technical services necessary. For me, it is proof of your interior commitment to work well and to serve the Holy See and the successor of Peter. It is proof of responsible labor.

I can only admire the things you have done, like the beautiful floors. In particular, I love my new study, with its antique ceiling. I feel like I am surrounded by friends, now that the bookcases are up and all my books have arrived. There’s also the infirmary, and so many other things that I cannot list. But even if I have little competence in these things, I have seen how you worked – day and night, almost – in three months with
incredible dedication. I assure you of my profound gratitude and my prayers.

It occurs to me that in the New Testament, the profession of our Lord Jesus before his public life is described with the word “tecton”, which has been traditionally translated as “carpenter” or worker with wood, because at that time, the houses were mainly built with wood. But more than carpenter, the word means “artisan”, one who should be able to do everything necessary in building a house. In this sense, you are colleagues of our Lord, doing the work that He did voluntarily, by his own choice, before announcing his great mission to the world.

The Lord wished to demonstrate the nobility of this kind of work. In the Greek world, only intellectual work was considered worthy of the free man, and manual labor was left to slaves. But Biblibal culture was totally different. Instead, the Creator – who, according to a beautiful image, had made man with his own hands – is shown as the example of someone who works with his hands, and doing so, also works with his mind and with his heart. Man follows the Creator’s example (and works) so that the world that He gave us can be more habitable for us. This appears in Biblibal narration from the start. But finally, and in a powerful manner, the nobility and greatness of manual labor is shown by the fact that Jesus was a tecton, artisan, laborer.

Now, as we approach the feast of Christmas, is the time to say thanks for all this, for your work which encourages me – as you have given everything to your work – in this late stage of my life, to give everything that I can.

I greet your loved ones and for all of you, I impart my apostolic blessing from the heart.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 24/12/2005 17.19]

12/25/2005 4:51 AM
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For those who didn't get to hear his homily on Christmas Eve, here is the text from Vatican Radio.

“The Lord said to me: You are my son; this day I have begotten you”. With these words of the second Psalm, the Church begins the Vigil Mass of Christmas, at which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Redeemer in a stable in Bethlehem. This Psalm was once a part of the coronation rite of the kings of Judah. The people of Israel, in virtue of its election, considered itself in a special way a son of God, adopted by God. Just as the king was the personification of the people, his enthronement was experienced as a solemn act of adoption by God, whereby the King was in some way taken up into the very mystery of God. At Bethlehem night, these words, which were really more an expression of hope than a present reality, took on new and unexpected meaning. The Child lying in the manger is truly God’s Son. God is not eternal solitude but rather a circle of love and mutual self-giving. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But there is more: in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself became man. To him the Father says: “You are my son”. God’s everlasting “today” has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God’s eternal today. God is so great that he can become small. God is so powerful that he can make himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenceless child, so that we can love him. God is so good that he can give up his divine splendour and come down to a stable, so that we might find him, so that his goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas: “You are my son, this day I have begotten you”. God has become one of us, so that we can be with him and become like him. As a sign, he chose the Child lying in the manger: this is how God is. This is how we come to know him. And on every child shines something of the splendour of that “today”, of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield – it shines on every child, even on those still unborn.

Let us listen to a second phrase from the liturgy of this holy Night, one taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah: “Upon the people who walked in darkness a great light has shone” (Is 9:1). The word “light” pervades the entire liturgy of tonight’s Mass. It is found again in the passage drawn from Saint Paul’s letter to Titus: “The grace of God has appeared” (2:11). The expression “has appeared”, in the original Greek says the same thing that was expressed in Hebrew by the words “a light has shone”: this “apparition” – this “epiphany” – is the breaking of God’s light upon a world full of darkness and unsolved problems. The Gospel then relates that the glory of the Lord appeared to the shepherds and “shone around them” (Lk 2:9). Wherever God’s glory appears, light spreads throughout the world. Saint John tells us that “God is light and in him is no darkness” (1 Jn 1:5). The light is a source of life.

But first, light means knowledge; it means truth, as contrasted with the darkness of falsehood and ignorance. Light gives us life, it shows us the way. But light, as a source of heat, also means love. Where there is love, light shines forth in the world; where there is hatred, the world remains in darkness. In the stable of Bethlehem there appeared the great light which the world awaits. In that Child lying in the stable, God has shown his glory – the glory of love, which gives itself away, stripping itself of all grandeur in order to guide us along the way of love. The light of Bethlehem has never been extinguished. In every age it has touched men and women, “it has shone around them”. Wherever people put their faith in that Child, charity also sprang up – charity towards others, loving concern for the weak and the suffering, the grace of forgiveness. From Bethlehem a stream of light, love and truth spreads through the centuries. If we look to the Saints – from Paul and Augustine to Francis and Dominic, from Francis Xavier and Teresa of Avila to Mother Teresa of Calcutta – we see this flood of goodness, this path of light kindled ever anew by the mystery of Bethlehem, by that God who became a Child. In that Child, God countered the violence of this world with his own goodness. He calls us to follow that Child.

Along with the Christmas tree, our Austrian friends have also brought us a small flame lit in Bethlehem, as if to say that the true mystery of Christmas is the inner brightness radiating from this Child. May that inner brightness spread to us, and kindle in our hearts the flame of God’s goodness; may all of us, by our love, bring light to the world! Let us keep this light-giving flame from being extinguished by the cold winds of our time! Let us guard it faithfully and give it to others! On this night, when we look towards Bethlehem, let us pray in a special way for the birthplace of our Redeemer and for the men and women who live and suffer there. We wish to pray for peace in the Holy Land: Look, O Lord, upon this corner of the earth, your homeland, which is so very dear to you! Let your light shine upon it! Let it know peace!

The word “peace” brings us to a third key to the liturgy of this holy Night. The Child foretold by Isaiah is called “Prince of Peace”. His kingdom is said to be one “of endless peace”. The shepherds in the Gospel hear the glad tidings: “Glory to God in the highest” and “on earth, peace...”. At one time we used to say: “to men of good will”. Nowadays we say “to those whom God loves”. What does this change mean? Is good will no longer important? We would do better to ask: who are those whom God loves, and why does he love them? Does God have favourites? Does he love only certain people, while abandoning the others to themselves? The Gospel answers these questions by pointing to some particular people whom God loves. There are individuals, like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon and Anna. But there are also two groups of people: the shepherds and the wise men from the East, the “Magi”. Tonight let us look at the shepherds. What kind of people were they? In the world of their time, shepherds were looked down upon; they were considered untrustworthy and not admitted as witnesses in court. But really, who were they? To be sure, they were not great saints, if by that word we mean people of heroic virtue. They were simple souls. The Gospel sheds light on one feature which later on, in the words of Jesus, would take on particular importance: they were people who were watchful. This was chiefly true in a superficial way: they kept watch over their flocks by night. But it was also true in a deeper way: they were ready to receive God’s word. Their life was not closed in on itself; their hearts were open. In some way, deep down, they were waiting for him. Their watchfulness was a kind of readiness – a readiness to listen and to set out. They were waiting for a light which would show them the way. That is what is important for God. He loves everyone, because everyone is his creature. But some persons have closed their hearts; there is no door by which his love can enter. They think that they do not need God, nor do they want him. Other persons, who, from a moral standpoint, are perhaps no less wretched and sinful, at least experience a certain remorse. They are waiting for God. They realize that they need his goodness, even if they have no clear idea of what this means. Into their expectant hearts God’s light can enter, and with it, his peace. God seeks persons who can be vessels and heralds of his peace. Let us pray that he will not find our hearts closed. Let us strive to be active heralds of his peace – in the world of today.

Among Christians, the word “peace” has taken on a very particular meaning: it has become a name for the Eucharist. There Christ’s peace is present. In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world. The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself. When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the “house of bread”. Christ gives himself to us and, in doing so, gives us his peace. He gives it to us so that we can carry the light of peace within and give it to others. He gives it to us so that we can become peacemakers and builders of peace in the world. And so we pray: Lord, fulfil your promise! Where there is conflict, give birth to peace! Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine! Make us heralds of your peace! Amen.

12/25/2005 8:03 PM
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[Official English translation from the Vatican Press Office]

"I bring you good news of a great joy … for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lk 2:10-11).

Last night we heard once more the Angel’s message to the shepherds, and we experienced anew the atmosphere of that holy Night, Bethlehem Night, when the Son of God became man, was born in a lowly stable and dwelt among us.

On this solemn day, the Angel’s proclamation rings out once again, inviting us, the men and women of the third millennium, to welcome the Saviour. May the people of today’s world not hesitate to let him enter their homes, their cities, their nations, everywhere on earth! In the millennium just past, and especially in the last centuries, immense progress was made in the areas of technology and science. Today we can dispose of vast material resources. But the men and women in our technological age risk becoming victims of their own intellectual and technical achievements, ending up in spiritual barrenness and emptiness of heart. That is why it is so important for us to open our minds and hearts to the Birth of Christ, this event of salvation which can give new hope to the life of each human being.

Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man" (Saint Augustine, Sermo, 185. Wake up, O men and women of the third millennium!

At Christmas, the Almighty becomes a child and asks for our help and protection. His way of showing that he is God challenges our way of being human. By knocking at our door, he challenges us and our freedom; he calls us to examine how we understand and live our lives. The modern age is often seen as an awakening of reason from its slumbers, humanity’s enlightenment after an age of darkness. Yet without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world. For this reason, the words of the Christmas Gospel: "the true Light that enlightens every man was coming into this world" (Jn 1:9) resound now more than ever as a proclamation of salvation. "It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). The Church does not tire of repeating this message of hope reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council, which concluded forty years ago.

Men and women of today, humanity come of age yet often still so frail in mind and will, let the Child of Bethlehem take you by the hand! Do not fear; put your trust in him! The life-giving power of his light is an incentive for building a new world order based on just ethical and economic relationships. May his love guide every people on earth and strengthen their common consciousness of being a "family" called to foster relationships of trust and mutual support. A united humanity will be able to confront the many troubling problems of the present time: from the menace of terrorism to the humiliating poverty in which millions of human beings live, from the proliferation of weapons to the pandemics and the environmental destruction which threatens the future of our planet.

May the God who became man out of love for humanity strengthen all those in Africa who work for peace, integral development and the prevention of fratricidal conflicts, for the consolidation of the present, still fragile political transitions, and the protection of the most elementary rights of those experiencing tragic humanitarian crises, such as those in Darfur and in other regions of central Africa. May he lead the peoples of Latin America to live in peace and harmony. May he grant courage to people of good will in the Holy Land, in Iraq, in Lebanon, where signs of hope, which are not lacking, need to be confirmed by actions inspired by fairness and wisdom; may he favour the process of dialogue on the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in the countries of Asia, so that, by the settlement of dangerous disputes, consistent and peaceful conclusions can be reached in a spirit of friendship, conclusions which their peoples expectantly await.

At Christmas we contemplate God made man, divine glory hidden beneath the poverty of a Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger; the Creator of the Universe reduced to the helplessness of an infant. Once we accept this paradox, we discover the Truth that sets us free and the Love that transforms our lives. On Bethlehem Night, the Redeemer becomes one of us, our companion along the precarious paths of history. Let us take the hand which he stretches out to us: it is a hand which seeks to take nothing from us, but only to give.

With the shepherds let us enter the stable of Bethlehem beneath the loving gaze of Mary, the silent witness of his miraculous birth. May she help us to experience the happiness of Christmas, may she teach us how to treasure in our hearts the mystery of God who for our sake became man; and may she help us to bear witness in our world to his truth, his love and his peace.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 26/12/2005 5.28]

12/30/2005 1:23 PM
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It is worth listening to the midnight homily again- I have done this encouraged by Rocco Palma
and again him
Now I keep it on my hard disc and listen again and again.
Truly uplifting [SM=x40790]
12/30/2005 6:49 PM
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His voice is truly lovely.

12/31/2005 10:13 PM
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Why was it that the only place I could find this story was The Turkish Press?
Apparently, Papa did some emotional reminiscing about John Paul II.

Apologies to Reuters. They had the story too, probably first in fact.

[Modificato da benefan 31/12/2005 22.20]

12/31/2005 10:49 PM
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Benefan - I tried to take notes during the Pope's homily, but he really did not say more about JPII than what the story in the Turkish press reported, which seems to be a wire service report {Well, you found out it was a Reuters report!].

I was debating whether to write a synthesis of the homily - especially since Zenit is not resuming regular reporting till after January 6, and as of now (4:20 pm Eastern) the Vatican site still has not released the text - But it is more difficult to take notes in Italian when he is reading out of a prepared text like that (hard to keep up since I don't take shorthand) than it was when he spoke to the children at the Eucharistic catechesis last October...

The Pope touched on a different topic every paragraph, stressing of course, that, as this was a Te Deum, the whole point was to praise and thank God for all that He has given his church in 2005 and the preceding two centuries of its history...
(on the CTV livecam I can hear sounds of firecrackers now, although there's still 1 hour 40 minutes to go before midnight in the Eternal City)...

His two sentences about John Paul came at the beginning, before he said, "Now it is my turn to offer praise and thanks to the Lord..."

He reminded everyone that, as Vatican-II stressed, the Church lives in Christ and with Christ...Then he made special mention of the Pope's role as Bishop of Rome, to whom representatives of other churches have come to pursue a dialog for "truth and love" and of the men of goodwill who simply want a dialog on the "important values in life"...

Then came his references to the family, recalling not ony JP-II's stress on the importance of the institution but also his own major speech on the subject at St. John Lateran last June...

Then he greeted the religious and civil representatives of Rome present, before going on to special thoughts for "those who are in difficulty," reminding us that "God knows how to turn every thing into good" and that every person is entitled to the "dignity of being a son of God".

He ended by reminding all that tomorrow, 8 days after the birth of Christ, we celebrate the feast of Mary the Mother of
GoD "who gave Jesus her own flesh and blood" [a formulation which really struck me, as I had never heard anyone put it that way before]and invoking the Mother of Life "to help us and teach us to live in Jesus". He ended with a Latin phrase that I wish I could translate (something about eternally holy fruits and numerous glories)....

The homily was followed by a responsorial sequence that repeats the words of the Angelus, and it was at the final "Gloria Patri..." of this sequence, sung by the choir, that Papa, standing at attention, made that beautiful reverential bow...The choir then followed by singing the Magnificat, followed by a magnificent litany (in Italian) to Jesus. Sample line: "You who brought the world the happy news of salvation - Multiply the heralds and disciples who will spread the word..."

Incidentally noted: During the Magnificat, the cameras panned over a huge tapestry of the Nativity scene, starting with cherubs flaoting above the Baby in the manger - and the adorable little cherubs had genitals!!!

I'm still listening to the CTV livecam feed and it looks like in addition to the fireworks, they're also having a pop music concert over a p.a. - Poor Papa has to listen to all that from his bedroom!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 31/12/2005 22.53]

1/5/2006 3:59 AM
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Sandro Magister in a recent blog bemoans the failure of the Vatican Press Office to come out with timely translations of some of the Pope's major statements into the other official languages of the Vatican (after Latin and Italian - French, English and Spanish). Case in point is the Pope's Christmas address to the Curia, one of the most significant ststements of his papcy so far. As of today, the only translation released by the Vatican is in French.

I am posting herewith the English translation made by Asia News,
which is preceded by a news introduction:


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – With an imposing speech to members of the Roman Curia to mark the exchange of Christmas greetings, Benedict XVI today offered to them and the rest of the world a profound and moving letter, touching upon the salient events of this year about to draw to a close:

from the last days of Wojtyla and his “chair of suffering and silence” to questions about the persistence of evil in the world; from the World Youth Day to the rediscovery of faith and adoration among youth; from an evaluation of the Second Vatican Council to an analysis about what is true and false reform in the Church.

There are also important references to dialogue of the Church with the modern world on questions of relativism and freedom of worship, and of the place of faith and mission in the modern, secularized world. A milestone in this pope’s pontificate. We present it in its entirety (translation by AsiaNews).

Dear Cardinals,
venerable brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters!

"Expergiscere, homo: quia pro te Deus factus est homo Arise, man, because God has made himself man for you” (St Augustine, Discourses, 185). With this invitation of St Augustine to grasp the true meaning of the Christmas of Christ, I open my meeting with you, dear collaborators of the Roman Curia, as the Christmas festivities draw nearer.

To each one of you, I extend an affectionate greeting, thanking you for the sentiments of devotion and affection, expressed efficiently by Cardinal Dean, to whom my grateful sentiments go. God became man for us: this is the message which each year spreads from the silent grotto of Bethlehem to the farthest ends of the earth.

Christmas is a feast of light and of peace, it is a day of interior wonder and joy which spreads across the universe because “God made himself man”. From a humble grotto in Bethlehem, the eternal Son of God became a little Child, turning to each one of us: he calls upon us, invites us to be born again with him because, together with him, we can live eternally in communion with the Most Holy Trinity.

With hearts full of joy arising from this awareness, let us go back in our minds to the events of the year which is about to set. Great events which left a deep impact on the life of the Church lie just behind us.

The memory of John Paul II

I think first of all of the departure of our loved Holy Father John Paul II, preceded by a long journey of suffering and gradual loss of speech. No pope has left us a quantity of texts comparable to what he left us: no Pope was previously able to visit the world, as he did, and to talk directly to men of all the continents. But at the end, his was a journey of suffering and silence.

Unforgettable images, which will stay with us forever, recall Palm Sunday when, with a palm branch in his hand and wracked by pain, he stayed at the window and gave us the blessing of the Lord, about to walk towards the Cross. Then the image in his private chapel, holding the Crucifix in his hand, participating in the Via Crucis in the Colosseum, where he had led the procession so many times, bearing the Cross himself. And finally, the mute blessing on Easter Sunday, when we saw through the pain, the promise of the resurrection, of eternal life, shining.

The Holy Father, with his words and actions, gave us great things; but no less important was the lesson he gave us from the school of suffering and silence. In his last book, “Memoria e Identità (Memory and Identity)” (Rizzoli 2005), he left us an interpretation of suffering which is not a theological or a philosophical theory, but the long-matured fruit of his own personal journey of suffering, travelled with the help of faith in the Crucified Lord.

This interpretation, which he elaborated in faith and which gave meaning to his suffering lived in communion with that of the Lord, spoke through his dumb pain, transforming it into a great message. Both at the beginning, and once again at the end of the above-mentioned book, the Pope showed himself to be deeply touched by the sight of the power of evil, which we experienced so dramatically in the century which has just come to a close.

He says in the text: “It was not evil on a small scale… it was an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which made use of state structures to undertake its ill-omened work, an evil set into the system” (page 198). Is evil perhaps invincible? Is it really the ultimate power in history? Precisely because of the experience of evil, the question of redemption became the essential and central question of Pope Wojtyla’s life and thoughts as a Christian.

Is there a limit against which the power of evil is shattered? Yes, there is, answered the Pope in this book of his, as he did in his Encyclical on redemption. The power which limits evil is divine mercy. Divine mercy opposes violence and the posturing of evil – as the “totally other” of God, as the power of God – throughout history. We can say with the Apocalypse that the lamb is stronger than the dragon.

At the end of the book, looking back retrospectively at the attack on 13 May 1981 and even on the basis of the experience of his journey with God and with the world, John Paul II deepened his response further. That which poses limits on the power of evil, the power which ultimately wins over is – this is what he tells us- the suffering of God, the suffering of the Son of God on the Cross:

“The suffering of the crucified God is not only a form of suffering like the others… Christ, suffering for all of us, conferred a new meaning upon suffering, he introduced it in a new dimension, in a new order: that of love… The passion of Christ on the Cross gave a radically new meaning to suffering, he transformed it from within… it is a suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love… Each human suffering, each pain, each infirmity encloses a promise of salvation… Christ is the Redeemer of the world: ‘By his bruises we are healed’ (Is 53, 5)”. (pag. 198 ss.). All this is not merely well-versed theology, but an expression of faith lived and matured in suffering.

Certainly, we need to do all we can to alleviate suffering and to impede the injustice which provokes suffering of the innocents. All the same, we must also do our all so that all men may be able to discover the meaning of suffering, to be thus able to accept their own suffering and to unite it to the suffering of Christ. In this way, it merges with the redeeming love and becomes, as a consequence, a force against the evil of the world.

The answer the world had with the death of the Pope was an overwhelming manifestation of recognition of the fact that in his ministry, he had given himself totally to God for the world: a thank-you for the fact that he, in a world full of hate and violence, taught us once again about love and suffering in the service of others; he showed us, so to speak, the Redeemer and redemption live, and gave us the certainty that, in fact, evil does not have the last word in the world.

The World Youth Day in Cologne

I want to mention, albeit briefly, two other events that Pope John Paul II set in motion. They are World Youth Day (WYD) in Cologne and the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist that brought to a close the Year of the Eucharist that John Paul II himself had inaugurated.

All those who participated in World Youth Day shall cherish it as a great gift. More than a million young people gathered in the city of Cologne, on the Rhine River, and in neighbouring towns. They came to hear the Word of God, pray together, receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, sing and celebrate together, enjoy life, and worship and receive the Eucharistic Lord in the great Saturday evening and Sunday meetings, days filled with joy.

Other than their normal patrolling duties, police had little to do. The Lord had evidently gathered his flock from beyond every border and barrier. In the great communion that we became, he made us feel His presence.

The WYD motto —“We have come to worship Him” — evokes two images which from the start favoured the right approach. First, there was the image of the pilgrim, of man transcending his day-to-day activities, setting out on a journey in search of his essential destination, that of truth and life, that of God.

Two elements stand out in this image of man on a journey in pursuit of his life’s goals. One is an invitation not to see the world around us as just raw material to use but rather as a canvass on which we see the “Creator’s handwriting”, the love and reason that created the world that the universe talks about, which we can perceive if we pay attention, if our inner senses are awaken and perceptive of what is at the core of reality.

Then there is an invitation to listen to the historical revelation which, alone, can offer us the key to understand the silent mystery of creation, showing us the path to the true Master of the world and of history that the poor manger in Bethlehem embodies.

The other image sees man at worship: “We have come to worship Him”. Adoration precedes action or change in the world. It alone can truly free us; it alone can give us the bearings we need to act. In an increasingly rudderless world, threatened by a do-it-yourself attitude, we must focus on adoration.

All those who attended World Youth Day will never forget the striking silence that united and inspired the million or so young people when the Lord of the Sacrament was placed on the altar. Let our hearts retain the images of Cologne for they continue to make themselves felt.

Without mentioning any name in particular, let me thank all those who made possible World Youth Day. Together, let us especially give thank to the Lord because ultimately only He could give us the experience of those days.

The Synod of the Eucharist

The word “adoration” brings us to the second great event that I want to talk about: the Synod of Bishops and the Year of the Eucharist.

With the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia and the apostolic letter Mane nobiscum Domine, Pope John Paul II gave us the essential elements. Through his personal experience of the Eucharistic faith, he also put into practice the teachings of the Church.

Informed by the encyclical itself, the Congregation for Divine Worship published the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum to serve as a practical tool for the correct implementation of the Conciliar Constitution on Liturgy and Liturgical Reform.

Can anything be added to this in terms of doctrine? The Synod did exactly this thanks to the Fathers of the Church; their contributions mirror the richness of Eucharistic life in today’s Church and the inexhaustibility of its Eucharistic faith. Their thoughts shall appear in a post-synodal paper along with Synod’s Propositiones.

I want to stress here once more a point that I mentioned when talking about World Youth Day: the adoration of the Risen Lord who is in the Eucharist as flesh and blood, body and soul, God and man.It is moving to see that the joy of the Eucharistic worship is reawakening throughout the Church and that it is bearing its fruits.

When the liturgy was being reformed, worshiping during and outside mass was seen as unrelated. At the time, some said that the Eucharistic Bread was not offered for contemplation but to be eaten. Yet, in the Church’s experience of prayer this opposition has become meaningless. Did not St Augustine himself say: “. . . nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; . . . peccemus non adorando (Let no one eat this flesh before adoring it; . . . we would sin if we did not adore it” (cf Enarr. in Ps 98: 9 CCL XXXIX 1385).

In fact, we do not just get something out of the Eucharist for it is where people meet and come together. But it is the Son of God who wants to meet and be with us—such union can only occur through adoration. Receiving the Eucharist means adoring He whom we receive. Only this way can we become one with Him. Hence, the development of the Eucharistic adoration in the Middle Ages was the most coherent consequence of the Eucharistic mystery. Only in adoration can the Eucharist be truly received.

The social mission that is in the Eucharist grows out of this personal meeting with the Lord. Its purpose is not only to break down barriers that separate us from the Lord, but also those that divide us amongst ourselves.

The 40th anniversary of the Vatican II Council:
Discontinuity and reform

The last event of the year that I would like to cover on this occasion is the celebration of the conclusion of the Vatican II Council 40 years ago. This memory brings to mind a question: What has been the Council's result? Has it been received properly? What, in how the Council has been received, has been good, what has been insuffiicient or wrong? What is there still to be done?

No one can deny that in large sections of the Church, the Council's reception has been carried out in a rather different manner, without even wanting to apply to what has happened the description that the great doctor of the Church, Saint Basil, gave of the Church's situation after the Council of Nicaea: he compared it to a naval battle in the darkness of a storm, saying among other things:

"Harsh rises the cry of the combatants encountering one another in dispute; already all the Church is almost full of the inarticulate screams, the unintelligible noises, rising from the ceaseless agitations that divert the right rule of the doctrine of true religion... (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX).

It is not a dramatic description such as this that we would want to apply to the post-Council situation, but some of what has happened does reflect itself in it. The question arises: Why has the reception given to the Council so far, in large sectors of the Church, been so difficult?

Well, all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or -- as we would say today -- on its correct hermeneutic, on the right key to interpretation and application. The problems of reception derived from the fact that two contrasting hermeneutics found themselves face to face and battled it out. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On one hand, there is an interpretation that I would like to call "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture"; it was frequently able to find favour among mass media, and also a certain sector of modern theology.

On the other hand, there is the "hermeneutics of reform", of the renewal of the continuity of the single Church-subject, which the Lord has given us: it is a subject that grows in time and develops, remaining however always the same, the one subject of the People of God on their way.

Hermeneutics of discontinuity risk leading to a fracture between the pre-Council and post-Council Church. It asserts that the Council texts as such would still not be the true expression of the spirit of the Council. They would be the result of compromises within which, to reach unanimity, many old and ultimately useless things had to be dragged along and reconfirmed.

It is, however, not in these compromises that the true spirit of the Council would be revealed, but instead in the drive toward newness that underpin the texts: only this would represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from it and in conformity with it, it would be necessary to go forward.

Precisely because the texts would reflect only imperfectly the true spirit of the Council and its novelty, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts, making room for the new, in which the more profound, even though still indistinct, intention of the Council would express itself.

In short: it would be necessary to follow not the Council texts, but its spirit. In this way, of course, a huge margin remains for the question of how then to define this spirit and, as a result, room is made for any whimsicality. With this, however, there is a basic misunderstanding of the nature of a Council as such.

In this way, it is considered as a sort of a constituent assembly, that eliminates an old consitution and creates a new one. But a constituent assembly needs a mandator and them a confirmation on the part of the mandator, that is the people that the constitution must serve.

The Council Fathers did not have such a mandate and no one had ever given one to them; furthermore, no one could have done so, because the Church's essential constitution comes from the Lord and has been given to us so that we can reach eternal life and, starting from this perspective, we are also able to illuminate life in time and time itself.

Bishops, through the Sacrament they have received, are trustees of the Lord's gift. They are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1); as such, they must be found "faithful and wise" (cf Luke 12:41-48). This means they much administer the gift of the Lord in the right way, so that it does not remain hidden in some hiding-place, but bears fruit and the Lord, in the end, can say to the administrator: "Since you have been faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities" (cf Mat 24:14-30, Luke 19:11-27).

This evangelical parable expresses the dynamism of faithfulness, which is of interest in service to the Lord, and it also makes evident how in a Council dynamism and faithfulness must become one.

In opposition to the hermeneutics of discontinuity is the hermeneutics of reform, as was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his speech for the Council's opening, October 11, 1962, and then by Pope Paul VI in the closing speech of December 7, 1965.

I would like to quote Pope John XXIII's well known words in which this hermeneutic is unequivocally expressed when he said that the Council "wishes to transmit doctrine pure and whole, without attenuating or falsifying it", and continues: "Our duty is not only to watch over this precious treasure, as if we were only concerned with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with active will and without fear to this work, which our age demands... It is necessary that this sure and immutable doctrine, faithfully respected, must be deepened and presented in a way that answers the needs of our time. One thing is in fact the deposit of faith, that is the truths contained in our venerated doctrine, and another thing is the way they are enounced, maintaining nevertheless their same meaning and scope" (S. Oec. Conc. Vat. II Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes, 1974, pp. 863-865).

It is clear that this commitment to expressing a particular truth in a new way calls for fresh reflection upon it and a new relationship with it; it is also clear that the new word can mature only if it derives from an aware understanding of the truth expressed and that, on the other hand, the reflection on faith also requires that this faith is lived.

In this sense, the plan proposed by Pope John XXIII was extremely demanding, just as the synthesis of faithfulness and dynamism is demanding. But wherever this interpretation has been the guideline for the reception of the Council, there new life has grown and new fruits have matured. Forty years after the Council, we can ascertain that the positive aspects are greater and more vibrant than they appeared in the years around 1968. Today we can see that the good seed, even if it develops slowly, nevertheless grows, and our profound gratitude for the work carried out by the Council grows along with it.

The Church and the modern world

Paul VI, in his speech for the Council's closing, then indicated another specific motivation for which the 'hermeneutics of discontinuity' could appear to be convincing. In the great debate concerning the human being that characterizes modern times, the Council had to dedicate itself specifically to the subject of anthropology. It had to raise questions on the relationship between the Church and her faith, on the one hand, and man and the modern world on the other. (ibid, pp. 1066 s.).

The question becomes still clearer, if in the place of the generic term of "today's world", we choose another more precise one: the Council had to find a new definition of the relationship between the Church and the modern age.

This relationship started out difficultly with the Galileo trial. It broke completely, when Kant defined "religion within pure reason" and when, in the radical phase of the French Revolution, an image of the state and of man was spread that practically intended to crowd out the Church and faith.

The clash of the Church's faith with a radical liberalism and also with natural sciences that claimed to embrace, with its knowledge, the totality of reality to its outmost borders, stubbornly setting itself to make the "hypothesis of God" superfluous, had provoked in the 19th century under Pius IX, on the part of the Church, a harsh and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern age.

Thus, there were apparently no grounds for an positive and fruitful agreement, and drastic were also the refusals on the part of those who felt they were the representatives of the modern age. However, in the meantime, the modern age also had its development.

It was becoming clear that the American Revolution had offered a model of the modern state that was different from that theorized by the radical tendencies that had emerged from the second phase of the French Revolution. Natural sciences began, in a more and more clear way, to reflect their own limits, imposed by their own method which, though achieving great things, was nevertheless not able to comprehend the totality of reality. Thus, both sides began to progressively open up to each other.

In the period between the two world wars and even more after the Second World War, Catholic statemen had shown that a modern lay state can exist, which nevertheless is not neutral with respect to values, but lives tapping into the great ethical fonts of Christianity. Catholic social doctrine, as it developed, had become an important model between radical liberalism and the Marxist theory of the state.

Natural sciences, which would unreservedly profess to its own method in which God had no access, realized ever more clearly that this method was not comprehensive of the totality of reality and thus opened once again their doors to God, knowing that reality is greater than naturalistic method and what it can embrace.

It could be said that three tiers of questions were formed that now, at the hour of Vatican II, awaited a response. First and foremost, it was necessary to define in a new way the relationship between faith and modern science; this regarded, however, not only natural sciences, but also historical sciences because, in a certain school, the historical-critical method claimed for itself the final words on the interpretation of the Bible and, demanding full exclusiveness for its understanding of Sacred Scriptures, it opposed, on important points, the interpretation that the faith of the Church had elaborated.

Secondly, it was necessary to define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the modern state, which made room to citizens of various religions and ideologies, acting impartially towards these religions and simply taking on the responsibility for the orderly and tolerant coexistence between citizens and for their freedom to exercise their religion.

To this, thirdly, was connected in a more general way the problem of religious tolerance -- a question that called for a new definition of the relationship between Christian faith and religion in the world. In particular, in the face of the recent crimes of the National-Socialist regime and, in general, in a retrospective look on a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.

These are all important subjects upon which we cannot now dwell much here. It is clear that in all these sectors, which together are one problem, some discontinuities would emerge. Although this may not have been fully appreciated at first, the discontinuities that did emerge — notwithstanding distinct concrete historical situations and their needs — did prevent continuity at the level of principles.

The nature of true reform lies in this combination of multi-levelled continuity and discontinuity. In this process of change through continuity we had to learn how to understand better than before that the Church’s decisions about contingent matters — for example, about actual forms of liberalism or liberal interpretations of the Bible — were necessarily themselves contingent because related to a reality itself changeable.

We had to learn how to recognise that in such decisions only principles express what is lasting, embedded in the background and determining the decision from within. The concrete forms these decisions take are not permanent but depend upon the historical situations. They can therefore change.

Thus, for example, with freedom of religion seen as expressing mankind’s inability to find truth, relativism becomes the canon. From being a social and historical necessity it is incorrectly elevated to a metaphysical level that loses its true meaning. It therefore becomes unacceptable to those who believe that mankind can reach the truth of God and, based on truth’s inner dignity, is related to such knowledge.

This is completely different from viewing freedom of religion as a necessity that human coexistence requires or even seeing it as an inherent consequence of the truth that such freedom cannot be imposed from the outside but must come from a conviction from within.

By adopting a decree on religious freedom, the Second Vatican Council recognised and made its own an essential principle of the modern state. And in doing so, it reconnected with the wider heritage of the Church.

The Church itself is conscious that it is fully in sync with the teachings of Jesus (cf Mt, 22: 21), the Church of the early martyrs, and with all the martyrs.

Although the early Church dutifully prayed for emperors and political leaders as a matter of fact (cf 1 Tm, 2: 2), it refused to worship them and thus rejected the state religion.

In dying for their faith in the one God revealed in Jesus Christ, the martyrs of the early Church also died on behalf of freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own religion. No state can impose any religion; instead, religion must be freely chosen with the grace of God and in freedom of conscience.

A missionary Church required to proclaim its message to all the nations must commit itself to freedom of religion. It must pass on the gift of truth that exists for all and at the same time reassure nations and governments that it does not want to destroy their identities and cultures. It must show that it brings an answer they intimately expect. This answer is not lost among the many cultures, but instead enhances unity among men and thus peace among nations.

By defining in a new way the relationship between the faith of the Church and some essential elements of modern thinking, the Second Vatican Council revised and even corrected some past decisions. But in an apparent discontinuity it has instead preserved and reinforced its intimate nature and true identity.

The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic both before and after the Council, throughout time. It “presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes (cf Lumen gentium, 8).

The Church, a sign of contradiction

Yet those who expected that with this fundamental ‘Yes’ to the modern age, all tensions would melt away, and that this 'openness to the world' would render everything harmonious, underestimated the inner tensions and contradictions of the modern age.

Given man’s new power over himself and over matter, these dangers have not disappeared; instead, they have acquired a new dimension. We can clearly illustrate this by looking at current history.

In our time too, the Church remains a ‘sign of contradiction’ (Lk, 2: 34) and for this reason in 1976, Pope John Paul II, then a cardinal, gave it as the title to the Spiritual Exercises he preached to Pope Paul VI and the Roman curia.

The Council could not abolish this Gospel contradiction in the face of the dangers and errors of mankind. What it did do was put aside wrong or superfluous contradictions in order to present to our world the requirements of the Gospel in all its greatness and purity.

The steps taken by the Council towards the modern age—which has been loosely presented as “openness to the world”—belong ultimately to the endless problem of the ever changing relationship between faith and reason.

Undoubtedly, the Council faced situations that existed before. In his first Epistle, St Peter urged Christians to be ready to answer (apo-logia) anyone who asked them the logos, the reason for their faith (cf 3: 15).

This meant that biblical faith had to interact with and relate to Greek culture, learning how to recognise, by interpreting distinctions as well as through contact and affinity with the latter, the one God-given reason.

When Medieval Christianity, largely schooled in the Platonic tradition, came into contact with Aristotle’s ideas via Jewish and Arab philosophers in the 13th century, faith and reason almost became irreconcilable. But St Thomas Aquinas was especially able to find a new synthesis between faith and Aristotelian philosophy. Faith could relate in a positive manner with the dominant notions of reason of the time.

The exacting disputes between modern reason and Christian faith, which started off on the wrong foot with Galileo’s trial, went through several phases. But by the time the Second Vatican Council was convened new thinking was possible.

The new approach found in the conciliar papers sets out guidelines but also the essential direction so that the dialogue between faith and reason, very important nowadays, has found its orientation in Vatican II. This dialogue must now be developed with the open-mindedness and clear understanding that the world rightly expects from us at this point in time.

We can look back with gratitude to the Second Vatican Council. If we read and accept it guided by a correct interpretation, it can become a great force in the ever necessary renewal of the Church.

A word about April 19

Finally, perhaps I should mention April 19 of this year, when, despite my fears, the College of Cardinals elected me as successor to Pope John Paul II and, as Bishop of Rome, successor to St Peter. The tasks that the office entails are beyond what I could have imagined myself capable of. Only by placing my trust in God was I able to obey and say “Yes” to this choice. Now as then, I call on all of you that your prayers may be my strength and support.

Let me also thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have embraced me and still do with a lot of trust, kindness and understanding, and who accompany me every day with their prayers.

Christmas is almost upon us. God our Lord did not use the outer trappings of power against the threats of History as we men do in keeping with the norms of our world and might have expected from Him.

He wields the weapon of kindness; revealed Himself as a babe in a manger; and so uses His power against the destructive might of violence. Thus, He saves us and shows us what He saves.

This Christmas, let us meet Him full of trust as did the shepherds and the Wise Men from the East. Let us call on Mary to lead us to the Lord. Let us call on Him to shine His face upon us. Let us call on Him to defeat the violence of this world and let us experience the power of kindness.

It is with these feelings that I impart on all of you a heartfelt Apostolic blessing.

1/6/2006 3:54 PM
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HOMILY ON 1/6/06
Until Zenit or the Vatican Press Office itself issue an official translation of the Pope's homily today at the Mass of the Epiphany, here is a translation of the Italian text released by the Vatican Press Office -

Dear sisters and brothers!

The light which shone the night of Christmas to illuminate the grotto in Bethlehem, where Mary, Joseph and the shepherds remained in silent adoration, shines today and is seen by all. The Epiphany is a mystery of light, represented symbolically by the star that guided the Magi.

But the true source of light, the “sun that arises from on high” (Lk 1,78) is Christ. In the mystery of Christmas, Christ’s light radiates on earth, spreading itself in concentric circles. First on the Holy Family of Nazareth: the Virtgin Mary and Joseph are illuminated by the divine presence of the Baby Jesus. The light of the Redeemer shows itself next to the shepherds of Bethlehem, who, having been informed by the Angel, run right away to the grotto and there find the “sign” that was announced to them: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger (cfr Lk 2,12). The shepeherds, together with Mary and Joseph, represent the “rest of Israel”, the poor, to whom the Good News has been announced. The brilliance of Christ finally reaches the Magi, who represent the “first fruits” among the pagans (gentiles).

The palaces of power in Jerusalem remain in darkness, there where the news of the Messiah’s birth had been brought, paradoxically, by the Magi, where it gave rise not to joy but to fear and hostile reactions. Mysterious divine design! - “the light came to the world, but men preferred the darkness to the light, ebcause their works were evil” (Jn 3, 19).

But what is this light? Is it merely a suggestive metaphor, or does a reality correspond to this image? The apostle John writes in his first letter: “God is light, and in him there are no shadows” (1 Jn, 1.5); and later, he adds: “God is love.” These two statements, taken together, help us to understand better: the light which came forth at Christmas, which now shines before men, is the love of God, revealed in the person of the Word made flesh.

Attracted by this light, the Magi came from the East. In the mystery of the Epiphany, therefore, alongside an outward movement of radiation, there is also a movement of attraction towards the center, which completes a movement written down in the Old Testament.

The source of such dynamism is God, One in Substance and Three Persons, who attracts everything and everyone to him. The Person of the Incarnate Word presents himself as the principle of reconciliation and universal recapitulation )cfr Ef 1,9-10). He is the final end of history, the point of arrival of an “exodus”, of a providential way of redemption, which culminated in his death and resurrection.

Because of this, to observe the solemnity of the Epiphany, the liturgy provides the so-called “Announcement of Easter”. The liturgical year, in fact, summarizes the entire arch of the story of salvation, at the center of which is “the Triduum of the Lord crucified, buried and resurrected.”

In the liturgy of Christmastime, a verse from Psalm 97 recurs frequently like a refrain: “The Lord has shown his salvation, to the eyes of the people he has revealed his justice” (v. 2). They are words which the Church uses to underline the “epiphanic” dimension of the Incarnation: the Son of God becoming Man, his entrance into history, the culminating moment of God’s self-revelation to Israel and all mankind. In the Baby of Bethlehem, God has shown himself humbly in “human form”, in the “condition of a servant”, indeed as the crucified one (cfr Fil 2,6-8). This is the Christian paradox.

It is precisely this “hiding himself" that constitutes the most eloquent “manifestation” of God: The humility, the poverty, the very ignominy of the Passion let us know who God truly is.
The face of the Son faithfully reveals that of the Father. That is why the mystery of Christmas is, so to speak, all an “epiphany.” The manifestation to the Magi does not add
anything to God’s design, but it reveals a lasting and constituitive dimension, that is, that the gentiles are called –through and in Jesus Christ – to take part in the same legacy, to be part of the same body that participates in the (God’s) promise (to Israel) through the gospel. (Ef 3,6).

At a superficial glance, God’s loyalty to Israel and his manifestation to the gentiles can appear two aspects that are quite different: they are really two sides of a coin. In fact, according to Scriptures, it is precisely in keeping faith with his pact of love with the people of Israel that God reveals his glory even to other peoples. “Grace and loyalty”(Ps 88,2),
“mercy and truth” (Ps 84,11), are contained in the glory of God, they are his “name”, destined to become known and to be blessed by men of every language and nation.

But this “content” is inseparable from the “method” which God chose to reveal himself, that is, of absolute faith to the alliance, which reaches its peak in Christ. The Lord Jesus is, at the same time and inseparably, “light to illumine the gentiles, and glory of his people Israel” (Lk 2,32), as the old man Simeon exclaimed, inspired by God, holding the Baby in his arms when his parents presented him at the temple.

The light that illumines the gentiles – the light of the Epiphany – comes from the glory of Israel, the glory of the Messiah - born, in accordance with the Scriptures, in Bethlehem, “city of David” (Lk 2,4).

The Magi adored a simple Baby in the arms of his Mother Mary, because they recognized in him the source of the double light that had guided them: the light of the star and the light of Scriptures. They recognized in him the King of the Jews, glory of Israel, but also the King of all peoples.

In the liturgical contezt of the Epiphany, the mystery of the Church and its missionary dimension are also manifested. The Church is called to make the light of Christ shine in the world, reflecting it in herself as the moon reflects the light of the sun. The Church is the fulfillment of ancient prophecies referring to the holy city of Jerusalem, as in the wondrous words of Isaiah that we heard earlier: “Arise, clothed in light, so that your light may come will walk toward your light, kings towards the splendor of your source” (Is 80,1-3).

Christ’s disciples should achieve this: taught by Him to live according to the Beatitudes, they should attract, through love, all men towards God: “And so your light will shine before men, because they see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5, 16). Listening to these words of Jesus, we, members of the Church, cannot but be aware of all the inadequacies of our human condition, which is marked by sin. The Church is holy, but made up of men and women with their limitations and errors. Christ, and only He, in giving us the Holy Spirit, can transform our misery and renew us constantly. He is the light of the people, lumen gentium, who has chosen to illuminate the world through his Church )cfr Conc, Vat. II, Cst. Lumen gentium, 1).

“How can this come about?” we ask, in the same words that the Virgin addressed to the archnagel Gabriel. It is she, Mother of Christ and of the Church, who offers us a reply: with her example of total submission to the will of God – “fiat mihi secundum verbun tuum”, “Be it done unto me according to they word” (Lk 1,38). She teaches us to be the “epiphany” of the Lord, in opening our hearts to the power of grace, and in loyal adherence to the words of his Son, light of the world and the ultimate goal of history.

Let it be so! (Cosi sia!)*

*The Pope uses the Italian phrase, instead of the usual Amen to end his homily.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 06/01/2006 16.56]

1/6/2006 4:18 PM
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Until Zenit or the Vatican Press Office comes out with an official translation of the Pope's message at Angelus today,
here is a translation of the Italian text released by the Vatican Press Office-


We celebrate today the Epiphany of the Lord, that is, his manifestation to the gentiles, represented by the Magi, mysterious personages who came from the East, as related to us in the Gospel according to Matthew (Mt 2,1-12).

The adoration of Jesus by the Magi was immediately recognized as the fulfillment of Scriptural prophecies: “People will walk in your light” – we read in the book of Isaiah – “Kings towards your source… bringing gold and incense and prclaiming the glories of the Lord" (Is 60,3,6). The light of Christ, which was contained in the grotto of Bethlehem , now expands in all of its universal reach.

My thoughts go particularly to our beloved brothers and sisters of the Oriental Churches who, following the Julian calendar, celebrate Christmas today. To them I send my most cordial wishes of peace and of God’s goodness.

Also today, one thinks spontaneously of World Youth Day. Last August, more than a million youth gathered in Cologne with the theme “We have come to adore him” (Mt 2,2), the words of the Magi referring to Jesus. How many times did we hear and repeat those words! Now we cannot hear them without going back spiritually to that memorable event which represented a true “epiphany.” In fact, the pilgrimage of the youth, in its most profound dimension, can be seen as an itinerary guided by the light of a “star”, by the light oif faith.

Today, I extend to the whole world the message which I addressed at that time to the youth who were gathered along the banks of the Rhine: “Open your hearts to God” – I said then and I repeat today to everyone – “let yourselves be surprised by Christ.! Open the doors of your freedom to his merciful love! Disclose your joys and your pains to Christ, allowing him to illuminate your mind and touch your hearts with his grace.”

I wish that the entire Church could breathe, as in Cologne, the atmosphere of “epiphany” and of authentic missionary commitment awakened by Christ’s manifestation as light of the world, sent by God the Father to reconcile and unify humanity through the power of love.

In this spirit, let us pray fervently for the full unity of all Christians, so that their witness may become a ferment for communion in the entire world. Let us invoke the intercession of Mary most holy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 06/01/2006 16.54]

1/9/2006 2:13 PM
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The Vatican Press Office has released a transcript of the Pope's extemporaneously homily delivered in Italian yesterday at the Mass on the Solemnity of the Baptism of Jesus, when he also performed his first baptisms as Pope. Here is a translation-

Dear parents, godfathers and godmothers,
Dear brothers and sisters!

What happens in Baptism? What do we expect from Baptism? You answered this at the threshold of this Chapel: we hope for eternal life for our children. This is the purpose of Baptism. But how is it to be realized? How can Baptism give eternal life? What is eternal life?

It can be said in very simple words: we hope that our children will have a good life, the true life, happiness even in a future as yet unknown. We are in no position to assure them this gift over the course of an unknown future and so, we turn to the Lord to grant us that gift.

To the question: “How will this happen?” we can give two answers. The first: In Baptism, every baby joins a company of friends who will never abandon him in life and in death, because this company of friends is the family of God, which carries the promise of eternity. This company of friends, this family of God, of which the baby now becomes part, will always be with him, even in days of suffering, in the dark nights of life; it will give him solace, comfort, life.

This company, this family, will give him the promise of eternal life. Words of light which respond to the great challenges of life and give the right direction on the road to take. This company offers the child solace and comfort, the love of God, even on the threshold of death, the dark valley of death. It will give him friendship, it will give him life. This absolutely reliable company will never disappear. None of us knows what will happen on our planet, in our Europe, in the next 50, 60, 70 years. But we can be sure of one thing: The family of God will always be there, and whoever belongs to this family will never be alone, he will always have the friendship of Him who is life itself.

So we come to the second answer. This family of God, this company of friends, is eternal, because it is a communion with him who triumphed over death, who has in his hands the keys of life. Being in this company, in the family of God, means being in communion with Christ, who is life and gives eternal love beyond death. And if we can say that love and truth are the springs of life, that they are life - because a life without love is not life – we can say that this fellowship with Him who is the true life, with him who is the sacrament of life, will answer your expectations and your hopes. Yes, Baptism brings us into communion with Christ and therefore gives life. Thus we have interpretated the first dialog that we had here, at the threshold of the Sistine Chapel.

After the blessing of the water, there will be a second dialog of great importance. This is what it contains: Baptism, as we have seen, is a gift, the gift of life. But a gift should be received, it should be lived. A gift of friendship implies a Yes to the friend and a No to whatevere is incompatible with this friendship, to whatever is incompatible with living within the family of God, with true life in Christ.

So, in this second dialog, you get to say Yes three times and No three times. In saying No, you renounce all temptations, sin, the devil. We know these things well, but perhaps because we have heard them too many times, they have ceased to tell us anything much. Now let us try to see more deeply what is contained in this No. What are we saying No to? Only that way can we understand what we are saying Yes to.

In the early Church, these 3 Nos were summarized in a phrase which was well understood by all men at that time: one renounced whas was called ‘pompa diabuli’ – that is, to the promise of an abundant life, but of an appearance of life that appeared to come from the pagan world, from its liberties, from its way of life which depended only on what gave pleasure. It was therefore a No to those spectacles in which death, cruelty, violence, had become entertainment. Let us think of what took place in the Colosseum, or here in the gardens of Nero, where men were set on fire like living torches. Cruelty and violence had become a cause for entertainment, a true perversion of joy, of the true sense of life. This ‘pompa diabuli’. this anti-culture of death was a perversion of joy, it was a love of lying, of fraud, it was abuse of the body as merchandise and commerce.

And if we think about it, we can say that even in our time it is necessary to say No to the widely dominant culture of death. An anti-culture which manifests itself, for example, in drugs, in the escape from the real to the illusory, towards a false happiness which is expressed in lies, in tricks, in injustice, in a rejection of the other, of solidarity and of responsibility for the poor and the suffering; (an anti-culture) which is expressed in a sexuality that has become purely entertainment without responsibility, which becomes an ‘objectification’, so to speak, of man, who is no longer considered a person worthy of personal love that calls for loyalty, but is turned into merchandise, a mere object.

To this promise of apparent happiness, to this ‘pompa’ of an apparent life which is really only an instrument of death, to this anti-culture, we say No, so we can nurture the culture of life.

Therefore, the Christian Yes, from ancient times to our day, is a big Yes to life. This is our Yes to Christ, a Yes to the victor over death and a Yes to life in time and in eternity.

Just as in this baptismal dialog, No is articulated three times, so also Yes is articulated in three adherences:
Yes to the living God, that is to God the Creator, to a creative force who gives sense to the cosmos and to our life; Yes to Christ, that is, a God who has not remained hidden but who has a name, who speaks to us, who is flesh and blood; to a concrete God who gives us life and shows us the way of life; and Yes to the communion of the Chruch, in which Christ is the living God, who entered into our time, enters into our creed, enters into our daily life.

We can even say that the face of God, who makes up this culture of life, the object of our big Yes, is expressed in the Ten Commandments, which are not a set of prohibitions, of “don’ts”, but present in fact a grand vision of life. They constitute a Yes to a God who gives sense to living (the first 3 commandments); Yes to the family (4th commandment); Yes to life (5th commandment); Yes to responsible love (6th commandment); Yes to solidarity, to social responsibiity and justice (7th commandment); yes to truth (eight commandment); Yes to respect for our neighbor and for what is due him (ninth and 10th commandments).

This is a philosophy of life, the culture of life, which becomes concrete and practicable and beautiful in communion with Christ, the living Lord, who walks with us in the company of his friends, in the great family of the Church.

Baptism is a gift of life. It is a Yes to the challenge of truly living life, saying No to the attacks of death which present themselves with the mask of life; and it is saying Yes to the great gift of true life, made real in the face of Christ, who gives himself to us first at Baptism and later in the Eucharist.

I have said this as brief comments on the words which in the baptismal dialog convey what is realized in this Sacrament. But beyond the words, we have the acts and the symbols, and I will refer to them briefly.

The first act we have done – the sign of the Cross, which is given as a shield to protect this baby during his life; it is like a signpost for the way of life, because the Cross is the summary of the life of Jesus.

Then we have the elements – water, anointing with oil, the whiterorbes, and the flame of the candle.

Water is the symbol of life. Baptism is a new life in Christ. Oil is the simnbol of strength, of health, of beauty, because it is truly beautiful to live in communion with Christ. And finally, the flame of the candle, as an expression of the truth which shines in the darkness of history, and which tells us who we are, where we came from, where we should go.

Dear godfathers and godmothers, dear parents, dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord today because the Lord is not hidden behind clouds of impenetrable mysery, but as today’s Gospel says, he has opened the heavens, he has shown himself to us, talks to us and is with us; he lives with us and guides us in our life. Let us thank the Lord for this gift and let us pray for our children, so that they may truly have life, the true life, eternal life. Amen

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 09/01/2006 16.08]

1/9/2006 3:39 PM
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The Vatican Press Office has released all official translations of the Pope's traditional New Year message to the diplomatic corps today, along with the original in French. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With joy I welcome you all to this traditional meeting between the Pope and the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. After our celebration of the great Christian feasts of Christmas and Epiphany, the Church continues to draw life from the joy that they brnng: that joy is great, because it arises from the presence of Emmanuel - God with us - but it is also quiet, since it is experienced within the domestic setting of the Holy Family, whose simple and exemplary story the Church relives intimately at this time. Yet it is also a joy that needs to be communicated, because true joy cannot be isolated without becoming attenuated and stifled. So to all of you, Ambassadors, and to the peoples and Governments that you worthily represent, to your beloved families and to your colleagues, I wish Christian joy. May it be the joy of universal brotherhood brought by Christ, a joy that is rich in truthful values and is openly and generously shared; may it remain with you and grow every day of the year that has just begun.

Your Dean, Excellencies, has conveyed the greetings and good wishes of the Diplomatic Corps, finely expressing your sentiments. To him and to you I offer thanks. He also mentioned some of the many grave problems that afflict today’s world. They are of concern to you as also to the Holy See and the Catholic Church throughout the world, which is in solidarity with every form of suffering, with every hope and with every effort that accompanies human history. Hence we feel united as in a common mission, which confronts us with ever new and formidable challenges. Yet we address them with confidence, eager to support one another - each according to his proper responsibility - on our path towards great common objectives.

I spoke of "our common mission". And what is this, if not the mission of peace? The Church’s task is none other than to spread the message of Christ, who came, as Saint Paul writes in the Letter to the Ephesians, to proclaim peace to those who are far away and to those who are near (cf. 2:17). And you, esteemed Diplomatic Representatives of your peoples, according to your statutes (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) you have this among your noble goals: to promote friendly international relations. On this foundation, true peace can develop.

Peace, alas, is hindered or damaged or threatened in many parts of the world. What is the way that leads to peace? In the Message that I delivered for the celebration of this year’s World Day of Peace, I said: "wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace" (no. 3). In truth, peace.

In today’s world, alongside appalling scenes of military conflict, open or latent, or only apparently resolved, one can observe, thank God, a courageous and tenacious effort on the part of many people and institutions in support of peace. Reflecting upon this situation, I would like to offer some thoughts by way of fraternal encouragement, which I will set out in a few simple points.

The first: commitment to truth is the soul of justice. Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy. The lie often parades itself as truth, but in reality it is always selective and tendentious, selfishly designed to manipulate people, and finally subject them. Political systems of the past, but not only the past, offer a bitter illustration of this. Set against this, there is truth and truthfulness, which lead to encounter with the other, to recognition and understandnng: through the splendour which distinguishes it - the splendor veritatis - truth cannot fail to spread; and the love of truth is intrinsically directed towards just and impartial understanding and rapprochement, whatever difficulties there may be.

Your experience as diplomats can only confirm that, in international relations too, by seeking the truth one can identify the most subtle nuances of diversity, and the demands to which they give rise, and therefore also the limits to be respected and not overstepped, in protecting every legitimate interest. This search for truth leads you at the same time to assert vigorously what there is in common, pertaining to the very nature of persons, of all peoples and cultures, and this must be equally respected. And when these aspects of diversity and equality - distinct but complementary - are known and recognized, then problems can be resolved and disagreements settled according to justice, and profound and lasting understandings are possible. On the other hand, when one of them is misinterpreted or not given its due importance, it is then that misunderstanding arises, together with conflict, and the temptation to use overpowering violence.

There seems to me to be an almost paradigmatic illustration of these considerations at that nerve point of the world scene, which is the Holy Land. There, the State of Israel has to be able to exist peacefully in conformity with the norms of international law; there, equally, the Palestinian people has to be able to develop serenely its own democratic institutions for a free and prosperous future.

The same considerations take on a wider application in today’s global context, in which attention has rightly been drawn to the danger of a clash of civilizations. The danger is made more acute by organized terrorism, which has already spread over the whole planet. Its causes are many and complex, not least those to do with political ideology, combined with aberrant religious ideas. Terrorism does not hesitate to strike defenceless people, without discrimination, or to impose inhuman blackmail, causing panic among entire populations, in order to force political leaders to support the designs of the terrorists. No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists’ own blindness and moral perversion.

The commitment to truth on the part of Diplomatic missions, at both bilateral and multilateral level, can offer an essential contribution towards reconciling the undeniable differences between peoples from different parts of the world and their cultures, not only in a tolerant coexistence, but according to a higher and richer design of humanity. In past centuries, cultural exchanges between Judaism and Hellenism, between the Roman world, the Germanic world and the Slav world, and also between the Arabic world and the European world, have enriched culture and have favoured sciences and civilizations. So it should be again today, and to an even greater extent, since the possibilities of exchange and mutual understanding are much more favourable. To this end, what is needed above all today is the removal of everything that impedes access to information, through the press and through modern information technology, and in addition, an increase in exchanges between scholars and students from the humanities faculties of universities in different cultural regions.

The second point which I would like to make is this: commitment to truth establishes and strengthens the right to freedom. Man’s unique grandeur is ultimately based on his capacity to know the truth. And human beings desire to know the truth. Yet truth can only be attained in freedom. This is the case with all truth, as is clear from the history of science; but it is eminently the case with those truths in which man himself, man as such, is at stake, the truths of the spirit, the truths about good and evil, about the great goals and horizons of life, about our relationship with God. These truths cannot be attained without profound consequences for the way we live our lives. And once freely appropriated, they demand in turn an ample sphere of freedom if they are to be lived out in a way befitting every dimension of human life.

This is where the activity of every State, and diplomatic activity between States, comes naturally into play. In the development of international law today, it is becoming increasingly clear that no Government can feel free to neglect its duty to ensure suitable conditions of freedom for its own citizens without thereby damaging its credibility to speak out on international problems. And rightly so: for in safeguarding the rights belonging to the person as such, rights which are internationally guaranteed, one must naturally give primary importance to ensuring the rights of freedom within individual States, in public and private life, in economic and political relations, and in the cultural and religious spheres.

In this regard, you yourselves are well aware that by its very nature the Holy See’s diplomatic activity is concerned with promoting, among other forms of freedom, the aspect of freedom of religion. Unfortunately, in some States, even among those who can boast centuries-old cultural traditions, freedom of religion, far from being guaranteed, is seriously violated, especially where minorities are concerned. Here I would simply recall what has been laid down with great clarity in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fundamental human rights are the same on every latitude; and among them, pride of place must be given to the right to freedom of religion, since it involves the most important of human relationships: our relationship with God. To all those responsible for the life of Nations I wish to state: if you do not fear truth, you need not fear freedom! The Holy See, in calling for true freedom for the Catholic Church everywhere, also calls for that freedom for everyone.

I come now to a third point: commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation. This necessary link between peace and the commitment to truth has given rise to an objection: differing convictions about the truth cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them. In the course of history these differences have caused violent clashes, social and political conflicts, and even wars of religion. This is undeniably true, but in every case it was the result of a series of concomitant causes which had little or nothing to do with truth or religion, and always, for that matter, because means were employed which were incompatible with sincere commitment to truth or with the respect for freedom demanded by truth. Where the Catholic Church herself is concerned, in so far as serious mistakes were made in the past by some of her members and by her institutions, she condemns those mistakes and she has not hesitated to ask for forgiveness. This is required by the commitment to truth.

Asking for forgiveness, and granting forgiveness, which is likewise an obligation – since everyone is included in the Lord’s admonition: let him or her who is without sin cast the first stone! (cf. Jn 8:7) – are indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our gaze is clearly fixed on what the truth demands if we are to cultivate thoughts of peace. Here I would recall the illuminating words of John Paul II: "There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness" (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace). I repeat these words, humbly and with deep love, to the leaders of nations, especially those where the physical and moral wounds of conflicts are most painful, and the need for peace most urgent. One thinks immediately of the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who had a message of peace and forgiveness for all; one thinks of Lebanon, whose people must rediscover, with the support of international solidarity, their historic vocation to promote sincere and fruitful cooperation between different faith communities; and of the whole Middle East, especially Iraq, the cradle of great civilizations, which in these past years has suffered daily from violent acts of terrorism. One thinks of Africa, particularly the countries of the Great Lakes region, still affected by the tragic consequences of the fratricidal wars of recent years; of the defenceless people of Darfur, subjected to deplorable violence, with dangerous international repercussions; and of so many other countries throughout the world which are the theatre of violent conflict.

Surely one of the great goals of diplomacy must be that of leading all parties in conflict to understand that, if they are committed to truth, they must acknowledge errors – and not merely the errors of others – nor can they refuse to open themselves to forgiveness, both requested and granted. Commitment to truth – which is certainly close to their hearts – summons them, through forgiveness, to peace. Bloodshed does not cry out for revenge but begs for respect for life, for peace! May the Peacebuilding Commission recently established by the United Nations Organization respond effectively to this basic demand of mankind, with the willing cooperation of all concerned.

And now, Your Excellencies, I would like to make a final point: commitment to peace opens up new hopes. This is, in some sense, the logical conclusion of everything that I have been saying. Man is capable of knowing the truth! He has this capacity with regard to the great problems of being and actnng: individually and as a member of society, whether of a single nation or of humanity as a whole. The peace, to which he can and must be committed, is not merely the silence of arms; it is, much more, a peace which can encourage new energies within international relations which in turn become a means of maintaining peace. But this will be the case only if they correspond to the truth about man and his dignity. Consequently one cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity. Here my thoughts turn to the limitless multitudes who are suffering from starvation. They cannot be said to be living in peace, even though they are not in a state of war: indeed they are defenceless victims of war. Immediately there come to mind distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need. Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters? Do their children not come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as other children? One thinks also of all those who are driven by unworthy living conditions to emigrate far from home and family in the hope of a more humane life. Nor can we overlook the scourge of human trafficking, which remains a disgrace in our time.

Faced with these "humanitarian emergencies" and other human tragedies, many people of good will, along with different international institutions and non-governmental organizations, have in fact responded. But a greater effort is needed from the entire diplomatic community in order to determine in truth, and to overcome with courage and generosity, the obstacles still standing in the way of effective, humane solutions. And truth demands that none of the prosperous States renounce its own responsibility and duty to provide help through drawing more generously upon its own resources. On the basis of available statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the immense sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. This challenges humanity’s conscience. To peoples living below the poverty line, more as a result of situations to do with international political, commercial and cultural relations than as a result of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, our common commitment to truth can and must give new hope.

Your Excellencies!

In the Birth of Christ, the Church sees the Psalmist’s prophecy fulfilled: "mercy and faithfulness will meet; justice and peace will embrace; truth will spring up from the earth and justice will look down from heaven" (Ps 85:10-11). In his commentary on these inspired words, the great Church Father Augustine, expressing the faith of the whole Church, exclaimed: "Truth has indeed sprung up from the earth: Christ, who said of himself: ‘I am the Truth’, has been born of the Virgin" (Sermo 185).

The Church always draws life from this truth, but at this stage in the liturgical year she finds it a source of special light and joy. And in the light of this truth, may these words of mine stand for you, who represent most of the world’s nations, as an expression of conviction and hope: in truth, peace!

In this spirit, I offer to all of you my heartfelt best wishes for a happy New Year!

[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 10/01/2006 7.29]

1/17/2006 5:23 PM
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"The Catholic Church Is Close to You and Is Your Friend"

Here is a translation by ZENIT of the address Benedict XVI delivered Jan. 16, 2005, at an audience with Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni of Rome and a delegation from the Jewish community.

* * *

Illustrious Chief Rabbi,
Dear Friends: "Shalom!"

"The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation" (Exodus 15:2): This was the song of Moses and of the children of Israel, when the Lord saved his people as they crossed the sea. Isaiah sang in the same way: "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation" (12:2).

Your visit fills me with joy, and it motivates me to renew with you this song of thanksgiving for salvation. The people of Israel have been liberated many times from the hands of their enemies and, in times of anti-Semitism, in the dramatic moments of the Shoah, the hand of the Almighty guided and sustained them. The favor of the God of the Covenant has always accompanied them, giving them the strength to overcome trials. Your Jewish community, present in the city of Rome for more than 2,000 years, can also bear witness to this divine loving attention.

The Catholic Church is close to you and is your friend. Yes, we love you and cannot but love you, "through the Fathers": Because of them you are very dear to us and favorite brothers (cf. Romans 11:28b). Following the Second Vatican Council the reciprocal esteem and trust between us has increased. Ever more fraternal and cordial contacts have developed, becoming even more intense during the pontificate of my venerated predecessor, John Paul II.

In Christ we partake in your heritage of the Fathers, in order to serve the Almighty, "with one accord" (Zephaniah 3:9), grafted onto the one "holy tree" of the people of God. As Christians, this fact makes us aware that, with you, we share in the responsibility of cooperating for the good of all people, in justice and peace, in truth and freedom, in holiness and love.

Keeping in mind this shared mission, we cannot fail to denounce and fight firmly against the hatred and misunderstanding, the injustice and violence that continue to worry the soul of men and women of good will. In this context, how can we not be pained and concerned over the renewal of manifestations of anti-Semitism?

Esteemed Lord Chief Rabbi, a short time ago you were entrusted with the spiritual guidance of the Roman Jewish community; you have assumed this responsibility with the wealth of your experience as scholar and doctor, who have shared the joys and sorrows of so many people. To you I express my heartfelt best wishes for your mission and assure you of both my and my collaborators' esteem and cordial friendship. Many are the needs and challenges of Rome and the world, which invite us to unite our hands and hearts in concrete initiatives of solidarity, "tzedek" (justice) and "tzedekah" (charity). Together, we can work to transmit the torch of the Ten Commandments and of hope to the young generations."

May the Eternal watch over you and over the whole Jewish community of Rome! In this particular circumstance, I take up the prayer of Pope Clement I, invoking the blessings of Heaven upon all of you. "Give us and all who inhabit the earth concord and peace, as you gave our fathers when they invoked your name in faith and truth" ("To the Corinthians" 60,4). "Shalom!"

[Translation by ZENIT]

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