Justice is served through false encounters


Clementina room
Friday December 21, 2007


Gentlemen cardinals,
Venerable confreres in the episcopal and priestly service,
dear brothers and sisters!

In this encounter we already feel the joy of the approaching Christmas festival. I am deeply grateful to you for your participation in this traditional meeting, the special spiritual atmosphere of which the Cardinal Dean Angelo Sodano very nicely awakened by addressing the central theme of the recently published encyclical on Christian hope. I thank him warmly for the warm words with which he expressed the congratulations of the College of Cardinals, the members of the Roman Curia and the Governorate, and the Papal Representatives around the world. Our community is really - as you have emphasized, Mr. Cardinal - a "working community" that is held together with bonds of brotherhood, which are strengthened again by the Christmas festivities. In this spirit, you have usefully not neglected to mention the former members of our Curial Family, who in the past few months have crossed the threshold of time and entered the peace of God: on an occasion like this, closeness is good for the heart of those who have served the Church with us and now stand for us at the throne of God. So thank you, Mr. Cardinal Dean, for your words and thank you to everyone present for the contribution that each and every one of us makes to the fulfillment of the ministry that the Lord has entrusted me.

Another year is coming to an end. I would like to mention the trip to Brazil as the first outstanding event in this period of time that has passed so quickly. Her goal was the meeting with the V General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caraibs and thus an encounter with the Church in the vast Latin American continent. I would like to mention some of the highlights of this trip before I come to the Aparecida conference itself. First of all, I remember the festive evening with the youth in the stadium of São Paulo, on which we all, despite the cold temperatures, united a great inner joy, a lively experience of togetherness and a clear will, out of the spirit of Jesus Christ servants of reconciliation, friends of the poor and suffering, to be messengers of the good that has shone in the Gospel. There are mass rallies that only act like self-affirmation; in which one only lets oneself sink into the delirium of the rhythm and the sounds while enjoying oneself. But here the self was just opening; the Togetherthat formed spontaneously among us that evening, carried something for each other. It was not an escape from everyday life, but rather gave strength to accept it anew. In any case, I would like to thank the young people who organized this evening for her Being with, for her singing, speaking, and praying, which has purified us from within, made us better - better for the others too.

The day on which I was able to solemnly canonize Frei Galvão, a son of Brazil, together with a large number of bishops, priests, religious and believers, will also remain unforgettable. Everywhere we were greeted by his pictures, from which shone the goodness of the heart that he had found in the encounter with Christ and in his religious community. About the final return of Christ in the Parousia we are told that he will come not alone but with all his saints. So every saint who enters history is already a part of the second coming of Christ, a new arrival of the Lord who shows us his image in a new way, makes us certain of his presence. Jesus Christ does not belong to the past and is not caught up in a distant future that we may not ask for. He comes in a great procession of saints. He is always on the way to us with his saints, to our today.

The day in the Fazenda da Esperança is particularly vivid in my memory, when people who have fallen into bondage to drugs find freedom and hope again. When I arrived there, the first thing I did was to see the healing power of God's creation anew. Green mountains surround the wide valley; they point upwards and at the same time give a feeling of security. A source of pure water flows from the tabernacle of the small church of the Carmelites, reminiscent of the Ezekiel prophecy of the water from the temple that detoxifies the salty land and lets trees grow that give life. We must protect creation not only for our purposes, but for itself - as a message from the Creator, as a gift of beauty that is promise and hope. Yes, man needs transcendence. God alone is enough, said Teresa of Avila. If it fails, then man himself must try to break the boundaries of the world, to open up the infinite space for which he was created. The drug becomes a necessity for him. But he soon discovers that this is only a pseudo-infinity - a mockery of the devil of man, one might say. There, in the Fazenda of Hope, the world is really delimited again, the view to God, to the vastness of our life opens up, and so healing takes place. My sincere thanks go to all those who work there, and my heartfelt blessings to all those who seek healing there.

Finally, I would like to remind you of the meeting with the Brazilian bishops in the Cathedral of São Paulo. The festive music that accompanied us will be unforgettable. It made it particularly beautiful that it was performed by poor young people from that city who had come together to form a choir and orchestra. They have given us the experience of beauty, which is one of the gifts through which everyday life in the world is delimited and we hear something greater, which makes us certain of God's beauty. The experience of "effective and affective collegiality", of fraternal communion in common service made us feel the joy of catholicity: across all geographical and cultural boundaries we are brothers with the risen Christ, who called us into his service.

Finally, Aparecida. I was particularly touched by the little figure of the Madonna. Poor fishermen, who repeatedly cast their nets in vain, have pulled them out of the river; this was finally followed by rich fishing. It is the Madonna of the Poor, who herself became poor and small. It is precisely through the faith and love of the poor that around this figure the great pilgrimage church has become, which nevertheless always refers to the poverty of God, to the humility of the mother and is therefore day after day the home and refuge of those who pray and hope. It was good that we met there and worked out the document for this General Assembly there, which is under the theme: »Discipulos e misioneros de Jesucristo, para que en El tengan la vida. «One could, of course, immediately ask: Was this the right topic at this historic hour of ours? Wasn't it too much of an inward turn at a moment when the great challenges of history, the pressing questions of justice, peace and freedom demand the full commitment of all people of good will, especially Christianity and the Church? Shouldn't these questions have been asked instead of going back to the inner world of faith?

Let us put this objection aside for the time being. Before answering this, it is necessary to properly understand the subject itself in its true meaning; when this happens, the answer to the objection is self-evident. The target word of the subject is: finding life - real life. The topic assumes that this goal, on which everyone can probably agree, will be achieved in the discipleship of Jesus Christ as well as in the commitment to his word and his presence. The Christians in Latin America and with them all over the world are therefore first and foremost invited to become more "disciples of Jesus Christ" again, which we actually already are through baptism and yet have to become new again and again in the living appropriation of the gift of this sacrament . To be a disciple of Christ - what does that mean? Well, that means first: get to know him. How does that happen? It is an invitation to listen to him speaking to us in the word of the Holy Scriptures, how he addresses us and approaches us in the common prayer of the Church and in the sacraments, as in the testimony of the saints. One can never get to know Christ only theoretically. One can know everything about the Holy Scriptures with great learning without having met them. Getting to know him includes going along with him, entering into his attitudes, like that Philippians letter says (2.5). St. Paul briefly describes these attitudes as follows: To have love, to be one soul with one another (sympsychoi), to be in harmony, to do nothing out of ambition and boasting, to be concerned not only with one's own well-being but that of the other (2.2–4). Catechesis can never be just intellectual instruction; it must also be an exercise in communion with Christ, an exercise in humility, justice and love. Only in this way do we go on his way with Jesus Christ, only in this way does the eye of our heart open; only in this way do we learn to understand the scriptures and do we encounter it. Encountering Jesus Christ requires listening, requires answering in prayer and in doing what he tells us. By getting to know Christ, we get to know God, and only from God do we understand man and the world, which otherwise remains a pointless question.

Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is therefore a way of education for our true being, for being human. In the Old Testament, the basic attitude of the person who lives God's Word was in the term Zadik - the righteous - in summary: He who lives according to the word of God becomes a righteous; he does and lives righteousness. In Christianity, the attitude of the disciples of Jesus Christ was then formulated in another word: the believer. Faith encompasses everything; being with Christ and with his righteousness is now expressed together in this word. In the faith of Christ we receive righteousness and live it ourselves, pass it on. The Aparecida document concretizes all this by speaking of the good news about human dignity, about life, about the family, about science and technology, about human work, about the universal destination of the earth's goods and ecology: dimensions in which our righteousness unfolds, faith is lived and the challenges of the time are answered.

The disciple of Jesus Christ must also be a "missionary", messenger of the Gospel, as this document tells us. Here, too, an objection arises: Should we still "missionize" today? Shouldn't all religions and world views live together peacefully and try to do what is best for humanity together, each in his own way? It is undisputed that we should all live and work together in tolerance and respect. The Catholic Church is strongly committed to this and, with the two meetings in Assisi, has also set clear signs in this direction, which we took up again this year at the meeting in Naples. In this context I would like to mention the letter that 138 Muslim religious leaders kindly sent me on October 13th, to testify to me of their common commitment to the promotion of peace in the world. In my reply, I was pleased to express my full approval of these noble intentions, while at the same time stressing the urgency of concerted efforts to uphold the values ​​of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation. The unanimous recognition of the existence of a single God, who is the wise Creator and general judge of the behavior of everyone, is the prerequisite for joint action to protect effective respect for the dignity of every human being in order to build a more just and solidary society.

But does this will to dialogue and cooperation mean at the same time that we can no longer pass on the message of Jesus Christ, no longer present this call and his hope to people and the world? He who has a great knowledge, who has found great joy, has to pass it on, cannot keep it to himself at all. Such great gifts are never meant for one alone. There is a great light to us in Jesus Christ, the A great light has come up: we are not allowed to put it under a bushel, but have to lift it on the candlestick so that it shines for everyone in the houseMt 5.15). Saint Paul was restless on the way with the gospel. He felt that he was under a "compulsion" to preach the gospel Cor 9:16) - not so much out of fear of salvation for the individual unbaptized who have not yet been reached by the Gospel, but because he knew that history as a whole could not come to an end until the fullness (pléroma) the peoples would have entered the gospel (Rom 11.25). In order to be completed, history needs the proclamation of the message to all peoples, to all people (cf. Mk 13.10). And indeed: how important it is that forces of reconciliation, forces of peace, forces of love and justice should flow into humanity - that in the household of humanity towards all the attitudes and realities of violence and injustice which threaten it the opposing forces will be awakened and strengthened! This is exactly what happens in the Christian mission: through the encounter with Jesus Christ and his saints, through the encounter with God, those forces of good are supplied to the household of mankind, without which all our social orders would not become reality, but merely remain abstract theory, in the face of it the overwhelming pressure of other interests that oppose peace and justice.

So we returned to the questions asked first: Has Aparecida done well to prioritize discipleship of Jesus Christ and evangelization in the search for life for the world? Was it a wrong turn inwards? No! Aparecida made the right decision, because precisely through the new encounter with Jesus Christ and his Gospel, the forces are awakened that enable us to give the right answer to the challenges of the time.

At the end of June I sent a letter to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and the lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People's Republic of China. With this letter I wanted to express my deep spiritual affection for all Catholics in China as well as my heartfelt appreciation for the Chinese people. In it I recalled the enduring principles of the Catholic tradition and the Second Vatican Council in the field of ecclesiology. In light of the "original plan" that Christ had of his Church, I have given some orientations to address and resolve the delicate and complex issues of the life of the Church in China in a spirit of communion and truth. I have also drawn attention to the willingness of the Holy See to enter into a factual and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities in order to find solutions to the various problems that affect the Catholic community. The letter was received with joy and gratitude by Catholics in China. So I wish that, with God's help, he might bring the hoped-for fruits.

Unfortunately, I can only talk briefly about the other highlights of the year. In fact, it was events that pointed in the same direction, wanted to make the same orientation clear. So the wonderful visit to Austria. The Osservatore Romano used a beautiful word to describe the rain that accompanied us as "pioggia della fede" - rain of faith: the rain not only did not diminish the joy of believing in Christ by looking at his mother, but even strengthened it. This joy broke the veil of clouds that surrounded us. Looking to Christ with Mary, we have found the light that shows us the way in all the darkness of the world. I would like to thank the Austrian bishops, priests, religious and all the many believers who were with me on the way to Christ during these days for this encouraging sign of faith that they have given us.

The encounter with the youth in the Agora of Loreto was a great sign of joy and hope: If so many young people want to meet Mary and with Mary Christ and let themselves be infected by the joy of faith, then we can confidently walk towards the future .With this in mind, I have addressed the young people on various occasions: during my visit to the Institute for Minors, Casal del Marmo, in the speeches at audiences and in the Sunday Angelus prayer. I have taken note of their expectations and their generous resolutions, raised the question of education again, and urged the local churches to become more involved in vocational ministry. Of course, I have not failed to denounce the manipulation that young people are exposed to today and the dangers it poses for the society of the future.

I have already spoken very briefly about the meeting in Naples. There, too, we were surrounded by rain - quite unfamiliar to the city of sun and light - but there, too, the warm humanity, the living faith broke through the clouds and let us experience the joy that comes from the Gospel.

Of course we must not be under any illusions: the problems that secularism poses of our time and the pressure of ideological presumptions to which the secularist consciousness tends, with its sole claim to ultimate rationality, are not insignificant. We know it and we know about the hardships of wrestling that are imposed on us at this time. But we also know that the Lord keeps his promise: See, I am with you every day until the end of the world (Mt 28.20). In this joyful certainty we take the impetus from Aparecida to renew our being with Christ on our part too, and so approach the New Year with confidence. Let us walk under the maternal gaze of Aparecida, under the eyes of those who called themselves "the handmaid of the Lord". Your protection gives us security and fills us with hope. With this in mind, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you here and to all of you who belong to the great family of the Roman Curia.


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