Skip to comments.Benedict XVI in Retirement: 'I Read, I Pray. I'm Fine.'
Posted on 06/07/2013 6:42:21 AM PDT by marshmallow
Im fine. I live like a monk, Benedict XVI told an old German friend who visited him recently at his new residence in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery on the Vatican grounds.
Manfred Lutz, a German scholar who is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Bild Zeitung that he found the retired Pontiff physically weaker and a bit more stooped than a few months earlier, but still mentally alert and cheerful. He said that the Pope-emeritus found himself thoroughly in accord with the theological statements of Pope Francis.
Benedict XVI described his current life as quiet and relaxed. I read, I pray. Im fine, he said.
(Excerpt) Read more at catholicculture.org ...
When I think about Bene XVI , And JP II, I can only hope they can still recite their “Act Of Contrition” as I remember the thousands of Children allowed to be abused on their watch. And they said Nothing.
God help those children and the rest of us.
When I think about Bene XVI , And JP II, I can only hope they can still recite their “Act Of Contrition” as I remember the thousands of Children allowed to be abused on their watch. And they said Nothing.
God help those children and the rest of us.
I want you to read this short article y Phil Lawler (LINK), one of the best voices in journalism on Catholic news and events: he's accurate, honest, no favorites, no cover-ups, unimpeachable. He was reporting on this 15 years before anyone else was --- you can Google his other work.
Lawler and other knowledgeable writers (John L. Allen (LINK), as well as Ross Douthat (LINK) and others pretty thoroughly document Benedict's dedicated and effective efforts to remove perverts from the ordained ministry and protect children from abuse.
Better work on your own act of contrition for bearing false witness. Your propensity to lie qualifies you to be a host on CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and NPR.
Tuesday, 23 April 2002
1. Let me assure you first of all that I greatly appreciate the effort you are making to keep the Holy See, and me personally, informed regarding the complex and difficult situation which has arisen in your country in recent months. I am confident that your discussions here will bear much fruit for the good of the Catholic people of the United States. You have come to the house of the Successor of Peter, whose task it is to confirm his brother Bishops in faith and love, and to unite them around Christ in the service of God's People. The door of this house is always open to you. All the more so when your communities are in distress.
Like you, I too have been deeply grieved by the fact that priests and religious, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young. Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the Church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern.
2. It is true that a generalized lack of knowledge of the nature of the problem and also at times the advice of clinical experts led Bishops to make decisions which subsequent events showed to be wrong. You are now working to establish more reliable criteria to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated. At the same time, even while recognizing how indispensable these criteria are, we cannot forget the power of Christian conversion, that radical decision to turn away from sin and back to God, which reaches to the depths of a person's soul and can work extraordinary change.
Neither should we forget the immense spiritual, human and social good that the vast majority of priests and religious in the United States have done and are still doing. The Catholic Church in your country has always promoted human and Christian values with great vigor and generosity, in a way that has helped to consolidate all that is noble in the American people.
A great work of art may be blemished, but its beauty remains; and this is a truth which any intellectually honest critic will recognize. To the Catholic communities in the United States, to their Pastors and members, to the men and women religious, to teachers in Catholic universities and schools, to American missionaries in all parts of the world, go the wholehearted thanks of the entire Catholic Church and the personal thanks of the Bishop of Rome.
3. The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the Church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in its midst.
It must be absolutely clear to the Catholic faithful, and to the wider community, that Bishops and superiors are concerned, above all else, with the spiritual good of souls. People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that Bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.
4. We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the Church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force. Now you must ensure that where sin increased, grace will all the more abound (cf. Rom 5:20). So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church.
God alone is the source of holiness, and it is to him above all that we must turn for forgiveness, for healing and for the grace to meet this challenge with uncompromising courage and harmony of purpose. Like the Good Shepherd of last Sunday's Gospel, Pastors must go among their priests and people as men who inspire deep trust and lead them to restful waters (cf. Ps 22:2).
I beg the Lord to give the Bishops of the United States the strength to build their response to the present crisis upon the solid foundations of faith and upon genuine pastoral charity for the victims, as well as for the priests and the entire Catholic community in your country. And I ask Catholics to stay close to their priests and Bishops, and to support them with their prayers at this difficult time.
The peace of the Risen Christ be with you!
When in December 1944 I was drafted for military service, the company commander asked each of us what we planned to do in the future. I answered that I wanted to become a Catholic priest. The lieutenant replied: Then you ought to look for something else. In the new Germany priests are no longer needed. I knew that this new Germany was already coming to an end, and that, after the enormous devastation which that madness had brought upon the country, priests would be needed more than ever. Today the situation is completely changed. In different ways, though, many people nowadays also think that the Catholic priesthood is not a job for the future, but one that belongs more to the past. You, dear friends, have decided to enter the seminary and to prepare for priestly ministry in the Catholic Church in spite of such opinions and objections. You have done a good thing. Because people will always have need of God, even in an age marked by technical mastery of the world and globalization: they will always need the God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the God who gathers us together in the universal Church in order to learn with him and through him lifes true meaning and in order to uphold and apply the standards of true humanity. Where people no longer perceive God, life grows empty; nothing is ever enough. People then seek escape in euphoria and violence; these are the very things that increasingly threaten young people. God is alive. He has created every one of us and he knows us all. He is so great that he has time for the little things in our lives: Every hair of your head is numbered. God is alive, and he needs people to serve him and bring him to others. It does makes sense to become a priest: the world needs priests, pastors, today, tomorrow and always, until the end of time.
The seminary is a community journeying towards priestly ministry. I have said something very important here: one does not become a priest on ones own. The community of disciples is essential, the fellowship of those who desire to serve the greater Church. In this letter I would like to point out thinking back to my own time in the seminary several elements which I consider important for these years of your journeying.
1. Anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a man of God, to use the expression of Saint Paul (1 Tim 6:11). For us God is not some abstract hypothesis; he is not some stranger who left the scene after the big bang. God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. In his words we hear God himself speaking to us. It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is Gods messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to pray constantly, he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God. Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him.
2. For us God is not simply Word. In the sacraments he gives himself to us in person, through physical realities. At the heart of our relationship with God and our way of life is the Eucharist. Celebrating it devoutly, and thus encountering Christ personally, should be the centre of all our days. In Saint Cyprians interpretation of the Gospel prayer, Give us this day our daily bread, he says among other things that our bread the bread which we receive as Christians in the Church is the Eucharistic Lord himself. In this petition of the Our Father, then, we pray that he may daily give us our bread; and that it may always nourish our lives; that the Risen Christ, who gives himself to us in the Eucharist, may truly shape the whole of our lives by the radiance of his divine love. The proper celebration of the Eucharist involves knowing, understanding and loving the Churchs liturgy in its concrete form. In the liturgy we pray with the faithful of every age the past, the present and the future are joined in one great chorus of prayer. As I can state from personal experience, it is inspiring to learn how it all developed, what a great experience of faith is reflected in the structure of the Mass, and how it has been shaped by the prayer of many generations.
3. The sacrament of Penance is also important. It teaches me to see myself as God sees me, and it forces me to be honest with myself. It leads me to humility. The Curé of Ars once said: You think it makes no sense to be absolved today, because you know that tomorrow you will commit the same sins over again. Yet, he continues, God instantly forgets tomorrows sins in order to give you his grace today. Even when we have to struggle continually with the same failings, it is important to resist the coarsening of our souls and the indifference which would simply accept that this is the way we are. It is important to keep pressing forward, without scrupulosity, in the grateful awareness that God forgives us ever anew yet also without the indifference that might lead us to abandon altogether the struggle for holiness and self-improvement. Moreover, by letting myself be forgiven, I learn to forgive others. In recognizing my own weakness, I grow more tolerant and understanding of the failings of my neighbour.
4. I urge you to retain an appreciation for popular piety, which is different in every culture yet always remains very similar, for the human heart is ultimately one and the same. Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Churchs great treasures. The faith has taken on flesh and blood. Certainly popular piety always needs to be purified and refocused, yet it is worthy of our love and it truly makes us into the People of God.
5. Above all, your time in the seminary is also a time of study. The Christian faith has an essentially rational and intellectual dimension. Were it to lack that dimension, it would not be itself. Paul speaks of a standard of teaching to which we were entrusted in Baptism (Rom 6:17). All of you know the words of Saint Peter which the medieval theologians saw as the justification for a rational and scientific theology: Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting (logos) for the hope that is in you (1 Pet 3:15). Learning how to make such a defence is one of the primary responsibilities of your years in the seminary. I can only plead with you: Be committed to your studies! Take advantage of your years of study! You will not regret it. Certainly, the subjects which you are studying can often seem far removed from the practice of the Christian life and the pastoral ministry. Yet it is completely mistaken to start questioning their practical value by asking: Will this be helpful to me in the future? Will it be practically or pastorally useful? The point is not simply to learn evidently useful things, but to understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to peoples questions, which on the surface change from one generation to another yet ultimately remain the same. For this reason it is important to move beyond the changing questions of the moment in order to grasp the real questions, and so to understand how the answers are real answers. It is important to have a thorough knowledge of sacred Scripture as a whole, in its unity as the Old and the New Testaments: the shaping of texts, their literary characteristics, the process by which they came to form the canon of sacred books, their dynamic inner unity, a unity which may not be immediately apparent but which in fact gives the individual texts their full meaning. It is important to be familiar with the Fathers and the great Councils in which the Church appropriated, through faith-filled reflection, the essential statements of Scripture. I could easily go on. What we call dogmatic theology is the understanding of the individual contents of the faith in their unity, indeed, in their ultimate simplicity: each single element is, in the end, only an unfolding of our faith in the one God who has revealed himself to us and continues to do so. I do not need to point out the importance of knowing the essential issues of moral theology and Catholic social teaching. The importance nowadays of ecumenical theology, and of a knowledge of the different Christian communities, is obvious; as is the need for a basic introduction to the great religions, to say nothing of philosophy: the understanding of that human process of questioning and searching to which faith seeks to respond. But you should also learn to understand and dare I say it to love canon law, appreciating how necessary it is and valuing its practical applications: a society without law would be a society without rights. Law is the condition of love. I will not go on with this list, but I simply say once more: love the study of theology and carry it out in the clear realization that theology is anchored in the living community of the Church, which, with her authority, is not the antithesis of theological science but its presupposition. Cut off from the believing Church, theology would cease to be itself and instead it would become a medley of different disciplines lacking inner unity.
6. Your years in the seminary should also be a time of growth towards human maturity. It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated. To the theological virtues the Christian tradition has always joined the cardinal virtues derived from human experience and philosophy, and, more generally, from the sound ethical tradition of humanity. Paul makes this point this very clearly to the Philippians: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (4:8). This also involves the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a persons growth towards human maturity. When it is not integrated within the person, sexuality becomes banal and destructive. Today we can see many examples of this in our society. Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people. Instead of guiding people to greater human maturity and setting them an example, their abusive behaviour caused great damage for which we feel profound shame and regret. As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life. Yet even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure. Thank God, all of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this state and specifically in the life of celibacy. Admittedly, what has happened should make us all the more watchful and attentive, precisely in order to examine ourselves earnestly, before God, as we make our way towards priesthood, so as to understand whether this is his will for me. It is the responsibility of your confessor and your superiors to accompany you and help you along this path of discernment. It is an essential part of your journey to practise the fundamental human virtues, with your gaze fixed on the God who has revealed himself in Christ, and to let yourselves be purified by him ever anew.
7. The origins of a priestly vocation are nowadays more varied and disparate than in the past. Today the decision to become a priest often takes shape after one has already entered upon a secular profession. Often it grows within the Communities, particularly within the Movements, which favour a communal encounter with Christ and his Church, spiritual experiences and joy in the service of the faith. It also matures in very personal encounters with the nobility and the wretchedness of human existence. As a result, candidates for the priesthood often live on very different spiritual continents. It can be difficult to recognize the common elements of ones future mandate and its spiritual path. For this very reason, the seminary is important as a community which advances above and beyond differences of spirituality. The Movements are a magnificent thing. You know how much I esteem them and love them as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Yet they must be evaluated by their openness to what is truly Catholic, to the life of the whole Church of Christ, which for all her variety still remains one. The seminary is a time when you learn with one another and from one another. In community life, which can at times be difficult, you should learn generosity and tolerance, not only bearing with, but also enriching one another, so that each of you will be able to contribute his own gifts to the whole, even as all serve the same Church, the same Lord. This school of tolerance, indeed, of mutual acceptance and mutual understanding in the unity of Christs Body, is an important part of your years in the seminary.
Dear seminarians, with these few lines I have wanted to let you know how often I think of you, especially in these difficult times, and how close I am to you in prayer. Please pray for me, that I may exercise my ministry well, as long as the Lord may wish. I entrust your journey of preparation for priesthood to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, whose home was a school of goodness and of grace. May Almighty God bless you all, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
From the Vatican, 18 October 2010, the Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist.
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you, dear Members of the College of Cardinals and Representatives of the Roman Curia and the Governatorato, for this traditional gathering. I extend a cordial greeting to each one of you, beginning with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I thank for his sentiments of devotion and communion and for the warm good wishes that he expressed to me on behalf of all of you. Prope est jam Dominus, venite, adoremus! As one family let us contemplate the mystery of Emmanuel, God-with-us, as the Cardinal Dean has said. I gladly reciprocate his good wishes and I would like to thank all of you most sincerely, including the Papal Representatives all over the world, for the able and generous contribution that each of you makes to the Vicar of Christ and to the Church.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Repeatedly during the season of Advent the Churchs liturgy prays in these or similar words. They are invocations that were probably formulated as the Roman Empire was in decline. The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples. The sun was setting over an entire world. Frequent natural disasters further increased this sense of insecurity. There was no power in sight that could put a stop to this decline. All the more insistent, then, was the invocation of the power of God: the plea that he might come and protect his people from all these threats.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. Today too, we have many reasons to associate ourselves with this Advent prayer of the Church. For all its new hopes and possibilities, our world is at the same time troubled by the sense that moral consensus is collapsing, consensus without which juridical and political structures cannot function. Consequently the forces mobilized for the defence of such structures seem doomed to failure.
Excita the prayer recalls the cry addressed to the Lord who was sleeping in the disciples storm-tossed boat as it was close to sinking. When his powerful word had calmed the storm, he rebuked the disciples for their little faith (cf. Mt 8:26 et par.). He wanted to say: it was your faith that was sleeping. He will say the same thing to us. Our faith too is often asleep. Let us ask him, then, to wake us from the sleep of a faith grown tired, and to restore to that faith the power to move mountains that is, to order justly the affairs of the world.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni: amid the great tribulations to which we have been exposed during the past year, this Advent prayer has frequently been in my mind and on my lips. We had begun the Year for Priests with great joy and, thank God, we were also able to conclude it with great gratitude, despite the fact that it unfolded so differently from the way we had expected. Among us priests and among the lay faithful, especially the young, there was a renewed awareness of what a great gift the Lord has entrusted to us in the priesthood of the Catholic Church. We realized afresh how beautiful it is that human beings are fully authorized to pronounce in Gods name the word of forgiveness, and are thus able to change the world, to change life; we realized how beautiful it is that human beings may utter the words of consecration, through which the Lord draws a part of the world into himself, and so transforms it at one point in its very substance; we realized how beautiful it is to be able, with the Lords strength, to be close to people in their joys and sufferings, in the important moments of their lives and in their dark times; how beautiful it is to have as ones life task not this or that, but simply human life itself helping people to open themselves to God and to live from God. We were all the more dismayed, then, when in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.
In this context, a vision of Saint Hildegard of Bingen came to my mind, a vision which describes in a shocking way what we have lived through this past year. In the year of our Lords incarnation 1170, I had been lying on my sick-bed for a long time when, fully conscious in body and in mind, I had a vision of a woman of such beauty that the human mind is unable to comprehend. She stretched in height from earth to heaven. Her face shone with exceeding brightness and her gaze was fixed on heaven. She was dressed in a dazzling robe of white silk and draped in a cloak, adorned with stones of great price. On her feet she wore shoes of onyx. But her face was stained with dust, her robe was ripped down the right side, her cloak had lost its sheen of beauty and her shoes had been blackened. And she herself, in a voice loud with sorrow, was calling to the heights of heaven, saying, Hear, heaven, how my face is sullied; mourn, earth, that my robe is torn; tremble, abyss, because my shoes are blackened!
And she continued: I lay hidden in the heart of the Father until the Son of Man, who was conceived and born in virginity, poured out his blood. With that same blood as his dowry, he made me his betrothed.
For my Bridegrooms wounds remain fresh and open as long as the wounds of mens sins continue to gape. And Christs wounds remain open because of the sins of priests. They tear my robe, since they are violators of the Law, the Gospel and their own priesthood; they darken my cloak by neglecting, in every way, the precepts which they are meant to uphold; my shoes too are blackened, since priests do not keep to the straight paths of justice, which are hard and rugged, or set good examples to those beneath them. Nevertheless, in some of them I find the splendour of truth.
And I heard a voice from heaven which said: This image represents the Church. For this reason, O you who see all this and who listen to the word of lament, proclaim it to the priests who are destined to offer guidance and instruction to Gods people and to whom, as to the apostles, it was said: go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation (Mk 16:15) (Letter to Werner von Kirchheim and his Priestly Community: PL 197, 269ff.).
In the vision of Saint Hildegard, the face of the Church is stained with dust, and this is how we have seen it. Her garment is torn by the sins of priests. The way she saw and expressed it is the way we have experienced it this year. We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves. We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again. This is also the moment to offer heartfelt thanks to all those who work to help victims and to restore their trust in the Church, their capacity to believe her message. In my meetings with victims of this sin, I have also always found people who, with great dedication, stand alongside those who suffer and have been damaged. This is also the occasion to thank the many good priests who act as channels of the Lords goodness in humility and fidelity and, amid the devastations, bear witness to the unforfeited beauty of the priesthood.
We are well aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our corresponding responsibility. But neither can we remain silent regarding the context of these times in which these events have come to light. There is a market in child pornography that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society. The psychological destruction of children, in which human persons are reduced to articles of merchandise, is a terrifying sign of the times. From Bishops of developing countries I hear again and again how sexual tourism threatens an entire generation and damages its freedom and its human dignity. The Book of Revelation includes among the great sins of Babylon the symbol of the worlds great irreligious cities the fact that it trades with bodies and souls and treats them as commodities (cf. Rev 18:13). In this context, the problem of drugs also rears its head, and with increasing force extends its octopus tentacles around the entire world an eloquent expression of the tyranny of mammon which perverts mankind. No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines mans freedom and ultimately destroys it.
In order to resist these forces, we must turn our attention to their ideological foundations. In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children. This, however, was part of a fundamental perversion of the concept of ethos. It was maintained even within the realm of Catholic theology that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a better than and a worse than. Nothing is good or bad in itself. Everything depends on the circumstances and on the end in view. Anything can be good or also bad, depending upon purposes and circumstances. Morality is replaced by a calculus of consequences, and in the process it ceases to exist. The effects of such theories are evident today. Against them, Pope John Paul II, in his 1993 Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, indicated with prophetic force in the great rational tradition of Christian ethos the essential and permanent foundations of moral action. Today, attention must be focussed anew on this text as a path in the formation of conscience. It is our responsibility to make these criteria audible and intelligible once more for people today as paths of true humanity, in the context of our paramount concern for mankind.
As my second point, I should like to say a word about the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East. This began with my journey to Cyprus, where I was able to consign the Instrumentum Laboris of the Synod to the Bishops of those countries who were assembled there. The hospitality of the Orthodox Church was unforgettable, and we experienced it with great gratitude. Even if full communion is not yet granted to us, we have nevertheless established with joy that the basic form of the ancient Church unites us profoundly with one another: the sacramental office of Bishops as the bearer of apostolic tradition, the reading of Scripture according to the hermeneutic of the Regula fidei, the understanding of Scripture in its manifold unity centred on Christ, developed under divine inspiration, and finally, our faith in the central place of the Eucharist in the Churchs life. Thus we experienced a living encounter with the riches of the rites of the ancient Church that are also found within the Catholic Church. We celebrated the liturgy with Maronites and with Melchites, we celebrated in the Latin rite, we experienced moments of ecumenical prayer with the Orthodox, and we witnessed impressive manifestations of the rich Christian culture of the Christian East. But we also saw the problem of the divided country. The wrongs and the deep wounds of the past were all too evident, but so too was the desire for the peace and communion that had existed before. Everyone knows that violence does not bring progress indeed, it gave rise to the present situation. Only in a spirit of compromise and mutual understanding can unity be re-established. To prepare the people for this attitude of peace is an essential task of pastoral ministry.
During the Synod itself, our gaze was extended over the whole of the Middle East, where the followers of different religions as well as a variety of traditions and distinct rites live together. As far as Christians are concerned, there are Pre-Chalcedonian as well as Chalcedonian churches; there are churches in communion with Rome and others that are outside that communion; in both cases, multiple rites exist alongside one another. In the turmoil of recent years, the tradition of peaceful coexistence has been shattered and tensions and divisions have grown, with the result that we witness with increasing alarm acts of violence in which there is no longer any respect for what the other holds sacred, in which on the contrary the most elementary rules of humanity collapse. In the present situation, Christians are the most oppressed and tormented minority. For centuries they lived peacefully together with their Jewish and Muslim neighbours. During the Synod we listened to wise words from the Counsellor of the Mufti of the Republic of Lebanon against acts of violence targeting Christians. He said: when Christians are wounded, we ourselves are wounded. Unfortunately, though, this and similar voices of reason, for which we are profoundly grateful, are too weak. Here too we come up against an unholy alliance between greed for profit and ideological blindness. On the basis of the spirit of faith and its rationality, the Synod developed a grand concept of dialogue, forgiveness and mutual acceptance, a concept that we now want to proclaim to the world. The human being is one, and humanity is one. Whatever damage is done to another in any one place, ends up by damaging everyone. Thus the words and ideas of the Synod must be a clarion call, addressed to all people with political or religious responsibility, to put a stop to Christianophobia; to rise up in defence of refugees and all who are suffering, and to revitalize the spirit of reconciliation. In the final analysis, healing can only come from deep faith in Gods reconciling love. Strengthening this faith, nourishing it and causing it to shine forth is the Churchs principal task at this hour.
I would willingly speak in some detail of my unforgettable journey to the United Kingdom, but I will limit myself to two points that are connected with the theme of the responsibility of Christians at this time and with the Churchs task to proclaim the Gospel. My thoughts go first of all to the encounter with the world of culture in Westminster Hall, an encounter in which awareness of shared responsibility at this moment in history created great attention which, in the final analysis, was directed to the question of truth and faith itself. It was evident to all that the Church has to make her own contribution to this debate. Alexis de Tocqueville, in his day, observed that democracy in America had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus which, transcending individual denominations, united everyone. Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk wherever its place, the place of moral reasoning, is taken by the purely instrumental rationality of which I spoke earlier. In reality, this makes reason blind to what is essential. To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake.
Finally I should like to recall once more the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman. Why was he beatified? What does he have to say to us? Many responses could be given to these questions, which were explored in the context of the beatification. I would like to highlight just two aspects which belong together and which, in the final analysis, express the same thing. The first is that we must learn from Newmans three conversions, because they were steps along a spiritual path that concerns us all. Here I would like to emphasize just the first conversion: to faith in the living God. Until that moment, Newman thought like the average men of his time and indeed like the average men of today, who do not simply exclude the existence of God, but consider it as something uncertain, something with no essential role to play in their lives. What appeared genuinely real to him, as to the men of his and our day, is the empirical, matter that can be grasped. This is the reality according to which one finds ones bearings. The real is what can be grasped, it is the things that can be calculated and taken in ones hand. In his conversion, Newman recognized that it is exactly the other way round: that God and the soul, mans spiritual identity, constitute what is genuinely real, what counts. These are much more real than objects that can be grasped. This conversion was a Copernican revolution. What had previously seemed unreal and secondary was now revealed to be the genuinely decisive element. Where such a conversion takes place, it is not just a persons theory that changes: the fundamental shape of life changes. We are all in constant need of such conversion: then we are on the right path.
The driving force that impelled Newman along the path of conversion was conscience. But what does this mean? In modern thinking, the word conscience signifies that for moral and religious questions, it is the subjective dimension, the individual, that constitutes the final authority for decision. The world is divided into the realms of the objective and the subjective. To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word conscience expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide. Newmans understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to this. For him, conscience means mans capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life religion and morals a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience mans capacity to recognize truth thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. The path of Newmans conversions is a path of conscience not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him. His third conversion, to Catholicism, required him to give up almost everything that was dear and precious to him: possessions, profession, academic rank, family ties and many friends. The sacrifice demanded of him by obedience to the truth, by his conscience, went further still. Newman had always been aware of having a mission for England. But in the Catholic theology of his time, his voice could hardly make itself heard. It was too foreign in the context of the prevailing form of theological thought and devotion. In January 1863 he wrote in his diary these distressing words: As a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life - but, as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion. He had not yet arrived at the hour when he would be an influential figure. In the humility and darkness of obedience, he had to wait until his message was taken up and understood. In support of the claim that Newmans concept of conscience matched the modern subjective understanding, people often quote a letter in which he said should he have to propose a toast that he would drink first to conscience and then to the Pope. But in this statement, conscience does not signify the ultimately binding quality of subjective intuition. It is an expression of the accessibility and the binding force of truth: on this its primacy is based. The second toast can be dedicated to the Pope because it is his task to demand obedience to the truth.
I must refrain from speaking of my remarkable journeys to Malta, Portugal and Spain. In these it once again became evident that the faith is not a thing of the past, but an encounter with the God who lives and acts now. He challenges us and he opposes our indolence, but precisely in this way he opens the path towards true joy.
Excita, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni. We set out from this plea for the presence of Gods power in our time and from the experience of his apparent absence. If we keep our eyes open as we look back over the year that is coming to an end, we can see clearly that Gods power and goodness are also present today in many different ways. So we all have reason to thank him. Along with thanks to the Lord I renew my thanks to all my co-workers. May God grant to all of us a holy Christmas and may he accompany us with his blessings in the coming year.
I entrust these prayerful sentiments to the intercession of the Holy Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, and I impart to all of you and to the great family of the Roman Curia a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. Happy Christmas!
BTTT for the truth.
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