Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Papal Letter on Scouts

"A Forceful Presentation of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's June 22 letter to Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first Scout camp.

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To His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard,
Archbishop of Bordeaux 
President of the Bishops' Conference of France

The first of August 2007 will mark the 100th anniversary of the opening on Brownsea IslandEngland, of the first Scout camp organized by Lord Baden-Powell.

On this occasion, all those in the world, young people and adults who once made their Scout promise individually or as a group, will be invited to renew it and to make a gesture for peace, thereby stressing how close the vocation of a "peacemaker" is to the Scout ideal.

For a century, through games, action, adventure, contact with nature, a team spirit and service to others, an integral formation of the human person is offered to everyone who becomes a Scout.

Made fruitful by the Gospel, scouting is not only a place for true human growth but also for a forceful presentation of Christianity and real spiritual and moral development, as well as being an authentic path of holiness.

It would be appropriate to recall the words of Fr Jacques Sevin, S.J., the founder of Catholic Scouts: "Holiness does not belong to any specific period and has no specific uniform". The sense of responsibility inspired by the scouting pedagogy leads to a life in charity and the desire to serve one's neighbour in the image of Christ the servant, relying on the grace that he bestows especially in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation.

With all those in your Country who have benefited from belonging to a Scouts' association -- the Scouts and Guides of France, the Scouts and Guides of Europe or the United Scouts and Guides of France -- I rejoice that since the appeal for greater communion among Catholic Scouts launched by my Predecessor in 1997, there have been outstanding instances of collaboration, which have respected the sensibilities of each movement with a view to greater unity in the heart of the Church.

Indeed, Scout leaders will remember that their priority task is to awaken and form the personalities of the young people entrusted to them by their families, teaching them to encounter Christ and making them familiar with Church life.

It is also important that "Scout fellowship" is manifested and develops among Scouts and between the different movements, which was part of their initial ideal.

Furthermore, especially for the young generations, this "membership" demonstrates what the Body of Christ is, or, to use St Paul's image, all are called to carry out a mission in their own province, to rejoice in the progress of others and to help their brothers and sisters in their trials (cf. I Cor 12:12-26).

I thank the Lord for all the fruits which scouting has yielded in the past century. With the entire Church, I trust that the different movements, Scouts of France, Scouts and Guides of Europe, United Scouts and Guides of France, may pursue the route with ever greater interaction, and offer to today's boys and girls a pedagogy that forms in them a strong personality based on Christ, with the aspiration to live the high ideals of the faith and human solidarity.

From this viewpoint, the Scout promise and prayer form a basis and an ideal to develop throughout life. Lord Baden-Powell used to say this: "Always be faithful to your Scout Promise, even when you are no longer a child -- and may God help you to succeed!". When a person does his utmost to keep his promises, the Lord himself strengthens him on his way.

I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to the Scouts and Guides who make up the three movements, to the young people and adults and to the chaplains who supervise them, to the families, to former Scouts and Guides and to you yourself as well as all the Pastors of the Church in France.

From the Vatican, 22 June 2007


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Papal Message for World Youth Day '08

"You Must Be Holy and You Must Be Missionaries"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Youth Day, to be held in Sydney, Australia, July 2008.

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"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; 
and you will be my witnesses " (Acts 1:8)

My dear young friends!

1. The XXIII World Youth Day

I always remember with great joy the various occasions we spent together in Cologne in August 2005. At the end of that unforgettable manifestation of faith and enthusiasm that remains engraved on my spirit and on my heart, I made an appointment with you for the next gathering that will be held in Sydney in 2008. This will be the XXIII World Youth Day and the theme will be: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). The underlying theme of the spiritual preparation for our meeting in Sydney is the Holy Spirit and mission. In 2006 we focused our attention on the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. Now in 2007 we are seeking a deeper understanding of the Spirit of Love. We will continue our journey towards World Youth Day 2008 by reflecting on the Spirit of Fortitude and Witness that gives us the courage to live according to the Gospel and to proclaim it boldly. Therefore it is very important that each one of you young people -- in your communities, and together with those responsible for your education -- should be able to reflect on this Principal Agent of salvation history, namely the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Jesus. In this way you will be able to achieve the following lofty goals: to recognize the Spirit's true identity, principally by listening to the Word of God in the Revelation of the Bible; to become clearly aware of his continuous, active presence in the life of the Church, especially as you rediscover that the Holy Spirit is the "soul", the vital breath of Christian life itself, through the sacraments of Christian initiation -- Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist; to grow thereby in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful and, at the same time, to put the Gospel into practice at the dawn of the third millennium. In this message I gladly offer you an outline for meditation that you can explore during this year of preparation. In this way you can test the quality of your faith in the Holy Spirit, rediscover it if it is lost, strengthen it if it has become weak, savour it as fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, brought about by the indispensable working of the Holy Spirit. Never forget that the Church, in fact humanity itself, all the people around you now and those who await you in the future, expect much from you young people, because you have within you the supreme gift of the Father, the Spirit of Jesus.

2. The promise of the Holy Spirit in the Bible

Attentive listening to the Word of God concerning the mystery and action of the Holy Spirit opens us up to great and inspiring insights that I shall summarize in the following points.

Shortly before his Ascension, Jesus said to his disciples: "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (Luke 24:49). This took place on the day of Pentecost when they were together in prayer in the Upper Room with the Virgin Mary. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the nascent Church was the fulfilment of a promise made much earlier by God, announced and prepared throughout the Old Testament.

In fact, right from its opening pages, the Bible presents the spirit of God as the wind that "was moving over the face of the waters" (cf. Genesis 1:2). It says that God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life (cf. Genesis 2:7), thereby infusing him with life itself. After original sin, the life-giving spirit of God is seen several times in the history of humankind, calling forth prophets to exhort the chosen people to return to God and to observe his commandments faithfully. In the well-known vision of the prophet Ezekiel, God, with his spirit, restores to life the people of Israel, represented by the "dry bones" (cf. 37:1-14). Joel prophesied an "outpouring of the spirit" over all the people, excluding no one. The sacred author wrote: "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh ... Even upon the menservants and maidservants, in those days, I will pour out my spirit" (3:1-2).

In "the fullness of time" (cf. Galatians 4:4), the angel of the Lord announced to the Virgin of Nazareth that the Holy Spirit, "the power of the Most High", would come upon her and overshadow her. The child to be born would be holy and would be called Son of God (cf. Luke 1:35). In the words of the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah would be the one on whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest (cf. 11:1-2; 42:1). This is the prophecy that Jesus took up again at the start of his public ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth. To the amazement of those present, he said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Is 61:1-2). Addressing those present, he referred those prophetic words to himself by saying: "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). Again, before his death on the Cross, he would tell his disciples several times about the coming of the Holy Spirit, the "Counselor" whose mission would be to bear witness to him and to assist believers by teaching them and guiding them to the fullness of Truth (cf. John 14:16-17,25-26; 15:26; 16:13).

3. Pentecost, the point of departure for the Church's mission

On the evening of the day of resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples, "he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (John 20:22). With even greater power the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. We read in the Acts of the Apostles: "And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them" (2:2-3).

The Holy Spirit renewed the Apostles from within, filling them with a power that would give them courage to go out and boldly proclaim that "Christ has died and is risen!" Freed from all fear, they began to speak openly with self-confidence (cf. Acts 2:29; 4:13; 4:29,31). These frightened fishermen had become courageous heralds of the Gospel. Even their enemies could not understand how "uneducated and ordinary men" (cf. Acts 4:13) could show such courage and endure difficulties, suffering and persecution with joy. Nothing could stop them. To those who tried to silence them they replied: "We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). This is how the Church was born, and from the day of Pentecost she has not ceased to spread the Good News "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

4. The Holy Spirit, soul of the Church and principle of communion

If we are to understand the mission of the Church, we must go back to the Upper Room where the disciples remained together (cf. Luke 24:49), praying with Mary, the "Mother", awaiting the Spirit that had been promised. This icon of the nascent Church should be a constant source of inspiration for every Christian community. Apostolic and missionary fruitfulness is not principally due to programmes and pastoral methods that are cleverly drawn up and "efficient", but is the result of the community's constant prayer (cf. "Evangelii Nuntiandi," 75). Moreover, for the mission to be effective, communities must be united, that is, they must be "of one heart and soul" (cf. Acts 4:32), and they must be ready to witness to the love and joy that the Holy Spirit instils in the hearts of the faithful (cf. Acts 2:42). The Servant of God John Paul II wrote that, even prior to action, the Church's mission is to witness and to live in a way that shines out to others (cf. "Redemptoris Missio," 26). Tertullian tells us that this is what happened in the early days of Christianity when pagans were converted on seeing the love that reigned among Christians: "See how they love one another" (cf. Apology, 39 § 7).

To conclude this brief survey of the Word of God in the Bible, I invite you to observe how the Holy Spirit is the highest gift of God to humankind, and therefore the supreme testimony of his love for us, a love that is specifically expressed as the "yes to life" that God wills for each of his creatures. This "yes to life" finds its fullness in Jesus of Nazareth and in his victory over evil by means of the redemption. In this regard, let us never forget that the Gospel of Jesus, precisely because of the Spirit, cannot be reduced to a mere statement of fact, for it is intended to be "good news for the poor, release for captives, sight for the blind ...". With what great vitality this was seen on the day of Pentecost, as it became the grace and the task of the Church towards the world, her primary mission!

We are the fruits of this mission of the Church through the working of the Holy Spirit. We carry within us the seal of the Father's love in Jesus Christ which is the Holy Spirit. Let us never forget this, because the Spirit of the Lord always remembers every individual, and wishes, particularly through you young people, to stir up the wind and fire of a new Pentecost in the world.

5. The Holy Spirit as "Teacher of the interior life"

My dear young friends, the Holy Spirit continues today to act with power in the Church, and the fruits of the Spirit are abundant in the measure in which we are ready to open up to this power that makes all things new. For this reason it is important that each one of us know the Spirit, establish a relationship with Him and allow ourselves to be guided by Him. However, at this point a question naturally arises: who is the Holy Spirit for me? It is a fact that for many Christians He is still the "great unknown". This is why, as we prepare for the next World Youth Day, I wanted to invite you to come to know the Holy Spirit more deeply at a personal level. In our profession of faith we proclaim: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son" (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed). Yes, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the love of the Father and of the Son, is the Source of life that makes us holy, "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Nevertheless, it is not enough to know the Spirit; we must welcome Him as the guide of our souls, as the "Teacher of the interior life" who introduces us to the Mystery of the Trinity, because He alone can open us up to faith and allow us to live it each day to the full. The Spirit impels us forward towards others, enkindles in us the fire of love, makes us missionaries of God's charity.

I know very well that you young people hold in your hearts great appreciation and love for Jesus, and that you desire to meet Him and speak with Him. Indeed, remember that it is precisely the presence of the Spirit within us that confirms, constitutes and builds our person on the very Person of Jesus crucified and risen. So let us become familiar with the Holy Spirit in order to be familiar with Jesus.

6. The Sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist

You might ask, how can we allow ourselves to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and to grow in our spiritual lives? The answer, as you know, is this: we can do so by means of the Sacraments, because faith is born and is strengthened within us through the Sacraments, particularly those of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, which are complementary and inseparable (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1285). This truth concerning the three Sacraments that initiate our lives as Christians is perhaps neglected in the faith life of many Christians. They view them as events that took place in the past and have no real significance for today, like roots that lack life-giving nourishment. It happens that many young people distance themselves from their life of faith after they have received Confirmation. There are also young people who have not even received this sacrament. Yet it is through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and then, in an ongoing way, the Eucharist, that the Holy Spirit makes us children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, capable of a true witness to the Gospel, and able to savour the joy of faith.

I therefore invite you to reflect on what I am writing to you. Nowadays it is particularly necessary to rediscover the sacrament of Confirmation and its important place in our spiritual growth. Those who have received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation should remember that they have become "temples of the Spirit": God lives within them. Always be aware of this and strive to allow the treasure within you to bring forth fruits of holiness. Those who are baptized but have not yet received the sacrament of Confirmation, prepare to receive it knowing that in this way you will become "complete" Christians, since Confirmation perfects baptismal grace (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1302-1304).

Confirmation gives us special strength to witness to and glorify God with our whole lives (cf. Romans 12:1). It makes us intimately aware of our belonging to the Church, the "Body of Christ", of which we are all living members, in solidarity with one another (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-25). By allowing themselves to be guided by the Spirit, each baptized person can bring his or her own contribution to the building up of the Church because of the charisms given by the Spirit, for "to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7). When the Spirit acts, he brings his fruits to the soul, namely "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). To those of you who have not yet received the sacrament of Confirmation, I extend a cordial invitation to prepare to receive it, and to seek help from your priests. It is a special occasion of grace that the Lord is offering you. Do not miss this opportunity!

I would like to add a word about the Eucharist. In order to grow in our Christian life, we need to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, we are baptized and confirmed with a view to the Eucharist (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322; "Sacramentum Caritatis," 17). "Source and summit" of the Church's life, the Eucharist is a "perpetual Pentecost" since every time we celebrate Mass we receive the Holy Spirit who unites us more deeply with Christ and transforms us into Him. My dear young friends, if you take part frequently in the eucharistic celebration, if you dedicate some of your time to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Source of love which is the Eucharist, you will acquire that joyful determination to dedicate your lives to following the Gospel. At the same time it will be your experience that whenever our strength is not enough, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us, filling us with his strength and making us witnesses suffused by the missionary fervour of the risen Christ.

7. The need and urgency of mission

Many young people view their lives with apprehension and raise many questions about their future. They anxiously ask: How can we fit into a world marked by so many grave injustices and so much suffering? How should we react to the selfishness and violence that sometimes seem to prevail? How can we give full meaning to life? How can we help to bring it about that the fruits of the Spirit mentioned above, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (No. 6), can fill this scarred and fragile world, the world of young people most of all? On what conditions can the life-giving Spirit of the first creation and particularly of the second creation or redemption become the new soul of humanity? Let us not forget that the greater the gift of God -- and the gift of the Spirit of Jesus is the greatest of all -- so much the greater is the world's need to receive it and therefore the greater and the more exciting is the Church's mission to bear credible witness to it. You young people, through World Youth Day, are in a way manifesting your desire to participate in this mission. In this regard, my dear young friends, I want to remind you here of some key truths on which to meditate. Once again I repeat that only Christ can fulfil the most intimate aspirations that are in the heart of each person. Only Christ can humanize humanity and lead it to its "divinization". Through the power of his Spirit he instils divine charity within us, and this makes us capable of loving our neighbour and ready to be of service. The Holy Spirit enlightens us, revealing Christ crucified and risen, and shows us how to become more like Him so that we can be "the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ" ("Deus Caritas Est," 33). Those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit understand that placing oneself at the service of the Gospel is not an optional extra, because they are aware of the urgency of transmitting this Good News to others. Nevertheless, we need to be reminded again that we can be witnesses of Christ only if we allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit who is "the principal agent of evangelization" (cf. "Evangelii Nuntiandi," 75) and "the principal agent of mission" (cf. "Redemptoris Missio," 21). My dear young friends, as my venerable predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II said on several occasions, to proclaim the Gospel and bear witness to the faith is more necessary than ever today (cf. "Redemptoris Missio," 1). There are those who think that to present the precious treasure of faith to people who do not share it means being intolerant towards them, but this is not the case, because to present Christ is not to impose Him (cf. "Evangelii Nuntiandi," 80). Moreover, two thousand years ago twelve Apostles gave their lives to make Christ known and loved. Throughout the centuries since then, the Gospel has continued to spread by means of men and women inspired by that same missionary fervour. Today too there is a need for disciples of Christ who give unstintingly of their time and energy to serve the Gospel. There is a need for young people who will allow God's love to burn within them and who will respond generously to his urgent call, just as many young blesseds and saints did in the past and also in more recent times. In particular, I assure you that the Spirit of Jesus today is inviting you young people to be bearers of the good news of Jesus to your contemporaries. The difficulty that adults undoubtedly find in approaching the sphere of youth in a comprehensible and convincing way could be a sign with which the Spirit is urging you young people to take this task upon yourselves. You know the ideals, the language, and also the wounds, the expectations, and at the same time the desire for goodness felt by your contemporaries. This opens up the vast world of young people's emotions, work, education, expectations, and suffering ... Each one of you must have the courage to promise the Holy Spirit that you will bring one young person to Jesus Christ in the way you consider best, knowing how to "give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but [to] do it with gentleness and reverence" (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

In order to achieve this goal, my dear friends, you must be holy and you must be missionaries since we can never separate holiness from mission (cf. "Redemptoris Missio," 90). Do not be afraid to become holy missionaries like Saint Francis Xavier who travelled through the Far East proclaiming the Good News until every ounce of his strength was used up, or like Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus who was a missionary even though she never left the Carmelite convent. Both of these are "Patrons of the Missions". Be prepared to put your life on the line in order to enlighten the world with the truth of Christ; to respond with love to hatred and disregard for life; to proclaim the hope of the risen Christ in every corner of the earth.

8. Invoking a "new Pentecost" upon the world

My dear young friends, I hope to see very many of you in Sydney in July 2008. It will be a providential opportunity to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit's power. Come in great numbers in order to be a sign of hope and to give appreciative support to the Church community in Australia that is preparing to welcome you. For the young people of the country that will host you, it will be an exceptional opportunity to proclaim the beauty and joy of the Gospel to a society that is secularized in so many ways. Australia, like all of Oceania, needs to rediscover its Christian roots. In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania, Pope John Paul II wrote: "Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Church in Oceania is preparing for a new evangelization of peoples who today are hungering for Christ... A new evangelization is the first priority for the Church in Oceania" (No. 18).

I invite you to give time to prayer and to your spiritual formation during this last stage of the journey leading to the XXIII World Youth Day, so that in Sydney you will be able to renew the promises made at your Baptism and Confirmation. Together we shall invoke the Holy Spirit, confidently asking God for the gift of a new Pentecost for the Church and for humanity in the third millennium.

May Mary, united in prayer with the Apostles in the Upper Room, accompany you throughout these months and obtain for all young Christians a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to set their hearts on fire. Remember: the Church has confidence in you! We Pastors, especially, pray that you may love and lead others to love Jesus more and more and that you may follow Him faithfully. With these sentiments I bless you all with deep affection.

From Lorenzago, 20 July 2007


Friday, September 5, 2008

Papal Message to Franciscan General Chapter

"To Everyone Take Peace, Received and Given"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the June 17 message Benedict XVI addressed to the participants of the general chapter of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual during the Pope's trip to Assisi.

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To Reverend Fr Marco Tasca 
Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual

I greet you with great joy, Most Reverend Father, and all the Friars Minor Conventual gathered in Assisi for the 199th General Chapter. I am pleased to do so in this Papal Basilica in which splendid works of art tell of the marvels of grace that the Lord wrought in St Francis.

I find it providential that this should happen in the context of the Eighth Centenary of the conversion of St Francis. With my Visit today, in fact, I wished to emphasize the meaning of this event to which we must always refer if we are to understand Francis and his message.

Francis himself, as if to sum up his inner experience in a single word, found no concept more pregnant with meaning than that of "penance". "Thus did the Lord grant to me, Friar Francis, to begin to do penance" (Testament, 1).

So it was that he saw himself essentially as a "penitent", as it were, in a permanent state of conversion. Abandoning himself to the Holy Spirit's action, Francis was converted ever more closely to Christ, transformed into a living image of him on the paths of poverty, love and mission.

Thus, it is your task to witness to his message with enthusiasm and coherency! You are called to do so with that ecclesial harmony which distinguished Francis in his relationship with the Vicar of Christ and with all the Church's Bishops.

In this regard, I am grateful to you for the prompt obedience with which, together with the Friars Minor and complying with the special ties of affection which have always bound you to the Apostolic See, you accepted the measures of the "Motu Proprio" Totius Orbis concerning the new relationship of the two Papal Basilicas, St Francis and St Mary of the Angels, with this particular Church which gave birth to the "Poverello" and played such an important part in his life.

I address a special greeting to you, Friar Marco Tasca, whom the trust of your Confreres has called to the demanding office of Minister General.

May the event of the 750th anniversary of St Bonaventure's election as Minister of the Order also be a good omen for you.

After the examples of St Francis and St Bonaventure, together with the elected Definitors, may you guide the great Family of the Order with wise prudence, faithful to the origins of the Franciscan experience and with attention to the "signs of the times".

The General Chapter gathers together Friars from many countries and different cultures to listen and speak to one another in the one language of the Spirit, thereby reviving the memory of Francis' holiness. This is truly an extraordinary opportunity to share the "marvellous things" that the Lord still works today through the sons of the "Poverello" scattered across the world.

I therefore hope that while the Chapter Fathers thank God for the growth of the Order, especially in the mission countries, they will make the most of this meeting to question themselves on all that the Spirit is asking of them, so that they may continue to proclaim passionately, in the footsteps of their Seraphic Father, the Kingdom of God in this first part of the Third Christian Millennium.

I learned with interest that "Formation for the mission" has been chosen as the principal theme for reflection during the Chapter Meeting, stressing that this formation is never imparted once and for all, but rather must be considered as an ongoing journey. In fact, it is a process with multiple dimensions but is centred on the ability to let oneself be moulded by the Spirit, to be ready to go wherever he calls you.

It cannot be based on anything except listening to the Word in an atmosphere of intense and ceaseless prayer. Only on this condition is it possible to understand the true needs of the men and women of our time and offer them responses drawn from God's wisdom, proclaiming what one has experienced profoundly in one's own life.

The large Family of Friars Minor Conventual must continue to let itself be inspired by the words that Francis heard from the Crucifix in San Damiano: "Go and repair my house" (2 Cel I, 6, 10).

It is therefore necessary for every Friar to be a true contemplative, his eyes fixed on the eyes of Christ. Like St Francis when he came face to face with the leper, the Friar must be able to see the Face of Christ in the suffering brethren, bringing to them all the proclamation of peace.

To this end, he must make his own the process of conformation to the Lord Jesus which Francis lived out in the various symbolic places on his journey of holiness: from San Damiano to Rivotorto, from St Mary of the Angels to La Verna.

Thus, for every son of St Francis may the firm principle be what the "Poverello" said with simple words: "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Reg. B. I, 1).

In this regard, I am pleased to know that the Minors Conventual too, together with the whole large Franciscan Family, are engaged in reliving the stages which led Francis to formulate his "propositum vitae", approved by Innocent III in about 1209.

Called to live "according to the form of the Holy Gospel" (Test. 21), the "Poverello" completely understood himself in the light of the Gospel.

It was precisely this that gave birth to the perennial timeliness of his witness.

His "prophecy" teaches us how to make the Gospel the criterion for dealing with the challenges of every epoch, including our own, resisting the deceptive fascination of fleeting fashions, to be rooted in God's plan and thus to discern the true needs of humanity.

My hope is that the Friars will be able to accept this "programme" with renewed impetus and courage, trusting in the power that comes from on high.

The Minors Conventual are called in the first place to be heralds of Christ. May they approach everyone with gentleness and trust in the attitude of dialogue, but always bearing a passionate witness to the one Saviour.

May they be witnesses of God's "beauty", which Francis praised as he contemplated the marvels of creation. Among the wonderful pictorial cycles which decorate this Basilica and in every other corner of that marvellous temple which is nature, may they have on their lips the prayer that Francis uttered after his mystical ecstasy on Mount La Verna, which made him exclaim twice: "You are beauty!" (The Praises of God Most High, 4, 6).

Yes, Francis was a great teacher of the "via pulchritudinis". May the Friars imitate him in radiating the beauty that saves; may they do so in particular in this stupendous Basilica, not only by means of the art treasures preserved here, but also and above all in the intensity and decorum of the liturgy and fervent proclamation of the Christian mystery.

I express to the Chapter Religious the hope that they will return to their respective communities with the freshness and timeliness of the Franciscan message. I say to you all: take back to your Confreres the experience of brotherhood of these days as light and strength that can illumine the horizon which is not always clear of the clouds of daily life; to everyone take peace, received and given.

Thinking of the Immaculate Virgin, the "Tota pulchra", and imploring the intercession of St Francis and of St Clare, to whom I entrust the success of the work of this General Chapter, I impart as a pledge of my special affection to you, Most Reverend Father, to the Chapter Fathers and to all the members of the Order my Apostolic Blessing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Visible Communion of Christ's Disciples Is Essential"

Papal Address to Bishops of Togo

VATICAN CITY, JULY 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's June 22 address to the bishops of Togo, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Friday, 22 June 2007

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am happy to receive you while you are making your ad limina visit. Your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles is a visible sign of your communion with the Successor of Peter and of the bonds that unite your particular Churches with the universal Church.

I thank Bishop Ambroise Djoliba of Sokodé, President of the Bishops' Conference of Togo, for his kind words on your behalf.

Through you, I address an affectionate greeting to the members of your Dioceses, the priests, men and women religious, seminarians, catechists and all the lay faithful. May they be faithful in all circumstances to the Lord's commandment: "Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34)!

Likewise, please express to the entire Togolese People the Pope's cordial greetings and fervent good wishes that they may persevere ceaselessly in the endeavour to build a just and reconciled society in which each person may live in dignity.

Dear Brothers, I would like to express my gratitude to you for your perseverance and courage amid the numerous difficulties that your Country has experienced in these recent years. You have contributed on many occasions to the dialogue for national reconciliation, reminding everyone of the requirements of the common good, in fidelity to the truth of God and of man. I ask the Lord to bring these efforts to fruition so that your Country may know a prosperous life in fraternal harmony.

Nor has the life of the Church been exempt from distressing situations.

Your constant efforts to encourage the unity of your Bishops' Conference are the sign that in all circumstances charity must continue to be ever stronger, and that the visible communion of Christ's disciples is an essential reality to be preserved if the Church's witness is to be credible.

In this same perspective, an authentic brotherhood between the Bishops and priests, as well as among the priests themselves, is the hallmark of their full communion, indispensable for the fruitful accomplishment of their ministry. They then will all be able to work in truth for reconciliation within the Church and among the Togolese in general.

May all your diocesan priests, with whose generosity I am well acquainted, be faithful to their vocation in the total gift of themselves to their mission and in full communion with their Bishop (cf. "Ecclesia in Africa," n. 97)!

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, you have the opportunity to carry out your pastoral ministry by participating in your own capacity in the life of the people entrusted to your care.

In fact, "as a body organized within the community and the nation, the Church has both the right and the duty to participate fully in building a just and peaceful society with all the means at her disposal" (ibid., n. 107).

I praise in particular your commitment to the protection of and respect for life which you have had the opportunity to express on numerous occasions, and quite recently demonstrating it once again in detail by your opposition to abortion.

Moreover, the promotion of the truth and dignity of marriage as well as the preservation of essential family values must feature among your principal priorities.

Pastoral care of the family is an essential element for evangelization and enables young people to discover what a commitment that is unique and faithful entails. I therefore urge you to pay special attention to the formation of couples and families.

Through her work of social assistance and her action in the health-care sector in which numerous competent men and women religious and lay people are involved, the Church also expresses God's loving presence to people suffering or in distress and contributes to the progress of justice and respect for human dignity.

In this same perspective, I encourage you to continue your efforts to promote Catholic schools, which provide an integral education at the service of families and of the transmission of faith. Their role, despite the great difficulties they can encounter, is essential to enabling young people to acquire a sound human, cultural and religious formation.

May educators and teachers themselves be models of Christian life for the young!

To succeed in establishing a fully reconciled society, it is of the utmost importance to start out afresh from Christ, who alone can definitively grant this grace to humankind. The work of evangelization is therefore urgently necessary.

Here, I would particularly like to greet with affection the catechists: in your Country, together with the priests and other pastoral workers, they make an effective and generous contribution to proclaiming the Word of God to their brothers and sisters.

In the face of the challenges to the Church's evangelizing mission posed by the contemporary world, the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa continues to be a precious guide for your Dioceses and gives them the possibility of strengthening the faithful in the faith and helping them "to persevere in the hope which the Risen Christ gives, overcoming every temptation to discouragement" (n. 7).

The inculturation of the Gospel message, carried out in fidelity to the Church's teaching, contributes to rooting the faith effectively in your people, enabling them to accept the figure of Jesus Christ in all dimensions of their lives. Indeed, the faithful must allow themselves to be transformed by the grace of God who sets them free, banishing all fear from their hearts for "there is no fear in love" (I John 4: 18).

While respecting the rich traditions that are the vibrant expression of their people's soul, Christians must adamantly reject all that is in opposition to the liberating message of Christ and which encloses the human being and society in alienation. This requires that the formation of priests and of consecrated and lay people must have priority in the pastoral care of your Dioceses.

"People who have never had the chance to learn cannot really know the truths of faith, nor can they perform actions which they have never been taught" ("Ecclesia in Africa," n. 75).

The formation offered to Christians must give them the means to deepen their faith so that they can face the difficult situations they encounter and transmit the content of the faith through their witness of life, sustained by firm personal convictions.

Moreover, this formation must also help the lay faithful to acquire skills that permit them to be committed to working for the common good in the life of society.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church is henceforth a precious instrument at the service of the formation of all and of lay people in particular. Their involvement in public life, through respect for life, the promotion of justice, the defense of human rights and the integral development of the human person, is a witness borne to Christ. In this way the faithful take part in the construction and development of the nation, as well as in the task of the world's evangelization.

Lastly, I would like to stress the need to pursue and to deepen the cordial relations with Muslims that exist in your Country. Indeed, such relations are indispensable for concord and harmony among all citizens and the promotion of values common to humanity.

By training competent people in the ecclesial institutions founded with a view to interreligious dialogue, you foster a better mutual knowledge, in charity and in truth, for an effective collaboration in the area of the development of individuals and of society.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of this meeting, I ask you to persevere with courage and determination in your ministry at the service of the people entrusted to you. May the Lord accompany you with his power and light.

I entrust each one of your Dioceses to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, and I willingly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you as well as to the priests, men and women religious, seminarians, catechists and all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Eradication of Poverty Is a Moral Engagement"

Holy See Statement to U.N. Council

GENEVA, JULY 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the July 4 address by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer at the United Nations at Geneva, to a session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council.

* * *

Mr. President,

1. The continued effort to address the plight of people trapped in poverty and to search for new ways and means to free them from its destructive consequences remains essential if the international community wants to achieve truly integral human development. The Delegation of the Holy See believes that the question of poverty "should be given the highest attention and priority, for the sake of poor and rich countries alike." 

The process of globalization has brought us to a new historical moment in the evolution of the economy. The worldwide impact of communication technology and the instant dissemination of information pre-socialize the poor, the young in particular, to expectations of a more decent and humane lifestyle, to which they are entitled. When such anticipations are frustrated, society faces a risk of violent reactions and peace is endangered for all.

2. Wealth has increased in recent decades lifting millions of persons out of extreme poverty as a result of the opening of markets, of scientific and technological progress, and the circulation of capital. Life expectancy has improved on every continent, literacy rate has increased, and also democracy is now more widespread than it was 30 years ago. 

Regrettably evidence shows the persistence of areas of poverty in different geographical regions and among segments of population within countries. In the fight against poverty the fact cannot be ignored that, instead of declining, the number of people living on less than 2 dollars a day grew to 1.37 billion and an estimated 854 million people worldwide are undernourished. 

In several regions of Africa and Asia, life expectancy is almost half of that in rich countries and illiteracy reaches high levels. Thus attainment of the Millennium Development Goals remains an urgent task. Based on current trends, it appears that most developing countries will fail to meet the majority of these goals by 2015. The reaffirmed partnership in the search for and in the action to achieve greater equity requires the political will to reexamine in depth the reasons why developing countries are facing such difficulties with meeting these goals.

3. Poverty elimination demands an integration between the mechanisms that produce wealth and the mechanisms for the distribution of its benefits at the international, regional and national levels. Exclusion from technological and economic progress, even within the same national community, leads to entrenchment, not elimination, of poverty. An approach to economic growth based on absolute liberalization proves to be socially and, in the long run, economically nonsustainable. In a context of globally increasing wealth and availability of goods, a more systematic and comprehensive analysis is needed to understand how existing methods of trade and mechanisms of production should be modified in order to lift people out of poverty.

4. The "big push" that generous donors had envisioned with carefully thought out plans has not yielded all the concrete results expected. Nor has the advantage provided by the cancellation of external debt always resulted in greater access to education, health and social services. The question to be posed is not whether, but how additional aid should be given. The projects of multilateral institutions and developed countries aimed at reducing poverty and improving growth in poor regions, like the Millennium Development Goals, the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, have made some limited progress. 

More recently Decent Work Country Programs proposed by the International Labor Organization and supported by the ECOSOC 2006 Ministerial Declaration aim at generating employment opportunities and decent work. In fact, with employment opportunities a community can be taken out of poverty in a stable and sustainable way. Work is the only possibility for a community to generate its own value added that pays the way out of poverty. 

Then, empirical evidence shows that foreign aid, while improving living conditions for some individuals, has not been enough to end national-level poverty. Perhaps it is necessary to direct aid to more targeted and less generic projects that can bring about tangible, measurable and empowering change in the daily life experience of individuals and families and in the social fabric of the community. Directing aid to the creation of jobs would fall within this approach. Such effective aid requires multiple channels of distribution and should reach the basic infrastructure of communities that is assured not only by governments but also by community-based organizations and institutions, including those sponsored by faith-groups, such as schools, hospitals and clinics, community centers, and youth training and recreation programs. 

In particular, education is a long term economic investment for everyone, and health provides a durable character to that investment. An educated person can be fully aware of his/her worth and dignity and that of every human being and can act accordingly. The value of education goes beyond its relationship with health. Consider the most important feature of the person: being relational with others. Educated people can establish among themselves social relations not based on force and abuse but on respect and friendship. In such an environment, it is easier to reduce corruption, one of the plagues of poor countries, and to improve respect for law and property rights, crucial for the positive functioning of an economic system. This form of public-private partnership not only delivers services but it helps change mentality and disposition toward development without losing respect for local culture and tradition. Changing mentality at the local level becomes a winning strategy in the fight against poverty.

5. In order to promote development at the macroeconomic level it seems necessary to reinforce the productive capacity of the poorer countries by means of investment in technical formation; this allows for competition in today's knowledge-based economy and gives support to enterprises that create new jobs and decent work. In this regard, transnational corporations carry a particular responsibility to facilitate the transfer of technology, sponsor capacity building in management, and enable local partners to provide more employment opportunities. Foreign investors need to contribute to the overall development of the country in which they establish operations; this is particularly relevant for those engaged in the extraction industry and other short-term commercial enterprises. 

On their part, governments need to assure conditions that are favorable to ethical investment, including a well functioning juridical system, a stable system of taxation, protection of the right to property, and an infrastructure that allows access by local producers to regional and global markets. Corruption has a strong moral relationship with foreign aid. 

Although it is very difficult to condition foreign aid on such factors as corruption and democracy, nevertheless we have to consider that aid flows are based primarily on voluntary efforts by people in donor countries. Such trust could be destroyed by repeated misuse of aid flows by corrupt governments in receiving countries. 

Keeping the above observations in mind, it appears logical that the allocation of national resources should give priority to building social capital over military expenses. It is striking to note that worldwide military expenditures exceed 1.118 billion dollars each year, a sum far higher than the global investment for human development. Together with foreign aid, corporate transfer of resources, cancellation of external debt for the poorer countries, the increasing flows of migrations wisely managed can contribute to the elimination of poverty.

Mr. President,

6. "The Holy See has repeatedly insisted that, while the governments of poorer countries have a responsibility with regard to good governance and the elimination of poverty, the active involvement of international partners is indispensable. ... It is a grave and unconditional moral responsibility, founded on the unity of the human race, and on the common dignity and shared destiny of rich and poor alike, who are being drawn ever closer by the process of globalization." 

Working toward this goal in a coherent use of resources and strategies should allow all people to become "the artisans of their destiny." New international binding agreements to regulate the exploitation of natural resources, to report stolen public funds, to limit the arms trade, to eliminate distorting subsidies in agriculture, and similar initiatives, will go a long way to translate into concrete decisions the often stated goal of solidarity. 

But concrete persons are the motor of development. Eradication of poverty is a moral engagement. The various religions and cultures see its achievement as a most important task that frees people from much suffering and marginalization, that helps them to live peacefully together, and that provides individuals and communities the freedom to protect their dignity and actively contribute to the common good.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Spe Salvi: Mary, Star of Hope

49. With a hymn composed in the eighth or ninth century, thus for over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as “Star of the Sea”: Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).

50. So we cry to her: Holy Mary, you belonged to the humble and great souls of Israel who, like Simeon, were “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25) and hoping, like Anna, “for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38). Your life was thoroughly imbued with the sacred scriptures of Israel which spoke of hope, of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants (cf. Lk 1:55). In this way we can appreciate the holy fear that overcame you when the angel of the Lord appeared to you and told you that you would give birth to the One who was the hope of Israel, the One awaited by the world. Through you, through your “yes”, the hope of the ages became reality, entering this world and its history. You bowed low before the greatness of this task and gave your consent: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). When you hastened with holy joy across the mountains of Judea to see your cousin Elizabeth, you became the image of the Church to come, which carries the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history. But alongside the joy which, with your Magnificat, you proclaimed in word and song for all the centuries to hear, you also knew the dark sayings of the prophets about the suffering of the servant of God in this world. Shining over his birth in the stable at Bethlehem, there were angels in splendour who brought the good news to the shepherds, but at the same time the lowliness of God in this world was all too palpable. The old man Simeon spoke to you of the sword which would pierce your soul (cf. Lk 2:35), of the sign of contradiction that your Son would be in this world. Then, when Jesus began his public ministry, you had to step aside, so that a new family could grow, the family which it was his mission to establish and which would be made up of those who heard his word and kept it (cf. Lk 11:27f). Notwithstanding the great joy that marked the beginning of Jesus's ministry, in the synagogue of Nazareth you must already have experienced the truth of the saying about the “sign of contradiction” (cf. Lk 4:28ff). In this way you saw the growing power of hostility and rejection which built up around Jesus until the hour of the Cross, when you had to look upon the Saviour of the world, the heir of David, the Son of God dying like a failure, exposed to mockery, between criminals. Then you received the word of Jesus: “Woman, behold, your Son!” (Jn 19:26). From the Cross you received a new mission. From the Cross you became a mother in a new way: the mother of all those who believe in your Son Jesus and wish to follow him. The sword of sorrow pierced your heart. Did hope die? Did the world remain definitively without light, and life without purpose? At that moment, deep down, you probably listened again to the word spoken by the angel in answer to your fear at the time of the Annunciation: “Do not be afraid, Mary!” (Lk 1:30). How many times had the Lord, your Son, said the same thing to his disciples: do not be afraid! In your heart, you heard this word again during the night of Golgotha. Before the hour of his betrayal he had said to his disciples: “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). “Do not be afraid, Mary!” In that hour at Nazareth the angel had also said to you: “Of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:33). Could it have ended before it began? No, at the foot of the Cross, on the strength of Jesus's own word, you became the mother of believers. In this faith, which even in the darkness of Holy Saturday bore the certitude of hope, you made your way towards Easter morning. The joy of the Resurrection touched your heart and united you in a new way to the disciples, destined to become the family of Jesus through faith. In this way you were in the midst of the community of believers, who in the days following the Ascension prayed with one voice for the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14) and then received that gift on the day of Pentecost. The “Kingdom” of Jesus was not as might have been imagined. It began in that hour, and of this “Kingdom” there will be no end. Thus you remain in the midst of the disciples as their Mother, as the Mother of hope. Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom! Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide us on our way!

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 30 November, the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.


[1] Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum VI, no. 26003.

[2] Cf. Dogmatic Poems, V, 53-64: PG 37, 428-429.

[3] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817-1821.

[4] Summa Theologiae, II-IIae, q.4, a.1.

[5] H. Köster in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament VIII (1972), p.586.

[6] De excessu fratris sui Satyri, II, 47: CSEL 73, 274.

[7] Ibid., II, 46: CSEL 73, 273.

[8] Cf. Ep. 130 Ad Probam 14, 25-15, 28: CSEL 44, 68-73.

[9] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1025.

[10] Jean Giono, Les vraies richesses, Paris 1936, Preface, quoted in Henri de Lubac, Catholicisme. Aspects sociaux du dogme, Paris 1983, p. VII.

[11] Ep. 130 Ad Probam 13, 24: CSEL 44, 67.

[12] Sententiae III, 118: CCL 6/2, 215.

[13] Cf. ibid. III, 71: CCL 6/2, 107-108.

[14] Novum Organum I, 117.

[15] Cf. ibid. I, 129.

[16] Cf. New Atlantis.

[17] In Werke IV, ed. W. Weischedel (1956), p.777. The essay on “The Victory of the Good over the Evil Principle” constitutes the third chapter of the text Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft (“Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone”), which Kant published in 1793.

[18] I. Kant, Das Ende aller Dinge, in Werke VI, ed. W. Weischedel (1964), p.190.

[19] Chapters on charity, Centuria 1, ch. 1: PG 90, 965.

[20] Cf. ibid.: PG 90, 962-966.

[21] Conf. X 43, 70: CSEL 33, 279.

[22] Sermo 340, 3: PL 38, 1484; cf. F. Van der Meer, Augustine the Bishop, London and New York 1961, p.268.

[23] Sermo 339, 4: PL 38, 1481.

[24] Conf. X 43, 69: CSEL 33, 279.

[25] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2657.

[26] Cf. In 1 Ioannis 4, 6: PL 35, 2008f.

[27] Testimony of Hope, Boston 2000, pp.121ff.

[28] The Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, 24 November.

[29] Sermones in Cant., Sermo 26, 5: PL 183, 906.

[30] Negative Dialektik (1966), Third part, III, 11, in Gesammelte Schriften VI, Frankfurt am Main 1973, p.395.

[31] Ibid., Second part, p.207.

[32] DS 806.

[33] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 988-1004.

[34] Cf. ibid., 1040.

[35] Cf. Tractatus super Psalmos, Ps 127, 1-3: CSEL 22, 628-630.

[36] Gorgias 525a-526c.

[37] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1033-1037.

[38] Cf. ibid., 1023-1029.

[39] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030-1032.

[40] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1032.

Spe Salvi: III. Judgement as a setting for learning and practising hope

41. At the conclusion of the central section of the Church's great Credo—the part that recounts the mystery of Christ, from his eternal birth of the Father and his temporal birth of the Virgin Mary, through his Cross and Resurrection to the second coming—we find the phrase: “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. From the earliest times, the prospect of the Judgement has influenced Christians in their daily living as a criterion by which to order their present life, as a summons to their conscience, and at the same time as hope in God's justice. Faith in Christ has never looked merely backwards or merely upwards, but always also forwards to the hour of justice that the Lord repeatedly proclaimed. This looking ahead has given Christianity its importance for the present moment. In the arrangement of Christian sacred buildings, which were intended to make visible the historic and cosmic breadth of faith in Christ, it became customary to depict the Lord returning as a king—the symbol of hope—at the east end; while the west wall normally portrayed the Last Judgement as a symbol of our responsibility for our lives—a scene which followed and accompanied the faithful as they went out to resume their daily routine. As the iconography of the Last Judgement developed, however, more and more prominence was given to its ominous and frightening aspects, which obviously held more fascination for artists than the splendour of hope, often all too well concealed beneath the horrors.

42. In the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgement has faded into the background: Christian faith has been individualized and primarily oriented towards the salvation of the believer's own soul, while reflection on world history is largely dominated by the idea of progress. The fundamental content of awaiting a final Judgement, however, has not disappeared: it has simply taken on a totally different form. The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God, much less a good God. It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested. Since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. If in the face of this world's suffering, protest against God is understandable, the claim that humanity can and must do what no God actually does or is able to do is both presumptuous and intrinsically false. It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice; rather, it is grounded in the intrinsic falsity of the claim. A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope. No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering. No one and nothing can guarantee that the cynicism of power—whatever beguiling ideological mask it adopts—will cease to dominate the world. This is why the great thinkers of the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, were equally critical of atheism and theism. Horkheimer radically excluded the possibility of ever finding a this-worldly substitute for God, while at the same time he rejected the image of a good and just God. In an extreme radicalization of the Old Testament prohibition of images, he speaks of a “longing for the totally Other” that remains inaccessible—a cry of yearning directed at world history. Adorno also firmly upheld this total rejection of images, which naturally meant the exclusion of any “image” of a loving God. On the other hand, he also constantly emphasized this “negative” dialectic and asserted that justice —true justice—would require a world “where not only present suffering would be wiped out, but also that which is irrevocably past would be undone”[30]. This, would mean, however—to express it with positive and hence, for him, inadequate symbols—that there can be no justice without a resurrection of the dead. Yet this would have to involve “the resurrection of the flesh, something that is totally foreign to idealism and the realm of Absolute spirit”[31].

43. Christians likewise can and must constantly learn from the strict rejection of images that is contained in God's first commandment (cf. Ex 20:4). The truth of negative theology was highlighted by the Fourth Lateran Council, which explicitly stated that however great the similarity that may be established between Creator and creature, the dissimilarity between them is always greater[32]. In any case, for the believer the rejection of images cannot be carried so far that one ends up, as Horkheimer and Adorno would like, by saying “no” to both theses—theism and atheism. God has given himself an “image”: in Christ who was made man. In him who was crucified, the denial of false images of God is taken to an extreme. God now reveals his true face in the figure of the sufferer who shares man's God-forsaken condition by taking it upon himself. This innocent sufferer has attained the certitude of hope: there is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive, yet we can begin to grasp it through faith. Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh[33]. There is justice[34]. There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. For this reason, faith in the Last Judgement is first and foremost hope—the need for which was made abundantly clear in the upheavals of recent centuries. I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfilment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ's return and for new life become fully convincing.

44. To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Eph 2:12). Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so. The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear of which Saint Hilary spoke when he said that all our fear has its place in love[35]. God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened. Here I would like to quote a passage from Plato which expresses a premonition of just judgement that in many respects remains true and salutary for Christians too. Albeit using mythological images, he expresses the truth with an unambiguous clarity, saying that in the end souls will stand naked before the judge. It no longer matters what they once were in history, but only what they are in truth: “Often, when it is the king or some other monarch or potentate that he (the judge) has to deal with, he finds that there is no soundness in the soul whatever; he finds it scourged and scarred by the various acts of perjury and wrong-doing ...; it is twisted and warped by lies and vanity, and nothing is straight because truth has had no part in its development. Power, luxury, pride, and debauchery have left it so full of disproportion and ugliness that when he has inspected it (he) sends it straight to prison, where on its arrival it will undergo the appropriate punishment ... Sometimes, though, the eye of the judge lights on a different soul which has lived in purity and truth ... then he is struck with admiration and sends him to the isles of the blessed”[36]. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31), Jesus admonishes us through the image of a soul destroyed by arrogance and opulence, who has created an impassable chasm between himself and the poor man; the chasm of being trapped within material pleasures; the chasm of forgetting the other, of incapacity to love, which then becomes a burning and unquenchable thirst. We must note that in this parable Jesus is not referring to the final destiny after the Last Judgement, but is taking up a notion found, inter alia, in early Judaism, namely that of an intermediate state between death and resurrection, a state in which the final sentence is yet to be pronounced.

45. This early Jewish idea of an intermediate state includes the view that these souls are not simply in a sort of temporary custody but, as the parable of the rich man illustrates, are already being punished or are experiencing a provisional form of bliss. There is also the idea that this state can involve purification and healing which mature the soul for communion with God. The early Church took up these concepts, and in the Western Church they gradually developed into the doctrine of Purgatory. We do not need to examine here the complex historical paths of this development; it is enough to ask what it actually means. With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell[37]. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are[38].

46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur? Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God's judgement according to each person's particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.

47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ's Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart's time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ[39]. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

48. A further point must be mentioned here, because it is important for the practice of Christian hope. Early Jewish thought includes the idea that one can help the deceased in their intermediate state through prayer (see for example 2 Macc 12:38-45; first century BC). The equivalent practice was readily adopted by Christians and is common to the Eastern and Western Church. The East does not recognize the purifying and expiatory suffering of souls in the afterlife, but it does acknowledge various levels of beatitude and of suffering in the intermediate state. The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon? Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too[40]. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.

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