In a society fraught between globalization and individualism, the Church is called to offer a witness of koinonìa, of communion. This reality does not come "from below" but is a mystery which, so to speak, "has its roots in Heaven", in the Triune God himself. It is he, in himself, who is the eternal dialogue of love which was communicated to us in Jesus Christ and woven into the fabric of humanity and history to lead it to fullness. And here then is the great synthesis of the Second Vatican Council: the Church, mystery of communion, "in Christ is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, n. 1). Here too, in this great City, as well as in its territory with the variety of the respective human and social problems, the Ecclesial Community, today as yesterday, is first of all the sign, poor but true, of God Love whose Name is impressed in the depths of the being of every person and in every experience of authentic sociability and solidarity.
After these reflections, dear brothers and sisters, I leave you some special exhortations. Take care of spiritual and catechetical formation, a "substantial" formation that is more necessary than ever to live the Christian vocation well in today's world. I say to adults and young people: foster a thought-out faith that can engage in profound dialogue with all, with our non-Catholic brethren, with non-Christians and with non-believers. Continue your generous sharing with the poor and the weak, in accordance with the Church's original praxis, always drawing inspiration and strength from the Eucharist, the perennial source of charity. With special affection I encourage seminarians and young people involved in a vocational journey: do not be afraid; indeed, may you feel the attraction of definitive choices, of a serious and demanding formative process. The high standard of discipleship alone fascinates and gives joy. I urge all to grow in the missionary dimension which is co-essential to communion. Indeed, the Trinity is at the same time unity and mission: the more intense love is, the stronger is the urge to pour it out, to spread it, to communicate it. Church of Genoa, be united and missionary to proclaim to all the joy of faith and the beauty of being God's Family. My thought extends to the entire City, to all the Genoese and to all who live and work in this territory. Dear friends, look to the future with confidence and seek to build it together, avoiding factiousness and particularism, putting the common good before your own specific legitimate interests.
I would like to conclude with a wish that I have taken from the stupendous prayer of Moses which we heard in the First Reading: let the Lord always walk in the midst of you and make you his heritage (cf. Exodus 34: 9). May the intercession of Mary Most Holy, whom the Genoese, at home and throughout the world, invoke as the Madonna della Guardia obtain this for you. With her help and that of the Holy Patrons of your beloved City and Region, may your faith and works always be in praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Following the example of the Saints of this earth, be a missionary community: listening to God and at the service of men and women! Amen.
Piazza Matteotti, Genoa
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the middle of my Pastoral Visit to Genoa, we have come to the time of the usual Sunday appointment of the Angelus and the Shrine of Nostra Signora della Guardia, where I prayed this morning, is naturally in my mind. Pope Benedict XV, your illustrious fellow citizen, often went on pilgrimage to that mountain oasis. It was he who had a copy of the beloved image of the Madonna della Guardia set up in the Vatican Gardens. And, like my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II on his first Apostolic Pilgrimage to Genoa, I too would like to begin my Pastoral Visit with a tribute to the heavenly Mother of God who watches over the City and all its inhabitants from the summit of Mount Figogna.
Tradition claims that Benedetto Pareto, who was worried because he did not know how to respond to the invitation to build a chapel in that place so far from the City, Our Lady in her first apparition said: "Trust in me! You will not lack the means. With my help it will all be easy for you. Only be firm in your will". "Trust in me!". Today Mary repeats this to us. An ancient prayer, very dear to popular tradition, leads us to address to her these trusting words which today we make our own: "Remember, O Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided". It is with this certainty that we invoke the maternal assistance of the Madonna della Guardia upon your Diocesan Community, its Pastors, its consecrated people and its lay faithful: the young, the families and the elderly. Let us ask her in particular to watch over the sick and all the suffering and to make fruitful the missionary initiatives that are under way in order to bring the proclamation of the Gospel to all. Let us entrust to Mary the whole of this City with its variegated population, its cultural, social and economic activities, the problems and challenges of our time and the dedication of all who cooperate for the common good.
My gaze now extends to the whole of Liguria, spangled with churches and Marian Shrines, set like a crown between the sea and the mountains. Together with you, I thank God for the robust, tenacious faith of the past generations that down the centuries wrote memorable pages of holiness and human civilization. In particular, Liguria and Genoa have always been an open land on the Mediterranean and on the whole world; how many missionaries set out from this port for the Americas and for other distant lands! How many people emigrated from here to other Countries, perhaps poor in material resources but rich in faith and the human and spiritual values which they subsequently transplanted to the places where they landed! May Mary, Star of the Sea, continue to shine upon Genoa; may Mary, Star of Hope, continue to guide the Genoese on their journey, especially the new generations so that, with her help, they may take the right route across the often stormy seas of life.
After the Angelus:
I would now like to recall an important event that will begin tomorrow in Dublin, Ireland: the Diplomatic Conference on cluster munitions, convoked in order to produce a Convention that bans these lethal devices. I hope that thanks to the responsibility of all participants it will be possible to achieve a strong and credible international treaty: indeed, it is essential to remedy past errors and avoid their repetition in the future. I accompany with my prayers the victims of cluster bombs and their families, as well as those who will be taking part in the Conference, as I express my best wishes for its success.
I greet all the young people and all those present once again. Thank you for your presence. Good-bye and may the Lord bless you.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Olympic stadium of Serravalle - Republic of San Marino
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Great is my joy at being a able to break with you the bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist and to address to you, dear people of San Marino, my most cordial greeting. My special thoughts go to the Captains Regent and to the other political and civil authorities present at this Eucharistic celebration. I greet with affection your pastor, Bishop Luigi Negri, whom I thank for his courteous words and, with him, I greet all the priests and faithful of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro; I greet each one of you and express my heartfelt gratitude for the cordiality and affection with which you have welcomed me. I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and duties, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know that you are not without difficulties, problems and concerns here. I want to assure you all that I am close to you and remember you in prayer, and I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this territory and its people, with its granitic faith of which the Bishop spoke.
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the Feast of God, of the centre of our faith: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When one thinks of the Trinity, one usually thinks of the aspect of the mystery: they are Three and they are One, one God in three Persons. Actually God in his greatness cannot be anything but a mystery for us, yet he revealed himself. We can know him in his Son and thus also know the Father and the Holy Spirit. Instead today’s Liturgy draws our attention not so much to this mystery as to the reality of love that is contained in this first and supreme mystery of our faith. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one because God is love and love is an absolute life-giving force; the unity created by love is a unity greater than a purely physical unity. The Father gives everything to the Son; the Son receives everything from the Father with gratitude; and the Holy Spirit is the fruit of this mutual love of the Father and the Son. The texts of today’s Mass speak of God and thus speak of love; they do not dwell so much on the three Persons, but rather on love which is the substance and, at the same time, the unity and trinity.
The first passage that we heard, taken from the Book of Exodus and which I dwelt on at a recent Wednesday catechesis, is surprising because the revelation of God’s love comes after a very serious sin of the people. They had hardly concluded the oath of the Covenant which they took at Mount Sinai, and already the people were disloyal. In Moses’ prolonged absence, the people said: “but where has this Moses gone, where is his God?” and they asked Aaron to create a god who would be visible, accessible and controllable, within the reach of man instead of this mysterious, invisible and distant God. Aaron complied and made a golden calf. Coming down from Sinai, Moses saw what had happened and broke the tablets of the Covenant which was already broken, shattered, two stones on which were written the “Ten Words”, the concrete contents of the agreement with God. It looked as if all was lost, the friendship, immediately and from the outset, was broken. Yet, despite this most grievous sin of the people, through Moses’ intercession God chose to forgive them and invited Moses to climb the mountain once again to receive anew his law, the Ten Commandments, and to renew the pact. Moses then asked God to reveal himself, to allow him to see his face. However, God did not show his face, but rather revealed his being, full of goodness, with these words: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). This is the Face of God. This self-definition of God expresses his merciful love: a love that triumphs over sin, covers it, eliminates it. We can always be sure of this goodness which does not abandon us. There can be no clearer revelation. We have a God who refuses to destroy sinners and wants to show his love in an even more profound and surprising way to sinners themselves, in order to always offer them the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.
The Gospel completes this revelation, we heard in the First Reading, because it indicates the point to which God has shown his mercy. John the Evangelist refers to these words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). In the world there is evil, there is selfishness, there is wickedness, and God could come to judge this world, to destroy evil, to punish those who work in darkness. Instead, he shows his love for the world and for men and women, despite their sin, and sends what is most precious to him: his Only-Begotten Son. Not only does God send him, but he gives him as a gift to the world. Jesus is the Son of God who was born for us, who lived for us, who healed the sick, forgave sins and welcomed everyone. Responding to the love that comes from the Father, the Son gave his own life for us: on the cross God’s merciful love reaches its highest expression. And it is on the cross that the Son of God obtains for us participation in eternal life that is communicated to us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the mystery of the cross, the three divine Persons are present: the Father, who gives his Only-Begotten Son for the salvation of the world; the Son, who totally fulfils the Father’s plan; the Holy Spirit — poured out by Jesus at the moment of his death — who comes to make us participants in divine life, to transform our existence so that it may be enlivened by divine love.
Dear brothers and sisters, faith in the Trinitarian God has characterized this Church of San Marino-Montefeltro, too, throughout the course of its ancient and glorious history. The evangelization of this land is attributed to the holy stonemasons Marinus and Leo who are said to have come to Rimini from Dalmatia in the middle of the third century. Because of the holiness of their lives they were ordained, respectively a priest and a deacon, by Bishop Gaudentius who sent them inland, one to Monte Feretro, later known as San Leo, and the other to Monte Titano, later known as San Marino. Over and above the historical issues — which it is not our task to examine — it is interesting to state that Marinus and Leo brought into the context of this local reality, with the faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ, new perspectives and values, determining the birth of a culture and a civilization centred on the human person, the image of God and therefore the bearer of rights that precede all human legislation. The variety of ethnic groups — Romans, Goths and later Lombards — who came into contact with each other, sometimes in very conflictual situations, found in their common reference to faith a powerful factor for ethical, cultural, social and, in a certain way, political, edification. It was obvious to them that they could not consider a project of civilization complete until all the members of the people had become a living and well-structured Christian community built on faith in the Trinitarian God. Therefore one can rightly say that the wealth of this people, your wealth, dear Sammarinesi, has been and still is faith, and that this faith has created a truly unique civilization. Alongside your faith, we must also recall your absolute fidelity to the Bishop of Rome, whom this Church has always viewed with devotion and affection; likewise the attention shown to the great tradition of the Eastern Church and a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.
You are justly proud of and grateful for all that the Holy Spirit has done in your Church throughout the centuries. However, you also know that the best way to appreciate an inheritance is to cultivate and enrich it. You are called, in fact, to develop this precious deposit in one of the most crucial moments in history. Today your mission is facing profound and rapid cultural, social, economic and political transformations that have determined new directions and changed mentalities, customs and sensitivities. Here too, as elsewhere, there is no lack of difficulties and obstacles, due above all to hedonistic models that obscure minds and risk uprooting all morality. The temptation has crept in to believe that man’s true wealth is not faith, but personal and social power, his intellect, his culture and his capacity to manipulate scientific, technological and social reality. Thus, in these lands too, people have begun to replace faith and Christian values with presumed riches which ultimately prove to be inconsistent and unable to sustain the great promise of the true, the good, the beautiful and the just that for centuries your ancestors have identified with the experience of faith. Nor should we forget the crisis into which many families have been plunged, aggravated by the widespread psychological and spiritual fragility of couples, as well as the struggle experienced by many educators in offering formative continuity to young people, who are conditioned by various types of instability, and in the first place that of their social role and work opportunities.
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29 June 2014