This address was given at the St John of Lateran Cathedral in Rome, the most important basilica in Rome, of which he himself is the bishop, ON MAY 26, 2009, just a few days ago. This is Benedict XVI's most current way of thinking, no obsolete message here. Also notice that the very same passage of the new testament was quoted in the MILITARY PILGRIMAGE ADDRESS in LOURDES, May 17-19: Coincidence , or deliberate coordination?
POPE'S ADDRESS TO THE DIOCESAN
PASTORAL CONVENTION OF ROME
Venerated brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood,
dear religious men and women,
Dear brothers and sisters:
In keeping with a happy custom, I am pleased to open this year's diocesan pastoral convention. To each of you, who represent the entire diocesan community, I affectionately address my greeting and a heartfelt gratitude for the pastoral work that you are carrying out.
Through you, I extend to all the parishes my cordial greeting, with the words of the Apostle Paul: "To all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Rm 1,7).
I thank the Cardinal Vicar for the encouraging words which he addressed to me, speaking in your behalf, and for the help which, along with the auxiliary bishops, he gives me in the daily apostolic service to which the Lord has called me as Bishop of Rome.
We have just been reminded that in the course of the past decade, the attention of the Diocese was focused in the first three years on the family; then for the next three years, on educating the new generations in the faith, seeking to respond to that 'educative emergency' which is, for everyone, not an easy challenge; and lastly, also with regard to education, and spurred by the encyclical Spe salvi, you chose the issue of education in hope.
Even as, with you, I thank the Lord for so much good that he has allowed us to do so far - I think particularly of the parish priests and other protests who do not spare themselves in leading the communities entrusted to them - I wish to express my appreciation for the pastoral choice to dedicate time to verifying what has been done, with the purpose of putting them to the proof, in the light of soemefundamental aspects of regular pastoral work, in order to better identify them and share them better.
At the basis of this commitment, which has already engaged you in all the parishes and other diocesan organisms for some months, there should be a renewed awareness of our being a Church and of the pastoral co-responsibility which, in the name of Christ, we are all called on to exercise. It is precisely this aspect that I wish to dwell on.
The Second Vatican Council, wishing to transmit purely and integrally the doctrine on the Church that had matured in the course of two thousand years, gave a "more thought out definition" of the Church, illustrating above all its mysteric nature, namely as "a reality impregnated with the divine presence, therefore, always capable of new and more profound explorations" (Paul VI, Address at the opening of the second session, September 29, 1963).
Thus, the Church, which originates in the trinitarian God, is a mystery of communion. As such, it is not simply a spiritual reality, but it lives in history, in flesh and blood, so to speak.
The Second Vatican Council describes it as "like a sacrament, or sign and instrument of intimate union with God and the unity of the entire human species" (Lumen gentium, 1).
And the essence of sacrament is precisely that it can be felt both in the visible as well as the invisible, and that which is visible and tangible opens the door to God himself.
The Church, as we have said, is a communion of persons who, by the action of the Holy Spirit, make up the People of God, which is at the same time. the Body of Christ. Let us reflect a bit on these two key expressions.
The concept 'People of God' was born and developed in the Old Testament: To enter into the reality of human history, God chose a specific people, the people of Israel, to be his people. The intention of this particular choice was to arrive, through a few, to the many, and from the many, to all.
Through the agency of this people, God truly entered history in a concrete way. The opening to universality was realized on the Cross and in the resurrection of Christ.
On the Cross, St. Paul says, Christ brought down the wall of separation. Giving us his body, he reunites us in this Body to make us into one. In the communion of the 'Body of Christ', we all become one people, the People of God, where - to cite St. Paul again - everyone is just one, and there is no longer any distinction, or difference "between Greek and Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, slave, Jew, But Christ is everything in everyone". He brought down the wall of distinction among peoples, races and cultures: we are all united in Christ.
So we see that the two concepts - 'People of God' and 'Body of Christ' - complete each other and together form the New Testament concept of the Church.
While 'People of God' expresses the continuity of the Church's history, 'Body of Christ' expresses the universality that was inaugurated on the Cross and in the resurrection of our Lord.
For us, Christians, then, 'Body of Christ' is not just an image, but a true concept, because Christ makes us a gift of his real Body, not only of an image. Resurrected, Christ unites us all in the Sacrament to make us one body only.
Therefore, the concept 'People of God" and 'Body of Christ' complete each other: In Christ, we become truly the People of God. So 'People of God' means everyone, from the Pope to the last baptized baby.
The first Eucharistic prayer, the so-called Roman Canon written in teh fourth century, distinguishes between servi - 'we who are your servants' - and plebs tua sancta (your sacred people). Therefore, if one must distinguish, there are servants who are holy people, whereas the term 'People of God' expresses the idea of everyone together in their common being, the Church.
Immediately following Vatican-II, this ecclesiological doctrine found a vast acceptance, and thank God, so much good fruit has matured in the Christian community.
But we must also remember that the reception of this doctrine in practice and its consequent assimilation into the fabric of the ecclesial conscience, has not happened always and everywhere without difficulty and according to a correct interpretation.
As I had the occasion to clarify in an address to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005, a current interpretation, citing a presumed 'spirit of the Council', has intended to establish a discontinuity and even outright contraposition between the Church before the Council and the Church after the Council, sometimes going beyond the limits that objectively exist between the hierarchical ministry and the responsibility of laymen in the Church.
The notion of the 'People of God', in particular, has some interpretations that come from a purely sociological viewpoint, with an almost exclusively horizontal direction, excluding any vertical reference to God.
These are positions in open contradiction to the word and spirit of the Council, which did not intend a rupture, another Church, but a true and profound renewal in the continuity of the one subject Church which grows in time and develops, but remains always the identical single subject of the People of God in pilgrimage.
In the second place, it must be acknowledged that the reawakening of spiritual and pastoral energies in these past years has not always produced the desired increment and development. In fact, it must be observed that in some ecclesial communities a period of fervor and initiative was followed by one of weakened commitment, a situation of tiredness, almost a stalemate, and even resistance and contradiction between the conciliar doctrine and various concepts formulated in the name of the Council, but in reality, opposed to its spirit and its letter.
If only for this reason, the ordinary Assembly of the Bishops' Synod in 1987 was dedicated to the question of vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and the world. This tells us that the luminous pages dedicated by the Council to the laity had not yet been adequately translated and realized in the consciousness of Catholics and in pastoral practice.
On the one hand, there still exists the tendency to identify the Church unilaterally with the hierarchy, forgetting the common responsibility, the common mission, of the people of God that all of us are in Christ.
On the other hand, the tendency also persists to think of the People of God, as I mentioned, according to a purely sociological or political angle, forgetting the novelty and specificity of that people which become a people only in communion with Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters; it is now time to ask: At what point is our Diocese in? To what degree is the pastoral co-responsibility of everyone, particularly of laymen, recognized and promoted?
In past centuries, thanks to the generous testimony of so many baptized ones who spent their lives to educate new generations in the faith, to heal the sick and help the poor, the Christian community announced the Gospel to the residents of Rome.
This same mission is entrusted to us today, in different situations, in a city where not a few baptized Christians have lost the way to the Church while non-Christians do not know the beauty of our faith.
The Diocesan Synod which was called by my beloved predecessor John Paul II was an effective reception of the Conciliar doctrine, and the Book of the Synod committed the Diocese to become ever more a Church that is alive and functioning in the heart of the city, through the coordinated responsible action of all its components.
The mission of the city, which followed the Synod in preparation for the Grand Jubilee of 2000, allowed our ecclesial community to take note of the fact that the mandate of evangelization does not only concern some but all baptized Christians.
It was a salutary experience which contributed to mature in the parishes, religious communities, associations and movements the consciousness of belonging to the one People of God, who - according to the words of the Apostle Peter - are "a chosen race... a people of his own, so that you may announce his praises" (1 Pt 2,9). And we wish to give thanks for that tonight.
There is still a long way to go. Too many baptized Christians do not feel part of the ecclesial community and live at its margins, turning to the parishes only in some circumstances to receive religious services.
In proportion to the number of residents in each parish, there are still too few laymen who, professing to be Catholic, are ready to make themselves available to work in various fields of apostolate.
Certainly, there is no lack of cultural and social difficulties, but to be faithful to the mandate of the Lord, we cannot resign ourselves to conserving the status quo. Confident in the grace of the Spirit, that the resurrected Christ assured us of, we must resume the way with renewed vigor.
What path can we take? First of all, we must renew efforts for a more attentive and specific formation according to the view of the Church that I have just described, on the part of the priests as of the religious and laymen. To understand even better what this Church is, this People of God in the Body of Christ.
It is necessary at the same time to improve the pastoral setting with respect to vocations and to the roles of those in consecrated life and laymen, promoting gradually the co-responsibility all together of all the members of the People of God.
This requires a change in mentality particularly among laymen, who must pass from considering themselves 'collaborators' of the clergy to recognize that they are really 'co-responsible' for what the Church is and how it acts, thus promoting the consolidation of a mature and committed laity.
This common consciousness among all baptized persons of being a Church does not diminish the responsibility of parish priests. It falls on you, particularly, dear parish priests, to promote the spiritual and apostolic growth of those who are already assiduously committed in the parishes: they are the nucleus of the community who will be the ferment for others.
In order that such communities, even if sometimes numerically small, do not lose their identity and vigor, it is necessary that they be educated in prayerful listening to the Word of God through the lectio divina, which was ardently recommended by the recent Bishops' Synod assembly. Let us nourish ourselves by this listening and meditation on the Word of God.
These communities should not be any less conscious that they are 'Church' because Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, calls them together and makes them his people. Faith, in fact, is one part of a profoundly personal relationship with God, but it possesses an essential communitarian component, and the two dimensions are inseparable.
Thus, the faitful can experience the beauty and the joy of being and feeling themselves Church - even the young people, who are most exposed to the growing individualism of contemporary culture, which brings the inevitable consequence of weakening inter-personal ties and the sense of belonging.
In our faith in God, we are united in the Body of Christ, and we all become one in the same Body, and thus, believing profoundly, we can experience communion among ourselves and overcome the solitude of individualism.
If it is the Word that calls the community together, it is the Eucharist that makes them one Body: "Because the loaf of bread is one," St. Paul writes, "we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Cor 10.17).
The Church therefore is not the result of a sum of individuals, but a unity among those who are united by the one Word of God and of the only Bread of Life.
The communion and unity of the Church, which are born from the Eucharist, are a reality of which we must have an ever greater awareness, even when we receive Holy Communion, to be ever more aware that we are entering into union with Christ, in order to become, among ourselves, one thing only.
We should always learn anew how to guard and defend this unity from rivalry, contestations and jealousies which can arise within and among ecclesial communities.
In particular, I wish to ask the movements and the communities that emerged after Vatican-II, who are a precious gift within our Diocese for which we must thank the Lord, to be always careful that their formative itineraries lead their members to mature a true sense of belonging to the parish community.
The center of parish life, as I mentioned, is the Eucharist, particularly the Sunday Mass. If the unity of the Church arises from the encounter with the Lord, it not then secondary that the adoration and celebration of the Eucharist be very attentively done, allowing those who participate to experience the beauty of Christ's mystery.
Since the beauty of the liturgy "is not mere aethetism, but a way through which the truth of the love of God in Christ reaches, fascinates and enraptures us" (Sacramentum caritatis n. 35), it is important that the Eucharistic celebration manifests and communicates divine life, through sacramental signs, and reveals the true face of the Church to the men and women of the city.
The spiritual and apostolic growth of the community leads to widening it through convincing missionary activity. Do your best then to bring back to life in your parishes, as during the period of the city mission, those small groups or centers of listening for the faithful to listen to the announcement of Christ and his Word, places where it is possible to experience the faith, exercise charity, organize hope.
This articulation of the large urban prishes through the multiplication of small communhities allows a wider missionary breadth which takes into account the density of the population, and its social and cultural physiognomy, often remarkably diversified.
It would be important that this pastoral method finds efficent application even in workplaces, which must be evangelized today with a well-conceived environmental pastoral, since, with increased social mobility, the population spends a large part of tis time at work.
Finally, not to be forgotten is the testimony of charity which unites hearts and opens them up to ecclesial belonging. To the question of how to explain the success of Christianity in its early centuries - the elevation of a presumed Jewish sect to become the religion of the Empire - historians asnwer that it was particualrly the experience of charity by Christians that most convinced the world.
To live charity is the primary form of missionary work. The Word that is both announced and lived becomes credible if it is embodied in behavior showing solidarity and sharing, and in gestures which show the face of Christ as a true Friend to man.
The silent daily testimony of charity, promoted by the parish thanks to the efforts of so many faikthful laymen, must continue to extend itself ever more, so that whoever lvies in suffering may feel the Church near him and thus experience the love of the Father, rich with mercy.
Therefore, be 'good Samaritans' ready to heal the material and spiritual wounds of your brothers. Deacons, conforming to their ordination as servants of Christ. can carry out a useful service in promoting a renewwed attention towards the old and new forms of poverty.
I also think of the young people: dearest ones, I invite you to place your enthusiasm and your creativity in the service of Christ, making yourselves apostles among your contemporaries, and ready to respond generously to the Lord if He calls you to come closer to him in the priesthood or in the consecrated life.
Dear brothers and sisters, the future of Christianity and the Church of Rome depends on the commitment and testimony of each of you. For this I invoke the manteral intercession of the Virgin Mary, venerated for centuries at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore as the Salus populus romani'. As she did with the Apostles at the Cenacile while awaiting Pentecost, may she accompany and encourage us to look with confidence to tomorrow.
With these sentiments, as I thank you for your lasting work, I impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.