In our times of almost daily excess in the search for easy media consensus, the Pastoral Visit of Benedict XVI to the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro was a happy exception. The Pope said great and extraordinary things in an almost conversational way to his listeners. Moreover a sense of courtesy and measure distinguished the hospitality shown to him by Italy’s most unique diocese and by the world’s oldest republic.
Only once did the Pope’s warm and gentle voice become suddenly more emphatic during the homily: when, in the Stadium of Serravalle — in front of the largest crowd of the entire visit — the Pope added to the written text of his homily the words, “Feast of God”, to explain the Gospel of Trinity Sunday. Perhaps this was no coincidence. Indeed, it appears to be the key, typical of Ratzinger, to a clearer interpretation of the entire visit to San Marino and to the last meeting outside the Cathedral in Pennabilli with young people. God is not one topic among many, to be touched on occasionally, but rather the central issue in the theology proposed by Benedict XVI from which derives every pastoral action that can move human hearts.
The Pope knows how to speak of God as the “first and supreme mystery of our faith”, but especially as love, the starting point for looking with fresh eyes at the great history of peoples and the daily lives of individuals. Love and freedom, words easily squandered and betrayed, find consistence in Christian faith and were key words in this Pastoral Visit. They recur in different contexts but are always associated with an invitation to a life consistent with belief. “Faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ”, the Pontiff said, determines “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 special richness of the Republic of San Marino was the Christian faith which created in its tiny territory “a truly unique civilization”, anchored to “peaceful co-existence in accordance with the criteria of democracy and solidarity”. “This makes it possible”, the Pope added, addressing the Captains Regent in the Hall of the Great and General Council in the Public Palace, “to build a society attentive to the true good of the human person, to human dignity and freedom, that can safeguard the right of every people to live in peace. These are the strong points of healthy secularism within which the civil institutions must act in their constant commitment to defending the common good. The Church ... collaborates with it at the service of man, to defend his fundamental rights, those ethical requirements that are engraved in human nature itself”.
The saints are those who best speak of God and bear witness to his love, giving life to lasting experiences, as happened in the history of St Marinus and St Leo. They were both Christian stonemasons in the early centuries and only later became, respectively, a deacon and a priest. They are the origin of the Christian community of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro. Saints combine their example with their words, which makes them convincing. Thus St Marinus could leave in his testament for his community the recommendation to remain free from every power.
Benedict XVI entrusted to all the faithful the exhortation “to be leaven in the world”, and to show themselves as “Christians who are present, enterprising and consistent”. His was an encouraging rather than judgemental style and, after the example of God’s love, was sensitive to situations of special need. For our times of economic crisis and the prevalence of hedonistic models, the Pope brought to the fore attention to the family, the protection of life, support for the employment of youth, especially affected by instability, and the acceptance of refugees.
These actions unfold horizons of hope — that will not be in vain — in a new world where the prototype of the citizen will be whoever treads in Christ’s footsteps.
St. Peter’s Square
July 15, 2018
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