The end of the civil year, which coincides with events of the Church, has for sometime now offered the Pope a special opportunity to address Catholics and the world. Inevitably, even in the festive season his specifically focused discourses risk passing unnoticed or being unappreciated by the ever busier and more distracted media. Moreover on some occasions the media unfortunately ignores them, despite the growing interest in and appreciation of Benedict XVI, a man of faith who really wants to talk to everyone about what concerns him most, namely, God.
This is in fact the theme that connects the words of the Successor of the Apostle Peter: in his Address to the Roman Curia: in his Christmas Homily, his Discourse to the City and to the World, his Address to the Taizé Community, and his Homily at the Te Deum , as well as at the episcopal ordination of four of his co-workers (including his Private Secretary), and in his Speech to those who represent the large number of nations with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations. He seeks tirelessly to engage in conversation with them all.
Most important and significant was Benedict XVI's insistence from the outset that this effort to foster relations – sustained in the first person by the papal representatives, one of whom the Pope chose to remember, the Nuncio in Côte d’Ivoire who died in a tragic road accident – and dialogue is motivated by the spiritual and material good of every human person so as to nurture everywhere man’s transcendent dignity, a dimension that the Pope mentioned at least four times in his Discourse to the Diplomatic Corps.
It is not, therefore, a question of interfering in various societies but, rather, a wish addressed to the conscience of every individual, for the good of every person. He promotes this through international agreements, encounters with Heads of State and Government, during his Journeys abroad, with special regard for Italy of which the Roman Pontiff is Primate. Furthermore, the Pope, respectful of the institutions and distinct provinces of Church and State, expressed his hope for “a spirit of tenacity and shared commitment”, at a particular and certainly not an easy moment.
The Bishop of Rome’s gaze at the world should be understood in this light. He knows well and repeats that it is “man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence”, and that therefore fanaticism is a falsification of religion. As he did on Christmas Day, the Pope remembered the anguish of Syria. He also invoked the need for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians so that Jerusalem may be what its name signifies – a “city of peace” and not of division – in a region for which Benedict XVI has called for reconciliation in the multiplicity of religious denominations, from Iraq to Lebanon, that he courageously visited last September.
A long passage in the Papal Discourse was dedicated to Africa, all too often forgotten by the international media. His Discourse then focused on two events which international news organizations had only skimmed over: the historic Joint Declaration between the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference and the Patriarch of Moscow and the peace agreement reached in the Philippines. Lastly, the need to respect the life of every human person was brought up once again with regard to euthanasia, to abortion, to the primacy of profit, finance and the economy and to the detriment of the true economy and religious liberty.
Then the Pope’s leitmotif should not be forgotten. It is best said in words of St Irenaeus, dear to Paul VI: the glory of God is a living man.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 17, 2020
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