All papal visits are privileged encounters between the successor of Peter and the Catholic community that invites him to confirm them in the faith. Their significance and above all the words which the Bishop of Rome chooses to pronounce, however, go well beyond the confines of a particular visit. So it was for the visit to Aquileia and Venice, where careful preparation but also the very history of the ancient ecclesial province allowed Benedict XVI to broaden his gaze to the entire Italian Northeast and even further, to the great region of Europe towards which, in Aquileia, in communion with the Roman seat, he looked.
The Venetian visit of the Pope remains thus, even apart from the series of evocative and beautiful images it produced: the ancient mosaics in the Basilica of Aquileia, a splendid testimony to the encounter between Christian faith and the culture of late antiquity and the grand and most original stage mounted in San Giuliano, on the bank of the lagoon. Then, especially, the colorful festival that welcomed Benedict XVI in true Venetian style, during the route along the canal of Cannaregio and obviously the Grand Canal. Through to the “river of light” described by the young Luciani when he was enveloped by the splendor of gold of St. Mark’s where the great cross at the center of the Basilica shines with little red lights.
Benedict XVI spoke, then, to Catholics of this “blessed land,” to whom history has paid homage, recalling above all three patriarchs elected to Peter’s chair in the 20th century: Pius X, the last Pope saint, John XXIII who foresaw and wanted the Second Vatican Council and John Paul I, whose pontificate was “shown more than offered,” ( ostensus magis quam datus ) to the Church and the world. Fruit and expression of a deeply-rooted and living Christianity which heard from the bishop of Rome the ever-lasting words: “Only from Christ, in fact, humanity can receive hope and a future.” In an encounter with the only Savior of the World that must be personal, reasoned and daily.
Words directed, however, to whomever wants to hear them; repeated by the Pope with full awareness of history and modernity, “in a radically changed world.” That is, in contexts which are often difficult, changing, fluid. Just like the waters from which the beauty of Venice rise, known as the “most serene” Republic (“Serenissima”), which built the Basilica della Salute in honor of the Virgin, as Benedict XVI noted, evoking immediate and effective images. It is in fact within modernity – which the Pope looks at lucidly and serenely because it is the context given today by Providence – that the Christian “way” needs to be proposed again. Faced with the crises of the family and the challenges brought by materialism and relativism, the Gospel of Christ should be, “brought with delicate pride and deep joy,” with trust and kindness.
New evangelization needs this, young Christians called to a new commitment in the social and political arenas need it and Christians in every context need to give witness to it. Just like those who in the last few hours rescued immigrants from the sea of Lampedusa, demonstrating a witness in itself Christian ( naturaliter Christiana ). To allow to emerge from the waters of this world, the salvation brought by Christ, in anticipation of arriving at the beauty of the ultimate city, the true Serenissima.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 20, 2019
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