Benedict is farsighted. This was evident in Lisbon, when celebrating Mass on the ocean shore – in front of a truly immense and joyful crowd which, in surrounding the Pope with affection, was reminiscent of the crowd described in the Book of Revelation – and speaking to the world of culture.
A world that received him with impressive and exemplary warmth and respect, as the Film Director Manoel de Oliveira, the centenarian doyen of the country's arts, aptly expressed in evoking the angels and nostalgia for paradise lost.
Thus once again sweeping away, exactly like the wind blowing over the sea, the media's analysis, all too often marked by, not entirely disinterested, pessimism.
His gaze fixed on Christ and fully immersed in the “living river” of the Catholic tradition, Benedict XVI celebrated Portugal's history and spoke to the Country today with serenity and openness. And “Lisbon – friend”, as the Pope described the capital, certainly understood the meaning of his Visit. It celebrated its Guest with transparent and touching enthusiasm, especially apparent in the simple welcome of multitudes of even really tiny children with their teachers thronging the roadside and waving their little flags, red and green, the colours of the nation.
Portugal, heir to a strong, brave history, today too, is called “to point out new worlds to the world”, as its great poet Camões sang, exalting the voyages of discovery and Christian missions that marked the five continents. Just as in the contemporary world, its people of culture, with a vocation common to all intellectuals, can speak to the heart of humanity. The Church wishes to speak to them, compare herself with them, aware of the conflict among societies that absolutize the present and the legacy of tradition.
In the crisis of the truth, produced, precisely, by the dramatic conflict between the present and tradition, the Church, which has always been called to “a mission of truth”, is at the same time “in the process of learning” how to live in a respectful coexistence with the truth of others.
In the wake of the Second Vatican Council and by Paul VI's friendly ongoing dialogue with the world; and thanks, therefore, to a Catholic renewal that is aware of tradition and can take on board the criticism of modern times, inaugurated by the Protestant Reformation and by the Enlightenment.
Thanks to this new awareness, Christ's Church ( Ecclesiam Suam) is firm in her mission – and it could not be otherwise: to bring the men and women of today to look ahead, “beyond the penultimate realities”, to seek those that are ultimate.
Like the sailors who crossed the ocean under the protection of St Mary of Belém. And today it is worthwhile to persevere in this quest and to follow Jesus, knowing that despite the distance of centuries “a real and personal experience of the Risen Lord” is possible today too. Without being too concerned with structures and programmes, Benedict XVI repeated: Christ “always walks with his Church”, which no adverse power can destroy.
St. Peter’s Square
Sept. 20, 2019
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