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The third son

The Pope had announced to journalists on the flight to Berlin the purpose of this third Journey to his homeland since his election as Successor of the Apostle Peter: to meet the people and to speak about God. And this is exactly what he did, in one of the fullest and most important Journeys of his Pontificate. Indeed, speaking of God, Benedict XVI was able to make himself understood and touch the hearts of multitudes, not only those of Catholics. And he dispelled the stereotypes with which he has been labelled for decades, confirming that he is a man of transparent and profound faith, a first-rate intellectual endowed with gestures and words that everyone can understand.

Thus it was also a successful Visit, thanks to the warm hospitality and impeccable organization assured at every moment by the civil institutions and by the Church. First of all, in the meetings with tens of thousands of Catholics at the different stages of his itinerary, which ended liturgically in front of more than 100,000 of the faithful at the Mass in Freiburg, a celebration bathed in sunlight during which grand German Baroque music alternated with successful contemporary compositions. Moreover, the meetings with Representatives of the Eastern and Orthodox Churches, with the Evangelicals, with the Muslims and with the Jews were important.

In fact nothing in the Pope’s Discourses could be taken for granted or predicted although, especially in Italy, some of even the well-reputed media did not prove equal to the Journey, preferring to run truly marginal news (or even news that did not exist) and paying no attention — not even critical — to the facts.

Yet Benedict XVI suggested to the Evangelicals that they return together to “Christ’s cause”. With unexpected praise of Luther, a frank analysis of contemporary Protestantism and the request, certainly not diplomatic but demanding, for a common Christian witness in a world that is drifting ever further from God. And he repeated his closeness to the Eastern Orthodox and the Orthodox expressing his pleasure at the Orthodox dialogue, returning to the crucial matter of the primacy of the Successor of Peter and reaffirming hope in a not far distant union.

And if in his discourse to the Bundestag — a contribution to the public debate addressed to the Western world in its entirety — Benedict XVI broached the question of the foundation of politics, in speaking to Catholics the Pope found words that call for an examination of the collective conscience and not only in Germany. In a West that is materially rich but ever more impoverished and confused by the spread of a subliminal relativism, which devastates in the Church too, in fact the excess of structures risks suffocating the faith, precisely while spiritual desertification is spreading and the purifying effects of secularization are not understood.

How then is it possible to change? In the manner of Saints, namely in daily conversion to Christ, despite the shortcomings and scandals that risk obscuring the folly of the Cross. For this reason lukewarm Christians do more harm to the Church than her adversaries; for this reason agnostics and those who suffer from the sins of Christians are closer to the Kingdom of God than the regular faithful. Just as in the parable of the two sons, whom the father asks to work in the vineyard, actions count more than words. Only forms of conduct, in fact, can bring one close to the third son who mysteriously responds to the Father: his Only-Begotten Jesus, the one Lord, who came into the world to save it.

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St. Peter’s Square

July 21, 2018

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