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The work of Peter

Benedict xvi has made his 16th visit to a Diocese of Italy, the nation whose Primate is the Bishop of Rome. The Pope went with a simple and clear aim, emphasized by the motto chosen for his Visit: “Strengthen your brethren”, as Jesus said to Peter at the Last Supper, according to the account of Luke the Evangelist.

And the Roman Pontiff did so, with his presence and his words, received with an affection expressed symbolically in the caress of the Holy Father's convalescent hand by an elderly woman religious before she kissed it, a gesture of devotion and feminine healing, as endearing as it was spontaneous and unexpected.

As usual, during the liturgical celebration which took place in Viterbo in an atmosphere of truly impressive recollection, Benedict xvi explained the Scriptures. Starting with the image of the desert of the human heart closed alike to God and to neighbour, he showed how, also in the lands of the Gentiles, Jesus went about, healing and pointing out the way to a new humanity, kind and undiscriminating, offering today's world an example of authentic brotherhood.

In the background was the figure of Bonaventure who sought “wisdom rooted in Christ”, and who filled Ratzinger, the young researcher,  with such enthusiasm that he wrote on the great Franciscan theologian the thesis which would qualify him as a teacher.

When the Pope spoke to the faithful of the Diocese of Viterbo, he was obviously addressing all Italian Catholics. He was surrounded by his Cardinal Vicar and the Bishops of Lazio and warmly welcomed by the civil authorities in a setting of evident institutional serenity. Taking up the spiritual and pastoral lines of the Bishop of this ancient city, formally the residence of Popes, Benedict xvi underscored the importance of education that is a priority for every Christian community and for society as a whole.

He stressed the urgent need to “live and to bear witness to the faith in the various sectors of society”, and indicated various contexts explicitly: social commitment, political action and integral human development, which is at the heart of the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate , a text that has kindled enormous interest, far beyond the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church.

The Pope is naturally well aware of the changing seasons of history and of social contexts, just as he knows of the difficulties of every epoch, yet his conviction of the need to “live the Gospel in solidarity” with everyone is equally clear, and he asks Italian Catholics  – every member of the Church but especially the laity – to measure up to their history, to be at the service of the dignity of every human being and of the  common good of the country.

And Benedict xvi asked the Catholics of a region uniquely bound to the Roman See and every member of the faithful in Italy and around the world for their prayers that he might “always carry out [his] mission as Pastor of the whole of Christ's flock with fidelity and love”, as did his Predecessors, among whom the Pope mentioned – and certainly not by accident – the example of St Leo the Great, a native of Tuscia, who “rendered a great service to the truth in charity by diligently preaching the word”.

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St. Peter’s Square

Dec. 14, 2019

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