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GREETING TO THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
BY CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO*

Castel Gandolfo
Friday, 15 September 2006

 

Most Holy Father,

On 1 December 1990, Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, summoned the personnel of the Secretariat of State to the Consistory Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace to thank the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli for his long and generous service, and then to introduce the undersigned as the new Secretary of State.

Today, Your Holiness has wished to renew this fatherly gesture, inviting the collaborators of the Secretariat of State to gather round you to say "goodbye" to me at the moment when I am leaving the direction of this Office in new hands, and to offer Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone an official welcome.

Also on behalf of my successor, I warmly thank Your Holiness for this fraternal Meeting, assuring him of the veneration and affection of everyone present.

In fact, they are priests, lay people and men and women religious who are glad to dedicate their daily work to serving the Successor of Peter. Enlivened by a deep spirit of faith, they comprise a work community eager to offer the Pope a service both silent and discreet.

In various halls of the Vatican we have been able to admire the famous bees that distinguish Pope Urban VIII's coat of arms. Well, it seems to me that the people present here are aptly symbolized by those humble bees with which Pope Barberini adorned his shield.

Holy Father, I believe that today it is not so much I who should be thanked as rather all those who have helped me in these years. The collaboration of the successive Substitutes for General Affairs, Archbishops Re and Sandri in particular, and of the Secretaries for Relations with States, Archbishops Tauran and Lajolo, has been invaluable to me.

All together, we have been able to carry out teamwork with a great ecclesial sense that has united us in our service, first around the venerable John Paul II and now around you, called by the Holy Spirit to gather his legacy and steer the barque of the Church to new shores.

In recent years, I have had the opportunity on behalf of the Pope to award numerous "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" medals to deserving people presented by Bishops from every part of the world. I think, however, that every staff member of the Secretariat of State also deserves recognition for having worked "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" in these years.

They will now continue to carry out their work generously under the attentive direction of the new Secretary of State, very happy to persevere in that noble tradition of service that has always distinguished them, a service consisting of discretion and deep trust in the Lord that is reminiscent of the Prophet Isaiah's words: "In silentio et spe erit fortitude vestra" (Is 30: 15). Moreover, this is the recommendation of the saints: "Goodness makes no noise and noise does no good".

Present with us today in spirit are also the members of the Papal Representations scattered throughout the world. They carry out valuable work with the Bishops and civil Authorities of the countries where they work, as do the Papal Representatives with the International Organizations: this work is important if the Gospel leaven is to be brought into the lives of the peoples.

I personally have left as a souvenir to each one of the collaborators one of my writings entitled precisely: "The Gospel leaven: The Holy See's presence in the lives of peoples".

Most Holy Father,

May I be permitted to ask for a word of encouragement from you for all those present, so that under the caring guidance of the new Secretary of State they may be able to continue to help you in the lofty mission which the Holy Spirit has entrusted to you.

If the Church is a ship that must face ever new challenges for the evangelization of the world, we know well that the Pope is her helmsman and that the Holy See in general, with the whole of its well-structured body, is, as it were, the bow of this ship.

Bound by this common apostolic commitment, all the members of the Secretariat of State offer you, through me, the most devout greeting and the assurance of their collaboration and prayers.

Bless us, Holy Father!


 

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n38 p.14.

 

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