MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Fr Ottaviano D'Egidio, C.P.,
Most Reverend Father,
His Holiness learned with pleasure that this year the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ is preparing to celebrate its General Chapter in Rome from 1 to 21 October. On this special occasion, he addresses a cordial greeting to you and to the participants, which he extends to the whole of the Religious Family. He is bound to the Passionist Fathers by a long-standing acquaintance, having had the opportunity to admire the personality of St Paul of the Cross since the years of his academic work in Germany.
He expresses the hope that the Chapter, dedicated in particular to the "restructuring" and "revitalizing" of the Passionists' presence in the Church and in the world, will be fruitful so that it can express the Founder's ever-timely teachings in forms suited to the times.
Paul of the Cross conceived of Jesus' Passion as the greatest expression of God's love, capable of converting hearts far better than any other argument. Indeed, only in the light of the Cross can we approach the mystery of divine Love.
"Jesus' death on the Cross", Benedict XVI states in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form" (n. 12).
This is the message you are also called to proclaim in our time; this is the substance of your charism, the light of contemplation to which you must dedicate yourselves in the solitude of your retreats, as Paul of the Cross called his religious houses, or by creating a similar space for contemplation in the different situations in which you carry out your mission today.
This mission of showing that the Cross is love and that love is God, is ever timely. As your Founder often used to repeat, from the ocean of the Father's love flows the sea of suffering of Jesus' Passion. From the Heart of the Father flows the Passion of the Heart of Jesus and of his Body, which is the Church.
Your Founder was deeply convinced that the evils of the world stem from forgetfulness of Jesus' Passion. For this reason, his constant desire was to commemorate the Passion and to invite others to do so, too. For him, union with Christ Crucified became an incentive to communion with all people, a passion for justice and for charity. In the mystery of the Cross, he found the strength to act and to make the most of sacrifice and suffering, ever anxious to share in the Redeemer's suffering for the evils of humanity.
While the Supreme Pontiff thanks the Lord for your religious witness and for your many apostolic works, he encourages you to bring to a satisfactory conclusion the work of "restructuring" which you have undertaken in order to respond better to the challenges of our time, taking into account the different cultural contexts in which you work.
Guidance for your spiritual and pastoral endeavours is provided by the instructions presented in various Documents of the Pontifical Magisterium, including the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata.
In it can be read: "Institutes of Consecrated Life are thus invited courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today's world. This invitation is first of all a call to perseverance on the path of holiness in the midst of the material and spiritual difficulties of daily life.
"But it is also a call to pursue competence in personal work and to develop a dynamic fidelity to their mission, adapting forms, if need be, to new situations and different needs, in complete openness to God's inspiration and to the Church's discernment" (n. 37).
In your work of "restructuring", you should bear in mind concern for the unity of the Congregation and the responsibility of each member for all of its parts; the search for an increasingly unitive and profound formation; the movement of personnel and means of support, especially with a view to reciprocal support between the prosperous and the developing countries; openness to collaboration with the local Churches, with your aggregated Institutes and with the lay faithful; and sensitivity to the new forms of poverty and to the "crucified" people of our time.
May it be your concern to express in new forms the same love for the Church and the same apostolic zeal for souls that marked your Founder.
Moreover, the involvement of all the members of your Congregation in reflection on the charism of the Passion as well as in the search for a more authentic life and apostolate, more faithful to your original style, can only stir within you the desire for a profound intimacy with Christ. He will protect you from the risk of succumbing to mundane influences and the secularized culture that endeavours to penetrate the minds and hearts even of the consecrated.
In particular, the Holy Father urges the Cloistered Nuns founded by St Paul of the Cross to renew their fervour for prayer, for their self-giving and for witness by accepting with docile trust the directions of the competent bodies of the Holy See in order to adjust their structures to today's needs.
As His Holiness Benedict XVI assures you of his special remembrance in prayer, he invokes upon the General Chapter the motherly protection of Mary - whom you have venerated from the outset in her Presentation at the temple and whom later, under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows, you chose as your Patroness - and the heavenly intercession of the Founder and of the Saints and Blesseds of your Congregation.
With these sentiments, he imparts his Apostolic Blessing to you, Reverend Father, and to the entire Passionist Family. I willingly add my cordial greeting and take this opportunity to confirm that I remain, with the expression of religious esteem,
Yours devotedly in the Lord,
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone