MESSAGE OF HIS EMINENCE CARDINAL TARCISIO BERTONE
[Rimini - 21-27 August 2011]
10 August 2011
Your Most Reverend Excellency,
This year too I have the joy of conveying the Holy Father’s cordial greeting to you, Your Excellency, to the organizers and to all the participants in the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples which is taking place in these days at Rimini. The theme chosen for the 2011 Meeting: “And Existence Becomes an Immense Certainty” gives rise to various and profound questions: what is existence? What is certainty? And especially: what is the foundation of certainty without which the human being cannot live?
It would be interesting to enter into the immensely rich reflection which philosophy has developed from the outset on the experience of existing, of being, of coming to conclusions which are important, but also contradictory and partial.
Nevertheless, let us start with the Latin etymology of the term “existence”: ex sistere, which will take us straight to the essential. Heidegger highlighted the dynamic character of human life, interpreting it as “not enduring”. However ex sistere evokes two other meanings, even more descriptive of the human experience of living and which, in a certain sense, are at the root of the same dynamism that Heidegger analyzed.
The particle ex makes us think of a provenance and, at the same time, of detachment. Hence, existence would be “being, having come from”, and at the same time, “moving beyond”, almost “transcending”, which defines “being” itself in a permanent way. Here the most original level of human life is tangible: its creatural essence, its being, structurally dependent on a beginning, its existence desired by someone for whom, almost unconsciously, it yearns.
The late Mons. Luigi Giussani, who, with his fruitful charism, founded the Rimini event, insisted on various occasions on this fundamental dimension of the human being. And rightly, for the certainty with which human beings face life stems precisely from their awareness of it. The recognition of their origins and the “closeness” of these very origins in all the stages of life are the prerequisites for the authentic development of the human personality, for a positive gaze to the future and for a fruitful impact on history.
This is anthropologically ascertainable in daily experience: a child is all the more certain and sure of himself the more he experiences the closeness of his parents. However precisely by keeping the example of the child, we understand that the mere recognition of one's origins and, consequently of one's own structural dependence does not suffice. On the contrary, it might appear — as history has amply shown — as a burden of which to rid oneself.
What makes a child “strong” is the certainty of his parents’ love. It is thus necessary to enter into the love of those who wanted us to be able to experience the positiveness of existence. If one of these two things are lacking — the awareness of one’s origins or the certainty of the destination of good to which human beings are called — it becomes impossible to explain the profound dynamism of life and to understand human beings.
In the history of the People of Israel — and especially in the experience of the Exodus described in the Old Testament — it is already clear that the power of hope derives from the fatherly presence of God who guides his people, from the living memory of his actions and from his luminous promise for the future.
Man cannot live without being certain of his destiny. “Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well” (Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi, n. 2). However on what certainty can man reasonably found his own life? What, ultimately, is the hope that does not disappoint? With the coming of Christ the promise that nourished the hope of the People of Israel reaches fulfilment and acquires a personal face. In Jesus Christ man's destiny was plucked once and for all from the nebulosity in which it had been immersed.
Through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father has definitively revealed the positive future that awaits us. “The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future” (ibid., n. 7).
The risen Christ, present in his Church, in the sacraments and with his Spirit, is the ultimate and definitive foundation of existence, the certainty of our hope. He is the eschaton already present, the one who makes existence itself a positive event, a history of salvation in which every circumstance reveals its true meaning in relation to eternity. If this awareness is missing, it is easy to fall into the risks of actualism, into emotional sensationalism in which everything is reduced to a phenomenon, or to desperation in which every circumstance seems senseless. Then existence becomes a frantic search for events, for transient novelties which, in the end, prove disappointing. Only the certainty that is born from faith enables human beings to live the present intensely and at the same time, to transcend it, seeing in it the reflections of eternity whose time is ordained.
Only the recognized presence of Christ, the source of life and the destiny of human beings, can reawaken within us the longing for Heaven and thus the ability to project ourselves with trust, without fear and without false illusions to the future.
The dramas of the past century have fully shown us that when Christian hope fails, that is, when the certainty of faith and the desire for the “last things” are lacking, men and women are confused and become victims of power, they begin to ask for life from those who cannot give it. Faith without hope has given rise to hope without faith, a worldly hope.
Today, especially, we Christians are called to account for the hope that is in us, to witness in the world to that “beyond”, without which everything remains incomprehensible. However, to do this it is necessary to be “reborn”, as Jesus told Nicodemus, to let ourselves be regenerated by the sacraments and by prayer, to rediscover in them the matrix of every kind of authentic certainty. The Church, making present in time the mystery of God's eternity, is the vehicle of this certainty. In the ecclesial community, the pro-existence of the Son of God reaches us: the eternal life, to which the whole of life is destined, becomes in it something we can experience already, at this moment.
“The expansion of a friendship”, Fr Festugière said at the beginning of the past century, “is one of the characteristics of Christian immortality”. What, in fact, is Heaven other than the definitive fulfilment of friendship with Christ and with each other? In this perspective, the French religious continued, “it matters little subsequently where we may be. Heaven is in truth where Christ is. Thus the heart that loves desires no other joy than that of always living with the Beloved”.
Life, therefore, is not a blind process but means going to meet the person who loves us. Let us therefore know where we are going, towards whom we are directed, and may this orientate the whole of our existence.
Your Excellency, I hope that these brief thoughts may be of help to those who are taking part in the Meeting.
His Holiness Benedict XVI desires to assure everyone, with affection, of his remembrance in prayer and, in the hope that the reflection of these days may strengthen the certainty that Christ alone fully illumines our human existence, I cordially impart to you, to those in charge and to the organizers of the event, as well as to all those present, a special Apostolic Blessing.
I too add a warm greeting and take this opportunity to confirm that I remain, with deep respect.
+ Tarcisio Card. Bertone