MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE
From the Vatican, 19 August 2013
Your Most Reverend Excellency,
I am glad to convey Pope Francis’ cordial greeting to you, Your Excellency, to the organizers and to all those taking part in this 34th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples. The theme chosen — “The Human Person: a State of Emergency” — pinpoints the great and urgent need for evangelization which the Holy Father has mentioned several times, following in the wake of his predecessors. Moreover it has led him to make the following reflections which I mention below.
Man is the way for the Church: Blessed John Paul II wrote this in his first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis (cf. n. 14). This truth continues to apply also especially in our time when the Church, in an ever more globalized and virtual world and an increasingly secularized society devoid of permanent reference points, is called to rediscover her mission, focusing on the essential and seeking new ways for evangelization.
Man remains a mystery. He cannot be reduced to any image that society forms of him or that worldly power seeks to impose. He is a mystery of freedom and of grace, of poverty and of grandeur. But what do the words “man is the way for the Church” mean? And, especially, what does taking this path mean for us today?
Man is the way for the Church because he is the way that God himself took. From the dawn of humanity, after original sin, God has been seeking man. “Where are you?” he asked Adam who was hiding in the garden (Gen 3:9). This question appears at the beginning of the Book of Genesis. It does not cease to resonate throughout the Bible — and at every moment of the history that God has woven with humanity in the course of the millennia — and reaches its loftiest expression in the Incarnation of the Son. In his Tractates on the Gospel according to John St Augustine says “Remaining with the Father [the Son was] the truth and life; putting on flesh, he became the way” (i, 34, 9). Thus Jesus Christ is “the chief way for the Church”; but since “he is also the way for every man”, man becomes “the primary and fundamental way for the Church” (Redemptor Hominis, nn. 13-14).
Jesus says “I am the door” (Jn 10:7): in other words I am the portal that gives access to every person and to every thing. Without passing through Christ, without focusing the gaze of our heart and mind on him, we would understand nothing about the mystery of the human person. Thus, almost inadvertently, we shall be obliged to borrow our criteria for judgement and action from the world, and every time we come close to our brothers and sisters in humanity we shall be like the “thieves and robbers” who Jesus talks about in the Gospel (cf. Jn 10:8). Indeed, in its own way, the world is also interested in man. The power behind economics, politics and the media needs human beings in order to perpetuate and inflate it. For this reason it often tries to manipulate the masses, to kindle desires, to eliminate the most precious possession of human beings: their relationship with God. Power fears people who converse with God because this sets them free and prevents them from being assimilated.
This is the state of emergency of the human person which the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples has chosen as the theme for reflection this year: the urgent need to restore man to himself, to his loftiest dignity, to the uniqueness and value of every human life, from conception to its natural end. It is necessary to consider the sacred nature of man once again and at the same time to affirm unequivocally that it is only in the relationship with God, that is, in the discovery of and adherence to one’s real vocation, that man can attain his true stature. The Church to which Christ entrusted his word and his sacraments safeguards the greatest of hopes, the most authentic possibility for man’s fulfilment in any place or time. What a great responsibility we have! Let us not keep for ourselves this precious treasure which, everyone, consciously or unconsciously, is seeking. Let us meet courageously all the men and women of our time, children and the elderly, the “learned” and the uneducated, the young and families. Let us meet everyone and not wait for others to seek us out! In doing this, let us imitate our divine Teacher who left his heaven to become man and to be close to every one. Consequently let us not take the fragrance of Christ’s love solely to churches and parishes but to every environment (2 Cor 2:15): to schools, universities, workplaces, hospitals, and prisons; and also to the city squares, streets, sport centres and places where people meet. We shouldn’t be tight-fisted in giving what we ourselves have received through no merit of our own! We mustn’t be frightened of proclaiming Christ on suitable as well as unsuitable occasions (cf. 2 Tim 4:2), with respect and with frankness.
This is the Church’s task, it is every Christian’s task: to serve men and women and look for them even in the nooks of society and the most hidden spiritual corners. However the condition of the Church’s credibility in her mission as mother and teacher is her faithfulness to Christ. Openness to the world is accompanied and, in a certain sense, made possible by the Church’s obedience to the truth which she herself is beholden. “The Human Person: a State of Emergency” thus means the urgent need to return to Christ, to learn from him the truth about ourselves and about the world and with him and in him to go forth to meet men and women, especially the poorest people for whom Jesus has always showed his special love. Poverty, moreover, is not only material. There is a spiritual poverty that holds today’s men and women in its grip. We are poor in love, thirsting for truth and justice, beggars of God, as the Servant of God Fr Luigi Giussani always wisely emphasized. The greatest form of poverty is in fact the lack of Christ and until we bring Jesus to the people we shall never have done enough for them.
Your Excellency, I hope these brief thoughts may be of help to the participants in the Meeting. Pope Francis assures everyone of his closeness in prayer and of his affection. He expresses the hope that the meetings and reflection of these days may ignite in the hearts of all the participants a fire that feeds and sustains their witness to the Gospel in the world. And he cordially imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Your Excellency, to those in charge and to the organizers of the event, as well as to everyone present.
I join in offering you a cordial greeting and make the most of this opportunity to confirm that I remain
Yours devotedly in the Lord,
Secretary of State of His Holiness
To His Most Reverend Excellency