* * *
Venerable and Dear Brothers,
We are together today, after the solemn celebration that gathered us yesterday in Saint Peter’s Square. The cordial and fraternal greeting which I now wish to give stems from that profound communion that only the Eucharistic celebration is able to create. Rendered visible in it, almost tangibly, are those bonds that unite us as members of the Episcopal College, gathered with the Successor of Peter.
In your faces, dear patriarchs and archbishops of the Catholic Eastern Churches, dear presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of the world, I also see the hundreds of bishops that in all areas of the earth are committed in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the service of the Church and of man, in obedience to the mandate received from Christ. However, I would like to address a particular greeting today to you, dear Brothers, who had the grace of taking part in the quality of Fathers in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I am grateful to cardinal Arinze, who made himself the interpreter of your sentiments, and at this moment I am keeping present in prayer and in affection the whole group – almost seventy – of bishops still living who took part in the conciliar works. In responding to the invitation for this commemoration, to which they have been unable to be present because of their advanced age and health, many of them have recalled with moving words those days, assuring their spiritual union at this moment, also with the offering of their suffering.
There are so many memories that come to our mind and that each one has well in the heart of that very lively, rich and fecund period which was the Council; however, I do not wish to dwell too long on it, but – taking up some elements of my homily yesterday – I would like to recall how one word, launched by Blessed John XXIII almost programmatically, returned continually in the conciliar works: the word “aggiornamento.”
Fifty years after the opening of that solemn meeting of the Church some might wonder if that expression was not, perhaps from the beginning, not altogether a happy one. I think that on the choice of words one could discuss for hours and one would find continually discordant opinions, but I am convinced that Blessed John XXIII’s intuition, summarized with this word, was and still is exact. Christianity must not be considered as “something of the past,” and it must not be lived ever looking “back,” because Jesus Christ is yesterday, today and for eternity (cf. Hebrews 13:8). Christianity is marked by the presence of the eternal God, who entered time and is present at all times, because all time flows from his creative power, from his eternal “today.”
Because of this, Christianity is always new. We must never see it as a tree fully developed from the evangelical mustard seed, which has grown, has given its fruits, and one day ages and arrives at the waning of its vital energy. Christianity is a tree which is, so to speak, in constant “dawn,” is always young. And this actuality, this “aggiornamento” does not mean a break with tradition, but expresses its constant vitality; it does not mean reducing the faith, lowering it to the fashion of the times, to the measure of what please us, to what pleases public opinion, but it is the contrary: exactly as the Conciliar Fathers did, we must bear the “today” that we live to the measure of the Christian event, we must bear the “today” of our time in the “today” of God.
The Council was a time of grace in which the Holy Spirit taught us that the Church, in her journey in history, must always speak to contemporary man, but this can only happen through the strength of those who are profoundly rooted in God, who allow themselves to be guided by Him and live their faith with purity; it does not happen with those who adapt themselves to the passing moment, those who choose the most comfortable way. The Council was very clear when, in number 49 of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, it affirmed that all in the Church are called to sanctity in keeping with what the Apostle Paul said “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3): sanctity shows the true face of the Church, it makes the eternal “today” of God enter in the “today” of our life, in the “today” of the man of our time.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the memory of the past is precious, but it is never an end in itself. The Year of Faith,which we began yesterday, suggests to us the best way to remember and commemorate the Council, concentrating ourselves on the heart of its message, which in the end is none other than the message of faith in Jesus Christ, as the only Savior of the world, proclaimed to the man of our time. What is important and essential today is to bring the ray of God’s love to the heart and life of every man and every woman, and to bring the men and women of every place and every time to God. I very much hope that all the particular Churches will find, in the celebration of this Year, the occasion for the ever necessary return to the living source of the Gospel, to the transforming encounter with the person of Jesus Christ. Thank you.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]