In the presence of hundreds of bishops, the Eastern Catholic Patriarchs, ecumenical partners and laity, Pope Benedict prayed the Mass and preached on the meaning of both the Second Vatican Council and the Year of Faith through the lens of conversion. Benedict is clear: the Year of Faith is not celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Church needs not a special forum for this anniversary; it is all an invitation to conversion and to deepen one’s faith in the Christ. The homily Pope Benedict delivered today follows.
fifty years from the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, we begin
with great joy the Year of Faith. I am delighted to greet all of you,
particularly His Holiness Bartholomaois I, Patriarch of Constantinople, and His
Grace Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. A special greeting goes to the
Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and to the
Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences. In order to evoke the Council, which
some present had the grace to experience for themselves – and I greet them with
particular affection – this celebration has been enriched by several special
signs: the opening procession, intended to recall the memorable one of the
Council Fathers when they entered this Basilica; the enthronement of a copy of
the Book of the Gospels used at the Council; the consignment of the seven final
Messages of the Council, and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I
will do before the final blessing. These signs help us not only to remember,
they also offer us the possibility of going beyond commemorating. They invite
us to enter more deeply into the spiritual movement which characterized Vatican
II, to make it ours and to develop it according to its true meaning. And its
true meaning was and remains faith in Christ, the apostolic faith, animated by
the inner desire to communicate Christ to individuals and all people, in the
Church’s pilgrimage along the pathways of history.
This morning in Rome, Pope Benedict opened the 13th Ordinary Synod of Bishops whose it will be to guide him and the entire Church, in the work of Evangelization. At Holy Mass, His Holiness bestowed the honor of being Doctors of the Church on Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. The Pope’s homily follows.
With this solemn concelebration we open the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. This theme reflects a programmatic direction for the life of the Church, its members, families, its communities and institutions. And this outline is reinforce by the fact that it coincides with the beginning of the Year of Faith, starting on 11 October, on the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I give a cordial and grateful welcome to you who have come to be part of the Synodal Assembly, in particular to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, and to his colleagues. I salute the fraternal delegates of the other churches and ecclesial communities as well as all present, inviting them to accompany in daily prayer the deliberations which will take place over the next three weeks.
The readings for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word propose to us two principal points of reflection: the first on matrimony, which I will touch shortly; and the second on Jesus Christ, which I will discuss now. We do not have time to comment upon the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews but, at the beginning of this Synodal Assembly, we ought to welcome the invitation to fix our gaze upon the Lord Jesus, “crowned with glory and honour, because of the suffering of death (2:9). The word of God places us before the glorious One who was crucified, so that our whole lives, and in particular the commitment of this Synodal session, will take place in the sight of him and in the light of his mystery. In every time and place, evangelization always has as its starting and finishing points Jesus Christ, the Son of God (cf. Mk 1:1); and the Crucifix is the supremely distinctive sign of him who announces the Gospel: a sign of love and peace, a call to conversion and reconciliation. My dear Brother Bishops, starting with ourselves, let us fix our gaze upon him and let us be purified by his grace.
On 4 October 1962,
Blessed John XXIII came as a pilgrim to this Shrine to
entrust to the Virgin Mary the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, due to
begin a week later. On that occasion, with deep filial devotion to the Mother
of God, he addressed her in these words: “Again today, and in the name of the
entire episcopate, I ask you, sweetest Mother, as Help of Bishops, to intercede for me as Bishop of Rome and for all
the bishops of the world, to obtain for us the grace to enter the Council Hall
of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as the Apostles and the first disciples of Jesus
entered the Upper Room: with one heart, one heartbeat of love for Christ and
for souls, with one purpose only, to live and to sacrifice ourselves for the
salvation of individuals and peoples. Thus, by your maternal intercession, in
the years and the centuries to come, may it be said that the grace of God
prepared, accompanied and crowned the twenty-first Ecumenical Council, filling
all the children of the holy Church with a new fervour, a new impulse to
generosity, and a renewed firmness of purpose” (AAS 54 , 727).
Having heard with sadness the news of the death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini after a long illness, which he lived with a tranquil soul and with confident abandonment to the will of the Lord, I wish to express to you and to the entire diocesan community, as well as to the family of the late Cardinal, my profound share in their sorrow, recalling with affection this dear brother who served the Gospel and the Church so generously. I recall with gratitude the intense and profuse Apostolic work of this zealous, spiritual child of St. Ignatius, an expert teacher, an authoritative biblical scholar, and a beloved Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University and of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, and a wise and diligent Archbishop of the Ambrosian Archdiocese. I think also of the competent and fervent service he gave to the Word of God, always opening to the ecclesial community the treasures of the Sacred Scriptures, especially through the promotion of Lectio Divina. I raise fervent prayers to the Lord that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He will receive His faithful servant and worthy shepherd into the heavenly Jerusalem; and upon all those who mourn his death, I warmly impart the comfort of the Apostolic Blessing.