19/08/05 – APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO COLOGNE ON THE OCCASION OF THE XX WORLD YOUTH DAY

VISIT TO THE SYNAGOGUE OF COLOGNE

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

Cologne – Synagogue

Distinguished Jewish Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet all those who have already been mentioned. Shalom lêchém!

It has been my deep desire, during my first Visit to Germany since my election as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, to meet the Jewish community of Cologne and the representatives of Judaism in Germany. By this Visit I would like to return in spirit to the meeting that took place in Mainz on 17 November 1980 between my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II, then making his first Visit to this Country, and members of the Central Jewish Committee in Germany and the Rabbinic Conference.

Today, too, I wish to reaffirm that I intend to continue with great vigour on the path towards improved relations and friendship with the Jewish People, following the decisive lead given by Pope John Paul II (cf. Address to the Delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, 9 June 2005).

The Jewish community in Cologne can truly feel “at home” in this city. Cologne is, in fact, the oldest site of a Jewish community on German soil, dating back to the Colonia of Roman times, as we have come to know with precision.

The history of relations between the Jewish and Christian communities has been complex and often painful. There were blessed times when the two lived together peacefully, but there was also the expulsion of the Jews from Cologne in the year 1424.

And in the 20th century, in the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry. The result has passed into history as the Shoah.

The victims of this unspeakable and previously unimaginable crime amounted to 11,000 named individuals in Cologne alone; the real figure was surely much higher. The holiness of God was no longer recognized, and consequently, contempt was shown for the sacredness of human life.

This year, 2005, marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, in which millions of Jews – men, women and children – were put to death in the gas chambers and ovens.

I make my own the words written by my venerable Predecessor on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and I too say: “I bow my head before all those who experienced this manifestation of the mysterium iniquitatis. ” The terrible events of that time must “never cease to rouse consciences, to resolve conflicts, to inspire the building of peace” (Message for the Liberation of Auschwitz, 15 January 2005).

Together we must remember God and his wise plan for the world he created. As we read in the Book of Wisdom, he is the “lover of life” (11: 26).

This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate, which opened up new prospects for Jewish-Christian relations in terms of dialogue and solidarity. This Declaration, in the fourth chapter, recalls the common roots and the immensely rich spiritual heritage that Jews and Christians share.

Both Jews and Christians recognize in Abraham their father in faith (cf. Gal 3: 7; Rom 4: 11ff.), and they look to the teachings of Moses and the prophets. Jewish spirituality, like its Christian counterpart, draws nourishment from the psalms. With St Paul, Christians are convinced that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11: 29; cf. 9: 6, 11; 11: 1ff.). In considering the Jewish roots of Christianity (cf. Rom 11: 16-24), my venerable Predecessor, quoting a statement by the German Bishops, affirmed that “whoever meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism” (Insegnamenti, Vol. III/2, 1980, p. 1272).

The conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate therefore “deplores feelings of hatred, persecutions and demonstrations of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at whatever time and by whomsoever” (n. 4). God created us all “in his image” (cf. Gn 1: 27) and thus honoured us with a transcendent dignity. Before God, all men and women have the same dignity, whatever their nation, culture or religion.

Hence, the Declaration Nostra Aetate also speaks with great esteem of Muslims (cf. n. 3) and of the followers of other religions (cf. n. 2).

On the basis of our shared human dignity the Catholic Church “condemns as foreign to the mind of Christ any kind of discrimination whatsoever between people, or harassment of them, done by reason of race or colour, class or religion” (n. 5).

The Church is conscious of her duty to transmit this teaching, in her catechesis for young people and in every aspect of her life, to the younger generations which did not witness the terrible events that took place before and during the Second World War.

It is a particularly important task, since today, sadly, we are witnessing the rise of new signs of anti-Semitism and various forms of a general hostility towards foreigners. How can we fail to see in this a reason for concern and vigilance?

The Catholic Church is committed – I reaffirm this again today – to tolerance, respect, friendship and peace between all peoples, cultures and religions.

In the 40 years that have passed since the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, much progress has been made, in Germany and throughout the world, towards better and closer relations between Jews and Christians. Alongside official relationships, due above all to cooperation between specialists in the biblical sciences, many friendships have been born.

In this regard, I would mention the various declarations by the German Episcopal Conference and the charitable work done by the “Society for Jewish-Christian Cooperation in Cologne”, which since 1945 have enabled the Jewish community to feel once again truly “at home” here in Cologne and to establish good relations with the Christian communities.

Yet much still remains to be done. We must come to know one another much more and much better.

Consequently, I would encourage sincere and trustful dialogue between Jews and Christians, for only in this way will it be possible to arrive at a shared interpretation of disputed historical questions, and, above all, to make progress towards a theological evaluation of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.

This dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences:  in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge, and indeed, precisely in those areas, we need to show respect and love for one another.

Finally, our gaze should not only be directed to the past, but should also look forward to the tasks that await us today and tomorrow. Our rich common heritage and our fraternal and more trusting relations call upon us to join in giving an ever more harmonious witness and to work together on the practical level for the defence and promotion of human rights and the sacredness of human life, for family values, for social justice and for peace in the world.

The Decalogue (cf. Ex 20; Dt 5) is for us a shared legacy and commitment. The Ten Commandments are not a burden, but a signpost showing the path leading to a successful life.

This is particularly the case for the young people whom I am meeting in these days and who are so dear to me. My wish is that they may be able to recognize in the Decalogue our common foundation, a lamp for their steps, a light for their path (cf. Ps 119: 105).

Adults have the responsibility of handing down to young people the torch of hope that God has given to Jews and to Christians, so that “never again” will the forces of evil come to power, and that future generations, with God’s help, may be able to build a more just and peaceful world, in which all people have equal rights and are equally at home.

I conclude with the words of Psalm 29, which express both a wish and a prayer:  “May the Lord give strength to his people, may he bless his people with peace”.

May he hear our prayer!

MEETING WITH SEMINARIANS

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

Cologne – Saint Pantaleon

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Seminarians,

I greet all of you with great affection and gratitude for your festive welcome and particularly for the fact that you have come to this gathering from so many countries the world over. Here we are truly a spectacular image of the Catholic Church in the world.

I thank especially the seminarian, the priest and the Bishop who have given us their own personal witness. I must say that I was moved to see these paths on which the Lord has guided these men in an unexpected way and not according to their own projects.

I cordially thank you and am very pleased to have this meeting. I had asked – and this has already been said – that the programme of these days in Cologne should include a special meeting with young seminarians, so that the vocational dimension would truly emerge in all of its importance, since it plays an evermore important role in the World Youth Days. It seems to be that the rain too that is falling down from heaven is a blessing.

You are seminarians, that is to say, young people devoting an intense period of your lives to seeking a personal relationship with Christ, an encounter with him, in preparation for your important mission in the Church. This is what a seminary is:  more than a place, it is a significant time in the life of a follower of Jesus.

I can imagine the echo that resounds in your hearts from the words of the theme of this 20th World Youth Day – “We have come to worship him” – and the entire moving narration of the searching and finding of the Wise Men. Each in his own way – we consider the three witnesses we have just heard – like them, they see a star, set out on their journey, they too must face what is unclear and are able to arrive at their destination under God’s guidance.

This evangelical passage of the Wise Men who search out and find Jesus has a special meaning precisely for you, dear seminarians, because you are on an authentic journey, engaged in discerning – and this is a true journey – and confirming your call to the priesthood. Let us pause and reflect on this theme.

Why did the Magi set off from afar to go to Bethlehem? The answer has to do with the mystery of the “star” which they saw “in the East” and which they recognized as the star of the “King of the Jews”, that is to say, the sign of the birth of the Messiah (cf. Mt 2: 2). So their journey was inspired by a powerful hope, strengthened and guided by the star, which led them towards the King of the Jews, towards the kingship of God himself. This is the meaning behind our journey:  to serve the kingship of God in the world.

The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin.

Dear friends, this is the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation. It is part of the life of every Christian, but it is particularly evident in those whom Christ asks to leave everything in order to follow him more closely.

The seminarian experiences the beauty of that call in a moment of grace which could be defined as “falling in love”. His soul is filled with amazement, which makes him ask in prayer: “Lord, why me?”. But love knows no “why”; it is a free gift to which one responds with the gift of self.

The seminary years are devoted to formation and discernment. Formation, as you well know, has different strands which converge in the unity of the person:  it includes human, spiritual and cultural dimensions. Its deepest goal is to bring the student to an intimate knowledge of the God who has revealed his face in Jesus Christ.

For this, in-depth study of Sacred Scripture is needed, and also of the faith and life of the Church in which the Scripture dwells as the Word of life. This must all be linked with the questions prompted by our reason and with the broader context of modern life.

Such study can at times seem arduous, but it is an indispensable part of our encounter with Christ and our vocation to proclaim him. All this is aimed at shaping a steady and balanced personality, one capable of receiving validly and fulfilling responsibly the priestly mission.

The role of formators is decisive:  the quality of the presbyterate in a particular Church depends greatly on that of the seminary, and consequently on the quality of those responsible for formation.

Dear seminarians, for this very reason we pray today with genuine gratitude for your superiors, professors and educators, who are spiritually present at this meeting. Let us ask the Lord to help them carry out as well as possible the important task entrusted to them.

The seminary years are a time of journeying, of exploration, but above all of discovering Christ. It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord’s will and consequently his own vocation.

The better you know Jesus the more his mystery attracts you. The more you discover him, the more you are moved to seek him. This is a movement of the Spirit which lasts throughout life, and which makes the seminary a time of immense promise, a true “springtime”.

When the Magi came to Bethlehem, “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Mt 2: 11). Here at last was the long-awaited moment:  their encounter with Jesus.

“Going into the house”:  this house in some sense represents the Church. In order to find the Saviour, one has to enter the house, which is the Church.

During his time in the seminary, a particularly important process of maturation takes place in the consciousness of the young seminarian:  he no longer sees the Church “from the outside”, but rather, as it were, “from the inside”, and he comes to sense that she is his “home”, inasmuch as she is the home of Christ, where “Mary his mother” dwells.

It is Mary who shows him Jesus her Son; she introduces him and in a sense enables him to see and touch Jesus, and to take him into his arms. Mary teaches the seminarian to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of the heart and to make Jesus his very life.

Each moment of seminary life can be an opportunity for loving experience of the presence of Our Lady, who introduces everyone to an encounter with Christ in the silence of meditation, prayer and fraternity. Mary helps us to meet the Lord above all in the celebration of the Eucharist, when, in the Word and in the consecrated Bread, he becomes our daily spiritual nourishment.

“They fell down and worshiped him… and offered him gifts:  gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2: 11-12). Here is the culmination of the whole journey:  encounter becomes adoration; it blossoms into an act of faith and love which acknowledges in Jesus, born of Mary, the Son of God made man.

How can we fail to see prefigured in this gesture of the Magi the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles, the faith of Paul and of all the saints, particularly of the many saintly seminarians and priests who have graced the 2,000 years of the Church’s history?

The secret of holiness is friendship with Christ and faithful obedience to his will. St Ambrose said:  “Christ is everything for us”; and St Benedict warned against putting anything before the love of Christ.

May Christ be everything for you. Dear seminarians, be the first to offer him what is most precious to you, as Pope John Paul II suggested in his Message for this World Youth Day:  the gold of your freedom, the incense of your ardent prayer, the myrrh of your most profound affection (cf. n. 4).

The seminary years are a time of preparing for mission. The Magi “departed for their own country” and most certainly bore witness to their encounter with the King of the Jews.

You too, after your long, necessary programme of seminary formation, will be sent forth as ministers of Christ; indeed, each of you will return as an alter Christus.

On their homeward journey, the Magi surely had to deal with dangers, weariness, disorientation, doubts. The star was no longer there to guide them! The light was now within them. Their task was to guard and nourish it in the constant memory of Christ, of his Holy Face, of his ineffable Love.

Dear seminarians! One day, God willing, by the consecration of the Holy Spirit you too will begin your mission. Remember always the words of Jesus: “Abide in my love” (Jn 15: 9). If you abide close to Christ, with Christ and in Christ, you will bear much fruit, just as he promised. You have not chosen him – we have just heard this in the witnesses given -, he has chosen you (cf. Jn 15: 16).

Here is the secret of your vocation and your mission! It is kept in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who watches over each one of you with a mother’s love. Have recourse to Mary, often and with confidence.

I assure you of my affection and my daily prayers. And I bless all of you from my heart.

ECUMENICAL MEETING

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

Cologne – Archbishop’s House 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Permit me to remain seated after such a strenuous day. This does not mean I wish to speak “ex cathedra”. Also, excuse me for being late. Unfortunately, Vespers took longer than foreseen and the traffic was slower moving than could be imagined.

I would like now to express the joy I feel on the occasion of my Visit to Germany, in being able to meet you and offer a warm greeting to you, the Representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities.

As a native of this Country, I am quite aware of the painful situation which the rupture of unity in the profession of the faith has entailed for so many individuals and families. This was one of the reasons why, immediately following my election as Bishop of Rome, I declared, as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, my firm commitment to making the recovery of full and visible Christian unity a priority of my Pontificate.

In doing so, I wished consciously to follow in the footsteps of two of my great Predecessors:  Pope Paul VI, who over 40 years ago signed the conciliar Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, and Pope John Paul II, who made that Document the inspiration for his activity.

In ecumenical dialogue Germany without a doubt has a place of particular importance. We are the Country where the Reformation began; however, Germany is also one of the countries where the ecumenical movement of the 20th century originated.

With the successive waves of immigration in the last century, Christians from the Orthodox Churches and the ancient Churches of the East also found a new homeland in this Country. This certainly favoured greater contact and exchanges so that now there is a dialogue between we three.

Together we can rejoice in the fact that the dialogue, with the passage of time, has brought about a renewed sense of our brotherhood and has created a more open and trusting climate between Christians belonging to the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities. My venerable Predecessor, in his Encyclical Ut Unum Sint (1995), saw this as an especially significant fruit of dialogue (cf. nn. 41ff.; 64).

I feel the fact that we consider one another brothers and sisters, that we love one another, that together we are witnesses of Jesus Christ, should not be taken so much for granted. I believe that this brotherhood is in itself a very important fruit of dialogue that we must rejoice in, continue to foster and to practice.

Among Christians, fraternity is not just a vague sentiment, nor is it a sign of indifference to truth. As you just said, Bishop, it is grounded in the supernatural reality of the one Baptism which makes us all members of the one Body of Christ (cf. I Cor 12: 13; Gal 3: 28; Col 2: 12).

Together we confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord; together we acknowledge him as the one mediator between God and man (cf. I Tm 2: 5), and we emphasize that together we are members of his Body (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 22; Ut Unum Sint, n. 42).

Based on this essential foundation of Baptism, a reality comes from him which is a way of being, then of professing, believing and acting. Based on this crucial foundation, dialogue has borne its fruits and will continue to do so.

I would like to mention the re-examination of the mutual condemnations, called for by John Paul II during his first Visit to Germany. I recall with some nostalgia that first Visit. I was able to be present when we were together at Mainz in a fairly small and authentic fraternal circle. Some questions were put to the Pope and he described a broad theological vision in which reciprocity was amply treated.

That colloquium gave rise to an episcopal, that is, a Church commission, under ecclesial responsibility. Finally, with the contribution of theologians it led to the important Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999) and to an agreement on basic issues that had been a subject of controversy since the 16th century.

We should also acknowledge with gratitude the results of our common stand on important matters, such as the fundamental questions involving the defence of life and the promotion of justice and peace.

I am well aware that many Christians in Germany, and not only in this Country, expect further concrete steps to bring us closer together. I myself have the same expectation.

It is the Lord’s commandment, but also the imperative of the present hour, to carry on dialogue with conviction at all levels of the Church’s life. This must obviously take place with sincerity and realism, with patience and perseverance, in complete fidelity to the dictates of one’s conscience in the awareness that it is the Lord who gives unity, that we do not create it, that it is he who gives it but that we must go to meet him.

I do not intend here to outline a programme for the immediate themes of dialogue – this task belongs to theologians working alongside the Bishops:  the theologians, on the basis of their knowledge of the problem; the Bishops from their knowledge of the concrete situation in the Church in our Country and in the world.

May I make a small comment:  now, it is said that following the clarification regarding the Doctrine of Justification, the elaboration of ecclesiological issues and the questions concerning ministry are the main obstacles still to be overcome. In short, this is true, but I must also say that I dislike this terminology, which from a certain point of view delimits the problem since it seems that we must now debate about institutions instead of the Word of God, as though we had to place our institutions in the centre and fight for them. I think that in this way the ecclesiological issue as well as that of the “Ministerium” are not dealt with correctly.

The real question is the presence of the Word in the world. In the second century the early Church primarily took a threefold decision: first, to establish the canon, thereby stressing the sovereignty of the Word and explaining that not only is the Old Testament “hai graphai”, but together with the New Testament constitutes a single Scripture which is thus for us the master text.

However, at the same time the Church has formulated an Apostolic Succession, the episcopal ministry, in the awareness that the Word and the witness go together; that is, the Word is alive and present only thanks to the witness, so to speak, and receives from the witness its interpretation. But the witness is only such if he or she witnesses to the Word.

Third and last, the Church has added the “regula fidei” as a key for interpretation. I believe that this reciprocal compenetration constitutes an object of dissent between us, even though we are certainly united on fundamental things.

Therefore, when we speak of ecclesiology and of ministry we must preferably speak in this combination of Word, witness and rule of faith, and consider it as an ecclesiological matter, and therefore together as a question of the Word of God, of his sovereignty and humility inasmuch as the Lord entrusts his Word, and concedes its interpretation, to witnesses which, however, must always be compared to the “regula fidei” and the integrity of the Word. Excuse me if I have expressed a personal opinion; it seemed right to do so.

Another urgent priority in ecumenical dialogue arises from the great ethical questions of our time; in this area, contemporary man, who is searching, rightly expects a common response on the part of Christians, which, thanks be to God, in many cases has been forthcoming.

There are so many common declarations by the German Bishops’ Conference and the Evangelical Churches in Germany that we can be grateful for, but unfortunately, this does not always happen. Because of contradictory positions in this area our witness to the Gospel and the ethical guidance which we owe to the faithful and to society lose their impact and often appear too vague, with the result that we fail in our duty to provide the witness that is needed in our time.

Our divisions are contrary to the will of Jesus and they disappoint peoples’ expectations. I think that we must work with new energy and dedication to bring a common witness into the context of these great ethical challenges of our time.

We all know there are numerous models of unity and you know that the Catholic Church also has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various Documents (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn. 8, 13; Unitatis Redintegratio, nn. 2, 4, etc.). This unity, we are convinced, indeed subsists in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 4); the Church in fact has not totally disappeared from the world.

On the other hand, this unity does not mean what could be called ecumenism of the return:  that is, to deny and to reject one’s own faith history. Absolutely not!

It does not mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline. Unity in multiplicity, and multiplicity in unity:  in my Homily for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul on 29 June last, I insisted that full unity and true catholicity in the original sense of the word go together. As a necessary condition for the achievement of this coexistence, the commitment to unity must be constantly purified and renewed; it must constantly grow and mature.

To this end, dialogue has its own contribution to make. More than an exchange of thoughts, an academic exercise, it is an exchange of gifts (cf. Ut Unum Sint, n. 28), in which the Churches and the Ecclesial Communities can make available their own riches (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn. 8, 15; Unitatis Redintegratio, nn. 3, 14ff.; Ut Unum Sint, nn. 10-14).

As a result of this commitment, the journey can move forward, step by step, as the Letter to the Ephesians says, until at last we will all “attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4: 13).

It is obvious that this dialogue can develop only in a context of sincere and committed spirituality. We cannot “bring about” unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism – prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life – constitutes the heart of the meeting and of the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 8; Ut Unum Sint, 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel.

I would also like in this context to remember the great pioneer of unity, Bro. Roger Schutz, who was so tragically snatched from life. I had known him personally for a long time and had a cordial friendship with him.

He often came to visit me and, as I already said in Rome on the day of his assassination, I received a letter from him that moved my heart, because in it he underlined his adherence to my path and announced to me that he wanted to come and see me. He is now visiting us and speaking to us from on high. I think that we must listen to him, from within we must listen to his spiritually-lived ecumenism and allow ourselves to be led by his witness towards an interiorized and spiritualized ecumenism.

I see good reason in this context for optimism in the fact that today a kind of “network” of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and Ecclesial Communities:  each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity.

The father of spiritual ecumenism, Paul Couturier, spoke in this regard of an “invisible cloister” which unites within its walls those souls inflamed with love for Christ and his Church. I am convinced that if more and more people unite themselves interiorly to the Lord’s prayer “that all may be one” (Jn 17: 21), then this prayer, made in the Name of Jesus, will not go unheard (cf. Jn 14: 13; 15: 7, 16, etc.).

With the help that comes from on high, we will also find practical solutions to the different questions which remain open, and in the end our desire for unity will come to fulfilment, whenever and however the Lord wills.

Now let us all go along this path in the awareness that walking together is a form of unity. Let us thank God for this and pray that he will continue to guide us all.

Publicado el 18 agosto, 2013 en CAJÓN DESASTRE y etiquetado en , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Guarda el enlace permanente. 2 comentarios.

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