Council and Conversion in Christ
On Thursday morning, 22 December 2005, in the Clementine Hall, the Holy
Father spoke to the Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and Prelates of the
Roman Curia, whom he received at the traditional annual Audience to offer
them his Christmas greetings. The Pope spoke to them of major events in
the year, including the death of Pope John Paul II. He also commented, at
the end of its 40th anniversary, on the Second Vatican Council, its goals
and implementation. The following is a translation of the Holy Father's
Address, given in Italian.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
"Expergiscere, homo: quia pro te Deus factus est homo
Wake up, O man! For your sake God
became man" (St. Augustine, Sermo, 185). With the Christmas
celebrations now at hand, I am opening my Meeting with you, dear
collaborators of the Roman Curia, with St. Augustine's invitation to
understand the true meaning of Christ's Birth.
I address to each one my most cordial greeting and I thank you for the
sentiments of devotion and affection, effectively conveyed to me by your
Cardinal Dean, to whom I address my gratitude.
God became man for our sake: this is the message which, every year,
from the silent grotto of Bethlehem spreads even to the most
out-of-the-way corners of the earth. Christmas is a feast of light and
peace, it is a day of inner wonder and joy that expands throughout the
universe, because "God became man". From the humble grotto of Bethlehem,
the eternal Son of God, who became a tiny Child, addresses each one of us
he calls us, invites us to be reborn in him so that, with him, we may live
eternally in communion with the Most Holy Trinity.
The death of John Paul II
Our hearts brimming with the joy that comes from this knowledge, let us
think back to the events of the year that is coming to an end. We have
behind us great events which have left a deep mark on the life of the
Church. I am thinking first and foremost of the departure of our beloved
Holy Father John Paul preceded by a long period of suffering and the
gradual loss of speech. No Pope has left us such a quantity of texts as he
has bequeathed to us; no previous Pope was able to visit the whole world
like him and speak directly to people from all the continents.
In the end, however, his lot was a journey of suffering and silence.
Unforgettable for us are the images of Palm Sunday when, holding an olive
branch and marked by pain, he came to the window and imparted the Lord's
Blessing as he himself was about to walk towards the Cross.
Next was the scene in his Private Chapel when, holding the Crucifix, he
took part in the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, where he had so often
led the procession carrying the Cross himself.
Lastly came his silent Blessing, on Easter Sunday, in which we saw the
promise of the Resurrection, of eternal life, shine out through all his
suffering. With his words and actions, the Holy Father gave us great
things; equally important is the lesson he imparted to us from the chair
of suffering and silence.
In his last book "Memory and Identity" (Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
2005), he has left us an interpretation of suffering that is not a
theological or philosophical theory but a fruit that matured on his
personal path of suffering which he walked, sustained by faith in the
Crucified Lord. This interpretation, which he worked out in faith and
which gave meaning to his suffering lived in communion with that of the
Lord, spoke through his silent pain, transforming it into an important
The power of evil
Both at the beginning and once again at the end of the book mentioned,
the Pope shows that he is deeply touched by the spectacle of the power of
evil, which we dramatically experienced in the century that has just
ended. He says in his text: 'The evil... was not a small-scale evil.... It
was an evil of gigantic proportions, an evil which availed itself of state
structures in order to accomplish its wicked work., an evil built up into
a system" (p. 189).
Might evil be invincible? Is it the ultimate power of history? Because
of the experience of evil, for Pope Wojtyla the question of redemption
because the essential and central question of his life and thought as a
Christian. Is there a limit against which the power of evil shatters?
"Yes, there is", the Pope replies in this book of his, as well as in his
Encyclical on redemption.
The power that imposes a on limit evil is Divine Mercy. Violence, the
display of evil, is opposed in history
as "the totally other" of God, God's own power by Divine Mercy.
The Lamb is stronger than the dragon, we could say together with the Book
At the end of the book, in a retrospective review of the attack of 13
May 1981 and on the basis of the experience of his journey with God and
with the world, John Paul II further deepened this answer.
What limits the force of evil, the power, in brief, which overcomes it
this is how he says it is God's
suffering, the suffering of the Son of God on the Cross: "The suffering of
the Crucified God is not just one form of suffering alongside others....
In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering,
opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love.... The passion
of Christ on the Cross gave a radically new meaning to suffering,
transforming it from within.... It is this suffering which burns and
consumes evil with the flame of love.... All human suffering, all pain,
all infirmity contains within itself a promise of salvation;... evil is
present in the world partly so as to awaken our love, our self-gift in
generous and disinterested service to those visited by suffering....
Christ has redeemed the world: 'By his wounds we are healed' (Is 33:5)"
(p. 189, ff.).
All this is nor merely learned theology, but the expression of a faith
lived and matured through suffering. Of course, we must do all we can to
alleviate suffering and prevent the injustice that causes the suffering of
the innocent. However, we must also do the utmost to ensure that people
can discover the meaning of suffering and are thus able to accept their
own suffering and to unite it with the suffering of Christ.
In this way, it is merged with redemptive love and consequently becomes
a force against the evil in the world.
The response across the world to the Pope's death was an overwhelming
demonstration of gratitude for the fact that in his ministry he offered
himself totally to God for the world; a thanksgiving for the fact that in
a world full of hatred and violence he taught anew love and suffering in
the service of others; he showed us, so to speak, in the flesh, the
Redeemer, redemption, and gave us the certainty that indeed, evil does not
have the last word in the world.
Youth Day and the Synod
I would now like to mention, if briefly, another two events also
initiated by Pope John Paul II: they are the World Youth Day celebrated in
Cologne and the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, which also ended the
Year of the Eucharist inaugurated by Pope John Paul II.
The World Youth Day has lived on as a great gift in the memory of those
present. More than a million young people gathered in the City of Cologne
on the Rhine River and in the neighbouring towns to listen together to the
Word of God, to pray together, to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation
and the Eucharist, to sing and to celebrate together, to rejoice in life
and to worship and receive the Lord in the Eucharist during the great
meetings on Saturday evening and Sunday. Joy simply reigned throughout
Apart from keeping order, the police had nothing to do
the Lord had gathered his family,
tangibly overcoming every frontier and barrier, and in the great communion
between us, he made us experience his presence.
The motto chosen for those days
"We have come to worship him!", contained two great images which
encouraged the right approach from the outset. First there was the image
of the pilgrimage, the image of the person who looking beyond his own
affairs and daily life, sets out in search of his essential destination,
the truth, the right life, God.
This image of the person on his way towards the goal of Life contained
another two clear indications.
First of all, there was the invitation not to see the world that
surrounds us solely as raw material with which we can do something, but to
try to discover in it "the Creator's handwriting", the creative reason and
the love from which the world was born and of which the universe speaks to
us, if we pay attention, if our inner senses awaken and acquire perception
of the deepest dimensions of reality.
As a second element there is a further invitation: to listen to the
historical revelation which alone can offer us the key to the
interpretation of the silent mystery of creation, pointing out to us the
practical way towards the true Lord of the world and of history, who
conceals himself in the poverty of the stable in Bethlehem.
The other image contained in the World Youth Day motto was the person
worshipping: "We have come to worship him". Before any activity, before
the world can change there must be worship. Worship alone sets us truly
free; worship alone gives us the criteria for our action. Precisely in a
world in which guiding criteria are absent and the threat exists that each
person will he a law unto himself, it is fundamentally necessary to stress
For all those who were present the intense silence of that young people
remains unforgettable, a silence that united and uplifted us all when the
Lord in the Blessed Sacrament was placed on the altar. Let us cherish in
our hearts the images of Cologne: they are signs that continue to be
valid. Without mentioning individual names, I would like on this occasion
to thank everyone who made World Youth Day possible; but especially, let
us together thank the Lord, for indeed, he alone could give us those days
in the way in which we lived them.
The Synod on the Eucharist
'The word "adoration" [worship] brings us to the second great event
that I wish to talk about: the Synod of Bishops and the Year of the
Eucharist. Pope John Paul II, with the Encyclical Ecclesia de
Eucharistia and the Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, gave
us the essential clues and at the same time, with his personal experience
of Eucharistic faith, put the Church's teaching into practice.
Moreover, the Congregation for Divine Worship, in close connection with
the Encyclical, published the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum
as a practical guide to the correct implementation of the conciliar
Constitution on the liturgy and liturgical reform. In addition to all
this, was it really possible to say anything new, to develop further the
whole of this teaching?
This was exactly the great experience of the Synod, during which a
reflection of the riches of the Eucharistic life of the Church today and
the inexhaustibility of her Eucharistic faith could be perceived in the
Fathers' contributions. What the Fathers thought and expressed must be
presented, in close connection with the Propositiones of the Synod,
in a Post-Synodal Document.
Here, once again, I only wish to underline that point which a little
while ago we already mentioned in the context of World Youth Day:
adoration of the Risen Lord present in the Eucharist with flesh and blood,
with body and soul, with divinity and humanity.
It is moving for me to see how everywhere in the Church the joy of
Eucharistic adoration is reawakening and being fruitful. In the period of
liturgical reform, Mass and adoration outside it were often seen as in
opposition to one another: it was thought that the Eucharistic Bread had
not been given to us to be contemplated, but to be eaten, as a widespread
objection claimed at that time.
The experience of the prayer of the Church has already shown how
nonsensical this antithesis was. Augustine had formerly said: "...nemo
autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit;... peccemus non
adorando No one should eat this flesh without first adoring it;...
we should sin were we not to adore it" (cf. Enarr. in Ps 98:9 CCL
Indeed, we do not merely receive something in the Eucharist. It is the
encounter and unification of persons; the person, however, who comes to
meet us and desires to unite himself to us is the Son of God. Such
unification can only be brought about by means of adoration.
Receiving the Eucharist means adoring the One whom we receive.
Precisely in this way and only in this way do we become one with him.
Therefore, the development of Eucharistic adoration, as it took shape
during the Middle Ages, was the most consistent consequence of the
Eucharistic mystery itself: only in adoration can profound and true
acceptance develop. And it is precisely this personal act of encounter
with the Lord that develops the social mission which is contained in the
Eucharist and desires to break down barriers, not only the barriers
between the Lord and us but also and above all those that separate us from
Conclusion of Vatican II
The last event of this year on which I wish to reflect here is the
celebration of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council 40 years ago.
This memory prompts the question: What has been the result of the Council?
Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and
what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can
deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council
has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what
occurred in these years the description that St. Basil, the great Doctor
of the Church, made of the Church's situation after the Council of Nicea:
he compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm,
saying among other things: "The raucous shouting of those who through
disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter,
the confused din of uninterrupted clamouring, has now filled almost the
whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right
doctrine of the faith..." (De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77; PG
32, 213 A; SCh 17 ff., p. 524).
We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to the
situation of the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that
occurred is nevertheless reflected in it. The question arises: Why has the
implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been
Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or
as we would say today on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its
interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose
from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and
quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but
more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.
On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call "a
hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture"; it has frequently availed
itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern
theology. On the other, there is the "hermeneutic of reform", of renewal
in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to
us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always
remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.
The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the
pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the
texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the
Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to
reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old
things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is
not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward
the new that are contained in the texts.
These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of
the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be
possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly
reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be
necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the
newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even
if it were still vague.
In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council
but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for
the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room
was consequently made for every whim.
The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood.
In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an
old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constituent Assembly
needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words,
the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate
and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one
because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and
was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from
this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.
Through the Sacrament they have received, Bishops are stewards of the
Lord's gift. They are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (I Cor 4:1); as
such, they must be found to be "faithful" and "wise" (cf. Lk 12:41-48).
This requires them to administer the Lord's gift in the right way, so that
it is not left concealed in some hiding place but bears fruit, and the
Lord may end by saying to the administrator: "Since you were dependable in
a small matter I will put you in charge of larger affairs" (cf. Mt
25:14-30; Lk 19:11-27).
These Gospel parables express the dynamic of fidelity required in the
Lord's service; and through them it becomes clear that, as in a Council,
the dynamic and fidelity must converge.
The aims of the Council
The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of
reform, as it was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his Speech
inaugurating the Council on 11 October 1962 and later by Pope Paul VI in
his Discourse for the Council's conclusion on 8 December 1965.
Here I shall cite only John XXIII's well-known words, which
unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council
wishes "to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any
attenuation or distortion". And he continues: "Our duty is not only to
guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity,
but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that
work which our era demands of us...". It is necessary that
"adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and
preciseness..." be presented in "faithful and perfect conformity to the
authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded
through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern
thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is
one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another...", retaining
the same meaning and message (The Documents of Vatican II, Walter
M. Abbott, S.J., p. 715).
It is clear that this commitment to expressing a specific truth in a
new way demands new thinking on this truth and a new and vital
relationship with it; it is also clear that new words can only develop if
they come from an informed understanding of the truth expressed, and on
the other hand, that a reflection on faith also requires that this faith
be lived. In this regard, the programme that Pope John XXIII proposed was
extremely demanding, indeed, just as the synthesis of fidelity and dynamic
However, wherever this interpretation guided the implementation of the
Council, new life developed and new fruit ripened. Forty years after the
Council, we can show that the positive is far greater and livelier than it
appeared to be in the turbulent years around 1968. Today, we see that
although the good seed developed slowly, it is nonetheless growing; and
our deep gratitude for the work done by the Council is likewise growing..
The Church and our times
In his Discourse closing the Council, Paul VI pointed out a further
specific reason why a hermeneutic of discontinuity can seem convincing.
In the great dispute about man which marks the modern epoch, the
Council had to focus in particular on the theme of anthropology. It had to
question the relationship between the Church and her faith on the one
hand, and man and the contemporary world on the other (cf. ibid.).
The question becomes even clearer if, instead of the generic term
"contemporary world", we opt for another that is more precise: the Council
had to determine in a new way the relationship between the Church and the
This relationship had a somewhat stormy beginning with the Galileo
case. It was then totally interrupted when Kant described "religion within
pure reason" and when, in the radical phase of the French Revolution, an
image of the State and the human being that practically no longer wanted
to allow the Church any room was disseminated.
In the 19th century under Pius IX, the clash between the Church's faith
and a radical liberalism and the natural sciences, which also claimed to
embrace with their knowledge the whole of reality to its limit, stubbornly
proposing to make the "hypothesis of God" superfluous, had elicited from
the Church a bitter and radical condemnation of this spirit of the modern
age. Thus, it seemed that there was no longer any milieu open to a
positive and fruitful understanding, and the rejection by those who felt
they were the representatives of the modern era was also drastic.
In the meantime, however, the modern age had also experienced
developments. People came to realize that the American Revolution was
offering a model of a modern State that differed from the theoretical
model with radical tendencies that had emerged during the second phase of
the French Revolution.
The natural sciences were beginning to reflect more and more clearly
their own limitations imposed by their own method, which, despite
achieving great things, was nevertheless unable to grasp the global nature
So it was that both parties were gradually beginning to open up to each
other. In the period between the two World Wars and especially after the
Second World War, Catholic statesmen demonstrated that a modern secular
State could exist that was not neutral regarding values but alive, drawing
from the great ethical sources opened by Christianity.
Catholic social doctrine, as it gradually developed, became an
important model between radical liberalism and the Marxist theory of the
State. The natural sciences, which without reservation professed a method
of their own to which God was barred access, realized ever more clearly
that this method did not include the whole of reality. Hence, they once
again opened their doors to God, knowing that reality is greater than the
naturalistic method and all that it can encompass.
It might be said that three circles of questions had formed which then,
at he time of the Second Vatican Council, were expecting an answer. First
of all, the relationship between faith and modern science had to be
redefined. Furthermore, this did not only concern the natural sciences but
also historical science for, in a certain school, the historical-critical
method claimed to have the last word on the interpretation of the Bible
and, demanding total exclusivity for its interpretation of Sacred
Scripture, was opposed to important points in the interpretation
elaborated by the faith of the Church.
Secondly, it was necessary to give a new definition to the relationship
between the Church and the modern State that would make room impartially
for citizens of various religions and ideologies, merely assuming
responsibility for an orderly and tolerant coexistence among them and for
the freedom to practise their own religion.
Thirdly, linked more generally to this was the problem of religious
tolerance a question that required a new definition of the relationship
between the Christian faith and the world religions. In particular, before
the recent crimes of the Nazi regime and, in general, with a retrospective
look at a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and
define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of
These are all subjects of great importance they were the great themes
of the second part of the Council on which it is impossible to reflect
more broadly in this context. It is clear that in all these sectors, which
all together form a single problem, some kind of discontinuity might
emerge. Indeed, a discontinuity had been revealed but in which, after the
various distinctions between concrete historical situations and their
requirements had been made, the continuity of principles proved not to
have been abandoned. It is easy to miss this fact at a first glance.
It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at
different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this
process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more
practically than before that the Church's decisions on contingent matters
for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free
interpretation of the Bible should necessarily be contingent themselves,
precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in
itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it
is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they
remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within.
On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend
on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.
Basic decisions, therefore, continue to be well-grounded, whereas the
way they are applied to new contexts can change. Thus, for example, if
religious freedom were to be considered an expression of the human
inability to discover the truth and thus become a canonization of
relativism, then this social and historical necessity is raised
inappropriately to the metaphysical level and thus stripped of its true
meaning. Consequently, it cannot be accepted by those who believe that the
human person is capable of knowing the truth about God and, on the basis
of the inner dignity of the truth, is bound to this knowledge.
It is quite different, on the other hand, to perceive religious freedom
as a need that derives from human coexistence, or indeed, as an intrinsic
consequence of the truth that cannot be externally imposed but that the
person must adopt only through the process of conviction.
The Second Vatican Council, recognizing and making its own an essential
principle of the modern State with the Decree on Religious Freedom, has
recovered the deepest patrimony of the Church. By so doing she can be
conscious of being in full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself (cf.
Mt 22:21), as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time. The
ancient Church naturally prayed for the emperors and political leaders out
of duty (cf. I Tm 2:2); but while she prayed for the emperors, she refused
to worship them and thereby clearly rejected the religion of the State.
The martyrs of the early Church died for their faith in that God who
was revealed in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason they also died for
freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one's own faith a
profession that no State can impose but which, instead, can only be
claimed with God's grace in freedom of conscience. A missionary Church
known for proclaiming her message to all peoples must necessarily work for
the freedom of the faith. She desires to transmit the gift of the truth
that exists for one and all.
At the same time, she assures peoples and their Governments that she
does not wish to destroy their identity and culture by doing so, but to
give them, on the contrary, a response which, in their innermost depths,
they are waiting for a response with which the multiplicity of cultures
is not lost but instead unity between men and women increases and thus
also peace between peoples.
The same one, holy Church
The Second Vatican Council, with its new definition of the relationship
between the faith of the Church and certain essential elements of
modern thought, has reviewed or even corrected certain historical
decisions, but in this apparent discontinuity it has actually preserved
and deepened her inmost nature and true identity.
The Church, both before and after the Council, was and is the same
Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic, journeying on through time; she
continues "her pilgrimage amid the persecutions of the world and the
consolations of God", proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes
(cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 8).
Those who expected that with this fundamental "yes" to the modern era
all tensions would be dispelled and and the "openness towards the world"
accordingly achieved would transform everything into pure harmony had
underestimated the inner tensions as well as the contradictions inherent
in the modern epoch.
They had underestimated the perilous frailty of human nature which has
been a threat to human progress in all the periods of history and in every
historical constellation. These dangers, with the new possibilities and
new power of man over matter and over himself, did not disappear but
instead acquired new dimensions: a look at the history of the present day
shows this clearly.
In our time, too, the Church remains a "sign that will be opposed" (Lk
2:34) not without reason did Pope
John Paul II, then still a Cardinal, give this title to the theme for the
Spiritual Exercises he preached in I976 to Pope Paul VI and the Roman
Curia. The Council could not have intended to abolish the Gospel's
opposition to human danger and errors.
On the contrary, it was certainly the Council's intention to overcome
erroneous or superfluous contradictions in order to present to our world
the requirement of the Gospel in its full greatness and purity.
The steps the Council took towards the modern era which had rather
vaguely been presented as "openness to the world", belong in short to the
perennial problem of the relationship between faith and reason that is
re-emerging in ever new forms. The situation that the Council had to face
can certainly be compared to events or previous epochs.
In his First Letter, St. Peter urged Christians always to be ready to
give an answer (apo-logia) to anyone who asked them for the
logos, the reason for their faith (cf. 3:15).
This meant that biblical faith had to be discussed and come into
contact with Greek culture and learn to recognize through interpretation
the separating line but also the convergence and the affinity between them
in the one reason, given by God.
When, in the 13th century through the Jewish and Arab philosophers,
Aristotelian thought came into contact with Medieval Christianity formed
in the Platonic tradition and faith and reason risked entering an
irreconcilable contradiction, it was above all St. Thomas Aquinas who
mediated the new encounter between faith and Aristotelian philosophy,
thereby setting faith in a positive relationship with the form of reason
prevalent in his time. There is no doubt that the wearing dispute between
modern reason and the Christian faith, which had begun negatively with the
Galileo case, went through many phases, but with the Second Vatican
Council the time came when broad new thinking was required.
Its content was certainly only roughly traced in the conciliar texts,
but this determined its essential direction, so that the dialogue between
reason and faith, particularly important today, found its bearings on the
basis of the Second Vatican Council.
This dialogue must now be developed with great openmindedness but also
with that clear discernment that the world rightly expects of us in this
very moment. Thus, today we can look with gratitude at the Second Vatican
Council: if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic,
it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary
renewal of the Church.
Election of Benedict XVI
Lastly, should I perhaps recall once again that 19 April this year on
which, to my great surprise, the College of Cardinals elected me as the
Successor of Pope John Paul II, as a Successor of St. Peter on the chair
of the Bishop of Rome? Such an office was far beyond anything I could ever
have imagined as my vocation. It was, therefore, only with a great act of
trust in God that I was able to say in obedience my "yes" to this choice.
Now as then, I also ask you all for your prayer, on whose power and
support t rely.
At the same time, I would like to warmly thank all those who lime
welcomed me and still welcome me with great trust, goodness, and
understanding, accompanying me day after day with their prayers.
Christmas is now at hand. The Lord God did not counter the threats of
history with external power, as we human beings would expect according to
the prospects of our world. His weapon is goodness. Lie revealed himself
as a child, horn in a stable. This is precisely how he counters with his
power, completely different from the destructive powers of violence. In
this very way he saves us. In this very way he shows us what saves.
In these days of Christmas, let us go to meet him full of trust, like
the shepherds, like the Wise Men of the East. Let us ask Mary to lead us
to the Lord. Let us ask him himself to make his face shine upon us. Let us
ask him also to defeat the violence in the world and to make us experience
the power of his goodness. With these sentiments, I warmly impart to you
all my Apostolic Blessing.