Indissoluble bond: 'Romanum' and 'Petrinum'
On Friday, 13 May, the Holy Father went to the Basilica of St John
Lateran to meet the clergy of the Diocese of Rome. The Pope addressed
the Roman priests and deacons after hearing the welcome on their behalf
expressed by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of His Holiness and President
of the Italian Bishops' Conference. The following is a translation of
the Holy Father's Address, given in Italian.
Dear Priests and Deacons who serve the Diocese of Rome with your
pastoral work, I am happy to meet you at the beginning of my ministry as
Bishop of this Church, "which presides in charity". I greet with
affection the Cardinal Vicar and thank him for his kind words, and I
also greet the Vicegerent and the Auxiliary Bishops. I offer a friendly
greeting to each one of you, and at this very first Meeting I want to
express my gratitude to you for your daily efforts in the Lord's
The extraordinary experience of faith that we lived on the occasion
of the death of our beloved Pope John Paul II showed us a Church of Rome
that is deeply united, full of life and rich in zeal: all this is also
the fruit of your prayers and apostolate.
Thus, humbly attached to Christ, our One Lord, together we can and
must encourage that "exemplarity" of the Church of Rome which is genuine
service to our Sister Churches across the world. The indissoluble bond
between romanum and petrinum implies and indeed requires
the Church of Rome's participation in the universal concern of her
But responsibility for this participation concerns you in a special way,
dear priests and deacons, united to your Bishop by the sacramental bond
that also makes you his precious collaborators. I am therefore counting
on you, on your prayers, your acceptance and your dedication, so that
our beloved Diocese may respond ever more generously to the vocation the
Lord has entrusted to it.
For my part, I assure you that despite my limitations, you can count
on the sincerity of my paternal affection for you all.
Dear priests, the quality of your lives and your pastoral service
seem to indicate that in this Diocese, as in many others of the world,
we have now left behind us that period of identity crisis that troubled
so many priests. However, still present are the causes of the "spiritual
wilderness" that afflict humanity in our day and consequently also
undermine the Church, which dwells among humankind. How can we not fear
that they may also ensnare the lives of priests?
It is indispensable, therefore, to return ever anew to the solid root
of our priesthood. This root, as we well know, is one: Jesus Christ our
Lord. It is he whom the Father sent, he is the cornerstone (cf. I Pt
2:7). Through him, through the mystery of his death and Resurrection,
the Kingdom of God is established and the salvation of the human race
This Jesus, however, possesses nothing of his own; everything he has
is from the Father and for the Father. So he says that his doctrine is
not his own but comes from the One who sent him (cf. Jn 7:16): and that
he, the Son, cannot do anything by himself (cf. Jn 5:19; 30).
Holy Mass, centre of priestly life
Dear friends, this is also the true nature of our priesthood. In
fact, all that constitutes our priestly ministry cannot be the product
of our personal abilities. This is true for the administration of the
Sacraments, but it is also true for the service of the Word: we are not
sent to proclaim ourselves or our personal opinions, but the mystery of
Christ and, in
him, the measure of true humanism. We are not charged to utter many
words, but to echo and bear the message of a single "Word", the Word of
God made flesh for our salvation. Consequently, these words of Jesus
also apply to us: "My doctrine is not my own; it comes from him who sent
me" (Jn 7:16).
Dear priests of Rome, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his
friends, he entrusts himself to us, he entrusts to us his Body in the
Eucharist, he entrusts to us his Church. Therefore, we must be true
friends to him, we must have the same perception as he has, we must want
what he wants and not what he does not want. Jesus himself tells us:
"You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15:14). Let this
be our common resolution: all of us together, to do his holy will, in
which lies our freedom and our joy.
Since the priesthood is rooted in Christ, it is by its nature in the
Church and for the Church. Indeed, the Christian faith is not something
purely spiritual and internal, nor is our relationship with Christ
itself exclusively subjective and private.
Rather, it is a completely concrete and ecclesial relationship. At
times, the ministerial priesthood has a constitutive relationship with
the Body of Christ in his dual and inseparable dimensions as Eucharist
and as Church, as Eucharistic body and Ecclesial body.
Therefore, our ministry is amoris officium (St Augustine,
In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus 123, 5), it is the office of the
Good Shepherd who offers his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10: 14-15). In
the Eucharistic mystery, Christ gives himself ever anew, and it is
precisely in the Eucharist that we learn love of Christ, hence, love for
I therefore repeat with you, dear brothers in the priesthood, the
unforgettable words of John Paul II: "Holy Mass is the absolute centre
of my life and of every day of my life" (Address at a Symposium in
honour of the 30th anniversary of the Decree "Presbyterorum Ordinis",
27 October 1995, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 15
November 1995, p. 7). And each one of us should be able to say these
words are his own: Holy Mass is the absolute centre of my life and of my
Likewise, obedience to Christ, who made amends for Adam's
disobedience, is in practice expressed in ecclesial obedience, which for
the priest in daily life means first and foremost obedience to his
Bishop. In the Church, however, obedience is not something formalistic;
it is obedience to the one who, in turn, obeys and personifies the
obedient Christ. All this neither frustrates nor even attenuates the
practical requirements of obedience, but guarantees theological depth
and its Catholic tone: in the Bishop we obey Christ and the whole Church
which he represents in this place.
'Holy restlessness', being all things to all people
Jesus Christ was sent by the Father, through the power of the Holy
Spirit, for the salvation of the entire human family, and we priests are
enabled through the grace of the sacrament to share in this mission of
his. As the Apostle Paul writes, "God... has given us the ministry of
reconciliation.... This makes us ambassadors for Christ, God as it were
appealing through us. We implore you, in Christ's name: be reconciled to
God" (II Cor 5:18-29). This is how St Paul describes our mission as
Therefore, in the Homily prior to the Conclave, I spoke of the "holy
restlessness" that must animate us, the concern to bring to everyone the
gift of faith, to offer everyone the salvation that alone endures for
ever. And in a city as large as Rome, which on the one hand is so
steeped in faith yet in which so many people live who have not really
perceived in their hearts the proclamation of faith, we should be
especially impelled by this restless concern to bring this joy, this
centre of life, which gives it meaning and direction.
Dear brother priests of Rome, the Risen Christ is calling us to be
his witnesses and gives us the strength of his Spirit to enable us to be
truly such. It is necessary, therefore, to be with him (cf. Mk 3:14;
Acts 1:21-23) for life. As in the first description of the "munus
apostolicum" in Mark 3, an account is given of what the Lord thought
being an apostle should mean: being with him and being available for the
mission. The two things go together and only by staying with him are we
also and always on the move with the Gospel towards others.
Thus, it is essential to be with him, and in this way that
restlessness pervades us and enables us to bring the power and joy of
the faith to others with our whole lives and not only with just a few
The Apostle Paul's words can apply to us: "Yet preaching the Gospel
is not the subject of a boast; I am under compulsion and have no choice.
I am ruined if I do not preach it!... Although I am not bound to anyone,
I made myself the slave of all so as to win over as many as possible....
I have made myself all things to all men in order to save at least some
of them" (I Cor 9:16-22).
These words that are the self-portrait of the Apostle are also the
portrait of every priest. Making oneself "all things to all men" is
expressed in daily life, in attention to every person and family: in
this regard, you priests of Rome have a great tradition, and I say so
conviction, and you are also honouring it today when the city has spread
so much and is profoundly changed. It is crucial, as you well know, that
the closeness and attention to everyone are always expressed in Christ's
Name and constantly strive to lead people to him.
This closeness and dedication, of course, has a personal cost for
each one of you, for us. It involves time, worry, the expenditure of
energy. I am aware of your daily efforts and want to thank you on behalf
of the Lord. But I also want to help you as much as I can so that you do
not yield under this burden.
To be able to bear, indeed, even to grow, as persons and as priests,
it is fundamental first of all to have intimate communion with Christ,
whose food was to do the will of his Father (cf. Jn 4:34): all we do is
done in communion with him, and we thus rediscover ever anew the unity
of our lives in the many facets of our daily occupations.
Let us also learn from the Lord Jesus Christ, who sacrificed himself
to do the will of the Father, the art of priestly ascesis which is also
necessary today: it should not be exercised on a par with pastoral
activities as an additional burden that makes our day even more
difficult. On the contrary, we must learn how to surpass ourselves, how
to give and how to offer our lives.
But, if all this is truly to happen within us so that our very action
may truly become our ascesis and our self-giving, so that all this may
not be just a wish, there is no doubt that we need moments in which to
replenish our energies, including the physical, and especially to pray
and meditate, returning to our inner selves and finding the Lord within
Thus, spending time in God's presence in prayer is a real pastoral
priority; it is not an addition to pastoral work: being before the Lord
is a pastoral priority and in the final analysis, the most important.
John Paul II showed this to us in the most practical and enlightened way
in every circumstance of his life and ministry.
In the wake of John Paul II
Dear priests, we can never sufficiently emphasize how fundamental and
crucial our personal response to the call to holiness is. It is not only
the condition for our personal apostolate to be fruitful but also, and
more generally, for the face of the Church to reflect the light of
Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1), thereby inducing people to
recognize and adore the Lord.
We must first inwardly accept the Apostle Paul's plea that we let
ourselves be reconciled to God (cf. II Cor 5:20), asking the Lord with a
sincere heart and courageous determination to take away from us all that
separates us from God and is contrary to the mission we have received.
The Lord is merciful, we are certain, and will answer our prayer.
My ministry as Bishop of Rome follows in the wake of the ministry of
my Predecessors. I welcome in particular the precious heritage
bequeathed by John Paul II: dear priests and deacons, let us walk on
this path with serenity and trust.
We will continue to seek to increase communion in the great family of
the diocesan Church and to collaborate to develop a missionary approach
in our pastoral work in conformity with the basic guidelines of the
Roman Synod translated into action with special effectiveness by the
City Mission. Rome is very large Diocese and truly a very special one,
because of the universal concern that the Lord has entrusted to his
Therefore, dear priests, your relationship with the diocesan Bishop,
who unfortunately I am, cannot have the daily immediacy I would have
liked and which may be possible in other situations. Through the work of
the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishops, to whom I express my deep
gratitude, I can nonetheless be concretely close to each one of you, in
the joys and difficulties that accompany every priest on his journey.
I would like above all to assure you of that deeper and more decisive
closeness that binds the Bishop to his priests and deacons in daily
prayer, and you may be sure that the clergy of Rome are truly
particularly present in my prayers. And we are close in faith and love
for Christ and in entrustment to Mary, Mother of the one High Priest.
That serenity and trust which we all feel we need, both for our
apostolic work and for our personal lives, derive precisely from our
union with Christ and with the Virgin.
Dear priests and deacons, these are some of the thoughts that I
wanted to bring to your attention. Before giving the floor to you for
your questions and reflections, I still have some very joyful news to
announce. We received a communiqué
today. It was written by Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the
Congregation for the Causes of Saints, together with Archbishop Nowak,
Secretary of the Congregation:
(The Holy Father then read the Latin text regarding the Cause of
the late Pope John Paul II ...) *
The floor is now yours. At the end, I will do my best to answer you.
* Pope Benedict XVI announced during his Meeting with Rome's
Clergy on Friday, 13 May, that the following Response had been approved
for the examination of the cause for Beatification and Canonization of
Pope John Paul II.
Prot. N. 2666-1/05
Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God JOHN PAUL II
At the request of His Most Eminent and Reverend Cardinal Camillo
Ruini, Vicar General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome, the
Supreme Pontiff BENEDICT XVI, taking into consideration the exceptional
circumstances put forward during the Audience granted to the same
Cardinal Vicar General on 28 April 2005, has dispensed the five-year
waiting period following the death of the Servant of God John Paul II
Supreme Pontiff, so that the cause of Beatification and Canonization of
the same Servant of God can begin immediately. Notwithstanding anything
to the contrary.
Given in Rome, from the See of this Congregation for the Causes of
Saints, 9 May 2005
Saraiva Martins, C.M.F. - Prefect
Archbishop Edward Nowak, Titular Archbishop of Luni - Secretary
The Person of Jesus grounds all ministry
On Friday, 13 May, in the Basilica of St John Lateran, the Holy
Father responded "off the cuff" to interventions made by members of the
clergy of Rome, which followed his formal Address to them earlier that
morning. The following is a translation of the Pope's Discourse, given
At the end, I can only say "thank you" for the richness and depth of
these contributions, where a Presbytery full of enthusiasm, of love for
Christ and for the flock entrusted to us and of love for the poor is
evident. And not only of the city of Rome, but truly of the universal
Church, of all our brothers and sisters. Thank you also for the
affection you have expressed for me; it helps me greatly.
Presently, I do not feel in a position to enter into details
regarding what has been said. It would be good to continue a true
discussion, and I hope that it will be possible to have a concrete
Now, I simply express my gratitude for everything. I truly perceive
your pastoral dedication, I perceive your desire to build the Church of
Christ here in Rome, I perceive your reflections on how to do better, I
perceive how all springs forth from a great love for the Lord and the
'Roman' and 'universal'
I would only like to touch on three or four points that have remained
in my mind. You have spoken of this "Roman" and "universal"
interlacement. For me, this seems to be a very important point.
On the one hand, this is an authentic local Church that must live as
such. There are some people who suffer, who live, who want to believe or
are unable to believe. It is here, in the parishes, that the Church of
Rome must grow with her great responsibility for the world as she
carries within herself this mandate, in a certain way, of "exemplarity";
in this way, there appears in the Church of Rome the face of the Church
as such, and it is a model for other local Churches. To be a model, we
ourselves must be a local Church that is busy each day in the humble
work demanded by this "being Church", in a determined place at a
The parish and movements
You have spoken of the parish as a fundamental structure, assisted
and enriched by movements. And it seems to me that precisely during the
Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, a fruitful combination between the
constant element of the parochial structure and, let us say, the
"charismatic" element, was created, which offers new initiatives, new
inspirations, new life. Under the wise guidance of the Cardinal Vicar
and the Auxiliary Bishops, all parish priests can together be truly
responsible for the growth of the parish, taking in all of the factors
that can come from the movements and the living reality of the Church in
But I wanted to speak once more about this Roman and universal
interlacement. One of our brothers spoke of our responsibility towards
Africa. We have seen how, in Rome, Africa is present, India is present,
the universe is present. And this presence of our brothers and sisters
obliges us to think not only of ourselves, but to feel. precisely in
this moment of history, in all of these circumstances with which we are
familiar, the presence of the other Continents.
Responsibility towards Africa
It seems to me that at this time we have a particular responsibility
towards Africa, towards Latin America and towards Asia, where
with the exception of the Philippines
is still a very large minority, even if in India it is growing and shows
itself a strength for the future. And so, we also think of this
Africa is a Continent that has enormous potential and the enormous
generosity of the people, with an impressive, living faith. But we must
confess that Europe exported not only faith in Christ, but also all of
the vices of the Old Continent.
It exported the sense of corruption, it exported the violence that is
currently devastating Africa. And we must acknowledge our responsibility
so that the exportation of the faith, an answer to the intimate hope of
every human being, is stronger than the exportation of the vices of
Europe. This seems to me a great responsibility.
The weapons trade is still alive, with the exploitation of the
earth's goods. We Christians must do much more in these regards so that
faith is made present, and with faith, the strength to resist these
vices and to rebuild a Christian Africa, destined to be a happy Africa,
a great Continent of new humanism.
To speak and to listen
Something was then said about the need, on one hand, to proclaim, to
speak, but on the other, also to listen. To me, this seems important in
The priest, deacon, catechist and Religious must, on the one hand,
proclaim, be witnesses. But naturally, for this they must listen, in a
two-fold sense: on the one hand, with their soul open to Christ,
interiorly listening to his Word so that it is assimilated and
transformed and forms my being; and on the other, listening to today's
humanity, our neighbours, those of my parish, those for whom I have been
given a certain responsibility.
Naturally, listening to the world of today that exists also in us, we
listen to all the problems, all the difficulties that are contrary to
faith. And we must be able to seriously take upon ourselves these
In his First Letter, St Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, says that we
Christians must be ready to explain our faith. This presupposes that we
ourselves have understood the reason of faith, that we have truly
"digested", even rationally, with the heart, with the wisdom of heart,
this word that can truly be an answer for others.
'Apologia' and 'logos'
In the First Letter of St Peter, in the Greek text, with a fine play
on words, it is written: "apologia", the answer to the "logos", of the
reason for our faith. And so, the "logos", the reason for the faith, the
word of faith, must become the answer of faith. And we know well that
the language of faith is often very far from today's men and women; it
can bring them close only if it becomes in us our modem-day language. We
are contemporary, we live in this world, with these thoughts, these
emotions. If it is transformed in us, one can find the answer.
Naturally, I am aware and we all know that many are not immediately
able to identify themselves with, to understand, to assimilate all that
the Church teaches. It seems to me important firstly to awaken this
intention to believe with the Church, even if personally someone may not
yet have assimilated many particulars. It is necessary to have this will
to believe with the Church, to have trust that this Church
the community not only of 2,000 years of pilgrimage of the people of
God, but the community that embraces heaven and earth, the community
where all the righteous of all times are therefore present
that this Church enlivened by the Holy Spirit truly carries within the
"compass" of the Spirit and therefore is the true subject of faith.
The individual, then, is inserted into this subject, adheres to it,
and so, even if he or she is still not completely penetrated by this,
the person has trust and participates in the faith of the Church, wants
to believe with the Church. To me, this seems like our lifelong
pilgrimage: to arrive with our thought, our affections, with our entire
life at the communion of faith. We can offer this to everyone, so that
little by little one can identify and especially take this step over and
over again to trust in the faith of the Church, to insert themselves in
this pilgrimage of faith, so as to receive the light of faith.
Christocentrism, a 'Person'
To conclude, I would like once more to say "thank you" for the
contribution expressed here regarding Christocentrism, the requirement
for our faith to be ever nourished by personal encounter with Christ, a
personal friendship with Jesus.
Romano Guardini correctly said 70 years ago that the essence of
Christianity is not an idea but a Person. Great theologians have tried
to describe the essential ideas that make up Christianity. But in the
end, the Christianity that they constructed was not convincing, because
Christianity is in the first place an Event, a Person. And thus in the
Person we discover the richness of what is contained. This is important.
And here I think we also find an answer to a difficulty often voiced
today regarding the missionary nature of the Church. From many comes the
temptation to think this way regarding others: "But why do we not leave
them in peace? They have their authenticity, their truth. We have ours.
And so, let us live together in harmony, leaving all persons as the are,
so that they search out their authenticity in the best way".
Duty to bring Christ to others
But how can one's personal authenticity be discovered if in reality,
in the depth of our hearts, there is the expectation of Jesus, and the
genuine authenticity of each person is found exactly in communion with
Christ and not without Christ? Said in another way: If we have found the
Lord and if he is the light and joy of our lives, are we sure that for
someone else who has not found Christ he is not lacking something
essential and that it is our duty to offer him this essential reality?
We then leave what will transpire to the direction of the Holy Spirit
and the freedom of each person. But if we are convinced and we have
experienced the fact that without Christ life is incomplete, is missing
a reality, the fundamental reality, we must also be convinced that we do
harm to no one if we show them Christ and we offer them in this way too
the possibility to discover their true authenticity, the joy of having
In closing, I would like to say "thank you" to all who make up the
Presbytery and the Ecclesial Community of Rome, to the parish and
vice-parish priests, to all who collaborate . in the various offices, to
deacons, catechists and above all to the men and women religious who are
somewhat the "heart" of the ecclesial life of a Diocese. Thank you for
this witness that you give.
Let us all go forward together, moved by the love of Christ. And in
this way, we will succeed!