Introduction to the Symposium of the College of Cardinals

Author: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

'You have the words of eternal life'

The College of Cardinals met to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Pontificate of John Paul II from 15-18 October. The Symposium examined certain pastoral and doctrinal issues of the Holy Father's 25-year Pontificate through interventions by six Cardinals. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals, introduced the meeting. The following is a translation of his address, which was delivered in Italian.

Dear Confreres,

We have gathered to give thanks for the 25th Anniversary of the Pontificate of our venerable and beloved Holy Father, John Paul II. Let us thank the Lord for giving us this Pastor who, in an era full of confusion and danger, strengthens us, his brethren, in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). At a time when so many people no longer want to follow the Lord because his word seems too hard to them, the Pope, borrowing Peter's words, says to all of us: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn 6:68f.). Our Holy Father's entire Pontificate seems to be an immense action to make these words and this conviction present and effective among us. As a result, we have more than simply the past to be grateful for. Just as the other 11 disciples recognized Peter's words as an expression of their faith and set out again with him to follow Christ, so the Holy Father's words can show us the way to take, with renewed joy in Christ, to find the words of eternal life and the path that leads to salvation.

The first form of our thanksgiving is prayer, thanks given to God in the holy sacrifice. However, prayer must be accompanied by listening to the message and setting out in Christ's company. We therefore thought that listening anew to certain basic elements of the Holy Father's farsighted message might be an appropriate form of thanksgiving.

Of course, the wealth of the message the Holy Father has offered us in this quarter of a century makes it impossible, in two days, even to review all he has given us in terms of doctrine and guidelines for action. It is enough to think of the 14 Encyclicals, which start with a Trinitarian triptych and go on to develop the Church's principal themes: mission, Mariology, the social message of faith, the dialogue between the Church and the world and between faith and reason. It suffices to think of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations, resulting from the Synods of Bishops, as a witness to the union of the Episcopal College with the Pope. It suffices to recall the two marvellous doctrinal documents written on the threshold of the millennium: Tertio Millennio Adveniente, and Novo Millennio Ineunte. We could continue this list, mentioning the Holy Father's homilies during his apostolic journeys, etc. In choosing the themes, we have been obliged to leave out a multitude of important material. On the other hand, these days are only an invitation to re-read the great texts of this Pontificate and to transform them, with fresh dynamism, into pastoral action.

It only remains for me to thank my venerable confreres of the College of Cardinals who will be speaking to us, in six conferences on the fundamental themes of this Pontificate, as well as all of you, many of whom have come from far away to take part in our common thanksgiving and reflection.

May the Lord bless these days!

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
12 November 2003, page 11

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