A Legacy: The Pope of Peace

Author: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

On Saturday, 18 October, at a meeting of the Holy Father with members of the College of Cardinals and Presidents of the world's Bishops' Conferences at the conclusion of their Symposium, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Dean of the College of Cardinals, read the College of Cardinals' opening Message to the Holy Father for the 25th Anniversary of his Pontificate. The following is a translation of the message, which was written in Italian.

Holy Father,

The College of Cardinals has gathered to thank the Lord and you for your 25 years of fruitful work as Successor of St Peter, as it is only right to remember at this time. In these years, the Barque of the Church has often had to sail against the wind and on rough seas. The sea of history is agitated by conflicts between the rich and the poor, between peoples and cultures; by the prospects opened by human ability and the risk that human beings run of self-destruction because of these same possibilities. At times the sky appears to be covered by heavy clouds that conceal God from the eyes of men and women and call the faith into question.

Today more than ever, we are experiencing that the history of the world — as Augustine saw it — is a struggle between two forms of love: love of self to the point of contempt for God, and love of God to the point of being prepared to sacrifice oneself for God and for one's neighbour. And although the signs of people's presumption and of distancing themselves from God are being felt and perceived more than the witness of love, thanks be to God we can see today that his light has never been extinguished in history; the great array of Saints and Blesseds whom you, Holy Father, have raised to the honour of the altars, is an eloquent sign: in them we recognize with delight God's presence in history and his love mirrored on the faces of the men and women blessed by God.

Seeing 'God's light despite all the clouds'

In this span of time, Your Holiness, constantly comforted by the loving presence of the Mother of Jesus, you have guided us with the joy of faith, the undaunted courage of hope and the enthusiasm of love. You have enabled us to see God's light despite all the clouds, and made sure that the weakness of our faith, which all too easily prompts us to exclaim: "Save us, Lord; we are perishing" (Mt 8:25), does not prevail. Today we wholeheartedly thank you for this service.

As a pilgrim of the Gospel, like the Apostles you set out and crossed the continents bearing the proclamation of Christ, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the proclamation of forgiveness, of love and of peace. Unflaggingly, you have proclaimed the Gospel in season and out of season, and in its light you have reminded all people of the fundamental human values: respect for human dignity, the defence of life, the promotion of justice and peace. Above all, you have gone out to meet the young, communicating to them the fire of your faith, your love for Christ and your willingness to dedicate yourself to him, body and soul.

You have been concerned with the sick and the suffering and have launched a passionate appeal to the world to share the goods of the earth equitably and so that the poor may have justice and love. You have interpreted the commandment of unity that the Lord gave to his disciples as a commandment addressed to you personally; this has led you to do your utmost to make believers in Christ one, so that the benevolent power of God himself may be recognized in the miracle of unity that human beings are powerless to create. You have gone out to meet people of other religions, to reawaken in all the desire for peace and the readiness to become instruments of peace.

Showing the way to serving Christ by serving others

Thus, over and above all the barriers and divisions, you have become for all humanity a great messenger of peace. You have never ceased to appeal to the consciences of the powerful or to comfort those who are victims of the lack of peace in this world. In this way, you have obeyed the Lord who bequeathed this promise to his followers: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you"(Jn 14:27). Precisely in meeting the needs of others, you have never allowed anyone to doubt that Christ is the Love of God made flesh, the Only Son and Saviour of all. For you, to proclaim Christ is not to impose something foreign on anyone but to communicate to all what each one basically longs for: the eternal love that every human heart is secretly awaiting.

"The Redeemer of man is the centre of the universe and of history": these opening words of your first Encyclical were like a clarion call that invited us to a religious reawakening, centering all things once again in Christ.

Holy Father, the College of Cardinals, at the end of this Congress during which it has recalled only a few aspects of the 25 years of your Pontificate, desires unanimously to reaffirm its filial attachment to your person and its faithful, total loyalty to your lofty Magisterium as Pastor of the universal Church.

"The joy of the Lord is your strength", Ezra the priest said to the people of Israel at a difficult moment (Neh 8:10). You, Holy Father, have rekindled in us this joy of the Lord. We are grateful to you for this. May the Lord always fill you with his joy. 

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
12 November 2003, page 10

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