As usual, here is my selection of words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI during his papal visit to Croatia last weekend. You can read all the texts in various languages here. My soundbytes are just that: a choice selection of passages to reflect upon.

Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with the pilot who flew him to Zagreb

Convinced witness and active dynamism in Europe

In the face of the challenges posed by today’s culture – marked as it is by social differentiation and instability, and by an individualism that gives rise to a vision of life without obligations and a constant search for “private space” – there is a need for convinced witness and active dynamism aimed at promoting the fundamental moral values that underpin social living and the identity of the old Continent. (Welcoming ceremony, Pleso International Airport, Zagreb, 4 June)

Hope for the future

Truly, the great achievements of the modern age – the recognition and guarantee of freedom of conscience, of human rights, of the freedom of science and hence of a free society – should be confirmed and developed while keeping reason and freedom open to their transcendent foundation, so as to ensure that these achievements are not undone, as unfortunately happens in not a few cases. The quality of social and civil life and the quality of democracy depend in large measure on this “critical” point – conscience, on the way it is understood and the way it is informed. If, in keeping with the prevailing modern idea, conscience is reduced to the subjective field to which religion and morality have been banished, then the crisis of the West has no remedy and Europe is destined to collapse in on itself. If, on the other hand, conscience is rediscovered as the place in which to listen to truth and good, the place of responsibility before God and before fellow human beings – in other words, the bulwark against all forms of tyranny – then there is hope for the future. (Meeting with representatives of civil society, political, cultural and business world, diplomatic corps and religious leaders, National Croatian Theatre, Zagreb, 4 June)

Msgr. Georg Gänswein and the Holy Father during the meeting at the National Theatre.

Conscience at the root of society

It is by forming consciences that the Church makes her most specific and valuable contribution to society. It is a contribution that begins in the family and is strongly reinforced in the parish, where infants, children and young people learn to deepen their knowledge of the sacred Scriptures, the “great codex” of European culture; at the same time they learn what it means for a community to be built upon gift, not upon economic interests or ideology, but upon love, “the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity” (Caritas in Veritate, 1). This logic of gratuitousness, learnt in infancy and adolescence, is then lived out in every area of life, in games, in sport, in interpersonal relations, in art, in voluntary service to the poor and the suffering, and once it has been assimilated it can be applied to the most complex areas of political and economic life so as to build up a polis that is welcoming and hospitable, but at the same time not empty, not falsely neutral, but rich in humanity, with a strongly ethical dimension. It is here that the lay faithful are called to give generously of the formation they have received, guided by the principles of the Church’s Social Doctrine, for the sake of authentic secularism, social justice, the defence of life and of the family, freedom of religion and education. (idem)

Jesus speaks to you!

In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks his disciples: “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38). Young friends, these words, this question reaches beyond time and space, it challenges every man and woman who is open to life and in search of the right path… And, startlingly, the voice of Jesus also says to you: “what are you looking for?” Jesus speaks to you today, through the Gospel and his Holy Spirit. He is your contemporary! He seeks you even before you seek him! While fully respecting your freedom, he approaches each one of you and offers himself as the authentic and decisive response to the longing deep within your hearts, to your desire for a life worth living. Let him take you by the hand! Let him become more and more your friend and companion along life’s journey. Put your trust in him and he will never disappoint you! (Prayer vigil with Croatian youth, Bano Josip Jelačič Square, Zagreb, 4 June)

The Holy Spirit comes first

Sometimes it is thought that missionary efficacy depends primarily upon careful planning and its intelligent implementation by means of specific action. Certainly, the Lord asks for our cooperation, but his initiative has to come first, before any response from us: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church, to be invoked and welcomed. (Holy Mass on the occasion of the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families, Zagreb Hippodrome, 5 June)

The Christian family in modern society

In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe. Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life. We are called to oppose such a mentality! (Idem)

Encouragement to priests

Dear priests – especially those of you in charge of parishes – I know the importance and the variety of your tasks in an age when the scarcity of priests is beginning to make itself felt strongly. I urge you not to lose heart, to remain vigilant in prayer and in your spiritual lives, in order to perform your ministry fruitfully: to teach, to sanctify and to guide all those who are entrusted to your care. Welcome with magnanimity those who knock at the door of your heart, offering to each one the gifts that divine goodness has entrusted to you. Persevere in communion with your Bishops and in mutual cooperation. Nourish your commitment at the life-giving waters of Scripture, the Sacraments, the constant praise of God, always open and docile to the actions of the Holy Spirit; you will thus be effective workers in the new evangelization, which you are called to realize together with the laity, in a coordinated way and without confusing what pertains to ordained ministry with what belongs to the universal priesthood of all the baptized. Keep close to your hearts the promotion of vocations to the priesthood; by your enthusiasm and your fidelity, strive to transmit a living desire to respond generously and without hesitation to Christ, who calls each one to be conformed more intimately to himself, Head and Shepherd. (Vespers with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians, tomb of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, Zagreb, 5 June)

Photo credit:
[1] REUTERS/Nikola Solic
[2] [3] REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
[4] AP Photo/Damir Sencar, Pool
[5] REUTERS/Marko Djurica

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