“Without prayer … we can do nothing,” said the Pope while commemorating the legacy of Leo XIII. Joining in the “Leonine Year” celebrations, Benedict XVI remembered his predecessor's faith, devotion and social teaching, saying that all people, including Popes, are called to pray and to love.
Using the chalice and the pectoral cross of Leo XIII himself, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the Eucharist with 5,000 people in the center of the small mountain town of Carpineto Romano on Sunday morning. The town, founded nearly a millenium before Christ, provided a stunning backdrop and a familiar feel, further augmented by the many townspeople who followed the Mass from the balconies of their hillside stone houses.
The pastoral visit came within the “Leonine Year,” a jubilee celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of Leo XIII's birth. During his homily, Benedict XVI reflected on two aspects of the late Pope's life brought to mind by Jesus' call in the Sunday Liturgy to love Him above all others, to take up one's cross and to leave behind material possessions.
The first element of the late Pontiff's character that Benedict XVI highlighted was the faith and devotion of the 19th and 20th century Pope. “This,” he explained, “always remains the foundation of everything, for every Christian, including the Pope. Without prayer, that is, without interior union with God, we can do nothing.”
The call to social action for every priest, “in particular the Supreme Pontiff,” was the second aspect he noted. He said that each pastor is called to do so in measure of his individual personality and characteristics.
Each one, he said, has the vocation of transmitting a “wisdom” to the People of God, “a message that conjugates faith and life, truth and concrete reality.”
This, the Pope pointed out, is what Leo XIII did through his life and especially in writing the “first nucleus” of the social doctrine of the faith, the encyclical “Rerum Novarum.” Benedict XVI referenced it in his own 2009 encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” in which he updated the Church's social teaching, as other Popes have since Leo XIII.
Concluding his homily, Pope Benedict XVI insisted that through the Eucharist, humanity continues to be urged to a love for neighbor. The “Sacrament of Love,” he said, ”calls us back to the essential: charity, love of Christ that renews men and the world … ”
Imploring the residents of Carpineto to practice the “ancient and always new” commandment of loving each other as Christ has done, he said, “(i)n this way you will be faithful to the inheritance of your great and venerated co-citizen, Pope Leo XIII.”
Echoing this call to the world, he said, “May it be this way in all the Church!”