.- During his traditional pre-Christmas meeting with members of the Roman Curia today, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the most important themes and moments of his Pontificate to date - including his pastoral voyages as well as the defense of life and the family.
In his extensive address, offered in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the Pope affirmed how "the year that is coming to an end," leaves us "with the profound impression of the war that took place near the Holy Land and, more generally, of the danger of a clash between cultures and religions, a danger still threateningly present at this moment in history. The question of the roads to peace has thus become a challenge of vital importance."
Recalling his apostolic trip to Poland in May, Benedict XVI described his "debt of gratitude" for everything that John Paul II gave, "both to me personally and, above all, to the Church and the world. His greatest gift to all of us was his unshakeable faith and the radicalism of his devotion. ... He held nothing back, but allowed himself to be entirely consumed by the flame of faith," Pope Benedict said.
Alongside the need to give them so much of our time, the Pope continued, is the problem of "what norms must we teach our children in order for them to follow the right path, and, in doing so, to what extent must we respect their freedom?"
“If we do not relearn the basic foundations of life - if we do not rediscover the certainty of faith,” the Pontiff declared, “it will also be ever more difficult for us to give others the gift of life and the challenges of an unknown future."
Another aspect of this question, he went on, "is the problem of definitive decisions. Can man bind himself for ever? Can he say a 'yes' that lasts a lifetime? Yes, he can. He was created for this end. Thus man achieves his freedom and thus the sacred bond of marriage is created, which broadens to become a family and build the future.”
"At this point," he added, "I cannot fail to mention my concern over 'de facto' couples. ... When new legislation is created that relativizes marriage, the rejection of the definitive bond gains, so to speak, juridical endorsement." Moreover, "relativizing the difference between the sexes ... tacitly confirms those bleak theories which seek to remove all relevance from a human being's masculinity or femininity, as if this were a purely biological matter."
Against those who say that "the Church should not involve herself in these matters, we can only respond: does man not concern us too?" The church and believers "must raise their voices to defend man, the creature who, in the inseparable unity of body and spirit, is the image of God."
Going on to mention the September visit to his homeland, Bavaria (Munich, Altotting, Regensburg and Freising), the Holy Father recalled how the main intention of his apostolic trip "was to highlight the question of God," because "the great problem in the West is forgetfulness of God."
Turning to consider the priesthood, the Holy Father said, "the true foundation of a priest's life, the land of his existence, is God Himself."
"This theocentrism of priestly existence is vital in our modern world where everything is entirely functional and based on calculable and verifiable exchanges. The priest must know God from within in order to bring Him to mankind, this is the priority service of which humanity today has need."
The Holy Father then turned to introduce the question of dialogue, recalling his meeting some years ago with the philosopher Jurgen Habermas, who informed the then Cardinal Ratzinger of the need "for thinkers capable of translating the beliefs encoded in the Christian faith into the language of the secularized world, in order to render them effective once again.”
Another important part of the Pope's address to the Roman Curia was dedicated to his recent apostolic trip to Turkey which, he said, "gave me the chance to express publicly my respect for Islam.”
“The Muslim world today," the Pope observed, "is facing a task very similar to that imposed upon Christians from the time of the Enlightenment, and which Vatican Council II, as the result of a long and arduous journey, brought to fruition with concrete solutions for the Catholic Church."
“The Muslim world, with its own traditions, is facing the great task of finding appropriate solutions to these questions. Dialogue between Christians and Muslims must, at this time, be that of coming together in this mission, in order to find the right solutions," he said.
"We experienced," he said, "a profound unity in faith and will pray to God ever more insistently that He may grant us full unity in the shared breaking of bread. ... We hope and pray that religious freedom - which is part of the intimate nature of the faith and is recognized in the principles of the Turkish constitution - finds a growing practical implementation in appropriate juridical norms and in the daily life of the patriarchate and of the other Christian communities."
Benedict XVI dedicated the final paragraphs of his address to the question of peace. "We must learn that peace cannot be achieved only from the outside, ... and that the attempt to establish peace through violence leads only to fresh violence,” the Pontiff stated.
“We must learn that peace can only exist if hatred and selfishness are overcome from within,” he continued. “In our lives, we must attain that which Baptism sacramentally brought us: the death of the old man and the re-emergence of the new.”
Pope Benedict concluded, “May the reason of peace overcome the unreasonableness of violence!"