Pope Benedict XVI brought together around 400 people from the Diocese of Rome on Friday to thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini for his service as the Vicar of Rome and to introduce Cardinal Agostino Vallini as the new vicar. Among the developments of Ruini’s tenure that the Pope highlighted was the spread of a spirit of mission.
Pope Benedict began his words by recalling the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. "The closing years of last century, and the first years of the new were a truly extraordinary time," said Benedict, "and all the more so for people who, like us, had the good fortune to experience them alongside a true giant of the faith and of the mission of the Church, my venerated predecessor."
Collaborating closely with John Paul II, "we were 'drawn along' by his exceptional spiritual strength, rooted in prayer, in profound union with the Lord Jesus Christ and in filial intimacy with His Most Holy Mother. John Paul II's missionary charisma had ... a decisive influence on his pontificate, in particular on the period of preparation for the Jubilee 2000. And this was directly evident in the diocese of Rome, the Pope's own diocese, thanks to the constant commitment of the cardinal vicar and his collaborators."
Two examples of Cardinal Ruini’s commitment, said the Pope, are "the Rome Citizens' Mission and the Dialogues in the Cathedral.” Both of these groups showed “a Church which, at the very moment in which she was gaining a greater awareness of her own diocesan identity, ... opened herself ... to a missionary mentality ... destined to last not just the length of a season, but ... to become permanent."
Cardinal Ruini was also praised by the Pope for his great concern for promoting the missionary outreach and his willingness to help inform it with his “outstanding capacity for theological and philosophical reflection.”
“The apostolate, especially in our own time, must be constantly nourished by thought in order to explain the significance of gestures and actions which otherwise lapse into sterile activism,” Benedict XVI said.
The Holy Father also brought to mind how he spent time with Cardinal Ruini working to respond to the “most urgent pastoral questions” of the diocese, while taking account of the “social and cultural context of the city."
Honoring the cardinal’s faithfulness to the Church, the Pope said, “dear cardinal, you have given an example that goes beyond the initiatives of the moment, an example of commitment to 'thinking the faith' in absolute conformity to the Magisterium of the Church, with careful attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome and, at the same time, while constantly listening to the questions that arise from contemporary culture and from the problems of modern society."
After his words to Cardinal Ruini, Benedict XVI greeted Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the new vicar of the diocese of Rome, who was previously the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.
Welcoming him to his new office, the Pope said, "I entrust it to you bearing in mind the pastoral experience you gained first as auxiliary in the great archdiocese of Naples, then as bishop of Albano, to which experiences you add proven gifts of wisdom and cordiality."