Your Excellency the Archbishop of León,
Your Excellency the Archbishop of Tlalnepantla and President of the Episcopal Conference of Mexico and President of the Latin-American Episcopal Council,
Dear Brother Bishops,
I give thanks to God who has gathered us together around this table, to share a moment of friendship in this meal. I offer a special word of thanks to those who have made this encounter possible, and for the noble sentiments which have motivated their work.
The visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Mexico is an occasion of profound happiness, seeing how this beloved nation has once again opened wide its doors to the Successor of Peter, manifesting in this way the greatness of spirit of her children, their exquisite hospitality and the robust Catholic faith rooted among them.
Recalling in this year the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See, the presence of distinguished civil Authorities, whose attendance honours us, highlights how much both the Church and the State share a common duty, each according to its specific mission, in protecting and promoting the fundamental rights of each person. Of special note among them is the freedom of man to search for the truth and to profess his own religious convictions, in public as well as in private, which has been recognized and guaranteed by civil law. And it is to be hoped that in Mexico this fundamental right will continue to be strengthened, conscious that this right goes much further than mere freedom of worship. It penetrates every dimension of the human person, called to express his or her faith, to proclaim it and share it with others, without imposing it, as the most precious gift from God.
Moreover, diplomatic efforts must be rooted in the promotion of this great common cause, to which Christianity can offer a valid contribution, because it is “a religion of freedom and of peace, and it is at the service of the authentic good of humanity” (Benedict XVI, Discourse to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 8 January 2009). The Church never ceases to call on everyone to let political activity be a praiseworthy and ceaseless endeavour in support of citizens, not a struggle for power or an imposition of rigid ideological systems, which so often result in the radicalization of wide sectors of the population.
In this sense, the Bishops here present represent the Catholic Church’s engagement in its wonderful work for the benefit of the human family for whom Jesus Christ gave his life. In each generation, she has written a page of this history of service to humanity. Some lines of it are the work of saints, others of the martyrs. This history has not been lacking in daring pastors, in exemplary religious men and women, in young people with prophetic voices, in valiant witnesses to charity and in faithful lay people who, often with great simplicity, have offered a hand and an open door to their brothers and sisters in need. The admirable capacity of Christianity to embrace each man or woman, without regard for race, language or social class, has been revealed in many different ways. This is due both to the dimension of faith, so deeply professed and celebrated, as is seen in Mexico and throughout Latin America, and to the many charitable projects which have inspired so many to overcome selfishness and to help with the most basic and urgent social needs. Nor should we forget initiatives for the promotion of the right of every person and all peoples, the defence of their liberty and the cultivation of art and culture.
If this mission has been tainted in some way, that does not tarnish the splendour of the Gospel, which is always present to purify and illuminate our path, which today is seen in the revitalization of the faith to which His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI continues to invite us.
With these sentiments, I raise my glass, and I invite you to do the same, to toast our beloved Holy Father: may God strengthen and protect him always. I also toast Mexico, this land blessed by Our Lady of Guadalupe, and its sons and daughters, who have gained the affection of Benedict XVI. I toast the beloved countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. I reiterate my gratitude for the continuing and sincere attention received in these days and I express to all of you my recognition and appreciation for this splendid evening. Thank you very much.