2012-05-13 Vatican Radio
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass in the town of Arezzo in central Italy, in “Il Prato”park beside the cathedral church of the diocese of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro. In his homily, the Holy Father recalled the great contributions of the Church in the area, saying, “Over the centuries, the Church in Arezzo has been enriched and animated by many expressions of the Christian faith, the highest among them being the Saints.” Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s homily.
Dear brothers and sisters,
It is a great joy for me to be able to break with you the bread of the Word of God and the Eucharist. I greet you all and I thank you for your kind welcome. I greet your Pastor, Archbishop Riccardo Fontana, whom I thank for his words of welcome, the Bishops, Priests, men and women religious, representatives of Church Associations and Ecclesial Movements. I greet the Mayor, Giuseppe Fanfani and thank him for his welcome, the Prime Minister Senator Mario Monti, and the other civil and military authorities present. My special thanks go to those who have generously contributed to this my Pastoral Visit.
An ancient Church welcomes me today, a Church that is expert in relationships and praiseworthy for its commitment over the centuries to building the city of Man in the image of the City of God. Here in Tuscany, the community of Arezzo has often distinguished itself in the course of history for its sense of freedom and its ability to dialogue with different social groups. This is my first visit to you and my wish is that your City may always allow this precious heritage to bear fruit.
Over the centuries, the Church in Arezzo has been enriched and animated by many expressions of the Christian faith, the highest among them being the Saints. I think, in particular, of St Donato, your Patron, whose life’s witness which fascinated Medieval Christians, is still appropriate today. He was an intrepid evangelizer, urging all to free themselves from pagan customs and to rediscover in the Word of God the strength to affirm the dignity of every person and the true meaning of freedom. Through his preaching, he brought people, whose Bishop he was, to unity with prayer and the Eucharist. The chalice that was broken and restored by St Donato, and which is referred to by St Gregory the Great, is the symbol of the peacemaking action of the Church in society, for the common good. Another of your witnesses is St Peter Damian and, with him, the great Camaldolese tradition which has been offering its spiritual riches to this diocesan Church and to the universal Church for a thousand years.
Blessed Pope Gregory X is entombed in your cathedral, almost as a sign of the continuity of the service of the Church of Christ to the world, in different times and cultures. Sustained by the light that came from the burgeoning Orders of mendicant friars, including theologians and Saints, like St Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, he confronted the great problems of his time: the reform of the Church, the healing of the schism with the Eastern Christian Church, which he tried to do by calling the Council of Lyon; attention to the Holy Land; peace and relations among peoples – he was the first person in the West to exchange ambassadors with Kublai Khan in China.
Dear Friends, the first Reading presented us with an important moment which manifests the universality of Christ and the Church’s message: St Peter, in the house of Cornelius, baptized the first pagans. In the Old Testament, God didn’t want the blessing of the Jewish people to remain exclusive, but to extend it to all nations. When he called Abraham, he said: “All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you”. Thus Peter, inspired from above, understood that “God does not have favourites, but anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right, is acceptable to him”. Peter’s gesture becomes a symbol of the Church’s openness to all humanity. Following the great tradition of your Church and your Community, be authentic witnesses of God’s love for all!
But how can we, in our weakness, be witnesses to this love? In the second Reading, St John told us clearly that being freed of our sins and their consequences is not our initiative but God’s. We did not love him, he loved us and took our sins upon himself and washed them with the blood of Christ. God loved us first and wants us to enter his communion of love, to collaborate in his work of redemption.
The Lord’s invitation rang out in the Gospel: “I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last”. He was speaking specifically to the Apostles, but in the broader sense, it regards all Jesus’ disciples. The whole Church is sent out into the world to preach the Gospel and salvation. But it is always God’s initiative; he calls us to different ministries, so that each one plays his proper role for the common good. He calls us to the ministerial priesthood, to consecrated life, to married life, to working in the world: all are asked to respond generously to the Lord, sustained by his Word which comforts us: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you”.
Dear Friends. I know about your Church’s commitment to promoting Christian life. Be ferment in society, be present as Christians, be active and coherent. With its centuries-old history, the City of Arezzo summarizes significant expressions of culture and values. Among the treasures of your tradition, you are proud of your Christian identity, visible in many signs and rooted in devotions like the one to Our Lady of Comfort. This land was the birthplace of great Renaissance personalities, from Petrarch to Vasari, and played an active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on the history of Europe, drawing strength from Christian values. In recent times too, the ideal heritage of your city has been expressed by some of its most illustrious children through their university research and other institutions where they have elaborated the concept of civitas, defining it in terms of the Christian ideal among people of our time. Within the context of the Church in Italy, committed to the theme of education, we must ask – especially in this Region where the Renaissance was born – what vision of man are we proposing to the new generations. The Word of God we have heard is a powerful invitation to live God’s love towards all, and, among its distinctive values, the culture of this land includes solidarity, attention to the weak, respect for the dignity of all. Your capacity to welcome those who have come here recently in search of freedom and work, is well known.
Showing solidarity with the poor, means recognizing the plan of God the Creator, who made us all one family.
Of course, this area has also been severely struck by the economic crisis. The complexity of the problems makes it difficult to find quick and effective solutions to come out of the present situation which affects the weakest elements especially and greatly worries young people. Since the remotest times, attention to others has moved the Church to show concrete signs of solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against an ephemeral culture which has disappointed many and determined a profound spiritual crisis. May this Diocesan Church, enriched by the shining witness of St Francis of Assisi, continue to be caring and attentive towards those in need, and may it teach how to go beyond purely materialistic ideologies that often mark our age and end up clouding our sense of solidarity and charity.
Witnessing to the love of God by caring for the weakest is tied to the defence of human life, from its beginning to its natural end. In your Region, ensuring everyone dignity, health and fundamental rights, is justly considered an indispensable good. The defence of the family, through laws that are just and protect the weakest elements, is always an important point that keeps the fabric of society strong and offers hope for the future. Just as in the Middle Ages, the statutes of your city became instruments that ensured inalienable rights to many, may they continue that task today, promoting a City with an ever more human face. The Church offers her contribution to this task so that the love of God may always be accompanied love for one’s neighbour.
Dear brothers and sisters. Continue serving God and man according to the teaching of Jesus, the shining example of your saints and the tradition of your people. May the maternal protection of Our Lady of Comfort, whom you love and venerate, accompany and sustain you in this task. Amen.