On the Trip to the Czech Republic

“A People and a Church With Profound Historical and Religious Roots”

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s address during today’s general audience held in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

As is the custom following international apostolic journeys, I shall take advantage of the general audience to speak about the pilgrimage I made these past days to the Czech Republic. 

“The Love of Christ Is Our Strength”: This was the theme of the journey, an affirmation that echoes the faith of so many heroic witnesses of the distant and recent past — I am thinking in particular of the past century. But, [also a theme] which above all wishes to interpret the certainty of today’s Christians. Yes, our strength is the love of Christ! A strength that inspires and animates true revolutions, peaceful and liberating, and which sustains us in moments of crisis, allowing us to rise again when liberty, arduously recovered, runs the risk of losing itself, [of losing] its own truth.

The welcome I received was cordial. The president of the republic, to whom I renew my gratitude, wished to be present in several moments and received me together with his collaborators in his residence, the historic Castle of the Capital, with great cordiality. The whole of the episcopal conference, in particular the cardinal archbishop of Prague and the bishop of Brno, made me feel, with great warmth, the profound bond that unites the Czech Catholic community with the Successor of St. Peter. I thank them also for having prepared carefully the liturgical celebrations. I also thank the civil and military authorities and all those who in different ways cooperated in the good success of my visit.

The love of Christ began to reveal itself in the face of a Child. Arriving in Prague, in fact, my first stop was in the church of Our Lady Victorious, where the Child Jesus is venerated, known precisely as the “Infant of Prague.” This effigy refers to the mystery of God made Man, to the “close God,” base of our hope. Before the “Infant of Prague” I prayed for all children, for their parents, and for the future of the family. The real “victory” for which we pray today to Mary, is the victory of love and of life in the family and in society!

The Castle of Prague, extraordinary both at the historical as well as the architectural level, suggests a further more general reflection: It gathers in its very vast space many monuments, realms and institutions, almost representing a polis, in which the cathedral and the palace, the square and the garden, coexist in harmony. Thus, in the same context, my visit was able to touch the civil and religious realm, not juxtaposed, but in harmonious closeness within distinction. Hence, addressing the political and civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, I referred to the indissoluble bond that must always exist between liberty and truth. It is not necessary to fear the truth, because it is the friend of man and of his liberty; on the contrary, only in the sincere search for what is true, good and beautiful, can a future really be offered to young people of today and to future generations. Moreover, what is it that attracts so many people to Prague if not its beauty, a beauty that is not only esthetic, but historical, religious, human in the widest sense? Those who exercise responsibilities in the political and educational field must be able to distill from the light of that truth what is the reflection of the eternal wisdom of the Creator; and they are called to give witness of it themselves with their lives. Only a serious commitment of intellectual and moral uprightness is worthy of the sacrifice of all those who have paid dearly for liberty!

Symbol of this synthesis between truth and beauty is the splendid Cathedral of Prague, dedicated to Sts. Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, where the celebration of vespers took place with priests, religious, seminarians and a representation of laymen committed to ecclesial associations and movements. This is a difficult moment for the Central Eastern European community: To the consequences of the long winter of atheist totalitarianism, are being added the noxious effects of a certain Western secularism and consumerism. Because of this I have encouraged all to draw new energies from the Risen Lord, to be able to be evangelical leaven in the society and to commit themselves, as is already happening, to charitable activities, and even more so to educational and school activities.

I extended this message of hope, founded on faith in Christ, to all the People of God in the two large Eucharistic celebrations held respectively in Brno, capital of Moravia, and in Stara Boleslav, site of the martyrdom of St. Wenceslaus, the nation’s principal patron. Moravia makes us think immediately of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of the Slavic peoples and, hence, of the inexhaustible force of the Gospel that, as a river of healing waters, crosses history and continents, taking life and salvation everywhere. On the portal of the Cathedral of Brno are engraved the words of Christ: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). These same words were echoed last Sunday in the liturgy, resounding the eternal voice of the Savior, hope for people yesterday, today and always. Eloquent sign of  the Lordship of Christ, Lordship of grace and mercy, is the existence of the holy patrons of the different Christian nations, such as, precisely, Wenceslaus, young king of Bohemia of the 10th century, who was outstanding for his exemplary Christian witness and who was murdered by his brother. Wenceslaus put the kingdom of heaven before the fascination of earthly power and has remained forever in the heart of the Czech people, as model and protector in the different vicissitudes of history. To the numerous young people present in the Mass of St. Wenceslaus, also from neighboring nations, I addressed the invitation to recognize in Christ their truest friend, who satisfies the most profound aspirations of the human heart.

Finally I must mention, among others, two meetings: the ecumenical and that of the academic community. The first, held in the archbishopric of Prague, brought together representatives of the different Christian communities of the Czech Republic and the head of the Jewish community. Reflecting on the history of this country, which unfortunately has know harsh conflicts between Christians, reason for profound gratitude to God is our having come together as disciples of the one Lord, to share the joy of the faith and historical responsibility given the present challenges. The effort to progress together toward a fuller and more visible unity among ourselves, believers in Christ, makes stronger and more effective the common endeavor for the rediscovery of the Christian roots of Europe. 

This last aspect, which my beloved predecessor John Paul II so kept in his heart, also arose in the meeting with rectors of universities, representatives of professors and students and other relevant personalities of the cultural realm. In this context, I stressed the role of the university, one of the basic structures of Europe, which in Prague has an athenaeum that is among the oldest and most prestigious of the Continent, the Charles University, named after emperor Charles IV who founded it, together with Pope Clement VI. The university of studies is a vital environment for society, guarantee of libe
rty and development, as demonstrated by the fact that precisely in university circles the movement began in Prague of the so-called Velvet Revolution. Twenty years after that historic event, I have again proposed the idea of integral formation, based on the unity of knowledge rooted in truth, to respond to a new dictatorship, that of relativism combined with the dominance of technology. The humanistic and scientific culture cannot be separated; on the contrary, they are the two sides of the same coin: We are reminded of it once again by the Czech land, homeland of great writers such as Kafka, and Abbot Mendel, pioneer of modern genetics.

Dear friends, I thank the Lord because, with this journey, he has allowed me to meet a people and a Church with profound historical and religious roots, which commemorates this year different events of high spiritual and social value. To the brothers and sisters of the Czech Republic I renew a message of hope and an invitation to the value of the good, to build the present and future of Europe. I entrust the fruits of my pastoral visit to the intercession of Mary Most Holy and to that of all the saints of Bohemia and Moravia. Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT] [At the end of the audience, the Holy Father addressed the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My Apostolic Journey to the Czech Republic last week-end was both a pilgrimage and a mission. It was a pilgrimage on account of the many saints who bore witness to Christ in the Czech lands through their holy lives, and it was a mission because, at the present time, Europe needs to rediscover the joy and hope that come from following the Lord Jesus. I pray that our liturgical celebrations in Prague’s magnificent Cathedral, in Brno and in Stará Boleslav will have served to deepen the faith and enkindle the Christian commitment of the people of Central Europe, especially the young. I am most grateful to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in the Czech Republic who made me so welcome, especially to President Václav Klaus and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet leaders of other Christian communities and to encourage them in the task of ecumenical dialogue. And it was a pleasure to come together with University Rectors and leading figures from the world of culture. I spoke with them of the need for scholarship to be rooted in truth, an integral truth that shuns the limitations of relativism and determinism. I ask all of you to join me in praying that this visit may bear abundant spiritual fruit for the Czech people and for the unity and peace of the whole continent of Europe.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Indonesia and the United States of America. I greet especially the School Sisters of Saint Francis and the new students from the English and Irish Colleges. May the time you spend in Rome deepen your faith and bring you closer to Christ. God bless all of you, and your loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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