Benedict XVI's Address at Synod Luncheon

«The Discourse of a Pastor Must Be Realistic»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the words spoken by Benedict XVI at the luncheon held Saturday in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall with those who participated in the in the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

It is now time to say thanks. Thanks above all to the Lord who has convoked us, brought us together, helped us listen to his Word, the voice of his Holy Spirit, and thus also gave us the possibility of finding the road to unity in the multiplicity of experiences, the unity of faith in the communion of the Lord. It is for this reason that the expression «Church-Family of God» is no longer a concept, an idea, but it is a lively experience had during these weeks: We have truly been brought together here as the Family of God. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we have also done good work.

The theme itself was not an easy challenge, with two dangers, I would say. The theme «Reconciliation, Justice and Peace» certainly implies a strong political dimension, even if it is obvious that reconciliation, justice and peace are not possible without a profound purification of the heart, without a renewal of thought, a «metanoia» («conversion»), without a newness that must come precisely from the encounter with God.

But even if this spiritual dimension is profound and fundamental, the political dimension is also very real, because without political realizations, these new things of the Spirit are not commonly realized. Thus, the temptation could have been to politicize the theme, to speak less of pastoral work and more about politics, with a competence that is not ours.

The other danger was — precisely to flee from the first temptation — that of retreating into a purely spiritual world, into an abstract and beautiful but unrealistic world. But the discourse of a pastor must be realistic; it must deal with reality, but from the perspective of God and his Word.

So this mediation involves, on one hand, being truly connected with reality, attentive to speak of what is, and, on the other hand, to not fall into technically political solutions; that means indicating a concrete but spiritual word. This was the great issue of the synod and I think, thanks be to God, we successfully resolved it. I am grateful for this also because it will greatly facilitate the elaboration of the post-synodal document.

I would like to return the thank yous. I would like to thank above all the delegates who presided, who moderated, with great «sovereignty» and with cheerfulness, the synod sessions. I thank the speakers: We say even now and felt, so to speak, in a tangible way, that they bore the heaviest weight of the labor, they worked at night and even on Sunday, they worked during lunch and now truly merit a great round of applause from us.

I can say here that I have decided to name Cardinal Turkson the new president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, successor of Cardinal Martino. Thank you, your eminence, for accepting; we are glad that you will be with us soon. And thank you to all the fathers, to the fraternal delegates, to the auditors, to the experts and thanks above all to the translators because they had a part in the plot of «creating Pentecost.» Pentecost means reciprocal understanding; without a translator this bridge of comprehension would be missing. Thank you! And thank you above all to the secretary-general, to his team, that guided us and silently organized everything very well.

The synod ends and does not end, not only because the work goes forward with post-synodal exhortation: «Synodus» means common journey. We continue on the same journey with the Lord, we go forward with the Lord to prepare the way for him, to help him, open the gates of the world so that he might create his kingdom among us. In this spirit I give my blessing to everyone. Let us now recite the prayer of thanksgiving lunch.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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