Papal Reflection on Fall of Berlin Wall

«We Have Reason to Thank God With Our Whole Soul»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 6, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the speech Benedict XVI gave Friday evening after a concert given in his honor in the Sistine Chapel. It was offered by the president of Germany, Horst Köhler, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the republic and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Dear Friends,

It is difficult to speak after [listening to] such majestic and profoundly touching music. But, however impoverished it may be, I think that it is opportune to offer a word of greeting, gratitude and reflection. I would thus like to greet from the heart all of you gathered here in the Sistine Chapel. Above all, I am grateful to the federal president and his kind entourage because they honor us by their presence this evening. Dear Federal President, your visit is a true pleasure for me. It expresses the nearness and affection of the German people to the Successor of Peter, who is their fellow countryman. A hearty «Vergelt’s Gott» (May God repay you) for your kind and profound words too and for the fact that it made this evening possible for us. Equally I thank from the heart Mr. Reinhard Kammler, the Augsburger Domsingknaben and the Residenz-Kammerorchester München for the masterly execution of this magnificent oratory. Thank you for this marvelous gift!

The occasion of this solemn evening is — as we heard — twofold. On one hand, this year we celebrate 60 years since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, with the signing of the Basic Law on May 23, 1949. On the other hand, we observe the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, that frontier of death that for so many years divided our homeland and separated by force men, families, neighbors and friends. Many at the time experienced the events of Nov. 9, 1989, as the unexpected dawn of freedom, after a long and painful night of violence and oppression by a totalitarian system that, at the very end, led to a nihilism, an emptying of souls. Under the communist dictatorship there was no action that would have been regarded as evil and always immoral in itself. Whatever served the objectives of the party was good — however inhuman it might be. Today someone has asked whether the Western social order is much better and more humanitarian. In fact, the history of the Federal Republic of Germany is a proof of this. And we owe this in large part to the Basic Law. This constitution has contributed in an essential way to the peaceful development of Germany over the past six decades. Because it exhorts men in every act of state legislation, and in responsibility before God the Creator, to give priority to human dignity, to respect marriage and the family as the foundation of every society and to have regard and profound respect for what is sacred to others. May the citizens of Germany, in fulfilling the duty of spiritual and political renewal, after National Socialism and the Second World War, as is expressed in the Basic Law, be able to continue to collaborate for the building up of a free and social society.

Dear friends, looking at the history of our homeland in the past 60 years, we have reason to thank God with our whole soul. And with this we are conscious that such development is not on account of our own merit. It has been made possible by men who have acted with a deep Christian conviction in responsibility before God, launching in this way such processes of reconciliation that have permitted a new mutual and communitarian relationship among European nations. The history of Europe in the 20th century shows that responsibility before God is of decisive importance for right political action (cf. «Caritas in Veritate»). God reunites men in a true communion, and he makes the individual understand that, in communion with the other, there is One who is greater who is likewise present, who is the original cause of our life and our being together. This is manifested to us, is a special way, also in the mystery of Christmas, where this God draws near in his love, where he himself as man, as a child, asks for our love.

A passage from the Christmas Oratory illustrates in striking way this communion that is based on love and aspires to eternal love: Mary stays near the manger and listens to the words of the shepherds who have become witnesses and proclaimers of the message of the angels about that child. This moment, in which she treasures what has occurred, meditating on it in her heart (cf. Luke 2:19), Bach transforms in the stupendous contralto aria, in an invitation to everyone:

«Enclose, my heart,

this miracle of beatitude
firmly in your faith!
May this miracle,

this divine work,

always serve to strengthen your weak faith!»

Every man, in communion with Jesus Christ, can be for the other a mediator to God. No one believes for himself alone; everyone lives in his faith because of human meditations too. But none of these mediations by themselves would be sufficient to build the bridge to God, because no man can obtain from it that which is the absolute guarantee of the existence and nearness of God. But in communion with him who is this nearness itself, we men can be — and we are — mediators for each other. As such we will be able to awaken a new way of thinking and generating new energies in the service of an integral humanism.

I also wish to thank those who organized this beautiful evening, the musicians and all those who made the realization of this concert possible through their generous contributions. The splendid music that we have listened to in the singular atmosphere of the Sistine Chapel reinforces our faith and our joy in the Lord, so that we may be his witnesses in the world. To all I impart my apostolic benediction.

[Translations by L’Osservatore Romano and ZENIT]
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