Benedict XVI's Letter to Cardinal Cordes

Praises Cardinal’s Work With Youth, Movements, Caritas

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2009 ( Here is a translation of a letter that Benedict XVI sent last week to Cardinal Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which was included in a book written in the cardinal’s honor.

The book, titled «Gott Is Treu» (God is Faithful), published by Sankt Ulrich Verlag, commemorates the cardinal’s 75th birthday, which took place Sept. 5.

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Your Eminence, Cardinal Cordes! Dear Friend!

In the volume of studies in your honor, on the occasion of your 75th birthday, I wanted to be present, at least with a word of thanks and benediction. I no longer remember when we first met. I had some idea of you through your articles in the journal “Communio” in the 1970s, when the review had just been founded.

What you wrote about was always connected with relevant, urgent and concrete issues of the present, but it was always marked by a consideration of the essential in such a way that it led the reader to the right answers, following the intimate logic of the thing itself. For about a year we were both part of the German bishops’ conference, then you were called to Rome to be part of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Shortly afterward, the Holy Father put me at the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and then we both lived in the eternal city for more than a quarter century.

With courage and creativity at the beginning of your work in Rome, you opened up new roads to lead young people to Christ. Behind the houses of the Via della Conciliazione you found the old Church of San Lorenzo «in Piscibus,» which then served as the atrium of a school — an old sacred edifice that you helped to return to its pristine beauty, and which you made a center of meeting of young people with Christ.

You also made a contribution to the genesis and the growth of the World Youth Days. Especially characteristic of your pastoral involvement is and remains your commitment to the «movements»: the charismatic movement, Communion and Liberation and the Neocatechumenal Way have many reasons to be grateful to you. While in the beginning the organizers and planners in the Church had many reservations in regard to the movements, you immediately sensed the life that burst forth from them — the power of the Holy Spirit that gives new paths and in unpredictable ways keeps the Church young.

You recognized the pentecostal character of these movements and you worked passionately so that they would be welcomed by the Church’s pastors. Certainly, with respect to organization and planning, there were often good reasons to be scandalized as they brought new and unforeseen elements that could not always be integrated easily into the existing organizational structures.

You saw that what is organic is more important than what is organized; you saw that here were men who were deeply touched by the spirit of God and that in such a way there grew new forms of authentic Christian life and authentic ways of being Church. Of course, these movements needed to be ordered and brought within the totality; they needed to learn to recognize their limits and to become part of the communitarian reality of the Church in her proper constitution together with the Pope and the bishops. Thus they need a guide and purification to be able to reach the form of their true maturity.

They, nevertheless, are gifts to be grateful for. It is no longer possible to think of the life of the Church of our time without including these gifts of God within it.

Finally, you became president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and you are therefore responsible for the charitable activity of the Church in the world. You welcomed this task with your usual energy and with eyes of faith looked to the essential and gave form to this work. Above all you are concerned that Caritas does not become a charitable organization like all the rest, that it does not become oriented toward the political, but that it always remains an expression of faith, which in its intrinsic dynamism must become love.

Vatican City — Dec. 12, 2009

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