Papal Message to Ecumenical Congress in Germany

«We Cannot Ourselves Achieve the Great Things in Life»

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the German-language message sent by Benedict XVI to participants in an ecumenical congress that ended today in Munich, Germany.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

From Rome I greet all those who are gathered at the «Theresienwiese» in Munich for the liturgical celebration to open the second ecumenical «Kirchehntag.» I remember with joy the days when I lived in the beautiful capital of Bavaria as the archbishop of Munich and Freising. I thus address a special greeting to the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Reinhard Marx, and to the Lutheran regional bishop, Johannes Friedrich. I greet all the German bishops and of many countries of the world, and in a special way, also the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities and all the Christians who are participating in this ecumenical event. I greet the representatives of public life too and all those who are present through radio and television. May the peace of the risen Lord be with all of you!

«So That You Might have Hope:» with this motto you are gathered in Munich. You want to send a signal of hope to the Church and to society at a difficult time. I thank you very much for this. In fact, our world has need of hope, our time has need of hope. But is the Church a place of hope? In recent months we have had to be repeatedly confronted with news that could take away the Church’s joy, that darkened it as a place of hope. Like the servants of the householder in the Gospel parable about the kingdom of God, we too want to ask the Lord: «Lord, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?» (Matthew 13:27). Yes, with his Word and with the sacrifice of his life the Lord has truly sown good seed in the field of this earth. It has grown and is growing. We need not think only of the great luminous figures of history, whom the Church has recognized with the title «saints,» who have been completely permeated by God, who gave them their splendor. Each of us also knows ordinary persons, not mentioned in any newspaper or told of in any history book, who grew through the faith achieving great humanity and goodness.

In his impassioned dispute with God over sparing the city of Sodom, Abraham obtained assurance from the Lord of the Universe that if there were ten just people there he would not destroy the city (cf. Genesis 18: 22-33). Thanks be to God, in our cities there are many more than ten just people! If we are more attentive today, if we do not see only darkness, but also the light and good in our time, we see how faith has made men pure and generous and educates them in love. Again, the weeds are also present within in the Church and among those whom the Lord has welcomed into his service in a special way. But God’s light has not been extinguished, the good seed has not been destroyed by the bad seed.

«So that You Might have Hope:» This phrase intends first of all to invite us not to lose sight of the good and good people. It intends to invite us to be good ourselves and to become good always, it intends to invite us to dispute with God for the good of the world, like Abraham, trying to live from God’s justice ourselves.

Is the Church a place of hope? Yes, since from it the Word of God comes to us again and again and always, the Word that purifies us and shows us the path of faith. It is because in it the Lord continues to give us himself, in the grace of the sacraments, in the word of reconciliation, in the many gifts of his contemplation. Nothing can obscure or destroy all of that. We must be joyful for this in the midst of all tribulations. If we speak of the Church as the place of the hope that comes from God, then that also entails an examination of conscience: What do I do with the hope that the Lord has granted us? Do I really let myself be formed by his Word? Do I let myself be changed and healed by him? How many weeds are in fact growing in me? Am I disposed to pull them up? Am I grateful for the gift of forgiveness and ready to forgive and heal in turn instead of condemning?

Let us ask once more: What is «hope,» truly? The things that we can do by ourselves are not the object of hope but rather a task that we must do with the power of our reason, our will and our heart. But if we reflect on all that we can and must do, then we see that we cannot do the greater things that come to us only as a gift: friendship, love, joy, happiness. I would like to note one more thing: We all want to live, and life too we alone cannot give to ourselves. Almost no one today, however, still speaks of eternal life, which in the past was the true object of hope. Because one does not dare to hope in it, one must hope to obtain everything from the present life. Setting aside hope in eternal life leads to a greediness for life here and now, which almost inevitably becomes egoistic and, in the end, remains unrealizable. Precisely when we want to take control of life as a kind of good, it slips away.

But let us return. We cannot ourselves achieve the great things in life, we can only hope for them. The glad tidings of the faith consist precisely in this: The One who can give them to us exists. We will not be left alone. God lives. God loves us. In Jesus Christ he has become one of us. I can speak to him and he listens to me. Because of this, like Peter, in the confusion of our times, that try to persuade us to believe in many other ways, we say: «Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and know that you are the Holy One of God» (John 6:68-69).

Dear Friends, I wish for all of you who are gathered at the «Theresienwiese» in Munich to be again overcome by the joy of being able to know God, to know Christ and to know that he knows us. This is our hope and our joy in the midst of the confusions of the present time.

From the Vatican, May 10, 2010

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

© Copyright 2010 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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