GENOA, Italy, DEC. 9, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily delivered Wednesday by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, on the occasion of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
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“The Soul of a People”
Dear Brothers and Sisters
1. The solemnity of the Immaculate Madonna fills Genoa with joy, and this basilica, the first dedicated to her, is filled with light and prayer. Moreover, on the way to Christmas, she who was conceived without original sin leads us to the mystery of Him who was conceived in her virginal womb by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us raise our heads toward the Holy Virgin; how much sweetness of memories, emotions, inspirations and resolutions we feel in our soul! We are enveloped by the splendor of this church and we feel that it does us good, it warms the heart.
We are fascinated by the beauty of the liturgy with its language of lights and colors, songs and music, rites and words, silences … and we feel elevated to a world though invisible in no way unreal or distant. We intuit that the world of faith is more concrete than the one that falls under our senses. We feel that being in relationship with God, the Madonna, the Saints, helps us to be with others, to see them not as strangers but close, not only similar because of our human nature, but more than that, as brothers. No one is unaware how the vision of man and of the world, in the light of the Catholic faith, creates a common feeling about the important things of living and dying, generates an original way of being together, nourishes a personal ethos that reverberates in the entire society, molds it and gives it shape in the sign of a genuine and full humanity.
For this reason we see that the more the points of reference are diluted and first values are cast into doubt — life, the family, religious and educational liberty — or the more man distances himself from God, wishing to build himself on his own, the more the clouds are dense and faith appears as an incomparable fortune; the decisive and inalienable contribution of Christianity emerges. Is it perhaps the desire of compensation or of recognition that inspires these words that resound from different parts? It would be myopic and mean! Not worthy certainly of the Gospel of Christ who came to serve and, in love, to save the world. It is precisely only out of love that we say this; suffice it to reason for a moment.
2. Every state is in need of a people, but the people are not such because of the state, nor do they identify with it: They precede it and render it plausible. It is the people, in fact, who are the terrain in which the state is born and built and the people are not constituted by the economy, bureaucracy or politics. It is a community of persons, and a true and reliable community is always of a spiritual and ethical order, it has, that is, a soul. This is its backbone, and if the latter is corrupted, then the people become fragile, and the state weakens and is perverted.
This happens when the awareness of common values fails, the awareness of one’s cultural identity. To speak of cultural identity does not mean, in fact, as is sometimes said, to withdraw oneself or shut oneself in on oneself. It is about not disfiguring one’s face: Without a face, in fact, we cannot encounter one another, we do not succeed in esteeming each other, in correcting ourselves, in walking together to work for the same objectives, to be a “people.” The state cannot create this “spirit” because it is pre-institutional and pre-political. However, it must be attentive to preserve it and not damage it in any way, because it is the foundation of the dynamic unity of a society.
See, dear friends, why we are here every year: Filial devotion to the Immaculate Madonna draws us. Here we find moments of light and grace for ourselves, for our families, we entrust to her our sorrows and hopes. We know that this relationship with the Mother of God helps us to live the everyday, encourages us and purifies us, gives us serenity and joy. But we must be aware also that we are here for others, for all, for the society in which we live, which we love, and which we must serve loyally.
The first way to serve it is to reinvigorate the soul, to maintain and nourish this lofty and noble concept of man, of life, of true liberty, of fraternal charity, of the distinction between good and evil, which has generated the “spirit” of our people, which has woven our history, and which still animates fundamentally the living of our country. To dismantle this patrimony, not to witness it with courage in our actions, to let it be corroded in the name of empty nominalisms, would mean to let the faith and the example of our fathers die, but also to let the human face of man and of society deteriorate.
Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco
Metropolitan Archbishop of Genoa