Benedict XVI's Letter at End of Compostelan Holy Year

«The Pilgrims Will Return to Their Homes … Joyful and Grateful»

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2011 ( Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent to Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on the occasion of the closing of the 2010 Compostelan Holy Year. The Vatican press office published the letter Dec. 31.
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To the Venerable Brother, Monsignor Julián Barrio Barrio,
Metropolitan Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela

1. On the occasion of the solemn closing of the Compostelan Holy Year of 2010, I again think with emotion about the House of St. James, which I visited recently with profound interior joy. I wish to join in thanksgiving to God for the gifts that his goodness has shed over these months on the multitude of persons who journeyed to that holy place with living faith, renewing their firm adherence to the message transmitted by the Apostles and living with a spirit of conversion the encounter with the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. On greeting affectionately the pastors, religious, seminarians and faithful gathered in that circumstance, evoking the unforgettable moments that we lived beside the tomb of the Protomartyr Apostle, I would like to address to you a word of encouragement, so that the fruits of Christian life and ecclesial renewal harvested copiously in the Holy Year will stimulate those who reached Santiago de Compostela to be witnesses of the Risen Christ.

2. In fact, on the way, they shared concerns, hopes and challenges with the brothers who were by their side, seeking to hear God who speaks to us and dwells in our interior, to come out of themselves and open themselves to others. On arriving at the Door of Glory, they were awaited by the loving and welcoming majesty of Christ, in whose light man can find the authentic meaning of his existence and paths for a peaceful and constructive coexistence among peoples. Under the serene look of the apostle, they renewed their profession of faith, intoned their praise and made humble confession of their sins. The profession of faith was followed by the reception of forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance and the encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist. 

3. This meeting cannot leave them indifferent. The pilgrims will return to their homes as the disciples of Emmaus returned to Jerusalem, who conversed with Jesus on the way and recognized him in the breaking of bread. Joyful and grateful they went to the Holy City to communicate to all that he had risen and had appeared to them alive. Thus they became joyful and confident messengers of the living Christ, who is balm for our sorrows and foundation of our hope (cf. Luke 24:13-35). Also now, on leaving Compostela after having experienced the love of the Lord who came out to meet us, the longing will be felt to fulfill the charge of the Apostle Peter: «in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you» (a Peter 3:15). It requires the resolution to strengthen our faith every day, participating assiduously in the mysteries of grace entrusted to the Church and giving effective and concrete example of charity. We will not be credible witnesses of God if we are not faithful collaborators and servants of men. This service to a profound comprehension and to a courageous defense of man is an exigency of the Gospel and an essential contribution to the society of our Christian condition. 

4. With these sentiments, I would now like to address in particular young people, whom I will have the good fortune of meeting next year in Madrid for the celebration of World Youth Day. I invite them to allow themselves to be interpellated by Christ, establishing with Him a frank and deliberate dialogue and also asking themselves: will the Lord count on me to be his apostle in the world, to be a messenger of his love? May generosity not be lacking in responding, nor that fearlessness which led James to follow the Master without sparing sacrifices. Likewise, I encourage seminarians to identify increasingly with Jesus, who calls them to work in his vineyard (cf. Matthew 20:3-4). The vocation to the priesthood is an admirable gift of which one must be proud, because the world needs persons dedicated completely to making Jesus Christ present, configuring all their life and their task with Him, repeating daily with humility his words and gestures, to be his transparency in the midst of the flock that has been entrusted to them. Here is the fatigue and also the glory of presbyters, whom I would like to remind with Saint Paul that nothing and no one in this world will be able to wrench from the love of God manifested in Christ (cf. Romans 8:39). 

5. Keeping in my soul the memory of my pleasant stay in Compostela, I ask the Lord that the forgiveness and the aspiration to holiness that have germinated in this Compostelan Holy Year may help to make more present, under the guidance of James, the redeeming Word of Jesus Christ in that particular Church and in all the villages of Spain, and that his light may be perceived equally in Europe, as an incessant invitation to invigorate its Christian roots and thus empower its commitment to solidarity and the firm defense of the dignity of man. 

6. To the loving protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, to whose maternal heart the Apostle James confided his sorrows and joys, according to venerable tradition, I entrust all the sons and daughters of those noble lands and impart to them the apostolic blessing, sign of consolation and of constant divine assistance. 

Vatican, December 18, 2010 


[Translation by ZENIT]
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