Pontiff's Letter to Spiritual Exercises Preacher

“This Retreat … Made Us Sense the Church as Communion of Saints”

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a letter sent by Benedict XVI to Discalced Carmelite Father François-Marie Lethel, secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, who preached this year’s Lenten retreat for the Pope and the Roman Curia. The week-long spiritual exercises ended Saturday.

* * *

Reverend Father
François-Marie Lethel, O.C.D.
Secretary of the Pontifical Academy of Theology

From my very heart I would like to express to you my sincere gratitude for the precious service that you have offered me and my coworkers in the Roman Curia preaching this retreat over these past several days. Thanks also to the work that you have done during this time we have been able to enter into the Lenten season as Mother Church, following the divine Word, asks us: making ourselves more attentive to the voice of the Lord.

The itinerary that you, Reverend Father, have helped us to follow through your meditations is a reason for special gratitude: a spiritual journey inspired by the witness of my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, whose upcoming beatification has suggested the theme of holiness, reflected upon through an encounter with the living figures of the saints, who are like luminous stars that circle about the Sun that is Christ, Light of the World. The content of this retreat corresponds quite well with the program of catechesis that I have undertaken in these years of my Pontificate in the general audiences with the aim of making the Church known and loved better as it manifests itself in the life and teachings of the saints: beginning with the Apostles and through the great host of the Fathers and other ancient writers, the theologians and mystics of the medieval period, with particular attention to a large number of women, to the series of Doctors of the Church, which I am about to finish. This line of reflection and contemplation on the mystery of Christ reflected, so to speak, in this existence of his most faithful imitators is something fundamental that I inherited from Pope John Paul II and that I carry forward with complete conviction and great joy.

I know well, Dear Brother, that you understand my gratitude as also addressed to the Carmelite Order of which you are a part. I appreciate and share this sentiment and I extend it to the widest ecclesial dimension, because with this retreat you have more than ever made us sense the Church as communion of saints. May our acknowledgement be to the Church animated by the Holy Spirit, and to the Mother of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary. May Our Lady and St. Joseph, Husband and Patron of the universal Church, whose feast we celebrate today, and to whom you dedicated this morning’s meditation, obtain for you the abundance of heavenly gifts in pledge of which I bestow from my heart a special apostolic blessing, which I extend also to those whom you hold dear.
At the Vatican, March 19, 2011

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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