Papal Address to Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy

“Loyalty, Coherence and Profound Humanity Are the Essential Virtues of Any Envoy”

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2011 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday upon receiving in audience members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. The academy is responsible for training candidates for the Holy See diplomatic service.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests,

I am happy to meet again this year with the students and community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. I extend my greetings to the president, Archbishop Beniamino Stella, and I thank him for the kind words with which he communicated your sentiments. I greet you all affectionately, who are preparing to exercise a particular ministry in the Church.

Pontifical diplomacy, as it is commonly called, has a very long tradition and its activities have contributed in no small part to shaping the very face of modern diplomatic relations between States. In the traditional conception, already found in the ancient world, the envoy — the ambassador — is essentially the one appointed to bear in an authoritative manner the word of the sovereign, and subsequently, can act as his representative and negotiate in his name. The solemnity of the ceremony, the honors rendered traditionally to the person of the envoy, which have also assumed a religious character, are in reality a tribute to the representative, and to the message he relays. On the part of a sovereign authority, respect for the envoy is one of the highest forms of recognizing the right of others to exist on a plane of equal dignity.

Hence, to receive an envoy as interlocutor, to receive the word, means to lay the foundation for the possibility of a peaceful coexistence. It is a delicate role that exacts, on the part of the envoy, the capacity to communicate the message in such as way so that it is at the same time faithful and as respectful as possible of the sensitivities and opinions of others, and effective. Herein lies the real skill of the diplomat, and not in the astuteness or other behaviors that represent above all the degeneration of the diplomatic practice. Loyalty, coherence and profound humanity are the essential virtues of any envoy, who is called to put not only his own work and qualities, but in some way, his entire self at the service of a word that is not his.

The rapid transformations of our age have profoundly reconfigured the figure and role of diplomatic representatives; however, their mission is the same: that of being the means of a correct communication among those who exercise the function of government and, consequently, instrument of construction of the communion possible between peoples and of the consolidation among them of peaceful and solidaristic relations.

In all this, how is the person and action of the Holy See diplomat placed, who obviously presents totally particular aspects? As has been pointed out many times, he is a priest first, a bishop. Hence, a man who has chosen to live at the service of a Word that is not his own. In fact, he is a servant of the Word of God who, like every priest, has received a mission that cannot be carried out part time but that requires him to be, with his entire life, an echo of the message that has been entrusted to him, the Gospel message. It is precisely on the basis of this priestly identity, very clearly and deeply lived, that one is called to adopt, with a certain naturalness, this specific task of being the bearer of the word of the Pope; called to bring the universal horizon of his ministry and his pastoral charity to the particular churches and the institutions in which his sovereignty is legitimately exercised in the state sphere or that of international organizations.

In the exercise of such a delicate ministry, the care of one’s own spiritual life, the practice of human virtues, and the formation of a solid culture are interwoven and mutually sustained. They are dimensions that allow one to maintain a deep inner balance in a work that requires, among other things, the capacity of openness to others, an equanimity of judgment, a critical distance from personal opinions, sacrifice, patience, constancy, and, at times, even firmness in the dialogue with others.

Moreover, service to the person of the Successor of Peter, whom Christ constituted as principle and perpetual and visible foundation of the unity of the faith and of communion (cf. Vatican Council I, “Pastor Aeternus,” Denz. 1821 (3051); Vatican Council II, “Lumen Gentium,” No. 18), allows one to live in constant and profound reference to the catholicity of the Church. Where there is openness to the objectivity of catholicity, there also exists a principle of true personalization: a life dedicated to the service of the Pope and ecclesial communion is, in this sense, extremely enriching.

Dear students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, in sharing these thoughts with you, I exhort you to commit yourselves totally to the path of your formation; and, at this moment, I remember, with particular gratitude, the nuncios, apostolic delegates, permanent observers and all those who lend their service in the Pontifical representations scattered throughout the world. I willingly impart to you, to the president, to his collaborators and to the community of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Child Jesus, the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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