Pope's Homily in Arezzo

«God loved us first and wants us to enter his communion of love»

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AREZZO, Italy, MAY 14, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday in Arezzo. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

It is my great joy to be able to break the bread of the Word of God and the Eucharist with you. I offer my cordial greeting to all of you and I thank you for the warm welcome! I greet your bishop, Monsignor Riccardo Fontana, whom I thank for the courteous words of welcome, and I greet the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, the representatives of the ecclesial associations and movements. A deferential greeting to the mayor, the advocate Giuseppe Fanfani. I am grateful for his speech and welcome. A deferential greeting to Prime Minister Senator Mario Monti, and to the other civil and military authorities. A special thanks to those who generously worked together for my pastoral visit.

Today I am received by an ancient Church, who is an expert in relations and praiseworthy for her commitment over the centuries to building the city of man in the image of the City of God. In the land of Tuscany the community of Arezzo has in fact many times distinguished itself in the course of history for its sense of freedom and capacity for dialogue with different social constituencies. Coming among you for the first time, my wish is that this city will always know how to make this precious legacy bear fruit.

In past centuries the Church in Arezzo has been enriched and animated by multiple expressions of the Christian faith, among which the highest is that of the saints. I think especially of St. Donatus, your patron, whose life of witness, which fascinated the Christianity of the Middle Ages, is still relevant today. He was an intrepid evangelizer, working for all to be liberated from pagan customs and rediscover in the Word of God the power to affirm the dignity of every person and the true meaning of freedom. Through his preaching, prayer and the Eucharist he reunited the people whose bishop he was. The broken chalice that Donatus put back together, of which St. Gregory the Great speaks (cf. Dialogues I, 7, 3), is the image of the work of peace that the Church carries out in society, for the common good. Thus St. Peter Damian attests to you and with him the great Camadolese tradition that for 1000 years, from Casentino, has offered its spiritual wealth to this diocesan Church and to the universal Church. 

In your cathedral is interred Blessed Gregory X, pope, as if to show, through the diversity of times and cultures, the continuity of the service that Church of Christ means to render to the world. He, sustained by the light that shined from the nascent mendicant orders, from theologians and saints – among whom St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio – dealt with the great problems of his time: the reform of the Church; the healing of the schism with the Christian East, which he attempted to do with the Council of Lyon; the attentiveness to the Holy Land; peace and relations between peoples – he was the first one in the West to exchange ambassadors with Kublai Khan in China.

Dear friends! The first reading presented us with an important moment in which the universality of the Christian message and the Church is manifested: St. Peter, in the house of Cornelius, baptized the first pagans. In the Old Testament God wanted the blessing of the Jewish people not to be exclusive but to extend to all nations. From the very calling of Abraham he said: “In you all the families of the earth will be called blessed” (Genesis 12:3). And thus Peter, inspired from above, understood that “God does not respect distinction of persons, but welcomes those who fear him and practice justice, regardless of the nation to which they belong” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s gesture becomes the image of the Church open to all of humanity. Following the great tradition of your Church and of your communities, be authentic witnesses of God’s love for all people!

But how can we, with our weakness, be bearers of this love? St. John in the second reading, forcefully tells us that the liberation from sin is not the result of our effort but comes from God. We were not the ones who loved him, but it is he who loved us and took upon himself our sin and washed it away with the blood of Christ. God loved us first and wants us to enter his communion of love, to cooperate in his redemptive work.

The Lord’s invitation resounded in the reading from the Gospel: “I appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (John 15:16). It is a word addressed to the apostles in a specific way, but in a general way regards all of Jesus’ disciples. The whole Church, all of us are sent into the world to bring the Gospel and salvation. But the initiative is always God’s, who calls many servants that each one might do his part for the common good. Called to the ministerial priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the married life, to a task in the world, all are asked to respond with generosity to the Lord, sustained by his Word that enlightens us: “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).

Dear Friends! I know about your Church’s commitment to promoting Christian life. Be a ferment in society, be Christians who are present, active and consistent. The city of Arezzo, with its multi-millennial history, is a précis of significant expressions of culture and values. Among the treasures of your tradition is the pride in a Christian identity, testified to by many signs and by traditional devotions like the one to Our Lady of Comfort. This land, in which many great figures of the Renaissance were born, from Petrarch to Vasari, played an active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on the history of Europe, drawing strength from Christian values. In recent times too, there belongs to the ideal patrimony of your city what some of its children, in research in universities and institutions, knew how to elaborate about the concept itself of “civitas,” expressing the Christian ideal of the age of the commune in contemporary categories. In the context of the Church in Italy, committed to the theme of education these last 10 years, we must ask ourselves – above all in the region where the Renaissance was born – what vision of man are we are able to propose to the new generations. The Word of God that we have heard is a powerful invitation to live God’s love towards all, and, the culture of these lands has, among its distinctive values, solidarity, attention to the weakest, respect for the dignity of each person. The welcome, that even in recent times you knew how to offer to those who came here in search of freedom and work, is well-known. Being in solidarity with the poor is recognizing the plan of God the Creator, who has made everyone a single family.

Of course, your province has also been severely tried by the economic crisis. The complexity of the problems makes it difficult to identify quick and effective solutions to escape from the present situation which affects the weakest especially, and greatly worries young people. Since the remotest centuries, attention to others has moved the Church to be in concrete solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against a culture of the ephemeral, which has disappointed many and caused a profound spiritual crisis. May this diocesan Church, enriched by the shining witness of the Poverello of Assisi [St. Francis], continue to be attentive and solidary towards those who find themselves in need, but also know how to teach how to overcome purely materialistic mentalities that often mark our age and end up clouding our sense of solidarity and charity

Witnessing to the love of God by caring for the least is tied to the defense of life, from its beginning to its natural end. In your region, ensuring everyone dignity, health and fundam
ental rights, is rightly felt to be an indispensable good. The defense of the family, through laws that are just and capable of protecting the weakest as well, always constitutes an important point that keeps the fabric of society strong and offers perspectives of hope for the future. Just as in the Middle Ages, the statutes of your city were an instrument that ensured inalienable rights to many, so may they continue that task today of promoting a city with an ever more human face. In this the Church offers her contribution so that the love of God may always be accompanied by love of one’s neighbor.

Dear brothers and sisters! Pursue the service of God and man according to Jesus’ teaching, the luminous example of your saints and the tradition of your people. May you be accompanied and sustained in this by the maternal protection of Our Lady of Comfort, who is so loved and venerated by you. Amen!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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