Today Pope Francis received in audience the participants in a Conference organized by the “Romano Guardini Foundation” of Berlin, on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of the philosopher’s birth.
Here is a translation of the Pope’s address to those present at the audience.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to be able to greet you, members of the Romano Guardini Foundation, who have come to Rome to take part in the Congress organized by the Gregorian University, on the occasion of the 130th anniversary of Guardini’s birth. I thank Professor von Pufendorf for his kind words of greeting, and for having announced the imminent publication of an unpublished text. I am convinced that Guardini is a thinker who has much to say to the men of our time, and not only to Christians. You are carrying out this project with your foundation, making Guardini’s thought enter in a polyphonic dialogue today with the realms of politics, culture and science. I earnestly hope that this endeavor will be successful.
In his book “The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” Guardini takes up, among other things, an episode of the novel “The Brothers Karamazov” (“The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” Morcelliana, Brescia, pp. 24ff). It is the passage where the people go to staretz Zosima to present to him their concerns and difficulties, asking for his prayer and blessing. An emaciated peasant woman also approaches him to make her Confession. In a soft whisper she says she killed her husband who in the past had mistreated her very much. The staretz sees that the woman, in a desperate awareness of her guilt, is completely shut in on herself, and that any reflection, consolation or advice would run up against a wall. The woman is convinced she is condemned, but the priest shows her a way out: her existence has meaning, because God receives her at the moment of her repentance. Fear nothing, never fear, and do not be anguished — says the staretz — so that your repentance is not weakened, and then God will forgive everything. Moreover, there is not, and there cannot be in the whole earth a sin that God does not forgive if one repents sincerely. Nor can man commit such a great sin that it exhausts God’s infinite love (Ibid., p. 25). The woman was transformed in her Confession and received hope again.
In fact, the simplest persons understand what this is about. They are taken by the grandeur that shines in the wisdom and strength of the staretz’s love. They understand what holiness means, namely a life lived in faith, capable of seeing that God is close to men, that He has their life in His hands. In this connection, Guardini says: “Accepting with simplicity the existence of God’s hand, the personal will is transformed into the divine will and thus, without the creature ceasing to be only a creature and God truly God, their living unity is realized” (Ibid., p. 32). This is Guardini’s profound vision. It might have its foundation in his first metaphysical book “Der Gegensatz.”
For Guardini this “living unity” with God consists of persons’ concrete relation with the world and with those around them. The individual feels interwoven in a people, namely, in an “original union of men that by species, country and historical evolution in life and in their destinies are a unique whole” (“The Meaning of the Church,” Morcelliana, Brescia, 2007, p. 21-22). Guardini understands the concept of “people” by distinguishing it clearly from an Enlightenment rationalism that considers real only that which can be received by reason (cf. “The Religious World of Dostoyevsky,” p. 321) and that tends to isolate man, tearing him away from vital natural relations. Instead, the people means: the compendium of what is genuine, profound, essential in man (Ibid., p. 12). We can recognize in the people, as in a mirror, the “field of strength of the divine action.” The people — Guardini continues — “feel this operating everywhere and intuits the mystery, the restless presence” (Ibid., p. 15). Therefore, I like to say — I am convinced of it — that “people” is not a logical category, but a mystical category, for the reason that Guardini says.
Perhaps we can apply Guardini’s reflections to our time, seeking to discover God’s hand in present-day events. Then, perhaps, we will be able to recognize that God in His wisdom, has sent to us, in rich Europe, the hungry so that we will give him to eat, the thirsty so that we will give him to drink, the stranger so that we will receive him and the naked, so that we clothe him. History will then demonstrate: if we are a people, we will certainly receive him as our brother; if we are only a group of more or less organized individuals, we will be tempted to save our skin first of all, but we will not have continuity.
I thank you all once again for your presence. May your work with Guardini’s writings bring you to understand increasingly the meaning and value of the Christian foundations of culture and society. I bless you from my heart and I ask you, please, to pray for me.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]