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Most Reverend Excellency,
With joy I convey the greeting of the Holy Father Francis to Your Excellency, to the organizers and to all the participants in the 34th edition of the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples. The theme that was chosen – “The Human Person: A State of Emergency” – signals the great urgency of evangelization about which the Holy Father has spoken many times, following his predecessors, and aroused profound reflections in him that I transmit to you in what follows.
Man is the way of the Church: Thus wrote Bl. John Paul II in his first encyclical, “Redemptor hominis” (cf. 14). This truth remains valid even above all in our time in which the Church – in an ever more globalized and virtual world, in a society ever more secularized and lacking stable points of reference – is called to rediscover her proper mission, focusing on the essential and seeking new roads for evangelization.
Man remains a mystery, irreducible to whatever image is formed of him in society and that worldly power tries to impose. He is a mystery of freedom and of grace, of poverty and of grandeur. But what does it mean to say that man is the “way of the Church”? And above all, what does it mean for us to travel along this way today?
Man is the way of the Church because he is the way traveled by God himself. From the dawn of humanity, after the fall, God went in search of man. “Where are you?” he asks Adam, who hides in the garden (Genesis 3:9). This question, which appears at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, and that does not cease to echo throughout the rest of the Bible and in every moment of the history that God, in the course of the millennia, has constructed with humanity, achieves its highest expression in the incarnation of the Son. St. Augustine states in his commentary on the Gospel of John: “Remaining with the Father, [the Son] was truth and life; clothing himself in our flesh, he became the way” (I, 34, 9). Jesus Christ is therefore “the principal way of the Church,” but because he “is also the way of each man,” man becomes “the primary and fundamental way of the Church” (cf. “Redemptor hominis,” 13-14).
“I am the gate,” says Jesus (John 10:7): that is, I am the way into every man and every thing. If we do not pass through Christ, if we do not concentrate the gaze of our heart upon him, we will not understand anything about the mystery of man. And so, almost inadvertently, we will be forced to borrow our criteria of judgment and action from the world, and every time that we encounter our brothers in humanity, we will be like those “thieves and brigands” of whom Jesus speaks in the Gospel (cf. John 10:8). The world too, in its way, is interested in man. Economic, political, and media power need man to perpetuate themselves and grow. And for this reason they seek to manipulate the masses, to induce desires, to eliminate man’s most precious possession: his relationship with God. Power is afraid of those who are in dialogue with God because that makes them free and inassimilable.
This then is the state of emergency of the human person that the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples places at the center of its reflection: the urgency of restoring man to himself, to his highest dignity, to the uniqueness and preciousness of every human existence from conception to natural death. It is necessary to consider again man’s sacredness and at the same time to say that it in the relationship with God, that is, in the discovery and adhesion to his vocation, that man can grow to his true stature. The Church, to whom Christ entrusted his Word and his Sacraments, safeguards the greatest hope, the most authentic possibility of self-realization for man, in any place and in any time. What a great responsibility we have! Let us not keep this precious treasure for ourselves, which everyone is seeking whether or not they are aware of it. Let us courageously go out to meet the men and women of our time, the children and the elderly, the wise and the uneducated, young people and families. Let us go out to meet everyone without waiting for them to come to us! In this let us imitate our divine Master, who left his heaven to become man be near to each one of us. Let us bring the perfume of the love of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:15) not only to the churches and the parishes but everywhere: schools, universities, workplaces, hospitals, prisons; but also in the piazzas, the streets, gyms, wherever people gather. We must not be stingy in giving what we have received without merit! We must not be afraid to announce Christ in season and out (cf. 2 Timothy 4:2), with respect and boldness.
This is the task of the Church, this is the task of every Christ: serving man, seeking him out even in the most hidden social and spiritual corners. The condition of credibility of the Church in this mission of hers as mother and teaching is, however, her fidelity to Christ. Openness to the world is accompanied, and in a certain sense made possible, by obedience to the truth that the Church herself does not control. The “emergency of the human person,” then, means the emergency of returning to Christ, to learn from him the truth about ourselves and the world, and with him and in him go out to encounter men, above all the poor, for whom Jesus always manifested a predilection. And poverty is not only material. There is also a spiritual poverty that grips contemporary man. We are poor in love, thirsty for truth and justice, beggars of God, as the Servant of God Monsignor Luigi Giussani always stressed. The greatest poverty is, in fact, the lack of Christ, and until we have brought Jesus to men we will always have done too little for them.
Excellency, I hope that these brief thoughts can be of use to those who will take part in the Meeting. His Holiness Francis assures everyone of his closeness in prayer and his affection; he hopes that the gatherings and reflections of these days can light a flame in the hearts of the all the participants, one that feeds and supports their witness to the Gospel in the world. And from his heart he sends to you, to the leaders and organizers of this event, and to all present, a special apostolic blessing.
I too add my cordial greeting and I take this opportunity to confirm my most distinct sentiments of respect for your Most Reverend Excellency, most devoted in the Lord.
Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone
Secretary of State of His Holiness