VATICAN CITY, AUG. 23, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the papal message sent by Benedict XVI’s secretary of state to the Rimini Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples.
The message, signed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and dated Aug. 10, was read Sunday, the opening day of the meeting.
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To His Most Revered Excellency
Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi
Bishop of Rimini
Most Revered Excellency,
Also this year I have the joy of transmitting the Holy Father’s warm greeting to Your Excellency, to the organizers and to all the participants in the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, which is being held these days in Rimini. The topic chosen for the 2011 meeting — “And Existence Becomes An Immense Certainty” — awakens several profound questions: What is existence? What is certainty? And above all, what is the foundation of the certainty without which man cannot live?
It would be interesting to engage in the very rich reflection that philosophy has developed from its beginnings around the experience of existence, of being, reaching important, but often also contradictory and partial conclusions. We can, however, be led directly to the essential beginning with the Latin etymology of the term existence: ex sistere. Interpreting it as a “not remaining,” Heidegger made evident the dynamic character of man’s life. However ex sistere evokes in us at least two other meanings, even more descriptive, of the human experience of existence, which, in a certain sense, are at the origin of the dynamism itself analyzed by Heidegger. The particle ex makes us think of provenance and, at the same time, of detachment. Hence, existence would be a “being, having come from” and, at the same time, a “going beyond,” almost a “transcending,” which describes “being” itself in a permanent way. Here we touch the most original level of human life: its creatureliness, its being structurally dependent on an origin, its being willed by someone toward whom, almost unwittingly, it tends.
The mourned Monsignor Luigi Giussani, who with his fruitful charism is at the origin of the Rimini gathering, often insisted on this fundamental dimension of man. And rightly so, because it is precisely from awareness of it that the certainty derives with which man addresses existence. The recognition of his own origin and the “proximity” of this same origin to all moments of existence are the condition that allows man an authentic maturation of his personality, a positive look toward the future and a fecund historical incidence. This is already a verifiable anthropological fact in daily experience: A child is that much more certain and secure the more he experiences the closeness of his parents. But, in fact, continuing with the example of the child, we understand that, on his own, the recognition of his origin and, consequently, of his own structural dependence is not enough. Rather, it might seem — as history has amply demonstrated — a burden from which to free himself. What renders the child “strong” is the certainty of the love of his parents. One should, therefore, enter into the love of the one who has willed us to be able to experience the positiveness of existence. If one of the two is lacking, the awareness of the origin and the certainty of the goal of goodness to which man is called, it becomes impossible to explain the profound dynamism of existence and to understand man. Already in the history of the people of Israel, especially the experience of the exodus described in the Old Testament, the force of hope emerges derived from the paternal presence of God who guides his people, from the living memory of his actions and of the luminous promise about the future.
Man cannot live without the certainty of his destiny. “Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well” (Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi, 2). But on what certainty can man reasonably found his existence? What is, at bottom, the hope that does not deceive? With the advent of Christ the promise that nourished the hope of the people of Israel attains its fulfillment, it assumes a personal face. In Christ Jesus, man’s destiny was wrenched definitively from the nebulosity that surrounded him. Through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father unveiled to us definitively the positive future that awaits us. “The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.” (Ibid., 7).
Christ risen, present in his Church, in the sacraments and with his Spirit, is the ultimate and definitive foundation of existence, the certainty of our hope. He is the eschaton already present, the one who makes of existence itself a positive event, a history of salvation in which every circumstance reveals its real meaning in relation to the eternal. If this awareness is lacking, it is easy to fall into the risks of actualism, of the sensationalism of the emotions, in which everything is reduced to a phenomenon, or to despair, in which every circumstance seems to have no meaning. Then existence becomes a diligent search for events, for passing novelties that, in the end, turn out to be disappointing. Only the certainty that is born of faith enables man to live the present intensely and, at the same time, to transcend it, perceiving in it the reflection of the eternal to which time is ordered. Only the recognized presence of Christ, source of life and destiny of man, is capable of reawakening in us the nostalgia of Paradise and thus to project the future with confidence, without fear and false illusions.
The tragedies of the last century amply demonstrated that when Christian hope fails, when, that is, the certainty of faith and the desire for “ultimate things” fails, man loses himself and becomes a victim of power, he begins to ask life of one who cannot give it. A faith without hope caused the emergence of a hope without faith, a worldly hope.
Today more than ever we Christians are called to give reason for the hope that is in us, to witness in the world that “other” without which everything remains incomprehensible. But for this to happen we must be “reborn” as Jesus said to Nicodemus, to allow ourselves to be regenerated by the sacraments and by prayer, to rediscover in them the bedrock of all authentic certainty. The Church, rendering present in time the mystery of God’s eternity, is the appropriate subject of this certainty. In the ecclesial community the pro-existence of the Son of God is reached; in it eternal life, to which all existence is destined, can already be experienced. “Christian immortality,” Father Festugiere stated at the beginning of the last century, “has as its own character to be expansion of a friendship.” What, in fact, is Paradise if not the definitive fulfillment of friendship with Christ and among ourselves? In this perspective, the French religious continues, “it matters not, then, where it is found. Heaven is, in truth, where Christ is. Thus the heart that loves desire no other joy than to live always close to the beloved.” Thus, existence, is not a blind proceeding, but it is a going to the one we love. Hence, we know where we are going, toward whom we are directed, and this orients the whole of our existence.
Excellency, I hope that these brief thoughts may be of help to those taking part in the Meeting. His Holiness Benedict XVI wishes to assure all, to the organizers of the gathering, as well as to all those present, a particular Apostolic Blessing.
I add my cordial greeting and make use of the circumstance to confirm my sincere respects to Your Most Reverend Excellency,
Most devotedly in the Lord
Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone
Secretary of State of His Holiness[Translation by ZENIT]