Pope Benedict XVI met with the clergy of the Diocese of Rome in the Vatican this morning. After a long applause by those in attendance, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the cardinal vicar of Rome, along with the auxiliary bishops greeted the Holy Father.
Regarding the moment as a special and providential gift before his resignation, Pope Benedict stated that it was a joy to “once again meet my clergy; the clergy of Rome.”
“It’s always a great joy to see how the Church lives, and how in Rome, the Church is alive,” the Pope said. “There are pastors who, in the spirit of the supreme Shepherd, guide the flock of Christ.
“It is a truly Catholic and universal clergy – he added – and is part of the essence of the Church of Rome itself, to reflect the universality, the catholicity of all nations, of all races, of all cultures.”
Pope Benedict also expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Vallini for helping in reawakening and rediscovering the vocations in Rome. “I am convinced that with the help of the Lord we can find the vocations He Himself gives us; [to] guide them, help them to develop and thus help the work in the vineyard of the Lord.”
The Holy Father went on to address the clergy on the theme of the Second Vatican Council, beginning with an anecdote during his time as professor at the University of Bonn in 1959 and his work with Cardinal Frings of Cologne who invited him to write a text for a conference on the Council. The Holy Father would then become personal advisor to Cardinal Frings during the Second Vatican Council.
“We went to the Council not only with joy, but with enthusiasm. The expectation was incredible. We hoped that everything would be renewed, that a new Pentecost really would come, a new era of the Church, because the Church was not robust enough at that time,” the Holy Father said.
“The Sunday practice was still good, even vocations to the priesthood and religious life were already somewhat fewer, but still sufficient. But nevertheless, there was the feeling that the Church was going on, but getting smaller, that somehow it seemed like a reality of the past and not the bearer of the future. And now, we hoped that this relationship would be renewed, changed, that the Church would once again source of strength for today and tomorrow. “
The Pope then recalled how they saw “that the relationship between the Church and the modern period was one of some ‘contrasts’ from the outset, starting with the error in the Galileo case, “and the idea was to correct this wrong start “and to find a new relationship between the Church and the best forces in the world, “to open up the future of humanity, to open up to real progress.”
The Holy Father reminisced on the reformation of the liturgy, recalling that there was a rediscovery of “the richness and depth of the liturgy.”
“The beauty, the depth, the Missal’s wealth of human and spiritual history was rediscovered as well as the need more than one representative of the people, a small altar boy, to respond “Et cum spiritu your” etc., to allow for a real dialogue between priest and people, so that the liturgy of the altar and the liturgy of the people really were one single liturgy, one active participation: and so it was that the liturgy was rediscovered, renewed.”
The Paschal Mystery: Center of the Christian Existence
Continuing his discourse, Pope Benedict recalled the essential ideas of the Second Vatican Council, most importantly the Paschal Mystery as, what he described as “the center of Christian existence and therefore of Christian life” which is expressed on Easter and every Sunday. “Over and over again we begin our time with the Resurrection, with an encounter with the Risen One,” the Pope said.
“In this sense it is unfortunate that today, Sunday has been transformed into the end of the week, while it is the first day, it is the beginning. Inwardly we must bear in mind this is the beginning, the beginning of Creation, the beginning of the re-creation of the Church, our encounter with the Creator and with the Risen Christ. “
Pope Benedict stressed to the clergy of Rome the importance of the dual meaning of Sunday: as the first day, or the feast of the Creation and as an encounter with the Risen Christ who renews Creation. “It’s real purpose is to create a world which is a response to God’s love,” the Holy Father said.
Concluding his address, the Holy Father stated that only after the Second Vatican Council was a hidden link brought to light: “the link between the people of God, the Body of Christ, and their communion with Christ in the Eucharistic union.”
“Here we become the body of Christ, that is, the relationship between the people of God and the Body of Christ creates a new reality, that is, the communion.”
The Council, he continued, “led to the concept of communion as a central concept. I would say philologically that it had not yet fully matured in the Council, but it is the result of the Council that the concept of communion becomes more and more an expression of the sense of the Church, communion in different dimensions, communion with the Triune God, who Himself is communion between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, sacramental communion, concrete communion in the Episcopate and in the life of the Church.”