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Franciscan Friary,
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Date: 22.4.2005
Source: Apostolic Delegation - Jerusalem

Homily given by His Excellency Mgr. Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio and Delegate, during the Thanksgiving Mass concelebrated at the Holy Sepulcher for the election of Pope Benedict XVI, on April 22nd, 2005.

“In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help. And Mary, his most beloved Mother, stands on our side”.
With these words the new Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, “a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard”, presented himself to the faithful of Rome, to the Church and to humanity.
He added: “I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools. I especially trust in your prayers”.

For this, the Mother Church of Jerusalem is gathered this morning in prayer in front of the empty tomb of the Risen Lord.
We thank God for giving his Church a new Pope: “Oh Lord, you are the eternal shepherd who never leaves his flock untended, but leads it throughout time, under the guidance of those whom you have chosen as vicars of your Son and made pastors”.
We invoke the Holy Spirit on him: “Give Him the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill him with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence”,…look upon our Pope Benedict, by you constituted successor of Peter and grant him to be before your people a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion”.

Benedict XVI had always a great devotion and admiration for St. Benedict of Norcia, the father of monasticism in Europe and of the European Christian Civilization. Speaking about him, sometime before becoming Pope, he said: “We need peoples, whose intelligence is enlighten by the light of God and to whom God has open the heart, so that their intelligence can speak to the intelligence of the others, and their heart can open the heart of the others”.

The new Pope expressed his will to be in line with Pope John Paul II when saying: “It seems I can feel his strong hand squeezing mine; I seem to see his smiling eyes and listen to his words, addressed to me especially at this moment: Do not be afraid!…He leaves us a Church that is more courageous, free, younger. A Church that, according to this teaching and example, looks with serenity to the past and is not afraid of the future!”.
Since the first hours of his Pontificate, Benedict XVI made a strong profession of faith in Jesus Christ: “It is to Christ in the first place that I renew my total and trustworthy adhesion: In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum”.
I have been thinking in these hours about what happened in the region of Caesarea of Philippi two thousand years ago: I seem to hear the word of Peter: 'You are Christ, the Son of the living God,' and the solemn affirmation of the Lord: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven'.
“You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am living this very Gospel scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master.If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church' Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the 'rock' upon which everyone may rest with confidence. the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master enormous, I ask him to make up for the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.

The new Pope will be guided in his mission by the teaching of the Council Vatican II:
“I too as I start in the service that is proper to the Successor of Peter, wish to affirm with force my decided will to pursue the commitment to enact Vatican Council II, in the wake of my predecessors and in faithful continuity with the millennia-old tradition of the Church. Precisely this year is the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of this conciliar assembly (December 8, 1965). With the passing of time, the conciliar documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society. “

Benedict XVI considers particularly meaningful the fact that he has been elected in the year dedicated to the Eucharist.
“How can I not see in this providential coincidence an element that must mark the ministry to which I have been called? The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the evangelising mission of the Church, cannot but be the permanent centre and the source of the petrine service entrusted to me.
The Eucharist makes the Risen Christ constantly present; Christ Who continues to give Himself to us, calling us to participate in the banquet of His Body and His Blood. From this full communion with Him comes every other element of the life of the Church, in the first place the communion among the faithful, the commitment to proclaim and give witness to the Gospel, the ardour of charity towards all, especially towards the poor and the smallest.

In this year, therefore, the Solemnity of Corpus Christ must be celebrated in a particularly special way. The Eucharist will be at the centre, in August, of World Youth Day in Cologne and in October, of ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which will take place on the theme ”The Eucharist, Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church.” I ask everyone to intensify in coming months love and devotion to the Eucharistic Jesus and to express in courageous and clear way the real presence of the Lord, above all through the solemnity and the correctness of the celebrations.

I ask this in a special way of priests, about whom I am thinking in this moment with great affection. The priestly ministry was born in the Cenacle, together with the Eucharist as my venerated predecessor John Paul II underlined so many times. 'The priestly life must have in a special way a 'Eucharistic form ', he wrote in his last Letter for Holy Thursday. The devout daily celebration of Holy Mass, the centre of the life and mission of every priest, contributes to this end.

Nourished and sustained by the Eucharist, Catholics cannot but feel stimulated to tend towards that full unity for which Christ hoped in the Cenacle. Peter's Successor knows that he must take on this supreme desire of the Divine Master in particularly special way. To Him, indeed, has been entrusted the duty of strengthening his brethren.”

The reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers is felt by the new Pope as one of his most important duties:
“Thus, in full awareness and at the beginning of this ministry in the Church of Rome that Peter bathed with his blood, the current Successor assumes as his primary commitment that of working tirelessly towards the reconstitution of the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, this is his compelling duty. He is aware that to do so, expressions of good feelings are not enough. Concrete gestures are required to penetrate souls and move consciences, encouraging everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism.

Theological dialogue is necessary. A profound examination of the historical reasons behind past choices is also indispensable. But even more urgent is that 'purification of memory', which was so often evoked by John Paul II, and which alone can dispose souls to welcome the full truth of Christ. It is before Him, supreme Judge of all living things, that each of us must stand, in the awareness that one day we must explain to Him what we did and what we did not do for the great good that is the full and visible unity of all His disciples.

The current Successor of Peter feels himself to be personally implicated in this question and disposed to do all in his power to promote the fundamental cause of ecumenism. In the wake of his predecessors, he is fully determined to cultivate that may seem appropriate to promote contact and agreement with representatives from the various Churches and ecclesial communities. Indeed, on this occasion too, he sends them his most cordial greetings in Christ, the one Lord of all.

The interreligious dialogue, the dialogue among different civilizations and the peace for humanity will be among the priorities of Benedict XVI: “I address myself to everyone, even to those who follow other religions or who are simply seeking an answer to the fundamental questions of life and have not yet found it. I address everyone with simplicity and affection, to assure them that the Church wants to continue to build and open sincere dialogue with them, in a search for the true good of mankind and of society.
From God I invoke unity and peace for the human family and declare the willingness of all Catholics to cooperate for true social development, one that respects the dignity of all human beings.
I will make every effort and dedicate myself to pursuing the promising dialogue that my predecessor began with various civilizations, because it is mutual understanding that gives rise to conditions for a better future for everyone.

And addressing the youth he said:
“I am particularly thinking of young people. To them, the privileged interlocutors of John Paul II, I send an affectionate embrace in the hope, God willing, of meeting them at Cologne on the occasion of the next World Youth day. With you, dear young people, I will continue to maintain a dialogue, listening to your expectations in an attempt to help you meet ever more profoundly the living, ever young Christ.

But the priority of priorities of Pope Benedict XVI is Jesus Christ, his blessed Mother Mary, the Apostles, the Church and her mission on earth among mankind:
“The Church today must revive within herself an awareness of the task to present the world again with the voice of the One Who said: 'I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life'. In undertaking his ministry, the new Pope knows that his task is to bring the light of Christ to shine before the men and women of today: not his own light but that of Christ.
“Like Peter, I too renew to Him my unconditional promise of faithfulness. He alone I intend to serve as I dedicate myself to the service of His Church.
“In support of this promise, I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and the future of my person and of the Church. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the saints, also intercede.

In the field of the Lord, in which John Paul II worked so eagerly, may Pope Benedict XVI and all of us with him, plant trees of unshakable faith and ardent charity, under whose shade may rest today's man who is confused and disoriented. May he find again hope for life, salvation and peace.

Jerusalem, April 22nd, 2005

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