Patriarch’s homily on Pope Benedict’s 7th anniversary of election
Homily on June 28, 2012 – Notre Dame Center
Your Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We have gathered for this Eucharist, in order to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict XVI, on the seventh anniversary of his election to the apostolic ministry. As successor of Peter and visible head of the unity within the Church, his ministry remains essentially that, of keeping alive the faith and hope of God’s people, and strengthening their unity in brotherly love.
The overarching concept of Pope Benedict XVI papacy is for each person, to discover and develop a loving relationship with God. This theme pervades all of his writings. Indeed, all the other great themes of the Christian faith ,are intimately connected with it and radiate from it. It is the way to deepest and lasting human happiness. Without this relationship with God, the Holy Father dismisses the ability of humans, to achieve justice, peace, or stability.
He came to our Holy Land three years ago on a pilgrimage, and his visit was like the most demanding high-wire act of his papacy. He came as a pilgrim of peace, of dialogue and of prayer ; but he certainly delivered clear and challenging messages to his diverse audiences.
His constant message for our region is Peace. However, he was very clear, that true peace is only born of justice. Incisively, he declared, “Peace is above all a divine gift. For peace is the Almighty’s promise to humanity, and harbors unity”. In the book of the prophet Jeremiah it reads, “I know the plans I have in mind for you – it is the Lord who speaks – plans for peace not disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11-12). “Seek God, and peace will be given to you”! Here is the proviso: we must “seek him”, and “seek him with all our heart” (Jer 12-14).
At the end of his visit, the Pope spoke sorrowfully about one of his major impressions. The saddest sight, he said, is the wall. Profoundly impressed, he prayed for a “future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation.”
He spoke eloquently about security, integrity, justice and peace and he brought a fresh thinking to our understanding of “security”, which arises from trust and refers not just to the absence of threat, but also to the sentiment of calmness and confidence. In God’s design for the world, these are inseparable. Far from being simply products of human efforts, they are values, which stem from God’s fundamental relationship with man.
The Pope’s concern, of course, is global
His world vision provides a sure antidote to the boredom and the meaningless of a world, that attempts to live without God.
At the conclusion of his first Papal homily, he cited the well-known words of Pope John Paul II: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way, to let Christ enter fully into our lives? If we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?” To the question, he answers, “No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship, do we experience beauty and liberation… When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”
The Holy Father calling the upcoming 2012-2013, the “Year of Faith”, seeks to awaken humanity at a critical moment. “We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of a religious sense, which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today.” “The renewal of faith must, then, be a priority for the entire Church in our time.” “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
The Holy Father states, that the Church must bring something fresh to the difficulties in the world. To do this, the Church does not need super-men and super-women; rather, supernatural men and women, who have learned that life, in its fullness is: in and through and with Christ.
Visit to Lebanon
The Catholic Church in Lebanon will welcome Pope Benedict XVI at the start of this Sept. 14-16. Along with a “message of peace” for all people of the region, the Pope will deliver a document – known as the post-Synodal apostolic exhortation – dealing more specifically with themes of the 2010 Synod for the Middle East.
The Synod gave top priority, to the preservation of Middle Eastern Catholics and other Christians in their historic homelands. It took place only months, before the Arab world erupted in a series of ongoing and often violent revolutions. Concern over some Middle Eastern churches’ survival, has grown in the meantime, following the rise of political Islam in Egypt, and the prospect of a civil war in Syria. These situations beg for much prayer.
Tomorrow we celebrate the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, recalling two men ,who tirelessly worked to spread the Gospel. God was able to do great things in and through them, due to their absolute surrender to the Son of God. Let us continue to give thanks to God for the apostle Benedict the XVI, for his tireless work in spreading the Gospel! God bless his ministry and help him in guiding the Church towards perseverance in hope, a “hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured, into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given us” (Rom 5:2). Amen.
Dear Friends, I avail this occasion to say some words for H.E. Msgr. Franco, who is leaving us.
Appointed in 2006 to serve as Apostolic Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus as well as Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine, when he came here six years ago, it did not take a long time for him to gain the trust and affection of local religious and lay leaders, with his affable and caring disposition. His primary goal was to live more intensely our Christian communion. He is now leaving the country after six years, and we bid him a fond farewell too, as he enters the next chapter of his life.
On behalf of the faithful, the religious leaders and the many religious congregations, we thank you, Excellency for your years of dedicated service to the Holy Land.
What images of Archbishop Franco remain in our minds? Some images and qualities that come to readily to my mind are – Fatherly – Pious – cheerful , ready Availability, and especially his awareness of the ‘not-very-easy’ situations in this region. Dear colleague, some of the many lessons that this region teaches us ,are patience and faith.
Your talents, Excellency, were employed to greatest advantage during your service in the Holy Land, where sectarian disputes, the ongoing exodus of Christians, and the Holy See’s complex relationship with Israel, required seasoned expertise. We found in you a Church leader with a contagious and genuine optimism; you knew how to transmit to anyone your love for the Church, which you served with dignity.
Nearly 52 years have passed, since the day of your ordination as a priest in July 1960. You might have found it hard to imagine then, that you would serve in the Holy Land , as a diplomat, as teacher, as a representative of the Vicar of Christ, and as a shepherd of souls. That is what God has called you to do.
Upon your arrival to the Holy Land in 2006, you assumed your duties, during one of the most difficult times and in one of the most complex regions. All of us know it is impossible to satisfy everyone. Through the complexities of the Holy Land, your self-confidence did not come from any human factor, but from the Lord. Your strong faith drew on the great promise of Jesus “I am with you always…”
The time has come for us, to bid you farewell as you return to your country. These years you have spent in the Holy Land, are filled with many memorable experiences, and I wish to express my appreciation for all that you have done. You have given generously of talents and resources, in order to ensure that the mission of the Church continues. For your commitment, in behalf of the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries, and on behalf of all religious leaders and communities, I express my profound thanks.
Dear Excellency, as the high priest Simeon declares in his Canticle: “Nunc dimittis” “Now Lord, you may dismiss your servant,…” so as you depart Jerusalem, we bid you Adieu! Having seen our situation, and having fulfilled your mission, do not forget Jerusalem and its people. We will not forget you, we accompany you with our prayers and very best wishes. God bless you!
+ Fouad Twal, Patriarch