The Pope said this today upon receiving Cardinal Ruini, 77, who retired today. He was accompanied by his named successor, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and 400 representatives of the Diocese of Rome.
The Pontiff expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Ruini for is "long and appreciated" ministry. The cardinal has served as the Pope's vicar for the Diocese of Rome since 1991.
"The closing years of last century," said the Holy Father, "and the first years of the new were a truly extraordinary time, and all the more so for people who, such as us, had the good fortune to experience them alongside [Pope John Paul II], a true giant of the faith and of the mission of the Church, my venerated predecessor.
"He led the people of God through the historic finish of the year 2000 and, through the Great Jubilee, introducing it in the third millennium of the Christian era.
"Collaborating closely with him, we were 'drawn along' by his exceptional spiritual strength, rooted in prayer, in profound union with the Lord Jesus Christ and in filial intimacy with his Most Holy Mother. John Paul II's missionary charisma had, as it should, a decisive influence on his pontificate, in particular on the period of preparation for the Jubilee 2000."
Benedict XVI added, "And this was directly evident in the Diocese of Rome, the Pope's own diocese, thanks to the constant commitment of the cardinal vicar and his collaborators."
Citing the Citizens' Mission and the Dialogues in the Cathedral, two evangelizing projects of the Diocese of Rome, the Holy Father said they were expressed of a Church that "opened itself decisively to a missionary mentality and a style consistent with it, a mentality and style destined to last not just the length of a season, but, as was often confirmed, to become permanent."
The Pope gave credit to Cardinal Ruini for promoting this missionary mentality, not only in Rome, but also throughout Italy during his three terms as president of the Italian bishops' conference.
"Solicitude for the mission was always accompanied and backed up by an outstanding capacity for theological and philosophical reflection, which you manifested and exercised since your youthful years," Benedict XVI continued. "The apostolate, especially in our own time, must be constantly nourished by thought in order to explain the significance of gestures and actions, which otherwise lapse into sterile activism.
"And you, Cardinal, offered in this respect an outstanding contribution, putting at the service of the Holy Father, of the Holy See and of the whole Church your well-noted gifts of intelligence and wisdom."
"You have given an example," added the Holy Father, "that goes beyond the initiatives of the moment, an example of commitment to 'thinking the faith' in absolute conformity to the magisterium of the Church, with careful attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome and, at the same time, while constantly listening to the questions that arise from contemporary culture and from the problems of modern society."