Papal Address on Career of Cardinal Ruini

"An Example of Commitment to 'Thinking the Faith'"

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address upon receiving Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his vicar for the Diocese of Rome, who retired today. Cardinal Ruini was accompanied by his successor, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and 400 representatives of the Diocese of Rome.

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Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am very happy to receive you and to offer each of you my cordial welcome. I address it in the first place and especially to you, dear Cardinal Camillo Ruini, whom today I wish to publicly thank, at the end of your long service as vicar general of the Diocese of Rome. I already had the occasion a few days ago to express my sentiments to you with a letter, in which I recalled the many aspects of such a long and appreciated ministry, begun in January 1991, when the Servant of God John Paul II called you to succeed Cardinal Ugo Poletti. Now I have the opportunity to renew to you the expression of my gratitude before the auxiliary bishops, prefects, parish priests, and the other representatives of the Diocese of Rome.

The closing years of last century, 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 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.

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. As an example of this, I will limit myself to recall Rome's Citizens' Mission and the Dialogues in the Cathedral. These were manifestations of a Church which, at the very moment in which it was gaining a greater awareness of its own diocesan identity and assuming progressively its physiognomy, 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.

This, venerable brother, is a particularly important aspect, for which I wish to give you merit, to the extent that, as president of the episcopal conference, you promoted and cared for it, not only here in Rome, but also at the level of the entire Italian nation.

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. 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. I witnessed this myself in my previous office, and even more so in these last years, in which I have been able to make use of your closeness in serving the Church in Italy, and particularly in Rome. I am pleased to recall in this respect our collaboration on the topics of diocesan ecclesial meetings, called to respond to the most urgent pastoral questions, while taking into account the social and cultural context of the city.

We all know that the "cultural project" is a special initiative of the Italian Church due to the zeal and farsightedness of Cardinal Ruini, but this expression, "cultural project," requires more attention generally and radically to the Church's place in society; in other words, the desire of the Christian community -- responding to the mission of its Lord -- to be present among men and women, and in history, with a plan for mankind, family and social relationships, inspired by the Word of God and expressed through dialogue with the culture of the time.

In this, dear cardinal, you have given an example 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.

While I express my gratitude to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, I am happy to communicate that, in his place, as vicar for the Diocese of Rome, I have appointed Cardinal Agostino Vallini, until now Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature. I greet you with great affection and welcome you in the new office. I entrust it to you bearing in mind the pastoral experience you gained first as auxiliary in the great Archdiocese of Naples, then as bishop of Albano, to which experiences you add proven gifts of wisdom and cordiality. At the same time I have appointed you archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran and grand chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Dear cardinal, from today my prayer for you will be particularly intense, so that the Lord will grant you all the graces necessary in this new office. I encourage you to express fully your pastoral zeal and wish you a serene and profitable ministry, in which -- I am sure -- you will be able to count on the constant and generous collaboration of the auxiliary bishops and priests, religious and laity that work in the Vicariate of Rome. I take advantage also of this happy circumstance, dear brothers and sisters, to express to all of you, who work in the central offices of the diocese, my heartfelt gratitude and my encouragement to do always better, for the good of the Church that is in Rome.

Dear cardinals, may God fill you with an abundance of his gifts. Recompense him who retires and sustain him who takes his place. May he multiply in all thanksgiving for his infinite goodness and always grant each one the joy of serving Christ by working humbly for his Church. May the Virgin Mary, "Salus Populi Romani," watch over us from heaven and accompany us. Invoking her intercession, I impart from my heart to all of you here present and to the entire city of Rome the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by ZENIT]