Pope's Address in Sansepolcro

"I invite young people to think big: have the courage to be daring!"

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SANSEPOLCRO, Italy, MAY 15, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday in Sansepolcro. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I am happy to find myself at Sansepolcro and to join in your thanksgiving to God for the millenary of the city’s foundation, for the wonders of grace and for all of the benefits that, in 10 centuries, providence has bestowed. In this historic piazza, we repeat the words of today’s responsorial Psalm: “Sing to the Lord a new song, because he has done marvelous deeds ... All the earth acclaim the Lord, cry out, exult, sing hymns” (Psalm 97).

Dear friends of Sansepolcro, I greet all of you with affection. I am grateful for this welcome. Despite the somewhat inclement weather, our heart is full of light, warmth and joy. I greet everyone, beginning with Archbishop Monsignor Riccardo Fontana; along with him I greet the priests, the consecrated persons and the lay faithful who actively dedicate themselves to the apostolate. A address a deferential greeting to the civil and military authorities, especially the mayor, Dr. Daniela Frullani, whom I thank for the cordial words she spoke to me and for the beautiful gifts. Thank you!

One thousand years ago, the holy pilgrims Arcanus and Aegidius, in the face of the great transformations of the time, set out in search of the truth and of the meaning of life, heading for the Holy Land. Upon their return, they brought with them not only the stones gathered from Mt. Zion, but the special idea that they worked out in the land of Jesus: to build in the Alta Valle del Tevere the “civitas hominis” (city of man) in the image of Jerusalem, which in its very name evokes justice and peace. A project that recalls the great vision of St. Augustine in the work “City of God.” When Alaric’s Goths entered Rome and the pagan world accused the God of the Christians of not having saved Rome “caput mundi” (capital of the world), the holy bishop of Hippo explained what we must expect from God, the just relation between the political sphere and the religious sphere. He sees the presence of two loves in history: “love of self,” to the point of indifference to God and others, and “love of God,” which leads to complete availability for others and to the building up of the city of man guided by justice and peace (cf. “City of God,” XIV, 28).

This vision was certainly not foreign to the founders of Sansepolcro. They conceived the model of a city organized and filled by a hope for the future in which the disciples of Christ were called to be the engine of society in the promotion of peace through the practice of justice. That courageous challenge became reality because of perseverance on a path that – with the support of the Benedictine charism at the beginning and that of the Camaldolese monks subsequently – continued for generations. A firm commitment was necessary to found a monastic community and then, around the abbey church, your city. The position of the cathedral is not the result of a superficial city planning but has a deep symbolic value: it is the point of reference according to which everyone can know where they are going on the street, but even more so they can see where they are going in life; it constitutes a powerful reminder to raise our eyes, to get beyond the everyday, to look heavenward, in a continual movement toward spiritual values and toward communion with God, who does not alienate us from the ordinary but gives it meaning and helps us to live in it more intensely. This perspective is also valid today; it aids us in recovering a taste for seeking the “true,” for seeing life as a path that leads us to the “true” and the “just.”

Dear friends, the ideal of your founders remains in our time and constitutes not only the center of the identity of Sansepolcro and the diocesan Church but also a challenge to conserve and promote the Christian thinking that is the origin of this city. Sansepolcro’s millennial celebration is the occasion to engage in a reflection that is both an interior journey of faith and an obligation to rediscover your Christian roots so that the evangelical values might continue to fecundate your consciousness and your daily lives. Today there is a particular need that the Church’s service to the world be expressed by enlightened lay faithful who are able to work within the city of man with a desire to serve that is not controlled by private or party interests. The common good counts more than the individual good, and compels Christians too to contribute to the birth of a new public ethic. The splendid figure of the newly-beatified Giuseppe Toniolo reminds us of this. In opposition to diffidence toward political and social engagement Christians, especially young people, are called to embrace commitment and love for responsibility, animated by evangelical charity, which demands that we do not be shut up in ourselves but take on the burdens of others. I invite young people to think big: have the courage to be daring! Be ready to give a new flavor to the whole of civil society with the salt of honesty and disinterested altruism. It is necessary to rediscover solid reasons to serve the good of our fellow citizens.

The challenge that lies before this ancient city is that of harmonizing the rediscovery of its own 1,000-year-old identity with the welcoming and incorporation of different cultures and sensibilities. St. Paul teaches us that the Church, but also the whole of society, are like a human body in which every part is different from the others but all work together for the good of the organism (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). We thank God that your diocesan community has developed an ardent missionary openness over the years, which is testified to by the partnership with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. I was happy to learn that it has borne the fruit of collaboration and charitable works on behalf of needy brothers in the Holy Land. Ancient bonds led your forbears to build a replica in stone of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem to fashion the identity of the citizens and to keep alive devotion and prayer for the Holy City. May this connection continue and make it so that everything that affects the Holy Land be seen by you as a reality that touches you as well; just as in Jerusalem your name and the presence of pilgrims from your diocese invigorates the fraternal relationships between your two cities. In this regard I am certain that you will be open to new possibilities of solidarity, inspiring a renewed apostolic zeal in the service of the Gospel. And this will be one of the most significant results of your city’s jubilee celebrations.

One more word about the cathedral, where I contemplated the beauty of the “Holy Face.” This basilica is the place of the whole city’s praise of God, the site of the rediscovered harmony between times of worship and civic life, the point of reference for the refreshment of souls. And as your fathers knew how to make a splendid temple of stone, that it might be a sign and a call to communion of life, it is your responsibility to make the meaning of the sacred place visible and credible, living in peace in ecclesial and civil community. At the height of the Renaissance the people of this city asked the painter Durante Alberti to depict Bethlehem in the mother church that no one would forget that God is with us in the poverty of the manger. Remembering the past and attentive to the present, but also projected toward the future, you Christians of the Diocese of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro know that the spiritual progress of your ecclesial community and the very promotion of the common good of the civil communities requires an ever more vital engagement of the parishes and associations of this area. May the journey that you undertake and the faith that animates you give you courage and zeal to continue. Looking to your rich spiritual patrimony, may you be a Church alive to the service of the Gospel! May you be a hospitable and generous Church that with her witness makes present God’s love for every human being, especially for the suffering and needy.

May the Holy Virgin, who is especially venerated during this month of May, keep watch over each of you and sustain the efforts for a better future. O Mary, Queen of Peace, hear our prayer: make us witnesses of your Son and tireless builders of justice and peace. Thank you!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]