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from issue no. 03 - 2007

May the humble love of the Holy Father enrich the Church and mankind

by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski

I received with particular pleasure the invitation to join with the magazine 30Days in expressing warmest and filial good wishes to the Holy Father Benedict XVI on his eightieth birthday.
I consider the event a happy chance to express gratitude to the Lord for the gift that He has made the Church in this Pope and to manifest around the person of the Holy Father that the whole Church is cum Petro, as well being necessarily sub Petro for the construction of the Kingdom of God that is expanding in the world.
In addressing the first greeting to the Church and the world on the day of his election, he introduced himself as «a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord». In the homily, then, when he assumed the Petrine ministry he spoke about himself as «feeble servant of God». These images give us entry to his consciousness and provide a glimpse of his inner attitude towards God and the Church. On the one hand they communicate the feeling of smallness in front of God and the mission entrusted. It is an attitude of great significance. We know well, in fact, that the more a person empties himself out the more he becomes capable of being filled with God, of being an effective instrument in the hands of God. On the other hand, the words quoted indicate a strong sense of dedication, even if laborious and hidden, as well as total willingness. This, for that matter, has always been his way of presenting himself in his long service as scholar, teacher, theologian, pastor and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, carried out with commitment, high competence and a crystal-clear spirit of service to the Church. As member of the Congregation mentioned I have had the honor and the pleasure of collaborating with Cardinal Ratzinger for some years, seeing these qualities of his at work. His working and serving have always been a simple and impassioned service to the truth to offer mankind so as to free it from the idolatry of relativism.
Two years ago the present Pontiff was called by the Lord to the supreme pontificate. In assuming this «unheard of task» – as he himself said in the homily for the beginning of his pontificate – he shaped his ministry in the images of the pastor and the fisherman, centering their value in the service of the love of God for humanity and of love for God and one’s neighbor. Thus love is the golden thread that runs through the various expressions of the ministry of Benedict XVI, now “pastor and fisherman” in the vineyard of the Lord. «To feed one’s flock», he said, «means to love [...] to love means: giving the sheep the true good, the nourishment of the truth of God, of the word of God, the nourishment of His presence, that He bestows on us in the Most Holy Sacrament [...] In the mission of fisher of men, following Christ, it is necessary to bring men out of the sea salted with all the alienations onto the land of life, to the light of God [...] We exist in order to show God to men [...] only when we meet in Christ the living God, do we know what life is [...] The task of the pastor, of the fisher of men can often appear burdensome. But it is fine and great, because all said and done it is a service to joy, to the joy of God that wants to make His entrance into the world».
The love for the truth of God to give to man today is not conceived by Benedict XVI as a task to be done by the Successor to Peter in solitude, but belongs to the whole Church. That is why the subject chosen for his first encyclical letter was precisely Christian love from the staring point of the pulsating heart of the Christian faith: Deus caritas est. The Pope’s aim with the encyclical was to continue «to speak about the love with which God fills us and that we must communicate to others» (n. 1). From the love of God, that man can experience by looking «at the rent side of Christ» (n.12), gushes like restoring water the love of one’s neighbor that «is first of all a task for every single believer, but is also a task for the entire ecclesial community» (n. 20). Thus, the Pope emphasizes, «the whole activity of the Church is expression of a love that seeks the integral well-being of mankind: it seeks its evangelization through the Word and the Sacraments, an enterprise many times heroic in its historical occurrence; and it seeks its promotion in the several milieux of life and human activity. Love is therefore the service that the Church fulfills so as constantly to respond to the suffering and the needs, the material ones also, of makind» (n.19).
Benedict XVI with the First Communion children in Saint Peter’s Square, 15 October 2005

Benedict XVI with the First Communion children in Saint Peter’s Square, 15 October 2005

In continuation and deepening of the theme of love we have in recent days received the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation dedicated to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. With it Benedict XVI continues his ministry of “pastor and fisherman” in the service of God’s love for humanity, leading the Church to the source that principally nurtures its love, that is to the source at which the hunger and thirst for love that are in the heart of every human person are satisfied in the best way, kindling them toward God and in the service of their brethren. The Eucharistic mystery is Sacramentum caritatis because in it «Jesus shows us in particular the truth of love, that is the very essence of God» (n. 2). As a deep knower of mankind and its real needs, the Pope writes that in the Eucharist «the Lord makes food for mankind hungry for truth and freedom. Since only the truth can really set us free (cf. John 8, 36), Christ makes Himself the food of Truth for us» (n. 2). In its turn this food of Truth «makes us witnesses of the compassion of God for every brother and sister» (n. 88) and «it gives us new strength and courage to work ceaselessly for the building of the civilization of love» (n. 90).
I think that the path of love – of God, to God and to one’s neighbor – along which Benedict XVI is guiding the Church as “pastor and fisherman”, is the most beautiful gift to the entire world, that labors to have a heart. Thus, with mind overflowing with gratitude, I am happy to express to the Holy Father first of all the wish that his Petrine ministry, exercised with humility and love, as well as to the service of love, may enrich today’s world with the values on which the life in Truth and the true progress of humanity depend.

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