At 8:45 this morning, the Holy Father Benedict XVI left the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo by car for his Pastoral Visit to Velletri.
Upon his arrival in Corso della Repubblica, at the entrance to the Cathedral complex of San Clemente, the Pope was welcomed by Cardinal Francis Arinze, titular bishop of Velletri-Segni and Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship; and Mons. Vincenzo Apicella, Bishop of Velletri-Segni.
In the cloister of the Cathedral, the Pope received the greetings of civilian authorities: Piero Maqrazzo, president of Lazio region; Carlo Mosca, Prefect of Rome; Stefano Trotta, prefectural commissar of the municipality of Velletri; Enrico Gasbarra, president of Rome province; the mayors of the municipalities of the diocese, and some members of Parliament who are natives of the diocese.
On entering the Cathedral, the Pope venerated the Crux Veliterna reliquary, and then proceeded to the Chapel of the Madonna delle Grazie for a brief Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and veneration of the icon.
After vesting up for the Mass, the Pope processed towards the Piazza outside the Cathedral for the 9:30 Mass.
Concelebrating with the Pope were Cardinal Arinze; Bishop Apicella; the emeritus bishop of Velletri-Segni, Mons. Andrea Maria Erba; Mons. Josef Clemens, honorary Canon of the Cathedral; Mons. Lorenzo Loppa, bishop of Anagni-Alatri; and 5o diocesan priests.
Mons. Apicella delivered a tribute to the Pope before the Holy Fahter’s homily.
After the Mass, the Holy Father blessed the bronze commemorative column that was an 80th brithday present to him by 100 Bavarian municipalities. At the time, the Pope decided that he wanted the column to be erected outside the Cathedral of Velletri.
The column matches the commemorative column erected in the square fronting the house where the Pope was born in Marktl am Inn, and inaugurated by him during his visit to Bavaria last year.
Present for the ceremony were a delegation of mayors from Bavaria and the sculptor of the commemorative columns, Joseph Michael Neustifter.
The Pope also blessed a statue of John Paul II which will be eretced in front of the railway station named in his honor.
For the past few Sundays, St. Luke, the Gospel writer who more than the others is concerned to show the love Jesus has for the poor, he offered different ideas for reflection on the dangers of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that impedes us from loving the fullness of our vocation to love God and our brethren. Also today, through the parable that provokes a certain wonder in us because it speaks of a dishonest manager who ends up being praised (cf. Luke 16:1-13), and the Lord is offering is a salutary teaching. As he often does, he draws from current events: He speaks about a manager on the verge of being fired for his dishonest management of the affairs of his master and, to guarantee his own future, he tries to slyly come to agreements with his debtors. He is dishonest, but astute: The Gospel does not present him as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but as an example to imitate for his cautious craftiness. In fact, the brief parable ends with these words: “The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly.”
What does Jesus want to say to us? The Evangelist follows the parable of the unfaithful steward with a brief series of sayings and admonitions about the relationship we should have with money and the goods of this earth. Brief phrases that invite us to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant interior tension. Life is in truth always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, between egoism and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of the Gospel selection is incisive and authoritative: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).
Mammon is the original Phoenician term that evokes economic security and success in business; we could say that in wealth is found the idol in which one sacrifices everything to reach personal success. Therefore a fundamental decision is necessary — the choice between the logic of profit as the ultimate criteria of our action and the logic of sharing and solidarity. The logic of profit, if it prevails, increases not only the disproportion between poor and rich, but also the devastating exploitation of the planet.
When, on the other hand, the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional development, for the common good of all. In the end it is a decision between egoism and love, between justice and dishonesty, and a final choice between God and Satan. If loving Christ and our brethren is not considered as something accessorial and superficial, but moreover the true and final scope of our existence, we must know how to make fundamental choices, to be open to radical renunciations, even martyrdom if necessary. Today, like yesterday, the Christian life demands courage to go against the tide, to love as Jesus did, who ended up sacrificing himself on the cross.
We can say therefore, paraphrasing St. Augustine, that through earthly riches we should obtain those that are true and eternal: If in fact there are people who are ready for any kind of dishonest action to ensure material well-being, which isn’t sure, how much more we Christians must try to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. “Discourses” 359:10). Now, the only way our personal gifts and abilities will be fruitful along with the wealth we possess is to share them with our brethren, showing ourselves to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Jesus says: “Whoever is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in little will be dishonest also in much” (Luke 16:10-11).
The prophet Amos speaks about this fundamental choice to be performed day after day in today’s first reading. With strong words, he stigmatizes a typical style of life of someone who lets themselves be drawn in by a selfish search for profit in every possible way and is transformed into a thirst for gain, a contempt for the poor and in exploitation of the poor for their own advantage (cf. Amos 4:5). The Christian must energetically reject all of this, opening his heart, on the contrary, to feelings of authentic generosity. A generosity that, as St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading, is expressed in a sincere love for all and is manifested in the first place in prayer. A grand gesture of charity is to pray for others.
The Apostle invites us first of all to pray for those who carry out tasks of responsibility in the civil community, because — he explains — from their decisions, if they tend toward the common good, result in positive consequences, ensuring peace and “a calm and tranquil life with piety and dignity” for all (1 Timothy 2:2). Our prayer is just as valuable, a spiritual support for the edification of an ecclesial community faithful to Christ and to the construction of a more just and supportive society.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray, in a special way so that your diocesan community, that is undergoing a series of transformations, because of the transfer of many young families out of Rome, the development of the service industry and the arrival of many immigrants in town centers, may lead to an ever increasingly organic and shared pastoral action, following the indications that your bishop is offering with outstanding pastoral sensitivity.
And then back to Castel Gandalfo for the Angelus:
Money is not ‘dishonest’ in itself, but more than anything else, it can enclose man in blind selfishness. Therefore, what is indicated is a sort of ‘conversion’ of economic goods: instead of using them only for one’s own interests, one must also think of the needs of the poor, imitating Christ himself, who, as St. Paul writes, “being rich he became poor that through his poverty we might be rich” (2 Cor 8,9).
It seems like a paradox. Christ did not enrich us through his wealth but through his poverty, that is, with his love which drove him to give us himself.
We could open a vast and complex field of reflection on the themes of wealth and poverty, even on a global scale, where two types of economic logic confront each other: the logic of profit and that of the equitable distribution of wealth. They are not contradictory if their relationship is properly ordered.
Catholic social doctrine has always maintained that equitable distribution of wealth should take priority. Of course, profit is legitimate and, in the right measure, is necessary for economic development. John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Centesimus Annus: “Modern entrepreneurial economy has positive aspects, rooted in the freedom of the individual, which is expressed in the economic sphere as in other fields” (n. 32).
However, he adds, capitalism should not be considered as the only valid model for economic organization (cfr ivi, 35). The crises of hunger and the ecology are growing proof that the logic of profit, if it predominates, increases the disproportionate gap between rich and poor , as well as the ruinous exploitation of the planet.
If instead the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, then it will be possible to correct the course and orient it towards equitable and sustainable development.
May the most Holy Mary, who proclaims in the Magnificat that the Lord “has filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1,53), aid Christians to use the resources of the earth with evangelical wisdom – that is, with generous solidarity – and inspire those who govern and the economists to far-sighted strategies that favor authentic progress for all peoples.