Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On the Trip to the UN and the US
"I Have Had the Joy of Announcing 'Christ Our Hope'"
H.H. Benedict XVI
April 30, 2008
Even if a few days have already passed since my return, I would like to
dedicate the catechesis of today, as I normally do, to the apostolic
trip that I made to the United Nations and the United States of America
this past April 15 to 21. Before all, I renew my most cordial
appreciation to the U.S. episcopal conference, as well as President
Bush, for having invited me and for the warm welcome they have given me.
And I would like to extend my thanks to all those in Washington and New
York who came to greet me and manifest their love for the Pope, or who
have accompanied and supported me with prayer and with the offering of
As we know, the occasion of my trip was the bicentennial of the
elevation of the country's first diocese, Baltimore, to a metropolitan
see, and the foundation of the sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia
and Louisville. On this characteristically ecclesial anniversary, I have
had the joy of personally visiting, for the first time as the Successor
of Peter, the dear people of the United States of America, to confirm
the Catholics in their faith, to renew and increase fraternity with all
Christians, and to announce to everyone the message of "Christ Our
Hope," as the theme of the trip said.
In the meeting with the president, in his residence, I was able to pay
homage to this great country, which from the beginning has been
constructed based on a pleasing joining together of religious, ethical
and political principles, and continues to be a valid example of healthy
secularism, where the religious dimension, in the diversity of its
expressions, is not only tolerated but valued as the "soul" of the
nation and the fundamental guarantee of the rights and duties of the
In this context, the Church can carry out its mission of evangelization
and human promotion with freedom and commitment and, at the same time,
can be a stimulus for a country such as the United States, to which
everyone looks as one of the principal agents on the international
scene, so that it is oriented toward global solidarity, ever more
necessary and urgent, and toward the patient exercise of dialogue in
Naturally, the mission and the role of the ecclesial community were at
the center of the meeting with the bishops that took place in the
National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, in Washington. In the
liturgical context of vespers, we praised the Lord for the path traveled
by the people of God in the United States, for the zeal of its pastors,
and for the fervor and the generosity of its faithful, which is
manifested with a high esteem and openness to the faith, and in
innumerable charitable and humanitarian initiatives within the country
and outside it.
At the same time, I was able to support my brothers in the episcopate in
their difficult task of sowing the Gospel in a society marked by many
contradictions, which threaten the coherence of the faithful and of the
clergy themselves. I encouraged them to raise their voices on current
moral and social questions and to form the lay faithful so that they be
good "leaven" in the civil community, starting from the fundamental cell
that is the family. In this sense, I exhorted them to re-propose the
sacrament of matrimony as a gift and indissoluble commitment between a
man and a woman, the natural environment for the welcoming and education
of children. The Church and the family, together with schools,
especially those of Christian inspiration, should cooperate to offer
youth a solid moral education, but in this task the agents of
communication and entertainment also have a great responsibility.
Thinking of the sorrowful situation of the sexual abuse of minors
committed by ordained ministers, I wanted to express to the bishops my
closeness, encouraging them in the commitment to heal the wounds and to
reinforce their relationships with their priests. Responding to some
questions asked by the bishops, I highlighted a few important aspects:
the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and "natural law"; the
healthy concept of freedom, which is understood and fulfilled in love;
the ecclesial dimension of the Christian experience; the demand to
announce in new ways, especially to youth, "salvation" as the plenitude
of life, and to educate them in prayer, from which sprouts the generous
response to the call of the Lord.
In the great and festive Eucharistic celebration in Nationals Park
stadium in Washington, we invoked the Holy Spirit upon the Church in the
United States of America, so that firmly rooted in the faith transmitted
by its fathers, profoundly united and renewed, it will face present and
future challenges with courage and hope -- that hope that "does not
disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).
One of these challenges is certainly that of education, and for this
reason, in the Catholic University of America, I met with rectors of
universities and Catholic educational centers, with the diocesan leaders
responsible for teaching, and with representatives of professors and
students. The educational task is an integral part of the mission of the
Church, and the U.S. Church community has always been very committed in
this field, offering at the same time a great social and cultural
service to the entire country. It is important that this can continue.
And it is in the same way important to take care of the quality of the
Catholic centers of education so that in them, [students] are formed
truly according to "the extent of the full stature" of Christ (cf.
Ephesians 4:13), joining together faith and reason, truth and liberty.
With joy, therefore, I have confirmed the formators in their precious
commitment to intellectual charity.
In a country like the United States of America, with a multicultural
vocation, the meetings with representatives of other religions have
taken on special importance: in Washington, in the John Paul II Cultural
Center, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jains; in New York,
the visit to the synagogue. Moments, especially this latter one, which
were very cordial, which have confirmed the common commitment to
dialogue and the promotion of peace and spiritual and moral values. In
[a country] that can consider itself the homeland of religious liberty,
I wanted to recall that this should always be defended with a joint
effort, so as to avoid any kind of discrimination or prejudice. And I
stressed the great responsibility of the religious representatives, both
in teaching respect and nonviolence, and in nourishing the deepest
questions of human consciousness. The ecumenical celebration, in the
parish church of St. Joseph, was also characterized by great cordiality.
Together, we asked the Lord that he increase in Christians the capacity
of giving reasons, also with an ever greater unity, for their unique
hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) based in a common faith in Jesus Christ.
The other principal objective of my tripe was the visit to the central
offices of the United Nations Organization: the fourth visit of a Pope,
after that of Paul VI in 1965 and the two visits of John Paul II, in
1979 and 1995. In the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Providence permitted me to
confirm, in the most great and authoritative supranational assembly, the
value of this declaration, recalling its universal basis, that is, the
dignity of the human person created by God in his image and likeness to
cooperate in the world with his great design of life and peace.
Respect for human rights is rooted, as well as in peace, in "justice,"
that is, in an ethical order valid in all times and for all peoples,
which can be summarized in the famous maxim: "Do not do unto others what
you would not have them do unto you," or, expressed positively in the
words of Jesus, "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you"
(Matthew 7:12). Upon this base, which constitutes the characteristic
contribution of the Holy See to the United Nations Organization, I
renewed and I renew again today, the commitment of the Catholic Church
in contributing to strengthen international relations, characterized by
the principles of responsibility and solidarity.
Other moments of my stay in New York have remained firmly etched in my
spirit. In St. Patrick's Cathedral, in the heart of Manhattan, truly a
"house of prayer for all peoples," I celebrated holy Mass for the
priests and consecrated persons who had come from all parts of the
country. I will never forget the warmth with which they congratulated me
for the third anniversary of my election to the See of Peter. It was a
moving moment, in which I experienced in a tangible way all of the
support of the Church for my ministry. I could say the same about my
meeting with youth and seminarians, which was held precisely in the
diocesan seminary, preceded by a very significant meeting with
handicapped boys and girls and their families.
I proposed to youth -- who by their nature are thirsting for truth and
love -- some figures of men and women who have given an exemplary
testimony of the Gospel in the lands of the United States, the Gospel of
the truth that frees in love, in service, in life given for others. In
seeing the darkness that today threatens their lives, youth can find in
the saints the light that dissipates it: the light of Christ, hope for
This hope, stronger than sin and death, motivated the emotion-swelled
moment that I spent in silence at the crater of ground zero where I lit
a candle, praying for all the victims of that terrible tragedy. Finally,
my visit culminated with the celebration of the Eucharist in Yankee
Stadium in New York: I still carry in my heart that festival of faith
and brotherhood, with which we celebrated the 200 years of the oldest
dioceses of North America. The original little flock has progressed
enormously, enriching itself with the faith and the traditions of
successive waves of immigration. To this Church, which now faces the
challenges of the present, I have had the joy of announcing anew "Christ
Our Hope" of yesterday, today and forever.
Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to unite yourselves with me in
thanksgiving for the encouraging results of this apostolic trip and in
the supplication to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary,
that it produces abundant fruits for the Church in the United States and
in all parts of the world.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted the people in several
languages. In English, he said:]
My recent Apostolic Journey to the United Nations and the United States
of America was inspired by the theme, "Christ our Hope". I am most
grateful to all who helped in any way to make the Journey a success. My
visit was meant to encourage the Catholic community in America,
especially our young people, to bear consistent witness to the faith,
and to carry on the Church's mission, especially with regard to
education and concern for the poor. American society traditionally
values religious freedom and the need for faith to play its part in
building a sound civic life. In my meetings with President Bush, and
with Christian leaders and representatives of other religions, I
reaffirmed the Church's commitment to cooperation in the service of
understanding, peace and spiritual values. My address to the United
Nations stressed the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, which grounds respect for human dignity in a universally valid
ethical order. In a particular way, my visit to Ground Zero, charged
with sober silence and prayer, was a moving testimony to the hope which
is stronger than evil and death. I ask all of you to join me in praying
that this Visit will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the growth of the
faith in America and for the unity and peace of the whole human family.
I offer a warm welcome to the participants in the third
Christian-Buddhist Symposium, meeting in Castel Gandolfo during these
days. Upon all of you and upon the English-speaking pilgrims from
England, Ireland, Scandinavia, Malta, South Africa, Korea, Thailand,
Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke the joy and peace of
the Risen Christ.
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