be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).
words to the Galatians, which we have just heard, are
well suited to the human and spiritual experience of
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who has been solemnly
enrolled among the saints today. She too can repeat with
the Apostle: Far be it from me to glory except in the
Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Cross of
Christ! Ever blossoming, the tree the Cross continues to
bear new fruits of salvation. This is why believers look
with confidence to the Cross, drawing from its mystery
of love the courage and strength to walk faithfully in
the footsteps of the crucified and risen Christ. Thus
the message of the Cross has entered the hearts of so
many men and women and changed their lives.
spiritual experience of Edith Stein is an eloquent
example of this extraordinary interior renewal. A
young woman in search of the truth has become a
saint and martyr through the silent workings of divine
grace: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who from heaven
repeats to us today all the words that marked her life:
“Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ”.
2. On 1 May
1987, during my Pastoral Visit to Germany, I had the joy
of beatifying this generous witness to the faith in the
city of Cologne. Today, 11 years later, here in Rome, in
St Peter's Square, I am able solemnly to present this
eminent daughter of Israel and faithful daughter of the
Church as a saint to the whole world.
then, we bow to the memory of Edith Stein, proclaiming
the indomitable witness she bore during her life and
especially by her death. Now alongside Teresa of Avila
and Thérèse of Lisieux, another Teresa takes her place
among the host of saints who do honour to the Carmelite
brothers and sisters who have gathered for this solemn
celebration, let us give glory to God for what he has
accomplished in Edith Stein.
3. I greet
the many pilgrims who have come to Rome, particularly
the members of the Stein family who have wanted
to be with us on this joyful occasion. I also extend a
cordial greeting to the representatives of the
Carmelite community, which became a “second family”
for Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
welcome the official delegation from the Federal
Republic of Germany, led by Helmut Kohl, the
outgoing Federal Chancellor, whom I greet with heartfelt
respect. Moreover, I greet the representatives of the
states of North Rhine-Westphalia and
Rhineland-Palatinate and the Mayor of Cologne.
official delegation has also come from my country,
led by Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. I extend a cordial
greeting to them.
particularly like to mention the pilgrims from the
Dioceses of Wroclaw (Breslau), Cologne, Münster, Speyer,
Kraków and Bielsko-Zywiec who have come with their
Cardinals, Bishops and pastors. They join the numerous
groups of the faithful from Germany, the United States
of America and my homeland, Poland.
brothers and sisters! Because she was Jewish, Edith
Stein was taken with her sister Rosa and many other
Catholic Jews from the Netherlands to the concentration
camp in Auschwitz, where she died with them in the gas
chambers. Today we remember them all with deep
respect. A few days before her deportation, the
woman religious had dismissed the question about a
possible rescue: “Do not do it! Why should I be spared?
Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my
Baptism? If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and
sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed”.
From now on,
as we celebrate the memory of this new saint from year
to year, we must also remember the Shoah, that cruel
plan to exterminate a people — a plan to which millions
of our Jewish brothers and sisters fell victim. May
the Lord let his face shine upon them and grant them
peace (cf. Nm 6:25f.).
For the love
of God and man, once again I raise an anguished cry:
May such criminal deeds never be repeated against
any ethnic group, against any race, in any corner of
this world! It is a cry to everyone: to all people of
goodwill; to all who believe in the Just and Eternal
God; to all who know they are joined to Christ, the Word
of God made man. We must all stand together: human
dignity is at stake. There is only one human family.
The new saint also insisted on this: “Our love of
neighbour is the measure of our love of God. For
Christians — and not only for them — no one is a
‘stranger’. The love of Christ knows no borders”.
brothers and sisters! The love of Christ was the fire
that inflamed the life of St Teresa Benedicta of the
Cross. Long before she realized it, she was caught
by this fire. At the beginning she devoted herself to
freedom. For a long time Edith Stein was a seeker.
Her mind never tired of searching and her heart always
yearned for hope. She traveled the arduous path of
philosophy with passionate enthusiasm. Eventually she
was rewarded: she seized the truth. Or better: she was
seized by it. Then she discovered that truth had a name:
Jesus Christ. From that moment on, the incarnate Word
was her One and All. Looking back as a Carmelite on this
period of her life, she wrote to a Benedictine nun:
“Whoever seeks the truth is seeking God, whether
consciously or unconsciously”.
Edith Stein had been brought up religiously by her
Jewish mother, at the age of 14 she “had consciously and
deliberately stopped praying”. She wanted to rely
exclusively on herself and was concerned to assert her
freedom in making decisions about her life. At the end
of a long journey, she came to the surprising
realization: only those who commit themselves to the
love of Christ become truly free.
had to face the challenges of such a radically changing
century as our own. Her experience is an example to us.
The modern world boasts of the enticing door which says:
everything is permitted. It ignores the narrow gate of
discernment and renunciation. I am speaking especially
to you, young Christians, particularly to the many altar
servers who have come to Rome these days on pilgrimage:
Pay attention! Your life is not an endless series of
open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the
surface, but go to the heart of things! And when
the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord
is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good
6. St Teresa
Benedicta of the Cross was able to understand that the
love of Christ and human freedom are intertwined,
because love and truth have an intrinsic
relationship. The quest for truth and its expression
in love did not seem at odds to her; on the contrary she
realized that they call for one another.
In our time,
truth is often mistaken for the opinion of the majority.
In addition, there is a widespread belief that one
should use the truth even against love or vice versa.
But truth and love need each other. St Teresa
Benedicta is a witness to this. The “martyr for love”,
who gave her life for her friends, let no one surpass
her in love. At the same time, with her whole being she
sought the truth, of which she wrote: “No spiritual work
comes into the world without great suffering. It always
challenges the whole person”.
Benedicta of the Cross says to us all: Do not accept
anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not
accept anything as love which lacks truth! One
without the other becomes a destructive lie.
the new saint teaches us that love for Christ
undergoes suffering. Whoever truly loves does not
stop at the prospect of suffering: he accepts communion
in suffering with the one he loves.
what her Jewish origins implied, Edith Stein spoke
eloquently about them: “Beneath the Cross I understood
the destiny of God’s People.... Indeed, today I know far
better what it means to be the Lord’s bride under the
sign of the Cross. But since it is a mystery, it can
never be understood by reason alone”.
of the Cross gradually enveloped her whole life,
spurring her to the point of making the supreme
sacrifice. As a bride on the Cross, Sr Teresa
Benedicta did not only write profound pages about the
“science of the Cross”, but was thoroughly trained in
the school of the Cross. Many of our
contemporaries would like to silence the Cross. But
nothing is more eloquent than the Cross when silenced!
The true message of suffering is a lesson of love. Love
makes suffering fruitful and suffering deepens love.
experience of the Cross, Edith Stein was able to open
the way to a new encounter with the God of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Faith and the Cross proved inseparable to her.
Having matured in the school of the Cross, she found the
roots to which the tree of her own life was attached.
She understood that it was very important for her “to be
a daughter of the chosen people and to belong to Christ
not only spiritually, but also through blood”.
8. “God is
spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit
and truth” (Jn 4:24).
brothers and sisters, the divine Teacher spoke these
words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. What he
gave his chance but attentive listener we also find in
the life of Edith Stein, in her “ascent of Mount
Carmel”. The depth of the divine mystery became
perceptible to her in the silence of contemplation.
Gradually, throughout her life, as she grew in the
knowledge of God, worshiping him in spirit and truth,
she experienced ever more clearly her specific vocation
to ascend the Cross with Christ, to embrace it with
serenity and trust, to love it by following in the
footsteps of her beloved Spouse: St Teresa Benedicta of
the Cross is offered to us today as a model to inspire
us and a protectress to call upon.
thanks to God for this gift. May the new saint be an
example to us in our commitment to serve freedom,
in our search for the truth. May her witness
constantly strengthen the bridge of mutual
understanding between Jews and Christians.
Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us! Amen.
1998 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana