Pope Benedict XVI's speech to the Curia in Rome (22 Dec)


The full text of the Pope's speech is available in Italian:

There is a Vatican Information Service summary on

The Rt. Rev Michael Campbell OSA, Coadjutor Bishop of Lancaster has provided an English translation of the text:

English translation of the Holy Father's address to the Roman Curia, 22 Dec 08 by Bishop Michael Campbell (pdf) 178.39 kB


VATICAN CITY, 22 DEC 2008 (VIS) - Today in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican the Holy Father had his traditional meeting with the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and members of the Roman Curia to exchange Christmas greetings.

The Pope began his address recalling some of the anniversaries commemorated in 2008, including 50 years from the death of Pius XII and John XXIII's ascension to the papal throne, 40 years from the publication of the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae' and 30 years from the death of its author, Paul VI, as well as the inauguration, on 28 June, of the Pauline Year at the Roman basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, participated in by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

"The Pauline Year", the Holy Father affirmed, "is a year of pilgrimage not only in the sense of travelling to the Pauline places, but above all of the heart's pilgrimage, with Paul, to Jesus Christ. Paul definitively teaches us that the Church is the Body of Christ, that the Head and the Body are inseparable, and that that it is not possible to love Christ without love for His Church and its living community".

Benedict XVI then referred to three other important events of the year including the World Youth Day in Australia, "a great celebration of the faith", his two apostolic trips to the United States and to France, and the Synod of Bishops at which "pastors from all over the world gathered around the Word of God, which was lifted up among them".

During the Synod, on the one hand, the Pope explained, "we are again made aware of what God, through His Word, addresses to each of us" and "we understand that His Word is present so that we might draw near to one another". On the other hand "this Word has shaped a common history and wants to continue doing so", which is why "we can understand it properly and fully only in the 'we' of the community instituted by God: ever aware that we can never exhaust it completely because it has something new to say to each generation. ... God, in the end, always speaks in the present".

During the synodal assembly it was very important, he added, "to experience that Pentecost exists even today in the Church -- ... the various modes of the experience of God and world and the wealth of cultures are present in her and only thus is revealed the vastness of human existence and, through it, the vastness of the Word of God".

The "presence of the Word of God, God Himself at this moment in history", has been the conducting thread of this year's pastoral visits, whose "true meaning can only be of serving this presence", the Holy Father emphasized. "In those occasions the Church", he observed, "makes the faith publicly perceptible through her, and therefore also the question of God".

Focusing on World Youth Day, which "each time becomes more an object for analysis, which attempts to understand this species, so to speak, of 'youth culture'", the Pope recalled that some analysts consider it a "type of rock festival, in the ecclesial sense, with the Pope as its 'star'". Nevertheless, it has to be kept in mind that these days "do not consist solely in that week that is seen by the rest of the world" and that "beforehand there is a long exterior and interior journey leading up to them. The Cross, accompanied by the image of the Mother of the Lord, makes a pilgrimage throughout the world. ... The meeting with the Cross, which is touched and carried by the youth, becomes an interior encounter with the One who died on the Cross for us". This encounter "awakens the memory of God who desired to become human and suffer with us in the depths of the youth. And we see the woman whom He gave us as Mother. The official Youth Days are just the culmination of a long journey".

The Pope continually referred to "four dimensions of the theme 'The Holy Spirit'". First of all, "the faith in the Creator Spirit", he said, " is an essential content of the Christian Creed. ... In our faith regarding creation we encounter the ultimate foundation of our responsibility toward the earth. It is not simply our property to be exploited according to our interests and desires. Rather, it is a gift of the Creator".

While highlighting that the Church "cannot and should not limit herself to transmitting just the message of salvation to her faithful", the Holy Father said that it must also "protect the human being against self-destruction. It is necessary to have something like an ecology of the human being, understood in the proper manner. It is not a surpassed metaphysics when Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and demands that this order of creation be respected. ... That which is often expressed and understood by the term 'gender', is definitively resolved in the self-emancipation of the human being from creation and the Creator".

Secondly, he continued, the Spirit "also speaks, so to say, with human words, and has entered into history ... The Holy Spirit is the Word that we encounter in the writings of the Old and New Testaments. ... Reading Scripture together with Christ we learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in human words and we discover the unity of the Bible".

Benedict XVI commented that the third dimension of pneumatology is "the inseparability of Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is seen in possibly the most beautiful way in St. John's narration of the first apparition of the Resurrected Christ to His disciples: He breathed on them and in this way gave them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the breath of Christ".

"The fourth dimension", he said, "emerges spontaneously as the connection between the Spirit and the Church". In this context he recalled that St. Paul "presented the Church as the Body of Christ and thus as the organism of the Holy Spirit, in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit join individuals into a single living being".

The Pope stressed that "the theme of 'The Holy Spirit' ... makes the entire breadth of the Christian faith visible. It is a breadth, which from the responsibility for creation and for the existence of the human being in harmony with creation, leads through the themes of Scripture and salvation history to Christ. From Christ it continues on to the living community of the Church in its orders and responsibilities as well as its immensity and freedom, which are expressed as much in the multiplicity of charisms as in the image of Pentecost with its multitude of languages and cultures".

"The Holy Spirit grants us joy. He is joy. ... This joy is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, which is only possible if one is in harmony with God and His creation".

The Pope concluded expressing his wish at the end of this year, "that happiness be always alive in us and thus shine forth to the world in its tribulations".