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Pope's Address to Diocesan Clergy of Aosta

On Critical Issues in the Life of the Church

VATICAN CITY. AUG. 17, 2005 (Zenit) - Here is the transcript of Benedict XVI's impromptu address to the clergy of the Aosta Diocese on July 25. The Pope addressed some of the issues mentioned by the diocesan prelate, Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi, as well as by some of the priests attending the meeting.

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Meeting With Diocesan Clergy of Aosta
Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI

Parish Church at Introd (Aosta Valley)

Your Excellency,
Dear Brothers,

I would first like to express my joy and gratitude for this opportunity to meet you. As Pope, one risks being somewhat distant from real, everyday life and especially from the priests who work on the front line in so many parishes in this very Valley, and now, as His Excellency said, with the lack of vocations, also in particularly demanding conditions of physical commitment.

It is therefore a grace for me to be able to meet the priests and presbyterate of this Valley in this beautiful church. And I would like to say "thank you" for coming; for you too, it is the vacation period.

To see you gathered together and thus to see myself united with you, being close to the priests who work day after day for the Lord as sowers of the Word, is a comfort and joy to me.

Last week, two or three times, it seems to me, we heard this Parable of the Sower, which was formerly a parable of consolation in a situation different from ours but in a certain sense also similar.

The Lord's work had begun with great enthusiasm. The sick were visibly cured, everyone listened joyfully to the statement: "The Kingdom of God is at hand." It really seemed that the changing of the world and the coming of the Kingdom of God would be approaching; that at last, the sorrow of the People of God would be changed into joy. People were expecting a messenger of God whom they supposed would take the helm of history in his hand. But they then saw that the sick were indeed cured, devils were expelled, the Gospel was proclaimed, but the world stayed as it was. Nothing changed. The Romans still dominated it. Life was difficult every day, despite these signs, these beautiful words. Thus, their enthusiasm was extinguished, and in the end, as we know from the sixth chapter of John, disciples also abandoned this Preacher who was preaching but did not change the world.

"What is this message? What does this Prophet of God bring?", everyone finally wondered. The Lord talks of the sower who sowed in the field of the world and the seed seemed like his Word, like those healings, a really tiny thing in comparison with historical and political reality. Just as the seed is tiny and can be ignored, so can the Word.

Yet, he says, the future is present in the seed because the seed carries within it the bread of the future, the life of the future. The seed appears to be almost nothing, yet the seed is the presence of the future, it is a promise already present today. And so, with this parable, he is saying: "We are living in the period of the sowing, the Word of God seems but a word, almost nothing. But take heart, this Word carries life within it! And it bears fruit!". The Parable also says that much of the seed did not bear fruit because it fell on the path, on patches of rock and so forth. But the part that fell on the rich soil bore a yield of thirty- or sixty- or a hundredfold.

This enables us to understand that we too must be courageous, even if the Word of God, the Kingdom of God, seems to have no historical or political importance. In the end, on Palm Sunday Jesus summed up, as it were, all of these teachings on the seed of the word: If the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die it remains single, if it falls into the earth and dies it produces an abundance of fruit. In this way he made people realize that he himself was the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died. In the Crucifixion, everything seems to have failed, but precisely in this way, falling into the earth and dying, on the Way of the Cross, it bore fruit for each epoch, for every epoch. Here we have both the Christological interpretation, according to which Christ himself is the seed, he is the Kingdom present, and the Eucharistic dimension: this grain of wheat falls into the earth and thus the new Bread grows, the Bread of future life, the Blessed Eucharist that nourishes us and is open to the divine mysteries for new life.

It seems to me that in the Church's history, these questions that truly torment us are constantly cropping up in various forms: what should we do? People seem to have no need of us, everything we do seems pointless. Yet we learn from the Word of the Lord that this seed alone transforms the earth ever anew and opens it to true life.

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