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Pope's Address to Doctrinal Congregation

3/1/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Service to the Faith Is Also a Service to Joy"

VATICAN CITY, MAR. 1, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 10 to participants in the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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Clementine Hall

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to meet the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the end of its plenary meeting, a congregation over which I had the joy to preside for more than 20 years through the mandate of my Predecessor, the venerable Pope John Paul II.

Your faces also make me think of all those who collaborated with the dicastery in those years: I remember them all with gratitude and affection. Indeed, I cannot but recall with a certain emotion the very intense and fruitful period which I spent with the congregation, whose task is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on faith and morals in the entire Catholic Church (cf. "Pastor Bonus," No. 48).

Faith has a fundamental importance in the life of the Church, because the gift that God makes of himself in Revelation is fundamental and God's gift of himself is accepted through faith.

Here the importance of your congregation comes to the fore. Through its service to the whole Church and to the bishops in particular, as teachers of the faith and pastors, it is precisely called in a spirit of collegiality to encourage and to recall the centrality of the Catholic faith in its authentic expression.

Whenever, moreover, the perception of this centrality weakens, the fabric of ecclesial life loses its original brightness and wears thin: It degenerates into sterile activism or is reduced to political expediency with a worldly flavor.

If, instead, the truth of the faith is placed simply and decisively at the heart of Christian existence, human life is innovated and revived by a love that knows no rest or bounds, as I also had the opportunity to recall in my recent encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est."

Charity, like love that renews all things, moves from God's Heart to the Heart of Jesus Christ, and through his Spirit across the world. This love is born from the encounter with Christ in faith: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 1).

Jesus Christ is the Personified Truth who attracts the world to himself. The light that shines out from Jesus is the splendor of the truth. Every other truth is a fragment of the Truth that he is, and refers to him.

Jesus is the Pole Star of human freedom: Without him it loses its sense of direction, for without the knowledge of the truth, freedom degenerates, becomes isolated and is reduced to sterile arbitration.

With him, freedom is rediscovered; it is recognized to have been created for our good and is expressed in charitable actions and behavior.

Therefore, Jesus gives men and women total familiarity with the truth and continuously invites them to live in it. It is truth offered as a reality that restores the human being and at the same time surpasses him and towers above him, as a Mystery that embraces and at the same time exceeds the impulse of his intelligence.

And nothing succeeds as well as love for the truth in impelling the human mind toward unexplored horizons. Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of the truth, draws to himself the heart of each person, enlarges it and fills it with joy. Indeed, truth alone can take possession of the mind and make it rejoice to the full.

It is this joy that increases the dimensions of the human heart, lifting it anew from the narrowness of selfishness and rendering it capable of authentic love. It is the experience of this joy that moves and attracts the human person to free adoration, not to servile prostration but to bow with heartfelt respect before the Truth he has encountered.

Thus, service to the faith, which is a witness to the One who is the entire Truth, is also a service to joy, and this is the joy that Christ desires to spread in the world: It is the joy of faith in him, of truth that is communicated through him, of salvation that comes from him! It is this joy we feel in our hearts when we kneel with faith to worship Jesus!

This love for truth also inspires and directs the Christian approach to the contemporary world and the evangelizing commitment of the Church, topics which you have taken time to discuss at your plenary assembly.

The Church welcomes with joy the authentic breakthroughs of human knowledge and recognizes that evangelization also demands a proper grasp of the horizons and the challenges that modern knowledge is ...

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