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Today "Big Opening" of the XXIII World Congress of AoS

Today "Big Opening" of the XXIII World Congress of AoS

Mass of November 19, 2012

St. Peter's Basilica




(Unofficial translation)


H.E. Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò

President of the Pontifical Council

for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! Psalm 133


This Psalm speaks to us about the fraternity of the family of God and the joy of the People who meet again in Jerusalem. We, too, have come a long way, we have come from the four corners of the earth, we have crossed continents and oceans in order to meet again here in Rome around the Altar of Peter's Chair. The Eucharist this morning wants to express the joy of our encounter, our profound communion and our filial devotion to the successor of the Apostle Peter, our Holy Father Benedict XVI.

We have other reasons to rejoice for being in Rome this year. On October 11th, the Supreme Pontiff solemnly opened the Year of Faith in the presence of all the Synod Fathers, the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences of the world, and the Council Fathers who are still alive. Today it is up to us to make this pilgrimage and enter through the “Door of Faith” into the great ecclesial movement that constitutes the Year of Faith. We will pray together so that the Congress that is opening will be a great celebration of faith in the maritime world.

This morning we are responding to the Holy Father's call. In the Apostolic Letter “Porta Fidei”, he invites us “to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord” (No. 6), and to “stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith” (No. 7). Before leaving this world, the Risen Jesus entrusted us with the essential mission to make disciples of all nations and baptize them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).

The word “evangelize” can take on different meanings according to the circumstances. First and foremost, it means to bring the Word of God, the Good News of salvation to those who do not know it. Then it means to deepen, in Christians, the word already received, to nourish it and explain it through catechesis, the sacraments, education in the faith, parish life, and pastoral and liturgical action. The New Evangelization, willed by John Paul II and taken up again by Benedict XVI, is addressed to the Catholics who have let themselves be overcome by indifference and gradually drawn away from the Church. It aims at finding new pastoral methods, words that will respond to their doubts, expectations and also their need for spirituality so they will not have to look outside the Church for what they say they do not find here with us.

The New Evangelization concerns all of us because we are its subject and its object. The call to conversion concerns us personally, as illustrated perfectly by the first reading from the Book of Revelation: in Patmos, the Apostle John received a vision of Christ, which he has the duty to share with the universal Church symbolized by the seven Churches of Asia Minor. He recognizes the merits of the Christians of Ephesus, he praises their perseverance, industriousness and refusal to be associated with evil persons, their concern for justice and truth. On the contrary, however, he reprimands them frankly for their refusal to put themselves up for question and for losing the love that dwelt in them in the early times of their baptism. They have become tepid and fallen into a routine. So in the name of Jesus, John beseeches them: Repent, and do the works you did at first (Rev 2:5).

To embark on this “New Evangelization”, first of all we have to convert ourselves and see the world that surrounds with Jesus' eyes. We who are particularly interested in the maritime world have to know how to listen to the crises of the men and women who pass beside us. For more than 90 years of the AOS' existence, every day you have been in the ports and on board ships or in the fishers' communities, you are its privileged witnesses. And these people of the sea who are marginalized and abandoned in foreign ports confide in us because they see in us representatives of the Church and guides in whom they can place their trust. So it is up to us to not disappoint them and to draw up proposals together that will respond to their needs and expectations and constitute a new Evangelization of the maritime sector.

Unfortunately, we are often blind and we deserve the reproach that Jesus made to his disciples and the Jews: “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56).

For this, we make our own the cry of Bartimaeus, the blind man of Jericho, which today's Gospel talks about: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me” (Lk 18:38). We too are like blind men along the road. We are blinded by pride, prejudices and the obstinacy to follow our ideas and seek our personal interest. It is necessary for the Lord to give us new eyes so that we can understand His message of salvation for us and for all humanity. But in Bartimaeus' example, we cannot be satisfied with remaining seated along the road to listen to the crowd that passes, marginalized by our blindness and withdrawn into ourselves.




What must we and can we do?

First of all, we have to want healing and, above all, not be like those who prefer the darkness to the light. At the beginning of this Congress, let us ask God to free us from all blindness. Let us turn to Christ. He is the light that can give us a clear and new outlook. He was sent by the Father to dissipate our darkness and illuminate the road. Let us open up to this light so that we in turn can bring clear answers and our active solidarity to all those who count on us and have placed their trust in us.

Above all, however, let us not allow ourselves to be discouraged by difficulties, misunderstandings, the lack of support, unfortunate experiences or a lack of means compared to the immensity of our mission. Bartimaeus undoubted had many difficulties, but at the Lord's call, he threw away the mantle and drew far away without hesitation. Let us throw away the mantle also, which symbolizes everything that impedes us from going towards others to respond generously to the Lord who bends overs us and also asks us: “What do you want me to do for you?" (Lk 18:41). We all know what positive and unexpected consequences a fraternal gesture and a friendly or encouraging word can have.

In beginning this Congress, let us implore the Holy Spirit over all the participants. The Spirit who descended over the apostles in the Upper Room and from that day on never ceased to breathe over the Church and inspired the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, which took place right here in this Basilica. To him is due the progress of the Church, thanks to him Evangelization has extended to the ends of the earth.

During the course of our work, we ask the Spirit to enlighten, sanctify and inspire us so that we will be always and in everything witnesses and faithful disciples of the Lord. Mary, Stella Maris, intercede for us. Amen.

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