The love of
Christ is our strength
At the General Audience
on Wednesday, 30 September , in St Peter's Square, the Holy Father
commented on his recent Apostolic Visit to the Czech Republic. The
following is a translation of the Pope's Catechesis, which was given in
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In accordance with the custom after international
Apostolic Journeys, I take the opportunity of today's General Audience
to speak of the pilgrimage I made a few days ago to the Czech Republic.
I do so first of all as an act of thanksgiving to God who granted me to
make this Visit and abundantly blessed it.
It was a real pilgrimage and, at the same time, a
mission to the heart of Europe: a pilgrimage, because for more than a
millennium Bohemia and Moravia have been lands of faith and holiness;
and a mission, because Europe needs to rediscover in God and in his love
its firm foundation of hope.
It is not by chance that the holy evangelizers of those
peoples, Cyril and Methodius, are Patrons of Europe together with St
"The love of Christ is our strength": this was the motto
of the Journey, an affirmation which re-echoes the faith of so many
heroic witnesses of the remote and recent past
am thinking in particular of the last century
but which, above all, aims to interpret the certainty of Christians
today. Yes, our strength is the love of Christ! It is a strength that
inspires and gives life to true revolutions, peaceful and liberating,
and that sustains us in moments of crisis, permitting us to straighten
up when freedom, recovered with great effort, risks losing itself, its
I met with a warm welcome. The President of the
Republic, to whom I renew the expression of my gratitude, wanted to be
present at various events and received me, together with my
collaborators, with great cordiality at his residence, the capital's
The entire Bishops' Conference, and in particular the
Cardinal Archbishop of Prague and the Bishop of Brno, made me feel with
great warmth the deep bond that binds the Czech Catholic community to
the Successor of St Peter.
I thank them too for having carefully prepared the
liturgical celebrations. I am also grateful to all the civil and
military Authorities and to all those who in various ways contributed to
the success of my Visit.
The love of Christ first revealed itself in the face of
a Child. In fact, on my arrival in Prague I made my first stop at the
Church of Our Lady of Victory where the Infant Jesus, known precisely as
the "Infant of Prague", is venerated. This image refers to the mystery
of God made man, to the "close God", the foundation of our hope.
Before the "Infant of Prague", I prayed for all
children, for parents and for the future of the family. The true
— for which we ask Mary today
is the victory of love and life in the family and in society!
Prague Castle, extraordinary from the historical and
architectural viewpoints, suggests a further, more general reflection:
its vast layout includes many monuments, scenes and institutions, almost
as if it represented a polis in
which the Cathedral and Palace, square and
park, harmoniously coexist. Thus, in this same context, my Visit touched
on the civil and the religious environments that are not in opposition
but in harmony, while retaining their distinctiveness.
Thus, addressing the Political and Civil Authorities and
the Diplomatic Corps I chose to recall the indissoluble bond that must
always exist between freedom and truth. One must not fear truth, because
it is a friend of man and of his freedom; indeed, only in the sincere
search for the true, the good and the beautiful is it really possible to
offer a future to today's youth and to the generations to come.
Moreover, what is it that attracts so many people to
Prague if not its beauty, a beauty that is not only aesthetic but also
historical and religious in the broadest human sense?
Those who exercise responsibility in the political and
educational fields must be able to find light in that truth which is a
reflection of the Creator's eternal Wisdom; and they are personally
called to bear witness to it with their lives. Only a serious commitment
of intellectual and moral rectitude is worthy of the sacrifice of all
those who paid the price of freedom so dearly!
A symbol of this synthesis between truth and beauty is
Prague's splendid Cathedral, called after Sts Vitus, Wenceslaus and
Adalbert, where the celebration of Vespers was held with the priests,
religious, seminarians and lay representatives of the associations and
For the Central and Eastern European communities it is a
difficult period: in addition to the consequences of the long winter of
atheistic totalitarianism are the harmful effects of a certain Western
secularism and consumerism. I therefore encouraged all to draw ever new
energy from the Risen Lord, to be able to be a Gospel leaven in society
and to involve themselves, as is already happening, in charitable
activities and, especially, in the educational and scholastic fields.
I extended this message of hope founded on faith in
Christ to the entire People of God during two great Eucharistic
Celebrations that took place respectively in Brno, the capital of
Moravia, and in Stará
Boleslav, the place where St Wenceslaus, the nation's principal Patron,
Moravia immediately calls
to mind Sts Cyril and Methodius, the evangelizers of the Slav peoples,
and hence the inexorable power of the Gospel, flowing through history
and the continents, carrying life everywhere, like a river of healing
waters. Christ's words: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28) are engraved above the portal of
the Cathedral of Brno.
These very words rang out
last Sunday in the liturgy, re-echoing the perennial voice of the
Saviour, hope of the peoples, yesterday, today and forever.
An eloquent sign of
Christ's lordship and of his mercy is the existence of the holy Patrons
of the different Christian nations, such as, precisely, Wenceslaus, a
young king of Bohemia in the 10th century who was distinguished for his
exemplary Christian witness and was assassinated by his brother.
Wenceslaus put the Kingdom
of Heaven before the fascination of earthly power and has lived on for
ever in the heart of the Czech people as an example and protector in the
alternating vicissitudes of history.
To the numerous young
people present at the Mass for St Wenceslaus, who also came from
neighbouring countries, I extended the invitation to recognize Christ as
the truest friend who satisfies the deepest aspirations of the human
Lastly, among others, I
must mention two meetings: the ecumenical gathering and the encounter
with the academic community.
The former, held in the
Archbishop's Residence in Prague, gathered the representatives of the
various Christian communities in the Czech Republic and the leader of
the Jewish Community.
In thinking of the history
of this country, which unfortunately experienced harsh conflicts among
Christians, it was a cause of deep gratitude to God to be meeting
together as disciples of the one Lord to share the joy of faith and
historical responsibility in the face of today's challenges.
The effort to progress
towards an ever fuller and more visible unity amongst us, believers in
Christ, makes our common commitment to rediscovering the Christian roots
of Europe stronger and more effective. The latter aspect, which my
beloved Predecessor John Paul II had very much at heart, also emerged at
the Meeting with university rectors and representatives of the teaching
body and of the students, as well as with other important figures of the
In this context I wanted to
insist upon the role of the university institution, one of the
fundamental structures of Europe, of which Prague Athenaeum is one of
the oldest and most prestigious on the continent: Charles University,
called after the Emperor Charles IV who founded it, together with Pope
Clement VI. The university is a vital environment for society, a
guarantee of freedom and development, as is shown by the fact that the
so-called "Velvet Revolution" came into being precisely in university
Twenty years after that
historic event, I proposed the idea anew of an integral human formation
rooted in truth, to oppose a new dictatorship, that of relativism
combined with the domination of technology. The humanistic and
scientific cultures cannot be separated; on the contrary, they are the
two sides of the same coin: we are once again reminded of this by the
Czech Republic, the homeland of great writers such as Kafka and of the
Abbot Mendel, a pioneer of modern genetics.
Dear friends, I thank the
Lord because with this Visit he has granted me to meet a people and a
Church with profoundly historical and religious roots and which this
year is commemorating various events of lofty spiritual and social
I renew a message of hope
to my brothers and sisters in the Czech Republic and an invitation to
have the courage of goodness in order to build the present and future of
Europe. I entrust the fruits of my Pastoral Visit to the intercession of
Mary Most Holy and of all the Saints of Bohemia and Moravia. Thank you.