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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Milan.
I cordially greet all of you gathered here in such numbers, as well as those following this event on radio or television. Thank you for your warm welcome! I thank the mayor for his kind words of welcome to me on behalf of the local community. I respectfully greet the representative of the government, the president of the region, the president of the province, as well as other representatives of civil and military institutions, and I express my gratitude for the help they have offered for the different moments of this visit.
I am very pleased to be here with you today and thank God for this occasion to visit your renowned city. My first meeting with the Milanese takes place in this ‘Piazza del Duomo,’ the heart of Milan, where the magnificent monument that is the symbol of this city rises. With its forest of spires, it invites us to look upwards, to God. This very impetus towards the heavens has always characterized Milan and allowed the city, over the years, to successfully respond to its mission: to be a crossroads -- Mediolanum -- of peoples and cultures. The city has wisely managed to balance local pride with an ability to accept every positive influence it has received throughout its history. Even today, Milan is called to rediscover its positive role as a herald of development and peace for all of Italy.
My cordial "thank you" goes to the pastor of this archdiocese, Cardinal Angelo Scola, for the welcome and words he addressed to me on behalf of the entire diocesan community; I also greet the auxiliary bishops and those who preceded him on this glorious and ancient cathedra, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.
I send a special greeting to the representatives of the families -- from all over the world -- taking part in the VII World Meeting. A loving thought then goes to those in need of aid and comfort, and who are troubled by various concerns: to the lonely or needy, the unemployed, the sick, prisoners, the homeless, or those without even the most indispensable to live a worthy life. May none of these, our brothers and sisters, ever lack the united and ongoing attention of the community. In this regard, I welcome what the diocese of Milan has done and continues to do to effectively respond to the needs of families affected by the economic-financial crisis, and for having immediately organized, together with the whole Church and the rest of Italy, to send help to the earthquake victims in Emilia Romagna, who are in our hearts and prayers and for whom, once again, I encourage a generous solidarity.
The VII World Meeting of Families provides me the welcome occasion to visit your city and to renew the close and constant bonds that unite the Ambrosian community to the Church of Rome and Successor of Peter. As is known, Ambrose came from a roman family and always kept alive his ties with the Eternal City and the Church of Rome, indicating and praising the primacy of the bishop who presides over it. In Peter -- he affirms – “there is the foundation of the Church and the Magisterium of discipline" (De Virginitate, 16, 105); and again, the famous saying: "Where Peter is, there is the Church" (Explanatio Psalmi 40, 30, 5). The pastoral wisdom and teachings of Ambrose on the orthodoxy of faith and Christian life will leave an indelible mark on the universal Church and, in particular, will mark the Church of Milan, which has never ceased to sustain his memory and preserve his spirit. The Ambrosian Church, safeguarding the prerogatives of its rite and its own expressions of the one faith, is called to fully live the catholicity of the one Church, to witness to it and contribute to enriching it.
The profound ecclesial sense and sincere regard for communion with the Successor of Peter, have been part of the richness and identity of your Church throughout its history, and is brilliantly expressed in the figures of the great pastors who have led it.
Above all, St. Charles Borromeo: a native son. He was, as the Servant of God, Paul VI, said, "a shaper of the conscience and lifestyle of the people" (Address to Milanesi, March 18, 1968); especially by his extensive, tenacious and demanding application of the Tridentine reforms; the creation of institutions of renewal, beginning with seminaries, and his limitless charity rooted in a profound union with God, accompanied by an exemplary life of austerity.
But, along with Saints Ambrose and Charles, I would also like to call to mind other excellent, more recent, pastors, who have embellished the Church of Milan with holiness and doctrine: Blessed Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari, apostle of catechesis and oratories and promoter of social renewal in the Christian sense; Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, the “Cardinal of Prayer," untiring pastor, until the total consumption of himself for his faithful. I also want to mention two Archbishops of Milan who became popes: Achille Ratti, Pope Pius XI; he was responsible for the successful conclusion of the Roman Question and the creation of the Vatican City State; and the Servant of God, Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI, good and wise, who, with an expert hand, guided and lead the Second Vatican Council to a positive conclusion. Several spiritual fruits, which are especially noteworthy of our time, also developed in the Ambrosian Church.
Among others, precisely, thinking of families, I would like to recall today, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, wife and mother, a woman involved in the Church and her community, she irradiated the beauty and joy of faith, hope and charity.
Dear friends, your history is full of culture and faith. This wealth has imbued the art, music, literature, culture, industry, politics, sports, works of charity of Milan and the entire Archdiocese. It is up to you now, heirs of a glorious past and a spiritual heritage of inestimable value, to commit yourselves to transmitting the torch of such a brilliant tradition to future generations. You are well aware how urgent it is to imbue the current cultural context with the Gospel leaven. Faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, who is living among us, must enliven the entire fabric of life, personal and collective, private and public, so as to enable a stable and authentic "well being," beginning with the family, rediscovered as humanity’s principal asset, coefficient and sign of a true and stable culture in favor of man. The unique identity of Milan should not isolate or separate it, closing in on itself. On the contrary, preserving the sap of the roots and traits of its history, it is called to look to the future with hope, nurturing an intimate and active link with life throughout Italy and Europe. With a clear distinction of roles and purposes, the positively "secular" Milan and the Milan of faith are called to sustain the common good.
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you, again, for your welcome! I entrust you to the protection of the Virgin Mary, who from the highest spire of the cathedral maternally vigils day and night on this City. To all of you, whom I embrace as one, I impart my loving Blessing.
[Translation by ZENIT]