"Once again we find ourselves at the end of a year that has seen all kinds of difficult situations, important questions and challenges, but also signs of hope, both in the Church and in the world. I shall mention just a few key elements regarding the life of the Church and my Petrine ministry," said the Holy Father.
The Pope spoke to the Curia about the key events which took place throughout the year 2012, beginning with his Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba. "In Mexico, I recall how the great liturgy beside the statue of Christ the King made Christ's kingship present among us – His peace, His justice, His truth. All this took place against the backdrop of the country's problems, afflicted as it is by many different forms of violence and the hardships of economic dependence. While these problems cannot be solved simply by religious fervor, neither can they be solved without the inner purification of hearts that issues from the power of faith, from the encounter with Jesus Christ.
"And then there was Cuba – here too there were great liturgical celebrations, in which the singing, the praying and the silence made tangibly present the One that the country's authorities had tried for so long to exclude. That country's search for a proper balancing of the relationship between obligations and freedom cannot succeed without reference to the basic criteria that mankind has discovered through encounter with the God of Jesus Christ."
Pope Benedict also highlighted his Apostolic Visit to Lebanon where he "consigned the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation that is intended to offer signposts for the life of churches and society in the Middle East along the difficult paths of unity and peace."
The Holy Father made mention of the Meeting of Families which took place earlier this year in Milan. "The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world."
The inability to make any commitment, he said, stems from a "false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering... When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost."
"When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker Himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being."
The Holy Father also addressed the importance of dialogue in today's world. "For the Church in our day I see three principal areas of dialogue, in which she must be present in the struggle for man and his humanity: dialogue with states, dialogue with society – which includes dialogue with cultures and with science – and finally dialogue with religions. In all these dialogues the Church speaks on the basis of the light given her by faith. But at the same time she incorporates the memory of mankind, which is a memory of man's experiences and sufferings from the beginnings and down the centuries, in which she has learned about the human condition."
The Pope explained that it is the duty for Christians and members of other religions to engage in dialogue, as dialogue between religions is necessary for bringing about peace in the world. This dialogue, he said, "is simply a dialogue of life, a dialogue of being together… It is about the concrete problems of coexistence and shared responsibility for society, for the state, for humanity."
"If both sides set out from a hermeneutic of justice and peace, the fundamental difference will not disappear, but a deeper closeness will emerge nevertheless."
The aim of interreligious dialogue is not conversion, he explained: nonetheless, "the search for knowledge and understanding always has to involve drawing closer to the truth. Both sides in this piece-by-piece approach to truth are therefore on the path that leads forward and towards greater commonality, brought about by the oneness of the truth."
"We do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, Who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that His hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge."
Drawing his discourse to a close, Pope Benedict turned his attention to the subject of evangelization. "The word of proclamation is effective in situations where man is listening in readiness for God to draw near, where man is inwardly searching and thus on the way towards the Lord… As he walks with Jesus, he is led to the place where Jesus lives, to the community of the Church, which is His body. That means entering into the journeying community of catechumens, a community of both learning and living, in which our eyes are opened as we walk."