Pope reaffirms joy of missionary work as he visits SVD House in Nemi, Rome
In a short unscripted speech to the 140 capitulars gathered at the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD) Ad gentes centre in Nemi, Rome on Monday 9 July, Pope Benedict XVI revealed how in 1965 as a “a very young theologian of no great importance”, to his eternal wonder he was invited by the then Superior General of the world-wide order and Council Father, Johannes Schütte, to take part in an “important and beautiful task, to prepare a decree on mission”.
Pope Benedict arrived at the retreat house shortly before midday. The men representing over 70 countries worldwide had gathered in the Chapel, where strong sunlight illuminated stained glass windows depicting Gospel scenes. “His arrival was electric”, reveals Fr. Pat Byrne SVD, provincial superior for Great Britain and Ireland. “The very first thing he did was kneel before the altar and the Blessed Sacrament and we joined him in silent prayer. Then he spoke from the heart, in Italian, taking a trip down memory lane to bring us a message of hope”.
Pope Benedict said : “I am truly grateful for this opportunity to see this house in Nemi once again, after 47 years. I have fond memories of it, perhaps the most memorable of the whole Council. I lived in the center of Rome, in the Collegio dell’Anima with all the noise. This too was nice, but staying here, surrounded by this greenery, having this breath of nature, this fresh air, was in itself a beautiful thing. And then, in the company of many great theologians and a such an important and beautiful task, to prepare a decree on mission.
First of all, I remember, the General of that time, Father Schütte, who had suffered in China, had been convicted, then expelled: he was full of missionary zeal, the need to give new impetus to the missionary spirit and had invited me - a very young theologian of no great importance – I do not know why, but it was a great gift for me. Then there was Fulton Sheen who would fascinate us in the evenings with his talks; Father Congar [Dominican Cardinal and prominent theologian], the great Missiologists of Louvain, et cetera. For me, it was spiritual enrichment, a great gift.
It was a decree without great controversy. There was this controversy that I never really understood between the schools of Louvain and Münster: is the main purpose of the mission implantatio Ecclesiae or annuntio Evangelii? But everything converged into the one dynamic of the need to bring the light of the Word of God, the light of God's love to the world and give a new joy to this proclamation.
Thus, these days gave birth to a good and beautiful decree, almost unanimously accepted by all the Fathers of the Council and which, for me, was also a very good complement to Lumen Gentium, from which we find a Trinitarian ecclesiology, that starts above all from the classical idea that bonum diffusivum sivi sui, good has the inherent need to communicate, to give of itself, it can not remain self contained, the good thing, goodness itself is essentially communicatio. And that already appears in the inner Trinitarian Mystery of God and in the history of salvation and our need to give others the good we have received”.
And Pope Benedict XVI concluded “So, with these memories I have often thought of those days of Nemi that, as I said, are an essential part of the Council for me. And I'm happy to see that your Society flourishes – the Father General spoke of six thousand members in many countries, from many nations. Clearly the missionary dynamic is alive, and it lives only if there is the joy of the Gospel, if we experience the good that comes from God and that must and wants to communicate itself. Thank you for this dynamism. I wish you every blessing of the Lord for this Chapter, and a lot of inspiration: that the same forces inspiring power of the Holy Spirit that almost visibly accompanied us during those days may once again be present among you and help you find your path both for your Society and for the mission Ad gentes of the Gospel for the coming years. Thanks to you all, God bless you. Pray for me, as I pray for you. Thank you”! (Vatican Radio, 10 07 12)