Vatican City, 10 July 2012 (VIS) - "A wonderful memory, perhaps my fondest memory of the entire council." With these words yesterday, the Holy Father recalled his time at the center of the Divine Word Missionaries in Nemi 47 years ago when he was one of the young expert theologians charged with preparing the decree on the Church's missionary activity for Vatican Council II.
Benedict XVI thanked the Society of the Divine Word for having given him the possibility to return to the "Ad Gentes" Center after more than four decades and to recall that, at the time of the Council, he was living "in the center of Rome, at the Santa Maria del Anima seminary, with all the noise [of the city], which is also nice. But being here in the green countryside, having this glimpse of nature and also this fresh air, was beautiful in itself. Then there was the companionship of so many great theologians, with the important and wonderful task of preparing the decree on missions".
Benedict XVI's meeting with the 150 participants of the Society of the Divine Word's general chapter as well as members of the community's mother house in Rome was very warm. The Holy Father recalled that the order's superior general at the time was Fr. Johannes Schutte. "He had suffered greatly in China where he was convicted and expelled from the country. He was full of missionary zeal, of the need to bring a new impetus to the missionary spirit and I was alongside him. I was a very young and not very important theologian;I didn't know why they had invited me but, for me, it was a great gift".
"Fulton Sheen was also there, fascinating us with his afternoon speeches, and Father Congar, and the great missionaries of Leuven. It was a spiritual enrichment for me, a great gift. The decree was not very controversial. There was this controversy, which I have never really understood, between the schools of Leuven and Munster: was the main scope of the mission the 'implantatio Ecclesiae' or the 'Evangelii' announcement? But everything converged in the one spirit of the need to bring the light of the Word of God, the light of God's love, to the world and to give new joy to this proclamation".
"Thus in those days was born a good and beautiful decree that was accepted almost unanimously by all the Council Fathers. It was complemented very well for me by 'Lumen Gentium' because in it we find a Trinitarian ecclesiology that begins, above all, from the classical idea of the 'bonum diffusivum sui', the good that carries with it the need to communicate, to give itself, a good that cannot be locked within itself. The good, this same good, is essentially 'communicatio'. This is already apparent in the Trinitarian mystery, as God is in Himself, and is spread throughout salvation history and in our need to give others the good that we have received".
"Remembering all this I have often thought of those days in Nemi, which were an essential part of the experience of the Council for me. I am pleased to see your society flourishing - your father general has spoken of six thousand members in many countries and nations. Clearly, missionary zeal is still alive and it lives only if there is the Gospel's joy, if we experience the good that comes from God and that wants to and must communicate itself. Thank you for your missionary zeal".
In closing, the Holy Father wished the Verbites all the blessings of the Lord and "much inspiration" during their chapter general. "May the same inspiring power of the Holy Spirit that accompanied us almost visibly in those days be again present among you and help you to find the path for your society as well as for the Gospel mission 'ad gentes' for the following years. Thank you all and may the Lord bless you. Pray for me as I pray for you".