Homily by Monsignor Paul Russell
Charge d'Affaires a.i. of the Holy See
at the Holy Mass of Thanksgiving on the occasion of the
Seventieth Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Holy See and the Republic of China
Immaculate Conception Cathedral
Taipei, Saturday 20 October 2012
Archbishop Hung and Bishops,
Dear Fathers, Sisters, brothers and sisters in Christ,
Esteemed Government Authorities,
Dear Colleagues Members of the Diplomatic Corps
and Foreign Representatives,
Peace be with you!
We have gathered here this morning to celebrate the Eucharist. Eucharist means "thanksgiving". Today we join together in thanking God for the 70 years of diplomatic relations - or 70 years of official friendship - between the Holy See and the Republic of China, as well as the 90th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Apostolic Delegate in China, Archbishop Celso Costantini. And today's Holy Mass also gives us an opportunity to meditate on the Beatitudes. So I will say a word about the anniversary and some words about the Beatitudes. As we will see, the anniversary and what Jesus teaches us in today's gospel are not realities inherently opposed.
On 23 October 1942, the Holy See's daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published a note stating the following: "The Government of Chung King (wartime capital of the Republic of China), after having expressed several times in the past its intention to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See, has now formalized its request. The Holy See, whose Government had already declared its willingness to give favorable consideration to this intention, has accepted this request and has shown its approval to the nomination of Dr. Hsieh Shou-kang, Charge d'Affaires of China in Switzerland, as Extraordinary Envoy and Plenipotentiary Minister." For its part, the Holy See named Archbishop Antonio Riberi as Apostolic Inter-Nuncio.
Our diplomatic relations were established and have been maintained on account of the will and desire and sovereign decision of the various Presidents of the Republic of China and the various popes who have held office throughout these past 70 years. On a daily basis, they have been developed and deepened on account of the hard work and dedication of the various Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (and their coworkers in the Ministry) and their respective counterparts in the Holy See. Here I would like to recall especially the various ambassadors of the Republic of China to the Holy See and their coworkers, as well as the various Apostolic Nuncios and Charge d'Affaires of the Holy See to the Republic of China and their coworkers. I think especially of those still living: my very capable counterpart Ambassador Wang, and his two immediate predecessors Ambassador Tai and Ambassador Tou, who are here with us this morning, as well as my esteemed predecessors Cardinal Edward Cassidy (retired in Australia), Archbishop Thomas White (retired in Ireland), Archbishop Paolo Giglio (retired in Malta), Archbishop Adriano Bernardini (Apostolic Nuncio in Italy), Archbishop Julius Januz (Apostolic Nuncio in Slovenia), Archbishop Joseph Cennoth (Apostolic Nuncio in Japan), Archbishop Adolfo Yllana (Apostolic Nuncio in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Archbishop James Green (Apostolic Nuncio in Peru) and Archbishop Ambrose Madtha (Apostolic Nuncio in the Ivory Coast). I have regular contact with my predecessors, and some have sent a message of special greetings and congratulations for this occasion. At some point or another, nearly each one of them has told me how much he truly enjoyed his time in Taiwan and how sorry he was when the notification of his transfer arrived.
Considering the human life span, 70 years is a relatively long time. During this time, there have been positive and negative occurrences in the diplomatic relationship between the Holy See and the Republic of China and there have been and perhaps there still remain certain challenges - although in my own humble opinion whatever challenges exist are not inherent in the fundamental nature of either the Republic of China or of the Holy See, but rather are derived from external forces. In fact, the Republic of China and the Holy See, as has been mentioned before on numerous occasions, both share a deep respect for human rights and the dignity of the human person (especially religious freedom), a commitment to work for peace and stability in the world, support for the rule of law within and among nations, and a concern for those people around the world can use a helping hand in times of need. I also think that we share some similar experiences of being small among the world's powerful countries. Perhaps it is possible for us to learn some things from each other.
With regard particularly to this last point, I want now to focus attention on today's Gospel passage, the Beatitudes, which is a program for each individual Christian, for the members of the church in their mutual relations, for the church in her relations with secular authorities, and for the Holy See in its relations with the 179 countries with which it maintains diplomatic relations, including the Republic of China. The Beatitudes would also be a good program for all nations in their relations with each other, as well as for each human being - Christian or not - in his or her personal life.
My reflections will be based on a passage in Pope Benedict XVI's book Jesus of Nazareth from the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.
The Beatitudes are "words of promise". "At the same time, though, they are criteria for the discernment of spirits and so they prove to be directions for finding the right path." Jesus' disciples "are poor, hungry, weeping men; they are hated and persecuted." However, the situation of the disciples engenders a promise in the light of God. In the Beatitudes, Jesus teaches us that situations we normally think will make us happy do, in fact, not make us happy; and situations we usually think will make us sad do, in fact, lead us to true happiness. "The standards of the world are turned upside down as soon as things are seen in the right perspective, which is to say, in terms of God's values, so different from those of the world. It is precisely those who are poor in worldly terms, those thought of as lost souls, who are the truly fortunate ones, the blessed, who have every reason to rejoice and exult in the midst of their sufferings. The Beatitudes are promises resplendent with the new image of the world and of man inaugurated by JesusíK" We should not understand the happiness to which Jesus refers as merely a future reality, but as something already present here and now. "Jesus brings joy into the midst of affliction." The Beatitudes are "a consolation and a promise." Although we share in the suffering of Jesus, yet we also share even now in the beauty of his resurrection, and this brings us "a joy, a 'blessedness,' greater than the happiness [we] could formerly have experienced on worldly paths."
"The Beatitudes express the meaning of discipleship. [íK] What the Beatitudes mean cannot be expressed in purely theoretical terms; it is proclaimed in the life and suffering, and in the mysterious joy, of the disciple who gives himself over completely to following the Lord. This leads toíKthe Christological character of the Beatitudes. The disciple is bound to the mystery of Christ. His life is immersed in communion with ChristíK The Beatitudes are the transposition of Cross and Resurrection into discipleship. But they apply to the disciple because they were first paradigmatically lived by Christ himself."
When we examine attentively the text of today's gospel, we realize "that the Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus." Jesus is the one who is truly poor and truly meek. Jesus is the one "who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God. He is the peacemaker, he is the one who suffers for God's sake. The Beatitudes display the mystery of Christ himself and they call us into communion with him. íKThe Beatitudes are also a roadmap for the Church, which recognizes in them the model of what she herself should be. They are directions for discipleship, directions that concern every individual, even though - according to the variety of callings - they do so differently for each person."
"But now the fundamental question arises: Is the direction the Lord shows us in the BeatitudesíK actually the right one? Is it really such a bad thing to be rich, to eat one's fill, to laugh, to be praised?"
"[Friedrich] Nietzsche sees the vision of the Sermon on the Mount as a religion of resentment, as the envy of the cowardly and incompetent, who are unequal to life's demands and try to avenge themselves by blessing their failure and cursing the strong, the successful, and the happy." "Much of this has found its way into the modern mindset and to a large extent shapes how our contemporaries feel about life. Thus, the Sermon on the Mount poses the question of the fundamental Christian option, and, as children of our time, we feel an inner resistance to it - even though we are still touched by Jesus' praise of the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the pure. Knowing now from experience how brutally totalitarian regimes have trampled upon human beings and despised, enslaved, and struck down the weak, we have also gained a new appreciation of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; we have rediscovered the soul of those who mourn and their right to be comforted. As we witness the abuse of economic power, as we witness the cruelties of a capitalism that degrades man to the level of merchandise, we have also realized the perils of wealth, and we have gained a new appreciation of what Jesus meant when he warned of richesíK" The Beatitudes seem opposed to our hunger and thirst for life. They ask us to "inwardly turn around and go in the opposite direction from the one we would spontaneously like to go in. But this U-turn brings what is pure and noble to the fore and gives a proper ordering to our lives."
Sermon on the Mount stands the figure of Christ, the man who is God, but
who, precisely because he is God, descends, empties himself, all the way
to death on the Cross." The true path to happiness is the path of
self-giving love. As I suggested at the beginning of these remarks, this
is true for each one of us as individuals; it is true for the Church's
relations with society; it is true for the Holy See's relations with countries;
and it is true in its relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan), whose
70th Anniversary we celebrate today. Only by putting into practice Jesus'
teaching in Beatitudes do we discover true happiness, authentic wealth
and peace, and achieve real greatness.
J. RATZINGER - POPE BENEDICT XVI, Jesus of Nazareth from the Baptism in
the Jordan to the Transfiguration (New York 2007), pp. 70-99.
2 IBID., 71.
4 IBID, 71-72.
5 IBID., 72.
7 IBID., 73.
8 IBID., 73-74.
9 IBID., 74.
11 IBID., 97.
13 IBID., 97-98.
14 IBID., 98.
15 IBID., 99.