This morning, the Pope received in audience members of the Romano Guardini Foundation attending a Congress promoted by the Pontifical Gregorian University to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Italian-born German priest, theologian and writer.
During the audience, the president of the foundation, Professor Ludwig von Pufendorf, announced the imminent publication of a previously unpublished text by Guardini who, as the Holy Father affirmed, “has much to say to the people of our time, and not only Christians."
Francis recalled that Guardini, in his book “The Religious World of Dostoevsky”, cites the episode in “The Brothers Karamazov” in which a peasant confesses to the starec (the spiritual guide of Orthodox monasteries) that she had killed her sick husband who had mistreated her throughout his life. The starec notes that the woman, desperately aware of her guilt, is entirely closed in on herself and that any reflection, comfort or counsel would meet this wall. The woman is convinced she is condemned; however, the priest shows her the way out. Her life has meaning, because God will receive her at the moment of repentance. He urges her not to be afraid since there is not, and there cannot be, a sin on earth that God cannot forgive to those who repent sincerely, nor can there be a sin so great that it exhausts God's infinite love. In confession the woman is transformed and receives new hope.
“The simplest people understand what this is about”, said the Pope. “They perceive the greatness that shines in the starec's wisdom and the strength of his love. They understand what holiness means, that is, an existence lived in faith, being able to see that God is close to man, that He holds their life in His hands. In this respect, Guardini says, that by accepting with simplicity existence in the hand of God, personal will transforms into divine will and in this way, without the creature ceasing to be only a creature and God truly God, their living unity is brought about."
For Guardini, this “living unity” with God consists of the concrete relationship of people with the world and with others around them. “The individual feels a part of the fabric of the population, that is, in an original union of men that by type, country and historical evolution in life and destinies are a single entity”. The author of “The Meaning of the Church” considered the concept of “population” as the “compendium of what in man is genuine, profound and substantial. We are able to recognise in the population, as in a mirror, “field of the force of divine action”.
“Perhaps we can apply Guardini's reflections to our own time, seeking to uncover the hand of God in current events”, observed the Holy Father. “In this way we will perhaps be able to recognise that God, in His wisdom, sent us, in rich Europe, the hungry to be fed, the thirsty to slake their thirst, the stranger to be welcomed and the naked to be clothed. History then shows this: if we are a population, we will certainly welcome these as our brothers; if we are merely a group of individuals, we will be tempted only to save our own skins, but we will have no continuity”.
The Pope greeted the members of the Foundation, expressing his hope that Guardini's work will help them increasingly to understand the meaning and value of the Christian foundations of culture and society.