Such certainty is self-evident in the past of the Czech lands, which saw the horrors of Nazism and Communism. “History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions, and how hard it is to build a society inspired by the values of goodness, justice and fraternity, because the human being is free and his freedom remains fragile.”
“Freedom,” he said, “has constantly to be won over for the cause of good, and the arduous search for the ‘right way to order human affairs’ is a task that belongs to all generations.”
To the Czech people, which is only 27 per cent Catholic against 57 per cent atheist (or perhaps agnostic), Benedict XVI offers “the message of salvation, ancient and ever new, that the Church proclaims from generation to generation: Christ crucified and risen, the Hope of humanity!”
The course of Czech history symbolises that of the whole of humanity. “Your country, like other nations, is experiencing cultural conditions that often present a radical challenge to faith and therefore also to hope. In fact, in the modern age both faith and hope have undergone a ‘shift’, because they have been relegated to the private and other-worldly sphere, while in day-to-day public life confidence in scientific and economic progress has been affirmed (cf. Spe Salvi, 17). We all know that this progress is ambiguous: it opens up possibilities for good as well as evil. Technical developments and the improvement of social structures are important and certainly necessary, but they are not enough to guarantee the moral welfare of society” (cf ibid, 24).
“Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit. And who can save him if not God, who is Love and has revealed his face as almighty and merciful Father in Jesus Christ? Our firm hope is therefore Christ: in him, God has loved us to the utmost and has given us life in abundance (cf Jn, 10:10), the life that every person, even if unknowingly, longs to possess.”
Lastly, the Pontiff pointed out that on the portal of Brno Cathedral, inscribed words by Jesus say, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt, 11:28). Over the centuries, people were not indifferent to this love. “Here, as elsewhere, many people suffered in past centuries for remaining faithful to the Gospel, and they did not lose hope; many people sacrificed themselves in order to restore dignity to man and freedom to peoples, finding in their generous adherence to Christ the strength to build a new humanity. In present-day society, many forms of poverty are born from isolation, from being unloved, from the rejection of God and from a deep-seated tragic closure in man who believes himself to be self-sufficient, or else merely an insignificant and transient datum; in this world of ours which is alienated ‘when too much trust is placed in merely human projects’ (Caritas in Veritate, 53), only Christ can be our certain hope.”
The message of hope Christ gave us is a duty all Christians must fulfill. “Bear witness to Christ, dear religious, through the joyful and consistent practice of the evangelical counsels, indicating where our true homeland lies: in Heaven. And you, dear young people, dear lay faithful, dear families, base on the firm foundation of faith in Christ whatever plans you have for your family, for work, for school, for activities in every sphere of society. Jesus never abandons his friends. He assures us of his help, because nothing can be done without him, but at the same time, he asks everyone to make a personal commitment to spread his universal message of love and peace.”
Finally, the Pope cited examples of this “shining testimony” found in Czech history, from Saints Cyril and Methodius, the first evangelisers in the region, to the Blessed Restituta Kafkova, who was in born in Brno and killed by the Nazis in Vienna.
In looking at “Our Lady of Thorns,” the oldest statue of Mary found in a thorn bush, he concluded, saying, “May you always be accompanied and protected by Our Lady, Mother of Christ our Hope.”
At the end of the Mass, before the Angelus, Benedict XVI mentioned John Paul II and his trip to the region, after the “fall of Communist totalitarianism”, urging all Christians, Catholics and Protestants, to remain faithful “to the Gospel, so as to build together a future of solidarity and peace.”
Noting that “the pace of modern life tends to diminish some elements of a rich heritage of faith”, in particular pilgrimages to the Marian sanctuaries of Moravia and Bohemia, he insisted that “it is important not to lose sight of the ideal expressed by traditional customs and above all to maintain the spiritual patrimony inherited from your forebears, to guard it and to make it answer to the needs of the present day.”