Gaudium et Spes Award Address
Address by the Cardinal Secretary of State
His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, S.D.B.
August 7, 2007
On the occasion of the award of the Gaudium et Spes Prize
My dear friends (as I think I may now call you),
With this brief address I wish to express my profound and heartfelt thanks for your kind words, Mr. Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and for the recognition you have shown in granting me this award in the name of the entire Association. It moves me to accept such an honor. I am particularly pleased to receive this prize inasmuch as it bears the name of one of the most important documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes. This Council document has been quoted and revisited many times in recent years, and it is called “pastoral” because its intension is to explain the Church’s stance vis-à-vis the world and the people of our day on the basis of the doctrinal principles issuing from the certainties of faith.
The honor you have accorded me this evening is all the more significant because it is accompanied by a substantial monetary gift, the fruit of your
generosity and a sign of your genuine concern for your brothers and sisters in need. You are well aware of the many charitable and humanitarian activities supported by the Holy See, especially in developing countries. The generous gift you have entrusted to me this evening will be put towards some particular charitable initiatives which I shall determine on my return to Rome, from among the various requests for assistance that arrive on my desk. In accepting this gift I am reminded of one particular passage from Gaudium et Spes, where we read that the Church aims solely to “carry on the work of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served” (no. 3.) The Church’s mission is to spread the Gospel of love through specific good works. This is a mission that involves all the baptized – priests, consecrated and lay persons – since bearing witness to truth and love means taking an active part in Christ’s redemptive work.
I have a further reason to be happy this evening, namely that among the former recipients of the Gaudium et Spes award are two great apostles of charity: Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who made an unforgettable impression on so many hearts through her heroic dedication to serving the poorest of the poor, and Jean Vanier, who in various parts of the world continues to carry
out a vast program of humanitarian service and Christian charity towards our frailest brothers and sisters through the institute that he founded, known as L’Arche. Let it never be forgotten that, besides prayer and witness to the Gospel, an integral part of the Church’s mission is service to our brothers and sisters, especially those who suffer material or spiritual adversity.
In this regard, let me remind you of a passage in Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, where it is clearly stated that those who carry out the Church’s charitable activity on a practical level “must be persons moved by Christ’s love” (no. 33.) The Holy Father stresses this point – they must be “persons whose hearts Christ has conquered with his love, awakening within them a love of neighbor” (ibid.). I am well aware that your Association is constantly engaged in such service to neighbor, inspired by evangelical love.
My dear friends, thank you once again for this honor which I receive today at the hands of the Supreme Knight as a mark of affection and esteem on the part of your distinguished organization. Thank you most sincerely for the invitation to be with all of you today and for your presence here. It is my heartfelt wish that the good work which the Knights of Columbus carry out with such generous enthusiasm will continue to alleviate the sufferings of many of our brothers and sisters, and will be constantly sustained by a deep spiritual life. May the Lord help you to grow in your common purpose, to his glory and in the service of humanity. I assure you that I shall pray for this intention, and I extend warm greetings to you, your families, and all your loved ones.