(Source: CD/David Dionisi, Vatican News)

“A prophet of his time. The dense network of monasteries across the European continent continues to form the spiritual and cultural basis of Europe today. Of a Europe that prays and works”. On the feast of St. Benedict July 11, the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, recalled the path traced by the patron saint of Europe, looking towards the rebirth of Italy and of the Old Continent.

During his homily in a Mass Saturday in the Basilica of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome, Cardinal Bassetti recalled that at the centre of Benedict’s work “is, without a doubt, the search for God. It is what is called the Christocentrism of the Rule”: the precepts the saint formulated for monastic life in community.

A “revolutionary” Rule

The cardinal explained that the words of St. Benedict in the Rule remain “revolutionary” and “valid for all Christians”.

The Italian Bishops’ president insisted that “to be Christian in the contemporary world, in fact, means essentially to take the experience of Christ and make it our own. And what is the experience of Christ? The experience of Christ is the Beatitudes. Certainly the Beatitudes are for us also a moral teaching, but they express the beating heart of the Gospel; they are our rule of life, they are a gift of grace, but they are also the fruit of constant prayer and total surrender to the action of the Spirit”.

Cardinal Bassetti explained that “we can read the Beatitudes throughout our lives, but we cannot improvise them. Christ does not come forth in us except in prayer and total abandonment to the action of the Spirit”.

The Beatitudes, “the Christian’s identity card”

The prelate recalled that Pope Francis himself recommended learning the words of the Beatitudes by heart, because these words represent “the Christian’s identity card”, a true “map of life” that cannot be dispensed with.

“An identity card to keep with us always. In all areas of human action, in the family and at school, at work and at leisure, every Christian is called to embody the Beatitudes in concrete acts and not just in words. Even in political life and in the exercise of power, the Christian is called to bear witness to this Gospel passage”, Bassetti stressed.

Becoming “ambassadors for Christ”

The President of the Italian Episcopal Conference finally turned to speak about the difficult period we are living through, pointing out the way to better respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“We do not need only great experts or technocrats, but above all we need men and women who become ambassadors for Christ”, he said.

“Men and women who, like the sentinels of the house of Israel, respond to a divine mission, express their vocation with passion and generosity and make themselves available to the community”, Bassetti emphasised, adding that “after this worldwide earthquake caused by the pandemic we find ourselves at an epochal crossroads”.

“Either we rebuild a world with a hunger for justice or we will witness the decline of our civilisation as irrelevant bystanders. As men and women, that is, who have nothing more to say and give to contemporary society”, the cardinal warned.

“Faced with the risk of an epochal crisis, we must behave like St. Benedict: pray and work for the rebirth of our country, our continent and our civilisation”, the Italian Bishops’ president concluded.

More on Novena on the challenges for Europe post-COVID-19:

Churches push new German EU Council presidency for a “fairer, more equitable and sustainable” Europe post-COVID-19

German Lutheran, Catholic bishops criticise political “egotism”, “reciprocal blame games” in EU COVID-19 response

Portuguese Bishops call for “globalisation of solidarity” to meet COVID-19 crisis “unparalleled in recent history”

European Bishops appeal on COVID-19: “Let’s work all together for a recovery that leaves no one behind”

EU Bishops warn bloc on COVID-19 recovery: “Justice must not be just a slogan”


PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.