Malaria is one of the most severe
public health problems worldwide. It is a leading cause of death and
disease in many developing countries, where young children and pregnant
women are the groups most affected. According to the World Health
Organization's World Malaria Report:
Nearly half the
world's population lives in areas at risk of malaria
transmission in 91
countries and territories.
In 2016, malaria caused an estimated 216 million clinical
episodes (read: individuals
infected), and 445,000 deaths.
An estimated 90% of deaths in 2016 were in the WHO African Region. [Note,
that was just for the year 2016.]
Several interwoven threads shape this
situation: the global battle against malaria; the nationwide ban on
almost all uses of DDT that the E.P.A. imposed in 1972; and the work of
Rachel Carson (2),
who became a guiding spirit of the modern environmental movement with
her groundbreaking 1962 best seller “Silent Spring.”
DDT was also used to kill mosquitoes that spread malaria. By the early
1950s, the disease had essentially been eradicated in the United
States. But it still had other nations in its grip, especially in
Africa, making a comeback after it seemed on the verge of eradication.
Critics - generally, though not exclusively, on the political right -
drew a direct line from Point A (“Silent Spring”) to Point B (the DDT
ban) to Point C (more deaths), and accused Carson of perpetrating “junk
science.” Some even labeled her one of history's great villains.
Their language could be, to put it mildly, superheated, including
descriptions of her as a mass murderer. In “State of Fear,” a 2004
Michael Crichton novel in which the villains are eco-terrorists, a
protagonist says that “banning DDT killed more people than Hitler".
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
First of all, I should like to say "Thank you" to you, Your Excellency,
for your kind words of introduction to the great history of this
Cathedral Church, thus making me feel that not only do we pray here, at
this moment, but that we can pray through the centuries in this
And my thanks to all of you, who have come to pray with me, and in this
way to manifest this network of prayer which binds us all at all times.
In this brief Homily I should like to say a few words about the prayer
which concludes these Vespers as it seems to me that the excerpt from
the Letter to the Romans which has just been read is interpreted and
transformed here into prayer.
The prayer is composed of two parts: an address a heading, so to speak
and then the prayer, which consists of two requests.
Let us begin with the address, which is also, in its turn, composed of
two parts: here the "you" to whom we speak is made more specific, so
that we can knock with greater force on the heart of God.
In the Italian text, we read simply: "Merciful Father". The original
Latin is a little fuller; it says, "Almighty and Merciful God". In my
recent Encyclical, I have tried to
show the prime importance of God both in one's private life and in the
life of society, of the world, of history.
Certainly the relationship with God is a profoundly personal matter,
and the individual is a being in relationship with others. If the
fundamental relationship that with God is not living, is not lived,
then no other relationship can find its right form. But this is also true for society, for humanity
as such. Here, too, if God is missing, if God is discounted, if he is
absent, then the compass is lacking which would show the way forward,
the direction to follow in relationships as a whole.
God! We must bring the reality of God
back into our world, make him known and present.
[ Comment: what have the
churchmen been doing, if not this? And if "the reality of God" is
absent from the world, isn't this a symbolic admission that the
Sacrifice has been taken away in most cases, and that Christ is not
present now in the Eucharist? ]
But how can we know God? During the "ad limina" visits I always speak
with the Bishops, in particular African Bishops, but also those from
Asia and Latin America where traditional religions still exist, about
these religions. They differ greatly from one another in many details,
but they also share common elements. They all know that God exists, one
God, that "god" is a singular noun, that the gods are not God, that God
exists, God. But at the same time
this God seems absent, far away, he does not seem to come into our
daily lives, he hides, we do not know his Face
. Therefore the
religions deal for the most part with objects, with powers nearer to
us, with spirits, ancestors and so on, since God himself is too far
away, and so we have to make do with these closer powers. And the act
of evangelization consists precisely in the fact that the distant God
draws near, that he is no longer far away, but is close to us, that
this "known and unknown" figure now makes himself truly known, shows
his Face, reveals himself: the veil covering his Face disappears and he
shows his true Face. And so, since God himself is now near us, we can
know him, he shows us his Face and enters our world. There is no longer
any need to make do with those other powers, because he is the true
power, the Omnipotent.
I do not know why the word "omnipotent" has been omitted from the
Italian text, but it is true that we feel a little threatened by the
word "omnipotence": it seems to limit our freedom, it seems to be too
strong. But we must learn that the omnipotence of God is not an
arbitrary power, because God is Good, he is Truth, and therefore he can
do anything, but he cannot act against good, he cannot act against
truth, love or freedom, because he himself is good, love, and true
freedom. And therefore nothing he does can ever be in contrast with
truth, love and freedom. The contrary is true. He, God, is the guardian
of our freedom, of love and of truth. This eye which looks upon us is
not an evil eye watching us; it is the presence of love which will
never abandon us but rather gives us the certainty that Good is being,
Good is living: it is the eye of love that gives us the air to live.
Almighty and Merciful God. A Roman prayer, connected with the text of
the Book of Wisdom, says: "O God, show your omnipotence through pardon
and mercy". The summit of God's power is mercy, pardon. In our
modern-day worldly concept of power, we think of someone who owns large
estates, who has some say in the world of economics, who has capital
and can influence the world of the market. We think of someone who has
military power, who can threaten. Stalin's question, "How many armed
divisions does the Pope have?" still characterizes the common idea of
power. Whoever has power and many worldly effects may be dangerous, as
he could threaten and destroy. But Revelations tells us. "It is not
so"; true power is the power of grace and of mercy. In his mercy, God
demonstrates true power.
And so the second part of this address says: "You have redeemed the
world with the Passion, with the suffering of Your Son". God has
suffered, and through his Son he suffers with us. This is the summit of
his power, that he can suffer with us. In this way he demonstrates the
true divine power: he desired to suffer with us and for us. In our
suffering we are never left alone. God, through his Son, suffered
first, and he is close to us in our suffering.
However a difficult question remains, one I cannot answer at length at
this moment: why was it necessary to suffer to save the world? It was
necessary because there exists in the world an ocean of evil, of
injustice, hatred, and violence, and the many victims of hatred and
injustice have the right to see justice done. God cannot ignore the
cries of the suffering who are oppressed by injustice. To forgive is
not to ignore, but to transform. God must enter into this world in
order to set against the ocean of injustice a larger ocean of goodness
and of love. And this is the event of the Cross: from that moment,
against the ocean of evil, there exists a river that is boundless, and
so ever mightier than all the injustices of the world, a river of
goodness, truth, and love. Thus God forgives, coming into the world and
transforming it so that there may be a real strength, a river of
goodness wider than all the evil that could ever exist.
So our address to God becomes an address to ourselves: God invites us
to join with him, to leave behind the ocean of evil, of hatred,
violence, and selfishness and to make ourselves known, to enter into
the river of his love.
This is precisely the content of the first part of the prayer that
follows: "Let Your Church offer herself to You as a living and holy
sacrifice". This request, addressed to God, is made also to ourselves.
It is a reference to two passages from the Letter to the Romans. We
ourselves, with our whole being, must be adoration and sacrifice, and
by transforming our world, give it back to God. The role of the priesthood is to consecrate
the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the
liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but
that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is
also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true
cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host.
[ The host, after consecration,
becomes the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Adoration of
the Sacrament is adoration of Christ really present in the consecrated
host. So ... it seems that Ratzinger wants us to make the world a
living host, and then to adore it. Or have I misunderstood him? ]
And let us pray the Lord to help us
become priests in this sense, to aid in the transformation of the
world, in adoration of God,
beginning with ourselves.
That our lives may speak of God, that our lives may be a true liturgy,
an announcement of God, a door through which the distant God may become
the present God, and a true giving of ourselves to God.
Then the second request. We pray: "Let Your people know always the
fullness of Your love". The Latin text reads: "Satisfy us with Your
love". The text refers to the Psalm we have sung, which says: "Open
your hand and satisfy the hunger of every living creature". How much
hunger there is on Earth, hunger for bread in many parts of the world:
Your Excellency has also spoken of the suffering of the families here:
hunger for justice, hunger for love. And with this prayer, we pray to
God: "Open Your hand and satisfy fully the hunger of every living
creature. Satisfy our hunger for the truth and for Your love".
So be it. Amen.
[ Maybe he should have just
said "So mote it be!" and declared himself openly. ]