Brussels 2008

Addresses by Cardinal Danneels

On two occasions Cardinal Danneels, the archbishop of Malines-Brussels, addressed the participants, to welcome them on December 30th and, in an improvised and spontaneous manner, to say goodbye on January 1st.

Tuesday evening, 30 December 2008: "God is smiling tonight."

(Brother Alois) A European meeting in Brussels! For many years, there was a close friendship between Cardinal Danneels and Brother Roger, and they spoke together about this project which has become a reality today. Thank you, dear Cardinal Danneels, for inviting us.

And we thank Cardinal Danneels for having associated Christians of other denominations to his invitation, from the outset. We are pleased that representatives of the Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Churches are present together this evening. And now the Cardinal is going to speak to us.

(Cardinal Danneels) We are more than six billion on this planet and God asks us to live on it together. We are not able to. But tonight, God is watching us and He is delighted. Yes, God is pleased to see this living parable of a new humanity that we are. Forty thousand young people together in prayer, silence and peace. Yes, tonight God is smiling.

God gives us light in the darkness that surrounds us. To each one of us, in creating us, God gave the light of our intelligence, that internal radar that cannot not seek truth. A divine compass that does not lead us astray. For we are all seeking the truth, both believers and unbelievers. But, in addition, God gives us the light of faith: that star of Bethlehem shining tonight over Brussels: Jesus is our light. Enlighten our intelligence, Lord, and revive our faith.

But in these difficult times, we need hope more than anything else. Hope is not the result of a natural optimism. No, there is too much despair in this world for us to settle for a simple carefree character or a naturally happy temperament. We need a divine hope, based on promises that God guarantees. Hope is the heart muscle of our soul. It never has a heart-attack. Lord, give us hope: give us Jesus.

God gives us a heart to love. It is not enough to see clearly by faith, or to live on hope. We need the warmth of love in a cold world. But what is love, true love? It is above all accepting ourselves as we are, thanking God for having created us as we are. For, created by God, we are good. Love consists also in accepting others as they are, not as we would like them to be or dream that they are. Love leaves the other as he or she is. Love is realistic.

Love is always first. It does not wait for the other to love us in order to begin then to love him or her. Love is always first. It does not let anything else go ahead. It is not possessive; it does not try to control the other. It is self-offering; it is first of all a gift. It makes us happy. As Jesus said, "There is more happiness in giving than in receiving."

Thursday evening, 1 January 2009: "I give thanks to God"

I thank God for these blessed days, these days of grace that we have had. Never in the history of the city of Brussels and of all Belgium have we had such a Christmas!

I give thanks to God because every night, close to the Atomium, which is the symbol of men who investigate matter down to its depths, 40,000 young people came here to investigate the things of God. I give thanks particularly for those moments of silence at the heart of the celebrations. It is then that the Holy Spirit creates in us a hollow, a kind of little manger where the Child Jesus can be born.

I give thanks to God for the brothers of Taizé, who for many months have built that manger and decorated here the stable of Bethlehem, so that it could be worthy of receiving us, us and the Lord Christ.

I give thanks to God for the hundreds of volunteers who, throughout these days, were like the shepherds. What did they bring? A bit of wool and a little milk, all they had: the wool of their time and the milk of their availability.

I thank God for all those who came during these days. They are like the Wise Men, they brought their presents, the gold of their faith, the incense that rises and symbolizes their hope, and the precious myrrh of their charity. May God be praised for having so many sons and daughters!

And finally, I thank God for the thousands of families who have hosted so many young people during these days. They said to themselves: the innkeeper had no room in Bethlehem in his inn... maybe there is no room in Bethlehem but, in Brussels and in Belgium, there will be room! I am sure that if the innkeeper of Bethlehem sees us from the sky, he must be saying to himself: If I had known, I would have opened the door. And all these families reply: we have done it.

Last updated: 7 January 2009