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To Honor Joachim Cardinal Meisner, RIP… Revisiting An Apostolic Letter And A WYD Homily

July 12, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

(Editor’s Note: Below are two documents, one a 2008 apostolic letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Cardinal Meisner on the seventh centenary of the death of Blessed John Duns Scotus, and the other Cardinal Meisner’s homily for the 2005 World Youth Day in Cologne, his archdiocese.

(Benedict’s apostolic letter is found on the Catholic News Agency website and Cardinal Meisner’s homily is found at All rights reserved.)

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To Joachim Cardinal Meisner On The Occasion Of The Death Of Blessed John Duns Scotus


(Apostolic letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Our Venerable Brother Joachim Cardinal Meisner of the Holy Roman Church, archbishop of Cologne, and to all those in any part of the world who are participating in the International Scientific Congress on the occasion of the seventh centenary of the death of Blessed John Duns Scotus.)

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Rejoice, City of Cologne, which once welcomed within your walls John Duns Scotus, a most learned and devout man, who passed from this life to the heavenly Homeland on November 8, 1308; and, whose remains you preserve with great admiration and veneration.
Our Venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, exalted him with lofty praise; we too would like to surround him with the praise he deserves and invoke his protection.
Thus the seventh centenary of his pious passing is now being celebrated, as is only right. And while articles and entire works in honor of Blessed John Duns Scotus are being published in various parts of the world and congresses are being held, including the solemn Congress currently being prepared that will take place in Cologne from November 5 to 9, 2008, we consider it a duty of our service in this circumstance to say a few words about this most illustrious man who so distinguished himself by contributing to the progress of the doctrine of the Church and of human science.
Indeed, combining piety with scientific research, in accordance with his invocation: “May the First Principle of things grant me to believe, to understand and to reveal what may please his majesty and may raise our minds to contemplate him” [1], with his refined brilliance he penetrated so deeply the secrets of natural and revealed truth, and found in them a doctrine which led him to be called Doctor Ordinis, Doctor Subtilis, and Doctor Marianus, becoming a teacher and guide of the Franciscan School, a light and example to the entire Christian People.
Thus we desire to remind scholars and everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, of the path and method that Scotus followed in order to establish harmony between faith and reason, defining in this manner the nature of theology in order constantly to exalt action, influence, practice, and love rather than pure speculation; in fulfilling this task he let himself be guided by the Magisterium of the Church and by a sound critical sense regarding growth in knowledge of the truth and was convinced that knowledge is valuable to the extent that it is applied in praxis.
Firmly anchored to the Catholic faith, Duns Scotus strove to understand, explain, and defend the truth of the faith in the light of human reason. Thus he strove to do nothing other than show the consonance of all truths, natural and supernatural, that come from one and the same Source.
Alongside Sacred Scripture, divinely inspired, is the authority of the Church. Duns Scotus seems to follow St. Augustine’s words: “I would not believe the Gospel, except that I [first] believe the Catholic Church” [2].
In fact, our Doctor often gives a special emphasis to the supreme authority of the Successor of Peter. As the Blessed said: “Although the Pope cannot dispense with natural and divine law (given that his power is inferior to both), being the Successor of Peter, Prince of the Apostles, he still has the same authority as had Peter” [3].
Therefore, the Catholic Church whose invisible Head is Christ himself, who left as His Vicars the person of Blessed Peter and His Successors guided by the Spirit of truth, is the authentic custodian of the revealed deposit and the rule of faith. The Church is the firm and permanent criterion of the canonical dimension of Sacred Scripture. Indeed, she “established which books of the biblical canon were to be held authentic” [4].
Elsewhere he states that “the Scriptures were revealed in the same Spirit in which they were written, and in this way one must consider that the Catholic Church has presented them in that same Spirit with which the faith has been passed down, guided that is, by the Spirit of truth” [5].
After having proven with various arguments taken from theological reason, the very fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from original sin, he was absolutely ready also to reject this conviction should it not be in harmony with the authority of the Church, saying: “We can with probability attribute to Mary all that has the greatest perfection, provided it is not opposed to the authority of the Church or the Scriptures” [6].
The primacy of the will sheds light on the fact that God is charity before all else. This charity, this love, Duns Scotus kept present when he sought to lead theology back to a single expression, that is to practical theology.
According to his thought, since God “is formally love and formally charity” [7], with the greatest generosity he radiates his goodness and love beyond himself [8]. And in reality, it is for love that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. He predestined us in love to be His adoptive sons through Jesus Christ” (cf. Eph. 1:4-5).
A faithful disciple of St. Francis of Assisi, Blessed John contemplated and preached assiduously the Incarnation and the saving Passion of the Son of God. However, the charity or love of Christ is expressed in a special way not only on Calvary, but also in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, without which “if not for being able to render supreme adoration unto God through the veneration of the same Sacrament every mercy would disappear in the Church” [9].
This Sacrament moreover is a sacrament of unity and love; through it we are led to love one another mutually and to love God as a common good and to be loved at the same time by others.
And as this love, this charity, was the origin of all things, so too our eternal happiness will be in love and charity alone: “Eternal life is simply the desire as well as the will to love, blessed and perfect” [10].
Since at the beginning of our ministry we first of all preached love, which is God Himself, we see with joy that the unique doctrine of this Blessed keeps a special place for this truth, which we consider principally worthy to be researched and taught in our time.
Therefore, willingly complying with the request of our Venerable Brother Cardinal Joachim Meisner, of Holy Roman Church, Archbishop of Cologne, we are sending this Apostolic Letter with which we desire to honor Blessed John Duns Scotus and invoke his heavenly intercession upon us.
Lastly, to those who are taking part in any capacity in this International Congress and in other initiatives concerning this outstanding son of St. Francis, we cordially impart our Apostolic Blessing.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s on October 28, 2008, the fourth year of our Pontificate.



1. Duns Scotus, Tractatus de primo Principio, c. 1 (ed. Muller, M., Friburgi Brisgoviae, 1941, 1).
2. Ibid. Ordinatio, i d. 5, n. 26 (ed. Vat. iv 24-25).
3. cf. ibid., Report. iv, d. 33, q. 2, n. 19 (ed. Vives xxiv 439 a).
4. cf. ibid., Ordinatio i, d. 5, n. 26 (ed. Vat. iv, 25).
5. cf. ibid., iv, d. 11, q. 3, n. 15 (ed. Vat. ix, 181).
6. cf. ibid., iii, d. 3, n. 34 (ed. Vives xix 167 b).
7. cf. ibid., i, d. 17, n. 173 (ed. Vat. v, 221-222).
8. cf. ibid., Tractatus de primo Principio, c. 4 (ed. Muller, M., 127).
9. Ibid., Report. iv, d. 8, q. 1, n. 3 (ed. Vives xxiv 9-10).
10. Ibid., iv, d. 49, q.2, n. 21 (ed. Vives xxiv, 630 a).
(© Copyright 2008 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

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“A Warm Welcome To The Archdiocese Of Cologne”

(Twentieth World Youth Day Eucharistic Celebration for the Opening of the World Youth Day in Cologne: Homily of Joachim Cardinal Meisner, archbishop of Cologne; Rheinenergie Stadium, Cologne. August 16, 2005.)

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Dear Sisters, Dear Brothers,
“A warm welcome to the Archdiocese of Cologne!” We are glad that you have come.
We are celebrating the first World Youth Day with two Popes: with Pope John Paul II in Heaven and with our Pope Benedict XVI here on Earth. It will be a great celebration of faith!
Three weeks before he died, the Holy Father permitted me to visit him at the Gemelli Polyclinic and asked me: “Are you still expecting me in Cologne?” I answered: “Holy Father, we are calmly waiting.”
Let us now say to Heaven: “Holy Father John Paul II, we are waiting for you!” and let us say to Rome: “Holy Father Benedict XVI, we are waiting for you!”
With the Peter of yesterday, John Paul II, and the Peter of today, Benedict XVI, with us, we will be strengthened on our journey of faith, for the Lord said to Peter: “Strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
Young people are far closer than the elderly to the beginning of their lives. Therefore, in youth, more than in others, the origin of their lives through God’s hand is powerfully and intensely active in their quest for a true and authentic life.
Those who, in the context of this seeking, give young people less than God, always give them too little.
This desire for a successful life has brought you to Cologne, where we learn from those who were the first to seek God, the Three Magi.
Two years ago, with regard to the World Youth Day in Cologne, Pope John Paul II cited what the Evangelist Matthew said about the Three Wise Men: “We have come to worship him” (cf. Matt. 2:2).

No Life Can Be Tested

Each one of us has one life. There is no “trial” period that is exempt from responsibility.
Consequently, there is no life, love, faith, or death that can be tested. We are always at a stage of emergency. We always have full responsibility.
Today, there is no need for me to tell you what you know intuitively, that is, about your origin, that you came into being through the creative hand of God. This unites you with all the young people in the world.
In these days you are not meeting one another as strangers, but as relatives and traveling companions: “relatives” because you share the same origin through God’s hands, and “traveling companions” because your desire for a meaningful and useful life, for a life with God, has led you on the same route.
To worship means no more and no less than to set out like the Three Wise Men at God’s eye level and to kneel before God, before the Infant in the manger.
God made Himself small so as to be in our lives and in our personal destinies. However, we ignore Him if we go through life “without minding where we put our feet.”
In the washing of the feet, He is beneath the feet of His disciples. God is below. Kneeling to adore Him does not make human beings small but great, because it brings them to God’s eye level.
The same desire for goodness, purity, and beauty dwells within us all. Why? Because we are made in the image of God who personifies the maximum good and the maximum purity.
Therefore, no one can want to be bad, impure, or ugly. A hunger for love exists in all of us.
To the question, “Would you like not to be loved?” a nonbeliever answered me: “That would indeed be Hell!”
How could he have responded in this way without having received any religious teaching? Because all human beings come forth from the hand of God, and from this origin derive a hidden knowledge of God from which they draw their likeness to Him. And since God never abandons any human beings, even if they turn away from Him, He is always available for the origin and purpose of their lives.
St. Augustine already knew this 1,600 years ago and wrote: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Two thousand years ago, the innate, magnetic force of God impelled the Three Wise Men to seek Christ, and today it has brought you to Cologne to seek and find Christ, who guarantees you a great future and a full life.
There is no alternative to Christ. When certain young people broke away, upset by Jesus’ words, and followed Him no longer, He asked those who had remained: “Do you want to leave me too?”, and it was Simon Peter who gave him the answer, the first and the shortest profession of faith to be found in Sacred Scripture: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
The Lord says to us: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6: 44).
Dear brothers and sisters, you have been drawn by the Father. This is the basic reason why you are in Cologne. It is the result of an action full of God’s grace.
And I give you my word of honor: He will reign through you; for you will be the blessing of your surroundings, of your homeland and of the world, since by your commitment you will transform distance from God into closeness to God. Then the world will continue to be an inhabitable place for human beings as children of God.
Therefore, young pilgrims from across the world, you are the future of the Church and the future of the world, because you are children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ and living temples of the Holy Spirit.
The world does not live exclusively on productivity, refrigerators, missiles, and the like; it lives above all on its union with the living God and therefore with the source of its life. World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne is not an exclusively Catholic event but is addressed to the whole world. Christ is not a Christian administrator but is the Lord of the world.
In these days, let us not only seek Christ because we want Him for ourselves but also because we want Him for our sisters and brothers, to whom we desire to give the happiness of faith in Christ.

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