To the Lord's Colleagues
Benedict XVI received today in audience the construction workers who renovated the papal apartments over the summer, basically gutting them and rebuilding the fifth floor suite of the Apostolic Palace from square one to fit the needs of their new occupant.
Here is my translation of the Pope's extemporaneous remarks, as recorded in Italian by the Press Office:
Unfortunately, the many commitments of these [pre-Christmas] days haven't permitted me to prepare a speech worthy of the work you have done. I ask your pardon. I can only speak, as they say, "off the cuff." But the words really come from my heart.
I don't have much to say. Just a word. But this word, with all my strength of belief, is a feeling of "thank you" that comes from the bottom of my heart. In less than three months, you accomplished an immense work in the renovation of my Apartment. I'm convinced -- because in Germany, I built a small house for myself -- that elsewhere these labors would've taken at least a year, or probably even more than that. So, having seen this and with what dedication you've worked, with the competence and the type of cooperation among the different technical services who were committed in such a way that I can only admire and is, for me, a testimony of your interior commitment to good work at the service of the Holy See and the Successor of Peter. You've all really given the example of responsible work. I also marvel at the things you've done, like these beautiful floors. In a particular way, I like my new library, with its old feel. For me, it's like being surrounded by friends since the shelves and the books arrived. Then there's the medical study and all the things I can't list. But I saw, even though I have little competence in the field, that in these three months, you've worked, I would say day and night, with an incredible dedication. I can only assure you of my profound gratitude and my prayers.
I'm taken in mind to how, in the New Testament, in the profession of Jesus before his public ministry, the word "tecton" appears, which we translate as "carpenter" ["falegname"], because then homes were mostly homes of wood. But, more than a "carpenter," it's an "artisan" ["artigiano"] who is able to make everything necessary for the construction of a house. So, in this sense, you are "colleagues" of Our Lord, as you've taken up what he did willingly, according to his own choice, before he announced to the world his great mission. The Lord has wished to show in this way the nobility of this work. In the Greek world, only intellectual work was considered worthy of a free man. Manual labor was left to the slaves. It's totally different in biblical religion. Here, the Creator -- who, in a beautiful image, made man with his own hands -- himself appears to give us the example of a man working with his hands and, in doing so, working with his mind and with his heart. Man imitates the Creator because this world given to us by his hand is an inhabitable world. This appears in the biblical story from the very start. But always, in a powerful way, in the fact that Jesus was "tecton," "artisan," "worker" appears the nobility and greatness of this work.
Having said all this, as Christmas is getting close, it's a moment to say "thank you" for all this, for your work which encourages me -- as you gave everything -- to give on my own part, in this late hour of my life, the greatest amount I can possibly give.
I greet your loved ones and for all of you I give from my heart my Apostolic Blessing!