Pope Benedict XVI gave a short yet limpid address to members of the College of Cardinals at a lunch yesterday, reminding them that both he and they are engaged in a fight together for good against evil.
In a kind of pep-talk to his closest advisors, he referred to ecclesia militans – the Church Militant – which means all living Christians who struggle against sin, the devil, or as St. Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12: "..the rulers of the darkness of this world" and "spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Although the Holy Father says the term is “a bit out of fashion” (“Church Militant” and the other two, “Church Triumphant” and “Church Suffering”, are not explicitly mentioned in the 1994 Catechism), he nevertheless stresses that as Christians it’s necessary to enter this struggle.
The Holy Father's words, published in full below, naturally offer encouragement to all Christians engaged in the battle of good against evil, not only for the Princes of the Church.
Yesterday’s lunch at the Vatican was held so the Pope could thank members of the College of Cardinals, led by its Dean, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, for their good wishes on reaching his 7th anniversary as Pope and 85th birthday, both of which took place in mid April.
At this moment my words can only be ones of thanks. First, I thank the Lord for giving me so many years; years with many days of joy, wonderful moments, but also dark nights. But in retrospect one realizes that the nights were necessary and good, a reason for thanksgiving.
Today the word ecclesia militans [Church Militant] is a bit out of fashion, but in reality we can always better understand that which is true, that which encapsulates truth. We see how evil wants to rule the world and that it’s necessary to enter the struggle against evil. We see how it does this in so many very violent ways, with different forms of violence, but also posing as a force for good while destroying the moral foundations of society.
St. Augustine said that all history is a struggle between two loves: love of oneself even to the extent of defying God, and love of God, to the extent of defying oneself, in martyrdom. We are in this fight and in this fight it is very important to have friends. And as for me, I'm surrounded by friends of the College of Cardinals: they are my friends and I feel at home, I feel confident in this company of great friends who are with me, all together with the Lord.
Thank you for this friendship. Thank you, Your Eminence, for all you have done for this moment today, and for everything you always do. Thank you for the communion of joys and sorrows. Let us go forward, as the Lord said: "Courage, I have overcome the world." We are on the Lord's team, therefore we’re on the winning side. Thank you to each one of you. May the Lord bless you all. Let us raise our glasses.”