CASTEL GANDOLFO — A minor earthquake struck the Castelli Romani region near Rome this afternoon, just 12 miles from Castel Gandolfo, where Pope Benedict XVI is spending his summer vacation.
Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Holy Father “felt the tremor, but all is normal; and there have been no effects that I’m aware of.”
The 3.6-magnitude, 6-mile-deep tremor took place at 5:13pm close to the town of Finocchio and was felt in Rome, which is 20 miles away.
Two deadly earthquakes struck Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region May 20 and May 29, causing 26 deaths and widespread damage. Benedict visited the affected towns on June 26, where he offered words of consolation and met victims’ families and rescue teams.
The Holy Father has been resting at the summer Apostolic Palace since July 3 and will return to normal duties Aug. 1. He is expected to remain at the papal villa until early October.
Earlier today, the Pope made a private visit to a missionary house outside Rome, where, 47 years ago, he participated as an expert theologian in a meeting that would adopt Ad Gentes, the Second Vatican Council decree on the mission activity of the Church.
During his private visit to the Ad Gentes Center of the Missionaries of the Divine Word, located in the village of Nemi close to Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father recalled the meeting as one of his fondest memories of the Council.
“I am truly grateful for the opportunity to review, after 47 years, this house in Nemi,” he said. “I have a beautiful memory, perhaps the most memorable of the whole Council. I lived in the center of Rome, in the Collegio dell’Anima, with all the noise. This, too, was nice; but staying here, surrounded by this greenery, having this breath of nature, this fresh air, was in itself a beautiful thing — and then, in the company of many great theologians and such an important and beautiful task, to prepare a decree on mission.”
He then recalled the order’s first superior general, Father Johannes Schütte, who had suffered in China and was expelled from the country.
“He was full of missionary zeal, the need to give new impetus to the missionary spirit, and had invited me — a very young theologian of no great importance — I do not know why, but it was a great gift for me,” he recalled.
The Pope also remembered Venerable Fulton Sheen, “who would fascinate us in the evenings with his talks.” (Archbishop Sheen was then national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.)
The Holy Father also recalled Cardinal Yves Congar, the Dominican and prominent theologian, and “the great missiologists of Louvain.” It was “spiritual enrichment, a great gift,” the Pope said.
He noted Ad Gentes was a decree “without great controversy,” although he remembered one that he “never really understood between the schools of Louvain and Münster: Is the main purpose of the mission implantatio Ecclesiae or annuntio Evangelii? But everything converged into the one dynamic of the need to bring the light of the word of God, the light of God’s love to the world, and give a new joy to this proclamation,” he said.
He recalled how those days “gave birth to a good and beautiful decree, almost unanimously accepted by all the Fathers of the Council.” He also said that, for him, it was also a “very good complement to Lumen Gentium [Light of the Nations], from which we find a Trinitarian ecclesiology, that starts above all from the classical idea that bonum diffusivum sivi sui (good has the inherent need to communicate), to give of itself, it cannot remain self-contained; the good thing, goodness itself, is essentially communicatio.” The Pope added: “That already appears in the inner Trinitarian mystery of God and in the history of salvation and our need to give others the good we have received.”
The Holy Father concluded that “with these memories I have often thought of those days of Nemi that, as I said, are an essential part of the Council for me.”
He said he was happy to see the Society for the Divine Word flourishing and that it now has 6,000 members in many countries and from many nations.
“Clearly, the missionary dynamic is alive, and it lives only if there is the joy of the Gospel, if we experience the good that comes from God and that must and wants to communicate itself,” the Pope said. “Thank you for this dynamism.”
The Pope was speaking off-the-cuff to 140 missionaries gathered at the Divine Word Missionaries’ center for its general chapter. The missionaries, representing more than 70 countries worldwide, received the Holy Father in the order’s chapel.
Father Pat Byrne, provincial superior for Great Britain and Ireland, told Vatican Radio that as soon as the Holy Father arrived he knelt before the altar and the Blessed Sacrament.
“We joined him in silent prayer,” he said. “Then he spoke from the heart, in Italian, taking a trip down memory lane to bring us a message of hope.”
The Pope ended his short speech by wishing the participants every blessing and plenty of inspiration: “[May the] same forces inspiring power of the Holy Spirit that almost visibly accompanied us during those days […] once again be present among you and help you find your path, both for your society and for the mission Ad Gentes of the Gospel for the coming years. Thanks to you all. God bless you. Pray for me, as I pray for you.”
Edward Pentin is Register’s Rome correspondent.
He blogs at NCRegister.com.