Homily of Card. Matteo Maria Zuppi at the celebration of consacration of fr. Giorgio Ferretti as Archbishop of Foggia - Bovino

Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

“O people of Sion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart”, the Entrance Antiphon of the Second Sunday of Advent says. Advent time helps us, whatever the condition or the season of our too quick life is, to make out in the garden that today blooms in the desert the plenitude we’ll enjoy in the Kingdom of Heaven. Advent always invites us to start again making roads straight and filling valleys.
Here is Advent: Somebody is going to come and is coming; He has come and helps us wait for his return. In a threatening, overwhelming and treacherous world, hope is kindled: neither mere survival nor hypothesis to be always corroborated, but a future to be built because it’s going to come. Advent sweeps pessimism away, it rids us of pointless arguments and never-ending sizing each other up, because we open up our hearts to the coming Other.

Advent always begins from a little one that is turned great. God himself, the Greatest, comes a little thing, in the humble life of Bethlehem, like it  was in Greccio, eight hundred years ago, among the minors who were meaningless for the great men of that time. And yet they have seen Jesus!
The Lord gives us so many signs of His presence in our humanity through this episcopal consecration of Giorgio Ferretti. You, Giorgio, be always a man of Advent, capable of showing the beauty of God and waiting for Him without getting tired, with an awake heart, not out of sacrifice but out of love, because you are in love.
Giorgio is a son of the Community of Sant’Egidio, missionary in Mozambique, who has been chosen by the Pope as Archbishop of the Diocese of Foggia- Bovino. I salute Msgr. Vincenzo Pelvi and I think I’m interpreting everyone’s feelings while I thank him for the last years’ service, certainly not very simple at all, for your beautiful city, yet burdened by many heavy issues. The Church will keep on being seed of future, of true life, ark under the deluge of injustice for anyone, particularly for the poor, because it’s a family where nobody is a stranger. Giorgio, be always happy to ‘harvest what you did not plant’, where many others planted, starting with the next-door saints who have given much the Church and the World. I mention and thank the Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi (a big shot!). Hail! I mention Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio and Francesco Pio Tamburino too, who follow us in prayer.

And you, Giorgio, plant and sow with untroubled confidence because the seed of Christ and of His love is fruitful in women and men’s hearts. It’ill always give fruits. I’m certain that Giorgio will bring with him his enthusiasm, which I’ve known since he was young. Now he’s got mature but not tepid: he’s been nourished on brotherhood, prayer and service, in a both deeply spiritual and serenely practical dimension.
The School of Peace in Begato has taught you how to love the least everywhere, to look for a single and universal love, a particular and general love. You’ve found Christian, whom you used to walk to school every day, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone, in so many least in so many places, in the meninos da rua in Maputo, and you’re going to find him in those you’re meeting and getting to know in Foggia, who seek faith and life. We’re here, in this Rome Cathedral, which has just turned 1700 years and it’s mater omnium ecclesiarum indeed, around St Peter’s See who chairs in Communion.

Physically we’re gathered around the altar and surrounded by the twelve Apostles, each one with the Peace dove, who are like twelve doors to get out towards all, in all directions, to the ends of the earth.
We are many today and what a joy is that through this celebration we can welcome new strength, a new prophecy, a new rush to communicate the Gospel to the World. The Church is always new, meretrix as it is, with all its limits and sins, but Christ’s spouse, spotless and wrinkle-free, radiant of beauty, advocate of Grace and paragon of sanctity. In a world which has been turned into a desert there is need of prophets who proclaim Jesus’ coming, His Christmas which can change the course of history.

The Pope’s chosen you, Giorgio, calling you from Mozambique, you too, in a way, ‘from the end of the world’, from a land dear to us since many years, where we’ve experienced the pandemic of war, but the dance of peace as well, the joy of life that revives, where what looked impossible got possible like overcoming war or curing HIV-AIDS, where we learn how to fight against the incredible germ of violence which comes up again, like a snake that bites in order to arm men’s hearts, minds and harms. The simple and genuine prophecy about Lord’s advent has made a weak Community strong enough to straight the road to peace and cure.
Today you are sent South again, but in Italy, in a land of ancient tradition, where the Gospel has deep roots, but somewhere to live the ever-surprising joy of a house to build, of a treasure to find in a field and to sell all you possess for, of a mission that always crosses new borders. Nowadays, it takes prophets, in a world which has been turned into a desert, which accepts the growth of inequalities, which doesn’t want and doesn’t know how to change swords into sickles, which doesn’t believe one day the wolf will dwell with the lamb, then it ends up closing in itself and getting full of fear and violence.
Such a new beginning for you and the Diocese of Foggia-Bovino is marked by the figure of St John the Baptist, the greatest among the Prophets, among those born of women, as Jesus says. All the Prophets have prepared Jesus’s advent, the Awaited one, Heaven descended upon earth, Eternal who gets into time, Peace that defeats the dragon of evil. In a difficult time like ours, all over the world, even in our country, it takes a clearer, stronger, more attractive, simpler and smarter, and humane prophecy in order to give more heart, because the hearts of many have got too hard, to give eyes to see because many live like sleepwalkers. The bishop, just like the Baptist, is a prophet who prepares the way to the Lord. Your way passes through Foggia.
We just listened to the Gospel, «Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you…». In the celebration, we are holding the Gospel over your head in a few minutes. Let the Gospel lead you. Let the Gospel alone inspire you, with all your freedom and mind and heart and soul. This is the beginning of a new life and a new responsibility. «Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way». It is the way of the Lord. There is a beautiful letter that a Spanish prelate sent to Msgr. Pie, newly elected bishop of Poitiers, and copied by Pope John XXIII on his journal. In a passage the author wrote, «Make our Lord live again! Let them say of you, ‘Oh, Jesus has come back on earth and talks to the men’. Smile at everyone, reach and poor, poor and rich equally. Or, if you admit any inequality, let it be in favour of the poor, who need such alms much more. Keep your elegant, noble, gentle style, limpid like your mind. Explain the divine Writ, in the tradition of the centuries: it is fruitful and infinitely varied. Do not confine yourself to the Greek and Roman forms: they are most part of the beauty, but the whole beauty is nowhere but in the Holy Books. Thus, be from Athen, be from Rome, but be from Jerusalem above all. Preach yourself to the faithful as long as your health allows you. But preach to the priests as well. I would love seeing you preach at the spiritual retreats. My God, how many dull mediocrities are in charge of such a ministry! It is necessary to be fathers and shepherds yourself to teach to the fathers and the shepherds in a proper way.
Do what the sun does: show yourself to your people but do not be prodigal. Every now and then, put a veil of mystery, not ceasing to be transparent, on the star of your august character. I go back to the word which is the foundation of sanctity for a bishop: imitating the goodness – I adore that word – the goodness and the meekness of the Son of God. Go about doing good: healing every languor and every infirmity, proclaiming the Kingdom in the villages and in the cities, laying your hands on the little children, and saintly smiling to their mothers. Visit the hospitals without endanger your frail health» (Giornale dell’anima, p.83).
Giorgio, remember the positive Pope Francis’ direction: the bishop should sometimes walk ahead of the people, above all in prayer, other times he should be in the midst in order to enjoy the richness and enliven the circularity of communion, other times he should be at the back to follow the people’s journey and look for those who fall behind, and at the same time because the people have a good nose for new ways. And enjoy the brotherhood of the bishops who have come in such a great number from Apulia, all the time: with them you can share experiences and views and grow stronger. St John the Baptist always accompany you with his baldness and help you point out Jesus coming. He is the One to whom we are not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals and yet He serves us washing our feet so that we can learn how to do it one another always joyfully. Your episcopal motto is: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ indeed. No regretfulness and vague pessimism. Only by giving and loosing we will find the ‘hundred times more’, given out of love not because of one’s merits.
Maria Assunta e dell’Icona Vetere guard you. Let St Guglielmo and St Pellegrino protect you. Let Fortunato Maria Farina, who we hope will be blessed soon, pray for you and so do all the next-door saints of that beautiful Church of Foggia-Bovino. Let don Tonino Bello comfort you. He, a strong bishop, emphasized, ‘Now we need great deeds, not mild palliatives, not pills which reduce fever for a while. Cleaning the window panes is not enough to let the light in: we need the new day to burst into our homes’. So be it for you and for the Church you are walking with and you will see Jesus’ advent among women and men. That is what makes you stay awake and raise your eyes.
So be it! Amen

Card. Matteo Maria Zuppi