Speeches 2005-13 133




Dear young University Students,

At the conclusion of this Marian Vigil, I address with great joy my greeting to you all, to those who are present here and to those participating by satellite link-up. I gratefully greet the Cardinals and Bishops, in particular those who have presided over the recitation of the Rosary in the linked locations: Aparecida in Brazil, Avignon in France, Bucharest in Romania, Mexico City in Mexico, Havana at Cuba, Loja in Ecuador, Minsk in Belarus, Naples in Italy, Toledo in Spain, and Washington in the United States of America. Five Sees in Europe and five in the Americas; in fact, this initiative has as its theme: "Europe and the Americas together to build a civilization of love". Precisely on this theme a convention has taken place in these day at the Gregorian University, to whose participants I address a cordial greeting.

It is an opportune choice to emphasize from time to time the relationship between Europe and another continent, in a prospective of hope. Two years ago it was Europe and Africa; last year Europe and Asia; this year Europe and America. Christianity has a strong and profound link with the so-called Old Continent and what has been called the "new world". It is enough to think of the fundamental place that Sacred Scripture and the Christian Liturgy have in the culture and art of the European and American Peoples. Unfortunately, however, the so-called "Western civilization" has also partially betrayed its Gospel inspiration. Therefore, an honest and sincere reflection, an examination of conscience, is necessary. What builds the "civilization of love" according to God's plan revealed in Jesus Christ and what instead is opposed to it, must be discerned.

I now address you, dear young people. Youth have always been, in European and American history, heralds impelled by the Gospel. We think of young people like St Benedict of Norcia, St Francis of Assisi and Bl. Karl Leisner in Europe; like St Martin de Porres, St Rose of Lima and Bl. Kateri Tekakwith in America. Young builders of the civilization of love! Today, God has called you, young Europeans and Americans, to cooperate together with your contemporaries of the entire world, so that the life-blood of the Gospel may renew the civilization of these two Continents and of humanity as a whole. The great European and American cities are becoming ever more cosmopolitan, but they often lack this nourishment that can make the differences become a reciprocal enrichment rather than a cause for division or conflict. The civilization of love is "co-existence", that is, respectful, peaceful and joyful co-existence of differences in the name of a common goal, which Bl. Pope John XXIII founded on the four pillars of love, truth, freedom and justice. Behold, dear friends, the charge I entrust to you today: be disciples and witnesses of the Gospel, so that the Gospel may be the good seed of God's Kingdom, the civilization of love! Be builders of peace and unity! A sign of this catholic unity, which is universal and integral in the contents of the Christian faith that joins us all, is also seen in the initiative to consign to each one of you the text of the Encyclical Spe Salvi on CD in five languages. May the Virgin Mary watch over you, your families and all your loved ones.

I would now like to greet in the various languages those who are joining us in the other cities through radio and television link-up.

Queridos jóvenes reunidos en las ciudades de México, La Habana, Loja, y Toledo, sed testimonios de la gran esperanza que Cristo ha traído al mundo. Que el Señor os bendiga y os acompañe en vuestros compromisos de estudio.

Dear University students of Washington DC, I send warm greetings to you! With the help of God, I will be in your city in April. With your assistance, may America remain faithful to its Christian roots and to its high ideals of freedom in truth and justice!

Chers amis réunis à Avignon, l’Europe a besoin de la jeunesse de l’esprit dont vous êtes porteurs et que vous, jeunes chrétiens, pouvez lui donner, en vous efforçant de vivre vraiment l’Évangile. Cela constituera pour tous un témoignage. C’est ce que je vous souhaite de tout coeur.

Amados jovens, reunidos em Aparecida: ainda está viva no meu coração a lembrança da Viagem Pastoral que realizei no Brasil, especialmente no Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida. Peço à Virgem Mãe que obtenha para todos vocês a graça de ser sempre testemunhas de esperança!

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Iubiti prieteni reuniti la Bucuresti, Domnul sa va binecuvânteze! Pentru a raspândi civilizatia iubirii, crestinii trebuie sa fie uniti în spirit ecumenic. Dati voi însiva un exemplu constant de sincera colaborare între toti ucenicii lui Isus.

The Pope concluded in Italian:

I thank Cardinal Ruini and Mons. Leuzzi and those who have collaborated in organizing this meeting. I cordially thank the choir and orchestra who have sustained our prayer, as well as the Vatican Television Centre, Vatican Radio and Telespazio for the connections. To you, dear young people, I wish serene and fruitful work and a happy Easter, and to all I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing.


Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

It is a cause of great joy to me to receive you this morning on the occasion of the ad limina visit with which you are renewing the bonds of communion of your particular Churches with the Bishop of Rome. I am grateful for the words that Bishop Pablo Vizcaíno Prado of Suchitepéquez-Retalhuleu, President of the Bishops' Conference, has addressed to me on your behalf and I greet you all with affection, as I ask you to convey my esteem to the beloved Guatemalan People. The meetings I have had with each one of you have brought me close to the daily life and aspirations of your compatriots, as well as to the attentive pastoral work you carry out in your Nation.

Your Pastors' hearts are full of concern at the increase of violence and the poverty that affects broad sectors of the population, causing a steady exodus of emigrants to other countries with serious consequences in the areas of personal and family life. This situation requires you to renew your efforts to show everyone the merciful Face of the Lord, whose image the Church is called to be, accompanying and serving with generosity and self-denial especially those who are suffering and who are the most forsaken. In fact, charity and assistance to our needy brethren are "a part of [the Church's] nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (cf. Deus Caritas Est ).

God has blessed the Guatemalan People with deep religious feeling, rich in popular expressions, which must develop in solid Christian communities that joyfully celebrate their faith as living members of the Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 12,27), faithful to the foundation of the Apostles. You know very well that firmness of faith and participation in the sacraments strengthen your faithful against the risk of the sects or of groups that claim to be charismatic but that create a sense of confusion and can endanger ecclesial communion.

Your cultural traditions find in the family, the fundamental cell of society, the basic nucleus of life and of the transmission of faith and values, but is today having to contend with serious pastoral and human challenges. The Church, therefore, always dedicates special attention to imparting a solid formation to couples preparing for marriage, constantly instilling faith and hope in families and watching to ensure that with the necessary assistance they can carry out their responsibilities. In your ministry, you rely on the valuable collaboration of your priests who must regard their Bishop as a true father and teacher, very close to them, in whom they may find help in their spiritual and material needs as well as helpful advice in times of difficulty. They are constantly in need of encouragement in order to persevere as true men of prayer on the path to authentic priestly holiness (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 32). They also need the adequate means to broaden their human and theological formation, which will enable them to take on particularly sensitive roles such as those of professor, formation teacher or spiritual director in your seminaries. Following your example and pastoral zeal, they must be a living call to young and older men to give themselves entirely to the Lord, collaborating with divine grace so that the Lord may "send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9,38).

The Second American Missionary Congress celebrated in Guatemala in 2003 involved the challenge of bringing to the dioceses and vicariates a more intense experience of missionary commitment and included this in the new general plan of the Bishops' Conference. Today, also in the light of the conclusions of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences in Aparecida, you must reinforce your identity and set yourselves to fulfil the evangelizing commitments that you made there. Thus, precisely as my venerable Predecessor John Paul II did during his first Visit to your Country, I encourage you to persevere with a renewed spirit in the Church's evangelizing mission in the context of the current cultural changes and globalization, giving fresh enthusiasm to preaching and catechesis, proclaiming Jesus Christ, Son of God, as the foundation and raison d'être of every believer. The evangelization of cultures is a priority undertaking if the Word of God is to be made accessible to all and, accepted in minds and hearts, to be light that illuminates and water that purifies with the Gospel message which brings salvation to the entire human race.

As I bring this meeting to a close, I would like to encourage you to persevere in guiding the People of God entrusted to your care. May the Church, through your words and example, continue to shine as a source of hope for one and all. Please convey my affectionate greeting and my Blessing to your priests, Religious and all other faithful, especially those who collaborate with greater dedication in the work of evangelization. I invoke upon them and you the motherly protection of Our Lady of the Rosary, Patroness of Guatemala, and I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Reverend Monsignor,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to address a special word of greeting and appreciation to you for the work you do in an area of great importance for the life of the Church. I congratulate your President and each one of you on the progress made these years.

As you well know, it was Leo XIII who, faced with a historiography influenced by the spirit of his time and hostile to the Church, pronounced this famous phrase: "We do not fear the publication of documents", and made the Archives of the Holy See accessible for research. At the same time he created a commission of Cardinals for the promotion of historical studies that you, professors, can consider as a forerunner of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, of which you are members. Leo XIII was convinced of the fact that the study and presentation of the Church's authentic history could only prove favourable to her.

Since then, the cultural context has undergone a profound change. It is not concerned solely in facing a historiography hostile to Christianity and the Church. Today, it is historiography itself that is undergoing the most serious crisis, having to fight for its very existence in a society shaped by positivism and materialism. Both of these ideologies have led to an unrestrained enthusiasm for progress which, animated by spectacular discoveries and technological success notwithstanding the disastrous experiences of the last century, determines the concept of life in vast sectors of society. Thus, the past appears only as a dark background against which the present and the future shine with alluring promises. Still linked to this is the utopia of a paradise on earth, notwithstanding the fact that such a utopia has proved fallacious.

Disinterest in history is typical of this mentality, which turns into the marginalization of historical sciences. Where these strong ideologies are active, historical research and the teaching of history in universities and at every grade and level of education are neglected. This produces a society that, forgetful of its own past and therefore unequipped with criteria acquired through experience, is unable to programme a harmonious coexistence and a common commitment in accomplishing future objectives. Such a society is particularly vulnerable to ideological manipulation.

The danger increases in proportion to the excessive emphasis given to contemporary history, above all when research in this area is conditioned by a methodology inspired by positivism and sociology. Likewise, important areas of historic reality and even entire epochs are ignored. In many fields of study, for example, history is taught only beginning with the events of the French Revolution. This development inevitably produces a society ignorant of its own past and therefore deprived of historical memory. No one can fail to see the grave consequence of this: as the loss of memory provokes a loss of identity in the individual, this phenomenon analogously occurs for society as a whole.

Thus, it is evident how historical oblivion bears a danger for the integrity of human nature in all its dimensions. The Church, called by God the Creator to fulfil the duty of defending mankind and its humanity, has at heart an authentic historical culture, the effective progress of historical sciences. Indeed, high-level historical research also concerns the specific interest of the Church in a strict sense. Even when it does not precisely concern Church history, historical analysis commonly concurs with the description of that vital space in which the Church has carried out, and carries out, her mission down the ages. Undoubtedly, her life and ecclesial activity have always been determined, facilitated or made more difficult by the various historical contexts. The Church is not of this world, but lives in it and by means of it.

Now let us take into consideration Church history from the theological viewpoint, highlighting another important aspect. Its essential duty, in fact, turns out to be the complex mission to investigate and clarify that process of reception and transmission, of paralépsis and of paràdosis, through which was substantiated, in the course of the ages, the Church's raison d'être. Indeed, it is beyond a doubt that the Church can draw inspiration for her choices by drawing on her centuries-old treasury of experience and memory.

Therefore, distinguished Members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, I wholeheartedly wish to encourage you to commit yourselves as you have done up to the present to the Holy See's service in reaching these objectives, persevering in your daily and meritorious commitment to research and teaching. My hope is that, in harmony with the activities of other serious and expert colleagues, you will be able to effectively carry out the difficult objectives that you have set for yourselves and work for an ever more authentic historical science.

With these sentiments and the assurance of a remembrance of you and your delicate task in my prayer, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to all.


Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Confessors in the Roman Basilicas,

I am pleased to meet you at the end of the Course on the Internal Forum, which for some years now the Apostolic Penitentiary has organized during Lent. With its carefully planned programme, this annual meeting renders a precious service to the Church and helps to keep alive the sense of holiness of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I therefore address my cordial thanks to the organizers, especially the Major Penitentiary, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, whom I greet and thank for his courteous words. Together with him, I greet and thank the Regent and staff of the Penitentiary as well as the praiseworthy Religious of various Orders who administer the Sacrament of Penance in the Papal Basilicas of the City. I also greet all those who are taking part in the Course.

Lent is an especially favourable season to meditate on the reality of sin in the light of God's infinite mercy, which the Sacrament of Penance expresses in its loftiest form. I therefore willingly take this opportunity to bring to your attention certain thoughts on the administration of this Sacrament in our time, in which the loss of the sense of sin is unfortunately becoming increasingly more widespread. It is necessary today to assist those who confess to experience that divine tenderness to repentant sinners which many Gospel episodes portray with tones of deep feeling. Let us take, for example, the passage in Luke's Gospel that presents the woman who was a sinner and was forgiven (cf.
Lc 7,36-50). Simon, a Pharisee and a rich dignitary of the town, was holding a banquet at his home in honour of Jesus. In accordance with a custom of that time, the meal was eaten with the doors left open, for in this way the fame and prestige of the homeowner was increased. All at once, an uninvited and unexpected guest entered from the back of the room: a well-known prostitute. One can understand the embarrassment of those present, which did not seem, however, to bother the woman. She came forward and somewhat furtively stopped at Jesus' feet. She had heard his words of pardon and hope for all, even prostitutes; she was moved and stayed where she was in silence. She bathed Jesus' feet with tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with fragrant ointment. By so doing, the sinner woman wanted to express her love for and gratitude to the Lord with gestures that were familiar to her, although they were censured by society.

Amid the general embarrassment, it was Jesus himself who saved the situation: "Simon, I have something to say to you". "What is it, Teacher?", the master of the house asked him. We all know Jesus' answer with a parable which we can sum up in the following words which the Lord addressed basically to Simon: "You see? This woman knows she is a sinner; yet prompted by love, she is asking for understanding and forgiveness. You, on the other hand, presume yourself to be righteous and are perhaps convinced that you have nothing serious for which to be forgiven".

The message that shines out from this Gospel passage is eloquent: God forgives all to those who love much. Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are, as it were, blinded by their ego and their heart is hardened in sin. Those, on the other hand, who recognize that they are weak and sinful entrust themselves to God and obtain from him grace and forgiveness. It is precisely this message that must be transmitted: what counts most is to make people understand that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whatever the sin committed, if it is humbly recognized and the person involved turns with trust to the priest-confessor, he or she never fails to experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness. In this perspective your Course acquires considerable importance. It aims to prepare well-trained confessors from the doctrinal viewpoint who are able to make their penitents experience the Heavenly Father's merciful love. Might it not be true that today we are witnessing a certain alienation from this Sacrament? When one insists solely on the accusation of sins - which must nevertheless exist and it is necessary to help the faithful understand its importance - one risks relegating to the background what is central, that is, the personal encounter with God, the Father of goodness and mercy. It is not sin which is at the heart of the sacramental celebration but rather God's mercy, which is infinitely greater than any guilt of ours.

It must be a commitment of pastors and especially of confessors to highlight the close connection that exists between the Sacrament of Reconciliation and a life oriented decisively to conversion.
It is necessary that between the practice of the Sacrament of Confession and a life in which a person strives to follow Christ sincerely, a sort of continuous "virtuous circle" be established in which the grace of the Sacrament may sustain and nourish the commitment to be a faithful disciple of the Lord. The Lenten Season, in which we now find ourselves, reminds us that in our Christian life we must always aspire to conversion and that when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently the desire for Gospel perfection is kept alive in believers. If this constant desire is absent, the celebration of the Sacrament unfortunately risks becoming something formal that has no effect on the fabric of daily life. If, moreover, even when one is motivated by the desire to follow Jesus one does not go regularly to confession, one risks gradually slowing his or her spiritual pace to the point of increasingly weakening and ultimately perhaps even exhausting it.

Dear brothers, it is not difficult to understand the value in the Church of your ministry as stewards of divine mercy for the salvation of souls. Persevere in imitating the example of so many holy confessors who, with their spiritual insight, helped penitents to understand that the regular celebration of the Sacrament of Penance and a Christian life that aspires to holiness are inseparable elements of the same spiritual process for every baptized person. And do not forget that you yourselves are examples of authentic Christian life. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy and of Hope, help you who are present here and all confessors to carry out zealously and joyfully this great service on which the Church's life so intensely depends. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and bless you with affection.


Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture. I congratulate you on your work and on the theme chosen for this Assembly: "The Church and the challenge of secularization". This is a fundamental issue for the future of humanity and of the Church. Secularization that often turns into secularism, abandoning the positive acceptance of secularity, harshly tries the Christian life of the faithful and Pastors alike, and during your Assembly you have additionally interpreted and transformed it into a providential challenge in order to propose convincing answers to the questions and hopes of man, our contemporary.

I thank Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, who has been President of the Dicastery for only a few months, for his cordial words on your behalf illustrating the pattern of your work. I am also grateful to all of you for your commitment to ensuring that the Church enters into dialogue with the cultural movements of our age and that the Holy See's interest for the vast and varied world of culture may be increasingly known. Today more than ever, in fact, reciprocal intercultural openness is a privileged terrain for dialogue between men and women involved in the search for authentic humanism, over and above differences that separate them. Secularization, which presents itself in cultures by imposing a world and humanity without reference to Transcendence, is invading every aspect of daily life and developing a mentality in which God is effectively absent, wholly or partially, from human life and awareness. This secularization is not only an external threat to believers, but has been manifest for some time in the heart of the Church herself. It profoundly distorts the Christian faith from within, and consequently, the lifestyle and daily behaviour of believers. They live in the world and are often marked, if not conditioned, by the cultural imagery that impresses contradictory and impelling models regarding the practical denial of God: there is no longer any need for God, to think of him or to return to him. Furthermore, the prevalent hedonistic and consumeristic mindset fosters in the faithful and in Pastors a tendency to superficiality and selfishness that is harmful to ecclesial life.

The "death of God" proclaimed by many intellectuals in recent decades is giving way to a barren cult of the individual. In this cultural context there is a risk of drifting into spiritual atrophy and emptiness of heart, sometimes characterized by surrogate forms of religious affiliation and vague spiritualism.
It is proving more urgent than ever to react to this tendency by means of an appeal to the lofty values of existence that give life meaning and can soothe the restlessness of the human heart in search of happiness: the dignity of the human person and his or her freedom, equality among all men and women, the meaning of life and death and of what awaits us after the end of our earthly existence. In this perspective my Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, aware of the radical and rapid changes in society, constantly recalled the urgent need to come to terms with human beings in the sphere of culture in order to pass on to them the Gospel Message. For this very reason he established the Pontifical Council for Culture in order to give a new impetus to the Church's action by introducing the Gospel to the plurality of cultures in the various parts of the world (cf. Letter to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, 20 May 1982; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 28 June, PP 7,20). The intellectual sensitivity and pastoral charity of Pope John Paul II encouraged him to highlight the fact that the Industrial Revolution and scientific discoveries made it possible to answer questions that formerly were partially answered only by religion. The result was that contemporary man often had the impression that he no longer needs anyone in order to understand, explain and dominate the universe; he feels the centre of everything, the measure of everything.

More recently, through new information technologies, globalization has often also resulted in disseminating in all cultures many of the materialistic and individualistic elements of the West. The formula "Etsi Deus non daretur" is increasingly becoming a way of living that originates in a sort of "arrogance" of reason - a reality nonetheless created and loved by God - that deems itself self-sufficient and closes itself to contemplation and the quest for a superior Truth. The light of reason, exalted but in fact impoverished by the Enlightenment, has radically replaced the light of faith, the light of God (cf. Benedict XVI, Address, La Sapienza University, 17 January 2008). Thus, in this context the Church has great challenges with which to deal. The commitment of the Pontifical Council for Culture to a fruitful dialogue between science and faith is therefore especially important. This comparison has been long awaited by the Church but also by the scientific community, and I encourage you to persevere in it. Through it, faith implies reason and perfection, and reason, enlightened by faith, finds the strength to rise to the knowledge of God and spiritual realities. In this sense secularization does not foster the ultimate goal of science which is at the service of man, "imago Dei". May this dialogue continue in the distinction of the specific characteristics of science and faith. Indeed, each has its own methods, contexts and subjects of research, its own aims and limitations, and must respect and recognize the other's legitimate possibility of exercising autonomy in accordance with its own principles (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 36); both are called to serve man and humanity, encouraging the integral development and growth of each one and all.

I above all exhort Pastors of God's flock to a tireless and generous mission in order to confront with Gospel proclamation and witness, in the arena of dialogue and the encounter with cultures, the disturbing phenomenon of secularization that enfeebles the person and hinders him in his innate longing for the whole Truth. Thus, may Christ's disciples, thanks to the service carried out particularly by your Dicastery, continue to proclaim Christ in the heart of cultures, because he is the light that illumines reason, man and the world. We also set before us the warning addressed to the angel of the Church in Ephesus: "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance.... But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first" (Ap 2,2). Let us make our own the cry of the Spirit and of the Church: "Come!" (Ap 22,17), and let our hearts be pervaded by the Lord's response: "Surely, I am coming soon" (Ap 22,20). He is our hope, the light for our way, our strength to proclaim salvation with apostolic courage, reaching to the heart of all cultures. May God help you in carrying out your arduous but exalting mission!

As I entrust to Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of the New Evangelization, the future of the Pontifical Council for Culture and that of all its members, I wholeheartedly impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I warmly welcome you at the time when you are making your visit ad limina Apostolorum, an occasion to strengthen your communion with the Successor of Peter and with one another and to share with the Roman Curia the causes of joy and hope as well as of concern experienced by the People of God entrusted to your pastoral care. I would first like to thank Archbishop Louis Kébreau, newly appointed Archbishop of Cap-Haïtien and President of the Bishops' Conference, for his words addressed to me on your behalf recalling the situation of the Country and the Church's activity. I greet in particular the Bishops who have recently resigned from their pastoral office and those who have received a new one. My thoughts also go to your faithful as well as to all the beloved People of Haiti.

I would like to recall the Visit to Haiti made by my Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, 25 years ago for the close of the National Eucharistic Congress, by evoking the central theme of this gathering: "Something must change here" (Homily, 9 March 1983, Port-au-Prince, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 19 April, p. 7). Have things changed? Your Country has been through times of suffering that the Church has followed attentively: division, injustice, poverty, unemployment, elements that are a source of profound anxiety for the people. I ask the Lord to instil in the hearts of all Haitians, especially those with social responsibility, the courage to promote change and reconciliation, so that all the Country's inhabitants may have worthy living conditions and benefit from the goods of the earth in ever greater solidarity. I cannot forget those who are forced to go to the neighbouring country to meet their needs. I hope that the International Community will pursue and intensify its support for the Haitian People in order to enable them to increasingly take in hand their future and their development.

One of the concerns presented in your quinquennial reports is the situation of the family structure, rendered unstable by the crisis that has spread across the Country and also by the evolution of customs and the progressive loss of the meaning of marriage and the family by putting it on the same level as other forms of union. It is largely from the family that society and the Church develop.

Your attention to this aspect of pastoral life is therefore fundamental, for it is a question of the first place for the education of youth. "The Christian family springs from marriage, which is an image and a sharing in the partnership of love between Christ and the Church; it will show forth to all men Christ's living presence in the world and the authentic nature of the Church: by the love and generous fruitfulness of the spouses, by their unity and fidelity, and by the loving way in which all members of the family cooperate with each other" (Gaudium et Spes GS 48). I therefore encourage you to support married couples and young families by giving them increasingly appropriate support and formation and thereby also teaching them respect for life.

In your episcopal ministry, priests occupy a privileged place: they are your first collaborators. By paying attention to their continuing formation and establishing fraternal and trusting relationships, you will help them to exercise a fruitful ministry, asking them to abstain from political involvement.
It is important that meetings with priests be regularly organized so that they may have a tangible experience of the presbyterate and support one another by prayer. Convey my affectionate greetings to all your priests; I know of the faithfulness and courage they require in order to live in situations that are often difficult. May they build their apostolate on their relationship with Christ, on the Eucharistic mystery which reminds us that the Lord gave himself unreservedly for the world's salvation, on the sacrament of pardon, on their love for the Church, bearing an eloquent witness to their priestly commitment through an upright, humble and poor life.

You are attentive to the pastoral care of vocations and the formation of young men who present themselves and for whom it is necessary to exercise a profound discernment. For this reason, you seek teams of formation teachers for your seminaries. I ask you to consider with the episcopates of other countries being open to formation experts whose priestly lives are exemplary, in order to accompany the future priests your dioceses need through the different stages of their human, moral, spiritual and pastoral formation. The future of the Church in Haiti depends on this. May the local Churches hear this appeal and accept the task to give the gift of priests in order to help you in the formation of seminarians, in accordance with the Encyclical Fidei Donum;this will also be for the Church in Haiti an opening, a treasure and a source of numerous graces.

Despite the lack of means, Catholic schools play an important role in Haiti. They are appreciated by the Authorities and by the populace. I give thanks for the people committed to the beautiful mission of educating youth. Take them my warm greetings. It is through teaching that the formation and maturation of personalities is obtained by recognition of the essential values and the practice of the virtues; it is also a conception of man and of society that is passed on. Catholic schools are important places for evangelization by the witness of life given by the educators, by the discovery of the Gospel message or by the celebrations lived in the heart of the educational community. Tell the young Haitians that the Pope has confidence in them, that he knows their generosity and their desire to succeed in their lives, that Christ calls them to an ever more beautiful existence and to remember that he alone brings the true message of happiness and gives life its full meaning. Yes, your young people are a cause of joy and hope to me. A country that wants to develop, a Church which desires to be more dynamic, must first focus their efforts on young people. It is therefore your task to encourage the formation of lay adults, so that they may ever more effectively carry out their Christian mission in the world and in the Church.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of this meeting, I wish to express once again my spiritual closeness to the Church in Haiti, as I pray to the Lord to give her strength for her mission. May I also acknowledge the work of the men and women religious and volunteers, often involved with the poorest and most deprived members of society, showing that by fighting poverty one is also fighting the numerous social problems that stem from it. May they be supported by everyone in this task. I warmly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to each one of you and to the priests, consecrated persons and all the lay faithful of your dioceses.


Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great joy to receive you at this Audience for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. As I offer you a most cordial welcome, I would like to thank you for the attentive words addressed to me and to wish you success in the lofty mission that has been entrusted to you. Likewise, I ask you to convey my closeness and affection to all the sons and daughters of this beloved Country, as well as my respectful greeting to the President of the Republic.

Bolivia's deep Christian roots have sustained your people, have accompanied the ups and downs of their history and have fostered the sense of respect and reconciliation, so necessary in the difficult moments that this Nation has had to face. Particularly significant in this regard is the massive and warm welcome which all Bolivians, of the towns and the countryside, of the plateaus and of the Eastern region, gave my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II during the Visit he made to your Country 20 years ago and which highlighted their strong religious character and spirit of communion and brotherhood as a demonstration of the faith of an entire people. It is important to remember this event at a time when your Nation is living a profound process of change that is producing difficult and at times worrying situations. In fact, it is impossible to remain indifferent when social tensions are increasing and an atmosphere that is not conducive to understanding is spreading. I believe we all share the conviction that contrasting positions, sometimes encouraged and applauded, hinder constructive dialogue to identify fair financial and legal solutions that aim for the common good, especially for those who have difficulty in living a dignified life.

The Authorities who govern the People's destinies, as well as the leaders of political, social and civil organizations, need the prudence and wisdom that derive from love for humanity in order to promote throughout the population the necessary conditions for dialogue and understanding. This praiseworthy objective will be supported if all Bolivians contribute the best of themselves with frankness and propitious concern, often not exempt from self-denial and sacrifice. In this way, the sincere and altruistic collaboration of individuals and institutions will help uproot the evils that afflict the noble Bolivian People, who are so frequently affected by natural disasters that require everyone to use effective means and have sentiments of brotherhood which help to resolve their serious consequences.

Civil and social, political and economic rebirth always requires disinterested hard work and generous dedication from a people asking for material, moral and spiritual assistance. The achievement of peace must be founded on justice, truth and freedom as well as on reciprocal cooperation, love and the reconciliation of all.

Well acquainted with the needs and hopes of the Bolivian People, the Church offers the proclamation of faith and her experience in humanity as a contribution to their spiritual growth and to help them obtain complete human fulfilment. Faithful to her mission, the Church is always prepared to collaborate in peacemaking and in the Country's human and spiritual development, proclaiming her doctrine and publicly expressing her opinion on matters that concern the social order. To this end, recognizing the State's specific competencies, she assumes as her own duty the guidance of her faithful, proposing to them and to all society that they banish once and for all racial hatred, reprisals and revenge, and that rather than adopting attitudes of division they take the path of solidarity and mutual trust, with respect for diversity.

In the Final Document of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences held in Aparecida, the Bishops considered that it was urgent to collaborate with political and social bodies to create new structures that reinforce a social, economic and political order, promote authentic human coexistence, prevent the arrogance of some and facilitate the fraternal, sincere and constructive dialogue required for social consensus (cf. n. 384).

For this reason, it is necessary that the defence and safeguard of human rights is firmly supported by ethical values such as justice and the desire for peace, honesty and transparency, as well as effective solidarity in order to correct unjust social inequalities.

The teaching of the moral good, of what is right or wrong without which no society can sustain itself, is consequently incumbent on education from the very earliest age. In this task, the family has a decisive role and must therefore be able to rely on the help it needs to carry out its task and be the "primary "agency' of peace" for the benefit of all (Message for the World Day of Peace 2008, n. 5).

Mr Ambassador, before concluding this encounter I would like once again to express my best wishes for the success of your mission, so that the bonds of dialogue between your Country and this Apostolic See may be strengthened.

We desire for your Nation an authentic spiritual, material and civil rebirth. We warmly hope that in each human person the image of his or her Creator and Lord may shine out and that the love of Jesus Christ may be a source of hope for every son and daughter of this beloved Land of Bolivia. I ask the Lord to obtain in Bolivia the triumph of truth that seeks respect for others, even those who do not share the same ideas; peace that fraternizes with justice and opens doors to harmonious and stable development, common sense that endeavours to find fair and reasonable solutions to problems, and harmony that unites wills in overcoming adversities and achieving the common good.

May the motherly protection of Our Lady of Copacabana accompany you, Your Excellency, your family, your collaborators and all the beloved sons and daughters of the noble Bolivian Nation.


Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the letters by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greeting which you have conveyed from His Excellency Mr Karolos Papoulias, and I would ask that you assure him, the leaders of your country and the people of Greece of my good wishes and prayers for their well-being and peace.

Recently, several significant encounters have strengthened the bonds of goodwill between Greece and the Holy See. In the wake of the Jubilee Year of 2000, my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II visited your country during his pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul. This led to an exchange of visits from Orthodox and Catholic delegations to and from Rome and Athens. In 2006, I was happy to receive your President here at the Vatican, and I was graced by a visit from His Beatitude Christodoulos, whose recent death Christians in your country and throughout the world continue to mourn. I pray that the Lord will grant this devoted pastor rest from his labours and bless him for his valiant efforts to mend the breach between Christians in the East and West. I avail myself of this occasion to extend to the new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos, my sincere fraternal greetings of peace, together with an assurance of my constant prayers for his fruitful ministry and good health.

Let me also take this opportunity to reiterate my eagerness to work together as we travel the road towards Christian unity. In this regard, Your Excellency has highlighted the signs of hope emerging from the ecumenical meetings that have taken place over the past decades. Not only have these reaffirmed what Catholics and Orthodox already hold in common, but they have also opened the door to deeper discussions about the precise meaning of the Church’s unity. Undoubtedly, honesty and trust will be required from all parties if the important questions raised by this dialogue are to continue to be addressed effectively. We take courage from the "new spirit" of friendship that has characterized our conversations, inviting all participants to ongoing conversion and prayer, which alone are able to ensure that Christians will one day attain the unity for which Jesus prayed so fervently (cf. Jn 17,21).

The imminent Jubilee dedicated to the bi-millennial anniversary of the birth of Saint Paul will be a particularly auspicious occasion to intensify our ecumenical endeavours, for Paul was a man who "left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians" (cf. Homily at the Vespers celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 28 June 2007). This brilliant "Apostle to the Gentiles" dedicated his energies to preaching the wisdom of the cross of Christ amidst the people of Greece, who were formed by the highly sophisticated Hellenistic culture. Because Paul’s memory is forever planted in her soil, Greece will play an important role in this celebration. I am confident that the pilgrims who come to Greece in order to venerate the holy sites associated with his life and teaching will be embraced with the warm spirit of hospitality for which your nation is renowned.

The vibrant exchange between Hellenistic culture and Christianity allowed the former to be transformed by Christian teaching and the latter to be enriched by Greek language and philosophy. This enabled Christians to communicate the Gospel more coherently and persuasively throughout the world. Even today, visitors to Athens can contemplate Paul’s words—now etched on the monument overlooking the Areopagus—which he proclaimed to the learned citizens of the polis. He spoke of the one God in whom "we live and move and have our being" (cf. Ac 17,16-34). Paul’s powerful preaching of the mystery of Christ to the Corinthians, who highly esteemed their philosophical heritage (cf. 1Co 2,5), opened their culture to the salutary influence of the Word of God. His words still resound in the hearts of men and women today. They can help our contemporaries to appreciate more deeply their human dignity, and thus promote the good of the entire human family. It is my hope that the Pauline Year will become a catalyst that will spark reflection upon the history of Europe and stir its inhabitants to rediscover the inestimable treasure of values they have inherited from the integral wisdom of Hellenistic culture and the Gospel.

Mr Ambassador, I thank you for the assurance of your government’s resolve to address administrative issues concerning the Catholic Church in your nation. Among these, the question of its juridical status is of particular significance. The Catholic faithful, though few in number, look forward to the favourable results of these deliberations. Indeed, when religious leaders and civil authorities work together to formulate fair legislation in regard to the life of local ecclesial communities, the spiritual welfare of the faithful and the good of all society are enhanced.

In the international arena, I commend Greece’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation, especially in the surrounding area of the Mediterranean basin. Her efforts to quell tensions and dispel the clouds of suspicion which have long stood in the way of a fully harmonious coexistence in the region will help to rekindle a spirit of goodwill between individuals and nations.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, I cannot help but recall the devastation caused by the wildfires that raged through Greece last summer. I continue to remember in my prayers those who were affected by this disaster, and I invoke God’s grace and strength upon all those involved in the process of rebuilding. As you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your mission and assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in your duties. I cordially invoke upon you and all the beloved people of Greece the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
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