Speeches 2001 - Tuesday, 29 May 2001
The Church appreciates the willingness and ability of men and women religious to respond promptly to the challenges of spreading the Good News, while at the same time she recalls that their consecrated life is a privileged means of evangelization. This is why I remind them of the need always to develop a "dynamic fidelity" to their own charism (cf. Vita consecrata, VC 37). I would also like to underline the Bishops' responsibility to safeguard and protect the rich spiritual heritage of every institute (cf. Code of Canon Law, CIC 586,2), responding "to the gift of the consecrated life which the Spirit awakens in the particular Churches, by welcoming it with generosity and thanksgiving" (Vita consecrata, VC 48). Furthermore, in the face of the widespread need for spirituality, which can be considered as one of the "signs of the times" at the beginning of this millennium (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte, NM 33), a witness of authentically evangelical life in conformity with their original charism is expected of consecrated people and will certainly enrich every particular Church, helping to keep alive the sense of God's presence and fostering in all the faithful "a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer" (Tertio Millennio adveniente, TMA 42 Vita consecrata, n. 39).
5. Even if "the Church's mission of salvation in the world is realized not only by the ministers in virtue of the Sacrament of Orders but also by all the lay faithful" (Christifideles laici, CL 23), there can be no doubt that ordained ministers have a fundamental role in this mission. I would therefore like to share in your concern for the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and for their formation as the future Pastors of the People of God.
This important topic demands constant reflection and a new and determined commitment on the part of all Christian communities, under the guidance of those whom "the Holy Spirit has made [their] guardians, to feed the Church of the Lord" (Ac 20,28). The approach to vocations promotion must be based on the Lord's personal call to the following of Christ and to the ministry through the Church's fruitfulness and the depth of her life, nourished by the purity of faith, the grace of the sacraments, the spirit of conversion and the fervent prayer of the members of Christ's Mystical Body. Everyone must therefore participate in some way in the vocations ministry, trusting that God will respond by providing his People with the necessary ministers, if they but persevere in praying for them.
It is also important to keep in mind that a privileged context for vocations promotion is the pastoral care of young people, directed to the doctrinal, spiritual and apostolic formation of them in parishes and schools as well as in apostolic associations and movements. In this field an integral and consistent formation is fundamental, and should be based on closeness to Christ who prepares those who are chosen to receive the grace of the gift joyfully.
The witness of priestly fidelity, into whose ministry the newly ordained will be integrated, is an important factor in the formation of seminarians. Responding generously and with an undivided love to their "vocation to the priesthood", priests will be a model of pastoral charity, of prayer, of self-sacrifice and dedication to the young candidates to Holy Orders.
6. I am pleased to see how you lead your people in their search for a harmonious and peaceful coexistence, based on the values of reconciliation, justice, solidarity and freedom. Therefore, when necessary, do not avoid reporting injustice and presenting the moral principles that must also guide the way they are practised in civil life.
The Church in Guatemala has seen the blood of many of her children spilled. In addition to the legitimate effort to uncover the truth of these execrable crimes - including the assassination of Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera, Auxiliary of Guatemala, who was killed three years ago - it is urgent that "their example of boundless dedication to the cause of the Gospel" (Ecclesia in America ) be saved from oblivion. In this regard, I would like to recall what I previously said in your land on 6 February 1996 at Campo Marte: "I would now like to pay a warm and well-deserved tribute to the hundreds of catechists who, together with some priests, risked their lives and even offered them up for the Gospel. With their blood they have made the blessed land of Guatemala fruitful forever. This fecundity must bear fruit in united and profoundly Christian families, in evangelizing parishes and communities, and in numerous priestly, religious and missionary vocations. Imitating Mary's courage and integrity, they "have conquered ... by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death' (Ap 12,11)" (n. 4).
7. On the other hand, spreading the Church's social teaching acquires a dimension of "authentic pastoral priority" (Ecclesia in America, ), both in order to face the different situations adequately and with a clear conscience illumined by faith, and to encourage and direct the involvement of lay people in public life. Indeed, denunciations and the theoretical pronouncements of principles serve little purpose if they are not firmly interiorized through an integral and systematic formation. In this way a channel is opened for the real, concrete incidence of the values inspired by the Gospel in the worlds of culture, technology, economics and politics.
In addition to formation which is essential to the growth in faith of every Christian, an effort should also be made to evangelize those with responsibilities in the various sectors of public administration. Given that the Gospel has something to say to them too, we need to help them discover that Jesus' message is also applicable and relevant to the roles they exercise (cf. Ecclesia in America, ).
8. It is well-known that in Guatemala it is mainly the catechists who are responsible for spreading God's Word. I have seen how in your quinquennial reports you praise their self-denial and self-sacrificing work. I warmly thank them for this service, which is part of their mission in the Church.
One particularly suitable way for the lay faithful to satisfy the great hopes that the Church places in them in their own specific tasks is an appropriate organization that will facilitate the formation and gradual incorporation of the new generations, reciprocal help and coordinated apostolic action. In this regard, the emergence of various lay movements can be a gratifying phenomenon that deserves special attention from the Bishops who are asked, as the Apostle St Paul says, "Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good" (1Th 5,19-21). In this way, with the help of their Pastors and in perfect communion with them, a vigorous laity will be forged that is firmly committed to the path of personal holiness, to the construction of the Church and to building a more just society.
It will also be an effective means of overcoming religious ignorance and strengthening faith, at times merely a habit, making the baptized less vulnerable to the proselytizing advances of the sects and offering others spiritual support (cf. Ecclesia in America, ).
9. At the end of this meeting, I would like to encourage you to continue, with your typical energy and enthusiasm and with renewed hope, in carrying out the mission the Lord has entrusted to you. Please convey my affection and my spiritual closeness to your priests, your religious and all the Guatemalan faithful who go joyfully forth to meet the Lord. In this regard I recall that "many are the paths on which each one of us and each of our Churches must travel, but there is no distance between those who are united in the same communion, the communion which is daily nourished at the table of the Eucharistic Bread and the Word of Life" (Novo Millennio ineunte, NM 58).
May the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Church, accompany you on your way and comfort you with her motherly tenderness always. May you also be supported by the Apostolic Blessing which I gladly impart to you and extend to all your particular Churches.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. "As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (II Tm 3,14-16).
The Apostle Paul addresses these words to young Bishop Timothy, placed at the head of the Church in Ephesus, reminding him of the importance of Sacred Scripture in the proclamation of salvation in Christ. From the earliest Christian antiquity, the Bible was the book that shaped many cultures and national alphabets were sometimes created for its translation.
The Orthodox Church in the Romanian principalities was well aware of this when she provided for the first translations of the Bible in the national language, so as to make it more accessible to the faithful. In the second half of the 18th century, the first complete Romanian edition of Sacred Scripture, known as the "Bible of Bucurestu" (1688), went out of print. In the meantime notable changes had occurred in the national language. Thus a new edition became necessary; a great and erudite monk, Samuil Micu, of the "Scoala Ardeleana" tackled the task with competence and enthusiasm. The publication took the name of the city of Blaj where it was printed by Bishop Ioan Bob in 1795.
2. This new translation was not only adopted by the Greek Catholic Church in Transylvania, but also by the Orthodox Church. Thus all Romanians used it to spread faith in Christ. So it was that the same texts were echoed and re-echoed in the liturgy, further developing the common theological language.
Moreover, given the great literary quality of this work, it made a remarkable impact on the culture of the entire nation, as happened in Poland, for example, with the translation of the Bible by the Jesuit, Fr Jakub Wujek.
Considering the importance of the "Bible of Blaj", a real monument to faith as well as a literary monument to the Romanian language, I wanted an edition of it to be prepared by a group of distinguished scholars, under the patronage of the Greek-Catholic Metropolia and of Romania's most senior cultural authorities, to be printed in the Vatican as a gift of the Holy See.
I also wanted to reconfirm the age-old closeness of the Roman Pontiffs to the Romanian nation. I always carry in my heart the memory of my visit to your country and the affection that I was shown by both Catholics and Orthodox. I remember the people's cry at the Eucharistic celebration in Podul Izvor Park: "Unity, Unity!". This is the spiritual yearning of a people asking for unity and willing to work to obtain it. The enthusiastic faces and fraternal gestures of that historic meeting are indelibly printed in my mind. They are now part of history. Thus, just as that journey brought us closer on our way towards unity, I hope that the reprinting of the "Bible of Blaj" will be another step towards the full communion of Christ's disciples.
3. "You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth" (Dt 11,18-21).
The Word of the Lord must first of all be lived. It must penetrate all the places where man lives and works. For this to happen, the Church is called to preach it forcefully and clearly, using both the traditional means and those offered by the new technologies.
I invite Pastors and faithful to make the Bible their daily spiritual food. I urge them to meditate and pray using the words of Sacred Scripture which, after the Eucharist, must form the centre of ecclesial and family life. Only in this way will they always find the inspiration and divine strength they need in order to stay faithful to Christ while witnessing to the world.
I therefore greet you with great joy today, Mr President, together with everyone who cooperated in the reprinting of the Bible of Blaj. I thank those who sponsored the initiative and those who supervised the various phases of its concrete implementation.
I also hope that the reprinting of the "Bible of Blaj" will recall this urgent need, to which pastoral programmes and the formation of the clergy must give priority. Thus the Catholic Church, which can be justly proud of her contribution to the life of the Romanian people down the centuries, will continue to make herself useful to the nation.
In spirit I present this new edition of the Bible to the Christians of Romania, and I call upon Mary, the listening Virgin and Mother of unity, to watch over the footsteps of the entire Romanian people.
To this end, I cordially assure each one of my prayers, and very gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Thursday, 31 May 2001
Eminent Cardinals, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am very happy to celebrate with you, teachers, students and staff, the 20th anniversary of your, or rather our, Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family. Thank you for your welcome presence.
I cordially greet all of you and I wish to greet in a special way the Chancellor, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the President of the Superior Council of the Institute, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, and Archbishop Carlo Caffarra, of Ferrara, who launched the Institute. Finally, let me offer a special greeting to Bishop Angelo Scola, President of the Institute, the teachers and students, the staff and all those who in any way cooperate in the activity of the academic centre.
This anniversary is an obvious sign of the Church's involvement in marriage and the family, that are among the greatest goods of humanity, as I said in the Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio, written 20 years ago this year.
From the moment that the Institute is present with different sections on all continents, the original intuition behind the founding of the Institute has become fruitful, coming into contact as it does with new situations and facing today's radical challenges.
2. Taking up the themes dealt with in previous talks to the Institute, I want to draw your attention to the great need of an adequate anthropology which intends to understand and interpret the human person in what makes him/her essentially human.
In fact, the forgetfulness of the principle of God's creation of the human person as male and female, represents one of the major critical problems of contemporary society and it brings with it a sweeping decline in respect for the human person in cultural expressions, moral sensitivity and legal enactments. When the principle gets lost, the perception of the singular dignity of the human person is lost and the way is open for an invasive "culture of death".
However, the experience of love, properly understood, remains a simple and universal gateway through which everyone can pass in order to gain an awareness of what makes a person a human being: reason, affection and freedom. Within the continuously raised questions about the meaning of the person, and moving from the principle of the human person's being created male and female in the image and likeness of God, the believer can recognize the mystery of the Trinitarian face of God, who creates a human being by placing on him the seal of his reality of love and communion.
3. The sacrament of marriage and the family that proceeds from it, represent the valid way through which the grace of Christ grants to the children of the Church a real participation in Trinitarian communion. The Risen Lord's spousal love for his Church, offered in the sacrament of marriage, also raises up in the church the gift of virginity for the kingdom. In its turn, virginity indicates the final destiny of conjugal love. In this way, the nuptial mystery helps us to discover that the Church is the family of God. In this connection, see how, by exploring the nature of the sacrament of matrimony, the Institute contributes to the renewal of ecclesiology.
4. The whole question of the origin of human life and methods of procreation is another burning issue that affects the prospects for marriage and family. With growing insistence, plans are devised that place the beginnings of human life in situations that are completely divorced from the marital union of husband and wife. These plans are often supported by purported medical and scientific reasons. In fact, with the pretext of ensuring a better quality of life through genetic control, or of progress in medical and scientific research, experiments on human embryos and methods for their production are proposed that open the door to the use of the person as an object and run the risk of abuse by those who arrogate to themselves an arbitrary and limitless power over the human being.
The full truth on marriage and family, revealed in Christ, is a light that allows us to discern what constitutes the authentically human elements in procreation. As the Second Vatican Council taught, "the spouses joined by the marriage bond are called to express by means of acts that are moral and worthy of marriage" (Gaudium et Spes, GS 49) their mutual self-giving and to accept with responsibility and gratitude children, "the most precious gift of marriage" (ibid., n. 50). They become collaborators in their physical self-giving with the love of God the Creator. Participating in the gift of life and love, they receive the capacity of corresponding to it and transmitting it in turn.
The union of the spouses in matrimonial love and the corporal mediation of the conjugal act are the only place in which the singular value of the new human being called to life is fully recognized and respected. Man cannot be reduced to his genetic and biological components, which certainly also form a part of his personal dignity. Every person who comes into the world is called from eternity to participate in Christ, through the Spirit, in the fullness of life in God. That is why, from the mysterious instant of his conception, he must be accepted and treated as a person created in the image and likeness of God himself (cf. Gen Gn 1,26).
5. Another set of challenges that await an adequate response from the research and activity of the Institute are of a legal and social nature.
In some countries in recent years, permissive legislation, founded on partial or erroneous concepts of freedom, have favoured what are called alternative models of family, which are not founded on the irrevocable commitment of a man and a woman to form a "lifetime community". The specific rights recognized up until now for the family, primary cell of society, have been extended to forms of association, de facto unions, civil pacts of solidarity (PAC), tailored only to personal needs and desires, to the struggle for juridical and legal recognition of options unjustly considered as the vanguard of freedom. Who cannot see that the misleading promotion of such juridical and institutional models creates yet another trend to dissolve the primary right of the family to be recognized as the chief subject of social rights and obligations?
I want to repeat forcefully that the institution of the family, created to allow the human person to attain in an adequate way a sense of his own dignity, offers him a place to grow in conformity with his natural dignity and his vocation as a human person. Family bonds come first and pave the way for other forms of solidarity in society. By promoting an in-depth awareness of the family in conformity with its academic statutes and mission, the Institute contributes to developing the culture of life that I have often advocated.
6. Twenty years ago in Familiaris consortio, I affirmed that "the future of humanity passes by way of the family" (n. 86). I repeat it again today with greater conviction and increasing concern. I repeat it with full confidence, entrusting you and your work to our Lady of Fatima, in these years the kind and strong Patroness of your Institute. To her as Queen of the Family, I entrust all your plans and the course that opens before you at the beginning of the third millennium.
In assuring you of my prayers I cordially impart my blessing.
"Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country..." (Lc 1,39).
In front of this Grotto, which recalls the Shrine of Lourdes, we conclude the Marian journey made during the month of May. Let us relive together the mystery of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, on this pilgrimage through the Vatican Gardens which every year involves Cardinals and Bishops, priests, men and women religious, seminarians and many of the faithful. I am grateful to Cardinal Virgilio Noè and all those who have carefully prepared this pause for prayer at the feet of Our Lady.
The words of the Evangelist Luke echo in our hearts, "When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary ... [she] was filled with the Holy Spirit" (1,41)
The meeting between Our Lady and her cousin, Elizabeth, is like a sort of "small Pentecost". This is what I would like to stress this evening, on the eve of the great solemnity of the Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel account, the Visitation immediately follows the Annunciation: the Virgin, who carries the Son conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in her womb, radiates grace and spiritual joy around her. It is the presence of the Spirit within her that causes Elizabeth's son, John, destined to prepare the way for the Son of God made man, to leap with joy.
Wherever Mary is, Christ is; and wherever Christ is, there is his Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and from him in the most sacred mystery of the Trinitarian life. The Acts of the Apostles rightly places emphasis on Mary's prayerful presence in the Upper Room, together with the Apostles gathered in expectation to receive the "power from on high". The "yes" of the Virgin, "fiat", draws down the Gift of God upon humanity: as in the Annunciation, so in Pentecost. So it continues to happen throughout the Church's journey.
Gathered in prayer with Mary, let us implore an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the whole Church, so that she may put out into the deep in the new millennium with her sails unfurled. In a special way, let us call down the Spirit upon all who work everyday at the service of the Holy See, so that the work of each one may always be enlivened by a spirit of faith and apostolic enthusiasm.
It is very significant that the last day of May brings us the feast of the Visitation. With this conclusion, it is as if we wanted to say that every day of this month has been a sort of visitation for us. We have lived a continuous visitation during the month of May, just like Mary and Elizabeth. We are grateful to God that this biblical event is presented to us once again by today's liturgy.
I hope for you all, who have gathered here in such a numerous group, that the grace of the Marian visitation you have experienced during the month of May and especially on this last evening, will be extended in the days to come.
Dear Brothers in Christ,
1. It is a reason of great joy for me to welcome you today and extend a cordial welcome to you. At the end of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of your foundation and on the occasion of your 12th general assembly, you wished to visit me to renew the expression of your fidelity to the Successor of Peter in communion with the whole Church. I greet you with affection.
My thoughts go first of all to the new Superior General, Fr Gianbattista Zanchi, to whom I extend my wishes for the delicate task which has been entrusted to him in the service of the Institute and of the Church. At the same time, I wish to thank Fr Franco Cagnasso, for the work that he did as Superior General for your fraternity. My greeting is extended also to the members of the new Council of the General Management. I see in you, brothers, the faces of the numerous missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) of Italy who are generously active in so many parts of the world. I embrace them all with spiritual intensity, thinking of the generous commitment with which they sow the Word of God, often amid so many difficulties and obstacles.
The assembly that saw you gathered in prayer and reflection took place just a few months after the end of the Great Jubilee, an event of extraordinary grace for the Church, and at the beginning of a new millennium, which sees the Christian community heading forward with renewed confidence and hope towards the announcement of Christ, the only Saviour of mankind. Today's meeting takes place on the eve of the feast of Pentecost: our spirit resounds with the command of the Lord to go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt Mt 28,19). It is the same strength of the Spirit, who directed the first Christian community, who guides our footsteps in the way of Christ.
2. Years and centuries go by, yet Christ remains the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the centre of the individual and community life of those who belong to him. It is necessary, therefore, constantly to set out anew from him in order to understand the meaning of the mission that he has entrusted to the Church.
If you plan to re-appraise the proper charism of your Institute in order to revitalize the congregation, it is essential, from this point of view, to set out anew from the central place of Christ in community life and in personal witness. Should a "Christological weakness" ever slip into your activity, then your work of evangelization might risk being reduced to a prevalently social, charitable activity or one of pastoral organization. On the contrary, your Society was born for gathering holy and generous souls "who made an offering of themselves to God, anxious to devote themselves to the spreading of his holy Kingdom" (cf. Maxims and Norms, Preface).
Today as yesterday, you are sent into the world to be of Christ, without fear "that it will be considered an offence to the identity of others what is rather the joyful proclamation of a gift meant for all, and to be offered to all with the greatest respect for the freedom of each one: the gift of the revelation of the God who is Love, the God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son' (Jn 3,16)" (Novo Millennio ineunte, NM 56). Faith is strengthened by being given!
Certainly, the difficulties and problems that mankind, as a whole, finds itself facing today must be held in the right consideration. I am thinking, for example, of the emergence of new planetary visions such as globalization, ethnocentrism, or the temptation to construct a "do-it-yourself religion". I am thinking of the closing of quite a few countries to the presence of missionaries and direct evangelization. Nor should we underestimate specific problems such as the numerical fall in the members of the Institute and the consequent aging or the, at times difficult, creation of fraternity among persons of different nationalities and languages. However, with the grace of God, we must look towards the future with eyes of hope. Strong in the mysterious presence of Christ, we must set out into the vast ocean that opens before the Church of the third millennium and "put out into the deep" with confidence.
3. Allow me to take up again the four chief dimensions that characterize the identity of your Institute as you outlined them in your general assembly. In the first place, the PIME missionary is one who is sent out beyond the Christian world. This means to say that he leaves his land, he abandons his culture and even his own particular Church to bring the announcement of the Cross to the place where the Lord sends him. The moving rite of the handing over of the Crucifix and the departure signify that you are sent as a gift of God to mankind and the communities among whom you are to carry out your pastoral ministry.
In the second place, yours is a mission ad gentes (to the non-Christian nations). Therefore you must renew your commitment to reach the so-called "distant people", especially those who still do not know the Gospel. It requires a creative effort to be able to inculturate the evangelical message, an intense capacity for dialogue, a constant attention to the demands of human development, of the struggle against injustice, of the defence of the most needy and those without rights. If you will know how to form new vocations to intercultural dialogue, you can hope to have missionaries who are able to cooperate in unity, even while safeguarding legitimate diversity.
In the third place, your consecration is for life. It is the response to a call and to a plan that involves one's whole life and lasts for an entire lifetime. It is a total gift to Christ for the mission. The pivotal items of your spirituality are, therefore, rooted in being rather than in doing, mindful of the word of Christ who promised that "By your perseverance you will save your souls" (Lc 21,19).
Finally, the characteristic of your apostolic work is that of working together. You are missionaries of various nationalities, priests and laity who live in communion, in a style that is orientated to the mission. The spirituality of communion is the truest witness to Christ that you can give to the world, bringing into harmony every kind of difference so that it may become a common treasure. It demands a continuous process of personal kenosis that opens each one to the other, be he priest or layman. In this regard how can we fail to see the usefulness of supporting the lay dimension of the missionary task, in response to the signs of the times that require the presence of the laity for evangelization? It will be important that priests and laity know how to work together, so that the diversity of ministry may become a source of grace for all and an eloquent witness to Christ.
4. Missionaries, through the grace of God, new opportunities for enlightened evangelization are opening up in the Church every day. Know how to listen to the Spirit who challenges you and answer him with generosity, accepting today's challenges. Do not fear to go where the missionary is not welcomed, due to political, social, ideological or even religious reasons.
Do not forget that even in the countries which were evangelized long ago, today there is a need for a sound missionary commitment, especially in the cities, which need a new evangelization, or even, a first announcement of Christ. Moreover, the history of your Institute is a long account of meeting and dialogue with other religions. Continue on this path, knowing how to rejoice in the riches present in them and to offer to those in dialogue with you the specific gift of your Christian faith.
I entrust your entire family to Mary, Star of Evangelization. May she sustain and console you. May she protect you together with the Blesseds and Saints who offered their lives entirely for the mission. May you also be accompanied by my Blessing, which I sincerely impart to you, to your confrères and to all those whom you will meet in your ministry.
Speeches 2001 - Tuesday, 29 May 2001