Speeches 1997 - Collegiate Church of Saint Ann
9 June 1997
1. "O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!" (Ps 96,1).
Dear brothers and sisters, how my heart rejoices, because today my pilgrim journey includes a stop in the town where Blessed John of Dukla was born. My thoughts go back to the day many years ago when I visited the shrine of Dukla, in particular the chapel of Blessed John "in the wilderness", as people used to say. Today I come once more to your town, which with all its history "sings to the Lord a song of glory and praise" for the gift of this devoted religious man, whose canonization will take place tomorrow at Krosno.
I cordially greet the Bernardine Fathers, faithful guardians of this place. You are the ones who take care of the relics of your wonderful confrere John. I cordially greet also the priests who work in this town, first of all the Dean, and also the municipal authorities and all the residents of Dukla and the surrounding areas. Today in a sense is your feast day, which God in his goodness has prepared for you. I greet also those who have come from far away, from various parts of the country, to take part in this common meeting of ours.
2. How near to us Blessed John seems in the church where his remains are preserved! I wanted so much to come here, to hear in the silence of the monastery the voice of his heart and with you to enter more deeply into the mystery of his life and holiness. And it was a life offered completely to God. It began in the nearby hermitage. It was precisely there, in silence and in spiritual struggles, that "God seized him", so that from that moment on they remained together to the end. Among these mountains he learnt ardent prayer and how to live the mysteries of God. Slowly his faith grew even stronger and his love became ever more alive, later to bear salvific fruits no longer in solitude, in the hermitage, but within the walls of the Conventual Franciscan monastery, and then with the Bernardine Fathers, where he spent the last part of his life.
Blessed John earned fame as a wise preacher and zealous confessor. There crowded round him people hungry for sound doctrine of God, to hear his preaching or, at the confessional grill, to seek comfort and counsel. He became famous as a guide of souls and prudent adviser of many. The written accounts say that despite old age and his loss of sight he continued to work, and asked to have his sermons read for him, so as to be able to go on. He would grope his way to the confessional so as to be able to convert people and lead them to God.
3. The holiness of Blessed John sprang from his deep faith. His entire life and his apostolic zeal, his love of prayer and of the Church, all this was founded on faith. It was his source of strength, thanks to which he was able to refuse everything that was material and temporal in order to devote himself to what was of God and the spirit.
I wish to express warm thanks to the Archbishop of Przemysl for having invited me to Dukla and for his efforts to bring this meeting about. I thank the priests and the men and women Religious present in this border diocese, who, following in the footsteps of Blessed John, lead the People of God along the paths of faith. May God reward your efforts and hard work. My thanks also go to the sick and suffering who carry the cross of old age and loneliness, in the nearby area of Korczyna and in other places of mankind's Calvary. I also address the youth: do not be afraid of adversity, do not be discouraged by it, but be filled with trust in the powerful help of the devout John; with courage and enthusiasm carry the light of the Gospel. Have the courage to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We also pray here, in this place, to obtain many vocations to the priesthood and religious life and for new apostolic vocations among the laity.
4. Brothers and Sisters, visit this place often! It is the great treasure of this land, because here the Spirit of God speaks to people's hearts through the mediation of your fellow holy countryman. He says that personal, family and social life must be built on faith in Jesus Christ. For faith gives meaning to all our efforts. It helps to discover the true good, gives a correct ordering of values, and permeates the whole of life. With what great precision all this is expressed in the Letter of the Apostle Saint John: "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith" (1Jn 4,5).
In conclusion, receive my blessing, through which I wish to embrace all of you present here, and also your families and dear ones. I bless this town and all its residents.
1. I am very pleased that during this pilgrimage to my native land I am able to visit the Specialized Hospital in Krakow and bless the newly built Cardiology Clinic. I am pleased to meet on this occasion the sick and those who take care of them. I am moved as I come among you and I thank the Administration and Staff for having invited me.
In 1913, the Krakow City Council had decided to build on this very spot, at Bialy Pradnik, the Municipal Institutes of Health. Construction was completed four years later. This year the Hospital is celebrating the Eightieth Anniversary of its existence and its generous service to the sick. How can we fail to remember on this occasion all those who, putting their own health at risk, gave themselves to the task of bringing help, like good Samaritans, to the suffering? We bow our heads, thinking especially of those who paid the supreme price and offered their lives. Some of us certainly remember Doctor Aleksander Wielgus, who died in 1939 after contracting tuberculosis, or Doctor Sielecka-Meier, who died of the same cause soon after the liberation. How can we fail to remember also the work of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, so filled with dedication to the Gospel? By their service to the sick, sacrificing their own health and sometimes even their lives, they wrote a beautiful page in the history of this Hospital. On two occasions Blessed Sister Faustina was treated here.
This specialized hospital has now been made even better by the addition of a new Cardiology Clinic. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to those who have helped to build it. Many people contributed, and it would be difficult to name all of them here. We thank God today for the gift of human work and human solidarity with the sick.
2. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40).
With these words of Christ I address you who work in this hospital and, through you, all health-care workers in Poland. My consideration and respect for your service is great. It demands a spirit of sacrifice and dedication to the sick, and therefore has a profoundly evangelical dimension. From the viewpoint of faith your service is seen as directed to Christ himself, mysteriously present in those tried by suffering. For this reason your profession deserves the greatest respect. It is a mission of extraordinary value, the best definition of which is found in the word "vocation".
I am well aware of the extremely difficult conditions in which you sometimes have to work. I am confident that in Poland all the problems of health-care services will be solved, in a wise and fair manner, for the good of the patients and those who take care of them.
Accept today the expression of my appreciation for this generous work undertaken with self-sacrifice. In a certain sense, you take on your own shoulders the weight of the suffering and pain of your sisters and brothers, by trying to give them relief and to restore the health for which they yearn. My appreciation goes in a special way to all who courageously remain on the side of the divine law which guides human life. I repeat once more what I wrote in my Encyclical Evangelium Vitae: "Your profession calls for you to be guardians and servants of human life. In today's cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, you can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation your responsibility today is greatly increased. Its deepest inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the health-care profession, something already recognized by the ancient and still relevant Hippocratic Oath, which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness" (cf. No. 89).
I rejoice that the medical world in Poland, in the vast majority of cases, accepts this responsibility, not only by caring for and sustaining life but also by firmly avoiding actions that would lead to its destruction. With my whole heart I praise the doctors, nurses and all Polish health-care workers who place the divine law "Thou shalt not kill" above what human law allows. I praise you for this witness that you are giving, especially recently.
I ask you to continue with perseverance and enthusiasm your praiseworthy duty of serving life in all its dimensions, according to your particular specializations. My prayer will sustain you in this service.
3. To you, dear friends who are sick and who are taking part in this meeting, and to those who cannot be present with us here, I extend a cordial greeting. Every day I try to be close to your sufferings. I can say this because I am familiar with the experience of a hospital bed. Precisely because of this, with greater insistence in my daily prayer I beseech God for you, asking him to give you strength and health; I pray that in your suffering and sickness you will not lose hope; I pray that you will be able to place your pain at the foot of Christ's Cross. From a human point of view the situation of a sick person is difficult, painful and sometimes even humiliating. But it is precisely because of this that you are in a special way close to Christ, and in a certain sense share physically in his sacrifice. Try to remember this. The Passion and Resurrection of our Saviour will help you to grasp the mystery of your suffering.
It is thanks to you, thanks to your communion with the Crucified One, that the Church possesses inestimable wealth in her spiritual treasury. Thanks to you, others can draw from this treasury. Nothing enriches others like the free gift of suffering. Therefore always remember, especially when you feel abandoned, that the Church, the world, our homeland need you so much. Remember also that the Pope needs you.
In closing, I wish to say to all of you that I have greatly looked forward to this meeting. It could not have been left out of my pilgrim itinerary. I pray that the power of faith will support you in these difficult moments of your lives, moments filled with torment. I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit will help you to discover that suffering ennobled by love "is something good, before which the Church bows down in reverence with all the depth of her faith in the Redemption" (Salvifici Doloris, 24). Commending to God all the sick and those who take care of them, I cordially bless you all.
1. "I rejoiced when I heard them say: 'Let us go to God's house'" (Ps 122,1).
I repeat this confession of the Psalmist here today, in this church and in this parish community. I too rejoiced when the programme of this pilgrimage was drawn up and I was told that we would "go to God's house" - to this house in Krowodrza, of which Saint Hedwig Queen is Patroness. I longed to come back to this place where in 1974, as Metropolitan of Krakow, I celebrated Holy Mass for the first time on the occasion of the opening of the school year. I remember this square and that little house, which was at one and the same time the place for catechesis and the centre of the new parish. There was still no church; there was not even permission to build one. But there was another Church, the Church made of living stones with Christ as its foundation. There was the community of the faithful, that used to gather in the open air, putting up with every inconvenience, in order to celebrate the Eucharist, to hear the word of God, to go to confession, to pray. . . The faithful were also united in a great wish to see a church, the Lord's house, and also a house for future generations of confessors, in this place, in the midst of the buildings that were going up in this district. They spared no efforts or sacrifices, and they achieved what is here today. Through the designs of Divine Providence, today I can enter this temple in order to thank God, precisely here, with you, for the gift of the holiness of Queen Hedwig, whom it was granted to me to canonize yesterday.
2. Joining you in this act of thanksgiving, I wish to greet the local pastors, and in the first place Monsignor Jan who, from the beginning, by disposition of the then Archbishop of Krakow, now the Successor of Peter, organized the life of this parish. I greet the community of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who from the very first years of the existence of the parish have helped the priests in catechetical, charitable and liturgical activities. Then I wish to embrace in my heart all of you who are present and the whole parish community which you represent. I know that it is a lively community, which irradiates the spirit of faith and devotion, and is greatly concerned for people, for their development, not only their spiritual but also their cultural and material development. The life of the parish is articulated in numerous groups and communities of prayer, liturgy, assistance, culture and sports. . . All can find a place here to broaden their interests, as well as to deepen their faith. And this is an activity worthy of recognition. As the Psalmist says: "The sparrow herself finds a home, and the swallow a nest. . . by your altars, Lord of hosts, my king and my God" (Ps 83,4). These words clearly set out the direction of the life and activity of the parish community. Everything that happens in it should take place "by the altars"; it should lead to the altar. The life of the communities that work in the parish - both those directly connected with the liturgy or catechesis or prayer, and those that promote culture and sport - is truly fruitful and truly builds up the individual if it leads him to Christ, to the Christ who offers himself on the altar in sacrifice to the Father and gives himself totally to man in order to sanctify him. My wish for the pastors, the Religious, and all the People of God of this parish and all the parish communities of the Church in Poland is that your faithful perseverance at the side of Christ present in the Eucharist will bear fruits of happiness in the life of each one of you. "They are happy who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise" (Ps 83,5).
3. From this church I look out on Krakow, my beloved city. I hold in my memory all its districts, all the parishes that I used to visit as Pastor of the Archdiocese. Since then there have been built dozens of new churches which at that time existed only in the desires and projects of the Archbishop. It has been given to my successor to bring them into being and to bless them. I thank Divine Providence for all the new parishes in Krakow and Nowa Huta which already exist or which, thanks to the goodwill of the local authorities, are being built where they are needed. I embrace all of them in my heart and in my prayer.
I entrust to the loving protection of Saint Hedwig Queen those of you who are present, your parish and all the parishes of Poland, and I cordially bless you all.
1. My pilgrimage to my beloved native land now draws to a close. I return once more in my heart and in my thoughts to its individual stages, to the local Churches and towns which I have been able to visit. I have a vivid picture of the crowds of the faithful at prayer who accompanied me in every place I visited. At the moment of our farewell, dear fellow-countrymen, I wish to greet all of you once more. I do not want to overlook anyone! I particularly greet the young people of Poland, who in all the stages of this visit were present in such numbers, especially at Poznan. I greet the families of Poland who have always found in God the power and the strength which unites them. I greet those whom I have been able to meet personally, those who have followed the progress of this visit by radio and television, in a special way the sick and the elderly.
In my heart I once more embrace all of you who work - each in your own way - for the good of our native land, that it may become an ever more comfortable and secure home for all Poles, that it may offer its own creative contribution to the common treasure of the great family of European countries, to which it has belonged for more than a thousand years.
As I followed the route of this pilgrimage from Lower Silesia, through Wielkopolska to Malopolska, all the way to the Tatra Mountains, I have been able to admire once more the beauty of this land, especially the beauty of the Polish mountains to which I have been so attached since the days of my youth. I have seen the changes taking place in my homeland. I have admired the enterprise of my countrymen, their initiative and their willingness to work for the good of the country. Obviously there are also many problems needing to be solved. I am convinced that Poles will find in themselves the wisdom and perseverance necessary for building a just Poland which can guarantee a worthy life for all its citizens - a Poland capable of uniting around common goals and the values fundamental for every man and woman.
2. Above all I thank Divine Providence that I have been enabled once more to serve the Church in Poland, my country, and all my fellow countrymen. I came here in order to serve you, dear fellow-countrymen, in the name of Christ the Redeemer of the world! This is the mission of the Church, and she strives to be faithful to it.
With gratitude to God for the gift of this visit, I must also thank the people who made it possible and because of whom it has been so successful. To the President of the Republic of Poland I express once more my thanks for the invitation made to me in the name of the State Authorities, and also for his contribution to the positive outcome of this pilgrimage. Thank you so much for all the manifestations of generous cooperation and readiness to help where help was needed. I also thank the representatives of the local authorities who have spared no effort and expense to ensure that the visit could take place in an efficient and dignified way. Here I should name the local authorities of all the cities through which I have passed during this journey: Wroclaw , Legnica, Gorzów Wielkopolski, Gniezno, Poznán, Kalisz, Czestochowa, Zakopane, Ludzmierz, Kraków, Dukla and Krosno. I also thank the radio and television, the journalists and all who helped to provide the public with full and accurate information about the papal pilgrimage to Poland. I offer thanks for every gesture of good will and for your readiness to cooperate. May God reward you for such an hospitable welcome!
3. At this moment I address special words of appreciation to the whole Church in Poland, offering my thanks to the Polish Episcopate here present under the leadership of the Cardinal Primate. I thank them once again for inviting me back to my native land, and for all the pastoral and organizational work involved in the preparation and progress of my pilgrimage. Every stage of this visit has been notable for much deep religious seriousness and commitment. Behind all these gatherings of prayer there was a joint pastoral effort by Bishops, priests, men and women Religious and the whole Catholic laity. I congratulate you for your hard work and I express my hope that it will bear lasting fruits in the life of the Church and of Poland.
I think that this visit has in a way been different from my previous ones, but that at the same time it has confirmed the spiritual continuity of this nation and this Church.During my visit the Church in Poland has shown itself once more to be a Church conscious of its own mission, a Church making great efforts to evangelize in the new conditions in which it happens to be living.
Among these expressions of thanks, a special mention must be made of the Church in Wroclaw , which was host to the 46th International Eucharistic Congress. To the Pastor of the Archdiocese of Wroclaw I offer my heartfelt thanks for the work involved in organizing this Congress, which enabled the Church in Poland to be of service to the universal Church.
4. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (He 13,8). These words of the Letter to the Hebrews have been the constant theme of this visit to my homeland. This year the Church as she prepares for the Great Jubilee fixes her eyes with faith on the figure of Christ the Redeemer of Man. At each of the stages of this visit we have sought to interpret together the place which Christ occupies in the life of individuals and in the life of the nation. This was brought home to us by the Eucharistic Congress in Wroclaw and the historic gathering in Gniezno, at the tomb of Saint Adalbert, where we celebrated the millennium of his martyrdom. Adalbert has reminded us of our duty to build a Poland faithful to her roots. We have also been reminded of this by the Jubilee of the Jagiellonian foundation of the University of Krakow and especially of its Theology Faculty.
Fidelity to roots does not mean a mechanical copying of the patterns of the past. Fidelity to roots is always creative, ready to descend into the depths, open to new challenges, alert to the "signs of the times". It also expresses itself in a concern for the development of our native culture, in which the Christian element has been present since the beginning. Fidelity to roots means above all the ability to create an organic synthesis of perennial values, confirmed so often in history, and the challenge of today's world, faith and culture, the Gospel and life. My wish for my countrymen and for Poland is that she will be able in this precise way to be faithful to herself and to the roots from which she has grown. A Poland faithful to her roots. A Europe faithful to its roots. In this context historic importance attaches to the fact that the Presidents of the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland have taken part in the celebrations for Saint Adalbert, and for this I am most grateful to them.
During this pilgrimage I have celebrated the canonization and the beatification of Polish saints and beati: Queen Saint Hedwig, Saint John of Dukla, Blessed Maria Bernardina Jablonska and Blessed Maria Karlowska. The Church's saints are a particular revelation of the loftiest horizons of human freedom. They tell us that the definitive destiny of human freedom is holiness. For this reason the canonizations and beatifications which I have celebrated in the course of this visit are so very eloquent.
5. At the moment of my farewell I have wished to share these thoughts with all of you, dear brothers and sisters. The depth of spiritual meaning contained in this meeting with you, in my meeting with the Church in Poland, obviously overflows the limits of this brief address. As I take my leave of you, I pray that this seed will bear abundant fruit in accordance with the will of the Lord of the harvest. The Lord of the harvest is Christ, and we are all his "unworthy servants" (cf. Lc 17,10).
Moments of farewell are always difficult. I take my leave of you, my beloved countrymen, with a profound awareness that this farewell does not signify a breaking of the bond which unites me with you - which unites me to my beloved native land. As I return to the Vatican, I carry in my heart all of you, your joys and your cares, I carry my whole native land. I would like you to remember that in the "geography of the Pope's prayer" for the universal Church and for the whole world Poland occupies a particular place. At the same time, following the example of the Apostle Saint Paul, I ask you to make room for me in your hearts (cf. 2Co 6,11-13) and in your prayers, that I may be able to serve the Church of God for as long as Christ requires it of me.
May God reward you for your hospitality!
May he bless my homeland and all my fellow-countrymen!
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to receive you, distinguished participants in the meeting held during these days on: “Families of Children with Cerebral Impairments”. First, I would like to acknowledge the kind words of Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, which has organized this praiseworthy initiative in conjunction with the Centre for Special Family Education (CEFAES) and the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, whose President, Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, is also present at this audience.
The family, as an integrating framework for all its members, is a community of solidarity where love becomes more responsible and concerned even for those who, because of their special situation, need closer, more patient and loving attention from all the members and more concretely from the parents. Within society there are a number of tasks or forms of social mediation which the family can and must carry out with particular competence and effectiveness, in conjunction with other institutions. As a social subject, the family’s participation frequently opens many doors and creates a well-founded hope for its own children’s recovery. This is precisely the context you address, with the collaboration of researchers, experts and persons involved in this field. Therefore, I am pleased to encourage your work and the concern that spurs you to help families with these needs.
The family, a place of love and concern for its neediest members, can and must be the best place to collaborate with science and technology in the service of health. At times some families are put to the test — a harsh test — when children are born with cerebral impairments. These situations require fortitude and special solidarity from parents and other family members.
The Lord of life accompanies families that welcome and love children with serious cerebral impairments and know how great their dignity is. They also recognize that the origin of their dignity as human persons is in being the beloved children of God, who loves them personally with an everlasting love. Supported and protected by divine love, the family becomes a place of commitment and hope, since all the members concentrate their energies and care on the welfare of their children in need. In fact, you are both the privileged witnesses and the proof of all that true love can achieve.
As is demonstrated by the projects being undertaken in various nations — for example, the Leopold Programme — through patient, diligent and well-disposed attention to the possibilities offered by science and within families, surprising results are being achieved in the rehabilitation of children born blind, deaf and mute. This is a miracle of love, as it were, that does not only permit the brain gradually to develop, but makes the child the centre of all its attention. With this help and everyone's co-operation, the entire community of love and life which is the family grows and is formed in God’s presence and fatherly sight. He gives them new energy in their pain and serenity in their suffering, in order to accept illness and, in many cases, to seek the most satisfactory remedies and solutions.
The family is an irreplaceable community in these situations, not only because of the enormous cost of certain treatments provided by health-care institutions, but also because of the quality, talent and tenderness of the loving care which only parents can unselfishly offer their children. These families, without having their attention to their children replaced, must receive the help they need from the surrounding community and society as a whole in order to make this attention more effective. In this regard, it is necessary to point out the importance of parents’ associations that seek to share experiences, assistance and technical means in the service of families with these needs.
Programmes and activities like those you have in your hands, which rely on the Church’s support, are an extension of the Gospel of life from the family itself. Continue, then, with your gaze focused on the home in Nazareth whose centre was the God-Child. In fact, the sword of sorrow (cf. Lk Lc 2,35), illumined by the hope that comes from on high, was not lacking in the Holy Family. Like Mary, who with a contemplative soul kept everything in her heart and pondered over it (cf. Lk Lc 2,19-51) in obedience to God’s will, may you too, with fervent faith and charity, bring hope to many other families by your commitment and experience.
With these heartfelt sentiments, as I invoke abundant gifts from the Lord upon your persons and activities in this very important area of family life, I affectionately impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers in Christ,
1. In the love of the Saviour, I cordially greet the whole Church of God in Namibia, and I welcome you, the Pastors of the Archdiocese of Windhoek, the Diocese of Keetmanshoop and the Apostolic Vicariate of Rundu. As an Episcopal Conference, this is first time that you have come to Rome on your visit ad Limina Apostolorum: to venerate the tombs of the blessed Martyrs, Peter and Paul, whose blood sealed the unique service of this "greatest and most ancient Church" (St Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3.3.2); to "see Peter" (cf. Gal Ga 1,18) in the person of his Successor and to give an account of your stewardship (cf. Lk Lc 16,2). Together, we can rejoice that the good seed of the Gospel is bearing a rich harvest in your country, so promising in its youthful vigour. The setting up of the Hierarchy in 1994, the establishment of diplomatic relations between Namibia and the Holy See in 1996, and the recent formation of the Namibian Catholic Bishops' Conference are positive signs that the Lord who began his good work in you will bring it to completion (cf. Phil Ph 1,6).
As Pastors of the Church you are guardians and builders of ecclesial communion, which has its deepest source in the sharing of believers in the intimate life of the Trinity. A strong sense of ecclesial communion will enable you to carry out your pastoral ministry in a spirit of loving cooperation with the priests, Religious and lay people. As wise shepherds you have a duty to promote the different gifts and charisms, vocations and responsibilities, which the Spirit entrusts to the members of Christ's Body. At the same time, you must discern prayerfully and prudently the authenticity of the Spirit's actions (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 24), and work for the affective and effective communion and cooperation of all. Your ministry aims at gathering together the People of God as a brotherhood inspired by charity, firmly anchored on its unique foundation, the living presence of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb He 13,8).
2. In this respect it is of special importance to foster among all Catholics in Namibia a lively sense of shared responsibility for the Church's mission and apostolate. Be ever willing to listen to your priests and people, to give prudent counsel and, with regard to the laity, to support them in their vocation to "seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God" (Lumen Gentium LG 31). I am confident that for the good of the Church you will make every effort to prepare a mature and responsible laity in "suitable centres and schools of biblical and pastoral formation," where due attention is paid to "solid formation in the Church's social doctrine" (Ecclesia in Africa ). Encourage the lay faithful in the witness they wish to give to honesty in public administration, respect for the rule of law, solidarity with the poor, the advancement of the equal dignity of women and the defence of human life from conception to natural death.
3. You build the communion of your particular Churches with the help above all of those whom Saint Paul calls "God's fellow workers" (1Co 3,9 cf. 1Th 3,2), the priests, with whom you have bonds of brotherly and apostolic fraternity forged by the grace of Holy Orders. Though too few in number to meet all your needs, they are doing God's work with generous commitment, striving earnestly to offer a transparent image of Christ the High Priest (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 12). Fidei Donum priests continue to represent "a unique sign of the bond of communion existing among the Churches" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 68), and I pray that their commitment to Namibia will be strengthened. More numerous are the Religious priests, whose presence is a great source of enrichment. The spiritual and apostolic traditions of their Institutes make an invaluable contribution to your ecclesial life. Ever faithful to their founding charisms, consecrated men and women show their genuine love for the Church by working "in full communion with the Bishop in the areas of evangelization, catechesis and parish life" (Vita Consecrata VC 49).
The lack of a sufficient number of priests and Religious, which also means that many communities go without the regular celebration of Sunday Mass and other sacraments, should give rise in families, parishes and Institutes of consecrated life to fervent prayer to the Lord of the harvest (cf. Mt Mt 9,38) for an increase of vocations. It is a sure sign of growing ecclesial maturity that the Archdiocese of Windhoek is in the process of establishing a seminary. My prayers are with the Church in Namibia that you may be able to count on more numerous priests who faithfully imitate Christ the Head, Shepherd and Spouse of the Church, so as to be ever more effective agents of evangelization. Likewise I join you in asking the Lord of the harvest to send many more Religious men and women to serve the needs of the brethren.
4. I am aware that you seek to promote fruitful ecumenical cooperation, and I encourage you, at this new stage of national life, to listen attentively to the voice of the Spirit (cf. Rev Ap 2,7) who is stirring up fresh ecumenical initiatives. The united action of Namibian Christians to bring about reconciliation and to foster strong family values and sound ethical principles is a powerful form of proclamation which reveals the face of Christ in your nation (cf. Mt Mt 25,40). It has "the clear value of a joint witness to the name of the Lord" (Ut Unum Sint UUS 75).
I invite you to join the whole Church in preparing to cross the threshold of the Third Christian Millennium. I exhort you "to raise to the Lord fervent prayers to obtain the light and assistance necessary for the preparation and celebration of the forthcoming Jubilee ... The Spirit will not fail to arouse enthusiasm and lead people to celebrate the Jubilee with renewed faith and generous participation" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 59). I thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of the Gospel and I pray that God will confirm you - and all the priests, men and women Religious, catechists, families and young people, and all the lay faithful in your particular Churches - in faith, hope and love (cf. Lk Lc 22,32). Entrusting you to Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, I pray that through her intercession the Holy Spirit will "rekindle the gift of God that is within you" (2Tm 1,6) and fill you with joy and peace. With my Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 1997 - Collegiate Church of Saint Ann