Speeches 2005-13 13056


Your Eminence,
Dear Mr Ambassador,
Dear Gebirgsschützen,

It gives me joy to greet you during your pilgrimage in honour of the Patrona Bavariae here at the Vatican. Thank you, dear Cardinal Wetter, for your cordial words on behalf of all; since you are Archbishop of Munich and Freising, you have a special link with me as my immediate successor.

Ninety years ago, my Predecessor Pope Benedict XV, at the request of Ludwig III, the last King of Bavaria, confirmed by establishing the ecclesial feast of the Patrona Bavariae the decision of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, who 300 years earlier, in 1616, had placed his duchy under the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

The liturgical feast was celebrated for the first time on 14 May 1916 in Munich.

It was an important sign of encouragement and hope for a Country that feared for its precious cultural and religious heritage in the tumult of the First World War. At the same time this feast, as it were, crowned 12 centuries of Marian veneration in Bavaria. Indeed, when St Corbinian arrived in the year 724, there already was a church dedicated to Mary which was to become the present-day Cathedral of Freising.

With the annual celebration of the day in honour of the Patrona Bavariae, the first Sunday in May, in the midst of the "Bund der Bayerischen Gebirgsschützen-Kompanien", you put yourselves under the protection of the great Patroness of our common Homeland, but also at her service. You are no longer duty bound to defend the Country from foreign enemies with weapons in your hands as in past centuries, but perhaps today the dangers are even more serious, for they are not often recognized as such.

The two World Wars have left many people in a certain way "rootless". They are people who have never known the meaning of a "homeland", nor that belonging to one can give human beings a sense of inner security, for it is something more than a mere geographical fact.

For us it means having roots in the Christian faith that has shaped Bavaria and the whole of Europe from within and at the same time gives our life its authentic meaning. This faith is expressed in our Land, as in other regions, in special forms: from the Baroque style of our churches to the humble rural wayside crucifixes, from the festive Corpus Christi processions to the small pilgrimages to the many shrines, from the great works of sacred music to the popular hymns of the Alpine areas.

You have done your duty in preserving and defending the popular Bavarian culture. With this objective, you have placed yourselves at the service of the Patrona Bavariae. The cultural legacy you desire to protect and care for is not only an end in itself but aims to contribute to restoring people's roots wherever it has disappeared, and lead people back through signs to its content, to what can give their lives support and direction.

In the many ways in which it is expressed, the popular Bavarian culture displays the deep and indestructible joy that Jesus Christ wanted to give us when he said: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (
Jn 10,10).

I would like to encourage you to stay firmly faithful to the Christian values which constitute Bavaria's own special roots. May Mary, the Most Holy Virgin and Mother of God, Patrona Bavariae, keep her protective hand upon you all. Through her intercession, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.



Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. First of all, I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, who I thank for the words with which he introduced our meeting. I also greet the Secretary, the Members and the Consultors of this Pontifical Council and especially those recently appointed, and I address to all a cordial thought with best wishes for the success of your work.

The theme chosen for this Session - Migration and Itinerancy from and towards Islamic Majority Countries - concerns a social reality that is becoming ever more present. Therefore, human mobility with regard to Muslim countries calls for a specific reflection, not only because of the extent of the phenomenon, but above all because the Islamic identity is both religious and cultural. The Catholic Church realizes with increasing awareness that interreligious dialogue is part of her commitment to the service of humanity in the contemporary world. This conviction has become, as one says, "daily bread" especially fit for those who work in contact with migrants, refugees and with different categories of itinerant people.

We are living in times in which Christians are called to cultivate a style of dialogue open to the religious question, without failing to present to the interlocutors the Christian proposal consistent with her own identity. So, one increasingly feels the importance of reciprocity in dialogue, reciprocity that the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi rightly defines as a "principle" of great importance. It treats of a "relationship based on mutual respect", and before that on an "attitude of heart and spirit" (n. 64). The importance and delicacy of this commitment is witnessed by the efforts that are made in many communities to weave relations of mutual awareness and esteem with immigrants, which appear ever more useful to overcome prejudice and a closed mentality.

In its action of reception and dialogue with migrants and itinerant peoples, the Christian community has as its constant reference point Christ, who left to his disciples, as a rule of life, the new commandment of love. Christian love is, by its nature, prevenient. This is why single believers are called to open their arms and their hearts to every person, from whatever nation they come, allowing the Authorities responsible for public life to enforce the relevant laws held to be appropriate for a healthy co-existence.

Continually stimulated to witness the love that the Lord Jesus taught, Christians must open their hearts especially to the lowly and the poor, in whom Christ himself is present in a singular way. Acting in this way, they manifest the most qualifying characteristic of their own Christian identity: the love that Christ lived and continually transmits to the Church through the Gospel and the Sacraments.

Obviously, it is to be hoped that Christians who emigrate to nations with an Islamic majority will also be welcomed and their religious identity respected.

Dear brothers and sisters, I willingly welcome this occasion to thank you for what you do in favour of an organic and efficient pastoral service for migrants and itinerant peoples, putting your time, your competency and your experience at this service. May it escape no one that this is a significant frontier in the new evangelization in the current globalized world. I encourage you to pursue your work with renewed zeal, while, for my part, I follow you with attention and I accompany you with prayer, so that the Holy Spirit may make your initiative fruitful for the good of the Church and the world.

May Mary Most Holy watch over you, she who lived her faith as a pilgrimage in the different circumstances of her earthly life. May the Holy Virgin help every man and every woman to know her Son Jesus and to receive from him the gift of salvation. With this wish I impart my Blessing to all of you and to those dear to you.


Your Excellencies,

I am pleased to greet you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your Countries: Chad, India, Cape Verde, Moldova and Australia. I thank you for conveying to me the courteous words of your Heads of State and I should be grateful if you would reciprocate by expressing to them my greetings and respectful good wishes for them and for their lofty mission at the service of their Country. Through you, I would like to greet the civil and religious Authorities of your Nations as well as all your compatriots, with a special thought for the Catholic communities.

You belong to the great family of diplomats throughout the world who strive to build bridges between countries, with a view to establishing and strengthening peace and stronger ties between peoples, at the levels of both fraternal solidarity and economic and cultural exchanges, for the well-being of all the populations on earth. This implies, on your part and on the part of the legitimate Authorities of the different countries of the world and of the various international institutions, a resolute will as well as a broad vision in order not to reduce the decisions to be taken to mere emergency measures.

Indeed, it is not enough to opt for peace or collaboration between nations in order to achieve them. Again, each person must be actively committed and concerned not only with the interests of those close to him or her or with one specific class of society to the detriment of the general interest, but must seek first of all the common good of the country's people and, on a wider scale, of the whole of humanity.

In the era of globalization, it is important that political policies should not be guided mainly or solely by economic considerations or by the search for higher profits or a heedless use of the planet's resources to the detriment of the people, especially those who are the least privileged, at the risk of jeopardizing the world's future in the long term.

Likewise, peace is rooted in respect for religious freedom, which is a fundamental and primordial aspect of the freedom of conscience of individuals and of the freedom of peoples. It is important that everywhere in the world every person can belong to the religion of his choice and practise it freely without fear, for no one can base his life on the quest for material well-being alone. The acceptance of this personal and community approach will undoubtedly have beneficial effects on social life. In fact, loving the Almighty and welcoming him is an invitation to each person to serve his brethren and to build peace.

I therefore encourage the Leaders of nations and all people of good will to commit themselves with ever greater determination to building a free, brotherly and supportive world, where attention to people takes precedence over mere economic aspects. It is our duty to accept responsibility for one another and for the functioning of the world as a whole, so that it cannot be said, as Cain did in answer to God's question in the Book of the Genesis: "Am I my brother's keeper?".

At the time when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, Your Excellencies, may I be permitted to offer you my very best wishes. I ask the Almighty to pour out divine benefits upon you, upon your loved ones, upon your collaborators and upon all your Countries' inhabitants.


Mr Ambassador,

I am happy to welcome you, Your Excellency, for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Chad to the Holy See.

I am touched by your kind words and grateful for the cordial greetings you have conveyed to me from H.E. Mr Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic, as well as from the Government and the People of Chad. Please reciprocate by assuring His Excellency the President of my best wishes for his happiness and prosperity and for that of all Chadians, while I ask Almighty God to preserve the Nation in peace and concord.

As you stressed, Mr Ambassador, your Country has embarked on consolidating a democratic process. This is a long-term project that in particular requires all to accept a certain number of values, such as the dignity of the human person and respect for human rights and for the common good as the purpose of, and criterion for, the regulation of political and social life (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 407).

In fact, the human person must be the focus of all social life. It is the role of those responsible for the State and of the civil Authorities to serve the citizens, seeking out and putting into practice all that can contribute to the smooth functioning of society in accordance with the principles of justice.
It is consequently essential that the wealth produced by the exploitation of natural resources be managed in an increasingly transparent way, so that they are effectively used for the integral development of the population in solidarity, and for the improvement of people's standard of living.

In referring to the difficult situation that your Country is currently experiencing, Mr Ambassador, you expressed the hope that true peace might be definitively established. Peace is a profound aspiration present in every human heart. Therefore, it is indispensable that all feel involved in achieving it in an authentic and lasting way, basing it on solid and just foundations.

To this end, dialogue and concord between all parties concerned are essential. They foster the common good of the Nation, avoiding recourse to weapons to overcome differences that can never be settled by violence.

Indeed, dialogue is an act of trust in every human being who bears within himself the ability to surpass divisions, and it is when dialogue does not exist that peace is threatened.

The Catholic Church, aware on her part that the commitment to build peace and justice is part of the mission she has received from her Founder, intends to contribute, through her own means, to establishing and consolidating peace in societies and between peoples. For the Church, true peace is only possible through dialogue founded on forgiveness and reconciliation, as well as on respect for the rights of each person.

Nonetheless, she is also convinced that this does not exclude the need to take into account the requirements of justice and truth, which are the conditions for authentic reconciliation.

I therefore warmly hope, Mr Ambassador, that all forms of violence may cease in your Country through a true dialogue between all the parties concerned, and that the time of reconciliation may come so that all Chadians may be granted to live peacefully and to build together a more and more brotherly and supportive society.

In order to succeed, I also hope that all Government Leaders in the region will set at the centre of their concerns a firm and reliable determination to achieve peace and justice for the good of their peoples, and that they encourage good neighbourly relations and solidarity among them.

On this solemn occasion, Mr Ambassador, I would also like to greet through you the Catholic Community of Chad. I appreciate the attention you pay to its spiritual mission and action in society. Together with the Bishops, it witnesses generously to the love disciples of Christ must have for one and all. I ask it to stay united around its Pastors and to work zealously for reconciliation and peace.

At the time when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I offer you my best wishes for its success. You may rest assured that with my collaborators you will always find the attentive welcome and cordial understanding that you may need. I wholeheartedly invoke upon you, Your Excellency, upon your collaborators, your family and the Chadian People and their leaders an abundance of divine Blessings.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Holy See. I thank you most heartily for the greetings which you have brought me from the Indian Government and people, and I ask you kindly to convey my own greetings to President Abdul Kalam, together with the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation and its citizens.

India’s ongoing efforts to build a democratic and free society are grounded in her conviction of the need to respect the variety of cultures, religions and ethnic groups which make up the nation and shape the aspirations of her sons and daughters. The Indian people are rightly proud of the stability of their political institutions, while at the same time recognizing the formidable challenges involved in promoting justice, combating all forms of violence and extremism, and establishing a climate of serene and respectful dialogue, cooperation and good will between the different components of their vast and diverse society. As the nation continues to enjoy significant economic growth, these democratic values should serve as the inspiration and the sure foundation for sound social policies aimed at enabling all citizens to share in this growth and to enjoy its benefits.

In this regard, I wish to assure you of the wish of India’s Catholic community to share fully in the life of the nation in a spirit of collaboration and concern for the common good. You have graciously acknowledged the contribution which the spiritual heirs of Saint Thomas the Apostle and Saint Francis Xavier have made to the growth of modern India, especially in the fields of education and human development. The Church sees these works as a fundamental part of her mission of proclaiming the innate dignity and rights of each human person made in the image and likeness of God, as well as an important service to the building of a just, peaceful and pluralistic society. When the gifts and talents of all citizens, men and women, young and old, wealthy and poor alike, are valued and developed, the way is opened to a future of prosperity and social harmony for the whole nation.

I very much appreciate your reference to India’s rich spiritual heritage and commitment to religious tolerance and respect. In view of this commitment, no citizen of India, especially the weak and the underprivileged, should ever have to experience discrimination for any reason, especially based on ethnic or religious background or social position. The recent re-establishment of the National Integration Council and the creation this year of the Ministry for Minority Affairs offer practical means of upholding constitutionally guaranteed equality of all religions and social groups. While protecting the right of each citizen to profess and practise his or her faith, they also facilitate efforts to build bridges between minority communities and Indian society as a whole, and thus foster national integration and the participation of all in the country’s development. The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation, including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected as not only unconstitutional, but also as contrary to the highest ideals of India’s founding fathers, who believed in a nation of peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance between different religions and ethnic groups.

Here I cannot fail to express the Holy See’s appreciation of India’s desire to settle through negotiation and peaceful means the long-standing dispute with neighbouring Pakistan. Last year’s earthquake in Kashmir, with its tragic loss of life and widespread material destruction, showed the urgent need for joint efforts in responding to the emergency, providing relief to the victims and undertaking the immense work of rebuilding. Increased dialogue and cooperation should also prove helpful in meeting a number of other challenges in the region, including the threat of violence linked to political and religious extremism. As experience has shown, this troubling phenomenon, which is often the fruit of situations of poverty, lack of education, and scant respect for the rights of others, is best combated by concerted efforts to resolve these underlying social problems at their roots. Where the innate dignity and freedom of each man and woman is acknowledged, respected and promoted at every level of society, the foundations are laid for a future of justice, freedom and peace.

Your Excellency, as you undertake the mission of representing the Republic of India to the Holy See, please accept my personal good wishes for the success of your important work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Roman Curia to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Indian people, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Moldova to the Holy See. I thank you for your words and for the greetings which you bring from your President, Mr Vladimir Voronin. Please convey to him my sincere good wishes and assure him of my continuing prayers for the well-being of your nation.

The Holy See greatly values its diplomatic links with your country, established soon after Moldova gained its independence in 1991, and looks forward to building further on the cordial relations that have developed since that time. Mindful of the challenges involved in achieving a smooth transition to democracy and in establishing a place within the international community for the newly independent state, the Holy See continues to offer encouragement and assistance in any way possible. Although Catholics constitute only a small proportion of the population, they are proud of the rich cultural heritage of their homeland and are eager to play their part in national life, contributing particularly in the area of social assistance. It should be stressed that such activity flows from the very nature and mission of the Church, which include a commitment to promote the dignity of the human person and to come to the aid of those who suffer hardship of any kind. The Church is committed to full respect for liberty of conscience, and as such she encourages governments to take steps to guarantee this precious freedom for all their citizens. The reassurance that you offer in connection with your own Government’s position in this regard is most gratifying. Through you, Mr Ambassador, I would like to greet all the inhabitants of Moldova, and in particular the Catholic community, under the leadership of the Bishop of Chisinau, the Most Reverend Anton Cosa.

In view of her concern for peace and justice, the Church naturally takes to heart the debate over the status of Transdnistria. While fully appreciating the complexity of the question, I urge your Government to persevere in the search for a peaceful solution, and to work in harmony with the organs of the European Union, the Council of Europe and other international organizations in order to resolve the dispute. I pray that your country may continue to make progress towards the noble goal of peace, which corresponds to the deepest yearnings and hopes of people everywhere.

The interest shown by your Government in advancing dialogue with all the States of Europe is welcomed by the Holy See as a sign of hope for the Continent. For too long, Moldova suffered from the imposition of a totalitarian utopia of “justice without freedom”. The West, by contrast, continues to be exposed to the danger of an alternative utopia of “freedom without truth”, issuing from a false understanding of “tolerance”. If the common good of Europe’s citizens is truly to be served, it is essential to avoid both of these harmful partial visions and to rediscover the authentic freedom that proceeds from our shared heritage of faith in Jesus Christ, alive in his Church, the source of hope for Europe (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, 98). The voice and the experience of your people need to be heard in European debate, so that lessons may be learned from recent experience. In this way a brighter future may be built that is based on a commitment to truth, and this, as I maintained in my Address to the Diplomatic Corps at the start of this year (9 January 2006), is the soul of justice, it is the means whereby the right to freedom is established and strengthened and it opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will consolidate the good relations that exist between the Republic of Moldova and the Holy See. In offering you my best wishes for the years ahead, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are most glad to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Moldova I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Cape Verde to the Holy See.
I thank you for the respectful words you have just addressed to me and for the greetings you bring me from H.E. Mr Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, President of the Republic. I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate by expressing to him my cordial good wishes for happiness and prosperity for him and the entire People of Cape Verde.

As you emphasized in your address, the Church's presence in the Cape Verde Islands dates back several centuries, making the Christian faith an essential component of the people's culture and spiritual heritage. It is also important that relations between Church and State develop harmoniously with respect for the autonomy of both parties, for in the search for the common good, they are both, if on a different scale, at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same people.

As you know, Mr Ambassador, the Catholic Church is eager to contribute to the integral development of peoples. In fact, the poverty in which so many men and women live cannot but call into question the human conscience. It poses for everyone the dramatic question of justice.

Underdevelopment is not inevitable. It must be faced with determination and perseverance for, as the Magisterium of the Church has frequently recalled, development is not only an aspiration but also a right: "Collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all..." (Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 32).

It is therefore necessary that authentic solidarity encourage fairer international relations as well as the nations' own human and spiritual development. Indeed, solidarity must not only be practised within each society but also between peoples, for confident and courageous cooperation is indispensable to create a space of peace and stability that makes economic growth and political balance possible.

I eagerly hope, therefore, that international solidarity will have a new impetus, especially in favour of Africa, in order to enable this so-sorely tried Continent to set out with determination on the path of its integral development, reconciliation and peace.

Moreover, the many difficulties that the African Continent is experiencing contribute to accentuating the expansion of the migration phenomenon and the serious issues that stem from it. As you have emphasized, Mr Ambassador, the search for a better standard of living has impelled a large number of Cape Verdeans to emigrate.

It is of course the task of host countries to give immigrants a fraternal welcome and to draft legislation that paves the way to their dignified integration in society, while respecting their legitimate identity.

However, it is also necessary to be aware of social and economic imbalances, of the risk of uncontrolled globalization, or again, of situations of violence and the violation of personal rights, all of which are important factors in migration. International solidarity must enable each person, in his own country, to live in dignity and bring to fruition the gifts he has received from the Creator.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I would also like to address my cordial greeting to your Country's Bishops as well as to the whole Catholic Community. The recent creation of the Diocese of Mindelo is a sign of its vitality.

I therefore hope that Catholics will courageously persevere in their commitment, beside all their fellow citizens, to build an increasingly just and brotherly society.

Your Excellency, at the time when you are beginning your mission at the Holy See I offer you my very best wishes for the noble task that awaits you. You will always meet with an attentive welcome from my collaborators and the cordial understanding that you may need.

I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of Blessings from the Most High upon you, Your Excellency, and upon your family, your collaborators, the Cape Verdean People and their Leaders.


Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to extend a cordial welcome to you today as I accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you bear from the Governor-General, Government, and people of Australia. Please convey to them my heartfelt appreciation and assure them of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

The steadfast resolve of the Holy See to promote the cause of peace stands at the heart of her diplomatic activity. With firm conviction and in a spirit of service she reminds all people that if peace is to be authentic and lasting it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and about man. Consequently, the irrepressible yearning for peace present in the heart of every person – regardless of particular cultural identity – can be satisfied only if it is understood as the fruit of an order planned and willed by the love of God, planted in human society by its divine Founder, and respected by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice (cf. Message for the 2006 World Day of Peace, 3).

Your Excellency, you have rightly indicated that practical commitment to ensuring the rule of justice and promoting peace is a widely recognized trait of your people. Tangible expression of this is found in their leadership of peace-keeping operations, generous assistance with aid projects, and readiness to contribute to the requirements of international stability and security necessary for social and economic advancement across the globe. Australia’s missions in Solomon Islands, East Timor and Afghanistan are highly respected by the international community and bear noble witness to the truth that all people are members of one and the same human family, receiving their essential and common dignity from God and capable of transcending every social and cultural limitation (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 38).

The laudable resolve to work for peace on an international scale must be matched with an equal determination to attain justice at the local level. I know that your Government has assiduously addressed concerns regarding the reception of refugees, in order to ensure that humanitarian considerations are incorporated within immigration detention policy and duly monitored. In regard to the Aboriginal people of your land, there is still much to be achieved. Their social situation is cause for much pain. I encourage you and the Government to continue to address with compassion and determination the deep underlying causes of their plight. Commitment to truth opens the way to lasting reconciliation through the healing process of asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness - two indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our future is filled with a well-founded hope in the peace which springs from truth (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2006).

Your Excellency, as I welcome you to the Vatican my thoughts turn with joy to the visit I shall make, God willing, to Sydney for World Youth Day 2008. In this regard, I wish to thank the people of Australia, and particularly the Prime Minister and Government, for the enthusiasm with which they have embraced this visit and for the practical assistance already being given to its organization.

More than an event, World Youth Day is a time of deep ecclesial renewal, especially among the young, the fruits of which will benefit the whole of your society. In countries such as yours, where the disquieting process of secularization is much advanced, many young people are themselves coming to realize that it is the transcendent order that steers all life along the path of authentic freedom and happiness. Against the tide of moral relativism which, by recognizing nothing as definitive, traps people within a futile and insatiable bid for novelty, the young generation is rediscovering the satisfying quest for goodness and truth. In so doing they look to both Church and civil leaders to dispel any eclipse of the sense of God and to allow the light of truth to shine forth, giving purpose to all life and making joy and contentment possible for everyone.

It is this same respect for transcendent order that has led Australians to recognize the fundamental importance of marriage and stable domestic life at the heart of society, and to expect that political and social forces - including the media and entertainment industries - recognize, support and protect the irreplaceable value of families. They appreciate that pseudo-forms of ‘marriage’ distort the Creator’s design and undermine the truth of our human nature, confusing a false sense of freedom with the true freedom of choosing the definitive gift of the permanent “yes” which spouses promise to each other. I therefore encourage the people of Australia to continue to take up the challenge of forging a pattern of life, both individually and as a community, in harmony with God’s loving plan for all humanity.

For her part the Catholic Church in Australia continues to support marriage and family life, and to uphold the Christian foundations of civic life. She is much involved in the spiritual and intellectual formation of the young, especially through her schools. Additionally her charitable apostolate extends to immigrant communities and those living on the margins of society and, through her mission of service, she will respond generously to new social challenges as they arise.

Your Excellency, I am sure that your appointment will further strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist between Australia and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities you will find that the various offices of the Roman Curia are most ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


Dear Italian Brother Bishops,

I am truly glad to meet you all this morning during your General Assembly. I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, your President, and I thank him for his cordial words expressing your common sentiments. I greet the three Vice-Presidents, the General Secretary and each one of you, expressing in turn my heartfelt affection and joy in our reciprocal communion.

The main object of your Assembly concerns the life and ministry of priests, in the perspective of a Church which intends to extend increasingly her fundamental evangelizing mission. Thus, you are continuing the work you began at your Assembly in Assisi last November, at which you focused your attention on seminaries and formation for the priestly ministry. In fact, it is an essential duty for us Bishops to be constantly close to our priests who participate in the apostolic ministry that the Lord entrusts to us through the Sacrament of Orders.

It is necessary first of all to select candidates to the priesthood with care, and to verify their personal aptitude for assuming the commitments that their future ministry involves; next, their formation must be supervised, not only during the seminary years but also in the subsequent phases of life; we must have at heart their material and spiritual well-being; we should exercise our fatherhood to them with a fraternal heart; we should never leave them alone in the tasks of the ministry, in sickness or in old age, or in the inevitable trials of life.

Dear Brother Bishops, the closer we are to our priests, the greater will be the affection and trust they feel for us, they will excuse our personal limitations, they will welcome our words and will feel solidarity with us in the joys and difficulties of the ministry.

Obviously, at the heart of our relationship with priests as well as of our life and of theirs, is our relationship with Christ, our intimate union with him, our participation in the mission that he received from the Father. The mystery of our priesthood consists in that identification with him by virtue of which we, poor and weak human beings, through the Sacrament of Orders can speak and act in persona Christi capitis. The whole journey of our life as priests cannot but aim for this goal: to configure ourselves in the reality of daily life and behaviour, with the gift and mystery that we have received.

Jesus' words must guide and comfort us on this path: "no longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn 15,15). The Lord puts himself in our hands, he transmits to us his deepest, personal mystery, he wants us to share in his power of salvation. But this obviously requires in turn that we be truly the Lord's friends, that our sentiments conform to his sentiments, and our will to his (cf. Ph 2,5), and this is an everyday journey.

The horizon of friendship to which Jesus introduces us is the whole of humanity: indeed, he wants to be for everyone the Good Shepherd who lays down his own life (cf. Jn 10,11), and he stresses this strongly in the discourse on the Good Shepherd who came to reunite everyone, not only the Chosen People but all the dispersed children of God.

Our own solicitude, therefore, must be universal. We should certainly first take care of those who, like us, believe and live with the Church - it is very important, even in this dimension of universality, that we first see to those faithful who live their "being Church" every day with humility and love -, and yet we must not tire of going out, as the Lord asks us, "to the highways and hedges" (Lc 14,23) to invite to the banquet that God has prepared those who are not yet acquainted with him or have perhaps preferred not to know him.

Dear Italian Brother Bishops, I join you in saying a big "thank you" to our priests for their constant and often hidden dedication, and I ask them, with a brotherly spirit, to trust in the Lord always and to walk with generosity and courage on the way that leads to holiness, comforting and supporting us Bishops too, on the same journey.

At this Assembly, you have also addressed the National Ecclesial Congress, now at hand, that will be taking place in Verona and at which I too will have the joy of speaking. The Congress, whose theme is: "Witnesses of the Risen Jesus, Hope of the World", will be an important moment of communion for all the members of the Church in Italy. It will be possible to review the path taken in recent years and especially, to look ahead, to face together the fundamental task of keeping alive the great Christian tradition which is Italy's greatest treasure.

To this end, the decision to focus the Congress on the Risen Jesus, a source of hope for all, is particularly felicitous: starting from Christ, in fact, and only from him, from his victory over sin and over death, is it possible to respond to the fundamental need of the human being, which is the need for God, not for a distant and general God, but for the God who revealed himself in Jesus Christ as love that saves. And it is also possible to shine a new and liberating light on the great problems of the present time.

But giving God priority - above all it is we who have need of God - is of great importance.
Consequently, it will be necessary in Verona to concentrate above all on Christ, because in Christ, God is concrete, is present, shows himself and therefore, one must concentrate on the Church's priority mission of living in his presence and making this same presence as visible as possible to all.
On this basis you will rightly examine the various areas of daily life in which the witness of believers must activate the hope that comes from the Risen Christ: in practice, these concern the emotional life and the family, work and rest, sickness and the various forms of poverty, education, culture and social communications, civil and political responsibilities.

In fact, there is no dimension of man that is foreign to Christ. Your attention, dear Brother Bishops, also at this Assembly is addressed in particular to the young. I am glad to recall with you the experience of last August in Cologne, when young Italians, accompanied by so many of you and by your priests, fervently took part in large numbers in the World Youth Day.

It is now a question of starting out on the journey that will lead to the celebration in 2008 in Sydney, making room for the enthusiasm and desire to participate of the young. Thus, they will be able to understand better and better that the Church is the large family in which, living Christ's friendship, one becomes truly free and friends with one another, overcoming the divisions and barriers that extinguish hope.

Lastly, I would like to share with you the concern that motivates you with regard to the good of Italy. As I have had the opportunity to point out in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est (nn. 28-29), the Church is well aware that "fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God" (cf. Mt 22,21), in other words, the distinction between Church and State, that is, the autonomy of the temporal sphere, as the Second Vatican Council underlined in Gaudium et Spes.

Not only does the Church recognize and respect this distinction and autonomy but she rejoices in it, as a great progress for humanity and a fundamental condition for her freedom itself and for the fulfilment of her universal mission of salvation among all people. At the same time and precisely by virtue of this same mission of salvation, the Church cannot fail to carry out her duty to purify reason through the proposal of her own social teaching, reasoned "on the basis of what is in conformity with the nature of every human being" and of reawakening moral and spiritual forces, opening the will to the authentic requirements of good.

In turn, a healthy secularism of the State indisputably entails the government of temporal realities in accordance with their own norms, to which also belong those ethical elements that are rooted in the very essence of the human being and which, therefore, in the ultimate analysis, refer to the Creator.

In the present circumstances, recalling the value that certain fundamental ethical principles have not only for private but especially for public life rooted in the great Christian heritage of Europe and of Italy in particular, we do not, therefore, commit any violation of the State secularism, but rather contribute to guaranteeing and promoting the dignity of the person and the common good of society.
Dear Italian Bishops, we owe all our brothers and sisters in humanity a clear witness of these values: with it let us not impose on them useless burdens but help them to advance on the path of life and of authentic freedom. I assure you of my daily prayers for you, for your Churches and for the entire beloved Italian Nation, and I impart the Apostolic Blessing with great affection to each one of you, to your priests, to every Italian family and especially to those who are suffering most and feel most acutely the need of God's help.


Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to be able to meet you for the first time and I greet you all cordially. I greet in particular Cardinal Attilio Nicora, President of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See, as well as Count Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, President of the Foundation, whom I thank for his words on your behalf. I greet the Bishops present and the priests, your chaplains.

I would like to express to each of you my appreciation and my gratitude for your service to the Successor of Peter and for the generosity with which you support his apostolic activity.

The very name of your Foundation clearly indicates your appreciated goals. Centesimus Annus recalls John Paul II's last great social Encyclical with which the unforgettable Pontiff, summing up 100 years of the Magisterium in this context, planned the Church's advancement by encouraging her to analyze the res novae ["new things"] of the third millennium. Centesimus Annus says further that your committed collaboration assists the Church to carry out her task of spreading the Gospel in a clearly visible way through her social teaching in the various cultural areas of the contemporary world.

The qualification Pro Pontifice stresses in turn your intention to foster a particular closeness to the pastoral role of the Bishop of Rome and engages you, according to your own possibilities, to sustain the concrete instruments he needs in order to enliven and extend the Church's presence throughout the world.

You began your activity in a predominantly Italian context; I now see with joy that you are gradually branching out into other areas of Europe and America. The nature of the Vatican Foundation both prepares you for these wide horizons and orients you towards them.

The Study Convention you have organized on Democracy, institutions and social justice is treating relevant current problems. People sometimes complain of the slowness with which an authentic democracy progresses, yet it continues, if used well, to be the most effective historical instrument for ensuring its own future in a way befitting to human beings.

You have rightly identified two critical points on the way towards a more mature ordering of human coexistence.

In the first place, appropriate, credible and authoritative institutions are needed. They must not merely aim to wield public power, but must be able to encourage different levels of popular participation with respect for the traditions of each nation and with constant concern to preserve their identity.

Equally urgent is a tenacious, on-going and shared effort to promote social justice. Democracy will attain its full actualization only when every person and each people have access to the primary goods (life, food, water, health care, education, work and the certainty of their rights) through an ordering of internal and international relations that assures each person of the possibility of participating in them.

True social justice, furthermore, can only be possible in a perspective of genuine solidarity that commits people to live and work always for one another and never against or to the detriment of others. Thus, to achieve this in practice in the context of the contemporary world is the great challenge of Christian lay people.

Dear friends, through the Centesimus Annus Foundation you contribute with other praiseworthy Associations to increasing the knowledge of the social teaching with which the Church, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, intends "to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run" (n. 29). Each one of you, as a faithful lay person, should live as his own "the direct duty to work for a just ordering of society", since "charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as "social charity'" (ibid.).

Our Meeting today, therefore, serves to strengthen you in this generous undertaking. Returning to your daily responsibilities, may you feel increasingly united in the bond of Catholic communion and live enthusiastically the commitments you have assumed.

I also thank you for the donation your President has presented to me to support the works of my pastoral ministry, and as I invoke the motherly protection of Mary upon you and upon all your families, I cordially bless you all.


Saturday 20 May 2006

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Spain to the Holy See. I cordially thank you for your words, and likewise for the appreciated greetings from His Majesty King Juan Carlos I, from the Royal Family, from your Government and from the Spanish Nation. Please convey to them my best wishes for prosperity and spiritual well-being for themselves and for all Spaniards, whom I keep very present in my prayers.

On various occasions I have had the opportunity to visit your Country, of which I treasure very pleasant memories both for the friendliness of the people I met and the abundance and great value of the many works of art and cultural expressions scattered throughout the Land.

It is an enviable patrimony that denotes a brilliant history, deeply imbued with Christian values and enriched by the lives of outstanding Gospel witnesses, both inside and outside its frontiers.

This patrimony includes works whose creators expressed in them their own ideals and faith. If this is ignored or glossed over, it will lose a large part of its attraction and meaning, but the works will continue to be, as it were, "speaking stones".

As you said, Your Excellency, the centuries-old diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See reflect the constant ties of the Spanish People with the Catholic faith. The great vitality that the Church in your Country has had and still has is, as it were, a special invitation to reinforce these relations and to foster a close collaboration between the Church and public institutions, which is both loyal and respectful of each other's province and autonomy to achieve the integral good of the people who, as citizens of their Homeland, are also to a large extent beloved children of the Church.
An important path for this cooperation was marked out by the Agreements signed by the Spanish State and the Holy See to guarantee the Catholic Church: "the free and public exercise of her own activities, especially those of worship, jurisdiction and teaching" (Art. I of the First Agreement, 3 January 1979).

Indeed, Mr Ambassador, the Church, as you know, impels believers to love justice and to take an honest part in public or professional life with a sense of respect and solidarity, so as "to promote organically and institutionally the common good" (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est ).

She is also involved in the promotion and defence of human rights because of the high esteem in which she holds the integral dignity of the person, in whatever place or situation he or she may be. Using her own means, she devotes all her commitment to ensuring that none of these rights are violated or suppressed, either by individuals or institutions.

For this reason the Church proclaims wholeheartedly the fundamental right to life from conception to its natural end, the right to be born, to form and to live in a family, and not to let the family be supplanted by other institutions or different forms.

In this regard, the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, to which I am very much looking forward, will give me the opportunity to celebrate the beauty and fruitfulness of the family founded on marriage, its exalted vocation and indispensable social value.

The Church also insists on the inalienable right of individuals to profess their own religious faith without hindrance, both publicly and privately, as well as the right of parents to have their children receive an education that complies with their values and beliefs without either explicit or implicit discrimination.

In this regard, it pleases me to note the great demand for the teaching of Catholic religion in Spanish State schools. This means that people recognize the importance of this subject for the personal and cultural growth and training of the young. Its importance to the development of the student's personality is the basic principle of the Agreement between the Spanish State and the Holy See on teaching and on cultural subjects, which establishes that the Catholic religion will be taught "in similar conditions to those of the other basic disciplines" (Art. II).

In her evangelizing mission, charitable activity is also a special task of the Church as well as attention to any needy person who is hoping for a friendly, fraternal and impartial hand to alleviate his or her situation. In present-day Spain, as in its long history, the Church's numerous institutions for social assistance prove that this dimension of her activity has been particularly fruitful, in all areas and with extensive goals.

Furthermore, since she is not inspired by either political or ideological strategies (cf. Encyclical Deus Caritas Est ), the Church encounters on her path people and institutions of any origin who are also responsive to the duty of helping the destitute, whoever they may be.

Founded on this "duty of humanity", collaboration in the area of social assistance and humanitarian aid has reached many places and it is to be hoped that it will be ever further encouraged.

Mr Ambassador, at the end of this Meeting, I repeat to you my best wishes for the success of the lofty mission that has been entrusted to you, so that relations between Spain and the Holy See will be strengthened and progress will be made that reflects the respect and deep affection for the Pope of so many Spaniards.

I also hope that your stay in Rome will bring you fruitful human, cultural and Christian experiences, and that you and your distinguished family will feel at home here but will not forget the beautiful lands in the extreme west of Europe where you come from and where the Gospel very soon took root and spread under the patronage of the Apostle James, contributing to nourish and keep alive Europe's Christian roots.

I ask you to convey my respects to Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, and to the Authorities of this noble Nation, and I invoke abundant Blessings from the Most High upon you, your loved ones and the collaborators of this diplomatic Representation.


Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1Tm 1,2). With fraternal affection I cordially welcome you, the Bishops of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I thank Bishop Lahey for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you and those entrusted to your pastoral care of my prayers. Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum is an opportunity to give thanks to God for the work of those who have tirelessly preached the Gospel throughout the length and breadth of your country. It is also an occasion to strengthen in faith, hope and charity your bonds of communion with the Bishop of Rome, and to affirm your commitment to make the face of Christ increasingly more visible within the Church and society, through consistent witness to the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself.

2. Canada enjoys a proud heritage steeped in rich social diversity. Central to the cultural soul of the nation is Christ’s immeasurable gift of faith which has been received and celebrated over the centuries with deep rejoicing by the peoples of your land. Like many countries, however, Canada is today suffering from the pervasive effects of secularism. The attempt to promote a vision of humanity apart from God’s transcendent order and indifferent to Christ’s beckoning light, removes from the reach of ordinary men and women the experience of genuine hope. One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate.

This disturbing testimony to uncertainty and fear, even if not always conscious, is in stark contrast with the definitive experience of true love which by its nature is marked by trust, seeks the good of the beloved, and looks to the eternal (cf. Deus Caritas Est ).

Faced with the many social ills and moral ambiguities which follow in the wake of a secularist ideology, Canadians look to you to be men of hope, preaching and teaching with passion the splendour of the truth of Christ who dispels the darkness and illuminates the way to renew ecclesial and civic life, educating consciences and teaching the authentic dignity of the person and human society. Particularly in districts which also suffer from the painful consequences of economic decline, such as unemployment and unwanted emigration, ecclesial leadership bears much fruit when, in its concern for the common good, it generously seeks to support civil authorities in their task of promoting regeneration in the community. In this regard, I note with satisfaction the success of the anniversary events celebrated last year in the Archdiocese of Saint John’s, marked by a spirit of cooperation with various civic authorities. Such initiatives manifest a recognition of the need for spiritual strength at the heart of society. In fact, "it is quite impossible to separate the response to people’s material and social needs from the fulfilment of the profound desires of their hearts" (Papal Message for Lent 2006).

3. Dear Brothers, your reports clearly indicate the seriousness with which you are responding to the need for pastoral renewal. I understand that with aging clergy and many isolated communities the challenges are great. Yet, if the Church is going to satisfy the thirst of men and women for truth and authentic values upon which to build their lives no effort can be spared in finding effective pastoral initiatives to make Jesus Christ known. Thus it is of great importance that the catechetical and religious education programmes which you are implementing continue to deepen the faithful’s understanding and love of our Lord and his Church, and reawaken in them the zeal for Christian witness which has its root in the sacrament of Baptism. In this regard, particular care must be taken to ensure that the intrinsic relationship between the Church’s Magisterium, individuals’ faith, and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted. Only in this way can we hope to overcome the debilitating split between the Gospel and culture (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 20).

Of notable importance are your Catechists. They have embraced with great courage the burning desire that was Saint Paul’s: "deliver ... as of primary importance what I also received" (1Co 15,3). Teaching the faith cannot be reduced to a mere transmission of ‘things’ or words or even a body of abstract truths. The Church’s Tradition is alive! It is the permanent actualization of the active presence of the Lord Jesus among his people, brought about by the Holy Spirit and expressed in the Church in every generation. In this sense it is like a living river that links us to the origins which are ever present and which leads us to the gates of eternity (cf. Catechesis of the General Audience, 26 April 2006). Through you, I acknowledge the fine service of the Catechists in your Dioceses and encourage them in their duty and privilege of making known to others the extraordinary "yes" of God to humanity (cf. 2Co 1,20). Further, I directly appeal in a special way to the young adults of your dioceses to take up the rewarding challenge of catechetical service and share in the satisfaction of handing on the faith. Their example of Christian witness to those younger than themselves will strengthen their own faith, while bringing to others the happiness that flows from the sense of purpose and meaning in life which the Lord reveals.

4. Dans votre plan de renouveau pastoral, vous êtes affrontés à la tâche délicate de la réorganisation des paroisses et même des diocèses. Cela ne peut jamais être réalisé de manière appropriée par les simples modèles sociaux de restructuration. Sans le Christ, nous ne pouvons rien faire (cf. Jn 15,5). La prière nous enracine dans la vérité, nous rappelant sans cesse la primauté du Christ et, en union avec lui, le primat de la vie intérieure et de la sainteté. Les paroisses sont donc, à juste titre, considérées avant tout comme des maisons et des écoles de communion. Par conséquent, la réorganisation des paroisses est essentiellement un exercice de renouveau spirituel. Cela exige une promotion pastorale de la sainteté, afin que les fidèles demeurent attentifs à la volonté de Dieu, dont nous partageons la vie véritable, devenant participants de la nature divine (cf. Dei Verbum DV 2). Une telle sainteté, ou une telle communion intime par le Christ et dans l’Esprit, est affermie entre autres par une pédagogie authentique de la prière, par une introduction à la vie des Saints et aux multiples formes de spiritualité qui embellissent et stimulent la vie de l’Église, par une participation régulière au Sacrement de la Réconciliation, et par une catéchèse convaincante sur le dimanche comme "le jour de la foi", "le jour auquel on ne peut renoncer", "le jour de l’espérance chrétienne" (cf. Dies Domini, 29-30; 38).

J’ai la certitude qu’une redécouverte de Jésus Christ, Verbe fait chair, notre Sauveur, conduira à une redécouverte de l’identité personnelle, sociale et culturelle des fidèles. Loin de confondre la diversité et la complémentarité des charismes et des fonctions des ministres ordonnés et des fidèles laïcs, une identité catholique renforcée ravivera la passion pour l’évangélisation, qui est le propre de la vocation de tout croyant et de la nature de l’Église (cf. Instruction Le prêtre, pasteur et guide de la communauté paroissiale, 23-24).

5. Within the universal call to holiness (cf. 1Th 4,3) is found the particular vocation to which God summons every individual. In this regard, I encourage you to remain vigilant in your duty to promote a culture of vocation. Your reports attest to the admiration you have of your priests who labour with great generousity for the Church’s mission and the good of those whom they serve. I pray that their daily journey of conversion and self-giving love will awaken in young men the desire to respond to God’s call to humble priestly ministry in his Church.

Additionally you have with good reason underlined the fine contribution of Religious Sisters and Brothers to the mission of the Church. This deep appreciation of consecrated life is rightly accompanied by your concern for the decline in Religious vocations in your country. A renewed clarity is needed to articulate the particular contribution of Religious to the life of the Church: a mission to make the love of Christ present in the midst of humanity (cf. Instruction Starting Afresh From Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium, 5). Such clarity will give rise to a new kairos, with Religious confidently reaffirming their calling and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, proposing afresh to young people the ideal of consecration and mission. I again assure Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters of the vital witness they provide by placing themselves without reserve in the hands of Christ and of the Church, as a strong and clear proclamation of God’s presence in a way understandable to our contemporaries (Homily for the World Day of Consecrated Life, 2 February 2006).

6. Dear Brothers, with affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and assure you of my prayers as you seek to shepherd the flocks entrusted to you. United in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, go forward now in hope! With these sentiments I commend you to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, and to the intercession of Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse. To you and to the priests, deacons, Religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for me to meet with you, Superiors General, representatives and those responsible for Consecrated Life. I address my cordial greeting to all.

With fraternal affection I greet in particular Cardinal Franc Rodé, and I thank him for interpreting - together with your other representatives - your sentiments. I greet the Secretary and Collaborators of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, grateful for the service that this Dicastery offers to the Church in the important sector of Consecrated Life.

In this moment, my thought goes with lively gratitude to all of the men and women religious, consecrated persons and members of the Societies of Apostolic Life who spread in the Church and the world the bonus odor Christi (cf. II Cor 2: 15).

I ask that you, Major Superiors, transmit a word of special kindness to those who are in difficulty, the elderly and sick, to those who are living moments of crisis and solitude, to those who suffer and feel lost, and also to the young men and women who still today are knocking at the door of your Houses, asking to be able to give themselves to Jesus Christ in the radicalness of the Gospel.

I wish that this moment of meeting and of profound communion with the Pope may be for each of you one of encouragement and comfort in the fulfilment of a duty that is evermore demanding and at times opposed.

The service of authority demands a persevering presence, able to enliven and take initiative, to recall the raison d'être of consecrated life, to help the persons entrusted to you to correspond with ever-renewed fidelity to the call of the Spirit.

Your duty is often accompanied by the Cross and sometimes by a solitude that requires a profound sense of responsibility, a generosity that does not falter, and continual self-denial. You are called to sustain and to guide your brothers and sisters in a difficult epoch, one marked by numerous temptations.

Consecrated men and women of today have the duty to be witnesses of the transfiguring presence of God in a world that is evermore disoriented and confused, a world where toning down has substituted sharp and distinctive colours.

The ability to look at our time with the gaze of faith means to be able to look at men and women, the world and history in the light of the Crucified and Risen Christ, the only One able to direct "men and women as they strive to make their way amid the pressures of an immanentist habit of mind and the constrictions of a technocratic logic" (Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, n. 15).

In these last years, consecrated life has been re-examined with a more evangelical, ecclesial and apostolic spirit; but we cannot ignore that some concrete choices have not offered to the world the authentic and vivifying face of Christ.

In fact, the secularized culture has penetrated the mind and heart of not a few consecrated persons, who understand it as a way to enter modernity and a modality of approach to the contemporary world.

As a result, in addition to an undoubted thrust of generosity capable of witness and of total giving, consecrated life today knows the temptation of mediocrity, of middle-class ways and of a consumeristic mentality.

In the Gospel, Jesus warned us that there are two ways: one is the narrow way that leads to life, the other is wide that leads to destruction (cf. Mt 7,13-14). The true alternative is, and will always be, the acceptance of the living God through obedient, faithful service, or the rejection of him.

One priority condition to the following of Christ, therefore, is abnegation, detachment from all that is not him. The Lord wants men and women who are free, not bound, able to give up everything to follow him and to find in him alone their very all.

Courageous choices must be made, both at the personal and communal levels, which give a new discipline to the life of consecrated persons and bring them to rediscover the all-encompassing dimension of the sequela Christi.

Belonging to the Lord means to be on fire with his incandescent love, to be transformed into the splendour of his beauty: our littleness is offered to him as a sacrifice of sweet fragrance so that it becomes a witness of the greatness of his presence for our epoch, which has great need to be inebriated by the richness of his grace.

Belonging to the Lord: this is the mission of the men and women who have chosen to follow Christ - chaste, poor and obedient - so that the world may believe and be saved. To belong completely to Christ so as to become a permanent confession of faith, an unequivocal proclamation of truth that frees us from the seduction of the false idols that deceive the world.

To belong to Christ means to keep the flame of love always burning in our heart, continually fed by the richness of faith, not only when this brings with it interior joy but also when it is joined to difficulty, aridity and suffering. Prayer is the nourishment for the interior life, intimate conversation of the consecrated soul with the divine Spouse.

Even richer nourishment is daily participation in the ineffable mystery of the divine Eucharist, where the Risen Christ makes himself continually present in his corporeal reality.

To belong completely to the Lord, consecrated persons embrace a chaste lifestyle. Consecrated virginity cannot be inscribed in the framework of worldly logic; it is the most "nonsensical" of Christian paradoxes and it is not given to all to understand and to live it (cf. Mt 19,11-12).

To live a chaste life also means to give up the need to belong, to take on a lifestyle that is sober and modest. Men and women religious are called to show this also in the choice of habit, a simple habit that is a sign of poverty lived in union with the One who, rich as he was, became poor to make us rich with his poverty (cf. II Cor 8: 9).

In this way, and only in this way, can one follow Christ crucified and poor without reserve, immersing oneself in his mystery and making his choices of humility, poverty and meekness one's own.

The theme of the last Plenary Meeting of the Congregation for Institutes of Religious Life and Societies of Apostolic Life was The service of authority. Dear Superiors General, it is an occasion to deepen reflection on the exercise of authority and obedience so that it will be evermore inspired by the Gospel.

The burden of one who is called to accomplish the delicate task of Superior at all levels will be much easier the more consecrated persons know how to rediscover the value of professed obedience - which has Abraham, our father in the faith, as its model - and even more so that of Christ. It is necessary to take refuge from voluntarism and spontaneity to embrace the logic of the Cross.

In conclusion, consecrated men and women are called to be credible and luminous signs of the Gospel and its paradoxes in the world without conforming to the mentality of this world, but to continually transform and renew one's own duty, to be able to discern God's will, what is good, acceptable and perfect to him (cf. Rom Rm 12,2).

This is precisely my wish, dear brothers and sisters; it is a wish upon which I invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, unsurpassable model of every consecrated life.
With these sentiments, I affectionately impart the Apostolic Blessing, willingly extending it to all who belong to your numerous spiritual Families.


WELCOME CEREMONY Warsaw Airport, Okecje, 25 May 2006

Speeches 2005-13 13056