Speeches 2005-13 49
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
I am pleased to be able to meet you on the occasion of the Update Seminar organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and I address my most cordial welcome to each one of you.
I greet first of all Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Missionary Dicastery for only a few months, and I thank him for his kind words on behalf of you all.
I next greet and thank those who have collaborated for the success of this formation course. I extend my affectionate thoughts to your young and enthusiastic diocesan Communities in which evangelization is showing promising signs of development, despite the sometimes difficult and demanding context. These days of brotherly coexistence will certainly be useful to you for the pastoral mission at their service that the Lord has recently entrusted to you.
You are called to be Pastors among peoples, many of whom do not yet know Jesus Christ. As those primarily responsible for Gospel proclamation, you must therefore make a considerable effort to ensure that all are given the possibility of accepting him.
More and more, you are feeling the need to inculturate the Gospel, to evangelize cultures and to foster a sincere and open dialogue with one and all in order to build together a more brotherly and supportive humanity.
Only if you are impelled by the love of Christ can you bring to completion this apostolic task which demands the fearless zeal of men undaunted even by persecution and death for the Lord.
How can we forget the many priests, men and women religious and lay people in mission lands who have sealed with blood their fidelity to Christ and to the Church, in past centuries and in our times?
In the last few days, the oblation of Sr Leonella Sgorbati, a Consolata Missionary barbarically killed in Moga-dishu, Somalia, has been added to the number of these heroic Gospel witnesses. This martyrology, in the past and in our day, adorns the history of the Church. Even in suffering and apprehension, it keeps alive in our souls trust in the glorious flourishing of Christian faith, for as Tertullian says, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians".
To you, Pastors of God's flock, is entrusted the mandate of safeguarding and transmitting faith in Christ, passed on to us through the living tradition of the Church and for which so many have given their lives. To carry out this task, it is essential that first of all you show you are "in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity and sound speech that cannot be censured" (Tt 2,7-8).
"Modern man", wrote my Predecessor of venerable memory, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, "listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 41).
For this reason, it is only right that you give priority in your episcopal ministry to prayer and to the constant aspiration to holiness. It is important for you to ensure that your seminarians receive a sound formation and that your priests and catechists are given ongoing formation.
The preservation of the unity of faith in the diversity of its cultural expressions is another precious service that is asked of you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate. This requires that you be united with the flock after the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd, and that the flock always walk united with you.
As sentries of the People of God, firmly and courageously avoid divisions, especially when they are due to ethnic or social and cultural causes. Indeed, divisions undermine the unity of the faith and weaken the proclamation and witness of the Gospel of Christ, who came into the world to make the whole of humanity a holy people and one family in which God is the Father of all.
It is a cause of joy and consolation to note that in many of your Churches there is a constant flourishing of vocations to the priesthood and to the Religious life, a marvellous gift of God to be accepted and furthered with gratitude and enthusiasm. May it be your concern to equip seminaries with a sufficient number of carefully chosen and trained formation teachers who are first and foremost examples and models for the seminarians.
As you well know, the seminary is the heart of the Diocese, and this is why the Bishop should take a personal interest in it. The future of your communities and that of the universal Church depends on the training of future priests and of all the other pastoral workers, especially catechists.
Venerable and dear Brothers, in a few days' time you will be returning to your own Dioceses enriched by this formative stay in Rome.
I will continue to feel united with you in spirit and I ask you to convey the assurance of my affection and closeness in prayer to your Communities, upon which I invoke the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, Star of Evangelization, and the intercession of St Pius of Pietrelcina, whose liturgical memorial we are celebrating today.
With these sentiments, I impart my Blessing to you all, and gladly extend it to those who are entrusted to your care as Pastors, particularly the children, young people, the elderly, the sick, the poor and the suffering.
Dear Cardinal Poupard,
Dear Muslim Friends,
I am pleased to welcome you to this gathering that I wanted to arrange in order to strengthen the bonds of friendship and solidarity between the Holy See and Muslim communities throughout the world. I thank Cardinal Poupard, President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, for the words that he has just addressed to me, and I thank all of you for responding to my invitation.
The circumstances which have given rise to our gathering are well known. I have already had occasion to dwell upon them in the course of the past week. In this particular context, I should like to reiterate today all the esteem and the profound respect that I have for Muslim believers, calling to mind the words of the Second Vatican Council which for the Catholic Church are the Magna Carta of Muslim-Christian dialogue: "The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God" (Declaration Nostra Aetate NAE 3). Placing myself firmly within this perspective, I have had occasion, since the very beginning of my pontificate, to express my wish to continue establishing bridges of friendship with the adherents of all religions, showing particular appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians (cf. Address to the Delegates of Other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of Other Religious Traditions, 25 April 2005). As I underlined at Cologne last year, "Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends" (Meeting with Representatives of Some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). In a world marked by relativism and too often excluding the transcendence and universality of reason, we are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and between cultures, capable of assisting us, in a spirit of fruitful co-operation, to overcome all the tensions together. Continuing, then, the work undertaken by my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, I sincerely pray that the relations of trust which have developed between Christians and Muslims over several years, will not only continue, but will develop further in a spirit of sincere and respectful dialogue, based on ever more authentic reciprocal knowledge which, with joy, recognizes the religious values that we have in common and, with loyalty, respects the differences.
Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue is a necessity for building together this world of peace and fraternity ardently desired by all people of good will. In this area, our contemporaries expect from us an eloquent witness to show all people the value of the religious dimension of life. Likewise, faithful to the teachings of their own religious traditions, Christians and Muslims must learn to work together, as indeed they already do in many common undertakings, in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence; as for us, religious authorities and political leaders, we must guide and encourage them in this direction. Indeed, "although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people" (Declaration, Nostra Aetate NAE 3). The lessons of the past must therefore help us to seek paths of reconciliation, in order to live with respect for the identity and freedom of each individual, with a view to fruitful co-operation in the service of all humanity. As Pope John Paul II said in his memorable speech to young people at Casablanca in Morocco, "Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly religious freedom. They favour peace and agreement between peoples" (no. 5).
Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that in the current world situation it is imperative that Christians and Muslims engage with one another in order to address the numerous challenges that present themselves to humanity, especially those concerning the defence and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of the rights ensuing from that dignity. When threats mount up against people and against peace, by recognizing the central character of the human person and by working with perseverance to see that human life is always respected, Christians and Muslims manifest their obedience to the Creator, who wishes all people to live in the dignity that he has bestowed upon them.
Dear friends, I pray with my whole heart that the merciful God will guide our steps along the paths of an ever more authentic mutual understanding. At this time when for Muslims the spiritual journey of the month of Ramadan is beginning, I address to all of them my cordial good wishes, praying that the Almighty may grant them serene and peaceful lives. May the God of peace fill you with the abundance of his Blessings, together with the communities that you represent!
I gladly take the opportunity that is offered by the presentation of the Letters officially accrediting you today as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See to welcome you, and I congratulate you on your appointment and offer you my best wishes for your new and exalted mission.
I am likewise grateful for the friendly words you have addressed to me on behalf of the Federal President, H.E. Mr Horst Köhler, and of the Federal Government of Germany.
For my part, as Head of State, I send my greetings to the members of the Federal Government and to the entire German People. May the good relations between the Federal Republic of Germany, my beloved Homeland, and the Holy See become increasingly fruitful for the good of humanity in the years to come!
In the past few days I have been thinking back with gratitude to my Pastoral Visit to Bavaria, which had as its motto: "Those who believe are never alone!".
I wanted to combine the memory of people and places, to whom and to which I feel attached for biographical reasons, with meetings in the faith community. I was able to proclaim to the many who took part in Holy Mass the message of God's liberating and saving love.
On this occasion, I would like once again to thank the State Authorities of the Federation and the Free State of Bavaria, as well as the countless volunteers for their great effort through which they contributed to the success of my Apostolic Journey.
The messages I have received in the past few days from those who took part in the Masses in Bavaria as well as from television viewers in Germany and in other countries show that there was authentic communion in those days.
I believe all this has a social importance: wherever society is growing and people are strengthened in good, thanks to the message of faith, this also benefits social coexistence, and the readiness of citizens to assume responsibility for the common good is reinforced.
Mr Ambassador, the Holy See's mission is universal. As far as possible, the attention and consideration of the Pope and his collaborators at the Roman Curia concern all people and all peoples.
Naturally, the Holy See first addresses Christians in the various countries of the Earth, but it attaches great importance to the good of all men and women, independently of their culture, language or religious denomination.
Thus, the Holy See seeks to cooperate with all people of good will at the service of human dignity, integrity and freedom.
The Catholic Church, therefore, has at heart the salvation of humankind. For this reason, the activities of the Holy See focus on the individual and on the communities where the person lives and to which he belongs. On the international scene too, its action shows that the Church is on the side of the human being, here in Europe and in every part of the world.
Indeed, the Church shares "the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted" (Gaudium et Spes GS 1), because for the Church, for her faith, "it is man himself who must be saved" and "mankind that must be renewed"; thus, the centre of the Church's pastoral concern is man, "whole and entire, with body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will" (cf. ibid., n. 3).
The Church, however, does not impose herself. She does not force any one to accept the Gospel message. In fact, the faith in Jesus Christ which the Church proclaims can only exist in freedom, so tolerance and cultural openness must be a feature of the encounter with the other.
Tolerance, however, must never be confused with indifferentism, for any form of indifference is radically opposed to the deep Christian concern for man and for his salvation. Authentic tolerance always also implies respect for the other, for man, the creature of God whose existence God willed.
The tolerance we urgently need, and I also mentioned this in Munich, "includes the fear of God - respect for what others hold sacred. This respect for what others hold sacred demands that we ourselves learn once more the fear of God. But this sense of respect can be reborn in the Western world only if faith in God is reborn" (Homily, 10 September 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 13 September, p. 7).
Mr Ambassador, in your address you rightly emphasized the excellent relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See and the felicitous cooperation of these two States in certain sectors. These good relations certainly reflect the solid ties between State and Church in Germany. The good cooperation of both institutions in various fields for the good of men and women in our Homeland has several times been mentioned on previous occasions.
It is to be hoped that this proven collaboration between Church and State in Germany will continue and develop, also in the changeable premises at the European level.
As in every nation, in Germany too, relations between State and Church are closely linked to legislation. For this reason, the Holy See follows with deep interest the developments and the tendencies in the Federation and in the individual Länder.
In this Intervention I can only stress several contexts considered important by the Catholic Church, which has at heart, as I have already said, first and foremost man and his salvation.
In the first place, I cite the protection of marriage and the family which is recognized by the Fundamental Law. But they are threatened on the one hand by the change taking place in public opinion in the interpretation of matrimonial communion, and on the other, by the new forms provided for by legislators that are drifting away from the form of the natural family.
The absolutely unjustifiable termination of pregnancy which costs the lives, as it always has, of numerous innocent children, remains a painful concern for the Holy See and for the entire Church. Perhaps the current debate of political leaders on the interruption of pregnancy in its late stages will strengthen the awareness that the diagnosis of disability in the unborn child cannot be a reason for abortion, because life with such a disability is also desired and appreciated by God, and here on earth no one can ever be sure that he or she will live without physical or spiritual limitations.
Therefore, the Church will never tire of indicating to the appropriate European institutions and to individual nations the ethical problems inherent in the context of embryonic stem cell research and the so-called "innovative" treatments.
Germany has offered a new Homeland and shelter to refugees and to many who in their own native countries are threatened by persecution for either religious or political reasons. The network of help and solidarity that is also extended to needy foreigners constitutes a true human social order.
The effectiveness of this network depends on the contributions of all. It is thus hoped that asylum will be guaranteed in accordance with the legislators' intentions, in conformity with just directives and with the principle of justice.
It should be borne in mind that finding shelter in Germany is a vital matter for numerous refugees.
In this regard, the Holy See asks the appropriate State institutions not to keep foreign Christians at a distance, those whose lives and well-being are threatened because of their faith, and to facilitate their integration into Germany.
Germany is rightly proud of its great cultural tradition. The transmission of culture to future generations is one of the State's important tasks.
Knowledge, however, must be combined with values if education is to be authentic.
In most of the German Länder the State shares this great challenge with the Church, present in the schools through religion classes "taught as an ordinary subject".
In many places, those students who do not belong to any religious denomination attend an ethics lesson that is "neutral from the religious viewpoint". This lesson on ethics cannot and must not in any sense be "neutral from the point of view of values". It must enable students to become familiar with the great tradition of the Western spirit that has shaped the history and culture of Europe and continues to inspire it.
The Church considers it important that this lesson of ethics be imparted alongside that of confessional religion, but absolutely without replacing it.
Germany is a Country open to the world. Our Homeland today has a soundly established and recognized place in the community of European States and Peoples.
Furthermore, over and above questions of national interest, Germany does not forget the problems of many poor countries in other parts of the world.
International ecclesial relief agencies of the Catholic Church based in Germany can also count on the genuine generosity of the people. In many matters associated with human, humanitarian and international rights, the Holy See can count on the collaboration based on trust of the Federal Government of Germany.
For all these reasons, the Church and I are sincerely grateful. With your long diplomatic experience at the service of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Ambassador, you can ensure that this collaboration is always solid and at the service of humankind.
I wholeheartedly implore upon you, your family and all the members of the Embassy, God's constant protection and an abundance of his Blessings.
In welcoming you at the beginning of your mission, I thank you for your courteous words and for the sentiments of deep esteem that you have desired to express to me with regard to the Holy See.
Please convey to the President of the Republic my cordial reciprocation of his greetings as I turn my thoughts to the entire Albanian People, whose aspirations to truth and freedom, as you appropriately observed, have withstood the long and oppressive Communist dictatorship from which it emerged not many years ago.
Growth in a climate of genuine freedom requires a satisfactory ethical and spiritual context, founded on a concept of the human being and of the world that reflects their nature and vocation.
Europe, with its very rich heritage of ideas and institutions, has certainly been a privileged laboratory of civilization in the course of these two millennia, even at the cost of who knows how much suffering. How many wars have there been, up to those of the last century that acquired global proportions!
Albania also aspires to institutional integration with the European nations and feels it is already bound to them not only for geographical but especially for historical and cultural reasons.
I cannot but hope that these aspirations are totally and effectively attained, and that Albania can make its own special contribution to the harmonious process of the unification of Europe.
Mr Ambassador, I deeply appreciated your emphasis, with a look at the past and the present, on the importance of the Catholic Church's presence and work in Albania for the promotion of the faith and of spiritual values as well as for its support in multiple situations of need.
In this regard, I would like to recall Mother Teresa, proclaimed Blessed in 2003 by my venerable Predecessor John Paul II.
With the testimony of an evangelical life and with the disarming courage of her acts, words and writings, this chosen daughter of Albania proclaimed to all that God is love and that he loves every human being, especially those who are poor and neglected. In fact, love itself constitutes the true revolutionary power that changes the world and leads it forward towards fulfilment.
The Church intends to bear witness to this love with her institutions, providing education and assistance that are open not only to Catholics but to everyone. This is the style that Jesus Christ taught: good must be done for its own sake and not for other ends.
In underlining this commitment of the Church in the practice of evangelical love, I would like to recall that political activity lived as a service to the polis, to "public affairs", with a view to the common good, is an eminent form of charity.
Catholics, especially the lay faithful, feel called to render this service, respecting the legitimate autonomy of politics and collaborating with other citizens to build a prosperous, brotherly and supportive nation.
At this time, Albania must confront many challenges. Among the problems, I would like to mention the emigration of many of its children. If, on the one hand, it is necessary to fight the causes of this phenomenon, it is also necessary to create the conditions for those who so wish to return to their Homeland.
And here, I would like to honour those Albanians who have been able, faithful to the best values of their tradition, to make themselves appreciated in Italy, in Europe and in other countries of the world.
Then, with regard to official relations between the Catholic Church and the State, I express my appreciation for the approved legislation - to which you referred - that will bring into force the Accord of 2002 between the Holy See and the Republic of Albania, and I hope that opportune agreements will also follow to regulate the economic aspects which are very important.
In this way, the Holy See wishes to contribute in Albania to consolidating the state of rights and the necessary juridical framework for citizens' rights to be truly exercised in the religious context.
This will also foster coexistence between the different Religious denominations that exist in the Country, which until now have been able to offer an example of mutual respect and collaboration that should be preserved and promoted.
Mr Ambassador, I express to you my best wishes for a peaceful and profitable mission, and I assure you of the cordial collaboration of all who work in the various Offices of the Apostolic See.
I would like at the end of these reflections to re-echo the wish that the Servant of God, John Paul II addressed to the beloved Albanian People during his historic Pastoral Visit on 25 April 1993: "to continue united and strong on the journey which leads to complete freedom, with respect for everyone and by following the path familiar to you all, of peaceful coexistence, of open cooperation and understanding, among the different ethnic, cultural and religious groups" (Address at Arrival Ceremony, International Airport of Rinas, Albania, 25 April 1993; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 May, n. 5, p. 3).
On this path, Albania will be able to count on the support of the Catholic Church, and in particular of the Holy See.
I assure you of this as well as of my remembrance in prayer, as I invoke heavenly Blessings upon you and your family, upon the President of the Republic and the entire Albanian People.
Dear Brother Bishops,
I am pleased to welcome you here today, the Bishops of Malawi, on your visit ad limina Apostolorum, and I thank you for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Tarcisius Ziyaye, President of your Episcopal Conference. Your visit expresses the deep bonds of communion and affection that link your local Churches in East Africa with the See of Rome. Simon Peter was called to strengthen his brethren (cf. Lc 22,32) and to feed the Lord’s sheep (cf. Jn 21,17), and you too have been placed as leaders and shepherds of your people, to teach, sanctify and govern them in the Lord’s name. As you venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, I pray that, through their intercession, you will be strengthened and nourished for your ministry among the people of Malawi, and will continue to proclaim fearlessly the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who came “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10,10).
The exuberance with which the peoples of Africa give praise to God in their liturgical worship is known all over the world, and the Church in Malawi is no exception. Their joyful celebration expresses the great vitality of your Christian communities, and it reflects the predominance of young people in your population. Continue to guide them with true fatherly care towards a deeper knowledge of their Crucified and Risen Lord, always providing them with sound catechesis in the faith. To this end, it is important that teachers and catechists receive good preparation for their noble task since, as you know, they play a vital part in helping the Bishop to carry out his responsibility as the one who teaches with Christ’s authority. Hence they should be well formed in the faith and able to communicate both the joy and the challenge of following Christ. I am hopeful that the newly-opened Catholic University of Malawi will be able to make a significant contribution in this area, and I encourage you to do all you can to provide it with sufficient resources and to maintain high-quality teaching in fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium.
In a world dominated by secular and materialist values, it can be hard to maintain the counter-cultural manner of life that is so necessary in the priesthood and the religious life. The clergy in your country, like those to whom they minister, sometimes find themselves in situations of want, lacking the means necessary for their “decent support ... and the exercise of works of the apostolate and of charity” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 17). I am sure that you will do your utmost to provide for the legitimate needs of your co-workers, while at the same time warning them against excessive concern with material possessions. Help your clergy not to fall into the trap of seeing the priesthood as a means of social advancement by reminding them that “the only legitimate ascent towards the shepherd’s ministry is the Cross” (Ordination Homily, 7 May 2006). The formation staff in the seminaries need to teach the students that a priest is called to live for others and not for himself, in imitation of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mc 10,45). Above all, the Bishop’s example of a truly Christ-centred ministry can serve as an inspiration to his priests. My dear Brother Bishops, live as authentic followers of Christ, and let your discipleship be the basis of the authority that you exercise. I pray that in this way you will be able to strengthen the bonds of fraternal charity within the presbyterium of each of your local Churches.
I am pleased to note that you continue to exercise your teaching office by commenting on matters of social concern. In fact, your Pentecost Pastoral Letter Renewing Our Lives and Society with the Power of the Holy Spirit, which you published earlier this year, drew attention to some of the social and moral evils afflicting the nation. Food security is threatened not only by drought but also by inefficient and unjust management of agriculture; the spread of AIDS is increased by failure to remain faithful to one partner in marriage or to practise abstinence; the rights of women, children and the unborn are cynically violated by human trafficking, by domestic violence and by those who advocate abortion. Never cease to proclaim the truth, and insist on it, “in season and out of season” (2Tm 4,2) because “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8,32). The Good Shepherd, who never leaves his flock untended, watches over his sheep and protects them always. Following his example, continue to guide your people away from the dangers that threaten them, and lead them into safe pastures. I pray that they will pay heed to your counsel, so that the face of the earth may be renewed (cf. Ps 104,30) and the Spirit of God may truly maintain the unity of your nation in the bond of peace (cf. Ep 4,3).
As I conclude my remarks to you today, I want to remind you of the image of the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room with Mary, Mother of the Lord, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the same scene that you describe so beautifully in the closing paragraph of your recent Pastoral Letter. In that document, you encouraged your people to come together to pray, in their families and in small Christian Communities. I know that you too will continue to pray together, and in communion with the clergy and lay faithful, for the gifts of the Spirit on the Church in your country. The Spirit is the energy “which transforms the heart of the ecclesial community, so that it becomes a witness before the world to the love of the Father, who wishes to make humanity a single family in his Son” (Deus Caritas Est ). I too pray that the Spirit may be poured out abundantly upon all of you, and as I entrust you and your clergy, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and strength in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Speeches 2005-13 49