Speeches 2005-13 21106
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I warmly greet all of you who have come to Rome to celebrate solemnly the 25th anniversary of the John Paul II Foundation.
I thank Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Metropolitan of Krakow, for the words he has just addressed to me. I welcome Cardinal Adam Maida and all the Archbishops and Bishops present here. I greet the Foundation's Council with its President, Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly, the directors of its individual institutions and the presidents and members of the Circles of Friends of the Foundation who have come from various countries of the world.
I am glad to be able to offer hospitality today to the representatives of those people throughout the world who devote themselves to keeping alive the memory of John Paul II and of his teaching and the apostolic work he carried out during his Pontificate. It must be said that this is a truly promising commitment for it is not only concerned with archiving or research but indeed touches on the mystery of the holiness of the Servant of God.
Thanks to your spiritual and financial support, the Foundation continues the activity described by its Statutes in the cultural and scientific as well as social and pastoral fields.
It collects documentation concerning John Paul II's Pontificate and examines and disseminates the teaching of the Pope and of the Church's Magisterium, networking and collaborating with Polish and international centres of science and art. This commitment by the Foundation has acquired new significance since the Pontiff's death.
The collection of the Papal Writings and the rich documentation of the Holy See's activity, as well as the Pope's literary works and comments presented in the social communications media, indisputably constitute a complete and well-organized archive and form the basis for a detailed and thorough study of the spiritual legacy of John Paul II.
Precisely because the study of the Pontificate is of the first importance, I wish to emphasize this aspect of the Foundation's work today: the study of the Pontificate. John Paul II, a philosopher and theologian and a great Pastor of the Church, has bequeathed to us a wealth of writings and actions that express his desire to spread Christ's Gospel throughout the world, using the methods indicated by the Second Vatican Council and marking out the paths of the Church's development in the new millennium. These precious gifts cannot be forgotten.
Today, dear members and friends of the John Paul II Foundation, I entrust to you the task of examining the richness of his message more deeply and revealing it to the generations to come.
Lastly, an especially important task is to offer help to young people, particularly those from Central and Eastern Europe, so that they can attain the necessary standard of instruction in the different branches of knowledge.
My thanks go to all those who in these past 25 years have supported the Foundation's activity in various ways and to those who have directed this activity with wisdom and dedication. I ask you to persevere in this good work. May it continue to develop and may your joint efforts, sustained by God's help, continue to produce magnificent fruit.
Thank you for coming and for this meeting. God bless you!
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to meet you at the end of Holy Mass and to thus offer you my wishes for the new Academic Year.
In the first place I greet Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who has presided at the Eucharistic Concelebration, and I cordially thank him for the words he addressed to me in your name. I greet the Secretary and other collaborators of the Dicastery for Catholic Education, renewing to all the expression of my gratitude for the precious service rendered to the Church in such an important area as the formation of the young generations.
I extend my greeting to the Rectors, Professors and students of each Pontifical University and Athenaeum present here and to all those who are ideally joining us in prayer.
As every year, also this evening is the appointment with the Roman ecclesiastic academic community made up of about 15,000 people and characterized by the most varied origins. From the Church in every part of the world, in particular from newly established Dioceses and from missionary territories, seminarians and deacons come to Rome to attend the Pontifical Academies, also priests, deacons, Religious and not a few lay people to complete their licence and doctoral studies or to enrol in other specializations and updating courses.
Here they find professors and formation staff that in their turn are of various nationalities and from different cultures. Such variety, however, does not result in dispersion because, as expressed also in the highest form of today's liturgical celebration, all the Athenaeums, Faculties and Colleges tend to a greater unity, obeying a common criteria of formation, principally that of fidelity to the Magisterium.
Therefore, at the beginning of a new year, we give praise to the Lord for this singular community of professors and students, who manifest in an eloquent way the Catholic Church's universality and unity. It is a community that is all the more beautiful because it primarily addresses youth, giving them the opportunity to enter into contact with institutions of high theological and cultural value, and offering them at the same time the possibility of enriching ecclesial and pastoral experiences.
I would like to stress also on this occasion, as I have had the opportunity to do at various meetings with priests and seminarians, the primary importance of the spiritual life and the necessity to foster, along with cultural growth, a balanced human maturity and a profound ascetic and religious formation.
Whoever wants to be a friend of Jesus and become his authentic disciple - be it seminarian, priest, Religious or lay person - must cultivate an intimate friendship with him in meditation and prayer. The deepening of Christian truths and the study of theology and other religious disciplines presupposes an education to silence and contemplation, because one must become capable of listening to God speaking in the heart.
Thought must always be purified to be able to enter the dimension where God pronounces his creative and redemptive Word; his Word "comes out of silence", to use the beautiful expression of St Ignatius of Antioch (Letter To the Magnesians, VIII, 2). Only if it is born from the silence of contemplation can our words have some value and usefulness, and not resemble the inflated discourses of the world that seek the consensus of public opinion.
The student who studies in an ecclesiastical institute must therefore be disposed to obedience to the truth and so cultivate a special ascesis of thought and word. This ascesis is based on loving familiarity with the Word of God and, I would say even more so, on that "silence" from which the Word originates in the dialogue of love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. Also, we have access to such a dialogue through the holy humanity of Christ.
Therefore, dear friends, as the disciples of the Lord did, ask him: Master, "teach us to pray" (Lc 11,1), and also: teach us to think, to write and to speak, because they are strictly connected.
These are the suggestions that I address to each one of you, dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of the new Academic Year. I willingly accompany you, assuring you of a particular remembrance in prayer, so that the Holy Spirit illumine your hearts and lead you to a clear knowledge of Christ, able to transform you existence, because he alone has the words of everlasting life (cf. Jn 6,68).
Your future apostolate will be rich and fruitful in the measure in which you prepare yourselves in these years, studying seriously. Above all, nourish your personal friendship with the Lord, tending to holiness and having as the sole goal of your existence the realization of the Kingdom of God.
I entrust these, my wishes, to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom. May she accompany you throughout this new year of study and grant your longings and hopes.
With affection I impart to each one of you and to your study circles, as also to your dear ones, a special Apostolic Blessing.
I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Holy See.
I cordially thank you for conveying to me the courteous message of His Majesty King Albert II and Her Majesty the Queen. Remembering the visit that Their Majesties paid to me last April, I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate by expressing my best wishes for them, for Queen Fabiola, for Prince Philip and for Princess Mathilde, as well as for the Civil Authorities and the entire Belgian People.
Fifty years after the great project of building Europe was launched, which stems from the Christian spirit and to which Belgium was party from the outset, considerable progress has been made, even if new difficulties have recently arisen: the European Continent is gradually and peacefully rediscovering its unity and the European Union has become a major economic power in the world, as well as a sign of hope for many.
In the face of the demands of the globalization of exchanges and of solidarity among human beings, Europe must continue to open up to become involved in the great initiatives of the planet.
The issue of peace and security is on the front line of these challenges, while we are seeing an international situation weakened by lasting conflicts. This is especially the case in the Middle East with the ongoing dramatic situation in the Holy Land, in Lebanon and Iraq, but also in Africa and in Asia.
It is of the utmost importance that the international community and especially the European Union be resolutely mobilized to further peace, international dialogue and development. I know that Belgium spares no effort in this regard.
In particular, I acknowledge its efforts to help the Central African Countries settle their future in peace. I also hail its efforts in the context of Lebanon, to which you have just referred. For my part, I can assure you of the determined commitment of the Holy See to do all it can to further peace and development.
Another challenge concerns the future of man and his identity. The immense progress of technology has upset many practices in the field of medical sciences, whereas the erasing of customs has considerably relativized norms that seemed inviolable. Hence, in the Western societies most characterized by a superabundance of consumer goods and by subjectivism, man is confronted by a crisis of meaning.
In a certain number of countries, we are actually seeing the appearance of new legislation that calls into question respect for human life from its conception until its natural end at the risk of exploiting it as an object for research and experimentation, and thereby striking a serious blow to the fundamental dignity of the human being.
On the basis of her long experience and on the treasure of the Revelation which she received as a deposit to be shared, the Church intends to recall forcefully what she believes concerning the human being and his fantastic destiny, giving to each one the key to the interpretation of life and of the reasons for hope. It is this that she desires to propose during the evangelization congress that will begin in a few days' time entitled: "Brussels All Saints 2006".
When the Bishops of Belgium plead for the development of palliative care to enable those who so desire to die in dignity, or when they intervene in social debates to recall that "an invisible moral frontier exists to which technological progress must give way" (Dignité de l'enfant et technique médicale), their intention is to serve the whole of society, pointing out the conditions for a future of true freedom and dignity for humankind.
With them, I invite the political leaders in charge of making laws for the common good to take serious stock of their responsibility and of the human issues at stake.
Your Country, the Kingdom of Belgium, is built around the monarchical principle, making the King the guarantor of national unity and of respect for the linguistic and cultural particularities of each community in the heart of the Nation. A country's unity, to be constantly perfected as we know well, demands of everyone the desire to serve the common interest and to be ever better acquainted with one another by means of dialogue and mutual enrichment.
Today, the acceptance of ever more numerous immigrants and the multiplication in the same land of communities with different cultural or religious backgrounds makes intercultural and interreligious dialogue absolutely indispensable in our societies, as I recalled during my recent Journey to Bavaria and as you yourself have emphasized.
It would be right to deepen mutual knowledge, respecting the religious beliefs of each person and the legitimate requirements of social life in conformity with the laws in force, and to welcome immigrants in such a way that their dignity is always respected.
To do this, it is important to implement an immigration policy that can reconcile the interests of the host country with the necessary development of the less-privileged countries. This policy should also be supported by a desire for integration which leaves no room for the development of situations of rejection or no-rights, such as revealed by the drama of those without documents.
Thus, the risks of self-withdrawal, exacerbated nationalism or even xenophobia would be avoided and it would be possible to hope for a harmonious development of our societies for the good of all the citizens.
At the end of our conversation, Mr Ambassador, may I be permitted through you to greet the Bishops and all the members of the Catholic Community of Belgium, in order to encourage them to witness tirelessly to the hope that is in them in all the sectors of social and professional life without forgetting prisons, hospitals and all the new situations of poverty that can exist. May they carry with them the Good News of God's love!
Mr Ambassador, at the time when you are beginning your noble mission, rest assured that you will always meet with an attentive welcome from my collaborators. I offer you my best wishes for its success and for the continuation and development of harmonious relations between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Belgium.
I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, and upon your family and all the Embassy staff, as well as upon the Royal Family, the leaders and all the Country's inhabitants.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the Fifth International Congress of Military Ordinariates and I address my greeting to each one of you. In particular, I greet Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and thank him for his cordial words.
Twenty years ago, precisely on 21 April 1986, beloved John Paul II promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Spirituali Militum Curae (L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 2 June 1986, PP 3,7), which updated the canonical regulation of spiritual assistance to the Armed Forces in the light of the Second Vatican Council, taking into account changes affecting the Armed Forces and their national and international roles. Actually, the world scenario has undergone further transformation in recent decades.
Thus, although the Papal Document continues to be fully relevant because the Church never changes her pastoral approach, it must be constantly adjusted to bring it more into line with present-day needs. This is what you have most appropriately desired to do at this Congress, organized by the Congregation for Bishops.
First of all, it is important to re-read the Introduction of the Apostolic Constitution: it spells out the reasons for the Magisterial Intervention and expresses the pastoral spirit that enlivens, inspires and guides all its legal provisions.
The Document highlights two fundamental values: the value of the person and the value of peace. The entire structural revision, which likens the Ordinariates to Dioceses, the Ordinary to the Bishop and the Chaplain to the Parish Priest, obeys the criterion of service to the military personnel who "have need of a concrete and specific form of pastoral care" (cf. Introduction, ibid.).
At the same time, however, it is affirmed that the people for whom the Ordinariate is intended do not cease to be the faithful of the particular Church where they live or to whose rite they belong (cf. IV). This entails a need for communion and coordination between the Military Ordinariate and the other particular Churches (cf. II, 4).
All these matters emphasize the prime aim of the care of the Christifideles: to enable them to live their baptismal vocation and their membership in the Church to the full.
Thus, we have the same outlook as that adopted by the Servant of God John Paul II on the occasion of the Third Congress of Military Ordinaries in 1994 (cf. Address to Participants in the Third International Congress of Military Ordinariates, 11 March 1994; ORE, 23 March, p. 6).
Putting people first means giving priority to the soldier's Christian formation, guiding him and his relatives in the process of Christian initiation, in the development of his vocation and of his faith, and in witnessing.
At the same time, it means encouraging forms of brotherhood and community life, as well as liturgical and non-liturgical forms of prayer that are appropriate in the context and living conditions of military personnel.
The second aspect I would like to emphasize is the fundamental importance of the value of peace.
In this regard, the Introduction of Spirituali Militum Curae expressly cites Gaudium et Spes, recalling that those doing military service must be considered as "ministers of the security and freedom of peoples", because, "if they carry out their duties properly, they also truly contribute to stabilizing peace" (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 79).
If, therefore, the Council calls members of the armed forces "custodians of security", how much more so would be the Pastors to whom they are entrusted!
I therefore urge you all to ensure that military Chaplains are authentic experts and teachers of what the Church teaches and practises, with a view to building peace in the world.
Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution is an important milestone in this teaching and its contribution in this context can be summed up in the words you have rightly chosen as the theme of this Congress: "Ministerium pacis inter arma - Soldiers at the service of peace".
My Predecessor considered this ministerium pacis inter arma "a new proclamation of the Gospel in the military world, of which the Christian soldiers and their communities cannot fail to be the first heralds" (Address, Third International Congress of Military Ordinariates, 11 March 1994; ORE, 23 March, n. 5, p. 6).
The Church is missionary by nature and her principal task is evangelization, which aims to proclaim and to witness to Christ and to promote his Gospel of peace and love in every environment and culture.
The Church is also called in the military world to be "salt", "light" and "leaven", to use the images to which Jesus himself refers, so that mindsets and structures may be ever more fully oriented to building peace, in other words, to that "order planned and willed by the love of God" (Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2006, n. 3; ORE, 21 December 2005, p. 6), in which people and peoples can develop to the full and see their own fundamental rights recognized (cf. ibid., n. 4).
The Church's teaching on the subject of peace is an essential aspect of her social doctrine. Grafted onto very ancient roots, it continued to develop in the past century in a sort of "crescendo" which culminated in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, in the Encyclicals of Bl. John XXIII and of the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, as well as in their Addresses to the United Nations Organization and their Messages for each World Day of Peace.
This insistent appeal for peace has influenced Western culture, fostering the ideal that the Armed Forces are "an exclusive service for the security and freedom of peoples" (John Paul II, Address, Third International Convention of Military Ordinariates; ORE, 23 March 1994, n. 5, p. 6).
Unfortunately, other - economic and political - interests fomented by international tensions sometimes cause this constructive tendency to meet with obstacles and delays, as also transpires from the difficulties that hinder disarmament processes.
From within the military world, the Church will continue to offer her specific service to the formation of consciences, certain that God's Word, liberally scattered and courageously guided by the service of charity and truth, will bear fruit in its own good time.
Dear and venerable Brothers, to offer people adequate pastoral care and to carry out the evangelizing mission, Military Ordinariates need priests and deacons who are motivated and trained, as well as lay people who can collaborate actively and responsibly with Pastors.
I therefore join you in praying to the Lord of the Harvest that he will send workers out to this harvest in which you are already working with admirable zeal.
May the shining examples of numerous Military Chaplains who served God and their brethren with heroic dedication, such as Blessed Fr Secondo Pollo, encourage young people to dedicate their entire life to serving the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of love, justice and peace.
May the Virgin Mary always watch over your ministry and may you be accompanied by my Blessing, which I warmly impart to all of you and to your respective Ecclesial Communities.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm 1,7). With these words, the Apostle Paul greeted the early Christian community of Rome, and with this same prayer I welcome you here today, in the city where Peter and Paul ministered and shed their blood for Christ.
For decades the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions has provided a forum for fruitful contacts between the various ecclesial communities. This has enabled their representatives to build that reciprocal trust needed to engage seriously in bringing the richness of different Christian traditions to serve the common call to discipleship. I am glad to meet all of you here today, and to encourage you in your work. Every step towards Christian unity serves to proclaim the Gospel, and is made possible by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who prayed that his disciples might be one, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17,21).
It is clear to us all that today’s world is in need of a new evangelization, a fresh accounting on the part of Christians for the hope that is in them (cf. 1P 3,15). Yet those who profess that Jesus Christ is Lord are tragically divided and cannot always give a consistent common witness. Herein lies an enormous responsibility for us all.
In this light, I am glad to see that the theme of your meeting - Visions of Christian Unity - focuses on a basic ecumenical issue. The theological dialogues in which many Christian World Communions have been engaged are characterized by a commitment to move beyond the things that divide, towards the unity in Christ which we seek. However daunting the journey, we must not lose sight of the final goal: full visible communion in Christ and in the Church. We may feel discouraged when progress is slow, but there is too much at stake to turn back. On the contrary, there are good reasons to forge ahead, as my predecessor Pope John Paul II pointed out in his Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint on the Catholic Church’s ecumenical commitment, where he speaks of brotherhood rediscovered and greater solidarity in the service of humanity (41ff.).
The Conference of Secretaries of the Christian World Communions continues to grapple with important questions of its identity and its specific role in the ecumenical movement. Let us pray that such reflection will bring fresh insight regarding the perennial ecumenical question of “reception” (cf. ibid., 80f.) and that it will help to strengthen the common witness so necessary today.
The Apostle assures us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Rm 8,26). Though there are many obstacles still to be overcome, we firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is ever present and will guide us along the right path. Let us continue our journey with patience and determination as we offer all our efforts to God, “through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever” (Rm 16,27).
Dear Brother Bishops,
In the words of a traditional Irish greeting, a hundred thousand welcomes to you, the Bishops of Ireland, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. As you venerate the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may you draw inspiration from the courage and vision of these two great saints, who so faithfully led the way in the Church’s mission of proclaiming Christ to the world. Today you have come to strengthen the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, and I gladly express my appreciation for the gracious words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Seán Brady, President of your Episcopal Conference. The constant witness of countless generations of Irish people to their faith in Christ and their fidelity to the Holy See has shaped Ireland at the deepest level of her history and culture. We are all aware of the outstanding contribution that Ireland has made to the life of the Church, and the extraordinary courage of her missionary sons and daughters who have carried the Gospel message far beyond her shores. Meanwhile, the flame of faith has continued bravely burning at home through all the trials afflicting your people in the course of their history. In the words of the Psalmist, “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord, through all ages my mouth shall proclaim your truth” (Ps 89,1).
The present time brings many new opportunities to bear witness to Christ and fresh challenges for the Church in Ireland. You have spoken about the consequences for society of the rise in prosperity that the last fifteen years have brought. After centuries of emigration, which involved the pain of separation for so many families, you are experiencing for the first time a wave of immigration. Traditional Irish hospitality is finding unexpected new outlets. Like the wise householder who brings forth from his treasure “what is new and what is old” (Mt 13,52), your people need to view the changes in society with discernment, and here they look to you for leadership. Help them to recognize the inability of the secular, materialist culture to bring true satisfaction and joy. Be bold in speaking to them of the joy that comes from following Christ and living according to his commandments. Remind them that our hearts were made for the Lord and that they find no peace until they rest in him (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, 1:1).
So often the Church’s counter-cultural witness is misunderstood as something backward and negative in today’s society. That is why it is important to emphasize the Good News, the life-giving and life-enhancing message of the Gospel (cf. Jn 10,10). Even though it is necessary to speak out strongly against the evils that threaten us, we must correct the idea that Catholicism is merely “a collection of prohibitions”. Sound catechesis and careful “formation of the heart” are needed here, and in this regard you are blessed in Ireland with solid resources in your network of Catholic schools, and in so many dedicated religious and lay teachers who are seriously committed to the education of the young. Continue to encourage them in their task and ensure that their catechetical programmes are based on The Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the new Compendium. Superficial presentations of Catholic teaching must be avoided, because only the fullness of the faith can communicate the liberating power of the Gospel. By exercising vigilance over the quality of the syllabuses and the course-books used and by proclaiming the Church’s doctrine in its entirety, you are carrying out your responsibility to “preach the word … in season and out of season … unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2Tm 4,2).
In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to “maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God” (Lumen Gentium LG 40).
The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests and religious in Ireland should not be obscured by the transgressions of some of their brethren. I am certain that the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem. Encourage your priests always to seek spiritual renewal and to discover afresh the joy of ministering to their flocks within the great family of the Church. At one time, Ireland was blessed with such an abundance of priestly and religious vocations that much of the world was able to benefit from their apostolic labours. In recent years, though, the number of vocations has fallen sharply. How urgent it is, then, to heed the Lord’s words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Mt 9,37-38). I am pleased to learn that many of your dioceses have adopted the practice of silent prayer for vocations before the Blessed Sacrament. This should be warmly encouraged. Yet above all, it falls to you, the Bishops, and to your clergy to offer young people an inspiring and attractive vision of the ordained priesthood. Our prayer for vocations “must lead to action so that from our praying heart a spark of our joy in God and in the Gospel may arise, enkindling in the hearts of others a readiness to say ‘yes’” (Address to Priests and Permanent Deacons, Freising, 14 September 2006). Even if Christian commitment is considered unfashionable in some circles, there is a real spiritual hunger and a generous desire to serve others among the young people of Ireland. A vocation to the priesthood or the religious life offers an opportunity to respond to this desire in a way that brings deep joy and personal fulfilment.
Allow me to add an observation that is close to my heart. For many years, Christian representatives of all denominations, political leaders and many men and women of good will have been involved in seeking means to ensure a brighter future for Northern Ireland. Although the path is arduous, much progress has been made in recent times. It is my prayer that the committed efforts of those concerned will lead to the creation of a society marked by a spirit of reconciliation, mutual respect and willing cooperation for the common good of all.
As you prepare to return to your Dioceses, I commend your apostolic ministry to the intercession of all the saints of Ireland, and I assure you of my deep affection and constant prayer for you and for the Irish people. May Our Lady of Knock watch over and protect you always. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your beloved island I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Since you come from a Land deeply loved by the Apostle to the Gentiles, I am eager to greet you with his own words: "I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him" (1Co 1,4-5).
I am pleased to greet you as the Successor of Peter, the Apostle to whom Christ entrusted special responsibility for promoting the unity of the Church, the Bride for whom he poured out his Blood on the Cross.
The ad limina visit you are making is of special importance as it deepens the communion which, by the grace of God, exists between us. It is a gift of God of which we are aware and which we intend to guard jealously.
In the Meetings I have had with each one of you, I could perceive your common concern about the rapidly evolving composition of your communities. The political and social events that have occurred in the area in which the Churches entrusted to you are located have given rise to pastoral problems that urgently need to be solved.
In particular, the considerable influx of Catholics from the surrounding nations makes new demands on you and your clergy for ministerial service that it is far from easy to provide.
Thus, I understand your apostolic anxiety about a flock which has grown considerably and to which variety has been brought by members of the faithful who speak different languages and belong to different rites.
Precisely in the light of this new situation, I think that the development of constructive dialogue with the other Episcopates would be particularly appropriate.
Provident decisions from the point of view of both obtaining the necessary sacred ministries and reliable financial sources will not fail to result from the emerging challenge. Respect for specific identities must be borne in mind but without sacrificing the life and programmes of the Church which Christ has entrusted to you.
You are the Pastors of the People of God in Greece: it is not merely a matter of an honorific title but a true responsibility with precise duties.
In this regard, I cordially urge you to persevere in your efforts to encourage the pastoral care of vocations: it is necessary, on the one hand, to cultivate the seeds of a vocation that God continues to sow in the hearts of boys and girls in our time; on the other, Christian communities should be asked to pray more intensely to the "Lord of the harvest", so that he will inspire new ministers and new consecrated persons who will carry out appropriately the various tasks required by the Mystical Body of Christ.
In any case, I hope that with generous dedication on the part of all it will be possible, even in the present situation, to provide for the spiritual needs of the many immigrants who have received a dignified and cordial welcome in your Country. This is the style proper to your People, who have always been able to open themselves to constructive contact with the surrounding peoples.
Furthermore, thanks to this innate prerogative you will certainly be able to determine the correct approach, in dialogue with other Catholic Episcopates of the various rites, to organize adequate pastoral offices for a fruitful Gospel witness in your Country.
Providence has put you in close contact with our Orthodox brethren who constitute the majority of your fellow-citizens. All have a great desire to participate together at the one altar on which, under the signs of the Sacrament, Christ's unique Sacrifice is offered! Let us intensify our prayers so as to hasten the blessed day on which we will be granted to break Bread together and to drink together from the same Cup which holds the price of our salvation.
In this context, I hope to see unfolding ever greater prospects of constructive dialogue between the Orthodox Church of Greece and the Catholic Church, and an increase in joint spiritual, cultural and practical initiatives.
I am also pleased to address my thoughts and good wishes to His Beatitude Christódoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece; I ask the Lord to sustain his farsightedness and prudence in carrying out the demanding service that the Lord has entrusted to his care.
Through him I wish to greet with deep affection the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Greece and all the faithful whom it serves lovingly and with apostolic dedication.
I am sure, venerable Brothers, that you will offer your effective collaboration to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and to the Members of the Episcopal College of the Orthodox Church of Greece in order to encourage further progress on the way to the full unity for which we long.
I also grasped in the conversations I have had with you your wish to see the State define your right to possess an appropriate and recognized juridical status.
As you well know, the current discussion of this question does not regard the Apostolic See as a leading protagonist. Indeed, this is an internal matter which nevertheless interests the Holy See, because it is anxious to find a satisfactory solution to the problems at stake, not only on the basis of the local legislation in force and the European directives but also in accordance with international law and the already consolidated praxis of cordial and fruitful bilateral relations.
In addition to dialogue, perseverance in this field is also needed. It is not necessary to add that the Catholic Church seeks no privileges but only asks to see her identity and mission recognized to make her own effective contribution to the integral well-being of the noble Greek People, of which you are an integral part.
With patience, respect for legitimate procedures and the commitment of one and all, it will be possible to attain the hoped for understanding.
Venerable Brothers, from your lips I learned with concern of the hardships of many communities due to the internal displacement of the faithful. Many find themselves spread over a wide area and consequently have serious difficulty in keeping in contact with their respective Pastors.
In light of these phenomena, the full importance of the affective and effective unity of you Bishops is also shown in an increasingly efficient internal coordination. Joint analysis of common problems will lead to shared solutions and an ecclesial process where each one is called to make his own contribution to the needs of the other, so as to build the Kingdom of God together. Indeed, it is up to a minister of God to do his utmost to ensure that the gifts bestowed by God serve for the edification of all, thereby glorifying the one Lord.
Dear friends, the Spirit of Christ has placed you in the Church as Pastors and teachers. Do not be afraid of problems, but in all things give thanks to God, cooperating with him for the salvation of souls. Be certain that Providence will never abandon you in your efforts.
When you return to your respective Sees, convey my cordial greeting to your priests, Religious and all your faithful, assuring them of my fervent prayers and constant affection.
As I invoke upon each one the heavenly intercession of Mary, Queen of Apostles, I impart to you and to all who are entrusted to your pastoral care a special Blessing as a pledge of abundant consolations from the Lord.
I welcome you with joy, you who have come to Rome to demonstrate especially at this moment your attachment to the Apostolic See.
Your innate sense of ecclesial communion is expressed each year through a generous gesture of solidarity, destined to help our most deprived brethren.
Already in the time of the Apostles, the members of the young Christian community "had all things in common" (cf. Ac 2,44-45), and St Paul was concerned to organize in each of the communities he founded this joint collection to help the other Churches (cf. 1Co 16,1).
As I recalled in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (n. 25). And I added: "The Church is God's family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life" (ibid.).
You are aware of the immense need for solidarity so that the fundamental dignity of our brethren is respected and that they may be fed, housed and educated. Each year, you generously respond by offering the Pope all that you have collected.
Please accept the deep gratitude of all the Christian communities which your gifts will help to assist so that they may always be at the service of the mission, proclaiming the Word of Life, offering the sacraments of salvation and putting Christ's love into practice.
As I entrust you and your families to the benevolent and maternal intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, Mother of God, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, which I extend to all the members of both your Associations and to their loved ones.
Speeches 2005-13 21106