Speeches 2005-13 18258


Dear and Venerable Brothers,

I greet you all together with great joy while you are making your pilgrimage ad limina Apostolorum. It is a timely opportunity for the Successor of Peter to become acquainted with the apostolic challenges you are meeting in the beloved land of Albania. I greet you with affection and thank you for the spontaneous frankness with which you have made the Pope aware of the complex reality of the Church in Albania, with its difficulties and hopes. I express special gratitude for the words with which the President of your Bishops' Conference has expressed your sentiments to me, summarizing your common vision. Thank you, my dear Brothers in the Episcopate! And welcome!

The sad heritage left in Albania by a past dictatorial regime which proclaimed atheism as the State ideology is known to all. It is obvious that such an anti-democratic structure of relations between citizens has already left you with a humanly difficult task, namely, the rediscovery of a common grammar that can once again support the building of society. However, as successors of the Apostles, you are called above all to bear witness to another particularly beneficial and constructive heritage, the message of salvation brought into the world by Christ. In this regard, after the dark night of the Communist dictatorship which was incapable of understanding the Albanian people with their ancestral traditions, it was providentially possible for the Church to be born anew. This was partly thanks to the apostolic energy of my Venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II who visited you in 1993 and re-established the Catholic Hierarchy on a sound basis for the good of believers and the benefit of the Albanian People.

One of the great Pontiff's first acts was to recognize the heroes of the faith. I recall here in particular the splendid witness of Cardinal Koliqi, the leader of a large throng of martyrs. The reconstruction of the Catholic Hierarchy was the dutiful recognition of the intimate union that binds your people to Christ and helps to make room for the new strength of Catholicism in the land of Albania. You are the custodians of this bond and it is primarily your task to promote in your actions and initiatives the unity which must show the fundamental and vivifying mystery of the one Body of Christ, in communion with the ministry of the Successor of Peter. It is impossible not to see, in this perspective, how essential the common feeling and shared co-responsibility of the Bishops is, precisely in order to face the problems and difficulties of the Church in Albania effectively. How could one imagine a diocesan approach that did not take into account the opinion of the other Bishops, whose agreement is necessary in order to respond appropriately to the expectations of the one people whom the Church addresses?

Cordial and brotherly understanding between Pastors can only bring great benefits to the beloved Albanian People, at the social, ecumenical and interreligious levels. Therefore, venerable Brothers, be one in Christ in proclaiming the Gospel and in celebrating the divine Mysteries; make communion with the universal Church manifest in the broadest and most genuine episcopal brotherhood. It would be inconceivable for one Pastor to undertake approaching concrete situations without seeking to coordinate his own commitment with that of his Brother Bishops. Specific issues exist that can be traced back to contingent problems which it is necessary to solve, with the help of all, in the context of charity and pastoral patience. I urge all of you to use evangelical prudence with an attitude of authentic charity, recalling that the ecclesial canons are a means of promoting communion in Christ and the superior good of the Redeemer's one flock in an orderly manner. This also concerns evangelization as well as catechetical activity, and is expressed in commitment in the social context. I am thinking in particular of holiness, education, the effort to pacify souls and all that fosters positive collaboration between the different members of society and their respective religious traditions.

The phenomenon of emigration, both in the Country and outside it, poses serious pastoral problems for you which challenge your hearts as Bishops, not only with regard to the faithful who live in your territory but also those in the diaspora. This calls into question your ability to dialogue with your Brothers in other countries so that you may offer the necessary and urgent pastoral assistance. I know of the problem of the lack of clergy. I also know of the generosity of many of your priests who are active in precarious situations, striving to carry out the proper ministerial service for Catholic faithful of Albanian origin who are abroad. This does you honour dear Brothers, who in accordance with the Heart of Christ show your concern for the spiritual plight of your people even beyond the boundaries of your Homeland. Moreover, it also does honour to the priests who generously share in your pastoral concerns.

Then there are many practical problems that require the effective contribution of the civil bodies by means of proposals that not only respond to political concerns but also take the actual social situations into account. From the Catholic viewpoint, both in the Homeland and in the context of emigration, you must develop an attention which, while preserving your people's specific identity, does not neglect their integration in the social contexts where they arrive. In this perspective, it is necessary to cultivate, especially in priests destined to provide pastoral care for emigrants, a deep sense of belonging to the one Body of Christ, which is identical in every corner of the earth in all of them. Saying this, venerable Brothers, means reaffirming the persistent need for the constant care of those whom the Lord calls to follow him. May vocations promotion thus always be a top priority concern for you: the future of the Church in Albania depends on this.

Lastly, I would like to express my congratulations on the Agreements recently signed with the Authorities of the Republic: I am confident that these measures can serve the spiritual reconstruction of the Country, given the positive role that the Church carries out in society. For my part, I encourage you to continue in your ministry, to bring to completion the programmes you have agreed on together. As I entrust you to the heavenly intercession of Mary, Mother of Good Counsel, I gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to the priests, the men and women religious and all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.



Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to address my welcome to all of you, academicians and educators of Catholic Institutions of higher culture, gathered in Rome to reflect, together with members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, on the identity and mission of the Communications Faculty in Catholic Universities. Through you I wish to greet your colleagues, your students and all those who are part of the Faculty that you represent. A particular thanks goes to your President, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, for the kind words of tribute that he addressed to me. Along with him I greet the Secretaries and the Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The diverse forms of communication - dialogue, prayer, teaching, witness, proclamation - and their different instruments - the press, electronics, the visual arts, music, voice, gestural art and contact - are all manifestations of the fundamental nature of the human person. It is communication that reveals the person, that creates authentic and community relationships, and which permits human beings to mature in knowledge, wisdom and love. However, communication is not the simple product of a pure and fortuitous chance or of our human capacity. In the light of the biblical message, it reflects, rather, our participation in the creative, communicative and unifying Trinitarian Love which is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God has created us to be united to him and he has given us the gift and the duty of communication, because he wants us to obtain this union, not alone, but through our knowledge, our love and our service to him and to our brothers and sisters in a communicative and loving relationship.

It is self-evident that at the heart of any serious reflection on the nature and purpose of human communications there must be an engagement with questions of truth. A communicator can attempt to inform, to educate, to entertain, to convince, to comfort; but the final worth of any communication lies in its truthfulness. In one of the earliest reflections on the nature of communication, Plato highlighted the dangers of any type of communication that seeks to promote the aims and purposes of the communicator or those by whom he or she is employed without consideration for the truth of what is communicated. No less worth recalling is Cato the Elder's sober definition of the orator; vir bonus dicendi peritus a good or honest man skilled in communicating. The art of communication is by its nature linked to an ethical value, to the virtues that are the foundation of morality. In the light of that definition, I encourage you, as educators, to nourish and reward that passion for truth and goodness that is always strong in the young. Help them give themselves fully to the search for truth. Teach them as well, however, that their passion for truth, which can be well served by a certain methodological scepticism, particularly in matters affecting the public interest, must not be distorted to become a relativistic cynicism in which all claims to truth and beauty are routinely rejected or ignored.

I encourage you to give more attention to academic programmes in the area of the means of social communication, in particular to the ethical dimensions of communication between people, in a period in which the phenomenon of communication is occupying an ever greater place in all social contexts. It is important that this formation is never considered as a simple technical exercise, or a mere wish to give information. Primarily it should be more like an invitation to promote the truth in information and to help our contemporaries reflect on events in order to be educators of humankind today and to build a better world. It is likewise necessary to promote justice and solidarity, and to respect in whatever circumstance the value and dignity of every person, who also has a right not to be wounded in what concerns his private life.

It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it would contribute only to increasing the gap that separates those people from the new network that is developing at the service of human socialization, of information and of understanding. On the other hand, it would be equally grave if the tendency toward globalization in the world of communications were to weaken or eliminate the traditional customs and the local cultures, particularly those which are able to strengthen family and social values: love, solidarity, and respect for life. In this context I desire to express my esteem to those religious communities who, notwithstanding the heavy financial burden or the generous human input, have opened Catholic universities in developing countries and I am pleased that many of these institutions are represented here today. Their efforts will ensure the countries where they are present the benefits of young men and women who receive a deep professional formation, inspired by the Christian ethic which promotes education and teaching as a service to the whole community. I appreciate, in a particular way, their commitment to offer a sound education to all, independent of race, social condition or creed, which constitutes the mission of the Catholic University.

In these days you will examine together the question of the identity of a university or a Catholic school. In this regard, I would like to recall that such an identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is above all a question of conviction: it concerns truly believing that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man become clear. The consequence is that the Catholic identity lies, in the first place, in the decision to entrust oneself, intellect and will, mind and heart, to God. As experts in the theory and in the practice of communication and as educators who are forming a new generation of communicators, you have a privileged role, not only in the life of your students, but also in the mission of your local Churches and of your Pastors to make the Good News of God's love known to all peoples.

Dear friends, in confirming my appreciation for this, your interesting meeting that opens the heart to hope, I wish to assure you that I follow your precious activity with prayer and accompany it with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all those who are dear to you.


Mr President, Head of Government
Hon. Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities
Venerable Brothers, Representatives of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,

The annual Feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius has brought you to Rome where the relics of St Cyril are preserved. I am delighted to welcome you and to address a cordial greeting to each one of you.
It is my sincere wish that your Country will proceed on the paths of harmony and brotherhood, striving to follow the example of the holy Brothers of Salonika with ever more generous commitment. Enlivened by fervent faith, they scattered the seeds of the Christian faith by the handful, inspiring values and works at the service of the good of men and women and their dignity. The Brothers' effective teaching remains timely and is a source of inspiration for those who desire to enter the service of the Gospel, as well as for those in charge of the common good of nations.

The holy Brothers, Patrons of Europe, with their ceaseless apostolic activity and unflagging missionary zeal became "bridges" connecting the East and the West. Their shining spiritual witness indicates an eternal truth to be increasingly discovered: that is, only if hope is based on God can it become reliable and secure. As I wrote in my Encyclical Spe Salvi, "Anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Ep 2,12)". And I added: "Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God - God who has loved us and who continues to love us "to the end', until all "is accomplished' (cf. Jn 13,1 and 19: 30)" (n. 27). This hope becomes a tangible reality when people of good will in every part of the world, imitating Jesus' example and faithful to his teaching like the Brothers Cyril and Methodius, are constantly dedicated to laying the foundations of friendly coexistence between the peoples with respect for the rights of each one and seeking the good of all.

Thank you for your visit which fits into the context of your annual pilgrimage to Rome: it is at the same time an act of veneration for Sts Cyril and Methodius and an eloquent sign of the bonds of friendship which mark the relations between your Nation and the Catholic Church. I cordially hope that these ties will become ever stronger, encouraging the attitude of fruitful cooperation for the benefit of your entire Country. May Almighty God fill your minds and your hearts with his peace, and may he deign to pour out abundant Blessings on the People of the Republic of Macedonia!


Honourable Members of Government and Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers Representatives of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church,

As I do every year, I have the pleasure of addressing a cordial welcome to all of you, members of the official Bulgarian Delegation who have come to Rome for the Feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius, venerated in both the East and the West. The liturgical Memorial of these two holy Brothers has a highly symbolic value for Bulgaria and at the same time is an important cultural event. In fact, their memory inspires in both Orthodox and Catholic believers a marked desire to offer the Country a significant encouragement to acquire a deeper knowledge of its rich Christian heritage whose origins date back, precisely, to the tireless initiative of the two great evangelizers from Thessalonica. The composition of your Delegation, led by the Vice-Prime Minister and constituted by representatives of the various Churches and cultural Institutions present in Bulgarian territory is a sign of this common commitment.

It is essential today to continue to look at the work of evangelization carried out with apostolic zeal by Sts Cyril and Methodius in the area inhabited by the Slav Peoples because it is a model of inculturation of the faith, in its essential elements, even in the post-modern epoch. In fact, the Gospel never weakens anything authentic that is found in the diverse cultural traditions but helps people in all the epochs to recognize and do what is genuinely good, illumined by the splendour of the truth. Thus it is a task for Christians to maintain and to strengthen the intrinsic bond existing between the Gospel, the mission of Christ's disciples and their respective cultural identities. To rediscover its Christian roots is important in order to help build a society in which the spiritual and cultural values that derive from the Gospel are present. These values and ideals are nourished by ceaseless union with God, as is illustrated by the lives of Sts Cyril and Methodius who never ceased to weave relations of mutual knowledge and cordiality between different peoples and different ecclesial cultures and traditions. I wished to recall this in my Encyclical Spe Salvi: "If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life" (n. 27).

We can enter into an authentic relationship of solidarity with our neighbour. I wholeheartedly hope that this meeting of ours may be for all of you present here and for the ecclesial and civil realties which you represent a cause of ever more intense supportive brotherly relations. May the Lord bless your beloved Country and all its citizens.


Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Republic of Tanzania to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency, Mr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the Republic, whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I ask you kindly to convey my gratitude and my personal good wishes to His Excellency the President, to the Government and to the Tanzanian people.

Your country, Mr Ambassador, is looked upon with respect and appreciation by people in East Africa for its stability and its climate of tolerance and peace. Tanzania is also held in esteem for the important role undertaken by its political leaders in the process of pacification of the Great Lakes Region and other international peacekeeping initiatives. The generous hospitality offered to refugees fleeing from hostilities in neighbouring countries, in spite of domestic economic difficulties, has also awakened due appreciation for the noble sentiments of the Tanzanian people. Some negative trends such as an increase in the regional traffic of arms and interruptions in important initiatives of dialogue and reconciliation have cast doubts recently on the immediate future of the peace process. It is not surprising in this regard that responsible leaders and many men and women of good will are eager to see this process sustained at all costs and brought to fulfilment. No effort should be spared in order to recreate the indispensable conditions for normal living, development and cultural advancement of the populations affected. The Holy See joins its voice to this appeal and continues to exhort all who hold responsibility in the region not to loose confidence in the value of dialogue, but to explore with an open mind and follow all possibilities that may lead to the conclusion of a lasting peace.

Tanzania can be proud of its inheritance of harmonious coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups handed down to the present generations from founding President Julius Nyerere and other important statesmen. Every generation must continue to cherish and protect this treasure. Care must be taken that the common good of all Tanzanians and the dignity and the authentic rights of all persons may prevail over the particular demands or interests of certain groups. In this regard discernment and decisive action on the part of authorities are needed to curb favouritism or initiatives that would be incompatible with a political project based on universal human rights and the rule of law, and could carry in some circumstances seeds of intolerance and violence. The Catholic Church is committed to fostering positive ethnic relations and dialogue with members of other religions as a fundamental component of her desire to give witness to God’s universal love. It gives her great joy to assist society in establishing an environment of good will between all men and women based on mutual knowledge, appreciation and respect.

Creating the proper environment and structures for the economic development of a country is one of the important goals in the task of good governance. International trust and goodwill towards Tanzania has been successfully generated not least by efforts to combat corruption, and the economy has responded with steady progress. Experience in many developing countries shows that accountability and transparency, especially in the use of public funds, not only upholds the necessary moral integrity of those in office, but is in itself an indispensable economic factor for stable progress. Great care has to be taken in order to continue along this path, together with a clear will to bring the less favoured sectors to a just and active participation in the common economic growth. As your country continues to undertake works of infrastructure and promote investments in support of agriculture and industry, it is my hope that your people will work with confidence for the good of their homeland and that Tanzania will always find openness, trust and effective support at international levels.

I am pleased to note that considerable efforts have been made to promote wider access to education in the knowledge that it is one of the most important factors in development. Training programmes have also been wisely established for teachers and for other personnel in schools and health centres since the construction of adequate facilities cannot be separated from the complementary effort to prepare qualified staff. I thank you Mr Ambassador for your words of appreciation of the service that the Catholic Church offers to the people of your country. Both in education and health services, care must be taken to provide financial resources to the different projects or institutions on the basis of pressing need or merit. Equity and transparency in this area greatly facilitate a spirit of loyal cooperation between private initiative and public agencies. In these same fields of development institutions must continue to expand and improve in quality in order to respond to the needs of the population. I am sure that Tanzanian Catholics will not fail to offer their specific contribution through the Church’s institutions and initiatives, animated by Christian service of neighbour and generous love of their country.

Your Excellency, on the occasion of your presentation as the United Republic of Tanzania’s representative at the Vatican, I have given expression to some of the Holy See’s perspectives and sincere hopes for your country. May your mission serve to strengthen the ties existing between the Tanzanian people and the Holy See. Be assured that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in your task. With my prayers and best wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and your family, and upon the people of your country.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uganda to the Holy See. I appreciate the greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of His Excellency Mr Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic, and I gladly reciprocate with my own good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for His Excellency and all the people of Uganda.

The Holy See establishes diplomatic relations with States with a view to achieving mutual cooperation for the spiritual and material good of their populations. In this regard, the efforts made in your country in the struggle against poverty and its underlying causes are most encouraging. Human development, through the availability of employment, suitable housing and the extension of educational opportunities, is an indispensable factor in the economic and social progress of a nation. Much has been achieved in Uganda in the fields of education, development and health care, especially in the struggle against HIV/AIDS with dedicated attention to those affected and a successful policy of prevention based on continence and the promotion of faithfulness in marriage. True to her commitment to preach love of God and neighbour, the Catholic Church will continue to cooperate with civil authorities, especially in these areas which help to better the human condition.

Mr Ambassador, you have spoken of your people’s joy at seeing the culmination of efforts to formalize peace agreements and to bring to a conclusion the long years of warfare marked by cruel and senseless violence. The Church, in view of her call to enlighten consciences, cannot but express her joy at what has been achieved, and her earnest hope that conditions of full security will soon prevail, allowing all displaced people to return to their homes and resume a peaceful and productive existence. In this regard, I wish to convey the Holy See’s appreciation to all who have raised their voice against violence and hatred, and to all who have contributed to a negotiated search for peace. I encourage all involved to take part generously in the task of repair and rebuilding after so many years of turmoil and abandonment. That this task is taking place amid fears of a world-wide food shortage and rising prices should be a further stimulus to dedication and perseverance in consolidating peace, reconciliation and reconstruction. I trust that the population’s strong desire for peace will inspire the Government to continue to carry out its regional responsibilities and to do all that is in its power to ensure stability and reconciliation throughout the region, where lasting peace will only be possible when all parties involved adhere to international agreements and commit themselves to full respect for national borders. Much has to be done in these years but new hope has arisen for the people of Northern Uganda and their neighbours. May Almighty God assist them in their efforts to begin life anew.

No nation today is free from the influence of globalization with its benefits and its challenges. This phenomenon facilitates trade opportunities, access to information and the communication of values. Unfortunately, it can also promote superficial lifestyles and attitudes that undermine healthy customs based on moral truth and virtue. Men and women of goodwill in Africa rightly reject destructive outlooks which are associated with greed, corruption and the many forms of personal and social disintegration. Democracy and the rule of law are not nurtured by materialism, individualism and moral relativism but by integrity and mutual confidence, especially when sustained by committed and selfless leaders who are willing to offer their service to their fellow citizens for the building up of the common good. It is my fervent prayer that the genuine benefits of contemporary culture will enrich the existence of all Ugandans in harmony with what is true and healthy in the values that have been transmitted from generation to generation.

In this regard the country you represent, Mr Ambassador, embodies many important characteristics found in African culture, such as: a respectful attitude to parental authority and a religious way of seeing important moments of human existence, promoting deep respect for the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. This is the rich background in which generations of Africans have been educated and from which the seed of the Christian Gospel has produced abundant fruits. The Catholic Church appreciates this heritage for its own sake and because of its harmonious relationship with fundamental truths of the natural moral order and with basic tenets of the faith. I assure you, Mr Ambassador, that the Church will continue to play her part in the defence and promotion of these principles. She sees it as her mission to consolidate and complement them in the marvellous plenitude of the Gospel.

Your Excellency, I have spoken of topics of essential interest both to State and Church and areas in which undoubtedly cooperation will continue to bear fruit for a better future for all Ugandans. The various departments of the Roman Curia will be happy to assist you in your mission as your country’s representative to the Holy See. I am pleased to assure you of my prayers as you begin your mandate and I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and your family, and upon the people of Uganda.


Your Excellency,

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 Liberia to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from your President, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Please convey to Her Excellency my cordial greetings and assure her of my continued prayers for all the people of your nation.

Let me assure you, Mr Ambassador, that the Holy See values its diplomatic links with your country, and looks forward to developing them further in the years ahead. As the international community strives to fulfil its humanitarian obligations towards the people of Africa, the Holy See regards with particular concern the many citizens of Liberia who were left destitute by the violent conflict that ravaged your country for so many years. After two years of stable elected government, significant progress has been made in the immense task of reconstruction. It was with satisfaction that I learned of the decision by the International Monetary Fund last November to take steps towards cancelling Liberia’s debt. This is good news indeed, and it is greatly to be hoped that recent signs of economic growth will be sustained in the years to come. After decades of war and instability, the people of your country deserve to be delivered from the poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment that have afflicted them for so long.

I am sure your people realize that a peaceful and prosperous future can only be attained if a serious attempt is made to acknowledge past failures and to heal the wounds inflicted in the course of the civil war. The “truth and reconciliation process” in Liberia, as in other African countries, is a courageous and necessary step along the path to national renewal, and if it is pursued with integrity and determination, it can only lead to a strengthening of the values on which civilized society depends. When the people of a nation have witnessed violence, mismanagement and corruption, practised with impunity at the highest levels of society, it is not easy to regain trust in the machinery of government. Indeed, it is tempting to withdraw from national life altogether, seeking only to promote one’s particular interests or those of one’s region or ethnic group. Such partisan attitudes must be overcome by a renewed commitment to promote the common good of all citizens, a profound respect for all members of society, irrespective of ethnic origin or political allegiance, and a willingness to contribute one’s own gifts and resources so as to bring about the greater well-being and prosperity of others.

In my World Day of Peace Message at the start of this year, I underlined the importance of the family as a fundamental building block in society, one where the values essential for peaceful coexistence can be learned and then transmitted to future generations. From the responsible and definitive “yes” of a man and a woman, and the conscious “yes” of the children who gradually join the family, its members give their consent to the building up of the common good. This is what makes it possible for the wider community to prosper, locally, nationally, and even internationally (cf. Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 6). I know that the people of Africa place a high value on maintaining family bonds, and I encourage your Government to ensure that public policy continues to assist and strengthen the family in every way. Only thus will firm foundations be laid for renewing the social infrastructure that has been so badly damaged by decades of violent conflict.

You can be sure, Mr Ambassador, that the Church in Liberia is eager to contribute to the building up of family life, and to the provision of education and health care that are so sorely needed throughout the country. I greatly appreciate President Johnson-Sirleaf’s words of praise for the Church’s activity in these areas throughout Liberia’s history, and indeed for the courageous witness of the martyrs who dedicated themselves to serving the country even at the cost of their lives. The many devoted men and women – priests, religious and lay faithful – who carry out their apostolate in your country today are no less committed to the people they serve, and to the promotion of justice, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation between the warring factions of the recent past.

The educational apostolate is perhaps their most significant investment in Liberia’s future. Many of your children and young people have been traumatized by the experience of war, some of them forced to become soldiers and to abandon their education, resulting in low levels of literacy across the population. The Church in such circumstances seeks to offer the people hope, to give them faith in the future, and to show them that they are loved and cared for, to lead them, in other words, towards an encounter with Christ the Saviour of humanity. In this way, Your Excellency, I am confident that the cordial relations existing between Liberia and the Holy See will bear abundant fruit for the growth and increasing prosperity of your beloved country for many years to come.

In offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of Liberia, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.


Mr Ambassador,

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 Chad to the Holy See and I thank you for conveying to me the kind message of His Excellency Mr Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic. In exchange I would be grateful if you could convey to him my best wishes for himself and for the entire people of Chad, in the hope that everyone may be able to experience peace and prosperity.

In fact, the quest for peace and security for all must be a constant and fundamental concern for those responsible for nations. Without establishing lasting peace there cannot be authentic development. After the Appeal I launched last 6 February in favour of the populations of Chad, I hope that an authentic national reconciliation be accomplished without delay and that international solidarity will contribute to effectively assist the people in need. May those leaders who guide the peoples of this region do everything possible in order to stop the violence and to thus create favourable circumstances that will permit all to live in peace and dignity! My thought also goes to the numerous refugees that have taken exile in your Country. May the efforts undertaken to sustain these families, who live in sometimes dramatic conditions, help them to find a situation in which their fundamental human rights are truly guaranteed.

In this perspective, it is necessary that, thanks to a healthy administration, the economic resources of countries always be put at the service of concrete social progress thus permitting the population to see its just aspirations fulfilled. To consolidate the stability and unity of the Nation, the concern for the common good implies a just and equitable distribution of the wealth of the Country, in a particular way taking into account those people who find themselves at the margins of social and economic progress.

The quality of relationships between the religious communities that live in Chad, especially among Christians and Muslims, is an important element along the way of peace and reconciliation. Each must be able to express his own faith without fear and follow the voice of his conscience in the choice of his own religion. Mr Ambassador, I am pleased to know that in your Country, notwithstanding the difficulties that can arise, Christians and Muslims seek to strengthen relations of respect and reciprocal understanding. I hope that these relationships will contribute to the common good and the edification of a harmonious and peaceful society. To overcome misunderstandings dialogue must always remain the best way to avoid recourse to any form of violence.

As you have observed, Mr Ambassador, the Catholic Church's commitment to serve the Chad society, without discriminating against origin or religion, embraces various areas such as health, education and development. Through her social works, the Catholic community manifests her concern to promote the dignity of each person. In this perspective, I wish to emphasize in a particular way the activity of the Church in favour of education and the formation of youth, thanks above all to the Catholic schools, which occupy a significant place in Chad's educational system. Through these schools, that are environments in which youth of different religions and social contexts learn to live together in reciprocal respect, the Church intends to combat every form of poverty and to contribute to the edification of an ever more fraternal and solidarity society. At the end of this meeting, permit me, Mr Ambassador, through you to greet the Bishops of Chad and also all the members of the Catholic community. I assure them of my spiritual closeness and encourage them to remain strong in the faith and courageous in the trials that they share with their fellow citizens, thus making them witnesses of their commitment to build together a reconciled society.

As you begin your noble mission, be sure that you will always find an attentive welcome from my co-workers. I express, Mr Ambassador, my cordial wishes for the success of your mission, so that harmonious relations between the Holy See and Chad may continue and grow. Upon Your Excellency, your family, your staff and also on the Authorities and all the inhabitants of Chad, I warmly invoke an abundance of Divine Blessings.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence whereby His Excellency President Iajuddin Ahmed has appointed you Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the Holy See. I would ask you to convey my cordial greetings to him and to the members of the Government, together with an assurance of my good wishes for the well-being of all your fellow citizens.

Established thirty-five years ago, diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Bangladesh have been strengthened by a mutual concern for promoting goodwill in a world increasingly more connected, yet not without signs of new divisions and deeply troubling forms of violence and injustice. These phenomena present new challenges to the whole human family, eliciting an acute sense that more vigorous international cooperation is needed to ensure that the aspirations of all, especially the poor and the weak, are given full voice (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 43). Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your country’s active participation in bodies such as the United Nations Organization will contribute to the “culture of peace” which Bangladesh desires to build at home and abroad. By engaging in these conversations at the international level, your country will play a role in harmonizing the actions of the global community to attain the common objectives of peace and development (cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 April 2008).

As Your Excellency has suggested, a robust democracy needs more than a set of rules to be sustainable; it requires citizens to embrace the underlying values which inspire democratic institutions and procedures, such as the dignity of the human person, a genuine respect for human rights, and a commitment to the common good as the guiding criterion for political life (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 46). By striving to enhance a general consensus about the central importance of these fundamental values, the leaders of your nation will pave the way for stable governance and the harmonious coexistence of all who call Bangladesh their home. As your country prepares to hold general elections within the current year, I am confident that its citizens will reflect upon and renew their appreciation for the moral underpinnings which make authentic democracy possible. Social advancement and cohesion requires all – individuals, families, elected officials, civil servants and professionals – to embrace willingly their responsibility to contribute to community life with integrity, honesty and a sense of service (cf. Pacem in Terris PT 55 Centesimus Annus, 46). In particular, those running for public office must be willing to set aside personal interests to safeguard the common good of the people whom they represent and serve. Your Excellency has pointed to the challenge of rebuilding representative institutions which have deteriorated despite the country’s observance of democratic processes in selecting recent governments. This crucial task of restoring confidence in these and other democratic institutions will call for strong leadership on the part of men and women who are trustworthy, fair and competent. No doubt the people of Bangladesh will look for these qualities in their candidates as they exercise the right to vote in a polling process that itself reflects the very values upon which democracy depends (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 46).

A vibrant educational system is essential to strong democracies. Both the State and the Church have respective roles in helping families impart wisdom, knowledge and moral virtue to their children, so that they will come to recognize the dignity common to all men and women, including those belonging to cultures and religions different from their own. The Church seeks to contribute to this end by establishing schools that attend not only to the cognitive development of children, but the spiritual and moral as well. Insofar as these and other faith-based schools perform the public service of training young people in tolerance and respect, they should therefore receive the support they need, including financial assistance, so as to benefit the entire human family.

Yours is a country that has made significant strides in economic growth over the last several years. Yet this has not always translated into a proportionate alleviation of poverty and an increase in opportunities for employment. Long-term stability in the economic sector is organically linked to other spheres of civic life, including public institutions and a well-functioning educational system. The former promotes the efficiency and transparency that foster economic growth (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 48), and the latter is “society’s most valuable tool for furthering development and economic progress” (Populorum Progressio PP 35). For this reason, a nation’s economic goals must always be placed within the broader horizon of its moral, civil and cultural growth (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 29). Furthermore, lasting economic development occurs as a result of the dynamic interaction between private initiative, public authority and the support of international organizations (cf. ibid., 10; 32; 49). For her part, the Church, in her constant solicitude for the integral good of the human person, echoes mankind’s aspirations to secure the material goods necessary for corporal and spiritual well-being (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 14). Indeed, she is firmly convinced that development is ultimately a question of peace, “because it helps to achieve what is good for others and for the human community as a whole” (Message for the 1987 World Day of Peace, 7).

Mr Ambassador, as you begin your service, I renew my good wishes for the success of your mission. I assure you that the various offices of the Holy See stand ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Bangladesh, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of strength and peace.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of your Letters that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guinea to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind greeting that you have addressed to me on behalf of His Excellency Mr Lansana Conté, President of the Republic. I would like to convey my best wishes to him and also to all the Guinean people, whom I hope live in harmony and peace, so that all families experience a worthy and prosperous life.

As you have emphasized in your discourse, Mr Ambassador, dialogue among cultures and religions is an important objective, and I am pleased to know that in your Country the quality of relationships between Muslims and Christians permits a regular collaboration, in particular regarding questions of the common good of the Nation. Moreover, solidarity among all citizens is a necessary and primary condition so that society can benefit from the fruit of a real and lasting progress. However, to preserve social peace, it is the duty of the State to ensure, through its effective commitment, a just and equitable administration of material goods, in respect for the legitimate rights of everyone, and to favour a good understanding among all the human communities of the Country.

In this year in which we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is particularly opportune that solidarity manifests itself also, and in a concrete way, among Nations and that "all international leaders... act jointly and... show a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the law, and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the planet" (Address at the United Nations General Assembly, 18 April 2008). In this spirit I hope that after the sorrowful trials that your region has experienced, an active collaboration will consolidate its stability and encourage fraternity among peoples, and I also express the hope that the international community supports the efforts of the countries involved.

On the other hand, to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of individuals and families, the integral development of the Nation must inspire universal moral values, which keep the origin and the goal of material goods in sight and create an ever more just and harmonious society. In this prospective, it is necessary to show a particular solicitude for the people who experience numerous forms of poverty or fragility. The duty to respect the rights of each person to live in dignity is founded on the very will of the Creator, who has given all persons a common transcendent dignity.

Mr Ambassador, I also wish to assure you that the Catholic Church wants to contribute to the integral development of society through her educational activities, health care and social promotion, which I know are appreciated by the population. You know, in particular, the attention of the Church for the promotion of people through the education of youth. Moreover, it is important to be attentive to the health of everyone, in particular through formation and information on pandemics linked to the behaviour of individuals. Through this commitment the Catholic community intends to work for the common good, the fraternity and the consolidation of peace in justice. I hope that, thanks to an ever more trustworthy relationship between the Church and State, this work be supported with ever greater generosity, to the benefit of all Guineans, without discrimination of origin or religion.

I take the occasion to ask you to very cordially greet, the Catholic community of Guinea gathered around its Bishops. I encourage them to always be a leaven of reconciliation and peace in society, so that all can live together and develop ever more fraternal bonds of collaboration.

Mr Ambassador, today you begin your noble mission as representative of your Country to the Holy See. Please accept my most cordial wishes that I offer for a successful mission and be certain to always find the comprehension and support necessary from my collaborators.

Upon you, your family, your collaborators, upon all the citizens and officials of your Country, I warmly invoke an abundance of Divine Blessings.


Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican today and to accept the Letters of Credence whereby His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings you have extended on his behalf, and I ask you to assure His Excellency of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the entire nation. Our meeting today is a propitious occasion for me to affirm my deep respect for the people of Sri Lanka and its rich heritage, as well as my desire to strengthen further the diplomatic ties between your country and the Holy See.

Mr Ambassador, I am grateful for the appreciation you have expressed on behalf of your fellow citizens for the Catholic Church’s ongoing charitable activity in your nation. In particular, you have highlighted the Church’s contribution to the relief efforts after the devastating tsunami struck your nation in 2004. Such action is a concrete example of the Church’s willing and prompt response to the mission she has received to serve those most in need (cf. Lc 10,25-37 Deus Caritas Est ). I wish to assure your Government that the Church will continue in her efforts to reach out with compassion to all, and I commend any future measures which will help guarantee that Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies can continue to care for the sick, the young and the vulnerable regardless of ethnic or religious background (cf. ibid., 30)

Catholics in Sri Lanka, together with other Christians, are united with many Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims in the ardent longing for lasting peace in the country and a definitive end to long-standing grievances. Sadly, violence continues to take its toll on the populace, causing grave concern to the Holy See and the international community. Frank and sincere negotiations, regardless of the investment of time and resources they require, are the only sure means to achieving reconciliation and addressing problems that have long hindered peaceful coexistence in Sri Lanka. In particular, acts of terrorism are never justifiable and always constitute an affront to humanity (cf. Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 4). Indeed, arbitrary attacks fail to give effective voice to the interests of the various groups on whose behalf they are purportedly carried out. They can regrettably provoke indiscriminate reactions that similarly place the innocent in harm’s way. Such cycles of violence obfuscate the truth, perpetuate a volley of accusations and counter-accusations, and leave people disillusioned and despondent. For this reason, the struggle against terrorism must always be carried out with respect for human rights and the rule of law (cf. Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 8). I exhort all parties to spare no effort in creating a climate of trust, forgiveness and openness by listening to one another and showing reasonable respect for each other’s legitimate aspirations.

Your Excellency has also drawn attention to the disturbing trend of recruiting children to engage in combat or in terrorist activities. Such practices must be condemned at the outset, for they inevitably stunt the moral development of children, leaving scars that last a lifetime (cf. Message for the 1996 World Day of Peace, 3) and tearing the moral fibre of society itself. Jesus admonished men and women to avoid causing scandal towards these “little ones” (cf. Lc 17,2), even instructing adults to imitate their virtue and purity (cf. Mt 18,2). I implore leaders in your country and throughout the world to remain vigilant so that no compromise will be made in this regard. Children and adolescents must receive a solid formation in moral values today which will strengthen the social fabric of your country tomorrow. Indeed, an appreciation of these values and an attitude of respect for others are just as important as any technical skills young people may acquire in view of their professional vocation.

Initiatives aimed at achieving peace need to be rooted in a proper understanding of the human person and the inviolability of his or her innate rights. As I recently remarked, the “universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity” (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 April 2008). Your Excellency has pointed to new mechanisms which have been set in motion to monitor human rights and redress humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka. In this regard, it is encouraging to note your Government’s decision to set up a special Commission of Inquiry for the purpose of investigating cases where there seems to have been a disregard for justice and human rights. It is hoped that every effort will be made to ensure that the Commission completes its work expeditiously so that the truth about all of these cases may come to light. I think in particular of Father Jimbrown and his assistant, whose whereabouts are still unknown, almost two years after their disappearance. The Government’s interest in these cases reflects the responsibility of political authorities to guarantee an ordered and upright community life based on the principles of justice and directed towards the attainment of the common good (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 74).

Mr Ambassador, as you assume your new responsibilities, I offer you my good wishes for the successful fulfilment of your mission, confident that the bonds of friendship which exist between the Holy See and Sri Lanka will be further strengthened in the years to come. I assure you that the various offices and departments of the Holy See are ready to offer their resources in a spirit of collaboration. Upon Your Excellency, your family and the people of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, President of the Republic. I gladly reciprocate them, and I ask you kindly to convey my personal gratitude and good wishes to His Excellency, to the civil authorities and to the Nigerian people.

It is not only a humanitarian duty, but a source of real joy to come to the aid of those in need. Indeed, assisting others in a spirit of respect, integrity and impartiality is a rich, formative experience both for individuals and societies. In this regard, the size, population, economic resources and generosity of your people make Nigeria one of the most influential countries on the continent and give her a unique opportunity to support other African countries in achieving the well-being and stability they deserve. The nation has contributed to the many efforts to bring social reconciliation to other lands through its peacekeeping forces, material aid and diplomatic efforts. I encourage Nigeria to continue to use her considerable human and material resources in ways conducive to the peace and prosperity of neighbouring countries. Indeed, when this assistance is provided with both integrity and sacrifice it brings honour to a country’s citizens and government.

In this same spirit, support must be given at home and abroad to all who seek to alleviate human suffering through research and practical assistance. The Church is confident that the services she provides in the sectors of education, social programmes and health care will continue to have a positive impact on the struggle against poverty and disease. She is a constant advocate for life from conception until natural death. As you are well aware, the Church takes seriously her part in the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS by fostering programmes which emphasize fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of it. Catholic personnel, doctors, nurses, assistants and educators will continue to remind all men and women, and especially young people, to reaffirm family values, and to act with moral courage, based in faith, in the struggle against this disease and related conditions. At the same time she is already assisting on a practical level countless people suffering from this affliction on your continent and throughout the world.

Mr Ambassador, the people of Nigeria desire a vibrant democracy and you have mentioned some of the priorities that your country has identified as necessary steps on her way to significant growth and sustained development. These include democratic governance and the rule of law, internal security, and the efficient administration of justice. As Your Excellency is well aware, good governance requires that elections are clearly seen to be free, fair and transparent. It also depends on internal security, always founded in the democratic ideal of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. To implement properly this building block of democracy requires public officials to address first of all the root causes of social unrest and second to form the populace in the virtues of respect and tolerance.

I am aware that, in the past, friction between different groups has given cause for concern. Conflict of this kind can often be traced to a variety of factors, including errors of administration, isolated grievances or ethnic tension. In this regard, I am pleased to note that in the last few years tensions appear to have eased. This can be seen as a true indicator of progress and a sign of hope for the future. In the promotion of understanding, reconciliation and good will among different groups, the Church continues to encourage a community spirit by working to eradicate prejudice and supporting openness towards all. She is especially interested in fostering interreligious dialogue, in the hope that a strong attitude of solidarity among religious leaders will progressively become embodied in popular nationwide expressions of peaceful acceptance, mutual understanding and cooperation.

A disturbing reality that is present in many countries today is criminal violence. Homicide, kidnapping for extortion, and the exploitation of women, children and foreign workers are some of the worst manifestations of this intolerable practice. Insecurity, distress and aggressiveness caused by family breakdown, unemployment, poverty or despair are some of the social and psychological factors behind this phenomenon. An already fragile situation is compounded by a pervasive materialistic mentality and a loss of reverence for the human person. At times, the feeling of hopelessness can lead people to search for a deceptively simple solution to their problems. Young people in such circumstances must be given every possible encouragement to seek improvement through education, extracurricular activities, voluntary assistance to others and, ideally, opportunities for employment. Corruption can follow in the wake of violent crime and has the effect of discouraging enterprise and investments, and undermining confidence in the political, judiciary and economic institutions of the nation. The dynamism Nigeria has introduced into the struggle against corruption and crime and the strengthening of the rule of law is extremely important and must be sustained and applied with equity and impartiality. I pray that politicians and social workers, professional people in the fields of economy, medicine and law, police officers and judges, and all involved in combating crime and corruption will work together diligently for the protection of life and property, supported by the loyal cooperation of all citizens. The Church will not fail to make her specific contribution by offering an integral education based on honesty, integrity and love of God and neighbour. She strives to create opportunities for young people in difficult circumstances, always reminding them that “all serious and upright human conduct is hope in action” (Spe Salvi ).

Mr Ambassador, I wish you every success in your mission and assure you of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. I recall with appreciation the warm reception my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was given on the two occasions he visited Nigeria. I pray that the fond memory of this messenger of Peace will continue to unite and inspire the Nigerian people. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant and lasting blessings of well-being and peace!


Your Excellencies,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of your Letters that accredit you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective Countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Liberia, Chad, Bangladesh, Belarus, the Republic of Guinea, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. I thank you for the courteous words of which you have been interpreters in the name of your respective Heads of State. I would be grateful if you could reciprocate my respectful greetings to them and my best wishes for them and the lofty mission they carry out at the service of their Nation. My greetings also go to all the civil and religious Authorities of your Countries, as well as to all your fellow citizens.

Your presence today offers me the occasion to express to the Catholic communities present in your Countries my affectionate thoughts and to assure them of my prayer that they may continue with fidelity and dedication to witness to Christ, through the proclamation of the Gospel and the many commitments at the service of all their brothers and sisters in humanity.

In today's world those responsible for the Nations have an important role, not only in their country, but also in international relations, so that each person, wherever he or she may live, can benefit from a decent standard of life. To this end, the principal measure in political matters is the search for justice, so that the dignity and the rights of every human being may always be respected and so that all the inhabitants of a country share in the nation's wealth. The same happens on the international level. In all cases, the human community is, however, also called to go beyond mere justice, manifesting its solidarity toward the poorest peoples to ensure a better sharing of wealth, above all permitting countries that have resources on or in their territory to benefit from them in the first place.
Rich countries cannot exclusively appropriate for themselves, what comes from other lands. It is a duty of justice and solidarity that the International Community supervise the distribution of resources with attention in order to further the development of the countries that need it most. In the same way, apart from justice it is also necessary to develop fraternity, to build a harmonious society, where concord and peace reign, and to resolve eventual difficulties that may arise through dialogue and negotiation, and not through violence in any form, that cannot fail to strike the weakest and poorest among men. Solidarity and fraternity ultimately derive from the fundamental love that we must nurture for our neighbour, since each person who has a responsibility in public life is, in the first place, called to make of his mission a service to all his fellow citizens and more in general to all the people of the planet.

On their part, the local Churches will not fail to make every effort possible to contribute to the well-being of their fellow citizens, sometimes in difficult situations. Their most ardent desire is to unflaggingly carry out this service to humanity, to each person, without any discrimination.

Your Heads of State have just entrusted you with a mission to the Holy See that, on its part, is particularly attentive to the good of the person and of peoples. At the conclusion of our meeting, I wish to express to you, distinguished Ambassadors, my best wishes for the service that you are called to carry out in the area of diplomatic life. May the Most High sustain you, your families, your collaborators and all your compatriots, in the edification of a peaceful society, and may each one of you receive an abundance of divine blessings.


Dear Italian Brother Bishops,

This is the fourth time I have the joy of meeting you at your General Assembly to reflect with you on the mission of the Church in Italy and on the life of this beloved Nation. I greet your President, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, and I warmly thank him for the kind words he addressed to me in the name of you all. I greet the three Vice-Presidents and the Secretary General. I greet each one of you, with that affection whose source is seeing ourselves members of the one mystical Body of Christ and participants together in the same mission.

First of all I wish to congratulate you on having put at the centre of your work the reflection on how to promote the encounter of youth with the Gospel and therefore, in concrete, on the fundamental questions of evangelization and education of the new generations. In Italy, as in many other countries, what we can define as a true and proper "educational emergency" is strongly felt. When, in fact, in a society and in a culture marked by a pervasive relativism and not rarely by aggressiveness, fundamental certainties, the values and the hopes that give life meaning seem to weaken, the temptation is easily spread among parents as well as teachers to renounce their own duty, and even preceded by the risk of not clearly understanding their own role and mission. Thus children, adolescents and youth, although surrounded by much attention and sheltered perhaps excessively from the trials and difficulties of life, end up feeling left alone before the great questions that inevitably arise within them, as when they face the expectations and challenges that they feel looming over their future. For we Bishops, for our priests, catechists and for the entire Christian community, the educational emergency takes on very precise features: the transmission of the faith to the new generations. Here too, in a certain sense especially here, we must take into account the obstacles posed by relativism, by a culture that puts God in parentheses and that discourages every really committed choice and especially definitive choices, to privilege instead, in the various milieus of life, the affirmation of self and immediate satisfactions.

To face these difficulties the Holy Spirit has already raised up in the Church many charisms and evangelizing dynamism particularly alive and present in Italian Catholicism. It is the duty of we Bishops to joyfully welcome these new inputs, to support them, to favour their maturation, to guide and direct them so that they always remain within the great stream of faith and ecclesial communion.
Moreover, we must give the many forms and occasions of encounter and presence that we still have with the world of youth: parishes, after school recreation, schools, Catholic schools in particular, and in many other places of socialization, a more distinct evangelizing profile. Above all, obviously, personal relationships and especially sacramental Confession and spiritual direction are important. Each of these occasions is a possibility that is given to us to help our adolescents and young people perceive the Face of that God who is man's true friend. The great events then, like our experience last September in Loreto and what we will experience in July in Sydney, where many Italian youth will also be present, are communitarian, public and festive expressions of that expectation, of that love for and trust in Christ and the Church that remain rooted in the mind of young people. Therefore, these encounters gather the fruit of our daily pastoral activity and at the same time they help people to deeply breathe in the Church's universality and the fraternity that must unite all nations.

Even in the widest social context, precisely the current educational emergency increases the demand for an education that truly is such: therefore, concretely speaking, educators who know how to be credible witnesses of these realities and of these values upon which it is possible to build both one's personal existence and a common and shared project of life. This request, that rises from the body of society and that involves adolescents and young people no less than the parents and the other educators, already in and of itself constitutes the premise and the start of a journey to rediscover and re-initiate, in forms adapted to the current time, to put the full and integral formation of the human person at the centre again. In this context how can one fail to say a word in favour of these specific places of formation which are the schools? In a democratic State, that is distinguished for its promotion of free initiative in every field, the exclusion of adequate support for the ecclesial institutions' commitment in the scholastic field does not seem justifiable. Indeed, it is legitimate to ask oneself whether the quality of teaching might not benefit from a lively comparison with the newly established formative centres, (with respect for the valid ministerial programmes for all), and the multifaceted popular forces, (concerned to interpret the educational choices of each single family). It makes one think that a similar comparison would not fail to produce beneficial effects.

Dear Italian Brother Bishops, not only in the very important area of education, but in a certain sense in one's own complex situation, Italy needs to come out of a difficult period, in which its economic and social dynamism seems to be weakening, its trust in the future diminishing whereas the sense of insecurity is growing due to the conditions of poverty of so many families, with the consequent tendency for each one to withdraw into itself. It is precisely the awareness of this context that with particular joy we perceive the signs of a new climate, more confident and more constructive. It is linked to the appearance of more serene relationships between political forces and institutions, in virtue of a more lively perception of the common responsibility of the Nation's future. And what gives comfort is that such a perception seems to be spreading in public feeling, in the territory and in social categories. In fact, the desire to continue the journey, to face and resolve together at least the most urgent and grave problems, to initiate a new season of economic, but also civil and moral growth, is spreading.

Evidently this climate needs to consolidate and it could easily fade if it fails to find confirmation in some concrete results. However, by itself it already represents a precious resource, that it is the duty of everyone, according to one's personal role and responsibilities, to safeguard and strengthen. As Bishops we cannot fail to give our specific contribution so that Italy may experience a season of progress and harmony, putting to good use those energies and impulses that emanate from its great Christian history. To this end we must first of all frankly say and witness to our ecclesial communities and to the entire Italian people that, even if there are many problems to face, the fundamental problem of man today remains the problem of God. No other human and social problem can truly be resolved if God does not become the centre of our life again. Only in this way, through the encounter with the living God, the source of that hope that changes us from within and that does not delude (cf. Rom Rm 5,5), is it possible to rediscover the strength and sure trust in life and to give consistency and vigour to our good projects.

I wish to repeat to you, dear Italian Bishops, what I said last 16 April to our confreres in the United States: "As preachers of the Gospel and leaders of the Catholic community, you are also called to participate in the exchange of ideas in the public arena, helping to shape cultural attitudes" (cf. Address to Bishops, 16 April 2008). In the framework of a healthy and aware laity, however, it is necessary to resist every tendency to consider religion, and in particular Christianity, as only a private matter. The prospects that are born from our faith can offer, instead, a fundamental contribution to the clarification and to the resolution of the major social and moral problems of Italy and Europe today. Therefore, you rightly dedicate much attention to the family founded on matrimony, to promote an appropriate pastoral care for the challenges that it must face today, to encourage the affirmation of a culture that is not hostile, but favours the family and life, as it also asks public institutions for consistent and organic policies that recognize the family's central role which it carries out in society, particularly for bringing up and educating children: Italy is in great need of policies of this type. Equally strong and constant must be our commitment to the dignity and protection of human life in every moment and condition, from conception and the embryonic phase to situations of sickness and suffering and until natural death. Nor can we close our eyes and withhold our voice before poverty, the hardships and social injustices that afflict so much of humanity and that require the generous commitment of all, a commitment that also enlarges the person who, although unaware, is also needy. Naturally, the readiness to go to their aid must be shown with respect for the law, which provides for and ensures the orderly carrying out of social life, both within a State and with regard to those who come from abroad. It is not necessary to specify the argument further: you, together with your dear priests, know the concrete and real situations because you live them with the people.

It is therefore, an extraordinary opportunity for the Church in Italy to be able to use the means of information that interpret daily in the public debate its happenings and concerns, of course in a free and autonomous way but in a spirit of sincere sharing. Therefore, I congratulate you on the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Avvenire newspaper and I profoundly hope that it can reach an ever-growing number of readers. I rejoice at the publication of the new translation of the Bible, and for the copy that you have kindly given to me, and I hope that there will also be a pocket-size edition. It fits well into the preparation of the next Synod of Bishops that will reflect on "The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church".

Dearest Italian Brother Bishops, I assure you of my closeness, with a constant remembrance in prayer, and with great affection I impart the Apostolic Blessing to each one of you and your Churches and to the entire beloved Italian Nation.


My dear brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Myanmar, who have come to the City of Rome to venerate the tombs of the holy Apostles and to strengthen your communion with the Successor of Peter. Our encounter today bears witness to the unity, charity and peace that bind us together and animate our mission to teach, guide and sanctify the people of God (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 22). I am grateful for the kind greetings and the assurance of prayers which Archbishop Paul Grawng has expressed to me in your name and on behalf of the clergy, the Religious and laity of your respective Dioceses. I wish to reciprocate with my cordial greetings and sincere prayer that “the Lord may give you peace at all times and in all ways” (cf. 2Th 3,17).

The Church in Myanmar is known and admired for its solidarity with the poor and needy. This has been especially evident in the concern you have shown in the aftermath of the cyclone Nargis. The numerous Catholic agencies and associations in your land show that the people under your care have heeded the Baptist’s cry: “Let he who has two coats share with him who has none; let he who has food do likewise!” (Lc 3,11). I am confident that under your guidance, the faithful will continue to demonstrate the possibility of establishing “a fruitful link between evangelization and works of charity” (Deus Caritas Est ), so that others will “experience the richness of their humanity” and that “God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (ibid., 31; cf. 1P 4,8-11).

During these difficult days, I know how grateful the Burmese people are for the Church’s efforts to provide shelter, food, water, and medicine to those still in distress. I am hopeful that, following the agreement recently reached on the provision of aid by the international community, all who are ready to help will be able to furnish the type of assistance required and enjoy effective access to the places where it is needed most. At this critical time, I render thanks to Almighty God that he has brought us together “face to face” (1Th 2,17), for it gives me the occasion to reassure you that the universal Church is joined spiritually with those who mourn the loss of loved ones (cf. Rm Rm 12,15), as she holds out to them the Lord’s promise of comfort and consolation (cf. Mt 5,4). May God open the hearts of all so that a concerted effort may be made to facilitate and coordinate the ongoing endeavour to bring relief to the suffering and rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

The Church’s mission of charity shines forth in a particular way through the Religious life, by which men and women devote themselves with “undivided” heart to the service of God and neighbour (cf. 1Co 7,34 cf. Vita Consecrata VC 3). I am pleased to note that an increasing number of women are responding to the call to consecrated life in your region. I pray that their free and radical acceptance of the evangelical counsels will inspire others to embrace the life of chastity, poverty and obedience for the sake of the Kingdom. Preparing candidates for this service of prayer and apostolic work requires an investment of time and resources. The formation courses offered by the Catholic Religious Conference of Myanmar attest to the cooperation possible between different religious communities with due respect for the particular charism of each, and point to the need for sound academic, spiritual and human formation.

Similar signs of hope are seen in the rising number of vocations to the priesthood. These men are both “called together” and “sent out to preach” (cf. Lc 9,1-2) to be examples of faithfulness and holiness for the People of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit and led by your fatherly care, may priests perform their sacred duties in humility, simplicity and obedience (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, PO 15). As you know, this requires a thorough formation that accords with the dignity of their priestly office. I therefore encourage you to continue making the necessary sacrifices to ensure that seminarians receive the integral formation that will enable them to become authentic heralds of the New Evangelization (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 2).

My dear brothers, the Church’s mission to spread the Good News depends on a generous and prompt response from the lay faithful to become labourers in the vineyard (cf. Mt 20,1-16 Mt 9,37-38). They too are in need of a robust and dynamic Christian formation which will inspire them to carry the Gospel message to their workplaces, families, and to society at large (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ). Your reports allude to the enthusiasm with which the laity are organizing many new catechetical and spiritual initiatives, often involving great numbers of young people. As you foster and oversee these activities, I encourage you to remind those under your care to turn continually to the nourishment of the Eucharist through participation in the liturgy and silent contemplation (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 6). Effective programs of evangelization and catechesis also require clear planning and organization if they are to achieve the desired end of teaching Christian truth and drawing people into the love of Christ. It is desirable that they make use of appropriate aids, including booklets and audio-visual materials, to complement oral instruction and to provide common points of reference for authentic Catholic doctrine. I am certain that other local Churches throughout the world will do what they can to furnish materials whenever possible.

Your active participation in the First Asian Mission Congress has led to new initiatives for promoting goodwill with Buddhists in your country. In this regard, I encourage you as you develop ever better relations with Buddhists for the good of your individual communities and of the entire nation.

Finally, my dear brothers, I wish to express my sincere gratitude for your faithful ministry in the midst of difficult circumstances and setbacks often beyond your control. Next month, the Church inaugurates a special Jubilee year in honour of Saint Paul. This “Apostle to the Gentiles” has been admired through the centuries for his undaunted perseverance in trials and tribulations vividly recounted in his Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2Tm 1,8-13 Ac 27,13-44). Paul exhorts us to keep our gaze fixed on the glory that awaits us so as never to despair in the pain and sufferings of today. The gift of hope which we have received—and in which we are saved (cf. Rom Rm 8,24)—imparts grace and transforms our way of living (cf. Spe Salvi ). Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, I invite you to join Saint Paul in the sure confidence that nothing—neither distress, or persecution, or famine, nor things present, nor things to come—can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (cf. Rom Rm 8,35-39).

Commending you to the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your clergy, Religious and lay faithful.


Mr Ambassador,

I gladly receive the Letters that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guatemala to the Holy See. I am pleased to address my cordial welcome at this solemn act with which you have begun the mission entrusted to you, and at the same time I express my gratitude for the words addressed to me, and also for the respectful greeting that you have conveyed to me from the President of your noble Nation, Mr Álvaro Colom Caballeros. I ask you to convey to him my best wishes for him and for his Government, assuring him of my prayer for the security, the progress and the harmonious co-existence of the beloved Guatemalan people.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the first Pastoral Visit of my Venerable Predecessor in this beautiful land "of eternal Spring". On that memorable occasion, the Servant of God John Paul II was able to manifest the solicitude with which the Holy See has accompanied this Nation in the various vicissitudes, showing herself particularly close to it in the most difficult moments, to share the concerns of its people and, above all, to encourage it to work selflessly for the common good. Mr Ambassador, I know that the Guatemalans reciprocate this solicitude with a deep adherence to the Bishop of Rome, which contributes to strengthen the bonds of friendship that have united your Country to the Holy See for some time. The Holy See holds these flexible relations in high esteem and expresses its best wishes so that the circumstances in which Guatemala lives permit success in the present in the diverse areas of society and to form a solid basis in order to meet a promising future.

The recent ad limina visit of the Guatemalan Bishops offered us a magnificent opportunity to know better the vitality with which the Church in your Nation proclaims the Gospel, opens ways to hope and holds out a fraternal hand to all citizens, in particular to the most needy. In this optic the Church shares the concerns of the Guatemalan Authorities, as Your Excellency has pointed out, faced with the phenomena that afflict a large part of the population, such as poverty and emigration. The Church's rich experience, accumulated in the course of history, can assist in finding measures to face these problems in a humanitarian prospective and to strengthen solidarity, indispensable to reach effective and lasting solutions. In this sense, to the necessary technical and economic programmes one must add the other aspects that promote the dignity of the person, the stability of the family and an education that accounts for the most important human and Christian values. Also not to be forgotten are those who have had to abandon their homeland, without ceasing to carry it in their heart. This is a duty of gratitude and of justice toward those who, in fact, are also a font of significant resources for the Country in which they were born.

Another challenge for Guatemala is that of remedying the malnutrition of many children. The right to nutrition responds principally to an ethical motivation: "give the hungry to eat" (cf. Mt 25,35), that prompts a sharing of material goods as a sign of the love which we all need. As I have already stated on another occasion: "The objective of eradicating hunger and at the same time of being able to count on healthy and adequate food also demands specific methods and actions that mean a wise use of resources that respect Creation's patrimony. Working in this direction is a priority that will benefit not only science, research and technology, but also take into account the cycles and rhythm of nature known to the inhabitants of rural areas, thus protecting the traditional customs of the indigenous communities, leaving aside egotistical and exclusively economic motivations (cf. Message to the Director General of FAO on the occasion of the World Food Day, 4 October 2007).

This primary right to nutrition is intrinsically linked to the safeguarding and to the defence of human life, the solid and inviolable rock upon which the whole edifice of human rights is founded. Therefore, the effort to assist mothers will never be sufficient, above all those who are in grave difficulty, so that they can bring up their children with dignity, thus avoiding the unjustifiable recourse to abortion. In this sense safeguarding human life, especially the unborn, whose innocence and vulnerability are greatest, is an ever current task, which is connected, by its own nature, to making the adoption of children guaranteed in every moment by the legal procedures used for this scope.

The scourge of social violence that often worsens due to lack of dialogue and cohesion in the domestic hearth: the lacerating economic inequality, the grave negligence and lack of hygiene, the consumption and trafficking drugs and the plague of corruption. I recognize with satisfaction the steps that have been taken in your Nation in the fight against these tragedies, efforts that must continue, promoting the cooperation of all to put an end to them through the development of upright values and to combat illegality, impunity and bribery.

Mr Ambassador, before concluding this meeting, I would like to congratulate you and your family, and also the other members of this diplomatic mission and to express my best wishes at this time that Your Excellency, begins again the honourable responsibility of representing your Country to the Holy See. Rest assured that you will always find the help you need with my collaborators in your lofty duty.

While I entrust the people and the Guatemalan Authorities to the maternal intercession of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary), I fervently ask God to bless and accompany the journey that this Country is taking, so that the star of peace, justice, prosperity and fraternal harmony continually shine on it.


Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with pleasure that today I meet with you and address my cordial welcome to you. I thank Count Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, who as the President of the Foundation has interpreted your sentiments, also expounding on the lines of action taken during this year. I greet Cardinal Attilio Nicora and Archbishops Claudio Maria Celli and Domenico Calcagno, as I do each one of you, and I renew the expression of my gratitude for the service that you render to the Church, offering a generous contribution to many of the Holy See's initiatives at the service of the poor in many parts of the world. In this sense I thank you in particular for the gift you have wished to offer me on the occasion of this meeting.

This year, for your customary gathering, you have chosen the theme: "Social capital and human development". You have paused to reflect on the need, felt by many, to promote a global development aimed at the integral promotion of man, also highlighting the contribution that volunteer associations can give, such as non-profit foundations and other types of community entities that have been founded with the goal of making the social fabric ever more solid. A harmonious development is possible if the economic and political choices take into account and put into practice those fundamental principles which make it accessible to all. I am referring, in particular, to the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. It is always necessary that the person, created in the image of God and willed by him to keep and administer the immense resources of creation, be at the centre of every economic programme, especially considering the vast and complex network of relations which characterize the post-modern epoch. Only a shared culture of responsible and active participation can enable each human being to feel not as a consumer or a passive bystander, but an active collaborator in the process of world development.

Man, to whom, in Genesis, God entrusted the earth, has the duty to make all the earth's goods fruitful, committing himself to use them to satisfy the multiple needs of each member of the human family. One of the recurring metaphors of the Gospel is, in effect, exactly that of the steward. With the heart of a faithful administrator man must, therefore, administer the resources entrusted to him by God, putting them at the disposition of all. In other words, one must avoid that the profit accrue only to the individual or that forms of collectivism oppress personal freedom. Economic or commercial interests must never become exclusive, because, indeed, this would be to mortify human dignity. Since the process of globalization, taking place in the world, invests ever more in the field of culture, economics, finance and politics, the great challenge today is "to globalize" not only economic and commercial interests, but also the expectations of solidarity, with respect for and valuing the contribution of each component of society. As you have opportunely confirmed, economic growth must never be separate from seeking integral human and social development. In this regard, the Church, in her social doctrine emphasizes the importance of the contribution of intermediate bodies according to the principle of subsidiarity, to freely contribute to orient cultural and social changes and to direct them to the authentic progress of the person and the community. In the Encyclical Spe Salvi, I had purposely reaffirmed that "the best structures function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order" (n. 24).

Dear friends, while I renew my gratitude for the generous support that you untiringly lend to charitable activites and to the human promotion of the Church, I invite you also to offer the contribution of your reflection to bring about a just economic world order. In this regard, I am pleased to cite an eloquent affirmation of the Second Vatican Council: "Christians", one reads in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes, "can yearn for nothing more ardently than to serve the men of this age with an ever growing generosity and success. Holding loyally to the Gospel, enriched by its resources, and joining forces with all who love and practice justice, they have shouldered a weighty task here on earth..." (n. 93). Continue your action in this spirit to help so many of our brothers and sisters. On the Last Day, on the Day of the Universal Judgement, we will be asked if we have used what God has put at our disposition to meet the legitimate expectations and needs of our brethren, especially the smallest and neediest.

May the Virgin Mary, whom we contemplate today on her Visit to her cousin Elizabeth, obtain for each one of you an ever greater concern for your neighbour. I assure you of a remembrance in prayer and with affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you present here, to your families and to those who collaborate with you in your various professional activities.
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