Speeches 2005-13 13097
I am pleased to receive from your hands the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Nicaragua to the Holy See. As I thank you for your kind words, I offer you a most cordial welcome at this solemn ceremony. It marks the beginning of the mission entrusted to you by your Government, one which you also carried out in the past between 1997 and 1998.
Please convey to Mr Daniel Ortega Saavedra, President of the Republic, my best wishes for peace, well-being and prosperity for his beloved Nation, recently so harshly tried by Hurricane Felix. As I did then, I address prayers to the Almighty for the human victims and I express my spiritual closeness to the numerous injured who have lost their homes or work implements. It is to be hoped that in addition to internal help, they will receive generous contributions from the international community.
Like many other countries, Nicaragua has to face various financial, social and political problems. Finding the means to solve them is no easy task, although it can rely not only on the good disposition and collaboration of citizens but especially on that of leaders of the various political and commercial bodies. Furthermore, concerted efforts and a common will are indispensable to make decisive action by leaders possible, in order to confront the challenges of a globalized world which they must tackle with a spirit of true solidarity.
This Christian and also human virtue, my Predecessor John Paul II said, must inspire the action of individuals, government leaders, members of international agencies and institutions as well as all members of civil society, who must feel committed to working for an authentic development of peoples and nations, keeping the good of each and every one as their goal, as Catholic social doctrine teaches (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 40-41).
In your address, Mr Ambassador, you referred to the priorities identified by your Government, such as the implementation of the "Hunger Zero" project and of measures to combat the drug problem, to increase literacy and to eliminate poverty. To achieve these goals and thus reduce the gap between those who have everything and those who lack the basic necessities such as education, health care and housing, transparency and honesty in public management are fundamental. When dealing with any form of corruption, these qualities will increase the Authorities' credibility among the citizens and are crucial for a just development.
With regard to these objectives, civil leaders will find in the Church in Nicaragua, despite the paucity of her means, sound principles inspired by the Gospel and sincere collaboration in the search for just solutions. It is also essential to recognize the Church's efforts to increase the awareness and responsibility of Nicaraguan citizens by encouraging their participation and involvement to meet the needs of those who are often steeped in poverty and marginalized.
Bishops in your Country, taking into account the national and diocesan structures and faithful to their strictly pastoral mission, confirm their willingness to maintain dialogue and constant and sincere communication with the Government. Thus, they help to ensure the essential conditions that foster true reconciliation, establishing an atmosphere of peace and authentic social justice. Nevertheless, "The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful" (Deus Caritas Est ), who must develop their political activity as a "social charity". I spoke on this topic to the Apostolic Nuncios in Latin America at a meeting with them last 17 February (cf. L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 February 2007, p. 3).
The Holy See would also like to express its gratitude to Nicaragua for its stance at the multilateral forums on social themes, especially respect for life when it is confronted by considerable internal and international pressure. In this context, it should be considered as very positive that last year the National Assembly approved the abolition of therapeutic abortion. It is indispensable, in this respect, to increase State assistance and the help of society itself for women who have serious problems with their pregnancy.
Together with the inevitable theme of life, there is an urgent need to recover and promote the human and moral values threatened by so many forms of violence, even in homes. This violence is frequently the result of the break-up of the family or debasement of customs. The Church in Nicaragua is well aware of this sad reality. She endeavours to face it with her teaching and pastoral programmes, but the intervention of public institutions, with appropriate educational programmes that refer to the organization of social life, are also necessary.
Mr Ambassador, at the end of this ceremony, I would like to express to you my best wishes for the success of your mission, and may it help to strengthen the good, traditional bonds of agreement and cooperation between Nicaragua and the Holy See. Please convey my greeting to the President of the Republic. I shall remember the entire Nicaraguan People in my prayers through the intercession of Sr Maria Romero, the first and widely loved woman Blessed of your Country. I ask the Most High always to help you in your mission which begins today, while I invoke abundant Blessings upon you and your collaborators as well as on the Government Authorities and citizens of Nicaragua.
Dear and venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
I am particularly pleased to welcome you and address a cordial greeting to each one of you at the beginning of the ad limina visit of the Latin-rite Bishops. I greet with great pleasure the Greek-Catholic Bishops who have accepted my invitation to be present at this meeting. Today, all Pastors of the beloved Church which lives in Ukraine are gathered in spirit round the Successor of Peter. It is an act of ecclesial communion, an eloquent testimony of that brotherly love which Jesus bequeathed as a distinctive sign to his disciples. Let us make our own the Psalmist's words: "Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!". And further, for those who live in his love, the Lord "has commanded the blessing, life for evermore" (Ps 133: 1-3). Conscious of this and with sentiments of esteem and deep cordiality, I thank each one of you for the pastoral work you carry out daily at the service of the People of God.
I know of the great effort you make to proclaim and witness to the Gospel in the beloved Land of Ukraine, at times encountering numerous difficulties but always sustained by your awareness that Christ guides his flock with a firm hand. He himself has entrusted this flock to your hands as his ministers. The Pope and the collaborators of the Roman Curia are close to you and follow with affection the developments in each one of your local Churches, ready in any circumstance to offer you their contribution and fully aware of being called by the Lord to serve unity and communion in the Church.
Today's meeting sheds light on the beauty and riches of the mystery of the Church. As the Second Vatican Council recalls: "The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization.... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him" (Lumen Gentium LG 8). In the variety of her rites and historical traditions, in every corner of the earth, the one Catholic Church proclaims and testifies to Jesus Christ himself, the Word of salvation for every man and for the whole man. For this reason, the secret of the effectiveness of all our pastoral and apostolic projects is first and foremost fidelity to Christ. We Pastors, as well as all the faithful, are asked to live in intimate and constant familiarity with him, in prayer and in listening with docility to his Word. This is the only way to become in every context signs of his love and instruments of his peace and harmony.
I am sure, dear and venerable Brothers, that motivated by this spirit it would be possible to intensify cordial collaboration between the Latin and Greek-Catholic Bishops for the good of the entire Christian People. Thus, you will be able to coordinate your pastoral plans and apostolic activities, always offering the witness of that ecclesial communion which is also an indispensable condition for the ecumenical dialogue with our Orthodox brethren and those of other Churches. May I be permitted in particular to draw your attention to the proposal of at least one annual meeting that would gather together the Latin-rite Bishops and those of the Greek-Catholic rite, to discuss together how to make your pastoral action increasingly more harmonious and effective. I am convinced that fraternal cooperation between Pastors will be an encouragement and incentive to all the faithful to grow in unity and apostolic enthusiasm, and will also foster fruitful ecumenical dialogue.
Dear and venerable Brothers, thank you once again for accepting my invitation to take part in this fraternal meeting. Upon each one of you and upon your communities, I invoke the motherly protection of Our Lady, whom the Latin Liturgy today venerates as Our Lady of Mercy. May it be she who supports you in your daily ministry and makes it bear spiritual fruit; may she console and comfort you in difficulties and, in the hour of trial, obtain for you the joy of ever deeper communion with her divine Son and increasingly strengthen the brotherhood that exists between you as Successors of the Apostles. Let us entrust to Mary in a special way the ad limina visit of the Latin-rite Bishops which begins today, as well as the pastoral initiatives of all your communities. With these hopes, while I invoke an abundant outpouring of grace and heavenly comfort upon you and your respective ecclesial work, I cordially impart to each one of you a special Blessing, which I willingly extend to the faithful entrusted to your episcopal ministry and also to the entire beloved People of Ukraine.
CONCERT ON THE 110th ANNIVERSARY
Hall of the Swiss, Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have spent an evocative musical evening together which has permitted us to listen once again to certain passages, well known, of course, but always able to inspire new, deep, spiritual emotions. The reason for this event is a special occasion: the 110th anniversary of the Servant of God Paul VI's birth in Concesio on 26 September 1897, the same date as today.
With sentiments of deep gratitude, I address my greeting to all of you who have taken part in this commemoration of a great Pontiff who made a mark on the history of the 20th century. My heartfelt thanks go to the promoters, organizers and musicians who have performed at this concert with appreciated skill. I greet with affection the Cardinals present, and in particular, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who comes from the same region as Pope Montini. I address a special greeting to Auxiliary Bishop Francesco Beschi of Brescia, whom I thank for the tribute he has just paid me, to the other Prelates, to the priests and to you all. I then extend my respectful thoughts to the various Personalities who have honoured us with their presence, mentioning in particular the Mayors of Brescia and Bergamo, the other Civil and Military Authorities and the Representatives of those Institutions which have made a special contribution to this meaningful event. I am anxious above all to express the common sentiments and my grateful appreciation to the soloists and all the members of the Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Piano Festival Orchestra of Brescia and Bergamo, conducted by the well-known Maestro Agostino Orizio. With extraordinary talent and effectiveness, they have played passages from the music of Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart, helping our spirit to perceive in the language of music the intimate harmony of divine beauty.
This evening, listening to these famous pieces of music has given us an opportunity to recall an illustrious Pope, Paul VI, who rendered a particularly precious service to the Church and the world in times far from easy and in social conditions marked by profound cultural and religious changes.
Let us pay homage to the spirit of evangelical wisdom with which my beloved Predecessor was able to guide the Church during and after the Second Vatican Council. With prophetic intuition, he perceived the hopes and anxieties of the people of that time; he strove to make the most of the positive experiences, seeking to illuminate them with the light of the truth and love of Christ, the one Redeemer of humanity. Yet, his love for humanity with its progress, marvellous discoveries, benefits and the facilitation of science and technology did not prevent him from highlighting the contradictions, errors and risks of a scientific and technological programme that is not anchored by a sound reference to ethical and spiritual values. So it is that his teaching still remains timely today and is a source on which to draw for a better understanding of the conciliar texts and an analysis of the ecclesial events that characterized the second part of the 1900s.
Paul VI was cautious and courageous in guiding the Church with realism and Gospel optimism, nourished by indomitable faith. He looked forward to the coming of the "civilization of love", convinced that evangelical charity is an indispensable element for building an authentic universal brotherhood. Only by recognizing God as Father, who in Christ revealed his love to all, can human beings truly become and feel like brothers and sisters. Only Christ, true God and true man, can convert the human soul and enable it to contribute to achieving a society based on justice and solidarity. The Successors of Paul VI have gathered in the spiritual inheritance of the Servant of God and have walked on the same path. Let us pray that his example and teachings will be an encouragement and incentive to us to love Christ and the Church more and more, motivated by that indomitable hope which supported Pope Montini to the very end of his life. With these sentiments, I once again thank those who prepared, enlivened and put on this musical gathering, and as I invoke upon those present the constant protection of the Lord, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
"Grace to you and peace from God Our Father" (Col 1,2)! I address this apostolic greeting to you, the members of the Latin-rite Episcopate of Ukraine. I wish each one of you the Lord's grace and peace, which are the secret of our mission as Bishops at the service of man. At the end of your ad limina visit, which has given me the opportunity to meet you personally, to be better acquainted with the situation in each of your Dioceses and to share with you the hopes and problems that mark your daily journey, I thank God for all that in his merciful love he continues to fulfil through your pastoral ministry. I offer a special greeting to Cardinal Marian Jaworski and thank him for his words expressing your common sentiments. I noted in his discourse your eager desire to strengthen unity with one another and to join forces to present a united front to face today's great social, cultural and spiritual challenges. Nor do you ever tire of seeking possible solutions, also in dialogue with the local Authorities, for the sole purpose of providing spiritual care for the flock entrusted to you by the Lord. I learned with deep appreciation of the catechetical, liturgical, apostolic and charitable efforts being made in your Dioceses: a programme that also aims to consolidate the yearning for catholicity which makes all the baptized feel they are members of the one Body of Christ.
Your pastoral work, venerable Brothers, is carried out in a territory in which Latin- and Greek-Catholic-rite Catholics live side by side with other believers who find the reason for their very existence in the one Lord Jesus Christ. Even among Catholics, collaboration is not always easy, since it is normal that different sensitivities should surface, given the diversity of the respective traditions. Yet, how is it possible not to consider as a providential opportunity the fact that two communities, whose traditions differ but which are wholly Catholic, coexist together, each one aspiring to serve the one Kyrios [Lord] and to proclaim his Gospel? The unity of Catholics in the diversity of rites, and the endeavour to demonstrate it in every context, shows the genuine face of the Catholic Church and is a particularly eloquent sign for other Christians and for the whole of society. Your analysis reveals a series of problems whose solution will demand an indispensable combined effort for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel. The long years of atheist and Communist domination have left visible traces in today's generations. They are as many challenges that call you into question, dear Brothers, and are rightly the focus of your concern and your pastoral planning.
"Ut unum sint"! Christ's prayer in the Upper Room constantly resounds in the Church as an invitation to tirelessly seek unity. If communion is consolidated in the Catholic communities it will be easier to carry on a fruitful dialogue between the Catholic Church and the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. Having lived beside our Orthodox brethren for centuries, attempting to weave with them a daily dialogue that embraces many aspects of life, you are acutely aware of the ecumenical requirement. May the problems, obstacles and even possible failures not dampen your enthusiasm as you move in this direction. With patience and humility, with charity, truth and an open spirit, the journey before you will be less laborious, especially if you never lack the basic outlook, in other words, the conviction that all Christ's disciples are called to follow in his footsteps, docilely allowing themselves to be guided by his Spirit, who is always active in the Church.
Dear Brothers, there would be so many topics to discuss in our personal conversations, to which I should like to return in order to encourage you to continue on the way on which you have set out. I am thinking, for example, of the fundamental need to impart a satisfactory formation to priests, so that they may carry out their mission in the best possible way; as well as the care of vocations, which is a pastoral priority to ensure workers for the Lord's harvest. The vast majority of priests are witnesses of true self-denial, joyful generosity, humble adaptation to the precarious situations in which they find themselves, working sometimes also with financial difficulties. May God preserve and protect them always! Love them, because they are your irreplaceable collaborators, support and encourage them, pray with them and for them. Be loving fathers to them to whom they can confidently turn. I know of your efforts to promote vocations with various initiatives. Make sure that candidates to the priesthood at the seminaries receive a harmonious and complete formation. Accompany young priests in the first steps of their ministry with fatherly concern, and do not overlook the continuing formation of priests. I noted with pleasure the presence and commitment of consecrated men and women, an authentic gift for the spiritual growth of every community.
The care of vocations naturally presupposes an effective family ministry. The formation of lay people who are able to account for their faith is becoming more necessary than ever in our time and is one of the pastoral goals to aim for with perseverance.
Dear and venerable Brothers, at times the overall situations with their relative problems might make your work seem arduous and truly beyond human capacity. Never fear, the Lord is always with you! Stay united to him, therefore, in prayer and in listening to his Word I entrust you and your communities to Mary, the Virgin Mother of God and of the Church, so that she may always protect and guide you with her motherly hand, while with affection I impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.
Hall of the Swiss, Castel Gandolfo Friday, 28 September 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Before leaving Castel Gandolfo, I would like to address a word of cordial gratitude to each one of you who has helped in various ways to make my summer stay beneficial and relaxing. I greet first of all the Parish Priest of Castel Gandolfo and the Parish Community, as well as the various men's and women's Religious Communities who live and work here. I would like to tell each one: the Pope is counting on your spiritual support. He accompanies you with his prayers so that you may respond with constant generosity to the demanding call to Gospel perfection, in order to serve the Lord and your brethren with joy and dedication.
I would now like to thank in particular Mr Mayor and the representatives of the Municipal Administration of Castel Gandolfo. I warmly thank you for your visit. I have felt your closeness in these months and I know how well you take care of me and of those who live in the Apostolic Palace. Everyone knows the style of cordial hospitality that distinguishes your town and its inhabitants. Your welcome is not only reserved for the Pope but is also offered to the numerous pilgrims who come to visit him, especially on Sundays for the customary recitation of the Angelus. I ask you, dear friends, to express my grateful sentiments to the entire community of the town which I was able to meet on various occasions. "Thank you" to everyone!
I cannot omit a word of sincere gratitude to the medical personnel and the employees in all the Services of the Governorate; in these past months you have worked with competence and self-denial, each one in his own sector. Dear friends, I am familiar with your availability and with the sacrifices involved in the different duties you are required to carry out. May the Lord reward you for them all.
I likewise feel the need to express once again my appreciation and gratitude to the officials and agents of the various Italian Security Forces who have flanked the Corps of the Vatican Gendarmerie and the Pontifical Swiss Guard with their usual willingness. Thank you for your discreet and effective presence which has facilitated orderly and safe access to the Apostolic Palace for pilgrims and visitors.
And how, finally, could I fail to remember the officials and airmen of the 31st Squadron of the Italian Air Force? Dear friends, you carry out a particularly high quality and useful task, flying me and my collaborators by helicopter and plane. I am deeply grateful to you for your useful service.
Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to stop and talk to each one of you to thank you personally for the contribution you make with consideration and generosity to the smooth functioning of the Pope's activities here at Castel Gandolfo. These are often hidden services that oblige you to comply with an exhausting schedule for long hours far from home. Thus, your families are also involved in the sacrifices you have to make.
I am therefore anxious to assure you once again of my deepest gratitude, which I extend to your relatives. I carry you all in my heart and I entrust you all to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while I warmly bless you and your loved ones.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With this meeting, my summer stay at Castel Gandolfo, which you have helped to make fruitful and tranquil, is coming to an end this year, too. This Farewell Visit thus offers me the opportunity to express to each one of you my deep gratitude for your work and for the dedication with which you carry it out. I greet you all with affection, starting with Dr Saverio Petrillo, General Director of the Pontifical Villas, and thank him for his cordial words on your behalf.
In these months, I have once again been able to experience your efficient, generous service. May the Lord, the source of all good, reward you for the spirit of sacrifice with which you carry it out daily. With your generous dedication, you make a significant contribution to the ministry of the Successor of Peter; a contribution that is often hidden but always useful. Continue to work in a spirit of faith so that your activities may become a testimony of love and fidelity to Christ, who calls all his disciples to follow him, each one fulfilling his own specific vocation in the Church and in the world.
A cordial "goodbye" to you! I assure you I shall continue to pray that God will protect you and your loved ones, and may you yourselves, dear friends, always accompany me with your remembrance in prayer. In view of the Feast of the Guardian Angels that we shall celebrate tomorrow, I entrust you in a special way to the loving protection of these heavenly spirits that the Lord has set beside us. May it be they who guide and accompany you on the path of good. I thank you once again for everything, and I express my best wishes to each one of you for a serene and active life. With these sentiments, I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here and to your families - I am glad that so many families are present: so many children are born here! - as a sign of my constant favour.
I readily accept the Letters with which the President of the Republic of Italy accredits you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. On this happy occasion, enhanced by today's Feast of St Francis of Assisi, Patron of Italy, I am pleased to offer you my cordial welcome. As you have pointed out, relations between the Holy See and the Italian Nation are distinguished by close bonds of cooperation, expressed in many ways. It suffices to mention the unanimous testimony of acceptance, spiritual support and friendship which Italians reserve for the Supreme Pontiff at meetings with him and during his Visits to Rome and other cities of the Peninsula.
This closeness is an expression of the special bond that has long united Italy to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, whose See - through one of God's mysterious and providential plans - is located precisely within the context of this Country.
Mr Ambassador, I would like to thank you for conveying a greeting to me from the President of the Republic, to whom I am grateful for the sentiments of respect which he has had occasion to express to me in various circumstances. I reciprocate his greeting, with the additional wish that the Italian People, faithful to the principles that have inspired their journey in the past, may also be able in this age, marked by immense and profound changes, to continue to forge ahead on the path of authentic progress. Thus, may Italy be able to make a precious contribution to the International Community, promoting those human and Christian values which constitute an indispensable spiritual patrimony and have given life to its culture as well as to its civil and religious history. For her part, just as she did in the past, the Catholic Church will not cease to offer her specific contribution to civil society, promoting and exalting everything in it that is true, good and beautiful, illuminating all the areas of human activity with means that are in conformity with the Gospel and in harmony with the common good, in keeping with the different times and situations.
In this way, in fact, the principle is realized which was spelled out by the Second Vatican Council and explains that "the political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. Nevertheless, both are devoted to the personal vocation of man, though under different titles" (Gaudium et Spes GS 76). This principle, also authoritatively presented by the Constitution of the Italian Republic (cf. art. 7), constitutes the basis for relations between the Holy See and the Italian State and is reaffirmed in the Agreement that amended the Lateran Pact in 1984. Both the independence and the sovereignty of the State and the Church, as well as their reciprocal collaboration for the advancement of humanity and the good of the entire national community, are therefore reaffirmed in it. In pursuing this aim, the Church is neither proposing goals of power for herself nor claiming privileges or aspiring to advantageous social or financial positions. Her sole purpose is to serve men and women, drawing inspiration as the supreme norm for her conduct from the words and example of Jesus Christ, who "went about doing good and healing all" (Ac 10,38).
Consequently, the Catholic Church asks consideration for her specific nature; she also asks to be able to carry out freely her special mission for the good of not only her own faithful but of all Italians.
For this very reason, as I had the opportunity to say last year on the occasion of the Ecclesial Convention in Verona: "The Church, therefore, is not and does not intend to be a political agent. At the same time, she has a profound interest in the good of the political community, whose soul is justice, and offers it her specific contribution at a double level". And I added: "Christian faith purifies reason and helps it to be better: as a result, with its social doctrine, whose argument begins from what is conformed to the nature of every human being, the Church's contribution is to enable whatever is just to be effectively recognized and then also accomplished. "To this end, moral and spiritual energies are clearly indispensable as they ensure that the demands of justice are put before personal interests, a social category or even a State. For the Church, here again, there is ample space to root these energies in the conscience to nourish them and fortify them" (Address to Participants in the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention, Verona, 19 October 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 25 October, p. 9). I warmly express the hope that collaboration among all members of the esteemed Nation you represent will not only contribute to jealously preserving the cultural and spiritual heritage which is its distinguishing feature and an integral part of its history, but also will be an even greater incentive to seeking new ways to face adequately the great challenges that mark the post-modern age. Among them, I limit myself to citing the defence of human life in all its stages, the safeguard of all the rights of the individual and of the family, the construction of a world with solidarity, respect for creation, and intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
In this regard, Mr Ambassador, you have wished to emphasize that the harmony of relations between the State and the Church has made it possible to achieve important goals in promoting an integral humanism. Of course, much still remains to be done. The 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, which occurs next year, will be a favourable opportunity for Italy to make its contribution to the creation, in the international sphere, of a just order whose centre will always be respect for the human being, his dignity and his inalienable rights. I referred to this in my Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace this year, saying: "That Declaration is regarded as a sort of moral commitment assumed by all mankind. There is a profound truth to this, especially if the rights described in the Declaration are held to be based not simply on the decisions of the assembly that approved them, but on man's very nature and his inalienable dignity as a person created by God". I then noted that "it is important for international agencies not to lose sight of the natural foundation of human rights. This would enable them to avoid the risk, unfortunately ever-present, of sliding towards a merely positivistic interpretation of those rights. Were that to happen, the international bodies would end up lacking the necessary authority to carry out their role as defenders of the fundamental rights of the human person and of peoples, the chief justification for their very existence and activity" (Message for World Day of Peace 2007, n. 13; ORE, 20 December 2006, p. 7). Italy, by virtue of its recent election as a member of the Human Rights Council and even more because of its special tradition of humanity and generosity, cannot fail to feel involved in a task of tirelessly constructing peace and in the defence of human dignity and of all inalienable human rights, including that of religious freedom.
Mr Ambassador, as I conclude my reflections, I would like to assure you of the esteem and support of my collaborators, so that you may accomplish successfully the lofty mission which has been entrusted to you. To this end, I invoke the heavenly intercession of the "Poverello" of Assisi, of St Catherine of Siena and especially of the motherly protection of Mary, "Chatelaine of Italy", while I am pleased to impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, your family and the beloved Italian People.
Venerable Brothers in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Professors and dear Collaborators,
I welcome you with special pleasure at the end of your Annual Plenary Meeting. I would like first of all to express my heartfelt gratitude for the tribute which, as President of the International Theological Commission, Your Eminence has addressed to me on behalf of all. The work of this seventh "quinquennium" of the International Theological Commission, as you recalled, Your Eminence, has already born fruit in practice with the publication of the Document "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized". The subject is treated here in the context of the universal saving will of God, the universality of the one mediation of Christ, the primacy of divine grace and the sacramental nature of the Church. I am confident that this Document will be a useful reference point for Pastors of the Church and for theologians, as well as a help and source of consolation to members of the faithful who have suffered in their families the unexpected death of a child before he or she could receive the bath of baptismal regeneration.
Your reflections will also be an opportunity for further study of, and research into, this subject.
Indeed, it is necessary to penetrate ever more deeply into the comprehension of the various manifestations of God's love for all human beings, especially the lowliest and the poorest, which was revealed to us in Christ.
I congratulate you on the results you have already achieved and encourage you at the same time to persevere with commitment in the examination of the other themes proposed for this quinquennium, on which you have already worked in previous years as well as at this Plenary Meeting. They, as Your Eminence has recalled, are the basis of natural moral law, theology and its method. At the Audience on 1 December 2005, I presented certain fundamental approaches for the work that theologians must carry out in communion with the living voice of the Church under the guidance of the Magisterium. I would like here to reflect in a special way on the theme of natural moral law.
As you probably know, at the invitation of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, symposiums or study days were held or are being organized by various university centres and associations in order to find constructive pointers and convergences for an effective deepening of the doctrine on natural moral law. So far, this invitation has met with a positive reception and aroused considerable interest. The contribution of the International Theological Commission, aimed above all to justify and describe the foundations of a universal ethic that is part of the great patrimony of human knowledge which in a certain way constitutes the rational creature's participation in the eternal law of God, is eagerly awaited. It is not, therefore, a theme of an exclusively or mainly denominational kind, although the doctrine on natural moral law is illuminated and developed to the full in the light of Christian revelation and the fulfilment of man in the mystery of Christ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up well the central content of the doctrine on natural moral law, pointing out that it "states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one's equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called "natural', not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature" (n. 1955). With this doctrine two essential goals are reached: on the one hand, it is understood that the ethical content of the Christian faith does not constitute an imposition dictated to the human conscience from the outside but a norm inherent in human nature itself; on the other hand, on the basis of natural law, in itself accessible to any rational creature, with this doctrine the foundations are laid to enter into dialogue with all people of good will and more generally, with civil and secular society.
Yet, precisely because of the influence of cultural and ideological factors, today's civil and secular society is found to be in a state of bewilderment and confusion: it has lost the original evidence of the roots of the human being and his ethical behaviour. Furthermore, the doctrine of natural moral law conflicts with other concepts that are a direct denial of it. All this has far-reaching, serious consequences on the civil and social order. Today, a positivist conception of law seems to dominate many thinkers. They claim that humanity or society or indeed the majority of citizens is becoming the ultimate source of civil law. The problem that arises is not, therefore, the search for good but the search for power, or rather, how to balance powers. At the root of this trend is ethical relativism, which some even see as one of the principal conditions for democracy, since relativism is supposed to guarantee tolerance of and reciprocal respect for people. But if this were so, the majority of a moment would become the ultimate source of law. History very clearly shows that most people can err. True rationality is not guaranteed by the consensus of a large number but solely by the transparency of human reason to creative Reason and by listening together to this Source of our rationality.
When the fundamental requirements of human dignity, of human life, of the family institution, of a fair social order, in other words, basic human rights, are at stake, no law devised by human beings can subvert the law that the Creator has engraved on the human heart without the indispensable foundations of society itself being dramatically affected. Natural law thus becomes the true guarantee offered to each one in order that he may live in freedom, have his dignity respected and be protected from all ideological manipulation and every kind of arbitrary use or abuse by the stronger. No one can ignore this appeal. If, by tragically blotting out the collective conscience, scepticism and ethical relativism were to succeed in deleting the fundamental principles of the natural moral law, the foundations of the democratic order itself would be radically damaged. To prevent this obscuring, which is a crisis of human civilization even before it is a Christian one, all consciences of people of good will, of lay persons and also of the members of the different Christian denominations, must be mobilized so that they may engage, together and effectively, in order to create the necessary conditions for the inalienable value of the natural moral law in culture and in civil and political society to be fully understood. Indeed, on respect for this natural moral law depends the advance of individuals and society on the path of authentic progress in conformity with right reason, which is participation in the eternal Reason of God.
Dear friends, with gratitude I express to you all my appreciation for the dedication that distinguishes you and my esteem for the work you have done and continue to do. As I offer you my best wishes for your future commitments, I impart my Blessing to you with affection.
Dear Members of the Vatican Chapter,
I have been looking forward to meeting you for a long time and I gladly take this opportunity to express to you my personal esteem and affection. I address a cordial greeting to each one of you.
I greet in particular Archbishop Angelo Comastri, Archpriest, whom I thank for his presentation of this ancient and venerable institution. With him, I greet the Vicar, Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, the Canons and the Coadjutors. I appreciated, Your Excellency, the fact that as Archpriest you referred to the uninterrupted presence of clergy praying in the Vatican Basilica since the time of St Gregory the Great. It has been a continuous, deliberately discreet but faithful and persevering presence.
Properly speaking, however, your Chapter was founded in 1053, when Pope Leo IX confirmed that the Archpriest and Canons of St Peter's who had settled in the Monastery of St Stephen the Great would be granted the same possessions and privileges that his Predecessors had conferred upon them. It was later, during the Pontificate of Eugene III (1145-53), that the General Chapter acquired the characteristics of a well-structured and autonomous community. Indeed, the transition from a monastic structure at the service of the Basilica to today's canonical structure was essentially long and gradual. Under the Archpriest's guidance, the activity of the Vatican Chapter focused from the outset on a wide rang of commitments: the liturgical sphere, for a harmonious celebration and the daily supervision of the services connected to worship; the administrative context, for the management of the patrimony of the Basilica and its affiliated churches; the pastoral sector, in which the Chapter was entrusted with the care of the Borgo district; the charitable sector, in which the Chapter carried out its own activities of assistance and collaboration with the Santo Spirito Hospital and other institutions. From the 11th century to this day, at least 11 Popes have belonged to the Vatican Chapter. I would like to recall among them the 20th century Popes in particular, Pius XI and Pius XII. Ever since the 16th century, when the construction of the new Basilica began - we celebrated the fifth centenary of the laying of the foundation stone last year - the history of the Vatican Chapter has been linked to that of the Fabric of St Peter's. They are two separate institutions but are united in the person of the Archpriest, who ensures that their reciprocal collaboration is fruitful.
The Chapter's work in the life of the Vatican Basilica, especially in the last decades of the past century, has sought more and more to rediscover its true, original function that consisted above all in the ministry of prayer. If prayer is fundamental for all Christians, for you, dear brothers, it is as it were a "professional" task. As I said during my recent Journey in Austria, prayer is at the same time both a service to the Lord who deserves to be ceaselessly praised and adored and a testimony for people. Moreover, when God is faithfully praised and worshipped, his blessings are unfailing (cf. Address at Holy Cross Abbey, 9 September 2007; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 12 September, p. 10). This is the proper nature of the Vatican Chapter and the contribution that the Pope expects of you: to recall with your prayerful presence at Peter's tomb that nothing can come before God; that the Church is entirely oriented to him and to his glory; that the primacy of Peter is at the service of the unity of the Church, and that this in turn is at the service of the saving plan of the Most Holy Trinity.
Dear and venerable Brothers, I trust profoundly in you and in your ministry so that St Peter's Basilica may become an authentic place of prayer, adoration and praise of the Lord. It is more necessary than elsewhere that a permanent community of prayer should exist here, by Peter's tomb, in this sacred place visited every day by thousands of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world, which can guarantee continuity with tradition and at the same time intercede for the Pope's intentions in the Church and in the world today. In this perspective, I invoke upon you the protection of St Peter, of St John Chrysostom, whose relics are preserved precisely in your Chapel, and of the other Saints and Blesseds enshrined in the Basilica. May the Immaculate Virgin watch over you. Her image, which you venerate in the Chapel of the Choir, was crowned by Bl. Pius IX in 1854 and, 50 years later in 1904, St Pius X surrounded it with stars. Once again, I thank you for the zeal with which you carry out your task, and as I assure you of my special remembrance in Holy Mass, I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your loved ones.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican to accept the Letters of Credence by which the President of the Republic of Korea has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I take this occasion to renew the expression of my respect and warm affection for the Korean people, and I ask you to convey to President Roh Moo-hyun and all your fellow citizens my prayerful good wishes for the peace and prosperity of your nation.
Your Excellency has noted the remarkable growth of the Catholic Church in your country, due in no small part to the heroic example of men and women whose faith led them to lay down their lives for Christ and for their brothers and sisters. Their sacrifice reminds us that no cost is too great for persevering in fidelity to the truth. Regrettably, in our contemporary pluralist world some people question or even deny the importance of truth. Yet objective truth remains the only sure basis for social cohesion. Truth is not dependent upon consensus but precedes it and makes it possible, generating authentic human solidarity. The Church—always mindful of the truth’s power to unite people, and ever attentive to mankind’s irrepressible desire for peaceful coexistence—eagerly strives to strengthen concord and social harmony both in ecclesial life and civic life, proclaiming the truth about the human person as known by natural reason and fully manifested through divine revelation.
Your Excellency, the international community joins with the citizens of your country in their heightened aspirations for newfound peace on the Korean peninsula and throughout the region. I take this opportunity to reiterate the Holy See’s support for every initiative that aims at a sincere and lasting reconciliation, putting an end to enmity and unresolved grievances. Genuine progress is built on attitudes of honesty and trust. I commend your country’s efforts to foster fruitful and open dialogue while simultaneously working to alleviate the pain of those suffering from the wounds of division and distrust. Indeed, every nation shares in the responsibility of assuring a more stable and secure world. It is my ardent hope that the ongoing participation of various countries involved in the negotiation process will lead to a cessation of programmes designed to develop and produce weapons with frightening potential for unspeakable destruction.
Your country has achieved notable successes in scientific research and development. Prominent among these are advances in biotechnology with the potential to treat and cure illnesses so as to improve the quality of life in your homeland and abroad. Discoveries in this field invite man to a deeper awareness of the weighty responsibilities involved in their application. The use society hopes to make of biomedical science must constantly be measured against robust and firm ethical standards (cf. Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 6 November 2006). Foremost among these is the dignity of human life, for under no circumstances may a human being be manipulated or treated as a mere instrument for experimentation. The destruction of human embryos, whether to acquire stem cells or for any other purpose, contradicts the purported intent of researchers, legislators and public health officials to promote human welfare. The Church does not hesitate to approve and encourage somatic stem-cell research—not only because of the favourable results obtained through these alternative methods, but more importantly because they harmonize with the aforementioned intent by respecting the life of the human being at every stage of his or her existence (cf. Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life Symposium, 16 September 2006). Mr. Ambassador, I pray that the inherent moral sensibility of the Korean people, as evidenced by their rejection of human cloning and related procedures, will help attune the international community to the deep ethical and social implications of scientific research and its utilization.
The promotion of human dignity also summons public authorities to ensure that young people receive a sound education. Faith-based schools have much to contribute in this regard. It is incumbent upon governments to afford parents the opportunity to send their children to religious schools by facilitating the establishment and financing of such institutions. Insofar as possible, public subsidies should free parents from undue financial burdens that attenuate their ability to choose the most suitable means of educating their children. Catholic and other religious schools should enjoy the appropriate latitude of freedom to design and implement curricula that nurture the life of the spirit without which the life of the mind is so seriously distorted. I appeal to Church and civic leaders to move forward in a spirit of cooperation to guarantee a future for Catholic schooling in your country which will contribute to the moral and intellectual maturation of the younger generation for the benefit of all society.
Your Excellency, on this happy occasion as you begin your mission, I assure you that the Holy See and its various offices will be ever ready to assist you in carrying out your duties. I invoke divine blessings upon you, your family and the people of your country, who hold a special place in my thoughts and prayers at this time.
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