Speeches 2005-13 21009



Madam Ambassador,

Grateful for the kind words which you have addressed to me, I gladly accept the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. I would like to reciprocate the warm greetings which you have extended to me on behalf of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and I would ask you to convey to her and to all the beloved Filipino people the assurance of my spiritual closeness and prayers, especially for the victims of Typhoon Ketsana.

For over half a century, the Holy See and the Philippines have maintained excellent diplomatic relations, strengthening their long-standing cooperation for the promotion of peace, human dignity and freedom. The spirit of good will which has brought us to this day will surely enkindle a fresh desire to work together so that justice and freedom go hand-in-hand, and that democratic principles be grounded in truth. For her part, in the midst of the many changing social, economic and political conditions around the globe, the Church continues to hold out the Gospel as the path to authentic human progress (cf. Spe Salvi ). I am confident that the faith of the Filipino people – a faith, as Your Excellency has indicated, which gives them the “resilience” to face any hardship or difficulty – will arouse in them a desire to participate ever more fervently in the worldwide task of building up a civilization of love, the seed of which God has implanted in every people and every culture.

Your Excellency, I am pleased to note the various development initiatives under way in your country, including the modernization of irrigation systems, the improvement of public transportation and the reform of social assistance programs. As the Philippines continues to implement these and other plans for a just and sustainable development, I am confident that she will draw upon all her resources – spiritual as well as material – so that her citizens may flourish in body and soul, knowing the goodness of God and living in solidarity with their neighbors. Such programs, of course, are primarily aimed at improving the actual living conditions of the poorest, thus enabling them to fulfill their responsibilities towards their families and to carry out the duties which fall to them as members of the wider community. Above all, the struggle against poverty calls for honesty, integrity and an unwavering fidelity to the principles of justice, especially on the part of those directly entrusted with the offices of governance and public administration.

In an age when the name of God is abused by certain groups, the “work of charity” (Caritas in Veritate ) is particularly urgent. This is especially true in regions that have been sadly scarred by conflicts. I encourage all to persevere so that peace may prevail. As you have mentioned, Madam Ambassador, initiatives that aim at facilitating dialogue and cultural exchange are particularly effective, for peace can never come about merely as the product of a technical process engineered through legislative, judicial or economic means. In the conviction that evil is only conquered with good (cf. Rom
Rm 12,21), many in your country are taking courageous steps to bring people together in order to foster reconciliation and mutual understanding. I am thinking in particular of the commendable work of the Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC), the Mindanao People's Conference, as well as that of many grassroots organizations. The Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development, which your country will host in December, also holds out the promise of advancing peace in Mindanao and throughout the world.

In closing, Madam Ambassador, I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the Filipino people of my affection and continued prayers for them. I encourage them to allow their deep faith, their cultural heritage and the democratic values that have been a part of their patrimony from the time of their independence to shine as an example to all.

Extending a cordial welcome to you and to your distinguished family, I offer you my best wishes that your stay in Rome may be pleasant, and that the important mission entrusted to you may consolidate relations between the Holy See and the Republic of the Philippines, to the benefit of all. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Truth, Justice and Holiness, may God bless the efforts of the authorities and citizens, so that your nation may walk the way of authentic human progress in an atmosphere of harmony and peace.


Apostolic Palace, Castel Gandolfo

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 Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from Queen Beatrix. For my part, please convey to Her Majesty my cordial greetings and assure her of my continuing prayers for all the people of your nation.

In a world that is ever more closely interconnected, the Holy See’s diplomatic relations with individual states afford many opportunities for cooperation on important global issues. In this light, the Holy See values its links with the Netherlands and looks forward to strengthening them further in years to come. Your country, as a founder member of the European Economic Community and home to several international juridical institutions, has long been at the forefront of moves to strengthen international cooperation for the greater good of the human family. Hence the mission on which you are about to embark is rich in opportunities for joint action to promote peace and prosperity in the light of the desire that both the Holy See and the Netherlands have, to help the human person.

The defence and promotion of freedom is a key element in humanitarian engagement of this kind, and it is one to which both the Holy See and the Kingdom of the Netherlands frequently draw attention. It must be understood, though, that freedom needs to be anchored in truth – the truth of the nature of the human person – and it needs to be directed towards the good of individuals and of society. In the financial crisis of the past twelve months, the whole world has been able to observe the consequences of exaggerated individualism that tends to favour single-minded pursuit of perceived personal advantage to the exclusion of other goods. There has been much reflection on the need for a sound ethical approach to the processes of economic and political integration, and more people are coming to recognize that globalization needs to be steered towards the goal of integral human development of individuals, communities and peoples – shaped not by mechanical or deterministic forces but by humanitarian values that are open to transcendence (cf. Caritas in Veritate ). Our world needs to “reappropriate the true meaning of freedom, which is not an intoxication with total autonomy, but a response to the call of being” (ibid., 70). Hence the Holy See’s conviction regarding the irreplaceable role of faith communities in public life and in public debate.

While some of the Dutch population would declare itself agnostic or even atheist, more than half of it professes Christianity, and the growing numbers of immigrants who follow other religious traditions make it more necessary than ever for civil authorities to acknowledge the place of religion in Dutch society. An indication that your Government does so is the fact that faith schools receive state support in your country, and rightly so, since such institutions are called to make a significant contribution to mutual understanding and social cohesion by transmitting the values that are rooted in a transcendent vision of human dignity.

Even more basic than schools in this regard are families built on the foundation of a stable and fruitful marriage between a man and a woman. Nothing can equal or replace the formative value of growing up in a secure family environment, learning to respect and foster the personal dignity of others, acquiring the capacity for “acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity” (Familiaris Consortio
FC 43 cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 221) – in short, learning to love. A society, on the other hand, which encourages alternative models of domestic life for the sake of a supposed diversity, is likely to store up social consequences that are not conducive to integral human development (cf. Caritas in Veritate ). The Catholic Church in your country is eager to play its part in supporting and promoting stable family life, as the Dutch Bishops’ Conference stated in its recent document on the pastoral care of young people and the family. It is my earnest hope that the Catholic contribution to ethical debate will be heard and heeded by all sectors of Dutch society, so that the noble culture that has distinguished your country for centuries may continue to be known for its solidarity with the poor and the vulnerable, its promotion of authentic freedom and its respect for the dignity and inestimable value of every human life.

Your Excellency, 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 the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. I recall with pleasure my meeting with President Barack Obama and his family last July, and willingly reciprocate the kind greetings which you bring from him. I also take this occasion to express my confidence that diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See, formally initiated twenty-five years ago, will continue to be marked by fruitful dialogue and cooperation in the promotion of human dignity, respect for fundamental human rights, and the service of justice, solidarity and peace within the whole human family.

In the course of my Pastoral Visit to your country last year I was pleased to encounter a vibrant democracy, committed to the service of the common good and shaped by a vision of equality and equal opportunity based on the God-given dignity and freedom of each human being. That vision, enshrined in the nation’s founding documents, continues to inspire the growth of the United States as a cohesive yet pluralistic society constantly enriched by the gifts brought by new generations, including the many immigrants who continue to enhance and rejuvenate American society. In recent months, the reaffirmation of this dialectic of tradition and originality, unity and diversity has recaptured the imagination of the world, many of whose peoples look to the American experience and its founding vision in their own search for viable models of accountable democracy and sound development in an increasingly interdependent and global society.

For this reason, I appreciate your acknowledgement of the need for a greater spirit of solidarity and multilateral engagement in approaching the urgent problems facing our planet. The cultivation of the values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” can no longer be seen in predominantly individualistic or even national terms, but must rather be viewed from the higher perspective of the common good of the whole human family. The continuing international economic crisis clearly calls for a revision of present political, economic and financial structures in the light of the ethical imperative of ensuring the integral development of all people. What is needed, in effect, is a model of globalization inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world’s peoples are seen not merely as neighbors but as brothers and sisters.

Multilateralism, for its part, should not be restricted to purely economic and political questions; rather, it should find expression in a resolve to address the whole spectrum of issues linked to the future of humanity and the promotion of human dignity, including secure access to food and water, basic health care, just policies governing commerce and immigration, particularly where families are concerned, climate control and care for the environment, and the elimination of the scourge of nuclear weapons. With regard to the latter issue, I wish to express my satisfaction for the recent Meeting of the United Nations Security Council chaired by President Obama, which unanimously approved the resolution on atomic disarmament and set before the international community the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a promising sign on the eve of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Genuine progress, as the Church’s social teaching insists, must be integral and humane; it cannot prescind from the truth about human beings and must always be directed to their authentic good. In a word, fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and real development. For her part the Church in the United States wishes to contribute to the discussion of the weighty ethical and social questions shaping America’s future by proposing respectful and reasonable arguments grounded in the natural law and confirmed by the perspective of faith. Religious vision and religious imagination do not straiten but enrich political and ethical discourse, and the religions, precisely because they deal with the ultimate destiny of every man and woman, are called to be a prophetic force for human liberation and development throughout the world, particularly in areas torn by hostility and conflict. In my recent visit to the Holy Land I stressed the value of understanding and cooperation among the followers of the various religions in the service of peace, and so I note with appreciation your government’s desire to promote such cooperation as part of a broader dialogue between cultures and peoples.

Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom – the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear – “is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility;” it is “a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good” (Address at the White House, 16 April 2008). The preservation of freedom is inseparably linked to respect for truth and the pursuit of authentic human flourishing. The crisis of our modern democracies calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity. The Church in the United States contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse. Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens. The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics, for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized” (Evangelium Vitae EV 93 cf. Caritas in Veritate ).

Mr. Ambassador, as you undertake your new mission in the service of your country I offer you my good wishes and the promise of my prayers. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved American people, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.


(OCTOBER, 4-25, 2009)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the invocation of the Holy Spirit we have now begun our Synodal Meeting, knowing full well that we cannot do at this moment what needs to be done for the Church and for the world: only with the power of the Holy Spirit can we discover what is right and put it into practice. And every day we shall start by invoking the Holy Spirit with the prayer of the Hour of Terce: "Nunc, sancte, nobis Spiritus". I would therefore like to meditate with you briefly on this hymn with which we shall begin our work each day, now, during the Synod, and also afterwards in our daily life.

"Nunc, sancte, nobis Spiritus". We pray that Pentecost may not only be an event of the past, at the very beginning of the Church, but that it may be today, indeed now, "nunc, sancte, nobis Spiritus". Let us pray that the Lord may bring about the outpouring of his Spirit now and recreate his Church and the world. Let us remember that after the Ascension the Apostles did not begin as might perhaps have been expected to organize, to create the Church of the future. They waited for God to act. They waited for the Holy Spirit. They understood that the Church cannot be made, that she is not the product of our organization: the Church must be born of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Lord himself was conceived and born of the Holy Spirit so the Church must also be conceived and born of the Holy Spirit. Only through this creative act of God can we enter into God's activity, into the divine action, and cooperate with him. In this regard, all our work at the Synod also consists in collaborating with the Holy Spirit, with the power of God that precedes us. And we must always implore, over and over again, the fulfilment of this divine initiative in which we can become collaborators of God and contribute to ensuring that his Church is reborn and grows.

The second verse of this hymn: "Os, lingua, mens, sensus, vigor, / Confessionem, personent: / Flammescat igne caritas, / accendat ardor proximos" is the heart of this prayer. We ask of God three gifts, the essential gifts of Pentecost, of the Holy Spirit: confessio, caritas, proximos. Confessio: it is the tongue of fire that is "reasonable", that gives the right word and calls to mind the conquest of Babylon on the Feast of Pentecost. The confusion born from human egoism and pride, whose effect is the inability to understand each other, must be overcome by the power of the Spirit which unites without standardizing, which gives unity in plurality. Each one can understand the other, despite the diversity of languages. Confessio: the word, the tongue of fire that the Lord gives us, the common word in which we are all united, the City of God, Holy Church, in which all the wealth of our different cultures is present. Flammescat igne caritas. This confession is not a theory but life, love. The heart of Holy Church is love, God is love and communicates himself to us by communicating love to us. And lastly, our neighbour. The Church is never a closed group which lives for itself like so many of the groups that exist in the world; rather, she is distinguished by the universality of charity, of responsibility for her neighbour.

Let us consider these three gifts one by one. Confessio: in the language of the Bible and of the ancient Church, this word has two essential meanings, apparently in opposition but in fact constitute a single reality. Confessio is first of all the confession of sins: it means recognizing our guilt and knowing that before God we are found wanting, we are in a state of sin, we are not in the right relationship with him. This is the first point: knowing ourselves in the light of God. Only in this light can we know ourselves, can we also understand what is evil in us and thus perceive all that must be renewed, transformed. Only in the light of God do we recognize one another and truly see the whole of reality.

It seems to me that we should bear all this in mind in our analyses of reconciliation, justice and peace. Empirical analysis is important, it is important to know the reality of this world exactly. Yet these horizontal analyses, made with such precision and skill, are insufficient. They do not identify the real problems because they do not place them in the light of God. If we do not see that they are rooted in the Mystery of God, worldly things go wrong because the relationship with God is not properly in order. And if the first, basic relationship is off course, all the other relationships, however good they may be, fundamentally do not function. Therefore, all our analyses of the world are insufficient if we do not reach this point, if we do not consider the world in the light of God, if we do not discover that at the root of injustices, of corruption, is a heart that is not upright, there is closure to God and, consequently, a falsification of the essential relationship on which all the others are founded.

Confessio: to understand in God's light the realities of the world, the primacy of God and finally the whole human being and the human realities that are oriented to our relationship with God. And if this relationship has gone wrong it does not reach the point God wanted, it does not enter his truth, nor can anything else be corrected because, once again, all the vices that destroy the social network and peace in the world spring up.

Confessio: to see reality in God's light, to understand that basically our realities depend on our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer, and thus lead to the truth, to the truth that saves. St Augustine, referring to Chapter three of the Gospel according to St John, defines the act of Christian confession as "he who makes truth comes to the light". Only by seeing in the light of God our faults, our sins, the insufficiency of our relationship with him do we walk in the light of the truth. And it is only the truth that saves. At last, let us work in truth: making truth is truly confessing in this depth of God's light.

This is the first meaning of the word confessio, the confession of sins, the recognition of the guilt that results from our defective relationship with God. However, a second meaning of confession is that of thanking God, glorifying God, witnessing to God. We can recognize the truth of our being because there is a divine response. God did not leave us alone with our sins; even when our relationship with his majesty is impeded, he does not withdraw but comes and takes us by the hand. Confessio therefore is the witness of God's goodness, it is evangelization. We could say that the second dimension of the word confessio is identical to evangelization. We see this on the Day of Pentecost when St Peter, in his discourse, on the one hand accuses people for their sins you have killed the holy and the just but, at the same time he says: this Saint is risen and loves you, embraces you, calls you to be his followers in repentance and in Baptism, as well as in communion with his Body. In the light of God confessing necessarily becomes proclaiming God, evangelizing and thereby renewing the world.

However the word confessio reminds us of yet another element. In Chapter 10 of his Letter to the Romans St Paul interprets the confession of Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy. In the latter text it would seem that in the Holy Land, upon entering into the definitive form of the Covenant, the Jews were afraid and could not really respond to God as they ought. The Lord says to them: do not be afraid, God is not far away. To reach God, a voyage across an unknown ocean is not required, nor is space travel through the sky, complicated or impossible ventures. God is not far away, he is not on the other side of the ocean or in these immense spaces of the universe. He is near. He is in your heart and on your lips, with the words of the Torah he enters your heart and is proclaimed by your lips. God is in you and with you, he is close.

In his interpretation, St Paul replaces the word "Torah" with the words "confession" and "faith". He says: God is close by, no complicated expeditions are necessary to reach him, nor spiritual or material adventures. God is close with faith, he is in your heart and with confession he is on your lips. He is within you and with you. With his presence, Jesus Christ really gives us the words of life.
Thus, in faith, he enters our hearts. He dwells in our heart and in confession we bring the realties of the Lord to the world, to this time of ours. This seems to me a very important element: the close God. The things of science, of technology, entail great investments: spiritual and material ventures are expensive and difficult; but God gives himself freely. The most important things in life God, love and truth are free. God gives himself in our hearts. I would say that we should meditate often on God's free giving: to be close to God there is no need for great material or even intellectual gifts.
God gives himself freely in his love, he is in me, in my heart and on my lips. This is the courage, the joy of our life. It is also the courage present at this Synod, for God is not distant: he is with us in the words of faith. I think this duality is also important: words in the heart and on the lips. This depth of personal faith which truly connects me closely with God must then be confessed. Faith and confession, interiority in communion with God and the witness to faith that is expressed on my lips and thus becomes tangible and present in the world. These are two important things that always go together.

Then the hymn of which we are speaking also points to the places where confession is found: "os, lingua, mens, sensus, vigor". All our capacities for thinking, speaking, feeling, and acting must resound the Latin uses the verb "personent" with the word of God. Our being, in all its dimensions, must be filled with this word, which thereby becomes really tangible in the world which, through our existence resonates in the world: the word of the Holy Spirit.

And then, briefly, another two gifts. Charity: it is important that Christianity should not be the sum of ideas, a philosophy or a theology, but rather a way of life, Christianity is charity, it is love. Only in this way do we become Christian: if faith is transformed into charity, if it is charity. We could also say that lógos and caritas go together. Our God is on the one hand lógos, eternal reason. But this reason is also love; it is not cold mathematics that constructs the universe, it is not a demiurge; eternal reason is fire, it is charity. This union of reason and charity, of faith and charity, must be brought into being within us and thus, transformed into charity to become, as the Greek Fathers said, divinized. I would say that in the development of the world we have this uphill road, leading from the first created realities to the creature, man. But the ascent has not yet been completed. Man must be divinized and thus fulfilled. The unity of the creature and of the Creator: this is the true development, arriving with God's grace at this openness. Our essence is transformed by charity. If we speak of this development, we always think of the final goal, where God wants to arrive with us.

Lastly, our neighbour. Charity is not something individual but universal and practical. Today, at Mass, we proclaimed the Gospel passage of the Good Samaritan, in which we see the twofold reality of Christian charity, which is both universal and practical. The Samaritan meets a Jew who is therefore outside the boundaries of his tribe and his religion. But charity is universal so this stranger is in every sense a neighbour to him. Universality does away with the limits that close the world in and create differences and conflicts. At the same time, the fact that some practical action should be taken for universality, not only philosophy. We must strive for this unification of universality and practical action, we must really open these boundaries between tribes, ethnic groups and religions to the universality of God's love. And this must not be in theory but in the places where we live and with all the necessary visibility. Let us pray the Lord to give us all this through the power of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, the hymn is a glorification of the Triune God and a prayer to know and to believe. Thus the end returns to the beginning. Let us also pray that we may know, that knowing may become believing and that believing may become loving, action. Let us pray the Lord to give us the Holy Spirit, that he may inspire a new Pentecost and help us to be his servants in the world at this time. Amen.



Your Holiness,

I thank you wholeheartedly for your thoughtful presentation and for accepting my invitation to take part in the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. I am sure that my gratitude and appreciation are shared by all the members of the Assembly.

Your presence bears eloquent witness to the antiquity and rich traditions of the Church in Africa. From apostolic times, among the many people yearning to hear Christ’s message of salvation were those coming from Ethiopia (cf.
Ac 8,26-40). Your people’s fidelity to the Gospel continues to be shown not only by their obedience to his law of love, but also, as you have reminded us, by perseverance amid persecution and the supreme sacrifice of martyrdom for the name of Christ.

Your Holiness has recalled that the proclamation of the Gospel cannot be separated from the commitment to build a society which conforms to God’s will, respects the blessings of his creation and protects the dignity and innocence of all his children. In Christ we know that reconciliation is possible, justice can prevail, peace can endure! This is the message of hope which we are called to proclaim. This is the promise which the people of Africa long to see fulfilled in our day.

Let us pray, then, that our Churches may draw closer in the unity which is the Holy Spirit’s gift, and bear common witness to the hope brought by the Gospel. Let us continue to work for the integral development of all Africa’s peoples, strengthening the families which are the bulwark of African society, educating the young who are Africa’s future, and contributing to the building of societies marked by honesty, integrity and solidarity. May our deliberations during these weeks help Christ’s followers throughout the continent to be convincing examples of righteousness, mercy and peace, and a light to guide the path of coming generations.

Your Holiness, once again I thank you for your presence and your valued reflections. May your participation in this Synod be a blessing for our Churches.

Speeches 2005-13 21009