Speeches 2005-13 258




Auditorium on the Via della Conciliazione Thursday, 8 October 2009

Mr President of the Italian Republic,
Your Eminences, Venerable Synod Fathers,
Mr Ambassadors, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I accepted with pleasure your invitation to the concert: "Youth against war concert 70 years from the beginning of the Second World War", sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, the Embassy of Germany to the Holy See and the Europäisches KulturForum Mainau, with the patronage of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. My heartfelt gratitude goes to all the sponsors and organizers; I thank in particular Cardinal Walter Kasper for interpreting your common sentiments. Grateful for their presence, I address a respectful thought to the President of the Italian Republic and to his distinguished wife. By using the universal language of music, this initiative intends to encourage young people to build the future of the world together, inspired by the values of peace and human brotherhood. I greet the Cardinals, the Synod Fathers, the distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, the sponsors and everyone present.

I warmly thank the young musicians from 15 regions who play in the Inter-Regionalen Jugend-Sinfonieorchester, with their Conductors Prof. Wolfgang Gönnenwein and Jochem Hochstenbach for their exceptional performance. Likewise, I thank the soloist Michelle Breedt for her expressive singing and Prof. Klaus Maria Brandauer for his lively interpretation of the texts. My gratitude extends to all those who made this evening possible: the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) as a sponsor of the concert and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the German Embassy to the Holy See and the Europäische KulturForum Mainau as organizers.

Dear friends, this evening the tragedy of the Second World War returns to our minds, that inhuman page of history of combined violence and brutality which caused the death of millions, leaving the winners divided and Europe to be rebuilt. The war, desired by National Socialism, involved many innocent peoples of Europe and on other continents, while with the tragedy of the Shoah it targeted in particular the Jewish people who were the object of programmed extermination. Yet invitations to reasonableness and peace were extended on many sides. Here in Rome, the distressed voice of my venerable Predecessor Pius XII still echoes. In his Radio Message of 24 August 1939 just before the outbreak of the war he proclaimed with determination: "Nothing is lost with peace. All can be lost with war" (cf. AAS XXXI, 1939, p. 334). Unfortunately no one succeeded in preventing that terrible catastrophe; the logic of egoism and violence inexorably prevailed. May the remembrance of those grievous events be a warning, especially to the new generations, never again to give in to the temptation of war.

As Cardinal Kasper recalled, this year we are commemorating another important anniversary: the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an eloquent symbol of the end of the totalitarian Communist regimes of Eastern Europe. "The collapse of the wall" John Paul II wrote, "and the fall of dangerous idols and of ideologies which enslave people have shown that basic freedoms which give meaning to human life cannot be suffocated or repressed for long" (Message for "Katholikentag", 23 May 1990; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, [ORE], 11 June 1990, p. 10). Europe and the whole world are thirsting for freedom and peace! It is necessary to build together a true civilization which is not based on force but is "the fruit of a victory over ourselves, over the powers of injustice, selfishness and hatred which can go so far as to disfigure man himself!" (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, n. 12; ORE, 4 September 1989, p. 3). The ecumenical movement which found a catalyser in the Second World War, as Cardinal Kasper appropriately emphasized, can contribute to building this true civilization, working together with Jews and all believers. May God bless us and grant to humanity the gift of his peace. Dear friends, thank you again for coming.



Paul VI Audience Hall Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Holy Father together with the Synodal Fathers and students from universities in Rome took part in the Marian prayer. Young people in nine African capitals were able to take part in the event via satellite streaming: Cairo (Egypt), Nairobi (Kenya), Khartoum (Sudan), Johannesburg (South Africa), Onitsha (Nigeria), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Maputo (Mozambico) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

Venerable Synod Fathers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear University Students,

At the end of this Marian prayer, I address my most cordial greeting to you all, with a sentiment of special gratitude to the Synod Fathers present. I thank the Italian Authorities who have supported this initiative, and especially the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops and the Office for University Ministry of the Vicariate of Rome which sponsored and organized it.

Dear university friends of Rome, a sincere "thank you" naturally goes to you for having responded in such large numbers to my invitation. As you know, the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops is taking place at the Vatican in these days. The fact of gathering together, the Successor of Peter, and numerous Pastors of the Church in Africa with other qualified experts, is a cause of joy and hope that expresses and fosters communion. The Fathers of the Church compared the Christian community to an orchestra or an orderly and harmonious choir, like the ones which have enlivened our prayers and to whom we extend our thanks.

As on previous occasions, this evening too we have availed ourselves of modern technology to "cast a net" a network of prayer! linking Rome to Africa. And so, thanks to the collaboration of Telespazio, the Vatican Television Centre and Vatican Radio, many university students have been able to take part in the Rosary, together with their Pastors, in various African cities. I offer them an affectionate greeting.

I address a very cordial greeting to you, French-speaking brothers and sisters, especially those of you who have joined us from Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Egypt. I ask you to stay united by prayer with the Bishops of the whole of Africa, gathered in Rome for the Synod, so that the Church may make an effective contribution to reconciliation, justice and peace on this beloved continent, and be an authentic sign of hope for all the African peoples: "salt of the earth... and light of the world". May the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, preserve you in peace and guide you towards her Son Jesus, the Saviour! May God bless you!

Dear Friends, I greet with affection the many young students, especially those from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan, who have joined us in our prayer to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. We have entrusted to her maternal protection the success of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. May her intercession sustain Christians everywhere, especially the peoples of Africa, and may her example teach us to turn to the Lord and to persevere in prayer both in our sorrows and in our joys. I extend a special greeting to the young men and women of Africa who are present in my heart and in my prayers. May you always be uncompromising witnesses and active promoters of justice, reconciliation and peace.

I greet the university students gathered in Maputo with their rosary beads in their hands and the name of Mary on their lips, praying with Africa and for Africa that the Christian faithful, filled with the Holy Spirit may carry out the mission they received from Jesus: may they be the salt of a just earth and the light that guides the world to reconciliation and peace. Thank you, my friends, for your prayers and for your Christian witness! May the Virgin Mother to whom I entrust all the youth of Mozambique and of the other countries whose official language is Portuguese watch over you.

In preparation for today's meeting a conference was held in Rome, organized by the Office for Cooperation in Development of the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Vicariate of Rome on the theme: "For a new culture of development in Africa: the role of university cooperation".
In expressing my appreciation and encouragement to pursue this project, I want to stress the importance of the education of young intellectuals and of scientific and cultural exchanges between universities in order to propose and to enliven integral human development, in Africa and on the other continents. In this context I have entrusted to you in spirit, dear young people, the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, in which we recall the urgent need to shape a new humanistic vision (cf. n. 21) that will renew the links between anthropology and theology. In meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, we have once again encountered the true Face of God who in Jesus Christ reveals his presence to us in the life of every people. The God of Jesus Christ walks with man: and thanks to him it is possible to build the civilization of love (cf. ibid., n. 39). Dear university students of Rome and Africa, I ask you to work in the Church and in society for intellectual charity, which is necessary to tackle the great challenges of contemporary history. May you be sincere and enthusiastic seekers of the truth at your universities, building academic communities of a high academic standard where it is possible to exercise and enjoy that open, broad rationality which paves the way to the encounter with God. May you be able to build bridges of scientific and cultural collaboration between the different athenaeums, especially with those in Africa. To you, dear African students, I address a special invitation to live the period of your studies as a preparation for carrying out a service of cultural animation in your countries. The new evangelization in Africa is also counting on your generous commitment.

Dear brothers and sisters, with the recitation of the Rosary we have entrusted the Second Synod for Africa to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin. Let us place in her hands the hopes, expectations and projects of the African peoples, as well as their difficulties and sufferings. To all who have joined us in various parts of Africa and to all of you who are present here, I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing.



Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Friends,

We are meeting this evening for another concert, also of a remarkably high musical standard and of great historical interest, shortly after the one held last week in the Auditorium on Via della Conciliazione. I address my cordial greeting to each one of you: to the Cardinals, Bishops and Prelates, to the Authorities, to the welcome guests and to everyone present. I would like to address a special greeting to the Synod Fathers, who have also wished to share this moment of serene relaxation together.

On behalf of all, I express cordial gratitude to the Accademia Pianistica Internazionale "Incontri con il maestro" of Imola. I would like to thank and to express my sentiments of deep appreciation especially to Maestro Franco Scala, who founded this praiseworthy musical institution 20 years ago and continues to direct it with enthusiasm and talent. I also express my gratitude to him for the words with which, at the beginning of the evening, he interpreted the common sentiments of those present. I address a courteous "thank you" to the pianist, Jin Ju, who has permitted us to enjoy the expressive potential of the fortepiano and the pianoforte, and the emotional charge of the music she played. Lastly, I am eager to greet and thank all those who cooperated in various ways to organize this concert.

Dear friends, this evening we have been accompanied in the ideal captivating historical and artistic development of the fortepiano, which became the pianoforte, one of the best known musical instruments dear to the most famous composers and an instrument capable of offering a wide range of nuances of music and harmony. The seven instruments played, which come from the important collection in Imola which has more than 100, are in themselves an aesthetic, artistic and historical patrimony, both because they emit sounds heard by people in the past and because they testify to the progress in the craft of making pianos, revealing the insights and subsequent perfection achieved by able and incomparable piano-builders.

This concert has allowed us once again to savour the beauty of music, a spiritual, hence universal, language and a particularly suitable vehicle for understanding and union among people and peoples. Music is a part of all cultures and, we might say, accompanies every human experience, from pain to pleasure, from hatred to love, from sorrow to joy, from death to life. We see that in the course of the centuries and millennia, music has always been used to give a shape to what is impossible to express with words, because it awakens emotions otherwise difficult to communicate. It is not, therefore, by chance that every civilization has given importance and value to music in its various forms and expressions.

Music, great music, relaxes the mind, awakens profound sentiments and is, as it were, a natural invitation to raise one's mind and heart to God in every situation of human existence, both joyful and sad. Music can become prayer. My thanks go once again to those who organized this beautiful evening. Dear friends, I warmly bless you all.



Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you, Your Excellency, and to accredit you as Representative of the Commission of European Communities to the Holy See. I would be grateful it you would kindly convey to H.E. Mr José Barroso who has just been re-elected Head of the Commission my cordial good wishes for him and for the new mandate that has been entrusted to him, as well as for all his collaborators.

This year Europe is commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wished to acknowledge this event in a special way by going to the Czech Republic. On this land, sorely tried under the yoke of a painful ideology, I was able to give thanks for the gift of the regained freedom which has enabled the European continent to rediscover its integrity and unity.

You have just described, Mr Ambassador, the reality of the European Union as "a zone of peace and stability that gathers 27 States with the same fundamental values". This is a felicitous presentation. However, it is right to point out that the European Union did not endow itself with these values; rather, these shared values brought it into being and have been, as it were, the force of gravity that has attracted to the nucleus of the founding countries the various nations that have successively joined it with the passage of time. These values are the fruit of a long and tortuous history in which, as no one will deny, Christianity has played a leading role. The equal dignity of all human beings, the freedom of the act of faith as the root of all the other civil freedoms, peace as a decisive element of the common good, human, intellectual, social and economic development as a divine vocation (cf. Caritas in Veritate ) and the sense of history that derives from it are as many central elements of the Christian Revelation that continue to model the European civilization.

When the Church recalls the Christian roots of Europe she is not seeking a privileged status for herself. She wants to act as a historical memory by recalling first and foremost a truth increasingly passed over in silence namely, the undeniably Christian inspiration of the founding Fathers of the European Union. More profoundly, she also wishes to demonstrate that the basic values come mainly from the Christian heritage which still today continues to nourish it.

These common values do not constitute an anarchic or uncertain aggregate but form a coherent whole which is ordered and expressed historically on the basis of a precise anthropological vision. Can Europe omit the original organic principle of these values that revealed to man both his eminent dignity and the fact that his personal vocation opens him to all other human beings with whom he is called to constitute one single family? Does not letting oneself slip into this forgetfulness mean exposing oneself to the risk of seeing great and beautiful values compete or come into conflict with each other? Furthermore, do they not risk being exploited by individuals and pressure groups desirous of imposing their own interests to the detriment of an ambitious group project which Europeans are waiting for which is concerned with the common good of the continent's inhabitants and of the whole of our world? This danger has already been perceived and reported by a number of observers from very different horizons. It is important for Europe not to allow its model of civilization to fall apart, piece after piece. Its original dynamism must not be stifled by individualism or utilitarianism.

The immense intellectual, cultural and economic resources of the continent will continue to bear fruit as long as they continue to be fertilized by the transcendent vision of the human person, who constitutes the most precious treasure of the European heritage. This humanistic tradition in which many very different branches of thought can be recognized, makes Europe capable of facing the challenges of the future and of responding to the expectations of its population. It is mainly a question of seeking the correct, delicate balance between economic efficiency and social requirements, the safeguard of the environment and above all, the indispensable and necessary support of human life, from conception to natural death, and of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. Europe will really be itself only if it can preserve the originality that has constituted its greatness and is likely to make it in the future one of the major actors in the promotion of the integral development of individuals, which the Catholic Church considers as the only way to remedy the imbalances present in our world.

For all these reasons, Mr Ambassador, the Holy See follows with respect and great attention the activity of the European Institutions, with the hope that by their work and their creativity, they may honour Europe which is more than a continent, rather a "spiritual homeland" (cf. Discourse to the Civil Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps, Prague, 26 September 2009). The Church desires to "accompany" the construction of the European Union. For this reason she permits herself to remind the Union of the founding and constitutive values of European society so that they may be promoted for the good of all.

At the time you are inaugurating your mission to the Holy See, I would like to renew to you the expression of my pleasure at the excellent relations enjoyed by the European Communities and the Holy See, and offer you my best wishes, Mr Ambassador, for the successful accomplishment of your noble office. You may rest assured that with my collaborators you will find the welcome and understanding you may need.

Upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family and upon your collaborators, I warmly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.

DURING LUNCHEON WITH SYNOD FATHERS Atrium of Paul VI Audience Hall Saturday, 24 October 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Now is the time to give thanks. First of all to the Lord who convoked us, united us to listen to his Word, the voice of the Holy Spirit, and thus gave us the possibility to find the path of unity in the multiplicity of experiences, unity of faith and communion in the Lord. Therefore, the expression "Church-Family of God" is not only a concept or an idea, it is a real experience we have lived these past weeks: we were truly united, here, as the Family of God. We also did some good work, with the Lord's help.

I would say that the theme itself was not an easy challenge, containing two dangers. The theme "Reconciliation, Justice and Peace" certainly implies a strong political dimension, even if it is obvious that reconciliation, justice and peace are not possible without a deep purification of the heart, without renewal of thought, a metanoia, without that newness which must come precisely from the encounter with God. But even if this spiritual dimension is profound and fundamental, the political dimension also is very real, because without political achievements, these changes of the Spirit usually are not realized. Therefore the temptation could have been to politicize the theme, to talk less about pastors and more about politicians, thus with a competence that is not ours.

The other danger was in order to avoid this temptation to pull oneself into a purely spiritual world, into an abstract and beautiful world, but not a realistic one. A pastor's language, instead, must be realistic, it must touch upon reality, but within the perspective of God and his Word. Therefore this mediation involves, on one hand being truly tied to reality, taking the care to talk about what is, and on the other hand not falling into technically political solutions: this means to demonstrate a concrete but spiritual word. This was the main problem for this Synod and it seems to me that, thanks to God, we managed to resolve it, and for me this is also a reason for thanks because it makes the Post-Synodal Document easier to draft.

Now I would like to return some thanks. Above all I would like to thank the Presidents Delegate who masterfully moderated the meetings of the Synod and also with good humour. I also thank the Relators: we now have seen in practice that they have borne the greatest burden of the work, they worked nights and even on Sundays, they worked at lunchtime and they now truly merit a round of applause from us.

Here I can announce that I have decided to nominate Cardinal Turkson the new President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, successor to Cardinal Martino. Thank you, your Eminence, for having accepted; we are happy to have you among us. Then, I thank all the Fathers, the Fraternal Delegates, the Auditors, the Experts and thanks, above all, to the translators for they too have a part in the story of "creating Pentecost". Pentecost means to understand each other: without translators this bridge to understanding would be missing. Thank you! And my thanks go especially to the Secretary General, his team, who silently guided and organized us very well.

The Synod ends and does not end, not only because the work goes ahead with the Post-Synodal Exhortation; Synodos means common path. Let us remain on the common path with the Lord, let us go before the Lord to prepare the roads, to help him, to open the doors of the world that he may create his Kingdom among us. In this sense my blessing is upon all of you. Let us now say a prayer of thanks for the meal.


Your Eminences,
Most Reverend Superior General of the Society of Jesus,
Distinguished Rector,
Distinguished Professors and
Dear Students of the Pontifical Biblical Institute,

It is with true pleasure that I meet with you on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of your Institute, created by my holy Predecessor Pius X to serve as already mentioned as a centre of specialized study of Sacred Scripture and related disciplines in the city of Rome. I respectfully greet Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, whom I thank for the kind words that he has conveyed to me on your behalf. I likewise greet the Superior General, Fr Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, and I welcome this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the Society of Jesus which, not without notable effort, has invested funds and human resources towards the management of the Faculty of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, the Biblical Faculty here in Rome and the branch of the Institute in Jerusalem. I greet the Rector and the professors, who have devoted their lives to study and research, in constant attention to the word of God. I greet and thank the staff, the employees and the workers for their esteemed collaboration, as well as the benefactors who have placed and continue to place the necessary resources at the disposal of the Pontifical Biblical Institute for the maintenance of its structures and for its activities. I greet all the former students who are spiritually united with us at this moment, and I especially greet you, dear students, who have come from every part of the world.

One hundred years have passed since the birth of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. In the course of this century, interest in the Bible has certainly increased, and much more importance has been given to the word of God in the life and in the mission of the Church, thanks to the Second Vatican Council, especially through the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum in the elaboration of which I was a direct witness, participating as a theologian in the discussions that preceded its approval. This has promoted an authentic spiritual and pastoral renewal in the Christian community, which has particularly concerned preaching, catechesis, theological study and ecumenical dialogue. Your Pontifical Institute has made its own significant contribution to this renewal, through scientific biblical research, the instruction of biblical disciplines and the publication of qualified studies and specialized magazines. Throughout the decades, various generations of distinguished professors have succeeded one another at this point I would like to remember, among others, Cardinal Bea who have educated more than 7,000 professors of Sacred Scripture and promoters of biblical groups, as well as many experts who are currently working in various ecclesiastical services in every region of the world. We give thanks to the Lord for this work of yours that aims to interpret biblical texts in the spirit in which they were written (cf. Dei Verbum DV 12), open to dialogue with other disciplines, with diverse cultures and religions. Even if it has known difficult times, it has been conducted in constant fidelity to the Magisterium, according to the purposes proper to your Institute, founded to: "ut in Urbe Roma altiorum studiorum ad Libros sacros pertinentium habeatur centrum, quod efficaciore, quo liceat, modo doctrinam biblicam et studia omnia eidem adiuncta, sensu Ecclesiae catholicae promoveat" (Pius X, Apostolic Letter Vinea Electa, 7 May 1909: AAS 1, 1909, PP 447-448).

Dear friends, the occasion of your centenary represents a point of arrival and at the same time a point of departure. Enriched by your past experience, continue on your path with renewed commitment, conscious of the service to the Church that is requested of you that of bringing the Bible nearer to the lives of the People of God, so that they may know how to confront the unprecedented challenges that modern times pose to the new evangelization. The common hope is that the Sacred Scripture may become, in this secularized world, not only the soul of theology but also the source of spirituality and of vigour in the faith of all believers in Christ. Therefore may the Pontifical Biblical Institute continue to grow as a qualified ecclesial centre of higher quality study in the field of biblical research, employing modern critical methodologies. In collaboration with specialists in dogma and in other theological areas, may it provide a sound formation for future professors of Sacred Scripture so that, availing themselves of the Biblical languages and of the diverse exegetical methodologies, they may directly plumb the biblical texts.

The aforementioned Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, in this regard, emphasized the legitimacy and the necessity of the historico-critical method, outlining its three essential components: attention to literary genres, study of the historical context and examination of what is called Sitz im Leben. At the same time, the conciliar Document firmly maintains the theological character of exegesis, indicating the strong points of the theological method in the interpretation of the text. This is because the fundamental basis on which the theological understanding of the Bible rests is the unity of Scripture, and this presupposition corresponds in its methodological path to the analogy of the faith, that is, to the comprehension of single texts based on the whole. The conciliar text adds another methodological indication. Since Scripture is one and the same, originating from one People of God, who has borne it throughout history, consequently, to read Scripture as a unified whole means to read it as a product of the People of God, of the Church taken as a place of vital importance, retaining the faith of the Church as a true interpretive key. If exegesis also seeks to be theology, it must recognize that the faith of the Church is that form of "sym-pathy" without which the Bible would remain a closed book; Tradition does not close access to Scripture but rather opens it. On the other hand, the final word in the interpretation of Scripture lies with the Church, through her institutional organisms. It is the Church, in fact, that has been entrusted with the task of authentically interpreting the written and spoken word of God, exercising her authority in the name of Jesus Christ (cf. Dei Verbum DV 10).

Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank you for this welcome visit, I encourage you to pursue your ecclesial service in constant adherence to the Magisterium of the Church. Assuring each of you my support in prayer, I wholeheartedly impart to all, as a pledge of divine favour, the Apostolic Blessing.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you on this day on which you are presenting the Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Holy See. I express to you my gratitude for the courteous words which you have addressed to me, and likewise for the sentiments that you have expressed on behalf of H.E. Mr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Republic. I would be grateful if you were to thank him in return and assure him of my cordial wishes for the entire Nation.

Your presence here this morning manifests your country's interest in developing good relations with the Holy See. Mr Ambassador, as you know through its presence in international institutions and its bilateral relations with numerous Countries, the Holy See aims to defend and promote the dignity of the human person. Thus it seeks to be at the service of the good of the human family, demonstrating particular interest in ethical, moral and humanitarian aspects in relations among peoples. In this perspective, the Holy See aims to strengthen its relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and promote reciprocal understanding and collaboration with a view to the common good.

Iran is a great Nation that possesses eminent spiritual traditions, and its people has a profound religious sensibility. This can be a reason for hope in an increasing openness and a trusting collaboration with the international community. For its part, the Holy See will always be ready to work in conjunction with those who serve the cause of peace and promote the dignity that the Creator bestowed upon every human being. Today everyone must hope for and support a new phase of international cooperation, one that is more solidly founded on humanitarian principles and on effective aid for those who suffer, and depends less on cold calculations of exchange and of technical and economic benefits.

Faith in the one God must bring all believers closer, impelling them to work together for the defense and promotion of fundamental human values. Among the universal rights, religious freedom and freedom of conscience play a fundamental role, because they constitute the basis of the other freedoms. Defense of other rights that stem from the dignity of the person and of peoples particularly the promotion of the safeguarding of life, of justice and of solidarity must be, in turn, the object of true collaboration. Moreover, as I have often had the opportunity to emphasize, it is an urgent necessity of our time to stabilize cordial relations among believers of different religions, in order to construct a world that is more human and in greater harmony with God's plan for Creation. I am therefore pleased with the existence of the regular meetings, on themes of common interest, organized regularly and jointly by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and The Organization of Culture and Islamic Relations. By contributing to the common search for what is just and true, meetings of this kind allow everyone to grow in reciprocal knowledge and to cooperate in reflecting on the important issues concerning human life.

Indeed, Catholics have been present in Iran since the first centuries of Christianity, and they have always been an integral part of the life and the culture of the Nation. This community is truly Iranian and its centuries-old experience of healthy coexistence with Muslim believers is very helpful in the promotion of greater understanding and cooperation. The Holy See feels sure that the Iranian Authorities will be ready to strengthen and guarantee Christians the freedom to profess their faith, and that they will assure the Catholic community the essential conditions for its existence. In particular, these include the possibility to have an adequate number of Religious and to enjoy freedom of movement in the country in order to guarantee their religious service to the faithful. In view of this, I hope that a trusting and sincere dialogue may develop with the Country's institutions, so as to improve the situation of the Christian community and of their activity in the context of civil society, and also to increase their sense of belonging in national life. For its part, the Holy See whose nature and whose mission is precisely to be directly involved in the life of local Churches wishes to make the necessary efforts to assist the Catholic community in Iran to keep alive the signs of the Christian presence, in a spirit of goodwill and understanding with everyone.

Mr Ambassador, I would like to conclude by taking the opportunity of this happy occasion to warmly greet the Catholic community living in Iran, and also their Pastors. The Pope is near to all of the faithful and prays for them so that while perseveringly preserving their own identity and remaining loyal to their land they may collaborate generously with all of their fellow countrymen towards the development of the Nation.

Your Excellency, as you begin your mission to the Holy See, I offer you my best wishes for its success. I assure you that you will always find in my collaborators understanding support in accomplishing its fulfilment.

I wholeheartedly invoke upon you, upon your family, upon your collaborators, and likewise upon all Iranians, an abundance of Blessings of the Almighty.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with great joy that I extend to you my cordial welcome on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. I would first of all like to express my gratitude to Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of your Pontifical Council, for the kind words that he has addressed to me on behalf of you all. I extend my greeting to his collaborators and to you here present, thanking you for the contribution that you make to the work of the Plenary Assembly, and for the service that you render to the Church in the field of social communications.

In these days you are pausing to reflect on the new communication technologies. Even a casual observer can easily see that in our time, thanks to the most modern technologies, a true and proper revolution is underway in the field of social communications, of which the Church is becoming ever more responsibly aware. These technologies, in fact, make rapid and pervasive communication possible, with an ample sharing of ideas and opinions. They transmit information and news, making them easily accessible to all. For some time the Pontifical Council for Social Communications has followed this surprising and swift evolution of the media, making great use of the discourses within the Church's Magisterium. At this point I would like to recall in particular two Pastoral Instructions: Pope Paul VI's Communio et Progressio and John Paul II's Aetatis Novae. Two authoritative documents of my venerable Predecessors, who favoured and promoted a profound awareness of these matters in the Church. Furthermore, the great social changes that have occurred in the last 20 years have demanded and continue to demand an attentive analysis of the presence and the action of the Church in this field. The Servant of God John Paul II in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio (1990) recalled that: "Involvement in the mass media, however, is not meant merely to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel. There is a deeper reality involved here: since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media". And he added, therefore "it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the "new culture' created by modern communications" (n. 37 c.). In fact, modern culture arises from the very existence of new modes of communication that utilize new forms of language rather than from the content, employing new technology and creating new psychological attitudes. All this constitutes a challenge for the Church called to proclaim the Gospel to men and women of the Third Millennium, maintaining the content unchanged, but rendering it comprehensible also thanks to means and methods that are in keeping with today's mentality and culture.

The means of social communication referred to as such in the Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica have today assumed a potential and function that were difficult to foresee at the time. The multi-media character and the structural interactivity of each new kind of media has, in a certain sense, diminished the specificity of every single component, gradually generating a sort of global system of communication. For this reason, even in maintaining the proper, unique character of each means of communication, the world of communication's actual evolution increasingly demands discussion of one single form of communication, which brings together the diverse voices or places them in direct, reciprocal connection. Many among you, dear friends, are experts in this sector and could analyze much more professionally the various dimensions of this phenomenon, including, above all, those that are anthropological. I would like to take the opportunity to invite those who work in the Church in the field of communication and who are responsible for pastoral guidance to respond to the challenges that these new technologies pose to evangelization.

In this year's Message for the World Day of Social Communications, emphasizing the importance that the new technologies hold, I have encouraged those in charge of communication processes at every level to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and the value of the human person; a dialogue rooted in the sincere search for truth and for friendship not as an end in itself, but capable of developing each person's gifts in order to place them at the service of the human community. In this way the Church carries out what we could define as a "diaconate of culture" on the current "digital continent", moving forward to proclaim the Gospel, the only word that can save mankind. It is the task of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to understand in-depth every element of the new media culture, beginning with the ethical aspects, and carrying out a service of orientation and of guidance in order to help the particular Churches to understand the importance of communication, which by now represents a fixed, inalienable aspect of every pastoral plan. Furthermore, it is precisely the nature of the new media that makes an action of consultation, of solidarity and of coordination possible also on a large scale and in the globalized dimension that has been assumed. This, beyond increasing the effective diffusion of the Gospel message, can sometimes prevent a useless dispersion of energy and resources. For believers, the necessary evaluation of the new media technologies must always be sustained by a constant vision of faith, in the knowledge that, beyond the means employed, the effectiveness of the Gospel proclamation depends in the first place on the action of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church and the journey of humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Filmoteca Vaticana by my venerable Predecessor Blessed John XXIII, which has collected and catalogued material filmed from 1896 up to today and which serves to illustrate the history of the Church. Moreover, the Filmoteca Vaticana possesses a rich cultural patrimony, which belongs to the whole of humanity. As I express my warm gratitude for what has already been accomplished, I encourage the continuation of the interesting collection work, which documents the stages of Christianity's journey through the evocative witness of images, so that this heritage may be preserved and known. To you present here I once again extend a "thank you" for the contribution that you make to the Church in such an important field as that of Social Communications, and I assure you of my prayer that the work of your Pontifical Council may continue to bear much fruit. I invoke upon each and everyone the intercession of Our Lady and I impart to all of you the Apostolic Blessing.


Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you on this solemn occasion on which you, Your Excellency, are presenting the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Panama to the Holy See.

I thank you for the kind words which you have extended to me, and also for the respectful greeting on behalf of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Mr Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal. As I recall with esteem the courtesy and cordiality which he showed me during our recent meeting at Castel Gandolfo, I ask you to convey to him my best wishes for the success of his mission.

You, Your Excellency, are here as the representative of a nation that maintains constant and fruitful bilateral relations with the Holy See. The President of Panama's visit which I have just mentioned is a significant sign of the good understanding that exists and that was already demonstrated by the Accord signed on 1 July 2005. It is hoped that it will soon be ratified, thus making possible the creation of an ecclesiastical circumscription to provide pastoral assistance to the Panamanian Police Forces.

Within the framework of respective competencies and reciprocal respect, the Church, in order that her mission may not be confused with that of the State, cannot identify with any specific political agenda. She carries out her works in a natural religious and spiritual sphere which favours the promotion of the dignity of human beings and the safeguard of their fundamental rights. However this distinction does not imply indifference or mutual ignorance, because, although in their different capacities, Church and State cooperate in seeking the common good of the same citizens, placing themselves at the service of their personal and social vocations (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). In the same manner, diplomacy seeks to promote the great cause of mankind and to increase harmony among peoples, and this is why the Holy See holds in high regard and esteem the work that today, you, Your Excellency, are undertaking.

The identity of your Country which has been forged over the course of centuries, like a mosaic of ethnic groups, peoples and cultures shows itself to be the entire human family as an eloquent sign that peaceful coexistence among people of diverse origins is possible, in a climate of communion and cooperation. This human plurality must be considered an enriching element and an aspect that should be strengthened more each day, in the awareness that the human factor is the first asset to be safeguarded and valued (cf. Caritas in Veritate ). In this regard, I encourage all of your fellow citizens to work for greater social, economic and cultural equality in the different sectors of society. So that by renouncing selfish interests, reinforcing solidarity and reconciling aspirations, in the words of Pope Paul vi, "the scandal of glaring inequalities" can be banished (Populorum Progressio PP 9).

The message of the Gospel has played a fundamental and constructive role in shaping Panama's identity, forming part of this Country's spiritual patrimony and cultural heritage. One illuminating testimony of this is the Papal Bull Pastoralis Officii Debitum, with which, on 9 September 1513, Pope Leo X canonically erected the Diocese of Santa María La Antigua, the first on the American Continent's mainland. In order to commemorate the Fifth Centenary of this immensely significant event, the Church in the nation is preparing various initiatives, which demonstrate how rooted the ecclesial community is in its homeland. This community's only aim is the good of its own people, of whom it is a part and whom it has served and will continue to serve with noble ends and generosity. I ask God that this event may deepen the Christian life of all of the beloved sons and daughters of this nation, in such a way that faith may continue to be a source of inspiration to face, in a positive and worthwhile manner, the challenges which this Republic is currently confronting.

In this sense it is appropriate to acknowledge the numerous activities of human and social advancement that are carried out in Panama by the dioceses, parishes, religious communities, lay associations and apostolic movements, contributing decisively to enlivening the present time and to kindling the longing for a better future for the country. Of particular importance is the presence of the Church in the field of education and aid to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the emigrants, as well as in the defence of fundamental aspects such as: the commitment to social justice, the fight against corruption, the work of promoting peace, the inviolability of the right to human life from the moment of conception to that of natural death, as well as the safeguarding of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. These are irreplaceable elements in the creation of a healthy social fabric and a thriving society, precisely thanks to the sound moral values that sustain it, ennoble it and give it dignity.

In this context, I cannot fail to recognize the commitment that the authorities of Panama have repeatedly shown to reinforcing the democratic institutions and building a public life on the solid pillars of ethics. In this regard, relentless efforts are necessary to promote an efficient and independent judicial system, calling for transparency in all sectors and honest community administration and professionalism and diligence in the resolution of problems concerning citizens. All this will encourage the development of a just and fraternal society, in which no sector of the population is forgotten or exposed to violence and marginalization.

The present time invites all of us, the institutions and those responsible for the peoples' future, to reflect seriously on the phenomena that are being produced at international and local levels. It is worth mentioning the valuable role that Panama is playing in the political stabilization of Central America, in times such as the present in which the situation proves that the consistent and harmonious progress of the human community does not depend solely on economic development and technological discoveries. These aspects must necessarily be complemented by others of an ethical and spiritual nature, because a society progresses above all when it has plenty of upright people whose irreprehensible conduct shows their determination to do their utmost for the common good. These are people who also inculcate a true humanism in the new generations, which they sow in the family and cultivate in schools, so that the nation's vitality may be the product of an integral development of the person and of all people (cf. Caritas in Veritate ).

Madam Ambassador, before concluding our meeting, I renew my greeting and my welcome to you, Your Excellency, and to your loved ones, while at the same time wishing you success in your work, together with the staff of this diplomatic mission, for the promotion of your country, so close to the Pope's heart.

With these sentiments, I place in the hands of Mary Most Holy, Nuestra Señora La Antigua, the hopes and challenges of the beloved people of Panama, upon whom I invoke the Lord's abundant Blessings.


Your Eminence,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet this assembly of distinguished astronomers from throughout the world meeting in the Vatican for the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, and I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo for his kind words of introduction. This celebration, which marks the four hundredth anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first observations of the heavens by telescope, invites us to consider the immense progress of scientific knowledge in the modern age and, in a particular way, to turn our gaze anew to the heavens in a spirit of wonder, contemplation and commitment to the pursuit of truth, wherever it is to be found.

Your meeting also coincides with the inauguration of the new facilities of the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo. As you know, the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church’s attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion. I take this occasion to express my gratitude not only for the careful studies which have clarified the precise historical context of Galileo’s condemnation, but also for the efforts of all those committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe. I am particularly grateful to the staff of the Observatory, and to the friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, for their efforts to promote research, educational opportunities and dialogue between the Church and the world of science.

The International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. I think, for example, of the exultation felt by the scientists of the Roman College who just a few steps from here carried out the observations and calculations which led to the worldwide adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science. Who can deny that responsibility for the future of humanity, and indeed respect for nature and the world around us, demand – today as much as ever – the careful observation, critical judgement, patience and discipline which are essential to the modern scientific method? At the same time, the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit.

Knowledge, in a word, must be understood and pursued in all its liberating breadth. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, yet if it aspires to be wisdom, capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be committed to the pursuit of that ultimate truth which, while ever beyond our complete grasp, is nonetheless the key to our authentic happiness and freedom (cf. Jn 8,32), the measure of our true humanity, and the criterion for a just relationship with the physical world and with our brothers and sisters in the great human family.

Dear friends, modern cosmology has shown us that neither we, nor the earth we stand on, is the centre of our universe, composed of billions of galaxies, each of them with myriads of stars and planets. Yet, as we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year – to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe – how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? Contemplating the starry sky, he cried out with wonder to the Lord: “When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?” (Ps 8,4-5). It is my hope that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator, and of that Love which is the underlying motive of his creation – the Love which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, “moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradiso XXXIII, 145). Revelation tells us that, in the fullness of time, the Word through whom all things were made came to dwell among us. In Christ, the new Adam, we acknowledge the true centre of the universe and all history, and in him, the incarnate Logos, we see the fullest measure of our grandeur as human beings, endowed with reason and called to an eternal destiny.

With these reflections, dear friends, I greet all of you with respect and esteem, and I offer prayerful good wishes for your research and teaching. Upon you, your families and dear ones I cordially invoke Almighty God’s blessings of wisdom, joy, and peace.


Mr Ambassador,

I am happy to welcome Your Excellency on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Holy See. I thank you, Mr Ambassador, for the kind words that you have addressed to me. In return, I would be grateful if you would express my cordial good wishes to the President of the Republic, Mr Georgi Purvanov, for himself, as well as for the happiness and success of the Bulgarian people.

For my part, I am pleased about the good relations between Bulgaria and the Holy See, within the dynamic created by the Visit of my Predecessor Pope John Paul II to your country in 2002. These relations must be further intensified, and I was glad to hear you express your intentions to work assiduously to strengthen them and to widen their scope.

This autumn, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall which allowed Bulgaria to make the choice for democracy and to recover free and autonomous relations with the rest of the European Continent. I know that your country today is making significant efforts towards even stronger integration into the European Union of which it has been a part since 1 January 2007. It is important that in the process of building Europe, no people should sacrifice its own cultural identity, but rather find the means to make it bear good fruit to enrich the entire community. Because of its culture and geographical situation, it is particularly fortunate, as you said, that your nation is not only concerned about its own future, but pays great attention to its neighbouring countries and is working to promote their relations with the European Union. Without doubt Bulgaria has an important role to play in the construction of peaceful relations with the nations that surround it, as well as in the defence and promotion of human rights.

As you have also underscored just now, this concern for the common good of peoples cannot be limited to the frontiers of the continent. It is also necessary to create the conditions for successful globalization. In order to achieve this in a positive way it must be able to serve "the whole man and all men". It is this principle that I wished to stress forcefully in my recent Encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Indeed, it is essential that legitimately sought development not concern only the economic domain, but take into account the integrality of the human being. The measure of man does not lie in what he possesses, but in the fulfilment of his being according to all potential implanted in his nature.
This principle finds its ultimate reason in God's creative love, which is fully revealed in the divine Word. In this sense, for the development of man and of society to be authentic, it must necessarily involve a spiritual dimension (cf. nn. 76-77). It also requires on the part of all public authorities a great moral demand on themselves so that they may exercise the authority entrusted to them in an effective and disinterested manner. The Christian culture which profoundly imbues your people is not just a treasure of the past to be preserved, but also a pledge for a truly promising future in which it will protect man from the temptations that always threaten to make him forget his own greatness as well as the unity of the human species and the need for solidarity that it implies.

This intention inspires the Catholic community in Bulgaria in seeking to promote the whole population. This shared concern for the common good constitutes one of the elements which should facilitate dialogue among the many different religious communities which make up the cultural panorama of your ancient nation. This dialogue, in order to be sincere and constructive, requires reciprocal knowledge and esteem that the public authorities could greatly facilitate by the respect that they themselves have for the different spiritual families. For its part, the Catholic community expresses its wish to be generously open to everyone and to work with everyone. It demonstrates this concretely through social work whose benefits it does not limit to its members alone.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I wish to extend my warm good wishes to the Bishops, priests, deacons and all the faithful who make up the Catholic community in your country. I ask them to consider the great wealth that God, in his abundant mercy, has placed in the hearts of believers, and for this reason, to engage boldly, and cooperate as closely as possible with all citizens of good will, in order to witness to the dignity that God has inscribed within man's being at every level.

As Your Excellency is officially beginning your office at the Holy See, I express my best wishes for the success of your mission. You may rest assured, Mr Ambassador, that you will always find among my co-workers all the attention and cordial understanding that your lofty office requires, as well as the affection of the Successor of Peter for your country. As I invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary and Sts Cyril and Methodius, I pray the Lord to bestow generous Blessings on you, your family and your co-workers, as well as on the Bulgarian people and its leaders.



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