Speeches 2005-13 400



Your Excellency,

I am happy to welcome you and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Holy See. I am grateful for the cordial greetings you have conveyed to me from His Majesty the Emperor. In reciprocation, please pass on my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for his health and for the members of the Imperial Family.

I am also glad to greet the Government and all the people of Japan. The Holy See congratulates itself on the excellent relations it has always maintained with your country since they were established almost 60 years ago. They have constantly been marked by cordiality and mutual understanding. Through Your Excellency’s good offices I would therefore like to assure His Imperial Majesty, as well as the Government, of the Holy See’s commitment to pursue and reinforce these relations. Since its entry into the United Nations Organization, Japan has played an important role on the regional and international scene and has contributed significantly to the expansion of peace, democracy and human rights in the Far East and beyond, especially in the world’s developing countries.

Through its diplomatic missions in these States, the Holy See has noted with pleasure the funding that your country has granted for development, as well as other forms of assistance. The repercussions on the beneficiaries are immediate, it is true, but this assistance is certainly an essential cornerstone for the establishment of solid peace and prosperity in the symphony of the world’s nations.

By working in this way to build the unity of the human family, through international cooperation you will help to build a world economy where each one will occupy his proper place and will be able to profit, as never before, from global resources. May I be permitted to encourage your Government to continue its policy of cooperation in development, particularly in the domains that affect the poorest and weakest people?

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the tragic atomic bombing of the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The memory of this sombre episode in the history of humanity becomes more poignant every year, while those who witnessed this horror are disappearing. This tragedy insistently reminds us of how necessary it is to persevere in the effort for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and for disarmament. The nuclear weapon remains a major source of concern. Possession of it and the risk of its possible use give rise to tensions and distrust in many of the world’s regions. Your nation, Mr Ambassador, must be cited as an example for its constant support in the search for political solutions that not only make it possible to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also to prevent war from being seen as a means to resolve conflicts between nations and between peoples.

While sharing with Japan this concern for a world without nuclear weapons, the Holy See encourages all the nations to weave patiently the economic and political bonds of peace that stand like a rampart against every claim of recourse to arms and that make it possible to promote the integral human development of all the peoples (cf.General Audience, 5 May 2010).

A part of the sums allocated for weapons could be redeployed for the development of economic, educational and health-care projects. This would undoubtedly contribute to the inner stability of the country and to stability among peoples (cf. Caritas in Veritate ). Now, in these times of the precarious situation of the market and of employment, the need to find reliable funding for development remains a constant concern.

Difficulties linked to the current world economic recession have not spared any country. In spite of this, Japan’s place in the international economy remains very important and because of the increasing globalization of the commercial system and the movements of capital, which are a reality, the decisions taken by your Government will continue to have an impact far beyond your frontiers. May all people of good will see in the present world economic crisis “an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future” (Caritas in Veritate ), for projects marked by charity in truth, by solidarity and by a commitment to an ethically- oriented economic sphere (ibid., n. 36).

Your country, Your Excellency, has enjoyed freedom of conscience and of worship for many years, and the Catholic Church in Japan thus has the possibility of living in peace and brotherhood with each one. Her members are not only free to commit themselves to Japanese culture and society, but also to play a lively and active role in contemporary Japan, particularly through its universities, schools, hospitals and charitable institutions, which it very willingly puts at the service of the whole community. These institutions have recently been glad to respond also to the needs of migrant populations that have come to Japan and whose situation certainly requires prudent attention and effective aid on the part of the whole of society.

I emphasize even more that the members of the Catholic Church in Japan have long been involved in an open and respectful dialogue with other religions, especially those that are rooted in your nation. The Church has always promoted respect for the human person in his integrity and in his spiritual dimension as an essential element common to all cultures and which is expressed in the personal search for the sacred and in religious practice.

“God is the guarantor of man's true development, inasmuch as, having created him in his image, he also establishes the transcendent dignity of men and women and feeds their innate yearning to ‘be more’” (ibid., n. 29). I would like to assure the Japanese people of the high esteem in which the Catholic Church holds interreligious dialogue, engaging in it with determination in order to encourage mutual trust, understanding and friendship in the interest of the entire human family.

Lastly, Mr Ambassador, may I be permitted to offer you my best wishes, accompanied by my prayers for the success of your mission, and to assure you that the different offices of the Roman Curia are ready to help you in the exercise of your functions. Upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family and upon the noble people of Japan, I cordially invoke an abundance of God’s Blessings.



Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to extend to all of you a warm welcome on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. I thank Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales for the kind words that he has addressed to me on your behalf, and I assure you of my prayers and good wishes for yourselves and for all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care. Your presence here in Rome strengthens the bonds of communion between the Catholic community in the Philippines and the See of Peter, a communion which stretches back over four centuries to the first offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice upon your shores. As this communion of faith and sacrament has nourished your people for many generations, I pray that it may continue to serve as a leaven in the broader culture, so that current and future generations of Filipinos will continue to encounter the joyful message of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To be such a leaven, the Church must always seek to find her proper voice, because it is by proclamation that the Gospel brings about its life-changing fruits (cf. Mc 16,15-16). This voice expresses itself in the moral and spiritual witness of the lives of believers. It also expresses itself in the public witness offered by the Bishops, as the Church’s primary teachers, and by all who have a role in teaching the faith to others. Thanks to the Gospel’s clear presentation of the truth about God and man, generations of zealous Filipino clergymen, religious and laity have promoted an ever more just social order. At times, this task of proclamation touches upon issues relevant to the political sphere. This is not surprising, since the political community and the Church, while rightly distinct, are nevertheless both at the service of the integral development of every human being and of society as a whole. For her part, the Church contributes most toward the building of a just and charitable social order when, “by preaching the truths of the Gospel, and bringing to bear on all fields of human endeavour the light of her doctrine and of a Christian witness, she respects and fosters the political freedom and responsibility of citizens” (Gaudium et Spes GS 76).

At the same time, the Church’s prophetic office demands that she be free “to preach the faith, to teach her social doctrine ... and also to pass moral judgments in those matters which regard public order whenever the fundamental human rights of a person or the salvation of souls requires it” (ibid.). In the light of this prophetic task, I commend the Church in the Philippines for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defence of the integrity of marriage and the family. In these areas you are promoting truths about the human person and about society which arise not only from divine revelation but also from the natural law, an order which is accessible to human reason and thus provides a basis for dialogue and deeper discernment on the part of all people of good will. I also note with appreciation the Church’s work to abolish the death penalty in your country.

A specific area in which the Church must always find her proper voice comes in the field of social communications and the media. The task set before the whole Catholic community is to convey a hope-filled vision of faith and virtue so that Filipinos may find encouragement and guidance on their path to a full life in Christ. A unified and positive voice needs to be presented to the public in forms of media both old and new, so that the Gospel message may have an ever more powerful impact on the people of the nation. It is important that the Catholic laity proficient in social communications take their proper place in proposing the Christian message in a convincing and attractive way. If the Gospel of Christ is to be a leaven in Filipino society, then the entire Catholic community must be attentive to the force of the truth proclaimed with love.

A third aspect of the Church’s mission of proclaiming the life-giving word of God is in her commitment to economic and social concerns, in particular with respect to the poorest and the weakest in society. At the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, the Church in your nation took a special interest in devoting herself more fully to care for the poor. It is heartening to see that this undertaking has borne fruit, with Catholic charitable institutions actively engaged throughout the country. Many of your fellow citizens, however, remain without employment, adequate education or basic services, and so your prophetic statements and your charitable action on behalf of the poor continue to be greatly appreciated. In addition to this effort, you are rightly concerned that there be an on-going commitment to the struggle against corruption, since the growth of a just and sustainable economy will only come about when there is a clear and consistent application of the rule of law throughout the land.

Dear Brother Bishops, as my predecessor Pope John Paul II rightly noted, “You are Pastors of a people in love with Mary” (14 January 1995). May her willingness to bear the Word who is Jesus Christ into the world be for you a continuing inspiration in your apostolic ministry. To all of you, and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your dioceses, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy.

December 2010


Mr. Ambassador,

I welcome you with joy on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hungary to the Holy See and I thank you for your kind words. I am grateful for the respectful greetings you have conveyed to me on behalf of President Dr Pál Schmitt and of the Government, which I cordially reciprocate. At the same time I would like to ask you to assure your compatriots of my esteem and good wishes.

After the renewal of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Hungary in 1990, it has been possible to develop new trust in an active and constructive dialogue with the Catholic Church. At the same time I nourish the hope that the deep wounds of the materialistic vision of man which had taken hold of the hearts and the community of citizens in your country for almost 45 years, may continue to heal in a climate of peace, freedom and respect for the dignity of humankind.

The Catholic faith is undoubtedly one of the pillars of Hungary’s history. When in the distant year 1000 the young Hungarian Prince Stephen received the royal crown Pope Sylvester II sent to him, it came with the mandate to give faith in Jesus Christ room and a home in that land. The personal piety, the sense of justice and the human virtues of this great king are a lofty reference point that is both an incentive and an imperative, then as now, to those who are entrusted with a role of governance or similar responsibility. The State is certainly not expected to impose a specific religion; rather, it should guarantee the freedom to profess and practice the faith. However, politics and the Christian faith overlap.

Of course, faith has its specific nature as an encounter with the living God which opens new horizons for us beyond the sphere proprer to reason. But at the same time it is a purifying force for reason itself that permits it to perform its task better and to see better what pertains to it. It is not a question of imposing rules or modes of behaviour upon those who do not share the faith, its aim is simply to purify reason that wishes to contribute to ensuring here and now, the acknowledgment and attainment of what is good and just (cf. Encyclical Deus Caritas Est ).

In recent years — little more than 20 — since the fall of the iron curtain, an event in which Hungary played a significant role, your country has occupied an important place in the community of peoples. Six years ago Hungary became a member of the European Union. It thus makes an important contribution to the choir of voices of the European States. At the beginning of next year, for the first time Hungary will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Hungary is called upon in a special way to mediate between East and West.

The Sacred Crown, an heirloom of King Stephen, by combining the circular corona graeca with the corona latina placed in an arch over it — both bear the face of Christ and are surmounted by the cross — already shows how East and West should sustain each other and enrich each other with their spiritual and cultural heritage and with the vigorous profession of faith. We can also see this as a leitmotiv for your country.

The Holy See also notes with interest the efforts the political authorities are making to introduce a change in the Constitution. It has expressed its intention to make a reference to the Christian heritage in the Preamble. It is likewise to be hoped that the new Constitution will be inspired by the Christian values, particularly as regards the place of marriage and the family in society and the protection of life.

Marriage and the family constitute a decisive foundation for the healthy development of civil society, countries and peoples. Marriage as a basic form of ordering the relationship between a man and a woman and, at the same time, as a founding cell of the State community has continued to be modelled on biblical faith. In this way, marriage has given Europe its particular aspect and its humanism, also and precisely because it has meant continuously learning and achieving the characteristic of fidelity and self-denial that this implies. Europe would no longer be Europe if this basic cell of the social fabric were to disappear or to be substantially transformed.

We all know how endangered marriage and the family are today — on the one hand because of the erosion of their most intimate values of stability and indissolubility, due to the increasing liberalization of divorce laws and the ever more widespread custom of men and women of cohabiting without legal sanction and the protection of marriage, and, on the other, because of the different forms of union that have no basis in the history of culture and law in Europe. The Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that imply the support of alternative models of life for couples and the family. They contribute to the weakening of the principles of natural law and thus to the relativization of all legislation, as well as of the awareness of values in society.

“As society becomes ever more globalized, it makes us neighbours but does not make us brothers” (Encyclical Caritas in Veritate ). Reason is capable of guaranteeing the equality between people and of giving stability to their civic coexistence but, ultimately, cannot establish brotherhood. This originates in a transcendent vocation of God, who created men and women out of love and taught us through Jesus Christ what fraternal charity is. Brotherhood, in a certain sense, is the other facet of liberty and equality. It opens man to altruism, to a civic sense, to attention to others. Indeed, a human person only finds him- herself once the mentality focused on individual claims are overcome and develop into an attitude of giving freely and of genuine solidarity, which corresponds better to the person’s communitarian vocation.

The Catholic Church, like the other religious communities, plays a significant role in Hungarian society. She commits herself on a broad scale with her institutions in the fields of education and culture, as well as those of social assistance, and in this way contributes to moral construction, that is truly useful to your country. The Church trusts that she will be able to continue, with the support of the State, to carry out and intensify this service for the good of the people and for the development of your country. May collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in this area grow in the future too for the benefit of all.

Distinguished Mr Ambassador, at the beginning of your noble office I wish you every success in your mission while at the same time I assure you of the full support of my collaborators. May Mary Most Holy, Magna Domina Hungarorum, extend her own protective hand over your country. I warmly implore for you, Mr Ambassador, for your family and for your collaborators, in the Embassy and for the entire population of Hungary, an abundance of divine Blessings.


Mr Ambassador,

In receiving from your hands the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Costa Rica to the Holy See, I warmly thank you for your respectful words. I also cordially thank you for the kind greeting you have passed on to me from H.E. Ms Laura Chinchilla Miranda, President of the Republic, which I reciprocate with pleasure and with my best wishes for the success of her service at the head of this beloved nation, so deeply united to the Apostolic See by close and cordial relations and by the special devotion of the Costa Ricans to the Successor of Peter.

Your presence at this solemn ceremony, Your Excellency, revives in my heart sentiments of affection and benevolence for the deeply loved Costa Rican people. Last 2 August, they commemorated with great joy the 375th anniversary of the discovery of the venerable image of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Our Lady of the Angels), their heavenly Patroness. As I join in your thanksgiving to the Almighty on this most happy occasion, I do not doubt that the Jubilee Year you are celebrating will produce abundant fruits of Christian life. It will also be a special opportunity to thank the Virgin for the favours received and to raise a prayer for all the needs of this noble country, which wishes to continue, under the protection of the Mother of God, on paths of reciprocal understanding and harmony in an atmosphere of true brotherhood and provident solidarity.

It could not be otherwise, in your homeland which deserves the special interest of the Holy See. In it beauty becomes mountain and plain, river and sea, breeze and wind which give an impetus to a hospitable people proud of its traditions; a people which centuries ago welcomed the seed of the Gospel and saw it spring up vigorously in countless initiatives of education, health care and human promotion.

Thus the children of your homeland know well that, in Christ, the Son of God, man can always find the strength to combat poverty, domestic violence, unemployment and corruption, seeking social justice, the common good and the integral progress of the person.

No one can feel excluded from the achievements of these lofty goals. In this context the Public Authority must be the first to seek what benefits all by working principally as a moral force that can strengthen the freedom and the sense of responsibility of each one. And it must do all this without diminishing the fundamental values that constitute the backbone of the person’s inviolable dignity, starting with the firm protection of human life.

In this regard, I am pleased to recall that the Pact of San José, which recognizes the value of human life from its conception, was signed in your country. Thus it is to be hoped that Costa Rica will not violate the rights of the nasciturus [unborn child] with laws that legitimize in vitro fertilization and abortion.

The desire to shape the broad trajectory of reciprocal collaboration, healthy independence and reciprocal respect between the Holy See and Costa Rica recently came into being, thereby strengthening further the fruitful relations in your homeland that exist between the Church and the State.

Following through matters of common interest and paying attention to detail the laws and obligations of the signatories will help in continuing — in a permanent way, more in line with the current circumstances — to guarantee their traditional and fruitful interest with a view to the greater good of the Nation’s religious and civic life and to benefiting those who are the object of these concerns.

With this meeting, I would like to assure you, Mr Ambassador that in these days I have especially remembered Costa Rica in my prayers because of the sorrowful consequences of the torrential rains in the country. I have also asked God to grant that your homeland may not cease to consolidate the procedures that make it a reference point for peace in the eyes of the international community.

For this reason it is important that those in charge of its destiny do not hesitate to reject firmly impunity, juvenile delinquency, child labour, injustice and the drug trade; and that they promote important measures for civil security, a satisfactory education for children and young people, the proper attention to prisoners and effective healthcare for all, especially the neediest and the elderly, as well as programmes that enable people to obtain suitable housing and dignified employment.

It is also fundamental that new generations be convinced that conflicts are not won with mere force but rather by converting hearts to good and to truth, by ending to poverty and illiteracy, by strengthening the State of rights and by invigorating the independence and effectiveness of the tribunals of justice.

The reinforcement in society of the fundamental pillar constituted by stability and the union of families will greatly help to broaden this horizon. The family is an institution which, perhaps more than any other, is suffering from the assault of the extensive and rapid changes in society and culture. Nevertheless it cannot lose its true identity since it is called to be a nursery of human and Christian virtues in which children can learn from their parents in a natural way to respect and understand each other and to grow up as exemplary individuals, believers and citizens.

Consequently, nothing that encourages, protects or sustains the family founded on the marriage between a man and a woman will be in vain. In this regard the Church will never tire of providing young people special encouragement so that they may discover the beauty and greatness that faithfully and generously serving matrimonial love and the transmission of life brings.

The defence of peace will likewise be facilitated by the protection of the environment, since they are two closely connected realities. In this regard, Costa Rica, the standard-bearer of friendship and good understanding between nations, is also distinguished for its protection of the environment and for the search for balance between human development and the preservation of resources. This implies a joint and responsible reflection on this most important issue, for the sake of “that covenant between human beings and the environment which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying” (Message for the World Day of Peace 2008, n. 7). To this end I encourage all Costa Ricans to continue to strengthen everything that encourages authentic human development, in harmony with creation and avoiding false interests that lack farsightedness in a matter of such transcendence.

To conclude, I would like to express to you, Mr Ambassador, my best wishes for the mission you are beginning today. Please rest assured that in carrying it out you always find on behalf of my collaborators the help you need. With these sentiments, I place under the gaze of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles so widely venerated in your country and throughout Central America, the Authorities and the beloved Costa Rican people, imploring her to sustain with her motherly love all the children of your homeland so that, relying on their rich spiritual heritage they may contribute to ever greater solidarity among people and peoples.

As a pledge of abundant divine gifts, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, Your Excellency, and to your family, as well as to the personnel of this Diplomatic Mission.


Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers of the Episcopate,
Distinguished Professors and Collaborators,

I receive you with joy at the end of your annual Plenary Session. First of all, Your Eminence, I wish to express my warm thanks to you for the words of tribute that you have addressed to me, on behalf of all, in your capacity as President of the International Theological Commission. The work of this eighth quinquennium of the Commission, as you recalled, confronts the following weighty topics: theology and its methodology; the question of the one God in relation to the three monotheistic religions; the integration of the Church's social doctrine in the broader context of Christian doctrine.

“The love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2Co 5,14-15). How can we fail to feel that this beautiful reaction of Paul's to the encounter with Christ is not also our own. This very experience is at the root of the three themes into which you have delved during the Plenary Session just concluded.

Whoever has discovered in Christ the love of God, instilled in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, wishes to know better the One who loves him and whom he loves. Knowledge and love sustain one another in turn. As the Fathers of the Church said, whoever loves God is impelled to become, in a certain sense, a theologian, one who speaks with God, who thinks of God and seeks to think with God; whereas the professional work of a theologian is, for some, a vocation of great responsibility before Christ, before the Church. To be able to study God himself professionally and to be able to speak of him – contemplari et contemplata docere (St Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., lib. 3 d. 35, q. 1, art. 3, qc. 1, arg. 3) – is a great privilege.

Your reflection on the Christian vision of God will be a precious contribution both to the life of the faithful and to our dialogue with believers of other religions and with non-believers. In fact, the word “theo-logy” itself reveals the communicative aspect of your work – in theology we seek – through the “logos”, to communicate what “we have seen and heard” (1Jn 1,3). But we know well that the word “logos” has a very broad meaning that also comprehends the sense of “ratio”, “reason”. And this leads us to a second point of great importance. We can think of God and communicate what we have thought because he has endowed us with a reason in harmony with his nature. It is not by chance that John begins with the affirmation, “In the beginning there was the Logos... and the Logos was God” (cf. Jn 1,1). To accept the Logos – this Divine thought – is ultimately to contribute to peace on earth. Indeed, to know God in his true nature is also the certain way to secure peace. A god that is not seen as the font of forgiveness, of justice and of love, cannot be a light on the path of peace.

Since man always strives to connect the different branches of his knowledge, the knowledge of God is also organized in a systematic way. Yet no theological system can subsist unless it is permeated by love of the divine “Object”, which in theology must necessarily be the “Subject” that speaks to us and with whom we are in a relationship of love. Thus, theology must always be fed by dialogue with the divine Logos, Creator and Redeemer. Moreover, theology is not theology unless it is integrated into the life and reflection of the Church through time and space. Yes, it is true that in order to be scientific theology must argue rationally, but it must also be faithful to the nature of ecclesial faith: centred on God, rooted in prayer, in a communion with the other disciples of the Lord guaranteed by communion with the Successor of Peter and with the whole Episcopal College.

The consequence of this acceptance and transmission of the Logos is also the fact that the very rationality of theology helps to purify human reason, liberating it from certain prejudices and ideas that can exercise a strong influence on the thought of every age. It should, moreover, be pointed out that theology always lives in a continuity and in a dialogue with the believers and theologians who came before us; since ecclesial communion is diachronic, so also is theology. The theologian never begins from zero, but considers as teachers the Fathers and theologians of the whole Christian tradition. Rooted in Sacred Scripture, read with the Fathers and Doctors, theology can be the school of sanctity, as witnessed by Bl. John Henry Newman. To discover the permanent value of the riches passed down from the past is no small contribution of theology to the symphony of the sciences.

Christ died for us all, though we do not not all know and accept it. Having received the love of God, how can we not love those for whom Christ gave his own life? “[H]e laid down his life for us; we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jn 3,16).

All this leads us to serve others in the name of Christ; in other words the social commitment of Christians derives necessarily from the manifestation of divine love. Contemplation of the revealed God and charity for our neighbour cannot be separated, even if they live according to different charisms. In a world that often values the many gifts of Christianity – such as, for example, the idea of democratic equality – without understanding the root of its own ideals, it is particularly important to show that the fruits die if the roots are severed from the tree. Indeed, there is no justice without truth, and justice does not develop fully if its horizon is limited to the material world. For us Christians, social solidarity always has a prospect of eternity.

Dear theologian friends, our meeting today shows in a precious and special way the indispensable unity that must reign between theologians and Pastors. It is impossible to be theologians in solitude: theologians need the ministry of the Church's Pastors, just as the Magisterium needs theologians who fulfil their service totally, with all the ascesis that this implies. Through your Commission, therefore, I wish to thank all theologians and encourage them to have faith in great value of their commitment. In offering you my best wishes for your work, I impart my Blessing to you with affection.

Speeches 2005-13 400