Speeches 2000 - Friday 26 May 2000

3. As something gratuitous, art reminds us that man and society cannot be reduced to efficiency at all costs. Cultural assets has the precise function of opening people to the meaning of the mystery and the revelation of the absolute, for they bear a message. For its part, religious art proclaims the divine in its own way and prepares the soul for contemplation of the Christian mysteries, by making understood through symbolic expression what words have great difficulty in expressing and by inviting Trinitarian prayer and devotion to the saints.

I thank you for all the work accomplished by your international union. As I entrust you to the intercession of the Theotokos, whose mystery has inspired countless artists, I cordially grant you a special Apostolic Blessing as a sign of my esteem, and I willingly extend it to your families and to all the members of your various institutions.



Friday, 26 May 2000

Mr Ambassador,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Holy See. In accepting your Letters of Credence, I wish to thank His Excellency President Constantinos Stephanopoulos and the members of the Government for the greetings and kind expression of esteem which you present on their behalf.

I am pleased to note Your Excellency’s determination to promote our bilateral relations in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect. I assure you that the Holy See is no less committed in its efforts to do likewise. I am also grateful for your words of appreciation for the Holy See’s diplomatic activity, by which it seeks to render a quite particular service to the human family. This is a service motivated not by any national interest, nor by narrowly institutional or confessional views, but by loving concern for the common good of all peoples and nations. Nowadays, diplomacy must also face the challenges presented by globalization in order to overcome threats to peace and development such as the poverty of countless human beings, social inequalities, ethnic tensions, environmental pollution and respect for human rights and political freedom. These are the prime threats to stability and they are the questions which diplomacy needs to address.

Efforts to address these questions will founder unless they are based upon an objective criterion of moral accountability. The effort to establish an international court of justice for crimes against humanity is one expression of the demand for such a criterion in international public opinion. Yet ironically, the call for an objective criterion of moral accountability is in many cases accompanied by the spread of a relativistic approach to truth, which effectively denies any objective criterion of good and evil. The root of this dilemma, with its grave consequences for the life of society, is the tendency to exalt individual autonomy at the expense of the bonds which unite us and make us responsible for one another. Society needs a coherent vision which embraces both the dignity and inalienable rights of each individual, especially the weakest and most vulnerable, and a clear consciousness of the fundamental values and relationships which ultimately constitute the common good (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 47). It is this vision which the Holy See seeks to promote through its diplomatic activity.

Within Europe, such a vision is especially important at this time when there is a new impulse towards unity on various levels. The drive towards economic and political unity however will not succeed without what you yourself have called the spiritual edification of Europe. Anything less than a union based upon moral and spiritual values would be unworthy of the deepest traditions and accomplishments of Europe, to which your own country has contributed so much. The Hellenistic culture which Christianity encountered in its early centuries proved to be the rich soil in which the seed of the Gospel took root and flowered in ways that raised the human spirit to exalted levels of thought and action. Greek culture has been a vital element in the shaping of European society down to our own days, and today Greece has a vital role to play in the process of integration now taking place in Europe.

At the beginning of the new millennium it is not enough to look back upon past achievements. There is much that must be done. If Europe is to be faithful to its finest traditions and aspirations, if there is to be that new unity desired by so many, then Europe must draw afresh from the deep springs of true humanism which brought those traditions and aspirations to birth. This is a humanism which flows from the truth of the human person created in the image of God and therefore possessing an inviolable dignity and inalienable rights, including the fundamental right to religious freedom. From this vision of the human person there rises that true and noble concept of human society which recognizes that we are responsible for one another, and which therefore demands an ethic of solidarity. This is why it becomes especially urgent to construct an ever more deeply rooted ethic of solidarity and culture of dialogue, since these alone are the path to a peaceful future.

Mr Ambassador, as you enter the community of diplomats accredited to the Holy See, I assure you that the various offices will do all they can to assist you in the discharge of your duties. May your mission serve to strengthen the bonds of understanding and friendship between Greece and the Holy See; and may these bonds contribute richly to the well-being of your nation. Upon yourself, your family and the people of the Hellenic Republic I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



To the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales

I warmly greet you as the General Chapter of your Congregation meets in Rome. In particular, I welcome the Superior General, Father Émile Mayoraz, the members of the Council, the Provincials and the representatives of the nine Provinces of the Congregation. I join you all in giving thanks to God for the many graces bestowed upon the Church through the generous and devoted work of your members since the foundation of the Congregation by Father Pierre-Marie Mermier in 1838.

Father Mermier’s decision to found the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales was prompted by the spiritual needs of French society in his own time. Following the upheavals of the early years of the nineteenth century, the consequent decline of religious knowledge and practice called for a determined missionary approach, to rouse people from their apathy and urge them to be converted. Inspired by Saint Francis de Sales’ simplicity, benevolence and confidence, Father Mermier imitated his evangelizing fervour and quickly gathered about himself a group of priests committed to prayer, study and missionary work in the spirit of the saintly Bishop of Geneva.

Today, that same spirit continues to inspire your Congregation, which is present in many parts of the world, and continues to grow and make progress. Guided by the deep spirituality and evangelical creativity of your Founder, you look to Saint Francis de Sales as your heavenly Patron and seek to implement his teaching and example in your apostolate.

The General Chapter has come together to reflect upon your missionary commitment, your educational activities and social apostolate, and to refresh your dedication to the work of evangelization. I am confident that this will be an occasion for all of you to be strengthened in charity, to imitate your Patron’s surrender to God’s will and “to reflect his love of God and of neighbour, his apostolic zeal, his humility and simplicity, his joy and his optimism, his welcoming attitude, and his sympathy for everything human” (Constitution, 13).

The Chapter is taking place in this special year of grace when the whole Church celebrates the Great Jubilee, when the entire Christian community is called “to lift its eyes of faith to embrace new horizons in proclaiming the Kingdom of God” (Bull of Indiction Mysterium Incarnationis, 2). Today, more than ever, people need to hear the message of salvation which our Lord Jesus Christ made known “when the fullness of time had come” (Ga 4,4) and to welcome into their lives the mercy of God who makes us his adopted children and heals the wounds of our hearts. All Christ’s disciples should have a deep sense of the need to pass on to others the light and joy of the faith. As missionaries, you especially should feel invigorated in the knowledge that you bring to the world the true Light of the nations, Christ the Saviour, in whom all humanity “can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth” (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 53). The preaching of the Gospel ad gentes, to which you are deeply committed, is essential to the Church’s mission “to reveal and communicate the love of God to all peoples and nations” (Ad Gentes AGD 10). With the confidence born of faith I encourage you to press on in this task, secure in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit, who directs the mission of the Church and opens people’s minds and hearts to Christ, goes ahead of you.

In fidelity to the spirit of Saint Francis de Sales and to the charism of your Founder, I invite you to be attentive to the new challenges of our times and to be creative in responding to emerging missionary needs. Your work of evangelization will be effective provided that you are committed to an intense life of prayer, always open to receiving the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Trust in God’s Providence, which is always at work in the world, will help you to meet the challenges before you, and will make your contribution to the building of the Kingdom bear fruit in your various activities: missions and retreats, the education of the young, the training of seminarians and the social apostolate. In the field of education you must bear radical witness to the values of the Gospel, and instruct young people in the ways of unselfish commitment and holiness. Your students, as Saint John Bosco so memorably put it, “should not only be loved, but should also know that they are loved” (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 96). In serving the poor, you must be simple and austere in your way of life, and you must love them in a dedicated and self-giving way, as Christ did. It is my prayer that the Lord will continue to bless the work of your Congregation and inspire many young people to give themselves joyfully and generously to his service as Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales.

In the joy of this Easter season, I entrust you to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, and to the intercession of Saint Francis de Sales. I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to all the members of the Congregation, to your benefactors and to all whom you serve.

From the Vatican, 27 May 2000


Saturday 27 May 2000

A cordial greeting to all of you, dear sponsors, organizers and participants in the "Spring Marathon", which is being run in the context of Catholic Schools Day. Your significant demonstration is being held for the 20th time. And this year it is an extraordinary occasion, the Spring Marathon of the Jubilee. This happy coincidence has prompted the organizing committee to involve not only Lazio's Catholic schools but also its State schools, to offer everyone a time of celebration which highlights the values of joy and brotherhood.

As you run through the streets of Rome, you will carry a message of hope: you will show that it is possible to create a future of peace and justice, and to remove every form of exploitation and oppression. Schools, at every level, must be a training ground for facing the challenges arising in our time. The years to be spent in the classroom are a precious cultural opportunity for you, dear students, and you should make the most of it. For you, dear teachers, they are an opportunity to impart not only ideas and scientific data, but to communicate an authentic experience of life. For you, dear families, they are important years to spend with your children, so that by dialogue and constant cooperation between you and the school, they will learn how to build their future on the fundamental human and Christian values of life.

In wishing you all a happy day of celebration and friendship, I officially open your Marathon and, as I implore Mary to grant her motherly protection to you and to all Catholic schools, I cordially bless you.


Saturday 27 May 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Welcome to Rome, where you have come for your Jubilee pilgrimage. Here you intend to strengthen your profession of faith by drawing abundantly from the sources of grace which God, rich in mercy, lavishes on his children with particular intensity in this Holy Year.

First of all, I welcome the pilgrims from the Diocese of Pozzuoli. I greet Bishop Silvio Padoin, your Pastor, and I thank him for his respectful words to me on your behalf. Your presence reminds me in a way of the visit I had the joy of making to your city 10 years ago. Thank you for the sentiments you have expressed to me this morning. In addressing you and your Pastor, I would like to express again my closeness and encouragement to all the members of the diocesan community whom you represent.

You are members of an ancient Church visited by the Apostle Paul, who traveled to Rome under armed escort. The very thoughtful welcome shown to those travelers of the Gospel has continued unaltered down the centuries in the characteristic warmth of the people of Pozzuoli. Their hospitality, their willingness to be seriously challenged by the Gospel and their heartfelt concern in assisting the needy are values that have been handed down to you as a legacy and which you must also foster as an essential feature of your fidelity to Christ.

2. Faithful to the Gospel, your people in the past two millennia have preserved the faith and the bond of communion with the Head of the Apostolic College. Nothing has ever weakened this fidelity: neither difficulties nor suffering, neither obstacles nor even the natural disasters - volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, bradyseisms - which have struck your land.

After passing through the Holy Door, your community now intends to pursue its journey. Continue to bear witness with trust. The history of holiness written by the Church of Pozzuoli in these 2,000 years, as your Bishop recalled, is a strong incentive to continue to devote yourselves generously to missionary work. Accompany every apostolic initiative with the tireless work of human development, so that Christ's message will reach the roots. Vast are the areas that need your intervention. I am thinking of the phenomenon of unemployed youth, who are very numerous in your region and throughout southern Italy. Do all you can to instil trust in those who want to find their place in society's productive process. By doing so, you will help to inspire serenity in their hearts and in their families.

3. I know that the rapid urban development which has affected the whole Phlegraean region makes exacting demands on the formation of a community that is cohesive, welcoming, open to solidarity and steadfast in its ancient traditions of faith and charity. In all your actions may it be your concern to create a favourable climate for an orderly civil society that respects the rights and duties of each person.

Here I would like to repeat to you what I said during the visit to your city that I mentioned above: "Try to react courageously without giving in to passive resignation, which extinguishes all potential inner resources. Do not take it for granted that the situation can never change. Think above all of the young people and their future; insist in all legitimate ways that the authorities not let you down. And be aware that one can only build a city worthy of man if a generous contribution is made by all" (Insegnamenti, XIII/2, 1133).

4. I am sure the pastoral visit which your Bishop is about to conclude in the various parts of the Diocese, and for which I wish every success, will make a decisive contribution to the greater effectiveness of this apostolic work. It will help you make every effort so that no one will be deprived of the liberating proclamation of the Good News of Christ. Accompany your every pastoral action with many prayers. The Lord will not fail to make your efforts bear fruit.

A great hope in this regard is the increase in priestly ordinations, which have strengthened and rejuvenated the presbyterate, and the promising presence of many seminarians. Continue to call upon the Lord so that he will never let his vineyard lack priests and consecrated men and women.

5. I now extend a cordial greeting to the faithful from the parishes of Holy Infant Mary of Pojana Maggiore and St John the Baptist in Cicogna; St Euphemia in Carinaro; St Alexander in Albizzate, St Barnabas in Rosaro di Grezzana; St Angelus in Salute di Gatteo; St Mary of the Assumption in Gisso; and St Blase in Piombino Dese. Dear friends, when you return to your parishes bring everyone the greeting of the Pope, who follows the progress of all your communities with prayer. Always be faithful to the Gospel.

Lastly, I greet the members from Abruzzo and Molise of Italy's National Sailors' Association; the Agorà Cultural Association of Sirignano; the Neapolitan members of the Recreation Club for civil servants of the Campania Region, as well as the faithful from Marconia. My wish for everyone is that the providential time of the Holy Year will be a forceful call to make yourselves instruments of the Lord's grace, for he brings salvation and renewal to the poor in spirit who are open to truth.

6. Praised be Jesus Christ!

With great pleasure I greet each of you, dear members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, who have come to visit me for your Jubilee. I extend an affectionate greeting to your Pastors who are accompaning you at this moment of deep ecclesial communion. My respectful thoughts also go to the general and to the other officers for their significant participation in today's meeting.

Your Jubilee journey, which began at the Lourdes Grotto, pauses today at the tombs of the Apostles. Dear friends, draw from this moment of reflection and prayer the strength and courage to adhere faithfully to the Gospel and, in the name of Christ, to become authentic servants of justice and peace.

May God help you to carry out your mission. I entrust you to the heavenly intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church. May the Blessed Virgin grant all your good desires.

With these sentiments, I bless you all.

7. As I thank you all again for your presence, I invoke upon everyone the loving protection of the Mother of the Church, to whom popular piety pays special devotion in this Marian month, and cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.





To Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela

Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference

1. On the occasion of the meeting of Spanish priests to honour St John of Avila on the fifth centenary of his birth, I would like to extend a cordial greeting to the Pastors and priests of the various Spanish Dioceses who have wished to commemorate this event solemnly at the tomb of the principal patron of the Spanish secular clergy in the Cordovan city of Montilla.

I am doing so as I still have a vivid memory of my visit to the Holy Places and, in particular, to the Upper Room from where I sent a Letter to all priests, as I recalled what happened there on that night charged with mystery and saw in my mind's eye Jesus and the Apostles seated at table with him (cf. Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2000, n. 2). From that time "began a new presence of Christ for the world, a presence which constantly occurs wherever the Eucharist is celebrated and a priest lends his voice to Christ" (ibid., n. 13). The celebration of this meeting must be a new sign of gratitude to the Lord for the gift of his abiding presence among his own through the priestly ministry, of which St John of Avila is an ever timely model.

2. In fact, at a historical moment full of controversies and profound changes, John of Avila was able to face the great challenges of his era with fortitude, in a way known only to men of God: by relying unconditionally on Christ, full of love for his brethren and impatient to bring them the light of the Gospel. This was the mystery of his extensive apostolic work, his vast literary output and his creativity in the task of evangelizing all areas of society. The example of his life and holiness is the best lesson that he continues to impart to today's priests, who are also called to give new vigour to evangelization in circumstances that are frequently disconcerting because of rapid changes or the vast diversity of mentalities and cultures, sometimes intermingled in the same context. He teaches us that there is a culture of the spirit from which flow the serenity and far-sightedness required to face the most complicated personal and pastoral situations by helping us to distinguish between ephemeral, superficial aspects and those which indicate what the Spirit is truly saying to the Church today (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 23).

3. Imbued with this culture, John of Avila found the path which gave fullness to his life and meaning to his ministry. No difficulty, not even the injustice of persecution, could separate him from what was most essential in his life: to be a minister and apostle of Jesus Christ. He wanted to pass on this desire to many others, working courageously so that priests would respond suitably to the ambitious project of ecclesial renewal in their time with a deep interior life, a rigorous intellectual formation, an unfailing fidelity to the Church and a constant desire to bring Christ to others.

As they face the challenges of the new evangelization, his example also offers encouragement and light to today's priests who, as stewards of God's mysteries, are at the very heart of the Church where she is built on firm foundations and gathers in charity. For this reason, as John of Avila's concern for all the areas which form and enrich the Christian community also shows, priests bear that sign of universality which marks the Church of Christ, in which all charisms are welcomed and no person or thing should feel misunderstood or rejected in the one ecclesial community.

4. With these sentiments, I would like to express my best wishes that this meeting will strengthen the bonds of brotherhood between priests and their close communion with their Bishops, that it will support them in their vocation, so that they can better serve the pilgrim People of God in the various regions of Spain with generosity, "purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God" (2Co 6,6-7). As I entrust those taking part in this meeting and all other Spanish priests to the motherly care of the Blessed Virgin Mary and ask the Lord, through the intercession of St John of Avila, to continue to call many sons of this noble land to proclaim the Gospel within and beyond its borders, I am pleased to impart to them my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 10 May 2000, the liturgical memorial of St John of Avila.




To Reverend Mother

Lina Colombini
Superior General
of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

1. I joyfully join the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in thanking the Lord on the 150th anniversary of the birth of its foundress, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, and the 50th anniversary of her being proclaimed patroness of immigrants. These happy occasions, which enrich the Jubilee journey of your institute, are special opportunities to rediscover the zeal and creative love of your charism in view of the new challenges arising from the world of human mobility.

On this occasion, I first want to thank you on behalf of the poor and needy, who experience God's tenderness in you, dear Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Along with them, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude for the great good that you untiringly accomplish, following in the footsteps of your holy foundress.

2. Frances Cabrini was born and baptized on 15 July 1850 in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano in northern Italy, to a family rich in faith and piety. Early in life she began her journey as a disciple of the Lord, who led her to the heights of sanctity in mysterious and unforeseen ways.

The turning-point in her life was entering the "House of Providence" in Codogno, where tribulations and difficulties strengthened her missionary fervour and her resolve to dedicate herself totally to the Lord. She received the religious habit, and while keeping the name Frances, later added Xavier to it in memory of the great Jesuit missionary and patron of the missions. Thanks to the encouragement and support of Bishop Domenico Maria Gelmini of Lodi, Sr Frances Xavier left the "House of Providence" with seven companions to found your institute in an old Franciscan monastery. First called the "Salesian Missionaries of the Sacred Heart", they received diocesan approval in 1881.
Pope Leo XIII asked her to care for poor Italian immigrants Mother Cabrini asked her sisters for evangelical obedience, mortification, renunciation, vigilance of the heart and interior silence as necessary virtues for conforming their lives to Christ and for fostering and living their missionary desires. Vocations surprisingly blossomed and the institute rapidly expanded in Lombardy and beyond the region, with the opening of the first house in Rome and papal approval of the "Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus" on 12 March 1888, scarcely eight years after their foundation.

The famous words of Pope Leo XIII to your foundress, "Not to the East, but to the West", are well known. She longed to go to China, but his words gave new energy and direction to her missionary zeal. The invitation of the Vicar of Christ directed her towards the masses of immigrants who, at the end of the 1800s, were crossing the ocean in large numbers to the United States of America, often in conditions of extreme poverty.

3. From that moment on, Mother Cabrini's tireless apostolic work was more and more inspired by her desire to bring salvation to all, and in a hurry. She used to say: "The Heart of Jesus does things in such a hurry that I can barely keep up with him". With a group of sisters she left for New York on the first of many voyages in which, as a messenger of hope, she would achieve ever new goals in her tireless apostolate: Nicaragua, Brazil and Argentina, in addition to France, Spain and England.
Armed with remarkable boldness, she started schools, hospitals and orphanages from nothing for the masses of the poor who ventured into the new world in search of work. Not knowing the language and lacking the wherewithal to find a respectable place in American society, they were often victims of the unscrupulous. Her motherly heart, which gave her no peace, reached out to them everywhere: in hovels, prisons and mines. Never intimidated by toil or distance, Mother Cabrini traveled from New York to New Jersey, from Pennsylvania to Illinois, from California to Louisiana and Colorado. Even today in the United States, where she is still familiarly called "Mother Cabrini", there is a surprisingly deep devotion to someone who, while loving her country of origin, wanted to take American citizenship.

She was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1938, just 21 years after her death in Chicago on 22 December 1917, and was canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII. In the Holy Year of 1950, he proclaimed her patroness of immigrants: this little woman who, by defending the dignity of those forced to live far from their country, had became an indomitable peacemaker.

4. Reverend Mother, these jubilee anniversaries, which your Family is celebrating in the Holy Year 2000, prompt you to look with renewed intensity at the profound motives that made St Frances Xavier Cabrini an intrepid missionary of Christ and sustained her tireless and prophetic work on behalf of the very poor.

Her extraordinary activity - as you well know - drew its strength from prayer, especially from long periods before the tabernacle. Christ was everything to her. Her constant concern was to discern his will in the directives of the Church's Magisterium and in the events of life themselves.

Dear sisters, seeking the will of the divine Bridegroom should also be the centre of your lives. At the school of Jesus' Heart, you can learn to hear the cries of the poor, in order to respond in the best way to their material and spiritual problems. This is the mission that your Mother is entrusting to you at the beginning of a new millennium, so full of expectation and hope, but also marked by the bleeding wounds in the living body of humanity, especially in the poorest countries of the world.

Recent General Chapters have called you to the spirituality of the Incarnation as an expression of Jesus' love for humanity.

Furthermore, in these years you have made options for the poor and defenceless, which have prompted you to share the difficult conditions of the favelas and the rural areas of North-East Brazil. You have also cared for street children and have worked to promote the dignity of women.
Today's complex migrations, which have partly changed direction from times past, have spurred you to incarnate the spirit of Mother Cabrini with creativity and generosity in the modern, unprecedented situations of migrants. You have opened your houses to immigrant families and enrolled their children in your schools. You have become actively involved in numerous shelters, where today's stories and faces often seem to recall the problems and needs of your holy foundress' time: obtaining residence permits, language instruction, integration into society and help for the undocumented in detention centres.

5. This apostolic fervour, open to ever-growing collaboration with the laity, asks each of you, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, to have a strong sense of your institute's specific vocation and to work constantly for the defence and advancement of every human being. Strive to serve the Lord in caring, welcoming communities, so that you can bear witness to the Gospel values that should distinguish you. You will then be wise teachers of the laity who want to share your charism, and your collaboration with them will be inspired by the Gospel and the ideals of sacrifice, loving care and dialogue that flow from the Gospel message.

I pray to the Lord that, through your example, many young people will be attracted by the missionary ideal of Mother Cabrini, which is so timely in our day. May the celebration of the Holy Year 2000 and the providential anniversaries you are commemorating be beneficial occasions for each member of the institute to grow in fidelity and love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May each of you often repeat throughout your lives these words of the Apostle which were so dear to your holy
foundress: "Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat - I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Ph 4,13).

May the Blessed Virgin, to whom Mother Cabrini was greatly devoted, protect you and intercede for you all. May St Frances Xavier and all your patron saints watch over you from heaven. I offer you my affection and cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Reverend Mother, to your sisters, your lay collaborators, their families and all who receive your loving care.

From the Vatican, 31 May 2000.

Speeches 2000 - Friday 26 May 2000