Dear Sisters, Daughters of Mercy and the Cross!
1. I am very pleased to welcome you and to extend my cordial greeting to each of you. I thank you for this visit on the occasion of the 17th General Chapter of your institute: it is meant as a renewed testimony of your fidelity to the Successor of Peter.
I express my congratulations and best wishes to Mother Romilde Zauner, reconfirmed in the office of Superior General. I extend my affectionate thoughts to all the Daughters of Mercy and the Cross, who carry out their work of evangelization and solidarity in Italy, Ethiopia, Mexico and Romania.
Your congregation's Chapter acquires special significance because it is being held at the beginning of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, in which the Church is called to reflect intensely on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Father's Only-begotten Son. The entrance into the new millennium is for every believer, and even more so for consecrated men and women, a call to become more aware of the responsibilities linked to their Baptism and, especially, to broaden their vision of faith to the horizons of the new evangelization. But in order to make this missionary task more concrete, it is necessary to return with stronger fidelity to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which casts new light on the Church's apostolic activity in relation to the challenges of the modern world.
The sound tradition of each institute and reference to the constant Magisterium of the Church form the sure foundation on which to develop the works and apostolate of every religious family, aimed at an essential renewal of its structures, according to the needs of the times.
2. "In Mother Zangàra's yesterday lies our today as women consecrated to be, together with the laity, a memory and prophecy of mercy": this is the theme that guided you during your Chapter. The memory of your foundress and her spiritual presence among you are a sure guarantee of your fidelity to the institute's original charism, which asks you to be conformed to Christ crucified by practising the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
How important it is to reaffirm your mission as Daughters of Mercy and the Cross at the beginning of the Holy Year, which offers us a particular expression of God's merciful love! It is only by drawing from it that you can become authentic prophets and witnesses to God and his kingdom. It is only by imitating and following the chaste, poor and obedient Christ that you will be able to fulfil yourselves in total dedication to divine mercy.
Modern man, although conditioned by the many allurements of a society that is often affluent and prone to selfishness - and perhaps precisely for this reason - is more sensitive than ever to acts of disinterested love. This is the challenge you are called to take up and translate into the basic choice to walk and work together with the laity, in order to reveal the profound meaning of the redeeming Passion and to show concern for every form of suffering.
Through every work of mercy should shine the welcoming face of Christ so that many people, who still have not met him or have built up a false idea about him, can recognize him as he truly is, the only Saviour of mankind. This means that your apostolic activity must always be accompanied by the frequent contemplation of Jesus exalted on the Cross. It is from the Cross that the Word, in silence and solitude, "prophetically affirms the absolute transcendence of God over all created things; in his own flesh he conquers our sin and draws every man and every woman to himself, giving to all the new life of the Resurrection" (Vita consecrata VC 23). The more you remain at the foot of the Cross, making your own the attitude of the Virgin Mary's universal motherhood, the more you will grow in experiencing the truth of God-Mercy and be able to transmit it to everyone you meet on your daily path.
3. Vast and demanding is the Christian mission of serving the Gospel. For this reason it is necessary to coordinate the contributions of the various ecclesial bodies in a spirit of openness and collaboration. In particular, this is required of your congregation in relation to the laity of the Zangarian Ecclesial Movement. May it thus be your constant concern to share with them the desire to proclaim the Lord's love everywhere. May you undertake with the laity new paths of fraternal communion and mutual cooperation, which will allow you a more effective missionary outreach beyond the confines of the institute itself. You can count on renewed energies in the service of the Church. If, on the one hand, the edifying example of consecrated persons will encourage the laity to live and bear witness to the spirit of the Gospel beatitudes, on the other, the participation of the laity can lead to rich and sometimes unexpected insights into certain aspects of the charism, "leading to a more spiritual interpretation of it and helping to draw from it directions for new activities in the apostolate" (ibid, n. 55).
4. Dear Daughters of Mercy and the Cross! If Christ is to be at the heart of your every project, do not forget that you will meet him above all by serving the very poor. Therefore, faithful to the vocation you have embraced, seek first those who are in situations of greater weakness and poverty. May the "last" be the "first" for you, as they once were for your foundress, Mother Zangàra. And involve the laity in this extraordinary conversion to love. Your institute will thus be faithful to its original charism and will give glory to God among the men and women of the dawning millennium.
This is a task that I willingly entrust to you. I entrust it symbolically to you, dear capitulars, and through you to all your sisters. I extend a special thought to the elderly and ill sisters, who are an irreplaceable spiritual support for the institute. By accepting their suffering or their forced inactivity and offering it to the Lord, they effectively contribute to the apostolate of the other sisters, providing them with fruitful and valuable help.
May your love for divine mercy and the Cross, which enlightened and transformed the life of your foundress, be a constant beacon for each of you in your prayer and action, so that your institute may draw today's men and women to the Heart of Christ. This is an important contribution that you can make to the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
May Our Lady of Sorrows protect and accompany you, ensuring special fruitfulness for the work of the General Chapter: with her motherly tenderness may she make you wise and watchful women.
In offering my prayer to the Lord for your entire religious family, I cordially bless the Mother General, the capitulars and all your sisters, as well all those who assist you in your mission.
I thank the Lord who again this year has given me the opportunity to visit the crib you have prepared, as always, with deep feeling and great creativity. In expressing my gratitude to you for your cordial welcome, I extend a respectful greeting to the Mayor, to the authorities here, to the president, the directors and all the personnel of the Municipal Environmental Agency, as well as to their respective families.
We are at the beginning of the Year 2000, the Jubilee Year, which will see great crowds of pilgrims and visitors coming to this city, as these first days have shown. This will mean increased work for you. Yours is really a very important task for the community: on your service depends, in no small way, the face that the city offers to those who live in it and those who come from afar. I am sure you will undertake your tasks with a great sense of responsibility, in the desire that the city will always look clean and orderly. Even if this will involve some sacrifice, do it willingly, well aware of what advantages the arrival of pilgrims and tourists brings to the entire urban community.
Thanks to your service Rome will be able, on this occasion too, to live up to the traditions that make it a welcoming and hospitable city. With your cooperation, which certainly requires generous willingness, you will thus make a significant contribution to the success of the Jubilee, and for this I already express my heartfelt gratitude.
May Our Lady always accompany and protect you. To her I entrust you in my prayer, as I sincerely bless you, your work, your families and your loved ones.
Happy New Year and Happy Jubilee!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I wish before all else to express my deep gratitude to your Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, who has graciously offered greetings and good wishes in your name while at the same time pointing to a number of significant events in the life of our contemporaries, their hopes, their troubles and their fears. He has wished to underline the specific contribution of the Catholic Church on behalf of harmony between peoples and in support of their spiritual progress. I offer him heartfelt thanks.
2. Since we have just crossed the threshold of a new year, the Vicar of Christ strongly desires to offer to the peoples whom you represent his prayerful good wishes for this Year 2000 which so many have welcomed in “jubilation”. Christians have entered into the Great Jubilee by commemorating the coming of Christ into time and human history: “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son”, as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews (1:1-2).
To God who desired to make a covenant with the world which he continues to create, to love and to enlighten, I most heartily entrust each one’s noblest aspirations and their fulfilment, without overlooking the tragic trials and setbacks which so often thwart humanity’s march forward. With our contemporaries I praise God for so many beautiful and good things, and I invoke his forgiveness for so many attacks on human life and dignity, on fraternity and solidarity. May the Most High help us to conquer in us and around us every form of resistance, so that the season of men and women of good will may dawn or return, a season which the recent feast of Christmas has proposed to us with the freshness of new beginnings! These are my prayerful good wishes for all men and women, of all countries and of all generations.
3. The century just ended has seen remarkable advances in science which have considerably improved people’s life and health. These advances have also contributed to our dominion over nature and made easier people’s access to culture. Information technology has made the world smaller and brought us closer to one another. Never before were we so quickly informed about the daily events which affect the lives of our brothers and sisters in the human family. But one question can be asked: was this century also the century of “brotherhood”? Certainly an unqualified answer cannot be given.
As the balance is made, the memory of bloody wars which have decimated millions of people and provoked massive exoduses, shameful genocides which haunt our memories, as well as the arms race which fostered mistrust and fear, terrorism and ethnic conflicts which annihilated peoples who had lived together in the same territory, all force us to be modest and in many cases to have a penitent spirit.
The life sciences and biotechnology continue to find new fields of application, yet they also raise the problem of the limits imposed by the need to safeguard people’s dignity, responsibility and safety.
Globalization, which has profoundly transformed economic systems by creating unexpected possibilities of growth, has also resulted in many people being relegated to the side of the road: unemployment in the more developed countries and extreme poverty in too many countries of the southern hemisphere continue to hold millions of women and men back from progress and prosperity.
4. For this reason it seems to me that the century now beginning ought to be the century of solidarity.
We know one thing today more than in the past: we will never be happy and at peace without one another, much less if some are against others. The humanitarian efforts deployed during recent conflicts and natural catastrophes inspired praiseworthy initiatives of volunteerism which reveal a greater sense of altruism, especially among the younger generation.
The phenomenon of globalization has somewhat changed the role of States: citizens have become more and more involved, and the principle of subsidiarity has undoubtedly contributed to greater balance between the forces present within civil society; the citizen has become more a “partner” in the common effort.
This means, it seems to me, that the men and women of the 21st century will be called to a more developed sense of responsibility. First, their personal responsibility, in fostering a sense of duty and honest labour: corruption, organized crime or passivity can never lead to a true and healthy democracy. But there must also be an equal sense of responsibility towards others: an attitude of concern for the poor, participation in structures of mutual assistance in the workplace and in the social sphere, respect for nature and the environment, all these are required if we are to have a world where people live together in a better way. Never again must there be separation between people! Never again must some be opposed to others! Everyone must live together, under God’s watchful eyes!
This also supposes that we must renounce idols such as prosperity at any price, material wealth as the only value, science as the sole explanation of reality. It also supposes that the rule of law will be applied and respected by everyone and in all places, so that individual liberties can be effectively guaranteed and equal opportunity become a reality for all people. It also supposes that God will have his rightful place in people’s lives: the first place.
In a world more than ever in search of meaning, Christians sense the call, as this century opens, to proclaim with greater fervour that Jesus is the Redeemer of mankind, and the Church senses the call to show herself to be the “sign and safeguard of the transcendence of the human person” (Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes, No. 76).
5. Such solidarity calls for certain precise commitments. Some of these are quite urgent:
1. The sharing of technology and prosperity. In the absence of an attitude of understanding and readiness to help, it would be difficult to restrain the frustration felt by certain countries which see themselves condemned to founder in ever more serious precariousness and at the same time to have to compete with other countries. I myself have brought up on a number of occasions, for example, the issue of the debt of poor countries.
2. Respect for human rights. The legitimate aspirations of the most defenceless persons, the claims of ethnic minorities, the sufferings of all those whose beliefs or culture are in one way or another held in contempt are not merely optional issues to be dealt with as circumstances, or political or economic interests, dictate. Not to ensure these rights means quite simply to flout the dignity of persons and to endanger global stability.
3. Conflict prevention would avoid situations difficult to resolve and would spare much suffering. Appropriate international means are not lacking; they need only to be used, carefully distinguishing, without opposition or separation, between politics, law and morality.
4. Lastly, calm dialogue between cultures and religions could favour a new way of thinking and living. Despite their diverse mentalities and beliefs, the men and women of this millennium, in recalling the errors of the past, must find new ways of living together and respecting one another. Quality education, science and information represent the best means for developing in each of us respect for others, for their talents and beliefs, as well as a sense of universality worthy of man’s spiritual vocation. This dialogue would also make it possible in the future to avoid arriving at an absurd situation: that of excluding or killing others in the name of God. This undoubtedly will be a decisive contribution to peace.
6. In recent years there has been much talk of a “new world order”. The persevering action of far-sighted diplomats, and of multilateral diplomacy in particular, has resulted in a number of praiseworthy initiatives aimed at the building of an authentic “community of nations”. At present, for example, the Middle East Peace Process is continuing; the Chinese people are speaking to one another; the two Koreas are in dialogue; certain African countries are attempting to arrange meetings between rival factions; the government and armed groups in Colombia are trying to remain in contact. All this demonstrates a real desire to build a world based on brotherhood, in order to create, defend and spread peace all around us. Regrettably, however, we must also acknowledge that the errors of the past are all too often being repeated: I am thinking of reactions based on group identity, of persecutions inflicted for religious reasons, of the frequent and at times rash recourse to war, of social inequalities, of the gap between the rich and the poor countries, of the exclusive trust in profit alone, to cite only some typical traits of the century just ended. At the beginning of the year 2000, what do we see?
Africa, shackled by ethnic conflicts which hold entire peoples hostage, impeding their economic and social progress and often condemning them to a situation of mere survival.
The Middle East, constantly poised between war and peace, when we know that only the rule of law and justice will make it possible for all the peoples of the region, without distinction, to live together and to be free of endemic dangers.
Asia, a continent of immense human and material resources, gathers into precarious balance peoples of venerable and economically highly developed cultures and others who are becoming increasingly impoverished. I recently visited this continent in order to consign the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, the fruit of a recent synodal assembly, which has now become a charter for all Catholics. I join the Synod Fathers in inviting once more all the Catholics of Asia and men and women of good will to unite their efforts in building a society more firmly based on solidarity.
America, an immense continent where one year ago I had the joy of promulgating the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, inviting the peoples of the continent to an ever-renewed personal and communal conversion, in respect for the dignity of the person and love for the outcast, for the sake of promoting a culture of life.
North America, where economic and political concerns are often considered paramount, is home to many poor people, despite its manifold riches.
Latin America, which, with a few exceptions, has seen encouraging advances towards democracy, remains dangerously crippled by alarming social inequalities, the drug trade, corruption and in some cases movements of armed struggle.
Europe, following the failure of the ideologies, is finally on the way towards unity; it is struggling to meet the two-fold challenge of reconciliation and the democratic integration of former enemies. Europe has not been spared terrible forms of violence, as the recent Balkan crisis and the conflicts of recent weeks in the Caucasus have shown. The Bishops of the continent recently met in synodal assembly; they acknowledged the signs of hope, growing openness between peoples, reconciliation between nations, more frequent cooperation and exchange, and called everyone to a greater European consciousness.
Faced with this troubled world, at once magnificent and unstable, I am reminded of a commitment made at the end of the terrible Second World War, which everyone wanted to be the last. I am speaking of the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, adopted in San Francisco on 26 June 1945: “We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations, large and small . . . have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims”.
This solemn text and this solemn commitment have lost nothing of their force and their timeliness. In a world structured around sovereign but de facto unequal States, it is indispensable for stability, understanding and cooperation between peoples that international relations be increasingly imbued with and shaped by the rule of law. Surely what is lacking is not new texts or juridical instruments; it is quite simply the political will to apply without discrimination those already in existence.
7. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I speak to you as one who has himself been a fellow-traveller of several generations of the century just ended. I shared the harsh ordeals of my native people as the darkest hours experienced by Europe. Twenty-one years ago, when I became the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I felt myself charged with a universal fatherhood which embraces all the men and women of our time without exception. Today, in addressing you who represent practically all the peoples of the earth, I would like to share with each one something personal: at the opening of the doors of a new millennium, the Pope began to think that people might finally learn to draw lessons from the past. Indeed, I ask everyone, in God’s name, to save humanity from further wars, to respect human life and the family, to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, to realize that we are all responsible for one another. It is God himself who asks this, and he never asks what is beyond our abilities. He himself gives us the strength to accomplish what he expects of us.
The words which Deuteronomy puts on the lips of God himself come to mind: “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil; . . . therefore choose life, that you may live” (Dt 30,15-19).
Life takes shape in our daily choices. And political leaders, since they have the role of administering the “res publica”, can by their personal choices and their programmes of action guide whole societies either towards life or towards death. For this reason believers, and the faithful of the Catholic Church in particular, consider it their duty to take an active part in the public life of the societies to which they belong. Their faith, their hope and their charity represent additional and irreplaceable energies to ensure that not only will there be unfailing concern for others, a sense of responsibility and the defence of fundamental rights, but also to ensure that there is a perception that our world and our personal and collective history are invested with a Presence. I therefore insist that believers be granted a place in public life because I am convinced that their faith and their witness can reassure our contemporaries, who are often anxious and disoriented, and can ensure that despite failures, violence and fear, neither evil nor death will have the last word.
8. The time has now come for our exchange of personal good wishes. I greet all of you most cordially and I ask you kindly to convey my best wishes to the leaders of the countries which you represent. The doors of the Great Jubilee have been opened for Christians and the doors of a new millennium for humanity as a whole. What is important now is to cross the threshold in order to make our journey. This is a journey on which God precedes us and in which he traces the path which will lead us towards himself. Nothing, no prejudice or ambition, should hold us back. A new history is beginning for us. The peoples whom you represent are going to write that history in their personal and collective life. It is a history in which today, like yesterday and like tomorrow, humanity has an appointment with God. And so to all I say: “Safe journey”!
From the Vatican, 10 January 2000.
Thursday, 13 January 2000
Mr President of the Lazio Region,
Mr Mayor of Rome,
Mr President of the Province of Rome,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!
1. This year I have the joy of receiving you together for the traditional exchange of greetings which, at the beginning of every year, strengthens the deep bonds between the See of Peter and the city of Rome, its Province and the Lazio Region.
I extend a cordial greeting to the President of the Lazio Region, Hon. Piero Badaloni, to the Mayor of Rome, Hon. Francesco Rutelli, and to the President of the Province of Rome, Hon. Silvano Moffa. I sincerely thank them for the kind words they addressed to me on behalf of the administrations they head. With them I also greet the Presidents of the respective Councils and all of you here.
Today's meeting is special, because the Year 2000, a jubilee year, is for Rome, for its Province and for Lazio an extraordinary year that calls for even more effort and cooperation between the various civil institutions, and a closer operational coordination between your administrations and the ecclesial communities.
These common interests and the urgent need for ever greater cooperation are also indicated by the form of this meeting, which for the first time brings together, in sincere homage to the Successor of Peter, the members of the Municipal, Provincial and Regional Boards and Councils. Each and every one of them is called to work toward the same goal in serving the citizens and the common good, combining their various skills and legitimate difference of viewpoints.
2. The Great Holy Year of 2000 began successfully! The opening of the Holy Door and the other initial Jubilee events, just celebrated, brought throngs of pilgrims to Rome, who together with many Romans experienced in this city, unique in the world, the joy of celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
In fervently thanking God for this promising beginning, I wish to express my deep gratitude to all the institutions you represent and to all who have actively contributed to restoring beauty and functionality to the Eternal City, its Province and the entire Lazio Region, making them better able to welcome the pilgrims coming from every part of the world.
Along with my appreciation for the efforts expended, I would like to encourage you to continue this work of restoring a better quality of life to Rome, its Province and the Region, by paying ever greater attention to the many prestigious signs of faith and culture that they preserve.
3. The Great Jubilee is being celebrated simultaneously in the Holy Land and in all the Dioceses of the world, but it has its privileged seat in the city that preserves the glorious memories of the Apostles Peter and Paul and of countless other saints and martyrs. Rome has a unique historical and universal vocation, for which the administrators and people of the city and the surrounding districts have a special responsibility.
I therefore wish to salute and thank the people of Rome in particular for their generous willingness to accept the sacrifices and inconveniences connected with the immediate preparation for the Jubilee. I hope that they, aware of the age-old privilege that links them to the mission of Peter's Successor, will know how to see the Jubilee event as a precious moment of grace and of civil, social and economic development. I also hope that they will put their traditional qualities of hospitality at the service of the pilgrims and of everyone who will come to the Eternal City and the surrounding area throughout the Holy Year.
4. With her eyes turned to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, the Church, mindful of the journey of grace, holiness and civilization made by mankind in these 2,000 years, offers the Jubilee to the faithful as a time of conversion, of renewed fidelity to the gift received and as a promising opportunity to enter the third millennium with the awareness of past errors and with greater openness to the divine plan.
The Church proposes to all people of good will this extraordinary task of purification of memory and appreciation of the gifts received. She invites them to reclaim human values and to re-establish in civil society the demands of truth, justice and solidarity, which alone guarantee peace and well-being among peoples.
In their addresses the Mayor of Rome and the Presidents of the Province and Region recalled what, in harmony with these Jubilee requirements, they are pursuing within their respective areas of competence. In expressing my deep satisfaction with what has been done, I wish to recall some aspects that can enrich and give new perspectives to the objectives already achieved.
In the first place, I invite you to devote diligent care to the family, which the Constitution of the Italian Republic itself describes as "a natural society founded on marriage" (Art. 29), entrusting public authorities with the task of "assisting its formation with economic measures and other provisions" (cf. Art. 31).
I am aware of the many difficulties, in part traceable to spiritual and cultural causes, which are also dangerous for the family institution in Rome and Lazio. They often depend on concrete social and economic situations which form their human context. It is precisely to protect the family, the basic cell of society, that I ask those in positions of responsibility to shun every initiative that could encourage or support the making of other forms of cohabitation equal to the family. I also ask them to work in harmony and with determination to remove those obstacles, such as the lack of housing at affordable prices or the inadequate structures for accommodating very young children, which make it difficult, and sometimes almost impossible, to start new families and to be open to the gift of life.
5. Along with the family, I dare to ask of you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, courageous decisions in the school and educational field, in order to make full use of the many energies and initiatives here in Rome and Lazio. It is also important in the health-care field to combine technical progress and cost containment with primary attention to the person who is ill. And what can we say, then, of the many older people who need greater esteem and appreciation, as well as more attentive and friendly assistance?
In the Year 2000, which invites us to look with greater responsibility and confidence to the future, I feel obliged to be the voice, once again, of the great many young and unemployed people, to ask you for increased efforts to create new work and employment opportunities. May the Great Jubilee help achieve a moral and civil turning point that can foster a culture of solidarity, hospitality and sharing. In the city of Rome, in its Province and in the entire Region may everyone feel at home and play a positive role in society, sharing in its rights and duties.
6. Honourable representatives of the regional, municipal and provincial administrations, the Great Jubilee presents you with a considerable number of tasks and responsibilities, but it also strongly urges you to face them with enthusiasm. May your one criterion be the good of the people. This good is identified in a significant way with the history, the values and the future promise which the Jubilee itself recalls and offers.
In promising the sincere and generous contribution of the Christian communities of Rome and Lazio to the progress of the City, the Province and the Region, I prayerfully entrust your every project and good intention to the Lord. May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, protect and accompany you with her constant heavenly aid.
With these sentiments, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you, to your families and to the people who live in Rome, in the Province and in Lazio.