Speeches 1998 - Thursday, 12 November 1998
Venerable and Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”,
1. I welcome you with great joy on the occasion of the plenary assembly of your dicastery which, with the approach of the Year 2000, is dedicated to the Great Jubilee. I thank your President, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, for his cordial address on behalf of you all. At the same time, I express my appreciation to the members, officials and consultors of the dicastery for the dedication with which they carry out their work and, in particular, for their commitment to preparing for the Jubilee in the best possible way. In my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, I suggested to all the faithful that they live this last year of immediate preparation for the Jubilee as “a journey to the Father” (n. 50), deepening their understanding of the virtue of charity. It is precisely from this that the theme of your encounter is drawn: “Towards the Great Jubilee — 1999: the Father of Love”. I am sure that your reflections on this theme will help you prepare useful initiatives in view of this historic event.
2. The human heart has always reflected on great questions such as, for example, the mystery of God’s justice in relation to the problem of evil and pain, because the human being carries within him the yearning to live and fulfil himself in love. For those who look at their neighbour with love, the poverty present in the world is cause for great anxiety and sometimes the unjust suffering of many can also instill doubts about the goodness and providence of God. We cannot remain indifferent to such situations; in fact, the Great Jubilee must become a suitable opportunity to renew our faith commitment to God, who in his fatherhood loves man with a matchless and infinite love, and to increase our generosity to those who are in difficulty.
The Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” is called to express the universal Church’s attention to the poor and, in particular, the Holy Father’s concern for their sufferings and miseries. Your dicastery is thus a vehicle for the mission the Church has always carried out in favour of the neediest, bringing about what Christ witnessed to with his life and bequeathed as a testament to his disciples. The parable of the Good Samaritan is symbolic in this regard: a foreigner bends lovingly over the person who has been robbed and injured and makes time and money available to care for him. He is the image of Jesus, who gave his life to save man: man who is suffering, who is alone, who is a victim of violence and sin.
In another well-known Gospel passage concerning the last judgement, the Lord identifies himself with those who are hungry, thirsty, ill and in prison (cf. Mt Mt 25,40). In Christ, therefore, we contemplate the love of God which is incarnate and penetrates all human reality, to assume it, without any compromise with sin, even in its most painful and problematic aspects. He “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil” (Ac 10,38). In the person of the Son of God made man it becomes manifest that God is love not only in words, but “in deed and in truth” (1Jn 3,18). Thus Christ’s preaching is always accompanied by signs that bear witness to what he reveals regarding the Father. His attention to the sick, the marginalized and the suffering reveals that for God, service to man is more important than the material observance of the law. God’s love guarantees that man is not condemned to suffering and death, but can be freed and redeemed from every slavery.
In fact a deeper evil exists, against which Christ puts a true and proper struggle into action. It is the war against sin, against the spirit of evil, that forces man into slavery. Jesus' miracles are signs of the full healing of the person that always starts from the heart, as he himself explained when he cured the paralytic: “But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”, he then said to the paralytic, “rise, take up your bed and go home” (Mt 9,5-6). We thus recognize in his preaching and actions his concern for the needs of the spirit, which require love, and for those of the body, which asks to be relieved of pain.
3. Dear brothers and sisters, you represent the many Catholic organizations which support the charitable work of the Church throughout the world. I wish to express my particular gratitude for the variety of activities you carry out in the name of the ecclesial community, bearing witness in many ways to Christ’s love for the poor. Your work is a sign of hope for so many people and forms part of the new evangelization which the Church is carrying out in this passage from one millennium to the next. This evangelization asks us to unite action with words and witness with proclamation, spreading the Gospel of love in every direction. By their presence in the world of poverty and suffering, Christians wish to offer modern man eloquent signs of the fatherhood of God, aware that the heavenly Father inspires true love in our hearts.
I know that your Pontifical Council has taken especially to heart the instructions offered in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente for next year, dedicated to God the Father. I am grateful because you have wished to become mediators of this message and to promote several initiatives to make visible that sharing of goods to which the first apostolic community offered a moving witness.
In particular, I wish to mention the “100 Projects of the Holy Father”. With this initiative some charitable aid agencies and Dioceses richer in resources have supported development projects in some of the earth’s less fortunate regions. These projects have a common denominator in the “corporal and spiritual works of mercy”, which have always been stressed by ecclesial tradition in order to put into practice the commandment of love and to satisfy man’s physical and spiritual needs. It is thus demonstrated how ecclesial communion knows no divisions of “tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Ap 5,9), and how it cares for the whole person, broadening out to become a truly universal vision.
The initiative called “Panis caritatis” also deserves mention. It is spreading in Italy and its principal aim is to make visible the bonds of brotherhood and communion that must bind men to one another because of their common relationship to God, Father of all mankind.
4. Apart from the vast and important programmes that Catholic organizations carry out in many of the world’s nations, all these initiatives show that the Church is sensitive to human needs. She is nonetheless aware of and at the same time witnesses to the fact that the immediate needs of the human being are not the only ones nor the most important. In this regard, Jesus says in the Gospel: “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Mt 6,25). Man is a creature open to the transcendent and in his inmost heart feels a profound yearning for truth and goodness, which alone can fully satisfy his needs. Today, as in every age, the hunger and thirst for God in minds are never quenched. The Church feels called to be a messenger to contemporary man, bringing him the proclamation of the grace and mercy given by God the Father in Christ Jesus. The activity of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” falls within this area, as a sign of a greater salvation which concerns man’s deepest dimension and is fulfilled in eternal life.
In this perspective, oriented to that love which “never ends” (1Co 13,8), I hope in 1999, the eve of the Great Jubilee, that your work which is so important for the Church and for Christian witness in today’s world may fully and effectively express her message of love and brotherhood. To this end, I assure you of my constant support in prayer and cordially impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all, wherever in the world they may be, who co-operate with your dicastery in serving the poorest and neediest.
Friday, 13 November 1998
1. I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your symposium on 20 Years of Papal Diplomacy under John Paul II. I would like first of all to thank the organizers of this meeting, the International Diplomatic Academy and the European Institute for Church-State Relations, as well as the different speakers who have presented analyses of the entire diplomatic activity of the Holy See, or addressed specific issues concerning the precise and often delicate situations involved in negotiation. Such an initiative is the sign of your concern for the Holy See and its activity throughout the world. I hope that your fruitful meetings will be an opportunity for many people to discover and to gain a deeper understanding of the various aspects of the diplomatic mission of the Pope and the Holy See.
Your symposium is part of the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Pontificate of the Pope who welcomes you today. You have reflected on the important and fundamental dimension of his pastoral ministry which constitutes his active participation in diplomatic life. The Pope is the Servant of the servants of God, the servant of the God of history who created the world in order to place the human being there, not to abandon him to his own fate but to lead him to fulfilment; he is also the servant of man.
The Lord shared his passion for man with the Church. That is why, in accordance with a long tradition and international principles, the Servant of the servants of God exercises his diplomatic mission as a concrete service to humanity within the framework of his pastoral ministry. In this way, the Holy See intends to make a specific contribution to all individuals and all peoples, to help them ever better to fulfil their own destiny in peace and harmony, in view of the common good and the integral development of individuals and peoples.
2. Your symposium has reviewed the last 20 years of this century and this millennium, in which we have witnessed numerous changes, a sign of the deep desire to live in freedom, sometimes acquired at the high cost of great suffering, but also a sign of deep restlessness and intense hope.
At times a precursor and agent, at others, limited to accompanying and approving changes which have occurred, diplomacy itself is in a period of transition. In our day it no longer faces enemies, but, on the basis of shared opportunities, it wishes to take up the challenges of globalization and to eliminate the threats that continually appear on a planetary scale. Indeed, today’s diplomats no longer have to deal primarily with questions of territorial sovereignty, borders and territories, although in certain regions these issues have yet to be resolved. The new factors of destabilization are represented by extreme poverty, social imbalances, ethnic tensions, environmental damage, and the lack of democracy and respect for human rights, while the factors of integration can no longer be based simply on the balance of power, on nuclear or military deterrence or on agreement between governments.
3. We have a better understanding of why papal diplomacy has no other goal than to promote, to extend around the world and to defend human dignity and all forms of human social life, from the family, the workplace and the school, to the local community and to regional, national and international life. It takes an active part, in its own way, in giving juridical expression to the values and ideals without which society would be divided. But above all it works towards achieving in national and international life a consensus on fundamental principles. It works with the conviction that to guarantee the security and stability of individuals and peoples we must succeed in applying the various aspects of humanitarian law to all peoples without distinction — even in the area of security — according to the principle of distributive justice. Everywhere in the world it is the Church’s duty to make her voice heard, so that the voice of the poor is perceived by all as a basic appeal for sharing and solidarity. The concern of Peter's Successor and of the local Churches throughout the world aims at the spiritual, moral and material good of everyone. Diplomatic life is based on ethical principles which put the human person at the centre of analyses and decisions, and recognize the dignity of every human being and of every people, each of whom has an inalienable right to a decent life in accordance with his true nature. I have already had occasion to recall that, “if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power” or special interests (Encyclical Centesimus annus CA 46).
It is unacceptable for disparities between the continents to endure indefinitely for political and economic reasons, and it is the task of diplomats and national leaders to see that the ethical aspects are given priority in decision-making processes at every level. From this standpoint, diplomats, who are in contact with the daily lives of the peoples they come to know and whom they learn to love, must be mindful of the distress of individuals and peoples oppressed by situations that overwhelm them, for they are linked to international systems which are harder and harder on the developing countries.
The Apostolic See carries out its own diplomatic activity, as is normal, with the governments, international organizations and decision-making centres that are increasing in contemporary society, and, at the same time, it speaks to all who have a leading role in international life, be they individuals or groups, in order to foster consensus, goodwill and collaboration in the great causes of humanity.
In particular, papal diplomacy relies on the unity which exists within the Catholic Church, present in almost every country of the world. The communion which ensures relations between the various local Churches and the Bishop of Rome, in addition to being an inviolable ecclesiological principle, is also an international resource.
As I thank you for your contribution, through your research and the documentation you have offered, to reflection on the criteria that guide the Apostolic See's diplomacy, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.
1. My welcome and cordial gratitude to you all for this visit by which you have wanted to show your deep and generous fidelity to the person and magisterium of the Successor of Peter during your 20th General Chapter. I would like to extend a special greeting to Mother Margarita Wisniewska, to whom I also offer my congratulations on her re-election as Superior General: with the help of God may she continue to lead her sisters with skill and wisdom to an ever more intense fidelity to their original charism and to new goals of generous service to the poorest.
In addition to the participants in the Chapter, I also extend my greeting to the entire religious family of the Sisters of St Elizabeth, which in many nations of the world and with admirable dedication are a special sign of God's tenderness for our sick and needy brethren, offering concrete witness of the mystery of the Church, virgin, bride and mother. I also wish to encourage the members of the Apostolic Community of St Elizabeth, who, by living intensely their baptismal consecration, share the congregation's charism and mission, thus showing God's merciful love by their lives and their work.
Your congregation was born of the faith and hearts of four women from the Polish town of Nysa, which then belonged to Germany. In 1842, seeing the needs of the most indigent, they felt called to give themselves completely to Christ, to spend all their energies in the service of his kingdom of love.
In pursuing their goal, they turned to the icon of the Good Samaritan, placing themselves under the special protection of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and taking as their model a woman full of love for God and for the needy of her time, St Elizabeth of Hungary, whom they wished to be the special patroness of the new institute.
2. Dear sisters, the teachings and examples of the saints encourage the faithful to follow the way of Gospel perfection, in order to proclaim the kingdom of God with enthusiasm and to witness to the Gospel by a life that is given totally to the Lord. For this reason, in the Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata I recalled that “institutes of consecrated life are invited courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today’s world. This invitation is first of all a call to perseverance on the path of holiness in the midst of the material and spiritual difficulties of daily life. But it is also a call to pursue competence in personal work and to develop a dynamic fidelity to their mission, adapting forms, if need be, to new situations and different needs, in complete openness to God’s inspiration and to the Church’s discernment. But all must be fully convinced that the quest for ever greater conformity to the Lord is the guarantee of any renewal which seeks to remain faithful to an institute’s original inspiration” (n. 37).
You too, sustained by the ever vivid memory of your foundresses, have listened during your Chapter to the Holy Spirit, to interpret wisely the signs of the times and to respond with creative fidelity to the challenges you face in this last part of the century and the millennium.
Conscious that religious life “indisputably belongs to the life and holiness of the Church” (ibid., n. 29) and “proclaims and in a certain way anticipates the future age” (ibid., n. 32), you have undertaken a process of courageous renewal to live more intensely your motherhood “according to the Spirit” (cf. Rom Rm 8,4) in the care of the poor, the sick and the marginalized, in the Christian education of children and young people, and in the religious formation of adults (cf. Apostolic Letter Mulieris digitatem, n. 21).
3. “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25,40). In these words of the Lord you have identified the goal and programme of your life as consecrated women and the motive for the renewal of your community life and apostolic commitment.
In fact, the possibility of a renewed fidelity to your original charism is based first of all on attentive and humble listening to the Lord and on the ability to see in your brothers and sisters the face of Jesus. In this way you serve the kingdom of God.
During the work of your Chapter you have rightly emphasized a deeper understanding of the revealed Word, so that it may illumine and guide your community life and enrich it with contemplation, generous sacrifice, joyous sharing and mutual love.
Your daily contact with the rapid and profound changes taking place in today's society and with a culture that, although secularized, is nonetheless sensitive to the witness of authentic believers, encourages you in particular to develop the missionary dimension already inherent in your charism, and to ask yourselves how to meet these social and religious challenges.
The desire for greater fidelity to the charism of your foundresses and for ardent missionary commitment will prompt you to strive for an ever more generous response to the grace of your vocation. This presupposes a careful formation, extended to all the stages of religious life, to prepare mature and consistent people who know how to bring the message of Christ to the modern physical and spiritual forms of poverty, to heal wounds and to spread hope. For the sick, the elderly, the young and all who are afflicted by the countless forms of marginalization present even in the most advanced countries, may your communities be places of welcome and houses of mercy.
4. Dear sisters, I entrust each of you and your entire religious family to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin, and I hope that your chapter will be able to revive on the threshold of a new millennium the zeal and faith of your foundresses and the charitable commitment of your heavenly patroness.
With these wishes, I invoke heavenly rewards upon you, upon your daily service and on your good plans as well as upon the lay persons who share your charism and mission, and upon all those whom you will meet on your way, as I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Distinguished Guests and Teachers,
Dear Technical and Administrative Staff,
1. It is a great joy for me to meet the university community of LUISS-Guido Carli, with the members of the Academic Senate and the Board of Directors. Thank you for your invitation.
I thank the President, the Rector and the young student for the words they addressed to me on behalf of the whole university. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Minister for Universities and Scientific Research, and the Rectors of the Roman universities, who have honoured our meeting with their presence.
Today’s visit has a special significance since it immediately precedes the opening of the mission year which the Church of Rome is dedicating to the proclamation of the Gospel in the living and working environments of the city.
The words of the Apostle Paul, which have just been proclaimed, suggest to us the true meaning of the City Mission. It is an act of love on the part of Rome’s Christian community to the men and women who live in the city, and an invitation to let themselves be led by the Gospel to promote the great human and civic values everywhere.
2. Paul’s teaching also sheds light on university life, because he urges it to seek in charity for the ultimate reasons for its life and work.
In fact, the university, born from the heart of the Church, has been marked down the centuries by the cultivation of knowledge and the diligent search for truth at the service of the human good.
Scientific investigation, which consists of arduous daily application, of enthusiasm and of intellectual daring, concerns areas of scientific study both ancient and more recent. Prominent among them are the economic and social disciplines, so firmly woven into the fabric of daily life and the structures of the “global” society.
The university can never ignore the humanistic dimension, which involves it in a deeper study of knowledge, its appropriate transmission and its irreplaceable educational role.
The university finds its place in that caritas intellectualis in which the knowledge and experience of scientific discovery, as well as artistic inspiration, become gifts which are communicated as a driving force. The Christian faith sees in this the true wisdom which is a gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 45, a. 3).
In university education, caritas intellectualis also creates significant interpersonal relations which offer each individual the possibility of fully expressing his own unique identity and of putting the tools of his profession at the service of this goal.
3. The university's academic activity demands attention to the city’s life, in order to make scientific professionalism an authentic mission and a service to the progress of the whole man and of all men. This attention should be integrated with significant forms of that intellectual and spiritual communion between students and teachers which was the distinctive feature of the medieval university.
The demands of ever greater specialization and the scattering of the university's various institutions throughout the city does not always encourage this vital intellectual communion, which, nevertheless, can find in modern and updated technologies an interesting tool for opening ways of interconnection and communication unknown until yesterday.
The necessary connection, then, between economic and professional requirements must never obscure the principal goal of teaching, which aims above all at forming teachers of life. Likewise, the correlation between the university world and that of economics and business, in itself legitimate and often fruitful, cannot be influenced by a merely pragmatic vision which would ultimately be reductive and sterile. Rather it should let itself be guided by criteria marked by the Christian concept of the person and the community, so as to strengthen and enhance the university’s cultural and social value.
4. There is another important point which I would like to suggest. In the Encyclical Fides et ratio, I stressed how deeply “related are the knowledge conferred by faith and the knowledge conferred by reason” (n. 16): by virtue of this unity, the word of faith, enlightening and directing the progress of reason, does not allow the gift of intelligence to retreat, hesitant and defeated, within a horizon where everything is reduced to opinion (cf. ibid., n. 5). Instead, faith supports it and continually spurs it to lift its sights until it reaches the very edge of mystery, the vital concern and driving force of all genuine culture, where the fragment reveals an All which transcends it. Indeed, “every truth attained is but a step towards that fullness of truth which will appear with the final Revelation of God” (ibid., n. 2).
Conscious of this, the Church in Italy has been committed for several years to developing a cultural project which, on the basis of Christian values, intends to make a further contribution to the renewal of the nation's social and cultural fabric. In this way, the Christian faith wants to give an answer to the questions which trouble the human heart, and to guide its steps so that, as it prepares to cross the threshold of the third millennium, hope may be revived and solidarity among people strengthened.
5. I entrust my reflections especially to you who work at this university, so that you can contribute to its spiritual and cultural growth. I would also like to thank you for your collaboration in preparing the Jubilee of university teachers, which will take place in September of the Year 2000, and for your generous willingness to host one of the congresses planned for this event.
My thoughts turn in a special way to you, dear students. Generously accept the way of intellectual charity, in order to support an authentic social renewal which can oppose the serious forms of injustice that threaten human life. Love your studies, be humble in learning and be ready to put all the skills you acquire during your precious years of university education at the service of all men and women.
May God’s Blessing, which I invoke in abundance upon each of you, go with you all.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the International Study Conference dedicated to the theme: “Art, life and representation in cinema: Aesthetic sense, spiritual needs and cultural roles”. I extend my cordial welcome to each of you.
I greet and thank Cardinal Paul Poupard in particular for his kind words on your behalf. I also express my appreciation to the members of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications who, in collaboration with the Ente dello Spettacolo, have gathered scholars and cinema lovers, continuing an interesting project which already had positive results last year. These intensive days have given you an opportunity to reflect, with the help of experts, directors, screenwriters, art critics and specialists in communications technology, on the language of cinema, which is frequently raised to the level of a true and proper art form, and which the Church regards with increasing attention and interest.
I am pleased that, in order to address these subjects and to respond suitably to the challenges of contemporary culture, you have combined your dicasteries’ resources and areas of competence to make a significant joint contribution to the common effort of evangelization, especially in view of the next millennium. To the promoters and organizers, to the speakers and participants, as well as to those who are involved in culture, the cinema, communications and the arts, I extend my best wishes for productive work.
2. Last year, when I received the participants in the conference on “The cinema, a vehicle of spirituality and culture”, I stressed that this modern form of communication and culture — if it is well conceived, produced and distributed — can “contribute to the growth of a true humanism”. I am glad to see that, continuing in this vein, your meeting this year is dedicated to the cinema and the value of life.
In these days you have paused to reflect on the cinema as a medium suited to the defence of human dignity and the value of life. In this regard, the exhortation “Communicating Life”, which the Italian Bishops addressed to believers and to all people of good will for their 20th Pro-Life Day, is all the more timely. It was proposed in the “Christian-oriented Cultural Project”, which the ecclesial community is studying on the threshold of the third millennium. In this project, the cinema’s contribution cannot be missing; indeed, it plays a leading role, since it is the meeting point between the world of the mass media and other cultural forms. Let us think of how negative or positive an influence the cinema can have on public opinion and consciences, especially those of young people. Human life has its own sacredness, which should always be defended and promoted. It is a sublime gift of God. Here is a challenge that must be taken up responsibly by everyone: to make the cinema an appropriate vehicle for expressing the value of life, with respect for the dignity of the person.
3. The cinema can offer and accomplish much in this regard, as the three films you have chosen for your meeting eloquently attest. From its birth, the big screen — as Cardinal Poupard has just mentioned — is the mirror of the human soul in its constant search for God, often unknowingly. With special effects and remarkable images, it can explore the human universe in depth. It is able to depict life and its mystery in images. And when it reaches the heights of poetry, unifying and harmonizing various art forms — from literature to scenic portrayal, to music and acting — it can become a source of inner wonder and pro-found meditation.
This is why the creative freedom of the author, facilitated by the latest technical means, is called today to be a vehicle for communicating a positive message which makes constant reference to truth, to God and to human dignity.
Culture and its fields of study, social communications and their vast, complex implications, the arts and their fascination which enrich life and open it to the beauty and truth of God, are the centre of the Church's mission, for she has at heart man’s constitutive and vital relationship with God, his relations with his fellow men and women and with the whole of creation.
Therefore, the Church views the cinema as a distinctive artistic expression of the Year 2000 and encourages its pedagogical, cultural and pastoral role. Creativity and technical progress, intelligence and reflection, fantasy and reality, dreams and sentiments come together in film sequences. The cinema is a fascinating instrument for transmitting the perennial message of life and describing its extraordinary marvels. At the same time, it can become a forceful and effective language for condemning violence and the abuse of power. Thus it teaches and denounces, preserves the memory of the past, becomes the living conscience of the present and encourages the quest for a better future.
4. Cinematography, however, must never dominate man and life by subordinating them to artistic creation. Scientific progress has opened to the cinema horizons unhoped-for until a short time ago, enabling images to surpass, both in good and evil, the other products of human invention and to capture the audience's attention and wonder. At the same time, tempted to become an end in itself, the cinema has sometimes ended up losing contact with reality and the positive values of life. How frequently its images destroy the human being, defiling and obliterating his humanity, becoming a vehicle of degradation instead of growth!
No one knows this better than you: the cinema cannot fully express itself without a clear and constant reference to the moral values and goals for which it came into being. It is up to those who work in this field, using their skill and experience, to explore the cinema’s positive meaning, helping set designers, producers and actors to become, by their talent and imagination, heralds of civilization and peace, of hope and solidarity; in a word, heralds of authentic humanity.
I sincerely hope that those who work in the film industry will feel they have a great duty to promote an authentic humanism. I invite Christians take responsibility for working with them in this vast artistic and professional undertaking to defend and promote the true values of human life. This is a valuable service which they render to the task of the new evangelization in view of the third millennium.
To this end, I invoke upon you and your work an abundance of the Holy Spirit’s gifts. And as a sign of my esteem and affection, I am pleased to impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you present here, as well as to your co-workers and families.
Speeches 1998 - Thursday, 12 November 1998