Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have listened with interest to the pieces of music by Felix Mendelssohn and Zoltán Kodály which have just been played by the Philharmonia Hungarica, during this interesting artistic evening organized by the Academia Musicae pro Mundo Uno of Rome.
I first thank Maestro Ervin Acél, resident conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Szeged, Stefan Milenkovich, the violinist, and all the musicians for their competent and excellent performance which has uplifted our spirits. My grateful thoughts then turn to Maestro Giuseppe Juhar and Dr Monika Ryba-Juhar, respectively President and Artistic Director of the Academia Musicae pro Mundo Uno.
I also cordially greet the guests gathered here and express gratitude to them for having wished to honour with their presence this musical event in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.
The interpretation of the pieces played for us seems to express the full force and pathos of the soul of the Hungarian nation, so rich in feeling yet so noble and distinguished and open to dialogue with other cultures.
Music, as a universal language, by its very nature can encourage meetings between different cultures, becoming the vehicle of a fruitful exchange of gifts which often enriches those who give more than those who receive. It raises the soul to noble and sincere sentiments and can lead, through the harmony of the notes and the dialogue of the instruments, to contemplation of God’s supreme and eternal beauty.
I hope with all my heart that every musical performance will be an opportunity for interior spiritual enrichment and a cause of fraternal understanding among persons and nations.
I accompany these sentiments with a special Blessing which I willingly impart to those present and to their respective families, in the hope of abundant heavenly graces.
The Holy Father then said in Hungarian to the members of the orchestra:
Thank you for this lovely concert.
Good evening to everyone.
To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Camillo Ruini
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference,
I was delighted to learn that on 8 September next, the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Daily Prayer for Italy will be resumed at the Holy House of Loreto, and the Lamp for Italy will be lit, so that is flame may symbolize the supplication of the Italian people.
The Great Prayer for Italy began in 1994, when my constant concern for the beloved Italian nation spurred me to extend the invitation to have prayer in the Church rise unceasingly to God (cf. Acts Ac 12,5) in order to obtain the grace of the conversion of hearts, an essential condition for building a society of greater justice and solidarity. On 10 December of the same year, at the feet of Our Lady of Loreto, in deep fraternal communion with the Italian Bishops, in the presence of State authorities, I was able to celebrate the final phase of the unanimous response aroused by that appeal.
This new providential initiative, which in answer to that invitation has become the Daily Prayer for Italy, continues the supplication for peace and is a further opportunity to prepare ourselves to live the grace of the Jubilee, while turning our gaze with renewed and filial love to the One who in every region of the peninsula is venerated as a safe refuge in time of danger and as a gracious Mother to the supplications of all who suffer (cf. Sub tuum praesidium, in the Roman Breviary).
While the approach of the third millennium arouses unprecedented expectations and hopes, we look to Mary, the Lord's first disciple and the Teacher of wisdom, who helps us to interpret the events of history in total openness to the Word of the Lord. With her maternal support, the Italian people will thus be able more easily to discern “the signs of the times” and undertake with courage and perseverance the building of a society with an authentically human face and dimension.
The Lamp for Italy, which will shine every day in the Holy House, a place that recalls the mystery of the Word made flesh, will be the symbol of the Italian community's constant trust in the Mother of the Lord. At the same time it will serve as a reminder that it is the duty of Christians to watch always with their lamps lit (cf. Mt Mt 25,1-13), persevering in prayer and in fidelity to the Gospel to illumine with the flame of Truth and the love of Christ the various social, political, cultural and economic realities of life.
As I offer fervent wishes that this providential initiative will bear the desired fruits, I express my deep satisfaction and, in spiritual union with all who are gathered in the sacred shrine of Loreto, I willingly impart to Your Eminence, to Archbishop Angelo Comastri, to the Italian Bishops and to the faithful present at the sacred ceremony a special Apostolic Blessing, and gladly extend it to all the beloved Italian nation.
Castel Gandolfo, 6 August 1998.
The memory of my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI who died here in Castel Gandolfo some 20 years ago, lives on throughout the Church. Time has not weakened his remembrance; on the contrary, the passing of the years makes his figure appear ever brighter and his prophetic apostolic insights ever more modern and surprising. Then this year, the celebration of the centenary of the birth of this Pontiff, the wise and faithful guide of the Christian people during the Second Vatican Council and the difficult post-conciliar period, makes the memorial of his person more familiar to us, and the witness of his love to Christ and to the Church, more incisive.
He died on the day when the liturgy commemorates the extraordinary event of the Transfiguration of the Lord. In a homily, he commented on today’s Gospel passage in this way: “We must rediscover the transfigured face of Christ, in order to feel that he is still, and for our sake, our light. The light which illumines every soul who seeks and accepts it, which brightens every human scene and effort, giving them colour and emphasis, merit and a destiny, hope and happiness” (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI: 1964, 133-134).
As we begin the celebration of the Eucharist during which we offer our prayers for this unforgettable Pontiff, his words prompt us to ask the Lord, for the Church and for every member of the faithful, for that courageous and heroic fidelity to the Gospel which distinguished his ministry as Successor of Peter.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you and thank you for taking part in this Colloquium. From the outset I wish to say how much I appreciate your willingness to give your time and your expertise to this exercise, which I hope will truly be an enjoyable experience for us all.
You are representatives of the academic, scientific, political and publishing fields, from different parts of the world and from a variety of backgrounds. The aim of our Colloquium is to “focus” this great resource of thought and experience on a theme which is both eminently stimulating at the level of intellectual inquiry and eminently practical in its capacity to suggest ways forward for humanity at this juncture: “At the End of the Millennium: Time and Modernities”.
The Church has a message of salvation to preach which she has received from her divine Founder. But she must preach that message to the people of every age. She needs help to understand each age, each period of history, with its presuppositions, its values, its expectations and its limitations and errors. Are we witnessing one of the most complex and decisive periods of human history? Is this an end time or a beginning?
For my part, I look forward to hearing your views. I have always considered the search for “the truth of things” as the defining human quality. I have the highest esteem for the commitment and self-giving effort which your search involves.
As we begin these two days of reflection, I offer you my prayer to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, that he may guide us and sustain our efforts. Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your love and enable us to share in your great mission: to renew the face of the earth!
Before concluding, the Holy Father addressed a brief greeting in German and Polish to those present.
Es ist mir eine besondere Freude, die Teilnehmer deutscher Sprache an diesem achten Kolloquium von Castelgandolfo willkommen zu heißen. Ich wünsche uns allen, daß diese gute Gelegenheit, unser Verständnis für die Zeit und für die Geschichte, die Mutter und Lehrerin für das Leben ist, erweitern kann. Dadurch wollen wir einen weiteren bescheidenen Beitrag für die Menschheit an der Schwelle zum neuen Jahrtausend leisten.
Pragne serdecznie powitac dostojnych moich rodaków. Ciesze sie, ze ponownie dane mi jest podejmowac w Castel Gandolfo tych, którzy chca dzielic sie swoimi doswiadczeniami i przemysleniami na tematy wazne w perspektywie zarówno ogólnoludzkiej kultury, jak i misji Kosciola. Dziekuje Wam za przybycie i zycze owocnych obrad. Sle serdeczne pozdrowienia dla ks. Józefa Tischnera.
Dear Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy,
1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the General Chapter you have just concluded in Savona, the city in which St Mary Joseph Rossello founded your congregation over a century ago. I extend my cordial greeting to each of you who have attended the Chapter, and at the same time to all the other sisters — over a thousand — in the various communities scattered throughout Europe, Africa, America and Asia.
I extend my best wishes to the Superior General, Sr M. Celsa Giuseppa Benetti, who was confirmed in that office by the Chapter. To her I extend my congratulations and my encouragement to continue with a calm and joyful heart in her service to the congregation, in order to further its effective apostolic presence in the Church.
2. Your Chapter took place in the year of the Holy Spirit, the second stage in the journey of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. For this reason I would first of all like to recall the “intimate relation” that links the consecrated life to the working of the Holy Spirit (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata VC 19).
In the first place, the Spirit is the soul of any vocation: it is he who “enables new men and women to recognize the appeal of such a demanding choice ... it is he who guides the growth of this desire ... it is he who shapes and moulds the hearts of those who are called, configuring them to Christ, the chaste, poor and obedient One” (ibid.).
Just like Mary’s “yes” and her virginal fruitfulness, so the gift of self in the consecrated life takes place in the “shadow” of the power of the Most High. And this “yes”, this gift, is renewed each day in prayerful union with God — of which the Eucharist is the summit — in fraternal communion and in the apostolate.
Down the centuries and millenniums, the Holy Spirit sows a variety of charisms in the Church, including those proper to the various institutes. “Hence many different forms of the consecrated life have arisen, whereby the Church is ‘adorned’ ... and is enriched ... for carrying out her mission in the world” (ibid.).
3. Through the shining witness of Mary Joseph Rossello, the Spirit was able to bring forth a new shoot in the fertile land of Liguria, starting from that inexhaustible source of evangelical life which is the experience of divine mercy, “the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ and the constitutive power of his mission” (Dives in misericordia DM 6). This is your charism, which makes you feel particularly close to Mary most holy, Mother of Mercy and of all who put their trust in her.
The General Chapter is above all an act of fidelity to the founding charism and the subsequent spiritual heritage of the institute. “It is precisely in this fidelity to the inspiration of the founders and foundresses, an inspiration which is itself a gift of the Holy Spirit, that the essential elements of the consecrated life can be more readily discerned and more fervently put into practice” (Vita consecrata VC 36). In the Chapter meetings you listen to what the Spirit wishes to say, to discern what it means to be faithful to your own charism in your institute today, in the Church and in the world, so that the seed of holiness may bear fruit in the present time.
In this regard, “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” (ibid., n. 37).
4. Even contemporary mankind — with its perennial poverty and with that poverty particular to our age — thirsts for divine mercy and seeks to discern its presence in men and women who are its credible witnesses.
This witness must be based on the very life of the religious community, where each day mercy becomes mutual concern, sharing and fraternal correction. The various “ministries of mercy” — as your Constitutions call them — radiate from an intense personal and community experience, expressed in your distinctive way of “working for the extension of the kingdom of God” (Const. 1).
Dear Sisters, you place all this under the special protection of Mary Mother of Mercy. May she, the “sublime example of perfect consecration” (Vita consecrata VC 28), always remind each of her daughters of “the primacy of God’s initiative” and communicate to them “the love which enables them to offer their lives every day for Christ and to co-operate with him in the salvation of the world” (ibid.). May the Blessed Virgin, also through your witness of faith and love, be acknowledged by all as Mother of Mercy.
With this wish I sincerely impart to you and to the entire congregation a special Apostolic Blessing
Sunday, 23 August 1998
First of all I greet and thank the three performers in the play about Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Doctor of the Church, as well as those who helped to produce it. They give us the opportunity to meditate on the work of the saint of Lisieux, teacher of the spiritual life and patronness of the missions. Thérèse herself appreciated the theatre and poetry, thus passing down her divine Saviour’s message throughout her life, desiring “nothing but the honour and glory of our Lord” (La mission de Jean d’Arc, 10rº).
I am delighted that she who spent her life in the seclusion of her Carmel should be increasingly known and continue to point out the way of the Lord, thanks to her spiritual maturity and the reliability of her teaching. I hope that, through art, many persons may have the good fortune, by following the little Carmelite, to discover the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and to be attracted by him, to love him with all their heart, for “love attracts love” (Manuscrit C, 34vº), and to live the Gospel every day and serve their brothers and sisters.
I also greet everyone who has attended this performance, especially the Abbot and Fathers of the St Victor Congregation of the Confederation of Canons Regular of St Augustine. I invite you all constantly to make the act of offering to merciful love, like Thérèse, desiring, despite human weakness, to love God and to make him loved, by humbly putting yourselves into his hands like small children, to do his will daily. I wholeheartedly grant my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy
President of the Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity
Through you, I am particularly pleased to send my cordial greetings to everyone attending the 12th prayer meeting organized by the Sant’Egidio Community on the theme: “Peace is the name of God”. I am still deeply moved at recalling that memorable day in Assisi where, for the first time in history, representatives of the world’s great religions gathered to ask for peace from the One who alone has the power to grant it fully. As I had occasion to say in the months that followed, I am firmly convinced that “on that day, and in the prayer which was its motivation, there seemed for a moment to be even a visible expression of the hidden but radical unity ... among the men and women of this world” (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 1986; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 January 1987, p. 6). This vision, which in substance is what I have called “the spirit of Assisi”, should be taken up again and communicated so that new energies of peace can be fostered everywhere. On that day a path was opened which the Sant’Egidio Community has courageously blazed, enabling more and more men and women of various religions and cultures to take part in it. Thus, the “vision” of Assisi has taken shape in many European cities, including Warsaw, Brussels, Milan and, last year, Padua. It is not by chance that this pilgrimage, now enriched by 12 years of experience, has reached Romania, making a stop in Bucharest, a city which on this occasion has become in a sense the geographical centre of a Europe that, with its wealth of peoples and cultures, must rebuild a broad and harmonious unity from which no one is excluded.
I would like to greet all the Romanian people, to whom I am close in spirit. I greet the President of the Republic and his Government, and I thank them for their invitation to visit Romania, which I hope to do. I offer a fraternal greeting in particular to His Beatitude Patriarch Theoctist, to the Metropolitans, to the Bishops and to all the people of the venerable Orthodox Church of Romania. With affection and esteem I greet the Catholic Bishops and communities of Romania, whether of the Latin or the Byzantine rite, and I urge them to persevere courageously in bearing witness to Christ and his Gospel. I extend my fraternal greeting to all the other Christian denominations and to the other religions in that noble country. This great manifestation of prayer for peace fits in perfectly with Romania’s unique vocation of being a bridge between East and West, of offering an original synthesis of European cultures and traditions.
The notable presence of venerable Patriarchs, Primates and Bishops of the Orthodox Churches makes this meeting highly significant for all Christianity. I send them my fraternal and affectionate kiss of peace, so that they may convey it to their beloved Churches. It is truly a precious gift that such distinguished representatives of Orthodoxy are meeting today with representatives of the Catholic Church and other Western Christian Communities to reflect together on so important a theme. Their presence at this meeting, precisely on the threshold of the third millennium, spurs us to raise our prayer to God with special confidence, so that the world will see Christians “less divided”. The way will become clearer, the more we meet and love one another, showing in this way the joy that unites us. This meeting in Bucharest thus appears as a true moment of grace. We need to remember, both for ourselves and for the world, that what unites us is much stronger than what divides us.
This meeting has a lofty spiritual meaning, because it sees Christians gathered with representatives of the world’s great religions. I extend my respectful greeting to them as well. They know how much I esteem their religious traditions: during my apostolic visits I never forget to meet their representatives and to acknowledge their noble mission in the various countries. While stressing the important role that religions play in contemporary human life, their presence in such large and distinguished numbers reminds us of the need to demonstrate the unity of nations, to teach peace and respect, to foster friendship and dialogue.
Yes, we need this commitment. Unfortunately, in recent decades, although notable advances have been made on the way of peace, we have witnessed the growth of many conflicts: wars in various parts of the world often involve the poorest countries, making their difficult situation even worse. I am thinking of Africa, tormented by conflict and an endemic situation of instability. I am also thinking of Kosovo, not far from here, where for too long entire populations have suffered atrocities and torture in the name of senseless ethnic rivalries. Lastly, I am thinking of the peace processes now under way in the Middle East and in other parts of the world but threatened by constantly recurring difficulties. Given the increased number of conflict situations, it is necessary to develop new energies of peace, for which religions are a valuable resource. During the 1993 meeting held in Milan, the religious leaders present signed an appeal which has lost none of its force: “May no hatred, no conflict, no war be kindled by religions! War can never be justified by religion. May the words spoken by religions always be words of peace! May the way of faith lead to dialogue and understanding! May religions guide hearts to bring peace on earth! May religions help all men and women to love the earth and its peoples both great and small!”.
Religions manifest the universal longing for harmony and understanding that comes from a sincere love of God. This gathering therefore has fittingly chosen the title: “God, Humankind, Peoples”, three realities which must remain vitally linked. Every individual and every people can discover their authentic vocation to the extent that they look to the One who is above everyone and who accom- panies all human beings towards that common future which you are already expressing in a certain way at this meeting.
Your Eminence, I entrust you with the task of greeting each representative of the Churches and Christian Communities, as well as those of the great world religions, assuring all the participants of my affectionate remembrance, accompanied by a fervent prayer to our common Father, that all the peoples of the earth, after forsaking the ways of violence, will commit themselves to the path of peace.
From Castel Gandolfo, 26 August 1998.
Dear Friends in Christ,
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1Co 1,3). In the bond of faith, I greet you as you gather for the Annual Plenary Meeting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. I extend a special word of appreciation to Bishop Mark Santer, whose term as the Anglican Co-President of the Commission is coming to a close. I thank you for all that you have done to inspire the work of the Commission in these years.
In exploring further the question of teaching authority in the Church as you are doing at this Annual Meeting, you seek to know more deeply the mind of Christ and what he intends for his Church. At a time when many people are deeply uncertain and anxious, it is important for Christians to reaffirm that truth does exist, that it can be known, and that Christ has established a teaching authority within the Church to safeguard and make known the truth of faith. A loss of confidence in the truth has lead to a crisis of culture, which does not leave the disciples of Christ untouched. In such a situation, the voice of apostolic authority should sound as a diakonia of the truth, a humble and tenacious service to the truth of Revelation. Our task is to preach that Christ is the absolute and universal Truth rising from the very depths of the Trinity, that he can be known, and that humanity finds its true freedom in knowing the Truth which he is (cf. Jn Jn 8,32).
In my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, I have made it clear that “the mission of the Bishop of Rome is particularly directed to recalling the need for full communion among Christ’s disciples” (No. 4). It is my fervent prayer therefore that the Spirit of Truth will continue to guide your work, so that as we move towards the Third Millennium of the Christian era, repenting of old sins and celebrating new hopes, Anglicans and Roman Catholics may know the joy which is ours when brothers and sisters dwell in unity (cf. Ps Ps 133,1). “Glory be to him whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ever ask or imagine” (Ep 3,20). May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I warmly welcome you, the representatives of the United Jewish Appeal Federations of North America, and I thank you for your visit. “May the Lord bless you and keep you always” (Nb 6,24). Your presence highlights the very close bonds of spiritual kinship which Christians share with the great religious tradition of Judaism stretching back through Moses to Abraham.
Our meeting is another step in the direction of strengthening the spirit of understanding between Jews and Catholics. For the good of the human family, it is crucial at this time that all believers work together to build structures of genuine peace. This is not just because of some political necessity which will pass, but because of God’s command which endures forever (cf. Ps Ps 33,11). In our different ways, Jews and Christians follow the religious path of ethical monotheism. We worship the one, true God; but this worship demands obedience to the ethic declared by the prophets: “Cease to do evil, learn to do good; correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Is 1,17). Without this, our worship means nothing to the God who says, “Take away from me the noise of your songs. . . until justice flow forth like a river” (Am 5,23-24).
The key to understanding the bond between the worship of God and service of humanity is given to us in the Book of Genesis. There we see that every human being has an absolute and inalienable dignity, for we are all created in the image and likeness of God himself (cf. Gen Gn 1,26). I am sure therefore that we share the fervent hope that the Lord of history will guide the efforts of Christians and Jews and all men and women of good will in working together for a world of true respect for the life and dignity of every human being, without discrimination of any kind. May this be our prayer and commitment!
May the Lord God “shed the light of his face upon you and be gracious to you; may he look upon you with kindness and give you his peace” (Nb 6,25-26). Amen.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. With gladness I welcome you, the Bishops of Zimbabwe, on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ph 1,2). As successors of the Apostles, we have a “partnership in the Gospel” (Ph 1,5) which extends, in appropriate ways, to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses. I ask you to take my greetings back to them and to assure them that they are remembered constantly in my prayers. The passage of time has not dimmed the memory of my visit to your country when I personally experienced the warmth of your people’s hospitality and the wealth of their cultural traditions.
There is cause for rejoicing in the fact that the Catholic population of Zimbabwe is steadily increasing: “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Ps 118,23). You report that many adults embrace the faith and are being brought into the Church. Thus we can immediately identify two important priorities of your ministry as Bishops: the pastoral care of families and the religious formation of the laity.
2. Certainly, in your country as elsewhere in Africa and throughout the world, the family as an institution is enduring difficult trials. The divorce rate is high; the scourge of abortion continues to dehumanize society; the AIDS crisis remains critical, leaving no segment of the population immune from its devastating effects. Moreover, this situation is often exacerbated by policies which do not lead to the changes in attitudes and behaviour necessary if these ills are to be successfully overcome. Thus your words about the sacredness of all human life, about the moral law regarding human sexuality, about the holiness of married life, are all the more urgent. As Bishops, we need to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or self- deception (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 58).
You are rightly concerned at the number of Catholic couples who marry according to traditional customs without the benefit of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and at the high incidence of irregular marriage situations and the continuing practice of polygamy. A correct and complete catechesis regarding Christian marriage in well presented parish programmes of marriage preparation can help young couples to grow spiritually and to persevere in a full sharing in the Church’s sacramental life. Through a concerted effort inspired by the Marriage and Family Commission of your Bishops’ Conference, priests and other pastoral workers can be more and more aware that the future of the Church and of society as a whole depends on the stability of marriage and the family.
On the subject of lay formation in general, we must acknowledge once more with gratitude the invaluable contribution made to the building up of the Church in Zimbabwe by your catechists: they are truly a priceless treasure, for it is they who teach the faith to young people and prepare adult converts to receive Baptism and to be fully initiated into ecclesial life. As the Fathers at the African Synod observed: “The role of the catechist has been and remains a determininative force in the implantation and expansion of the Church in Africa. The Synod recommends that catechists not only receive a sound initial formation . . . but that they continue to receive doctrinal formation as well as moral and spiritual support” (Ecclesia in Africa ). And it is truly a blessing that every one of your Dioceses is equipped with a pastoral training centre for catechists. I have read with interest about your “Winter Schools” for catechists, and I encourage you to expand such training sessions and increase their depth, looking to the continuing intellectual pastoral and spiritual formation of your catechists as one of the great commitments of your ministry. In all of this, The Catechism of the Catholic Church can be an invaluable tool and resource.
3. Young people comprise over fifty per cent of your country’s population, and their pastoral care is of vital concern to you. Some of the major difficulties facing Zimbabwe’s youth — including unemployment, the harmful effects of a certain use of the media, and the allure of religious sects — make it imperative for you to address these questions with determination and pastoral inventiveness. I encourage you to do all that you can to increase the effectiveness of Catholic youth organizations. Through appropriate training and activities, young people “discover very early on the value of the gift of self, an essential means for the person to reach maturity” (Ecclesia in Africa ). In this way they mature humanly and spiritually, and become responsible members of the community and effective evangelizers of their peers. Prayer, study and reflection are all important elements which cannot be missing in the formation of young people. For this they need the leadership of priests, religious and lay leaders who genuinely bear witness in their lives to Christ and the Gospel. Here too your Bishops’ Conference can make a significant contribution by taking steps to ensure that its National Catholic Youth Council is properly equipped and ready to lend effective assistance in the pastoral care of young people.
In Zimbabwe, moreover, Catholic schools play an important part in passing on the truths and values of the Christian faith, and the instruction and training imparted by Catholic educational institutions are much valued by the general public. Still, certain policies prohibiting the teaching of religious faith during regular school hours make this task difficult. It is necessary to continue to defend the principles involved: the right of religious freedom and the prior rights of parents in their children’s education. Your country’s political leaders themselves have lauded the advantages of Christian education and commented on how the Church can contribute to the necessary renewal of moral values in society. I encourage your efforts to come to a formal understanding with the Government concerning the rights and just autonomy of Catholic schools.
4. In all these undertakings your primary and chief collaborators in preaching the Gospel and spreading the Good News of salvation are your priests. For them in particular, as Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote, the Bishop must be “the living image of God the Father” (Ad. Trall., 3:1). This spiritual fatherhood finds expression in a deep bond of communion between yourselves and your priests, in your being accessible to them and giving them the support which they expect and need from you. As you seek to show genuine spiritual leadership, your attitude of openness, compassion and cooperation towards them, your personal love for the Church, your own priestly spirituality, the example of your liturgical and personal prayer, and your attachment to the See of Peter, all play an important part in creating a positive and truly serene spirit of unity within the presbyterate. The human and spiritual well-being of your priests will be the crown of your Episcopal ministry.
The increasing numbers of priestly and religious vocations in many of your Dioceses is a great blessing but also a great responsibility. I can only encourage you to select with care the candidates whom you ordain to the priesthood, to watch over the doctrinal soundness of the programme of studies, and to ensure the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation of your seminarians. The Charter on Priestly Formation recently published by your Conference should prove to be a most useful instrument in this regard and can also serve as a precious guide to Religious Superiors as you invite them to exercise the same vigilance and care over the members of their Institutes.
With the advancement of a secularistic and materialistic view of life, it is all the more necessary for priests and religious to be clearly seen to follow Christ’s example of self-giving love, which means exercising discipline, mortification, self-sacrifice and generosity towards others. It is of paramount importance that future priests understand clearly and realistically the value of celibate chastity and its relation to priestly ministry. Thus they will learn to “appreciate, love and live celibacy according to its true nature and according to its real purpose, that is for evangelical, spiritual and pastoral motives” (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 50). Shared simplicity of life brings joy to the presbyterate and, when accompanied by mutual trust, facilitates the willing obedience which every priest owes his Bishop. Eloquent testimony is borne to the Gospel and the unity of the local Church is strengthened when episcopal authority is exercised as selfless service and when priestly obedience is practised as ready cooperation.
5. The commitment and generosity shown by members of Religious Institutes is an essential part of the history of the Church in Zimbabwe. Their way of life, their loving service, especially in the fields of education and healthcare, has been a sign of the power of God’s own love at work among his people, generation after generation, as he brings forth from the labours of his zealous servants an ever more abundant harvest (cf. 1Co 3,6). As you invite religious to continue to be faithful witnesses to the Lord in the midst of his people, it is important that the particularly invaluable apostolate of women religious be increasingly esteemed as a vital part of the mission of building up the “household of God” (Ep 2,19) in Zimbabwe.
6. Dear Brother Bishops, each day you endeavour to be faithful to the duties which the Lord has laid upon you. Both individually in your respective Dioceses and jointly through the Bishops’ Conference you seek to shed the light of sound moral principles on the contemporary realities of Zimbabwean society. In the particularly delicate area of the redistribution of land, for example, you have made yourselves spokesmen of the Church’s social teaching in expounding the need for “a suitable mechanism . . . to ensure that justice, equity and fairness are preserved at all times”. You have noted that “the common good requires that the redistribution of land be undertaken in such a way that the ability . . . to feed Zimbabwe, and indeed neighbouring countries, is not affected”; nor have you neglected environmental concerns, pointing out that “ecological preservation of the land must also be a priority” (Statement of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference on Land Reform). The Holy See is acutely aware of the importance of this complex issue for the just development of countries and for peace among peoples (cf. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Towards a Better Distribution of Land: the Challenge of Agrarian Reform, 23 November 1997).
During these past weeks we have all been sad witnesses of the spread of violence and armed conflict in various parts of Africa, and particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It must be our hope and prayer that there will be a prompt end to violence in the region, especially the violence that is aimed at innocent civilians who are exposed to terrifying repression and plundering, deprived of their livelihood and condemned to an uncertain future. Yours is a peaceful nation. You must work to keep it so by reminding your people that a military solution to profound social and economic problems will always be an illusion and will be the cause of further grievances and injustices. As servants of the Prince of Peace we must loudly proclaim that the solution to a nation’s problems lies not in the destructive force of hatred and death, but in constructive dialogue and negotiation.
In these areas, as in all aspects of your pastoral ministry, the experience of working together in the Episcopal Conference is very positive and beneficial, and I know that you are grateful to the dedicated priests, religious and lay staff members of the various Conference offices. Likewise, the development of efficient diocesan structures in accordance with Canon Law is also helping to make your service to the People of God ever more effective. I encourage you to continue along this path.
7. These are some of the reflections which your visit prompts, and it is with love and understanding that I share them with you. In this way I am able to participate in the joys and challenges which are yours as you shepherd God’s flock. On the threshold of the Third Christian Millennium — and always — the Lord is calling the Church in Zimbabwe to bear credible witness to the Gospel through Christlike deeds. Be assured of my constant prayers for your local Churches, that all the faithful will respond with steadfast faith and unbounded generosity to the grace which the Lord is pouring out upon you. Take my encouragement and best wishes to the priests and Religious, to the seminarians and catechists, to the catechumens and all who seek the truth of Christ, to the families and parish communities. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1Co 16,23-24).