From the Vatican, 16 July 1999.
Sunday, 22 August 1999
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. At the end of this concert, I would like to offer my cordial thanks to the musicians of the Contempo Quartet, who with their sensitivity and skill have offered us a moment of deep aesthetic contemplation. I also extend my thanks to the Embassy of Romania accredited to the Holy See, which planned and organized this musical evening.
The alternation of serene and lively, dramatic and nostalgic passages has been for all of us an opportunity for involvement and reflection. Indeed, art would be an empty aesthetic exercise did it not open one to the insight of reality's deepest aspect, expressed in an invitation to commitment, so that what has been perceived should not remain a useless abstraction but become concrete in everyday life, bringing it the light of beauty and truth. Art, as I wrote in my Letter to Artists, is an "appeal to the mystery" (n. 10).
The artistic experience offers us two pedagogical indications in particular: indications which in turn become an inspiration for our lives. The first stems from observation of the harmony that flows from diversity: beauty springs from various elements which do not cancel one another out, but blend together in one design. The second concerns the nobility of sentiments: beauty is never the fruit of a levelling out or mediocrity, but of striving for what is loftier and more perfect. It is through being committed to achieving these values in daily life that individuals and societies grow and develop.
2. There is another reason why this evening is particularly happy and evocative: several months ago I had the joy of visiting Romania, meeting authorities and citizens of that beloved nation and welcoming in my heart the hopes and intentions of the men and women of that noble land. This evening's musical performance, like a faithful echo of the Romanian people's cultural riches reminds me of that extraordinary meeting, full of warmth and sharing, and renews my sincere admiration for the history, civilization and achievements of that great people.
Mr Ambassador, please convey my sentiments of sincere esteem and cordial closeness to your country's authorities. I wish the talented musicians a successful professional career and an even more satisfying human fulfilment.
May the Lord, God of beauty and harmony, fill your lives with joy, and shower his Blessings on each of you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. I am pleased to meet you on so important an occasion: this year you are celebrating the eighth centenary of the foundation of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and the fourth centenary of its reform. It is therefore appropriate that the members of the Trinitarian family, firmly rooted in the project of their founder, St John of Matha, and living the same charism, should gather in a "General Assembly" to reflect together on their common problems and possible solutions on the threshold of the new millennium.
I greet the Minister General of the Order and thank him for his kind words. With him I greet those responsible for the various institutes of the Trinitarian family, as well as the men and women religious and lay people who have gathered from all over the world for this assembly. It is a particularly favourable moment to intensify your fidelity to the gift of the Spirit received from the founder and to be more vitally involved in the renewal desired by the Second Vatican Council, so that you can meet the needs and challenges of the world today.
2. For eight centuries, through a variety of historical events, the Trinitarian family, motivated and enlivened by its original charism centred on the glorification of the Trinity and on dedication to human redemption, grew and spread in the Church and the world through the flourishing of various institutes and lay associations. The individual groups are known by the name of the Trinity, to which they are especially dedicated, and by St John of Matha, whom they venerate as their common father. They all share in the same charism of glorifying the Trinity and working for human redemption by devoting themselves to works of charity and to the liberation of those who are poor or enslaved in our day.
Today, in addition to the male branch, the Trinitarian family also consists of women religious of both contemplative and active life. The latter are divided into various congregations: there are the Trinitarian Sisters of Valence, Rome, Valencia, Madrid, Mallorca and Seville. There are also the women's Secular Institute of Trinitarian Oblates and the Secular Trinitarian Order, as well as confraternities and many other lay Trinitarian associations that witness in the world to the secular dimension of the Trinitarian spirit.
Once again I urge them all to live with generous fidelity their original charism, which has remained extraordinarily relevant in today's world. Contemporary man needs to hear salvation proclaimed in the name of the Most Holy Trinity and to be guarded from chains which are no less dangerous for being less obvious than those of former times. The Trinitarian family will therefore do well to listen to the entreaties of those ensnared by modern forms of slavery so that concrete ways may be found to answer their deeply felt expectations.
You are supported in your reflection and commitment by the many brothers and sisters who have preceded you and have left you shining examples of virtue and holiness in living the same charism: men and women religious and lay people whose names, often blood-stained, are enrolled among the the saints and live on in the witness of the Trinitarian tradition.
3. In the light of this heroic witness you would like to make concrete plans for entering the new millennium. In particular, you have thought of establishing an international organization of the Trinitarian family for intervening more effectively in the defence of the persecuted or of those suffering discrimination for their religious faith or for fidelity to their conscience or to Gospel values.
You have called this new organization "International Trinitarian Solidarity", intending to involve the entire family in service to all the suffering and unfortunate people who in their misery long for an "epiphany" of Christ the Redeemer.
Another very important project is the new foundation in Sudan, which you planned as an expression of the redemptive and merciful mission proper to your order. In addition to carrying out the missionary apostolate and that of liberation, the initiative intends to promote interreligious dialogue between Christianity and Islam, in accordance with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, taken up and developed in later documents of the Magisterium.
4. The Great Jubilee of the Incarnation is a further incentive for the entire Trinitarian family to mediate more deeply on the Trinitarian mystery which it sees as the heart of its spirituality. Drawing from this inexhaustible source, it will not fail to be committed to developing all the potential of Trinitarian consecration, enriching it with new fullness. A renewed commitment to liberation from every form of oppression will flow from this intense Trinitarian experience.
The Extraordinary General Chapter, which has just ended, focused your reflection on the theme of the Domus Trinitatis et Captivorum. With the original spirit of St John of Matha's project - which also deserves appreciation in our day - in such a Domus that dynamism of love must reign whose source lies in the Trinitarian mystery and which is extended to God's favourites: slaves and the poor. May the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, who is love, spur you to make yourselves a gift of love for others. Unity and love will be the best witness to your Trinitarian vocation in the Church.
May the Blessed Virgin, who down the centuries you have invoked with the lovely prayer: "Ave, Filia Dei Patris, Ave, Mater Dei Filii, Ave, Sponsa Spiritus Sancti, Sacrarium Sanctissimae Trinitatis", enable you to contemplate the Mystery with ever greater relish and help you to live the days of the Great Jubilee as a time of renewed hope and serene spiritual rejoicing.
With these hopes, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of the Trinitarian family.
Castel Gandolfo, 26 August 1999
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!
1. Today I welcome with great joy all of you who are taking part in the International Study Week promoted by the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. I first greet Bishop Angelo Scola, Rector Magnificent of the Pontifical Lateran University and the Institute's President, and I thank him for his words at the beginning of our meeting. With him, I greet Archbishop Carlo Caffarra of Ferrara, his predecessor, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and the prelates present, the distinguished lecturers who have explained some interesting points to me, and all those who in various capacities are working for the success of your convention. I greet you all, dear faculty members of the Institute's various branches, who have gathered here in Rome for a systematic reflection on the foundation of the divine plan for marriage and the family. Thank you for your commitment and your service to the Church.
2. Since its foundation 18 years ago, the Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family has promoted a deeper understanding of God's plan for the person, marriage and the family, combining theological, philosophical and scientific reflection with constant attention to the cura animarum.This relationship between thought and life, theology and pastoral care, is really crucial. If I look at my own experience, I can easily see how my work with young people in the university chaplaincy of Kraków helped me in my meditation on fundamental aspects of the Christian life. Daily life with the young, the opportunity to guide them in their joys and efforts, and their desire to live to the full the vocation to which the Lord called them helped me to understand ever more deeply the truth that the human being grows and matures in love, that is, in the gift of himself, and that in giving himself he receives in exchange the possibility of his own fulfilment. One of the loftiest expressions of this principle is found in marriage, which "is the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to establish in man his loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through the mutual gift of themselves which is specific and exclusive to them alone, seek to develop that kind of personal union in which they complement one another in order to cooperate with God in the generation and education of new lives" (Humanae vitae, HV 8).
3. Inspired by the profound unity between the truth proclaimed by the Church and the concrete options and experiences of life, your Institute has offered praiseworthy service in these years. With branches in Rome at the Pontifical Lateran University, in Washington, Mexico City and Valencia, with the academic centres of Cotonou (Benin), São Salvador da Bahia (Brazil), and Changanacherry (India), whose incorporation into the Institute is already under way, and with the forthcoming opening of the centre in Melbourne (Australia), the Institute will be able to count on its own centres on the five continents. We must thank the Lord for this development, as we look with due gratitude to all those who have made and continue to make their contribution to the achievement of this work.
4. I would now like to look to the future with you and attentively consider the urgent needs that this field presents to the mission of the Church and, therefore, to your own Institute.
In comparison with 18 years ago when your academic journey began, the challenge posed by the secular mentality regarding the truth about the person, marriage and the family has in a certain sense become even more radical. It is not only a question of debating the individual moral norms of sexual and family ethics. The image of man/woman proper to natural reason and, in particular, to Christianity is opposed with an alternative anthropology. The latter rejects the fact, inscribed in corporeity, that the sexual difference is an identifying characteristic of the person; consequently the concept of the family founded on the indissoluble marriage of a man and a woman, as the natural and basic cell of society, is critically challenged. Fatherhood and motherhood are conceived only as a private project, which can even be accomplished with the application of biomedical technology, without the exercise of conjugal sexuality. This attitude presupposes an unacceptable "division between freedom and nature", which are instead "harmoniously bound together, and each is intimately linked to the other" (Veritatis splendor, VS 50).
In fact, the sexual aspect of corporeity is an integral part of the original divine plan, in which man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1,27) and called to create a communion of persons that is faithful and free, indissoluble and fruitful, as a reflection of the riches of Trinitarian love (cf. Col Col 1,15-16).
Therefore, before being a project of human freedom, fatherhood and motherhood represent a vocational dimension inscribed in conjugal love, to be lived as a unique responsibility before God, by accepting children as a gift from him (Gn 4,1), in the adoration of that divine fatherhood "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Ep 3,15).
To eliminate the corporeal mediation of the conjugal act as the place where a new human life can originate means at the same time to degrade procreation from cooperation with God the Creator to the technically controlled "re-production" of an exemplar of the species, and thus to lose the unique personal dignity of the child (cf. Donum vitae, II B/5). Indeed, only when there is integral respect for the essential characteristics of the conjugal act as a personal gift of the spouses, at once corporeal and spiritual, is the person of the child also respected and expression given to his origin in God, the source of every gift.
When the body itself, the sexual difference inscribed in it and its proper procreative faculties are treated instead as merely inferior biological elements to be manipulated, one ultimately denies the limit and the vocation present in corporeity and shows a presumption that, beyond subjective intentions, indicates a misunderstanding of one's own being as a gift from God. In the light of these problems which are so current today, I reaffirm with even greater conviction what was already taught in my Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio: "The future of humanity passes by way of the family" (n. 86).
5. In view of these challenges, the Church has no other option than to turn her gaze to Christ, the Redeemer of man and fullness of Revelation. As I had occasion to say in the Encyclical Fides et ratio: "Christian Revelation is the true lodestar of men and women as they strive to make their way amid the pressures of an immanentist habit of mind and the constrictions of a technocratic logic" (n. 15). This guidance is offered to us precisely through the revelation of the foundation of reality, that is, of that Father who created it and maintains it in being at every instant.
A deeper reflection on God's plan for the person, marriage and the family is the task that should engage you with renewed vigour at the beginning of the third millennium.
Here I should like to suggest a few perspectives for this reflection. The first concerns the foundation in the strict sense, that is, the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, the very source of being and, therefore, the ultimate foundation of anthropology. In the light of the mystery of the Trinity, the sexual difference reveals its complete nature as an expressive sign of the whole person.
The second perspective which I intend to submit for your study concerns the vocation of man and woman to communion. It is also rooted in the Trinitarian mystery, is fully revealed to us in the Incarnation of the Son of God in which the human nature and the divine nature are united in the Person of the Word and is historically inserted into the sacramental dynamism of the Christian economy. The nuptial mystery of Christ, Bridegroom of the Church, is expressed in a singular way through sacramental marriage, the fruitful community of life and love.
In this way the theology of marriage and the family this is the third point that I would like to offer you is inscribed in the contemplation of the mystery of the Triune God, who invites all people to the wedding feast of the Lamb accomplished in the paschal mystery and eternally offered to human freedom in the sacramental reality of the Church.
In addition, reflection on the person, marriage and the family is deepened by devoting special attention to the person-society relationship. The Christian response to the failure of individualistic and collectivistic anthropology calls for an ontological personalism rooted in the analysis of primary family relationships. The rationality and relationality of the human person, unity and difference in communion and the constitutive polarities of man-woman, spirit-body and individual-community are co-essential and inseparable dimensions. Reflection on the person, marriage and the family can thus be ultimately integrated into the Church's social teaching and become one of its strongest roots.
6. These and other perspectives for the Institute's future work must be developed in accordance with the twofold method that can also be inferred from your meeting.
On the one hand, it is essential to start from the unity of God's plan for the person, marriage and the family. This unitary starting-point alone enables the teaching offered at the Institute not to be a mere juxtaposition of what theology, philosophy and human science tell us about these subjects. An adequate anthropology flows from Christian Revelation, as does a sacramental vision of marriage and the family, which can interact dialogically with the results of the research belonging to philosophical reason and the human sciences. This original unity is also at the root of the joint work between teachers of different subjects and makes possible interdisciplinary research and teaching which have as their object the "unum" of the person, marriage and the family studied from different and complementary viewpoints with specific methodologies.
On the other hand, the importance should be emphasized of the three thematic areas around which all the study "curricula" offered at the Institute are concretely organized. All three areas are necessary for your work of research, teaching and study to be complete and consistent. Indeed, how is it possible not to consider the "human phenomenon" as it is presented by the different sciences? How could we neglect the study of freedom, the centre of every anthropology and the gateway to the fundamental ontological questions? How could we forgo a theology in which nature, freedom and grace are seen in an articulated unity, in the light of Christ's mystery? This is the point of synthesis for all your work, since "in reality, it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et spes, GS 22).
7. The originality of the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family is not only linked to the content and method of its research, but is also expressed through its specific juridical-institutional structure. The Institute in a certain sense has a unique status among the Church's academic institutions. In fact, it is one (with a single Grand Chancellor and a single President), and at the same time, it is juridically organized into branches on the various continents.
Thus we have a juridical-institutional expression of the normal dynamism of communion that flows between the universal Church and the particular Churches. In this way the Institute lives, in an exemplary way, the twofold Roman and universal dimension that marks the city's university institutions and, in particular, the Pontifical Lateran University, where the central branch is located and which is described by Article 1 of the Statutes as "the university of the Supreme Pontiff in a special sense".
If we look at the Institute and its history, we see how fruitful is the principle of unity in multiplicity! It is not only made concrete in a unity of doctrinal orientation which makes research and teaching effective, but is expressed above all in the real communion of the teachers, students and staff. This is so both within the individual branches and in the mutual exchange between branches, so different from one another. In this way you collaborate in enriching the Church's life and, in the final analysis, the Catholica itself!
8. So that men and women could share, as members of the Church, in his very life, the Son of God wanted to become a member of a human family. For this reason the Holy Family of Nazareth, as the "original Church in miniature (Ecclesia domestica)" (Redemptoris Custos, n. 7), is a privileged guide for the Institute's work. It clearly shows the involvement of the family in the mission of the incarnate and redemptive Word and sheds light on the Church's own mission.
May Mary, Virgin, Wife and Mother, protect the teachers, students and staff of your Institute. May she accompany and support your reflection and your work, so that God's Church can find in you diligent and valuable help for her task of proclaiming to all humanity God's truth about the person, marriage and the family.
My thanks and my Blessing to all.
Dear Young People!
1. I welcome you with real joy at the end of your first international convention entitled: "Young People to Assisi", which took the form of a pilgrimage retracing the footprints of St Francis of Assisi. Welcome! I greet you all with affection.
I thank each of you for your contribution to the project's success; I thank the Minister General of the Friars Minor Conventual for his courteous words to me. In particular, I express my pleasure to the Friars Minor Conventual, who suggested this unusual pilgrimage as a pre-Jubilee experience in preparation for the 15th World Youth Day in 2000, which will be held in Rome about a year from now. I hope that they will always live their consecration as a gift which the Lord offers the Church and be faithful to the way of life bequeathed to the order by the Poverello of Assisi.
2. Dear young people, the path that has led you to places so dear to Marian and Franciscan spirituality was marked by moments of prayer, penance and reflective meetings. In Padua, Loreto and Assisi, you had the opportunity to visit important shrines of the faith in Italy and today your stop in Rome is a good way to finish your spiritual journey. You are guided by the question "Francis, why does the world follow you?". I am sure that, by listening to teachings and testimonies, you have received useful encouragement for a renewed commitment to the Gospel.
Today, following St Francis' example, you have come to meet the Pope to reaffirm your fidelity to the Church, which the saint said, "will keep the bonds of love and peace unharmed among us.... In her presence the holy observance of Gospel purity will always flourish and will never let the good fragrance of life vanish even for a moment" (2 Celano XVI, 24; FF 611).
Thank you for your visit! You have wished to give me, as St Francis gave my venerable Predecessor Honorius III, a rule of Gospel life which you intend to practise, and have added a monetary donation, the fruit of your day of penance. I wholeheartedly thank you for this as well.
3. Your experience is now drawing to a close and, as you return home, you will be able to communicate what you experienced in these days to your peers. This pilgrimage has certainly been a providential opportunity for an encounter with Christ and with one another. It has enabled you to behold the face of God (cf. Ps Ps 27,8)) and his wonderful holiness, trusting in the healing power of his grace and mercy.
Be grateful to the Lord for having been guided by patient teachers who have led you spiritually step by step. Now, as you take roads in other directions, keep your heart docile to what God has to say. In resuming your normal occupations, spread to those around you the light which has illumined your spirit. Love and follow Christ! If the path becomes difficult at times and you are overcome by fatigue, rest in the shade of prayer. You will find peace and refreshment in dialogue with God.
The "witnesses" you have learned to know better and to love more will be your traveling companions. In Padua, in the basilica dedicated to him, you met St Anthony, a man of the Gospel who took the path of a patient and jealous visitation of God. In the Holy House of Loreto, the humble, receptive heart of Mary, the "Virgin become Church", as St Francis loved to call her (Salutation of the BVM 1: FF 259), set you before Christ Incarnate. In Assisi, Francis, a free and prayerful, merciful and fraternal heart, taught you to show compassion to all people and to all creatures. Taking up the scriptural invitation to "consider the outcome of their life, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and for ever!" (He 13,7-8).
4. Dear young people, your itinerant meeting, which has touched on inspirational places and themes of faith, can be considered an anticipation of World Youth Day which, God willing, will be held here in Rome next year. I invite you all now to prepare for it. Falling in the middle of the Holy Year 2000, it will be an extraordinary opportunity for you young people: Christ wants you to work with him in building the new millennium according to his universal plan of salvation. Living the Gospel is certainly a demanding task, but only with Christ can we successfully build the civilization of love.
May Mary, Star of your journey, accompany you: may St Anthony, St Francis and St Clare protect you. For my part, I remain close to you in prayer.
Before leaving I would like to bless you now with the words of Scripture that Francis so loved and which you have certainly heard many times: "The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!" (cf. Nm NM 6,24-26 FF 262).
Castel Gandolfo, 28 August 1999
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. As you make your pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostles Peter and Paul, it gives me great joy to welcome you, the Pastors of the Catholic Church in Côte d'Ivoire. Indeed, the ad limina visit is a very important moment in the life and ministry of Bishops, who come to give glory to God for all the benefits they have received from him and to express their communion with the Successor of Peter and the universal Church. From their meetings with the Bishop of Rome and his assistants, they can also draw comfort and support to carry out the mission entrusted to their care.
I thank Archbishop Auguste Nobou, President of your Episcopal Conference, for his kind words to me on your behalf. I also express my best wishes to Archbishop Vital Komenan Yao of Bouaké, whom you have elected to succeed him in a few days.
When you return to your Dioceses, please bring your priests, religious, catechists and all the faithful the affectionate greetings of the Pope, who still cherishes the memory of their warm welcome during his three visits to their country. Convey to all your fellow-citizens his best wishes for a future of peace and prosperity.
2. The Church in Côte d'Ivoire has known various stages of development and growth in her history. Today she shows a wonderful vitality which makes it possible to look confidently to the future. Professions of faith in Jesus Christ and requests for the sacraments of Christian initiation are numerous. Liturgical celebrations are very well attended and lively. With their joyful, friendly spirit, your communities express the fraternal love that Jesus taught his disciples. In this way your people show their thirst for God and their desire to live the divine comandments to the full! During the African Synod, in which several of you took part, the Fathers reflected on these signs of hope but also on the shadows and challenges facing their mission. In recalling the urgent need to proclaim the Good News to the millions of people who do not yet know it, they expressed the hope that a new evangelical zeal would enliven the local Churches. They also wished to call the Catholics of the entire continent to a new, in-depth evangelization, inviting them to walk courageously on the difficult paths of conversion of heart and continual renewal.
Following this Synod, in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa I myself wanted to present the decisions and guidelines that will enable the Church to carry out her mission as effectively as possible. It is in some ways the missionary charter of the Church as the Family of God in Africa, which everyone is invited to put into practice in his personal life and in specific situations. I ardently hope that, at this privileged time when the 2,000th anniversary of the Incarnation is being celebrated, everything will be directed to the Jubilee's priority objective: the strengthening of the faith and witness of Christians (Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 42). I urge Christ's disciples to strengthen the ties that bind them to the Saviour of humanity in order to be faithful and generous witnesses. To do this, it is essential to present the Christian message fearlessly in its entirety with all its prophetic power, using and adapting the means that the modern world can offer. However, we should remember that the witness of a life of holiness is indispensable for an authentic Gospel proclamation, whose primary goal is to present the risen Jesus himself as the only Saviour of all mankind.
3. For some years the number of priests has been steadily growing; this gives us hope and optimism for the future. As I renew my cordial greetings to all your priests, I encourage them in their ministry to be authentic servants of Christ who sent them, and of the people for whom they are responsible, in ever more vital communion with their Bishop and with the whole Church. Indeed, the vocation to the priesthood obliges priests to adopt with determination the very attitude of Jesus, the chaste and faithful servant who gave his life unsparingly to fulfil the mission entrusted to him by his Father. I therefore invite them to be zealous in following the Lord, like the Apostles, by living their priesthood as a specific way of holiness. Thus in all circumstances they will be true and credible witnesses to the Word they proclaim and the sacraments whose ministers they are. In carrying out this service in a spirit of Gospel detachment from the inordinate search for material goods and personal advantage, they will be signs of the generosity of God who freely lavishes his gifts on human beings.
With continuing formation that deepens their knowledge of theology and the spiritual life and also takes into account the sound values of their living environment, priests will be able to express and faithfully carry out their ministry and to integrate their life. An act of love for Jesus Christ, who must be constantly recognized and sought, this continuing formation is also an act of love for the People of God whom the priest is called to serve (Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis PDV 70).
Permit me to express here the Church's recognition of the work accomplished in your country for more than a century by so many missionaries, men and women, who left their countries of origin to proclaim the Gospel in Côte d'Ivoire. Today their witness, at times heroic, continues to be the model of a life totally given to God and to others and a source of dynamism for the many religious, Fidei donum priests and lay people who are generously committed to following in their footsteps. God bless their work and grant the Church of Côte d'Ivoire an ever greater concern for the universal mission! Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, in this missionary spirit which you have received from your fathers in the faith, I encourage you constantly to develop the great African tradition of solidarity by sharing resources of apostolic personnel with the less fortunate Dioceses in your country and beyond your borders.
4. I know how keen you are to give your future priests genuine formation. The close relationship that must exist between the Bishop and the seminary is crucial. It is a serious responsibility but also a great joy for a Pastor to follow the progress of those who are called to become his closest co-workers in the apostolic ministry. In fact, as I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis: "The presence of the Bishop is especially valuable, not only because it helps the seminary community live its insertion in the particular Church and its communion with the Pastor who guides it, but also because it verifies and encourages the pastoral purpose which is what specifies the entire formation of candidates for the priesthood" (n. 65).
The initiative you recently took to set up a propaedeutic year deserves encouragement. This period of preparation before entering the major seminary is a privileged opportunity to clarify the candidates' motives, deepen their Christian and ecclesial life, and help formation personnel in their task of vocational discernment.
From the example of united and fraternal educational communities that present a concrete image of ecclesial communion, seminarians will learn in turn to become men of faith who are faithful to the Church and to the commitments they will be called to make. For this reason it is necessary to choose, prepare and guide priests of exemplary life who have all the human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual qualities needed by those responsible for clerical formation. In a context where it is often difficult to hold up a life of asceticism and inner discipline to young people, suitable ways should be sought to present the demands of priestly life to them clearly, avoiding all ambiguity and compromises, which are harmful both to their personal life and to the Church.
5. To be faithful to her mission of proclaiming the Gospel, the entire Church must be missionary. By their Baptism and Confirmation, all the members of the People of God, each according to his own specific vocation, have received the responsibility to bear witness to their faith in Christ. Therefore priority should be given in pastoral programming to the formation of the lay faithful, so that they can lead a life that is fully consistent and can give an account of it to their brethren. This formation must enable lay people to know clearly the truths of the faith and its requirements, so that they will not be "tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles" (Ep 4,14). It will help guide them so that they accept their own responsibilities in the Church and in society, as well as in the sociopolitical and economic domains, in the light of the Gospel and the Church's teaching. "Christians must be formed to live the social implications of the Gospel in such a way that their witness will become a prophetic challenge to whatever hinders the true good of the men and women of Africa and of every other continent" (Ecclesia in Africa ).
Among the lay faithful, catechists, whose role is crucial in the Christian communities, are particularly called to acquire an ever deeper formation in order to be true Gospel witnesses by the example of their life and by their competence in the mission entrusted to them. Please convey my encouragement to each of them and my gratitude for their generous service to the Church and to their brothers and sisters.
6. The family plays a fundamental role in African culture and tradition because it is the first pillar of society and the primary cell of the ecclesial community. That is why the African Synod considered the evangelization of the family a major priority. I firmly encourage you to continue strengthening a pastoral programme for the guidance of families in the various phases of their formation and development. It is particularly necessary to prepare young people for marriage and family life. They should be helped to understand the greatness and the demands of the sacrament of Matrimony, which gives the married couple the grace to love one another as Christ loved his Church, thereby perfecting their human love, strengthening their indissoluble unity and sanctifying them on the path of eternal life (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1661). It is the Church's duty to affirm forcefully the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal union. "To all those who, in our times, consider it too difficult, or indeed impossible, to be bound to one person for the whole of life, and to those caught up in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and openly mocks the commitment of spouses to fidelity, it is necessary to reconfirm the good news of the definitive nature of that conjugal love that has in Christ its foundation and strength" (Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio FC 20). The witness of united and responsible homes as well as education in the meaning of fidelity, without which there is no true freedom, will set a valuable example for young people that will give them greater knowledge and acceptance of the rich human and spiritual reality of Christian marriage.
I invite the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church to love and support the family in a special way, with great esteem for its values and potential, to recognize the dangers and evils which threaten it, so that it can overcome them and be assured of an environment that will foster its development (cf. ibid., n. 86)!
7. The new evangelization to which the Church is called must take a renewed interest in the close relationship between human cultures and the Christian faith. The African traditional religion, from which many Christians come, deeply marks your people's culture and still exerts a great influence on how the faithful understand and live the faith, sometimes giving rise to inconsistencies. As I wrote in Ecclesia in Africa, calm and prudent dialogue with the followers of this religion "will be able, on the one hand, to protect Catholics from negative influences which condition the way of life of many of them and, on the other hand, to foster the assimilation of positive values such as belief in a Supreme Being who is Eternal, Creator, Provident and Just Judge, values which are readily harmonized with the content of the faith" (n. 67). However, it is essential to help the baptized form a deep and authentic relationship with Christ, who must become the real centre of their lives. Such an encounter, where the human being discovers the mystery of his own life, implies a radical conversion on the individual's part and the purification of all religious practices prior to this encounter.
Moreover, a fraternal dialogue of life with Muslims is also indispensable for building the future in peace. Despite the obstacles and difficulties, it is urgently necessary that all believers and the people of good will who share essential values with them join forces in building the civilization of love, based on the universal values of peace, solidarity, brotherhood, justice and freedom. To this end, they should work together for the harmonious development of society, so that the mutual rights and duties of all the nation's sons and daughters can be recognized by one another, and that all can have the freedom to fulfil the requirements of their religion in mutual respect.
To foster the dialogue between faith and culture, I am delighted with the presence in your country of several international Catholic institutions, especially the Catholic Institute of West Africa. They are a sign of the Church's growth, since they integrate in their research the truths and experiences of faith and help them to be interiorized (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). Many young people also receive a human and intellectual formation at educational institutions maintained by the Church or the State and are privileged places for the transmission of culture. I therefore urge you to focus special attention on pastoral care in schools and universities, and even more broadly in the world of culture, so that the Gospel can be truly rooted in your country.
8. At the end of our meeting, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I thank God with you for his work among your people. The approach of the Great Jubilee invites all Catholics to fix their gaze on the mystery of the Incarnation of God's Son, who came for the salvation of the human race. May our entry into the new millennium spur Pastors and faithful to look with the eyes of faith to new horizons, so that God's kingdom will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth! I entrust each of your Dioceses to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Peace, particularly venerated at her shrine in Yamoussoukro. I implore her Son Jesus to shower an abundance of divine blessings upon the Church in Côte d'Ivoire, so that she will be a living sign of God's love for everyone, especially the needy, the sick and the suffering. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and willingly extend it to the priests, religious, catechists and all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.
From Castel Gandolfo, 28 August 1999.