Speeches 1999

HOLY FATHER'S ADDRESS

TO THE OFFICERS OF THE 31ST SQUADRON

OF THE ITALIAN AIR FORCE

Sunday, 26 september 1999

Dear Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. It is always a pleasure for me to be able to welcome and greet you. Today's meeting has become a tradition, which is enriched each time with new motifs and sentiments. It offers me, first of all, the chance to thank you personally, dear members of the 31st Squadron of the Italian Air Force, who, by escorting me on my trips across Italian territory, permit me to participate in ecclesial celebrations and exhibitions in various localities of our beloved Italy.

In this way you cooperate in my ministry and offer me the possibility to bring the Gospel message to many brothers and sisters in the faith, and to support them in their witness and love for Christ and the Church, just as you also enable me to bring comfort to those who are particularly suffering.

2. For this valuable and praiseworthy service and for your attentive and constant readiness, I wish to renew my most sincere and cordial thanks, together with my deep appreciation of your great technical and professional training. Allow me also to mention the ideals of faith that inspire and motivate your difficult job, ideals which your Commander just now recalled while greeting me in the name of you all.

As usual on this occasion, with heartfelt joy I confer special distinctions and pontifical honours on some of you: this is an outward, tangible gesture, which expresses my personal gratitude and that of the Holy See for your generous readiness to place your professional expertise at the Pope's service; and it is likewise a sign of the esteem that I feel for you and for all the members of the 31st Squadron.

3. We are currently in the third year of immediate preparation for the now imminent Great Jubilee. The year 1999 is dedicated to the Father. Jesus taught us how to address our heavenly Father: "Our Father who art in heaven" (Mt 6,9). Certainly, the reference to "heaven", as the place where the Father dwells, is symbolic: heaven, with its boundless reaches and the variety of stars that adorn it, is the place where the beauty and greatness of the Father, "Creator of heaven and earth", shine forth in a particular way.

The heavens are familiar to you: you pass through them on every flight. May this service and your whole lives be constantly surrounded by the love of the Father, who in Jesus Christ revealed his true face of mercy and love! May he watch over you with his paternal presence and open your spirit to great trust in him.

With these sentiments, I invoke on you, on the 31st Squadron and on your families the Lord's protection, through the intercession of Our Lady of Loreto, for whom the Air Force has a special devotion.

To you all and to your loved ones, my affectionate Blessing!



GREETING OF THE HOLY FATHER

TO THE "BOARD OF TRUSTEES" OF THE

CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA,

WASHINGTON D.C.,


Monday, 27 September 1999




Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Friends,

In the love of God from whom all wisdom comes, I welcome you, the Trustees of the Catholic University of America. Your University has long made a quite special contribution to the Church and society in the United States, and therefore I am happy to have this occasion to encourage you to continue to shape and implement the vision of a truly Catholic university in your culture, especially at this time.

At the threshold of the new millennium, the Church is deeply committed to the new evangelization, and Catholic universities have a specific role in this great task. In my Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, I wrote that "faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth" (No. 1). Reason can help faith avoid the dangers of myth or superstition, and faith can open reason to that fullness of truth which of its nature it always seeks (cf. No. 48). The entire Catholic tradition bears witness to this mutuality, and the Catholic University of America can make no greater contribution to the work of the new evangelization than to stand as a witness to this deep harmony of faith and reason.

I am also happy to welcome the Student Choral Group present here today. I thank you for the beauty of your music which shows that, in the Catholic tradition, the good and the true are always wedded to the beautiful. This too is at the heart of the witness of Catholic universities, for beauty is always "a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence" (Letter to Artists, 16).

Entrusting the entire community of the Catholic University of America to the unfailing intercession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, I cordially impart to you and your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing.





ADDRESS TO THE BISHOPS

OF THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

IN THEIR AD LIMINA VISIT

27 September 1999



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. In making your ad limina visit together, you are coming to ask God to increase in you the inner strength and missionary zeal which inspired Peter and Paul when they came to Rome to bear witness to Christ's Gospel. As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I am pleased to welcome you who have received the mission of leading the Catholic Church in the Central African Republic, in order to encourage you and to confirm you in the common faith we have received from our Fathers. From my assistants in the Roman Curia you will receive the necessary help for fulfilling the charge entrusted to you.

I thank Bishop Paulin Pomodimo of Bossangoa, President of your Episcopal Conference. In your name he has clearly expressed the sentiments that motivate you at this special time of reflection on your pastoral ministry.

When you return to your Dioceses, bring the Pope's affectionate greeting to the priests, men and women religious, catechists and lay people of your Dioceses; he is praying that the Lord will strengthen them in their Christian life and apostolic commitment. Convey my heartfelt wishes for peace and prosperity to all your fellow citizens at such an important moment for your country's future.

2. As we approach the time when we will solemnly enter into the joy of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the entire Church, ever more keenly aware of her mystery and mission, is called to "lift her eyes of faith to embrace new horizons in proclaiming the kingdom of God" (Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 Incarnationis mysterium, n. 2). I am very delighted to note the many signs of the active presence of God's Spirit among your people. The recent creation of two new Dioceses has highlighted the apostolic vitality of your communities and the openness of the men and women of your region to the Lord's call. May the Catholics of Central Africa discover there a pressing invitation to renewed missionary zeal! My wish for you all, especially the new Bishops, is that you can respond with courage and daring to the spiritual needs of the people whom you have received the mission of gathering together to form the Church as the Family of God.
Church must call attention to dignity of human beings

In the difficult and complex situation your country is experiencing, the Church has a particular responsibility to sustain the hope of all the nation's members and to help them in their search for authentic and credible reasons for living, so that they can look to the future with confidence. In recent years, she has been the voice of the voiceless by fostering reconciliation and the development of a common conscience in view of building a national community of unity and solidarity.

It is the Church's duty to call attention, in season and out of season, to the fundamental values linked to the dignity of every human being, as well as to the truth and responsibility of his personal actions; for God wants all people to form a single family and to treat one another as brothers and sisters. As a result, "to proclaim Jesus Christ is therefore to reveal to people their inalienable dignity, received from God through the Incarnation of his Only Son.... Endowed with this extraordinary dignity, people should not live in subhuman social, economic, cultural and political conditions" (Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, ). I invite you and your communities to continue your courageous struggle for the integral development of the human person and for the promotion of justice and harmony among all the members of your nation.

3. Through her social involvement, the Church intends to fulfil her prophetic role at the service of the individual and his dignity. In fact, there is a close connection between evangelization and social action. The commandment of love cannot be proclaimed without promoting the genuine growth of the human person and of society. I know the generosity of your communities, which is often expressed with poor and limited means, but ones rich in human and spiritual meaning. I strongly encourage those who with great devotion serve their brothers and sisters in need or distress, the sick, the lonely, the elderly or refugees from neighbouring countries. May every Christian, in a spirit of sharing, and generously opening the treasures of his heart, regard himself as one sent by the Lord to relieve misery and to combat every form of marginalization. In this he will proclaim by his actions the Gospel of Christ!

You have wanted Catholic schools to have a particular place in your service to Central African society in order to prepare young people for life commitments, for their civic role and for their moral duty. In fact, these schools "are at one and the same time places of evangelization, well-rounded education, inculturation and initiation to the dialogue of life among young people of different religions and social backgrounds" (Ecclesia in Africa, ). This approach should be encouraged with all due prudence, so that the Church may effectively enable all young people to receive an education and may find ways to pay special attention to the poorest among them. This requires a concrete expression of real solidarity on the part of the universal Church, so that they can be guaranteed the presence and the human, cultural and religious formation of teachers in sufficient numbers, and that the material problems which such a project necessarily entails can be overcome.
Serious spiritual and human formation for seminarians

4. In your Dioceses the pastoral care of vocations is experiencing a new vitality, for which I am delighted. It is essential that all Catholics, particularly in their families, be aware of their responsibility to promote and encourage vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. I hope that young people who feel called by the Lord to follow him in this way will bravely accept the Lord's loving gaze at them and will freely and generously respond to him. It is up to the Bishops, with the help of those responsible for vocational guidance and later of the seminary educators, to discern and confirm the authenticity of the call received.

So that young people can advance in their quest and be given the means to deepen their human, cultural and spiritual knowledge, it seems important to establish a propaedeutic year. In this way they will be able to enter the first cycle of the major seminary with greater benefit.

The formation of future priests is one of the Bishop's essential responsibilities and requires him to pay particular attention to its organization as well as to the life of the educators and of each seminarian. A serious spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation, indispensable for carrying out the priestly ministry, should be combined with a solid human and cultural formation. "The whole work of priestly formation would be deprived of its necessary foundation if it lacked a suitable human formation" (Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, PDV 43). Future priests should acquire the human qualities necessary for them to be balanced people who are strong and free. It will be particularly important to insist on the candidates' affective maturity, a decisive factor for their education in true and responsible love, which is necessary for those called to celibacy, that is, "to offer with the grace of the Spirit and the free response of one's own will the whole of one's love and care to Jesus Christ and to his Church" (ibid., n. 44).

I warmly greet each of your priests. They are your valuable and indispensable co-workers in proclaiming the Gospel, and I am delighted with your attention and concern for them. I thank them for their generosity in serving Christ and his Church, often under difficult conditions. May they remember that, in profound communion with their Bishop and as brothers among their baptized brethren, their mission is to gather the People of God so that all its members, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, may offer themselves as "a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rm 12,1). This means that priests must live a worthy and holy life in keeping with their vocation and the witness they are to give as men of God set apart for the service of the Gospel, never letting themselves be lured by worldly desires (cf. Eph Ep 4,22). "Priests, therefore, should occupy their position of leadership as men who do not seek the things that are their own but those of Jesus Christ" (Decree Presbyterorum ordinis, PO 9). Through a vigorous spiritual life based on prayer, the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation, they will become authentic guides for their people on the ways of holiness, to which all the baptized are called.

5. The consecrated life, in its great diversity, is a treasure for the Church in your country. The spiritual quality of its members, a blessing for the faithful and a valuable support for priests, continually fosters in the People of God an awareness of "the need to respond with holiness of life to the love of God poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, by reflecting in their conduct the sacramental consecration which is brought about by God's power in Baptism, Confirmation or Holy Orders" (Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, VC 33). I encourage those responsible for the institutes in your Dioceses to give young religious a human, intellectual and spiritual formation rooted in the country's culture, which will enable them to be converted to Christ with all their being, so that their consecration in the sequela Christi may configure them ever more closely to the Lord Jesus in his self-offering to the Father.

Consecrated persons will also remember that the call they have received involves a commitment to give themselves to their mission. In fidelity to their own charism, in communion and dialogue with other Church members, first of all with the Bishops, religious institutes will generously respond to the Spirit's call and be concerned to search for new forms of mission, so that Christ may be proclaimed to all cultures even in the most distant regions.

I take this occasion to thank God for the immense work achieved in Central Africa by religious institutes since the arrival of the first missionaries over a century ago. The development of an already well-established local Church is the sign of the spiritual and apostolic dynamism that they were able to instil in proclaiming the Gospel message. I also thank the Fidei donum priests and the lay missionaries, who concretely express their solidarity and that of their local Churches of origin with the mission in Central Africa.

6. In your reports you stressed that many lay people in your Dioceses are involved in Catholic movements and associations. I congratulate them on their willingness and their fervour. I warmly encourage them to make their various groups the primary place for increasing their missionary commitment among their brothers and sisters. In every place may they be signs of God's mercy by their generous openness to the material and spiritual needs of others! May they not be afraid to proclaim the Gospel by an exemplary Christian life in keeping with their baptismal commitments!

The formation of the laity has crucial importance for the future of the Church. In fact: "The fundamental objective of the formation of the lay faithful is an ever-clearer discovery of one's vocation and the ever-greater willingness to live it so as to fulfil one's mission" (Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, CL 58). I invite you to pay particular attention to the doctrinal and spiritual formation of young people and of those called to positions of responsibility at every level and in every area of social life. In a world that needs to regain its bearings and reasons for hope, the teaching of the Church's social doctrine will make it possible to prepare Christians for political, economic and social tasks so that they can be active witnesses to Christ in their living situations and be effectively involved in building the nation.

Among those lay persons particularly involved in serving the community, I greet and congratulate the catechists, whose generosity I know well, and their families. For you and your priests they are irreplaceable collaborators in the apostolate. In our day, the changes occurring in the Church and in society require that they all receive a thorough doctrinal and pedagogical training as well as constant spiritual and apostolic renewal. I hope that in their work, which is so critical for the birth and growth of the Church, they will show an ever greater sense of belonging to the ecclesial community and of the dignity of their role.

7. Many and varied are the threats which weigh heavily today on the African family and its foundations, thus affecting the cohesion of society as a whole, since it is an irreplaceable pillar of the social edifice. "From the pastoral point of view, this is a real challenge, given the political, economic, social and cultural difficulties which African families must face as a result of the great changes which characterize contemporary society" (Ecclesia in Africa, ). It is essential, then, to encourage Catholics to work with all their strength to preserve and promote the fundamental values of the family. The faithful should have a high regard for the dignity of Christian marriage, which reflects and gives concrete expression to Christ's love for his Church. This is why the truth about marriage and the family as God established them must be clearly taught, especially by calling to mind that the love of husband and wife is one and indissoluble, and that, because of its stability, marriage contributes to the fulfilment of their human and Christian vocation.

Serious preparation of the couples, which takes into account their particular situation and culture, will make them realize that the sacrament of marriage is a grace which God gives them for the growth of their love throughout their lives. They should be helped to acquire the human maturity that will enable them to assume their responsibilities as Christian spouses and parents, and be offered a solid marital spirituality so that they can discover ways of sanctification in marriage and family life. Throughout their lives, may they receive support for facing their daily tasks and problems from their pastors and from the Christian community, especially from the witness of evangelical life given by other families!

8. To express her mission of communion among all people, the Church, called to be a sign and sacrament of the unity of the human race, must maintain and encourage fraternal relations with everyone for the sake of building a united and harmonious society. The fostering, in a spirit of dialogue, of cooperation among Christ's disciples as well as with other believers and all people of good will cannot but help contribute to the common good. However, you must see that Catholics are helped to exercise careful discernment at the level of faith and its ecclesial expression, especially in meetings with the baptized brethren of other Christian denominations, in order to foster relations based on truth, while taking into greater account what unites than what still prevents total communion.

In a society of growing religious pluralism, it is also more and more necessary to pay particular attention to relations with Muslims. A genuine knowledge of the spiritual and moral values of Islam, based on a desire for mutual respect, will foster a better understanding as well as a sincere acceptance of religious freedom. With this in mind, I encourage you, as some of you are already doing, to train experts in religious studies and interreligious issues, who will be able with discernment and wisdom to establish a genuine dialogue with other believers and to advise the Christian communities more directly concerned.

9. Dear Brother Bishops, as you return to your country, I invite you to look to the future with confidence. The closeness of the Jubilee Year, when we will celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the central mystery of our faith, is a powerful invitation to hope. I fervently wish that this time of grace may be a precious opportunity for your communities to deepen their faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who is the origin and the goal of our journey. In contemplating the Incarnation of God's Son, may all the faithful of your Dioceses see revealed the face of the merciful and compassionate Father! By constantly listening to the Spirit, may they recognize the signs of the new times and wait ever more ardently for the Lord's return in glory!

I entrust your episcopal ministry to the motherly intercession of Mary, that most holy Virgin called to be the Lord's Mother. For you and for the people entrusted to you, may she be the Mother who shows all her children the way that leads to her Son, assuring you of her protection on the paths of life!

I wholeheartedly give you my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to the priests, to the men and women religious, to the catechists and to all the faithful of your Dioceses.



HOLY FATHER'S ADDRESS TO THE PERSONNEL

OF THE PAPAL VILLAS AND THEIR FAMILIES



Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Before leaving Castel Gandolfo at the end of my summer stay, I wish to express to you - who make up, so to speak, the Pope's summer family - my gratitude for the work you do here and, in a particular way, to congratulate you on the spirit that inspires your service.

I thank the Director, Dr Saverio Petrillo, for the kind words and sentiments he expressed to me on behalf of everyone. I am also pleased to renew my gratitude for the skill and care that he, together with the entire staff, devotes to the Palace and Papal Villas. May God reward each of you with abundant graces and watch over you and your families.

Thank you for accompanying me again this summer with your prayer and your long hours of work.

You have always been close to me, and I am grateful for this.

Dear friends, continue to offer this daily witness to your faith. Wherever Providence has placed us, we are called to show that we belong to Christ, and to demonstrate with simplicity and joy that we place all our trust in him, man's only Saviour.

May the Blessed Virgin confirm these wishes; may the Lord grant each of you happy and holy days; may the Holy Spirit enrich your families with his gifts. I cordially bless you all.

Castel Gandolfo, 28 september 1999



HOLY FATHER'S ADDRESS TO THE SECURITY OFFICERS,

TRAFFIC POLICE AND CARABINIERI



Dear Security Officers,
Traffic Police and Carabinieri!

I wish to extend a cordial and thankful greeting to you all, as I prepare to leave my residence in Castel Gandolfo, where I have spent these summer months.
I express my deep esteem for the vigilant work you perform, providing security and tranquillity for all the citizens.

I especially thank you for your great effort during my stay here at Castel Gandolfo. Besides my personal gratitude, I also thank you on behalf of my assistants and the pilgrims and visitors who came to meet the Pope. If everything was conducted in an orderly and peaceful way, it is certainly because of your presence and constant attention.

May God reward you and protect your lives and your professional work. For my part, I assure you a constant remembrance in my prayer, as I cordially impart a special Blessing to you and your loved ones.

Castel Gandolfo, 28 september 1999





HOLY FATHER'S ADDRESS TO

CASTEL GANDOLFO'S CIVIL AUTHORITIES



Mr Mayor,
Members of the Town Board and Council!

As I leave Castel Gandolfo at the end of the summer season, I am pleased to meet you who have the task of administering this delightful town, which is dear to me and where Providence grants me a pleasant and beneficial stay among you.

I would once again like to offer you my sincere thanks for the indispensable professional contribution you make so that Castel Gandolfo can properly welcome the many pilgrims who come from every part of the world.

I am especially grateful for the spirit of devout courtesy that you offer the Pope, faithfully representing the sentiments of the whole town. Respect and discretion accompany your affection and familiarity, so that, not only at the papal residence, but precisely in Castel Gandolfo I feel "at home".

The now imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will bring greater activity here as well. As I congratulate you for all that the town government has planned for the Holy Year, I would urge you and all the citizens to benefit from the spiritual gift of the Jubilee. I hope that each resident and every family of Gastel Gandolfo will fully experience the Jubilee, and that this will make its beneficial influence felt even in your relations with one another.

I am pleased to leave with this hope, which I confirm by cordially imparting my Blessing to you, to your loved ones, and to all the citizens of Castel Gandolfo.

Castel Gandolfo, tuesday 28 september 1999





ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION

OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE FACADE OF

SAINT PETER'S BASILICA

September 30, 1999



Your Eminences and Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Mr President and Mr Prime Minister of the Italian Republic,
Ambassadors to the Holy See and to Italy,
Executives and Technicians of ENI,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. Today our attention is focused on the fašade of the Vatican Basilica, for centuries the witness of great events that have left their mark on history. We are gathered here to celebrate the successful completion of the restoration work, which for over two years has involved engineers, architects, marble workers, stonecutters, plasterers, blacksmiths and other craftsmen. Thanks to their work, accomplished with great skill and competence, the Vatican Basilica, already beautiful in its interior, now appears with all the majestic solemnity of the fašade with which Maderno adorned it.

In extending my cordial greetings to everyone gathered here, with a particular thought for the Cardinal Archpriest who has nobly expressed the sentiments shared by all, I wish to express my deep gratitude to all who have devoted their energies to restoring this architectural masterpiece to its original splendour. My thanks go in a special way to ENI, the National Hydrocarbon Corporation, whose lavish generosity made this restoration possible, using the latest technology for that purpose.

2. As we pause to admire the impressive results of this work, our hearts are spontaneously filled with the desire to bless the Lord, who has given man the ability to control matter and to ennoble it by imprinting the seal of his spirit upon it.

How much effort was spent on the work we are admiring! The marbles, hewn with countless blows of hammer and chisel, then polished with the utmost care and patience, have been beautifully joined to adorn the top of the fašade. In a transfigured vision of God's temple, we can interpret the different elements as the symbol and image of the variety of gifts and charisms with which the divine Craftsman has wished to adorn the Church, his mystical Bride.

3. The admiring gaze that we turn this evening to the architectural structure of the fašade anticipates that of the countless pilgrims who will come here from every part of the world during the now imminent Holy Year. They will be able to relive the experiences of pilgrims past who were enthralled by the magnificent and solid structures of this imposing basilica, which the faith of our ancestors raised "in honorem Principis Apostolorum", as we read in the dedicatory inscription placed there by Pope Paul V in 1612.

This church, crowned with Michelangelo's dome, was built for Peter and for his glorious tomb; Pope Clement VIII, expressing the idea of his predecessor Sixtus V, dedicated it "sancti Petri gloriae", to the glory of St Peter. This is confirmed by the many depictions of the Apostle which appear in every part of the building. On this fašade too, a high relief by the Milanese Ambrogio Bonvicino portrays St Peter receiving the keys from Christ.

4. In a certain way, then, the Apostle Peter continues his mission as the "vicar of Christ's love", humbly but firmly professing his faith. And "every tongue that praises the Lord", as Leo the Great said, "is trained by the teaching authority of this voice" (Sermones 3, 3).

It is easy to understand, then, how our enjoyment of this restored masterpiece cannot be merely aesthetic, but must be open to the interior attraction of the spiritual reality it signifies. Peter reminds us of this and he does all who are gathered in spirit around his tomb this evening, as one day in the years 63-64 he wrote from Rome to the Christians of Asia Minor, whom he had evangelized: "Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God" (1P 2,5).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept this invitation to be living stones, active members of the spiritual house which is the Church. May the imminent Jubilee find us ready to proclaim and bear witness to our faith with generous dedication. The restoration work reminds us that every believer, every one of us, is called to continual conversion and to a courageous review of life, so that we can meet Christ in a profound way and benefit fully from the fruits of the Holy Year.

May it be so for everyone. With this wish, as I invoke the intercession of Blessed Mary and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul on those present and on those who in various ways contributed to this extraordinary work of restoration, I gladly impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.

ADDRESS TO THE SEVENTH CONGRESS OF THE

INTERNATIONAL GYNAECOLOGICAL CANCER SOCIETY

30 september 1999







Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you, the participants in the Seventh Congress of the International Gynaecological Cancer Society. I am grateful to Professor Mancuso for his words of
greeting, and I wish to thank all of you for what you are doing to serve those in need of your medical expertise, especially women stricken by cancer.

In the practice of medicine, you face the most fundamental realities of human life - birth, suffering and death. You share your patients' difficulties and their most intense anxieties. You seek to offer
hope and, where possible, healing. Those who undergo surgery never forget the doctors and health care specialists who welcomed them, visited them, treated them. The words of the Gospel come
immediately to mind: "Come, you blessed of my Father... because I was sick and you came to my aid" (Mt 25,36)... "What you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me" (Mt
25:40).

2. Doctors are guardians and servants of human life. In my Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, I stressed the human significance and the ethical aspect of the medical profession. Today the medical
profession is at a kind of crossroads: "In today's cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health care
professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation their responsibility today is greatly increased. Its deepest
inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the medical profession"(No. 89).

Guardians and servants of life: this is the truth of what you are in your medical work. As gynaecologists, you care for mothers and their unborn children from conception to birth. For the child, gestation is always a time of risk and uncertainty, but when the mother is stricken with cancer the child is faced with added serious threats to health and the terrible possibility of the loss of its
mother. You well know how delicate and dramatic such a situation can be, especially when the woman faces pressure from society and family to end the life within her in order to ease her own
situation. In your efforts to be true "servants of life"!, I am certain that you will find light and encouragement in the Church's teaching, the fruit of two millennia of Catholic moral thought on what
God has revealed regarding the human condition.

3. While there exists today strong social pressure to use the least sign of risk or alarm as justification for gynaecologists and obstetricians to have recourse to abortion, even when effective forms of treatment are available, advances in your field make it increasingly possible to safeguard both the life of the mother and the life of the child. We must be thankful for this progress and encourage further medical advances which will ensure that the dramatic cases to which I have referred are less and less frequent.

Because we are all aware of the anguish which strikes when families and gynaecologists themselves are faced with a pregnancy threatened by cancer, I give thanks to God for all that you are doing
to prevent the increasingly frequent occurrence of this particular cancer in women.Work in all the different fields of cancer research needs to be promoted and supported by adequate funding from
public authorities responsible for scientific research. For all the talk about the rising costs of health care, particularly in the area of cancer treatment, there is a lingering sense that too little is being
done and too little spent on health education and cancer prevention. Nor should there be any hesitation about pointing out clearly that cancer can be the result of people's behaviour, including
certain sexual behaviour, as well as of the pollution of the environment and its effects on the body itself.

4. Thinking about your role in the service of life, I cannot but mention the importance of your utmost commitment when young mothers are stricken with cancer and face premature death. No
doubt, when this happens, the gynaecologist or obstetrician, more accustomed to contact with new life coming to birth, experiences a deep sense of participation in the pain of others, and perhaps
even a feeling of frustration and helplessness.

A life that is coming to an end is no less precious than a life that is beginning. It is for this reason that the dying person deserves the greatest respect and the most loving care. At its deepest level,
death is somewhat like birth: both are critical and painful moments of passage which open on to a life which is richer than what has gone before. Death is an exodus, after which it is possible to see
the face of God who is the wellspring of life and love, just as a baby, once born, will be able see the face of its parents. This is the reason why the Church speaks of death as a second birth.

Today so many issues regarding the care of cancer patients are under discussion. Both reason and faith require that we resist every temptation to end a patient's life by a deliberate act of omission
or by active intervention, because "euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person" (Evangelium Vitae EV 65). Nothing,
not even a patient's request - which more often than not is a cry for help -, can justify the taking of a life which is precious in the eyes of God and which can be a great gift of love to a family even in
the suffering of the final days.

In view of the proposals being made here and there to legislate in favour of euthanasia and assisted suicide, let me stress that "to concur with the intention of another person to commit suicide and
to help in carrying it out through so-called - assisted suicide means to cooperate in, and at times to be the actual perpetrator of an injustice which can never be excused, even if it is requested" (Evangelium Vitae EV 66). Neither can the so-called 'self-determination' of the dying person be encouraged or justified when it means in fact that a doctor helps to terminate life, which is the very ground of every free and responsible act

What is needed today in treating cancer patients is the care which includes effective and accessible forms of treatment, relief of pain, and the ordinary means of support. Ineffective treatment or
treatment which aggravates suffering should be avoided, as also the imposition of unusual and extraordinary therapeutic methods. Vitally important is the human support available to the dying
person, since "the request which arises from the human heart in the supreme confrontation with suffering and death, especially when faced with the temptation to give up in utter desperation, is
above all a request for companionship, sympathy and support in the time of trial"(Evangelium Vitae EV 67).

5. Dear friends, as the twentieth century and the second millennium of the Christian era draw to a close, you have come to Rome as men and women who are building upon the magnificent work of
your predecessors in this century and this millennium. The twentieth century has known its human catastrophes, but surely among its triumphs has been the extraordinary advance of medical
research and treatment (cf. Fides et Ratio FR 106). In the light of this, and even more as we look back a thousand years, how can we not applaud those who have led the way and how can we fail to praise God who is the source of all enlightenment and healing? To look back like this is to understand humbly that we journey on a path marked out by the insight and self-sacrifice of others; seeing how far we have come, we renew our hope at this turning-point that the power of death will be overcome as God wills.

In the great task of combatting cancer and serving life, you are not alone. The whole human family is with you; the Church throughout the world looks to you with respect. I assure you all of a
special remembrance in my own prayers, and I entrust your noble work to the intercession of the Mother of Christ, Salus Infirmorum - Health of the Sick.

Invoking upon you the grace and peace of her Son who healed the sick and raised the dead to life, I entrust you and your loved ones to the loving protection of Almighty God.



October 1999



Speeches 1999