1. It is always a great joy for the Successor of Peter to meet the Head of the Italian State, mindful as he is of the unique contribution that this country has made to all Christianity, and aware, at the same time, of the mark made by the Christian faith, during these two millennia, on the formation and flourishing of the Italian national identity.
I therefore, extend a very cordial welcome to you, Mr President, thankful for the visit with which you honour me today. I extend this sentiment of gratitude also to the distinguished members of the delegation accompanying you.
In you I greet all the Italian people, whom I appreciate and love for the many signs of affection they have always shown me. They are a people that has always been very close, not only geographically, to the See of Peter, since the time when the Fisherman of Galilee landed on the shores of the peninsula. This meeting confirms the good harmony that exists in Church-State relations, thanks to an enduring understanding that has promoted a joint commitment in serving the good of the Italian community, so rich in culture, art, history, and marked by that civilization rooted in Christianity which has made it famous and honoured throughout the world.
2. Italy enjoys close relations with her sister nations in Europe, and I am pleased to recall that your visit, Mr President, coincides with the Synod being held in the Vatican, at which representatives of the European Episcopates are addressing old and new problems in the Church's life on the continent. And if certain tragedies of a not too distant past, tragedies of which we ourselves were witnesses, appear today to be overcome, society is nevertheless facing issues and challenges that are critical for individuals and for social organization as a whole.
Europe, which has achieved unexpected levels of well-being, today has the task of reflecting on itself to adapt its structures in order to pursue higher aims that until now were perhaps scarcely imagined. This progress cannot be only economic. The availability of material goods and the much discussed prospect of "unlimited development" require that the economic dimension of European society be enriched and indeed crowned by a "centrality of the soul". The spiritual dimension is irrepressible: on its acceptance depends the formation of a human society in which the personal dignity of its every member is safeguarded and properly developed. In this context, it is essential for public authorities to acknowledge those basic human values which are the foundation of society. A pluralistic State does not mean an agnostic State.
3. The universal nature of the Roman Pontificate gives the Successor of Peter a specific responsibility for all peoples. His vocation is to be a servant of peace, according to the words of Isaiah regarding the future Messiah, whom the prophet saw as the "Prince of Peace", even foretelling a "peace [with] no end", because based on "justice and ... righteousness" (Is 9,6-7). The end of the hostility of past times, in which the great European nations did not, unfortunately, distinguish themselves, does not exempt us from vigilance, so that the afflictions that struck previous generations may not recur, even if perhaps in distant areas and with new modalities.
The Successor of Peter expects much from Italy, and not without reason, given that for many decades it has enshrined in the fundamental law of its society, the Constitution of the Republic, the rejection of war "as an offensive instrument against the freedom of other peoples and as a means for resolving international controversies" (Art. 11). This is why in the Balkans, in the Mediterranean, in the Third World, wherever there are outbreaks of that antihuman fire which is what war really is, Italy, in keeping with its Christian roots and the cultural options that distinguish it, is trying to make its decisive and distinctive contribution of friendship and human solidarity.
4. Italy, thank God, is at peace: it is important that this situation continue, because it is only in the context of peace that the complex problems which the nation must deal with can be faced and suitably solved. There is life to be safeguarded from conception and guaranteed its natural evolution with love and dignity. It is born and grows in the family, the basic cell on which the nation depends and which deserves to be ever better assisted with timely interventions for the achievement of its essential social function.
Then there is the school, which must be free and open to the moral and intellectual growth of the younger generation. How can we fail to recognize the opportuneness of developing a great variety of educational experiences in which the family, based on marriage, and social groups may concretely express their convictions?
Finally there is work, which today more than ever recalls the biblical command that obliges man to transform the world. Just as the public authorities have duties towards life, the family and the school, so they must, by every means, help people to express their creative potential: it would be a serious fault to remain indifferent and to confine the younger generation to a corruptive idleness that mars the dignity of the person and the citizen, now recognized by all.
5. The Church, in all her components, is ready to collaborate with the public authorities and, indeed, with the national society, of which she is a significant and distinguishing part. She willingly makes her energies available to this country too, which in many ways is so near and dear to her.
She does so with respect for her specific mission, which is to proclaim the Gospel to every person: only in this way, in fact, can human history evolve over time in a way that fully corresponds to the plan of man's Creator and Redeemer.
The Church pursues the true good of the country, to which she contributes by her fidelity to Christ and by creative innovation in the fields of education, culture, assistance and many forms of witness proper to her, while holding firm to her indispensable idea of man and of the meaning of social relations.
6. It is with these sentiments and these hopes that we look to the now imminent opening of the Jubilee of the 2,000th anniversary of the Incarnation of the Son of God. On this occasion, millions and millions of people will come to Rome. They will be welcomed with the traditional and well-proven hospitality of the Italian people, but this too will be a further responsibility that weighs on the two realities, the State and the Church, which today are visibly meeting in this visit and whose relations are characterized by significant cooperation.
While I am grateful for what the Italian authorities are doing for the success of the Jubilee Year, I express my hope that this effort will continue with the same effectiveness in the coming months, in order to ensure that pilgrims from every part of the world will receive the attentive and caring welcome that they expect.
7. I am pleased to end these words with the cordial wish that the Italian nation, with your help, Mr President, will advance on the path of authentic progress, gathering from its rich traditions of civilization new impulses for the promotion of those human and Christian values that have won it esteem and prestige in the concert of nations.
With these wishes, I express my fervent hope for the successful accomplishment of the lofty mandate that you have just begun, as I warmly invoke upon you, upon your wife, upon the authorities here present and upon all the Italian people, the constant protection of the Almighty.
Thursday, 28 October 1999
Distinguished Religious Representatives,
1. In the peace which the world cannot give, I greet all of you gathered here in Saint Peter’s Square at the conclusion of the Interreligious Assembly which has been taking place during the last few days. Throughout the years of my Pontificate, and especially on my Pastoral Visits to different parts of the world, I have had the great joy of meeting countless other Christians and members of other religions. Today this joy is renewed here, close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, whose ministry in the Church it is my task to continue. I rejoice in meeting you all, and give thanks to Almighty God who inspires our desire for mutual understanding and friendship.
I am conscious of the fact that many esteemed religious leaders have travelled long distances to be present at this concluding ceremony of the Interreligious Assembly. I am grateful to all who have worked to foster the spirit which makes this Assembly possible. Soon we shall listen to the Declaration, the fruit of your deliberations.
2. I have always believed that religious leaders have a vital role to play in nurturing that hope of justice and peace without which there will be no future worthy of humanity. As the world marks the close of one millennium and the opening of another, it is right that we take time to look back, in order to take stock of the present situation and move forward together in hope towards the future.
As we survey the situation of humanity, is it too much to speak of a crisis of civilization? We see great technological advances, but these are not always accompanied by great spiritual and moral progress. We see as well a growing gap between the rich and poor – at the level of individuals and of nations. Many people make great sacrifices to show solidarity with those suffering want or hunger or disease, but there is still lacking the collective will to overcome scandalous inequalities and to create new structures which will enable all peoples to have a just share in the world’s resources.
Then there are the many conflicts continually breaking out around the world – wars between nations, armed struggles within nations, conflicts that linger like festering wounds and cry out for a healing that seems never to come. Inevitably it is the weakest who suffer most in these conflicts, especially when they are uprooted from their homes and forced to flee.
3. Surely this is not the way humanity is supposed to live. Is it not therefore right to say that there is indeed a crisis of civilization which can be countered only by a new civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente, TMA 52)?
There are some who claim that religion is part of the problem, blocking humanity’s way to true peace and prosperity. As religious people, it is our duty to demonstrate that this is not the case. Any use of religion to support violence is an abuse of religion. Religion is not, and must not become a pretext for conflict, particularly when religious, cultural and ethnic identity coincide. Religion and peace go together: to wage war in the name of religion is a blatant contradiction (cf. Address to the Participants in the Sixth Assembly of the World Conference on Religion and Peace, 3 November 1994, 2). Religious leaders must clearly show that they are pledged to promote peace precisely because of their religious belief.
The task before us therefore is to promote a culture of dialogue. Individually and together, we must show how religious belief inspires peace, encourages solidarity, promotes justice and upholds liberty.
But teaching itself is never enough, however indispensable it may be. It must be translated into action. My revered predecessor Pope Paul VI noted that in our time people pay more attention to witnesses than to teachers, that they listen to teachers if they are at the same time witnesses (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 41). It suffices to think of the unforgettable witness of people like Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to mention but two figures who have had such an impact on the world.
4. Moreover, the strength of witness lies in the fact that it is shared. It is a sign of hope that in many parts of the world interreligious associations have been established to promote joint reflection and action. In some places, religious leaders have been instrumental in mediating between warring parties. Elsewhere common cause is made to protect the unborn, to uphold the rights of women and children, and to defend the innocent. I am convinced that the increased interest in dialogue between religions is one of the signs of hope present in the last part of this century (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 46). Yet there is a need to go further. Greater mutual esteem and growing trust must lead to still more effective and coordinated common action on behalf of the human family.
Our hope rises not merely from the capacities of the human heart and mind, but has a divine dimension which it is right to recognize. Those of us who are Christians believe that this hope is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who calls us to widen our horizons, to look beyond our own personal needs and the needs of our particular communities, to the unity of the whole human family. The teaching and example of Jesus Christ have given Christians a clear sense of the universal brotherhood of all people. Awareness that the Spirit of God works where he wills (cf. Jn Jn 3,8) stops us from making hasty and dangerous judgements, because it evokes appreciation of what lies hidden in the hearts of others. This opens the way to reconciliation, harmony and peace. From this spiritual awareness spring compassion and generosity, humility and modesty, courage and perseverance. These are qualities that humanity needs more than ever as it moves into the new millennium.
5. As we gather here today, people from many nations representing many of the religions of the world, how can we fail to recall the meeting in Assisi thirteen years ago for the World Day of Prayer for Peace? Since that time, the “spirit of Assisi” has been kept alive through various initiatives in different parts of the world. Yesterday, those of you taking part in the Interreligious Assembly journeyed to Assisi on the anniversary of that memorable gathering in 1986. You went to claim once more the spirit of that meeting and to draw fresh inspiration from the figure of il Poverello di Dio, the humble and joyful Saint Francis of Assisi. Let me repeat here what I said at the end of that day of fasting and prayer:
“The very fact that we have come to Assisi from various parts of the world is in itself a sign of this common path which humanity is called to tread. Either we learn to walk together in peace and harmony, or we drift apart and ruin ourselves and others. We hope that this pilgrimage to Assisi has taught us anew to be aware of the common origin and common destiny of humanity. Let us see in it an anticipation of what God would like the developing history of humanity to be: a fraternal journey in which we accompany one another toward the transcendent goal which he sets for us” (Address at the Conclusion of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, 27 October 1986, 5).
Our gathering here today in Saint Peter’s Square is another step on that journey. In all the many languages of prayer, let us ask the Spirit of God to enlighten us, guide us and give us strength so that, as men and women who take their inspiration from their religious beliefs, we may work together to build the future of humanity in harmony, justice, peace and love.
Friday, 29 October 1999
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to meet you on the happy occasion of the 60th anniversary of St Mary of the Assumption University. Thank you for your festive welcome! Thank you for this renewed testimony of your affection and your fidelity to the Successor of Peter!
With cordial esteem I greet the Rector Magnificent, Prof. Giuseppe Dalla Torre, and thank him for his courteous words on behalf of the speakers. I extend an affectionate greeting to the Cardinals and Bishops present, whose participation in this event attests to the important role carried out by the Vicariate of Rome and the Congregations for Catholic Education and for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in the foundation and life of this university.
I also extend my respectful greetings to the academic and governmental authorities, to the distinguished teachers, the members of the Administrative Council, the Luigia Tincani Association, the technical staff and the families and friends of this prestigious institution. Lastly, I turn my cordial thoughts to each of you, dear students, who are the heart of academic life; with you, I greet the Graduates' Group, who have completed their professional and spiritual formation here.
2. The celebration of this 60th anniversary is an invitation to remember the past in order to rediscover the origins of your university and the ideals that inspired its beginnings.
Your university originated in the heart and mind of the Servant of God Luigia Tincani who, with genius and prophetic insight, wanted to open the faculties of teaching and research to both consecrated and lay women. In her experience as a university student and teacher she had realized that "there is no greater suffering than the unsatisfied desire for knowledge, no poverty more distressing than the poverty of the spirit; there is no greater joy than the possession of truth, the pre-eminent way to reach the fullness of love" (cf. Luigia Tincani, Una vita a servizio della verità e dell'amore).
Sustained in this knowledge, she presented her project to the Church authorities, who approved it and, in the persons of my venerable Predecessors, Pius XII and Paul VI, blessed it and promoted its gradual realization with every care.
3. In the past 60 years LUMSA's progress has been marked by an intelligent and courageous style of "cultural charity" which has always sought to respond with adequate ways and means to the most demanding expectations of young people.
Today, with its specific identity as a Catholic university, your athenaeum is a prestigious and distinguished presence in the Italian academic world, as well as in Europe and the world. Its motto, "In fide et humanitate", already expresses the great pedagogical insights that are its origin and continue to motivate its academic commitment. In fact, the university cannot focus only on the acquisition of knowledge. It has an essentially educational vocation which, through a disinterested search for the truth, aims at the harmonious growth of the personality and does so with respect for the order that presides over the intrinsic structure of knowledge.
To accomplish this "educational task", the university must be a real community in which teachers and students can establish useful and professional interpersonal relationships. I know of the university's effort to promote these educational goals and, as I express my deep satisfaction with its praiseworthy results, I invite you to continue on the path you have taken, making it a special feature of your athenaeum.
4. In the Encyclical Fides et ratio (cf. n. 81), I recalled that the phenomenon of the fragmentation of knowledge leads to a "crisis of meaning" that causes many to wonder "whether it still makes sense to ask about meaning". This is one of the most problematic aspects of contemporary culture.
Church needs young people committed to truth and charity
The answer to this serious crisis, a source of sterile and devastating scepticism, is to promote a philosophical culture which will "recover its sapiential dimension as a search for the ultimate and overarching meaning of life", in harmony with the word of God.
I hope that your university, in fidelity to its original inspiration, will be able to take up this challenge in the areas of research, teaching, learning and style of community life, to form men and women in harmony with the truth of their own mission!
This task is entrusted especially to you, distinguished teachers! On this solemn occasion I am pleased to reread with you the wise words of the Servant of God Luigia Tincani: "Be enthusiastic about your educational ministry. The intellectual mission has something in common with the priesthood, if all study and teaching is a search for, an acquisition and transmission of truth, and si omne verum a quocumque dicatur a Spiritu Sancto est. May the art of living be impressed upon you: make yourselves loved first of all"! (cf. Luigia Tincani, Una vita al servizio della verità e dell'amore).
5. I now address you, dear students of St Mary of the Assumption University: the Church needs your youthfulness committed to truth, charity and peace. On the threshold of the new millennium, she asks you to be fearless workers in the task of building "a humanity which is beautiful, pure and holy, pleasing to God, whom mankind longs for and needs, especially today" (John Paul II, Address to the Missionaries of the Schools, 5 January 1989). May your active participation in World Youth Day, which will be held in Rome from 15 to 20 August next, and in the important events of the Holy Year be an excellent opportunity for each of you to share this desire with young people from all over the world and to bear witness to the new humanity which the Lord wants to create also through your generous commitment.
May the Woman who, in giving birth to the Truth and treasuring it in her heart, has shared it forever with all humanity (cf. Fides et ratio, FR 108) accompany and protect you on your search for wisdom, the ultimate and authentic goal of all true knowledge.
With these wishes, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to everyone here and to the entire academic community of LUMSA.
Saturday, 30 October 1999
1. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt 4,4).
With this powerful phrase that the Lord Jesus draws from Deuteronomy (8: 3), I am pleased to address you, dear friends of Italian Catholic schools, who have gathered today in St Peter's Square to close with the Pope your important National Assembly. This meeting is taking place eight years after the unforgettable convention which also saw us gathered in this square on 23 November 1991. The truth which comes from God is the principal nourishment which makes us grow as persons, stimulates our intelligence and strengthens our freedom. This conviction is the origin of that zeal for education which has accompanied the Church down the ages and is the basis for the growth of Catholic schools.
I greet the Cardinal President and the other members of the Italian Episcopal Conference, to whom I extend all my gratitude for organizing this assembly. I greet Cardinal Pio Laghi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and all the Bishops here. I greet the Superiors of the male and female religious congregations who are involved in Catholic schools. I greet the civil authorities, the political leaders and the representatives of public order and the world of culture. I thank the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers and the Minister of Public Education for their presence.
I extend a special greeting to the schools of Madrid, Sarajevo and Palestine which have joined us by satellite. To each of you - teachers, students, parents or friends and supporters of Catholic schools in any capacity - I express my affection, esteem and my deepest solidarity for the work to which you are dedicated. From this assembly it must draw new trust and dynamism.
2. The theme of your meeting - "For a school programme on the threshold of the 21st century" - clearly shows that you know how to look ahead and act with a vision that is not only particular to Catholic schools, but also addresses issues that concern every kind of scholastic institution today.
You rightly do so because the experience of Catholic schools bears a great heritage of culture, of pedagogical wisdom, of attention to the character of children, adolescents and young people, of mutual support for their families, of the ability to anticipate, with the insight that stems from love, the new needs and problems that arise with the changing times. This heritage puts you in a better position to find the most effective answers for the educational questions of the younger generation, children of a complex society marked by constant pressure and constant change: barely able, therefore, to offer its children and young people clear and reliable reference-points.
In the united Europe we are building, where the cultural traditions of individual nations are meant to encounter and benefit one another, there is an even broader scope for Catholic schools, which by nature are open to universality and are based on an educational programme that stresses the common roots of European civilization. For this reason too it is important that Catholic schools in Italy should not be weakened but should rather find new vigour and energy: it would be very strange if their voice were to become too weak precisely in that nation which, because of its religious tradition, culture and history, has a specific task to carry out for the Christian presence on the European continent (cf. Letter to the Italian Bishops, 6 January 1994, n. 4).
3. Nevertheless, dear friends of Italian Catholic schools, you know from experience how difficult and precarious are the circumstances in which the majority of you live and work. I am thinking of the declining number of vocations in religious congregations which began with a specifically educational charism; I am thinking of how difficult it is for many families in Italy to meet the additional expenses incurred by choosing a non-State school; I am thinking with deep regret of those prestigious and praiseworthy institutes that are forced to close year after year.
Without doubt, to move beyond a situation that is less and less sustainable, the main problem to be solved is the full recognition of the juridical and financial equality of State and non-State schools, by overcoming a long-standing resistance that is alien to the basic values of the European cultural tradition. The recent steps taken in this direction, even though noteworthy in some respects, are unfortunately still insufficient.
I therefore join wholeheartedly in your request to move ahead courageously and to adopt a new mentality, which will regard not only Catholic schools, but the various scholastic initiatives that can be fostered in society, as a valuable resource for the formation of the younger generation, on condition that they have the indispensable requirements of seriousness and an educational purpose.
This is a necessary transition, if we wish to introduce a reform process that will really modernize and improve the overall structure of Italian schools.
4. As we insistently ask political and institutional leaders to respect in practice the right of families and young people to make their educational choices in full freedom, we must take an equally sincere and courageous look at our own institutions, in order to identify and carry out all the appropriate collaborative efforts that can improve the quality of Catholic schools and avoid any further lessening of their presence in Italy.
Fundamental in this respect are the solidarity and moral support of the whole ecclesial community, from the Dioceses to the parishes, from the religious institutes to the lay associations and movements. In fact, Catholic schools fully belong to the Church's mission, just as they are at the service of the whole country. Thus there should be no areas of mutual exclusion or indifference, as though ecclesial life and activity were one thing and Catholic schools and their problems another. I am therefore pleased that the Italian Church in recent years has been provided with institutions such as the National Council of Catholic Schools and the Study Centre for Catholic Schools: these express both the Church's concern for Catholic schools and the unity of Catholic schools themselves, as well as their commitment to future planning.
Practically speaking, it is very important to find effective ways of coordinating Dioceses, religious institutes and Catholic lay organizations which work in the school sector. In many cases it seems useful or necessary to share common initiatives, experiences and resources for an organized and far-sighted collaboration which will avoid overlapping and useless competition between institutes, and will aim instead not only at ensuring the permanence of Catholic schools in places where they have been traditionally present, but also at enabling them to be established in new places, both in poorer areas and in critical sectors for the country's development.
5. The educational capacity of every scholastic institution largely depends on the quality of the people who are part of it and, in particular, on the competence and dedication of its teachers. Catholic schools, which are primarily educational communities, are no exception to this rule.
I therefore turn with affection, gratitude and trust to you, teachers of Catholic schools, both religious and lay people, who often work under difficult conditions and are forced to accept an inadequate salary. I ask you always to put your heart into your work, sustained by the certainty that you are thus participating in a special way in the mission Christ entrusted to his disciples.
With equal affection, I turn to you, students, and to your families to tell you that Catholic schools belong to you; they are for you and are your home; so you are not wrong to choose them, to love them and to support them.
Dear friends who are present in this square and all of you who share the same goals, let us close this National Assembly with a humble prayer to the Lord and a strong mutual commitment, so that Catholic schools can respond ever better to their vocation and see their due place recognized in Italian civil life.
May Blessed Mary, Seat of Wisdom and Star of Evangelization, and all the saints who have marked the path of Christian education and Catholic schools, guide and support your work.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. In the love of Christ through whom "we have received the grace of apostleship" (Rm 1,5), I welcome you, the Bishops of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and the newly-established territory of Nunavit, as you come on your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. The ministry we have received brings with it not only great joys but also at times heavy burdens and even sorrows. All of these you bring to the Tombs of the Apostles, so that you may learn once again from their eternal witness that, whatever the burdens and sorrows, the apostolic ministry which we have received is indeed a great joy for us and for the whole People of God, for it is none other than the joy of preaching the Gospel, which is "the power of God for salvation" (Rm 1,16) . Experiencing that joy anew here in Rome, you reaffirm the bond of hierarchical communion with the Successor of Peter and the entire College of Bishops, which is the surest sign and safeguard of the Church's unity and perseverance in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith.
2. The approach of the Great Jubilee and the new millennium encourages us to meditate upon the mystery of time, which is of fundamental importance in Revelation and in Christian theology (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 10). This is because within time the world was created and within time God's plan for the world's redemption unfolded, rising to its summit in the Incarnation of the Son of God. Since time is the arena of both creation and redemption, which come to their fullness in Christ, we may say that "in the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is himself eternal" (ibid.). From this there flows the Church's duty to sanctify time, which she does especially in the liturgical commemoration of the events of salvation history and in her celebration of special occasions and anniversaries. This sanctification of time is a recognition of the truth proclaimed by the Church in the Easter Vigil, that all time and all the ages belong to Christ (cf. Service of Light). "Christ is the Lord of time; he is its beginning and end; every year, every day, every moment are embraced by his Incarnation and Resurrection, and thus become part of "the fullness of time' " (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 10 cf. Incarnationis mysterium, n. 1; Dies Domini, n. 15). To sanctify time is therefore to recognize what God has made of time in Jesus, how in the Paschal Mystery time itself is transfigured.
For the world unredeemed, time is always a terror, because it leads inexorably to the experience of life's limits and the enigma of death. All religion, therefore, deals in some way with the most basic questions: What is man? What is the purpose of life? What follows this earthly existence? (Cf. Gaudium et spes GS 10). In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ the terror of time is destroyed once and for all, for if death loses its sting in the moment of Easter (cf. 1Co 15,55), then so too does time. It is the Resurrection which breaks down the seemingly impenetrable barrier between time and eternity and opens the way to the full experience of time as a gift and a challenge. In this sense St Paul urges Christ's followers to "make the most of the time, for the days are evil" (Ep 5,16). His call is especially meaningful when applied to the Bishop's responsibilities for the life of the Christian community committed to his care.
3. Ultimately, it is because of the Incarnation and the sacramental vision which it entails (cf. Orientale lumen, n. 11) that the Church is so deeply immersed in the world - in time, and therefore in all things human. Because the Word was made flesh, the human body matters; the physical, social and cultural conditions of the human family matter. Because the Word was made flesh in time, human history matters; the daily lives of men and women matter. From this perspective we can say that the Church is "worldly" in a very positive sense, just as God himself was worldly when he sent his Son among us as a man. To be worldly in this way means that the Church wholeheartedly engages history and culture, but in order to transform them, to turn fear into joy by the power of the Gospel.
Yet Christianity is also an eschatology. The New Testament leaves no doubt that these are "the last days", that the world as we know it is passing away and is therefore in no way absolute, let alone divine. It is true that even in the New Testament we see signs of the cooling of the first eschatological fervour, as the initial expectation of an imminent return of the Lord faded. But, despite this reshaping of eschatological expectation, the Church has never ceased to look for the Lord's return, which will be the end of the world but also the full completion of its redemption. Thus, the Christian understanding of Sunday as "the eighth day", which draws upon the rich eschatological symbolism of the Jewish Sabbath in order to evoke "the age to come" (cf. Dies Domini, n. 26), reminds us not only of the beginning when God made all things but points to the end when he will restore all things in Christ (cf. Eph Ep 1,10).
Christian living therefore embraces elements both incarnational and eschatological; and our prime concern as Pastors is to ensure that there is a balance between them, that the Churches over which we preside in Christ's name are neither too worldly nor too unworldly, that they are "in the world but not of it" (cf. Jn Jn 17,11). Crucial here is the question of the relationship between the Church and the world, which was a fundamental theme of the Second Vatican Council and remains central to the life of the Church at the dawn of the new millennium, not least in your own country.
The answer we give to this question will determine the course we set in addressing a range of other pressing issues.
4. As shepherds, we must lead the flock of Christ along a path which avoids the temptation either to eliminate or to exaggerate the boundaries between the Church and the world, between the Christian message and the prevalent culture of our age. Neither elimination nor exaggeration is what the Gospel intends; neither is faithful to the Council's teaching; neither can be the way into the future which God has in mind for the Church. We need another way, and the teaching of Pope Paul VI can help us to find it. Ecclesiam suam has often been regarded as "the Encyclical of dialogue" and with good reason, because it spells out in detail what Pope Paul described as the "attitude" which the Church should adopt at this period in the history of the world (cf. ch. III), an attitude which involves both a style and a method of relating to modern society. Circumstances have certainly changed in the years since Ecclesiam suam was written, yet its teaching on the Church's dialogue with the world remains at least as pertinent now as it was in 1964. In speaking of dialogue, Paul VI used the phrase colloquium salutis. This dialogue (colloquium)has its foundation in what St John has written, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). The Church has a priceless gift for the men and women of every time and place, which she cannot fail to offer, even when her offer is misunderstood or refused.
5. An integral part of this gift is the truth about the human person created in God's image, fully revealed in Jesus Christ and entrusted to the Church. We Bishops above all must never lose confidence in our call to humble and resolute service of that truth, as teachers and shepherds called to defend and spread that truth at a crucial historical moment, when new knowledge, new technology and unprecedented material wealth are bringing into being a "new world" of human achievement and responsibility. A first area of our defence of the truth about man is the defence of the inalienable dignity and value of life itself. As you have stressed in your teaching, the "Gospel of life" is not a mere option for Christians; it is an essential dimension of our obedience to God. Everyone has a serious obligation to be at the service of this Gospel: "We are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life" (Evangelium vitae EV 28). In catechesis, in education, in the field of medical research and practice, among legislators and those responsible for public life, as well as in the media, a great effort must be made to present the "Gospel of life" with the full force of its truth.
As Pastors, you are fully aware of how many "truths" are voiced today about fundamental questions of human behaviour, making the preaching and teaching of Christian morality an uphill struggle in many cases. So many Bishops, priests and lay people have told me how extremely helpful the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been in the whole task of Christian formation. This compendium of the Church's teaching can be a most effective tool in transmitting a deep and solid knowledge of the faith and of the rules of Christian life, in parishes, schools, universities and seminaries. In recent decades there have been cases in which efforts to make the truths of the faith more accessible, especially in the catechesis of children and young people, have ended up emptying the Christian message of its essence and power. Perhaps there is nothing more urgent in your pastoral ministry, nothing for which you are more responsible before the Lord, than to ensure the transmission of the faith handed down to us by the Apostles.
6. To teach the faith and to evangelize is to speak an absolute and universal truth to the world; but it is our duty to speak in appropriate and meaningful ways which make people receptive to that truth. In considering what this entails, Paul VI specified four qualities, which he calls perspicuitas, lenitas, fiducia, prudentia - clarity, humanity, confidence and prudence (Ecclesiam suam, n. 81).
To speak with clarity means that we must explain comprehensibly the truth of Revelation and the Church's teachings. We should not simply repeat but explain. In other words, we need a new apologetic, geared to the needs of today, which keeps in mind that our task is not just to win arguments but to win souls, to engage not in ideological bickering but to vindicate and promote the Gospel. Such an apologetic will need to find a common "grammar" with those who see things differently and do not share our assumptions, lest we end up speaking different languages even though we may be using the same tongue.
This new apologetic will also need to breathe a spirit of humanity, that compassionate humility which understands people's anxieties and questions and which is not quick to presume in them ill will or bad faith. At the same time, it will not yield to a sentimental sense of the love and compassion of Christ sundered from the truth, but will insist instead that true love and compassion can make radical demands, precisely because they are inseparable from the truth which alone sets us free (cf. Jn Jn 8,32).
To speak with confidence will mean that, however much others may deny us any specific competence or reproach us for the failings of the Church's members, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth for which all people long, no matter how distant, resistant or hostile they may seem.
And finally prudence, which Paul VI calls practical wisdom and good sense, and which Gregory the Great considers the virtue of the brave (Moralia, 22, 1), will mean that we give a clear answer to people who ask: "What must we do?" (Lc 3,10, 12, 14). Pope Paul VI concluded by affirming that to speak with perspicuitas, lenitas, fiducia and prudentia "will make us wise; it will make us teachers" (Ecclesiam suam, n. 83). That is what we are called to be above all, dear Brothers - teachers of the truth, who never cease to pray for "the grace to see life whole and the power to speak effectively of it" (Gregory the Great, On Ezekiel, I, 11, 6).
7. What we teach is not a truth of our own devising, but a revealed truth which has come to us through Christ as an incomparable gift. We are sent forth to proclaim this truth and to call those who hear us to what the Apostle Paul defines as "the obedience of faith" (Rm 1,5).
May the Canadian Martyrs, whose memory you are celebrating with special joy on this 350th anniversary of their death, never cease to teach Christ's faithful in Canada the truth of this obedience and this dying to self in order to live for Christ. May they teach the Church in Canada the mystery of the Cross, and may the seed of their sacrifice bear a rich harvest in Canadian hearts! To the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Queen of Martyrs, and to the protection of St Joseph her spouse, I entrust the entire household of God in your country. Upon you, and upon the priests, women and men religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses I cordially bestow my Apostolic Blessing.