Speeches 2003 - Friday, 24 January 2003


25 January 2003

1. My thoughts and prayers are with you, dear families of the Philippines and from throughout the world, as you gather in Manila for your Fourth World Meeting. With great affection I greet all of you in the name of the Lord!

On this occasion I also offer a prayerful greeting to all the families of the world which you represent: "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1Tm 1,2).

I thank the Papal Legate, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, for the kind words which he addressed to me on your behalf. To him and to the staff of the Pontifical Council for the Family I express my gratitude for the time and effort spent in preparing this Meeting. I am likewise grateful to Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, who is generously hosting you during these days.

2. In the theological-pastoral session just concluded you discussed the theme: "The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millennium". I chose these words with your World Meeting in mind, in order to highlight the sublime mission of the family. By embracing the Gospel and walking in its light, families are given the demanding responsibility of bearing witness to its message.

Dear Christian families, proclaim joyfully to the whole world the wonderful treasure which you, as domestic churches, possess! Christian couples, in your communion of life and love, in your mutual self-giving and in your generous openness to children, become, in Christ, the light of the world. The Lord asks you daily to be like a lamp which does not remain hidden, but is put "on a stand, and ... gives light to all in the house" (Mt 5,15).

3. Above all, be "good news" for the third millennium by remaining faithful to your vocation. Whether you were married recently or many years ago, the Sacrament of Matrimony continues to be your own special way of being disciples of Jesus, contributing to the spread of the Kingdom of God and growing in the holiness to which all Christians are called. As the Second Vatican Council noted, Christian couples, in the fulfilment of their marital and family responsibilities, "increasingly advance their own perfection and their mutual sanctification" (Gaudium et Spes GS 48).

Accept fully and without reserve the love which, in the Sacrament of Matrimony, God first gave to you, and through which he enables you to love others in turn (cf. 1Jn 4,19). Stand firm in the one conviction which can give meaning, strength and joy to your life: Christ’s love will never abandon you, his covenant of peace with you will never fail (cf. Is Is 54,10). God’s gifts and call are irrevocable (cf. Rom Rm 11,29). He has written your name on the palm of his hand (cf. Is Is 49,16).

4. The grace which you received in marriage remains with you through the years. Its source is in the pierced heart of the Redeemer, who sacrificed himself on the altar of the Cross for the sake of the Church, his Spouse, accepting death for the salvation of the world.

This grace remains ever close to that source: it is the grace of a self-sacrificing love, a love which both gives and forgives. It is the grace of a selfless love which forgets the hurt it has suffered, a love faithful unto death, a love bursting with new life. It is the grace of a generous love, which believes all things, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, a love which has no end, a love which is greater than all else (cf. 1Co 13,7-8).

Such a love is not always easy. Daily life is full of pitfalls, tensions, suffering and even fatigue. But on this journey you are not alone. Jesus is always present at your side, just as he was for the newlyweds at Cana in Galilee during a moment of difficulty. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that the Saviour remains close to Christian couples and offers them help, so that, just as he loved the Church and gave himself up for her, they too might always love each other faithfully and with constant mutual concern (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 48).

5. Christian couples, be "good news for the third millennium" by bearing convincing and consistent witness to the truth about the family.

The family founded on marriage is a patrimony of humanity, a great good of priceless value, necessary for the life, development and the future of peoples. According to the plan of creation established in the beginning (cf. Mt Mt 19,4 Mt Mt 8), the family is the setting in which the human person, made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1,26), is conceived and born, grows and matures. The family, as the primary school in which the human person is formed (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 19-27), is indispensable for a true "human ecology" (Centesimus Annus CA 39).

I am grateful for the testimonies which you have given this evening, and which I have carefully followed. They bring to mind my own experiences as a priest, as Archbishop of Krakow and in the nearly twenty-five years of my papacy. As I have often said, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 86).

I urge you, dear Christian families, to show by your daily lives that despite numerous difficulties and obstacles marriage is able to be fully lived out as a meaningful experience and as "good news" for the men and women of today. Be leaders in the Church and in the world: this is a responsibility flowing from your celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony, from your being a domestic church, and from the marital mission which is yours as the primary cells of society (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 11).

6. Finally, dear Christian couples, if you wish to be "good news for the third millennium", do not forget that family prayer is a sure way to remain united in a way of life in harmony with God’s will.

When I proclaimed the Year of the Rosary several months ago, I recommended this Marian devotion as a prayer of the family and for the family. By reciting the Rosary, families "place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on" (Rosarium Virginis Mariae RVM 42).

I entrust all of you to Mary, Queen of the Family; may she accompany and sustain your life as families. I am also pleased to announce that the Fourth World Meeting of Families will be held in Valencia, Spain, in 2006.

As I now impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing, I leave you with a final charge: with God’s help, make the Gospel the guiding principle of your families, and make your families a page of the Gospel written for our time!





Tuesday, 28 January 2003

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Fathers,

I am pleased to welcome the members of the Preparatory Committee charged with preparing the theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. First of all, I greet the representatives of the Oriental Orthodox Churches themselves. Through you, I extend my fraternal greetings to my Venerable Brothers, the Heads of the Churches which you represent: His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, His Holiness Patriarch Zakka I Iwas, His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, His Holiness Patriarch Paulus, His Holiness Patriarch Yakob and His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Mathews II. I recall with gratitude the various opportunities I have had to meet them and to strengthen the bonds of charity between us. My greetings also go to the Catholic members of this Preparatory Committee, representing various communities from both East and West.

Substantial ecumenical progress has already been made between the Catholic Church and the different Oriental Orthodox Churches. Essential clarifications have been reached with regard to traditional controversies about Christology, and this has enabled us to profess together the faith we hold in common. This progress is most encouraging, since "it shows us that the path followed is the right one and that we can reasonably hope to discover together the solution to other disputed questions" (Ut Unum Sint UUS 63). May your efforts to establish a Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue prove a major step forward towards full communion in truth and charity.

Many of you come from the Middle East and surrounding countries. Let us pray together that this region will be preserved from the threat of war and further violence. May our ecumenical endeavours always be directed to the building up of a "civilization of love", founded on justice, reconciliation and peace.

Upon you and upon all those entrusted to your pastoral care I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 30 January 2003

1. The solemn inauguration of the Judicial Year of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota offers me the chance to express again my appreciation and gratitude for your work, dear Prelate Auditors, Promoters of Justice, Defenders of the Bond, Officials and Advocates. I cordially thank the Dean, Mons. Funghini, for the sentiments expressed on your behalf and for the well-developed reflections on the nature and goals of your work.

The activity of your Tribunal has always been appreciated by my Venerable Predecessors who never failed to stress that the administration of justice by the Roman Rota constitutes a direct participation in an important aspect of their service as Pastor of the universal church.

For this reason, your decisions, accordingly have a special value for the Church, since, as I affirmed in Pastor Bonus, they constitute a sure and concrete point of reference for the administration of justice in the church (cf. art. 126).

2. Given the overwhelming prevalence of cases concerning the nullity of marriage before the Rota, the Dean stressed the profound crisis that currently affects marriage and the family. A relevant fact that emerges from the study of the cases is the diminishing awareness among the partners of the significance in the celebration of Christian marriage of its sacramentality, a dimension that today is all too often disregarded in its intimate meaning, its intrinsic supernatural value and its positive effects on conjugal life.

After having dealt in past years with the natural dimension of marriage, I would like today to call your attention to the special relationship that the marriage of the baptized has with the mystery of God, a relationship that, in the new and definitive covenant in Christ, assumes the dignity of a sacrament.

The natural dimension and relationship with God are not two juxtaposed aspects: rather, they are intimately connected as are the truth of the human person and the truth of God. This topic is especially close to my heart: I return to it in this context, also because the perspective of the communion of the human person with God is so useful, even necessary, for the work of judges, advocates and all those who deal with the law of the Church.

3. The link between secularization and the crisis of marriage and of the family is only too clear. The crisis concerning the meaning of God and that concerning moral good and evil has succeeded in diminishing an acquaintance with the fundamentals of marriage and of the family which is rooted in marriage. For an effective recovery of the truth in this field, it is necessary to rediscover the transcendent dimension that is intrinsic to the full truth of marriage and the family, overcoming every dichotomy that tends to separate the profane aspects from the religious as if there were two marriages: one profane and another sacred.

"God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1,27). The image of God is found in the duality of man and woman and in their interpersonal communion. For this reason, transcendence is inherent in the existence of marriage, right from the start, because it belongs to the natural distinction between man and woman in the order of creation. In their being "one flesh" (Gn 2,24), the man and the woman, in their mutual assistance and fruitfulness, participate in something sacred and religious, as the Encyclical Arcanum divinae sapientiae of my Predecessor Leo XIII emphasized, pointing to the understanding of marriage held in ancient civilizations (10 Feb. 1880, Leonis XIII P.M. Acta, vol. II, p. 22). In this regard, he observed that marriage "from the very beginning was a figure (adumbratio) of the Incarnation of the Word of God" (ibid.). In the state of original innocence, Adam and Eve already had the supernatural gift of grace. In this way, before the Incarnation of the Word took place historically, its effective holiness was already being bestowed on humanity.

4. Unfortunately, on account of the effects of original sin, what was natural in the relationship between man and woman risks being lived in a way that is not in conformity with the plan and will of God and distancing oneself from God necessarily implies a proportionate dehumanizing of all family relationships. But in the "fullness of time", Jesus himself restored the primordial design of marriage (cf. Mt Mt 19,1-12) and so, in the state of redeemed nature, the union between man and woman not only regains its original holiness, freed from sin, but is really inserted into the very mystery of the covenant of Christ with the Church.

The Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians directly connects the account of Genesis with that mystery: "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh (Gn 2,24). This is a great mystery; and I mean in reference to Christ and the Church" (Ep 5,31-32). The intrinsic link, between marriage, established at the beginning [of creation], and the union of the Word Incarnate with the Church is shown in its salvific efficacy by means of the concept of sacrament. The Second Vatican Council expressed this truth of our faith from the point of view of the married persons themselves: "Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of matrimony, signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and His Church (cf. Eph Ep 5,32). The spouses thereby help each other to attain to holiness in their married life and by the acceptance and education of their children. And so, in their state and way of life, they have their own special gift among the People of God" (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium LG 11). The close link of the natural and the supernatural orders is immediately thereafter presented by the Council with reference to the family, that is inseparable from marriage and seen as a "domestic church" (cf. ibid.).

5. Christian life and reflection find in this truth an inexhaustible fountain of light. In fact, the sacramentality of marriage is a fruitful way to investigate more deeply the mystery of the relationship between human nature and grace. In the fact that the marriage of old became in the NT the sign and instrument of the grace of Christ, one sees the evidence of the constitutive transcendence of all that belongs to the being of the human person and in particular to his natural relationality according to the distinction and complementarity of man and woman. The human and the divine are interwoven in a wonderful way.

Today's strongly secularized mentality tends to affirm the human values of the institution of the family while detaching them from religious values and proclaiming them as fully independent of God. Influenced as it is by models of life that are too often presented by the mass-media, today's mentality asks, "Why must one spouse always be faithful to the other?" and this question is transformed into an existential doubt in situations of crisis. Marital difficulties can take various forms, but in the end they all amount to a problem of love. For this reason, the preceding question can be reformulated in this way: why it is always necessary to love the other spouse even when so many apparently justifying reasons, would lead one to leave?

Many replies can be given; among them the very powerful ones are the good of the children and the good of the entire society, but the most fundamental reply comes through the recognition of the objectivity of being spouses, seen as a reciprocal gift, made possible and guaranteed by God himself. The ultimate reason, therefore, for the duty of faithful love is none other than what is the basis of the divine covenant with the human person: God is faithful. To make possible the fidelity of heart to one's spouse, even in the hardest cases, one must have recourse to God in the certainty of receiving assistance. The way of mutual fidelity passes, moreover, through an openness to Christ's charity, which "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1Co 13,7). In every marriage the mystery of redemption becomes present, brought about by a real participation in the Cross of the Saviour, accepting the Christian paradox that joins happiness with the bearing of suffering in the spirit of faith.

6. From these principles one can draw many practical consequences of a pastoral, moral and juridical nature. I will mention a few that are connected in a special way with your judicial activity.
Above all, you can never forget that you have in your hands that great mystery St Paul spoke of (cf. Eph Ep 5,32), both when you deal with a sacramental marriage in the strict sense and also when the marriage bears in itself the primordial sacred character, that is called to become a sacrament through the baptism of the spouses. The consideration of the sacramentality highlights the transcendence of your function, the bond that links it to the economy of salvation. The religious dimension should for this reason permeate all your work. From handling scientific studies on marriage to the daily activity of the administration of justice, there is no room in the Church for a vision of marriage that is merely immanent and profane, simply because such a vision is not true theologically and juridically.

7. In this perspective, for example, it is necessary to take seriously the obligation imposed on the judge by canon 1676 to favour and to seek actively the possible convalidation and reconciliation of the marriage. Naturally the same attitude of support for marriage and the family must prevail before turning to the tribunal. In pastoral assistance consciences must be patiently enlightened with the truth concerning the transcendent duty of fidelity presented in an attractive and favourable way. Working towards a positive overcoming of marital conflicts and in providing assistance to the faithful who are in an irregular marital situation, it is necessary to create a synergy that involves everyone in the church: pastors of souls, jurists, experts in the psychological and psychiatric sciences, other laity, especially those who are married and have life experience. All must keep in mind that they are dealing with a sacred reality and with a question that touches on the salvation of souls.

8. The importance of the sacramentality of marriage, and the need of faith for knowing and living fully this dimension, could give rise to some misunderstandings either regarding the admission to the celebration of marriage or judgments about the validity of marriage. The church does not refuse to celebrate a marriage for the person who is well disposed, even if he is imperfectly prepared from the supernatural point of view, provided the person has the right intention to marry according to the natural reality of marriage. In fact, alongside natural marriage, one cannot describe another model of Christian marriage with specific supernatural requisites.

This truth should not be forgotten when determining the boundaries of the exclusion of sacramentality (cf. can. 1101 2) and "the determining error about the sacramental dignity" (cf. can. 1099) as possible grounds of nullity. In both instances it is crucial to keep in mind that an attitude on the part of those getting married that does not take into account the supernatural dimension of marriage can render it null and void only if it undermines its validity on the natural level on which the sacramental sign itself takes place. The Catholic Church has always recognized marriages between the non-baptized that become a Christian sacrament through the baptism of the spouses, nor does she have doubts about the validity of the marriage of a Catholic with a non-baptized person if it is celebrated with the necessary dispensation.

9. At the end of this gathering, my thoughts go to spouses and families to beg for them the protection of Our Lady. On this occasion I am pleased to repeat the exhortation that I made in the Apostolic Letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary: "The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by ancient tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together" (n. 41).

To all of you, dear Prelate Auditors, Officials and Advocates of the Roman Rota, I affectionately impart my Blessing.

                                                            February 2003



Monday, 3 February 2003

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. The meeting here in Rome of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church affords you the agreeable opportunity to reaffirm your communion with the Successor of Peter. Indeed, you wanted to gather in this city in order to meet, in a spirit of deep unity and cordial fraternity, the Pope and his closest collaborators. Welcome!

I thank Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, your Major Archbishop, for his kind words on your behalf. In greeting each of you individually, I want to convey my affectionate greetings to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, as I recall the warmth they showed me during my visit to Ukraine in June 2001. On that occasion, to the joy of your communities so many Orthodox faithful added their welcome and respect, for they saw in the Bishop of Rome a sincere friend.

2. The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, reborn after the tragic events of the past century, pursues her work of rebuilding with the consciousness of her great spiritual heritage, the fruitful witness of her martyrs and the need at all levels to maintain the spirit of dialogue, collaboration and communion.

I encourage you in this spirit that, in the context of somewhat difficult daily events, will give you sure guidance in resolving the problems as they appear. In this regard, how can I fail to point to your recent cordial meetings with your Brother Bishops of the Latin rite which have allowed you to consider, in the light of the same obligation of charity and unity, the pastoral issues that concern both communities? They are also a practical application of that effective and affective communion that must guide the Pastors of Christ's flock.

This communion is so much more necessary if one reflects on the challenges which today's situation puts before you. They range from the spiritual needs of large portions of your people to the serious dilemmas of immigration, from the hardship of the less fortunate to family difficulties, and from the need for ecumenical dialogue to the desire for greater integration in the context of Europe.

3. Venerable Brothers, you come from a land that is the cradle of Christianity in Eastern Europe. You are asked to carry out your tasks in this ecclesial "laboratory" in which the Eastern Christian tradition lives alongside the Latin one. Both contribute to beautifying the face of the one Church of Christ. Inscribed in Ukraine's history as a "borderland" and in the blood of so many of her children is a call to make every effort to serve the cause of the unity of all Christians.

I entrust your resolutions to the prayers of your many martyrs and to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, warmly venerated in the many shrines of your country.

With my cordial Apostolic Blessing!



Thursday, 6 February 2003

1. With deep joy, I greet you, dear Brothers, and with sentiments of fraternal charity, I welcome your Delegation to the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Through you I greet the venerable Patriarch Pavle with the Holy Synod and all the Bishops, clergy, monks and faithful of your Holy Church.

2. The presence of your Delegation in Rome and our meeting today at the beginning of the third millennium are not only very important but also fill us all with hope. Indeed, the last decade of the 20th century has been marked by many sorrowful events which have caused unspeakable suffering to the Balkan peoples. Unfortunately there have been injustices and their authors have not hesitated to exploit religious and patriotic feeling and values to inflict deeper wounds on their neighbour.

The Churches have not failed in their task of appealing to all the parties involved for peace, the re-establishment of justice and respect for the rights of every person, regardless of their race or religious belief. As is well known, the Holy See has often raised its voice unequivocally and impartially, and I personally did not fail to do so before and during the attacks on the population of your country, especially in 1999.

3. The recent past is strongly impressed on the human memory; it has caused great confusion in judgements and deep distress in those who have suffered painful losses or were forced to abandon everything they owned. The Churches now have the mission of fulfilling the role of the Good Samaritan. They must alleviate the common suffering, tend the wounds and promote the purification of memory that will result in sincere forgiveness and fraternal collaboration. I am glad that many initiatives of this kind have already been undertaken and I hope they will continue through the generous contribution of all in your country, at the local and regional level. With regard to the Catholic Church, also present in Serbia and the neighbouring countries, I assure you that she will not shirk this duty and will not fail to make her contribution.

4. Today, the Churches face new needs and challenges that derive from the inexhorable transformation of the European continent. The Christian identity of Europe, whose original form was shaped by the two traditions of West and East, sometimes seems to be under dispute. This can only force us to seek and promote every form of collaboration that enables Orthodox and Catholics to join in giving a vivid and convincing testimony of their common tradition. This witness will prove effective not only in the affirmation of Gospel values such as peace, the dignity of the person, the defence of life and justice in contemporary society, but also in the coming together and consolidation of that brotherhood which must define ecclesial relations between Catholics and Orthodox.

Throughout the centuries, even in great adversity, your Church undertook to spread the Gospel among the Serbian people and in this way contributed to promote the Christian identity of Europe. Faithful to the apostolic tradition, she has proclaimed the Good News of salvation with perseverance, impressing upon Serbian society a strong cultural stamp, which is evident, among other things, in the striking architecture of the churches and monasteries. This heritage does not only belong to you; all other Christians are also proud of it. I hope and wish that Europe will find the appropriate means to preserve it wherever it has flourished and develops.

5. Dear Brethren, I thank you for your visit. It is a sign to me that God's Spirit is guiding the Church toward the re-establishment of that unity of all Christ's disciples for which he prayed on the eve of his death. Let us ask the Lord to give us the fortitude to continue on this path with confidence, patience and courage. Please convey my cordial and fraternal greetings to His Beatitude Patriarch Pavle, and to all the members of your Church. I assure you of my prayers that the Lord, who guides our steps, may accompany you during your visit, a reason for hope for the growth of our mutual relations.




Friday, 7 February 2003

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. Welcome to the house of the Successor of Peter on your visit ad limina Apostolorum, a visible witness of the episcopal collegiality of the Church. I extend a fraternal greeting to each of you and to Bishop Jayme Henrique Chemello, the President of the Bishop's Conference. I warmly thank Cardinal José Freire Falcão, Archbishop of Brasília, for his incisive presentation conveying the sentiments of zeal that motivate you and the pastoral challenges of the West-Central and 2nd Northern Regions.

Scanning the map of your States, from Goiás to the international frontiers of northern Brazil, passing through Tocantins, Pará and Amapá, I can imagine the difficulties you encounter in exercising your mission as Pastors of those immense regions. Being a Bishop has never been easy; today it involves obligations, activities and difficulties everywhere and often in unforeseen circumstances that constitute enormous complex and, at times, humanly impossible obstacles. However, it is God who invites you to serve with a sense of responsibility, the people entrusted to your care and he will not fail to support and accompany those he has chosen, in the certainty that the faithful "Under the test of this service ... will glorify God on account of your obedience and acceptance of the Gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your communion with them and with all" (cf. II Cor 9,13).

2. Without denying the specific differences of every diocese, situations and problems exist that demand coordinated pastoral action in order to exercise in loving union "certain pastoral functions ... in view of promoting that greater good which the Church offers humankind ... according to the norm of law ... especially through forms and programmes of the apostolate which are fittingly adapted to the circumstances of the time and place" (Motu proprio Apostolos Suos, n. 14). It is a comfort to know that you have experienced this and that it is also a commitment of your Bishops' Conference: the long and fruitful experience of communion and co-responsibility is helping your dioceses to join forces to promote evangelization, giving life to an organism of episcopal communion, so that the Pastors of a specific territory will renew their collegial affection in the exercise of some functions inspired by their common pastoral solicitude.

Since it was created in 1952, the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil has carried out this mission with many initiatives designed not only to improve its organization, but also to witness to the presence among men and women of the Redeemer and his saving message. This observation was made at the end of the celebrations for its Golden Jubilee. The Bishops' Conference has helped the Church in Brazil to remain beside the people, understanding their situation and making their causes her own.

This also makes us remember the importance of the fact that, if the Church needs to be close to the people, as Jesus was when he walked the roads of Palestine to meet them, she must also and above all bring Jesus close to the people, making him known to them and ensuring that the grace that flows from his pierced side as a source of living water reaches the hearts that thirst for the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church, as an instrument of salvation, has received through Christ and his Apostles the vital mission "to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation", recalling that "he who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mc 16,15-16).

Your mission, therefore, venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, assumes its proper and specific character at the moment you decide on your various programmes for the pastoral mission, and globally, for evangelization. As successors of the Apostles, through episcopal consecration you have received the light that comes from on High. "The Lord Jesus, having prayed at length to the Father, called to himself those whom he willed and appointed twelve to be with him.... These apostles he constituted in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from amongst them. He sent them first of all to the children of Israel and then to all the peoples, so that, sharing in his power, they might make all peoples his disciples and sanctify and govern them" (Lumen gentium, LG 19).

Through his sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the Head and the members, the Bishop becomes a member of the College of Bishops and thus shares in the solicitude for all the Churches (cf. ibid., n. 23), to be the teachers of doctrine, the priests of sacred worship and the ministers of government (cf. Code of Canon Law, CIC 375). The most important task of the Bishops is in fact that of governing the diocese entrusted to them, knowing that by so doing "they contribute effectively to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which ... is a corporate body of Churches" (Lumen gentium, LG 23). However, everyone knows that on many occasions Bishops cannot fulfil their mission satisfactorily "unless they work more harmoniously and closely every day with other Bishops" (Apostolos suos, n. 15).

That is the reason why today, Bishops' Conferences cooperate with a fruitful and diversified assistance to give life, in a concrete and effective way, to collegial union or affective collegiality among bishops. The union with their brothers in the episcopate with whom each one is especially bound, often as the result of geographical proximity or of having many common pastoral problems, acts as a vehicle for the common good of the diocese entrusted to them; if the contrary were the case, the Bishop would soon find it impossible to carry out his mission effectively. I am thinking, for example, of the important matter of the formation of candidates for the priesthood. The need to find sound and reliable vocations has demanded of your particular Churches a renewed effort and output of energy. I express the hope that the Vocational Year, promoted by the Bishops' Conference, will be crowned by success; from now on I pledge my support for it, and be sure of my prayers to Almighty God.

Work with Bishops' Conference, steer clear of bureaucracy that distracts from needs of diocese
3. It can be said that the pastoral duty of the Bishop in his diocese necessarily includes active participation in the work of the Bishops' Conference but, at the same time, it sets limits: limits on the part of the Conference, since it is concerned with matters it must follow in accord with its Statutes for the good of all the dioceses taken together; and limits for the personal dedication of each Bishop, according to the importance of the problems that must be addressed in the Conference, that is, in proportion to the benefits that will derive from this work for all the dioceses.

Keep in mind that an excessive multiplication of organisms and meetings obliges many bishops often to be absent from their particular Churches which, as well as being contrary to the "law of personal residence" (CIC 395), has negative consequences both on the accompaniment of the priests and on other pastoral matters, as might be the case of the spread of religious sects.

For this reason explicit mention is made of the need to prevent, besides an excessive multiplication of organisms, the bureaucratization of subsidiary organs and committees that continue to work in the period between the plenary meetings; since these organs "exist to be of help to the Bishops and not to substitute for them" (Apostolos suos, n. 18).

Ecclesiastical structures, serving the Church in accordance with Statutes of Bishops' Conference
4. In carrying out this mission, addressing my Brothers in the Episcopate through the Motu Proprio Apostolos suos, I highlighted the fact that the "collegial union of Bishops manifests the nature of the Church" and, quoting from the Second Vatican Council (Lumen gentium, LG 9), since it is "on earth the seed and beginning of the Kingdom of God", is "a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race" (n. 8).

I would also like to recall here, with satisfaction, the spirit that pervades the Brazilian Bishops' Conference as a fruit of the recent revision of its Statutes. Dedicated to "promote sound communion among Bishops ... and their ever greater participation in the Conference" (Chapter I, art. 2), you have wished to reaffirm the apostolic tradition that has always been preserved in the life of the Church since her foundation.

I am well aware of the vast size of the Church in Brazil, which is one of the largest in the Catholic world. The 17 Regions that make it up, each with a large group of dioceses and at times with prelatures, eparchies, an exarchate, territorial abbeys, a military ordinariate, an Ordinariate for Eastern-rite faithful, and a personal apostolic administration, show us the immense and demanding panorama of work that lies before you, and the continuous concern required to unify the process of evangelization.

These structures must be at the service of the Conference and of each of the local Ordinaries, in order to put into practice the decisions of the General Assembly, and when necessary, of the Permanent Council as the "organ of direction and guidance of the activity of the CNBB" (Chapter V, art. 46). I trust in your pastoral zeal that you will be able to avoid any discrepancy with the Statutes that have been approved.

5. The entire continent of Brazil requires renewed attention, so that all may receive the certainty through which Christ established the People of God "in a communion of life, charity and truth" (Lumen gentium, LG 9). The People of God are welded together as a community when the members possess and participate in the same "goods" that serve to identify them and distinguish them from other social groups. St Paul sums up these constitutive goods of the people of God, proclaiming that for Christ's followers there is "one Lord, one faith, one Baptism" (Ep 4,5).

All have the right to receive in a unified, consistent way not only the revealed truth, but also the common teaching of the national Episcopate through declarations made in the name of the Bishops' Conference. I therefore appeal to you to be responsible when making declarations in the name of the conference to the media. The fact that a communication is the personal responsibility of a certain person, in conformity with what is stated by your Statutes (cf. Chapter IV, art. 131), does not exclude doctrinal coherence and fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church.

6. As teachers of the faith and stewards of God's mysteries, you need even greater harmony when it is a question of analyzing, in the various commissions of the Bishops' Conference, national matters that will have repercussions on the various diocesan approaches to pastoral care.

"Episcopal Conferences have their own responsibility within the territory of their competence, but their decisions have inevitable repercussions on the universal Church. The Petrine ministry of the Bishop of Rome guarantees the coordination of the Conferences' activities with the life and teaching of the universal Church" (General Audience, 7 October 1992, n. 8; ORE, 14 October 1992, p. 11). In the range of responsibility of every committee or office that is part of your Conference, it is up to the Bishop to examine the matters submitted to him with diligence and care. He cannot use the excuse of lack of time to avoid making an objective analysis of the issues. Inasmuch as they are "witnesses of divine and Catholic truth", Bishops are "authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people assigned to them, the faith which is destined to inform their thinking and direct their conduct" (Lumen gentium, LG 25).

Another requirement is the correct application in every case of the norms of Canon Law, both of the West and of the East. If on the one hand, there is a fairly broad theoretical consensus in conceiving Church Law in the light of the revealed mystery, as the Second Vatican Council prescribed (cf. Optatam totius, OT 16), on the other, the understanding of a certain legalism still survives that, in practice, reduces canon law to a collection of ecclesiastic norms that are not very theological or pastoral, which in themselves restrict the freedom of the children of God. This vision is certainly inadequate, since, as I have had the occasion to say recently, the canonical norms, refer to a reality which transcends them and include essential and permanent elements in which the divine law is made concrete (cf. Address to the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, 24 January 2003, n. 2; ORE, 5 February, p. 7). For this reason, it is necessary to realize that pastoral action cannot be reduced to a kind of pastoralism, understood as ignoring or attenuating other basic dimensions of the Christian mystery, among them the juridical dimension. If pastoral activity waters down a juridical obligation, it relativizes ecclesial obedience and deprives the canonical norms of meaning. True pastoral care can never contradict the true law of the Church.

7. Venerable Brothers, it is a grace to know and feel that you are united and close to one another and determined to work together, especially when one can perceive the many forces that oppose us, forces of division that seek to separate or even to set brothers against each other who have been called to live in unity. Continue on your way, always seeking fraternal harmony within your Bishops' Conference and with the Successor of Peter who at this moment renews his embrace of communion with all, including those who have come here, starting last year, on their ad limina visit.

Since you are the last group of Brazilian Bishops to visit, I offer you my best wishes of peace and brotherhood in the hope that you will continue to build unity in truth and love, and that you will respond together to the great challenges of the present time.

As I conclude this meeting, I turn my thoughts to Our Lady Aparecida, Mother of your Christian communities and Patroness of the great nation of Brazil. To her I entrust all of you and your priests, your men and women religious and the lay faithful of all your dioceses, and I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2003 - Friday, 24 January 2003