Speeches 2000 - Cairo, 25 February 2000



Sunday, 27 February 2000

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am very pleased to meet you at the end of the conference that has been held these days in the Vatican on the truly demanding and stimulating theme of the implementation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I greet Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, whom I thank for his address on behalf of you all. My greeting also goes to the Prefects of the dicasteries and the other Cardinals, as well as to the Archbishops and Bishops whose presence highlights the importance of this meeting. Lastly, I greet the experts who have come here from various parts of the world to contribute their own experience and reflections.

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has been a gift of the Spirit to his Church. For this reason it remains a fundamental event not only for understanding the Church's history at this end of the century, but first and foremost for exploring the abiding presence of the risen Christ beside his Bride in the course of world events. Through the Council Assembly, which saw Bishops come to the See of Peter from all over the world, it was possible to note how the patrimony of 2,000 years of faith has been preserved in its original authenticity.

2. With the Council, the Church first had an experience of faith, as she abandoned herself to God without reserve, as one who trusts and is certain of being loved. It is precisely this act of abandonment to God which stands out from an objective examination of the Acts. Anyone who wished to approach the Council without considering this interpretive key would be unable to penetrate its depths. Only from a faith perspective can we see the Council event as a gift whose still hidden wealth we must know how to mine.

At this juncture the significant words of St Vincent of Lérins come to mind: "The Church of Christ, the concerned and careful guardian of the dogmas entrusted to her, never changes anything in them; she removes nothing and adds nothing; she does not cut what is necessary and does not add what is unnecessary; she never loses what is hers and never appropriates what belongs to others; but with all zeal, she attends faithfully and wisely to the ancient dogmas and desires only to perfect and hone those which had in ancient times been given an initial form and first outline, to strengthen and reinforce those which are already prominent and developed, and to preserve those which have already been confirmed and defined" (Commonitorium, XXIII).

3. The Council Fathers were faced with a real challenge. It involved the effort to understand more deeply, at a time of rapid changes, the nature of the Church and her relationship to the world, in order to provide a suitable "aggiornamento". We accepted this challenge - I too was a Council Father - and responded to it by seeking a more coherent understanding of the faith. What we achieved at the Council was to show that if contemporary man wants to understand himself completely, he too needs Jesus Christ and his Church, which continues in the world as a sign of unity and communion.

The Church, the People of God journeying on the paths of history, is truly the perennial witness to a prophetic message. While she attests to the newness of the promise, she makes its fulfilment evident. The God who has promised is the faithful God who fulfils the word he has given.

Is this not what the Tradition going back to the Apostles enables us to affirm every day? Are we not a continual process of transmitting the saving Word that offers man, wherever he may be, the meaning of his life? The mission of the Church, as the trustee of the revealed Word, is to proclaim it to everyone.

This prophetic mission means taking responsibility for making visible what the Word proclaims. We must therefore put into effect the visible signs of salvation, so that the message we bring may be understood in its integrity. Christians cannot delegate to others the task of taking the Gospel to the world. It is a mission that involves their own responsibility as believers and followers of Christ! The Council wished to restore this fundamental truth to all believers.

4. In order to mark the first 20 years of the Second Vatican Council, I convoked an Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985. Its goal was to celebrate, examine and further the Council's teaching. In their analysis the Bishops spoke of the "lights and shadows" that had marked the post-conciliar period. For this reason, I wrote in the Letter Tertio millennio adveniente that "an examination of conscience must also consider the reception given to the Council" (n. 36). Today I thank all of you who have come here from many parts of the world to answer that request. The work you have undertaken in these days has shown how present and effective the Council's teaching is in the life of the Church. Certainly, it requires ever deeper understanding. However, within this dynamic the genuine intention of the Council Fathers must not be lost: indeed, it must be recovered by overcoming biased and partial interpretations which have prevented the newness of the Council's Magisterium from being expressed as well as possible.

The Church has always known the rules for a correct hermeneutic of the contents of dogma. These rules are set within the fabric of faith and not outside it. To interpret the Council on the supposition that it marks a break with the past, when in reality it stands in continuity with the faith of all times, is a definite mistake. What has been believed by "everyone, always and everywhere" is the authentic newness that enables every era to perceive the light that comes from the word of God's Revelation in Jesus Christ.

5. The Council was an act of love: "A great, threefold act of love" - as Pope Paul VI said in his opening address at the Council's fourth session - an act of love "for God, for the Church, for humanity" (Insegnamenti, vol. III [1965], p. 475). The effectiveness of that act has not been exhausted at all: it continues to work through the rich dynamic of its teachings.

The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum put the Word of God at the heart of the Church's life with renewed awareness. This centrality stems from a more vivid perception of the unity of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The Word of God, which is kept alive by the faith of the holy people of believers under the guidance of the Magisterium, also asks each of us to accept our own responsibility for preserving intact the process of transmission.

So that the primacy of the Father's Revelation to humanity may endure with all the force of its radical newness, theology must first become a coherent tool for understanding it. In the Encyclical Fides et ratio I wrote: "As an understanding of Revelation, theology has always had to respond in different historical moments to the demands of different cultures, in order then to mediate the content of faith to those cultures in a coherent and conceptually clear way. Today, too, theology faces a dual task. On the one hand, it must be increasingly committed to the task entrusted to it by the Second Vatican Council, the task of renewing its specific methods in order to serve evangelization more effectively.... On the other hand, theology must look to the ultimate truth which Revelation entrusts to it, never content to stop short of that goal" (n. 92).

6. What the Church believes is what she makes the object of her prayer. The Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium explained the premises of a liturgical life that would give God the true worship owed him by the people called to exercise the priesthood of the New Covenant. The liturgy must allow every member of the faithful to enter deeply into the mystery to grasp the beauty of praising the Triune God. The liturgy, in fact, is an anticipation on earth of the praise that the hosts of the blessed give God in heaven. At every liturgical celebration, therefore, the participants should be given the possibility of a foretaste, albeit under the veil of faith, of some of the sweetness that will flow from contemplating God in paradise. For this reason, every minister, conscious of the responsibility he has to all the people entrusted to him, must faithfully maintain respect for the sacredness of the rite and grow in his understanding of what he celebrates.

7. "The time has come when the truth about the Church of Christ must be explored, set in order and expressed", Pope Paul VI said in his message at the opening of the Council's second session (Insegnamenti, vol. I [1963], PP 173-174). With these words the unforgettable Pontiff identified the Council's principal task. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium was a true hymn of praise to the beauty of Christ's Bride. In those pages we brought to completion the doctrine expressed by the First Vatican Council and we sealed it for a renewed study of the Church's mystery.

Communio is the foundation on which the Church's reality is based. It is a koinonia that has its source in the very mystery of the Triune God and extends to all the baptized, who are therefore called to full unity in Christ. This communion becomes evident in the various institutional forms in which the ecclesial ministry is carried out and in the role of the Successor of Peter as the visible sign of the unity of all believers. Everyone knows that the Second Vatican Council enthusiastically made the "ecumenical" yearning its own. The movement of encounter and clarification, which has been carried out with all the baptized brethren, is irreversible. It is the power of the Spirit who calls all believers to obedience, so that unity may be an effective source of evangelization. The communion that the Church lives with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is a sign of how brothers and sisters are called to live together.

8. "The Council, which has given us a rich ecclesiological doctrine, has organically linked its teaching about the Church with its teaching about man's vocation in Christ": I said this in my homily for the opening of the Synod of Bishops on 24 November 1985 (Insegnamenti, vol. VIII, 2P 1371). The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, which dealt with the fundamental questions which every person is called to answer, repeats to us today words which have lost none of their timeliness: "It is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (n. 22). These words are especially dear to me and I wanted to propose them again in the fundamental passages of my Magisterium. Here we find the true synthesis to which the Church must always look in her dialogue with the people of today as with those of every other age: she knows that her message is a fruitful synthesis of the human being's expectation and of God's response to him.

In the Incarnation of the Son of God, which this Jubilee is meant to celebrate on the 2,000th anniversary of the event, man's call becomes obvious. He never loses his dignity when he abandons himself in faith to Christ, because his humanity is then raised to participation in the divine life.
Christ is the truth that never fades: in him God reaches out to every human being, and every human being can see God in him (cf. Jn Jn 14,9-10). No encounter with the world will be fruitful, if the believer ceases to fix his gaze on the mystery of the Incarnation of God's Son. The emptiness that many people feel as they face the question about the reason for life and death, about human destiny and the meaning of suffering can only be filled by the message of the truth that is Jesus Christ. The human heart will always be "restless" until it can rest in him, the true refreshment for all who "labour and are heavy laden" (Mt 11,28).

9. The "little seed" which John XXIII planted "with anxious mind and hand" (Apostolic Constitution Humanae salutis, 25 December 1961) in the Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls on 25 January 1959, when he announced his intention to convoke the 21st Ecumenical Council in the Church's history, has grown and become a tree which now spreads its majestic and mighty branches in the Vineyard of the Lord. It has already produced many fruits in its 35 years of life, and it will produce many more in the years to come. A new season is dawning before our eyes: it is time for deep reflection on the Council's teaching, time to harvest all that the Council Fathers sowed and the generation of recent years has tended and awaited.

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was truly a prophetic message for the Church's life; it will continue to be so for many years in the third millennium which has just begun. The Church, rich in the eternal truths entrusted to her, will still speak to the world, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the one true Saviour of the world: yesterday, today and for ever!

March 2000



Thursday, 2 March 2000

1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you, dear Knights, Ladies and Ecclesiastics who represent the worthy Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. You have come to Rome from the five continents to celebrate your Jubilee. My cordial greetings to you all!

With brotherly affection I thank Cardinal Carlo Furno, who has expressed the sentiments you share. In his words I learned of your desire to carry out in a suitable way your order's specific service to the Holy Land. It is an important mission: thanks to your generous spiritual and charitable efforts on behalf of the Holy Places and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, much has been done to enhance this precious heritage of historical memorials preserved in the Holy Land. Contemporary society, which is technologically advanced but in greater need than ever of values and spiritual reference-points, looks to them with renewed interest.

2. Your equestrian order, which began a few centuries ago as an "Honour Guard" for the care of Our Lord's Holy Sepulchre, has enjoyed the particular attention of the Roman Pontiffs. It was Pope Pius IX, of venerable memory, who in 1847 reconstituted it in order to encourage the re-establishment of a Catholic faith community in the Holy Land. This great Pope restored your order's original function, but with a significant difference: the custody of Christ's tomb would no longer depend on the force of arms, but on the value of a constant witness of faith and solidarity towards Christians residing in the Holy Places.

This is still your task today, dear Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. May the celebration of the Jubilee help you to grow in the fervent practice of your faith, in exemplary moral conduct and in generous collaboration on Church activities at the parish and diocesan level. May the Holy Year, which is a time for personal and community conversion, see each of you intent on fostering and deepening the three characteristic virtues of the order: "zeal for self-denial in this society of affluence, generous commitment to the weak and defenceless, and a courageous struggle for justice and peace" (Directives for the Renewal of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in View of the Third Millennium, n. 18).

3. There is an ancient and glorious bond between your chivalrous confraternity and the place of Christ's Sepulchre, where the glory of the Resurrection is celebrated in a most particular way. This is the very focal point of your spirituality. To renew this millenary bond and to make your Gospel witness ever more living and eloquent, you have written new guidelines for your work within the framework of your order's Statutes. You know, in fact, that the beginning of a new millennium demands an updated interpretation of the rule of life for your particular service. For you, as for every Christian, a fresh appreciation of Baptism, the basis of all Christian life, is crucial. This requires careful reflection on the Catechism and the Bible, a serious review of life and generous apostolic zeal. Thus you will be open to today's world without losing the spirit of the order, whose desired renewal depends above all on the personal conversion of each individual. As your motto says: "Oportet gloriari in Cruce Domini Nostri Iesu Christi": we must glory in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let Christ be the heart of your life, of your every project and programme, both as individuals and as an association.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, in a few weeks, God willing, I too will have the grace of visiting the Holy Sepulchre. Thus I will be able to pray at the place where Christ offered his life and then regained it in the Resurrection, giving us the gift of his Spirit.

Dear Knights, Ladies and Ecclesiastics of the order, I am also counting on your prayers for my pilgrimage, for which I am already grateful. I entrust you all to the motherly protection of Our Lady Queen of Palestine. May she help you in your special task "of assisting the Church in the Holy Land and of strengthening the practice of the Christian life in her members" (Directives, op. cit., n. 3).

May the Holy Family protect you and your families. May the consoling certainty that Christ died for us and is truly risen shine in each of your hearts. He is alive: yesterday, today and for ever.
With these sentiments, I gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you.


Friday, 3 March 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Diocese of Padua!

1. I greet you cordially and am pleased to welcome you to Rome and to St Peter's! The providential time of the Jubilee has brought you as pilgrims to the city of Rome in order to strengthen your faith in Christ and to reaffirm your commitment to living according to the spirit of the Gospel. Your large numbers are proof of the close and unbroken bond of communion and affection that unites your Church with the Successor of Peter. According to a pious tradition, in fact, St Prosdocimus, the first Bishop of Padua, was sent by the Apostle Peter to proclaim the Good News in the Euganean region. Since then, your Church has never forgotten her original link with the Apostolic See.

My thoughts first turn to dear and zealous Archbishop Antonio Mattiazzo, who occupies the chair from which so many of his eminent predecessors taught with great wisdom. In thanking him for the sentiments he expressed also on your behalf, I would like to greet you all, the faithful of a Church rich in saints and martyrs, ancient and noble traditions, priestly and religious vocations, and generous institutions. I greet the priests, the young men of the major seminary, accompanied here by their rector and professors, and the Brazilian pilgrims, together with the Fidei donum priest from Padua who works in their Diocese of Itaguaí.

I am also pleased to extend my fraternal greetings to the Orthodox Archbishop of Kherson, Ionafan, Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and to the representative of the Romanian Metropolia of Craiova, who are taking part in this meeting.

2. We are observing the year of the Great Jubilee, which offers the faithful an opportunity to draw abundantly from the treasures of grace and mercy which God has entrusted to the Church. The Lord asks all who yearn for courageous interior renewal to approach him with trust: "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink.... "Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'" (Jn 7,37-38). He asks everyone for a change of mentality and lifestyle, in order to "follow the Lamb wherever he goes" (Ap 14,4), and in this way to face daily life in conformity with the Gospel.

Following Christ with generous love requires intense and continuous interior growth. To this end it is necessary to cultivate a regular prayer life, to participate as often as possible in the Eucharist and the sacrament of Penance, and to practise the Gospel virtues, especially charity.

The Church of Padua's great tradition of holiness boasts numerous witnesses to the faith who have handed on to God's People the true meaning of a personal relationship with Christ and with his Body, the Church. How could we forget St Justina, St Daniel, St Maximus, Sts Bellinus and Fidentius, Bl. Eustochium and Bl. Jordan Forzatè, or the splendid figure of St Gregory Barbarigo, to mention but a few? Among them, I would like to include St Anthony of Padua and St Leopold Mandic who, although they were not born in your land, nevertheless preached the Word of God there and administered his divine mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation with great zeal and tangible apostolic fruit. They are the glory of your Diocese. May you be able to draw continuously from their example and teaching the enthusiasm and courage to belong more completely and perfectly to Christ. Thus you will be ready to face the difficulties of our time and the challenges of the new evangelization with trust and hope.

3. To evangelize! This is the mission of every baptized person, dear brothers and sisters. Whatever one's state in life, everyone is called to bear witness to Christ and the Gospel. I hope that your pilgrimage will yield the desired fruits of religious and pastoral renewal. May your visit to the tombs of the Apostles strengthen your determination to flee from sin, to be converted to what is good and to follow the Lord.

To Our Lady of the Assumption, to whom the cathedral of your Diocese is dedicated, I entrust the intentions that motivate you on your Jubilee pilgrimage. From her I implore for you the grace of being authentic missionaries of the unfathomable love of God, who wants all men to be saved and to attain the fullness of truth (cf. 1Tm 2,4).

May Sts Peter and Paul, the pillars of the Church and your holy patrons, protect you. The Pope prays for you and imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your loved ones and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Padua.


Your Excellency,

1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican on the occasion of your first official visit, which gives me the opportunity to reaffirm the Holy See’s esteem for your person and its long-standing friendship with the Republic of Korea. I warmly greet Mrs. Kim Dae-Jung and the distinguished members of your entourage.

Your visit today brings back happy memories of my two pastoral visits to the “Land of Morning Calm”, in 1984 and in 1989. On both of those occasions I had the joy of meeting many of your fellow citizens from various backgrounds and religious traditions. Their warm welcome, friendliness and spirit of hospitality have left a lasting impression on me. I was also able to observe the difficulties and challenges facing the Korean people in their yearning for unity and their desire to create a prosperous and peaceful society, built on the solid foundations of justice, freedom and respect for inalienable human rights.

2. In recent times you have taken fresh initiatives to foster inter-Korean dialogue. Certainly, the path of reconciliation will be long and difficult. Yet despite the obstacles, you have not allowed yourselves to become discouraged in your endeavours to establish a climate of good and harmonious relations. You have shown your commitment in a practical way by coming to the assistance of the many North Koreans who have been severely affected by natural calamities and poor harvests, and whose tragic plight is known to all of us. I encourage the efforts which you have been making to respond to their needs at this difficult time and I take this opportunity to call upon the international community to continue to show generosity in helping to relieve the sufferings of the victims.

3. In recent times your country has also had to respond to the social and economic challenges arising from the Asian financial crisis. Aware that the most valuable asset of the nation is its people, your Government has made strenuous efforts to ensure that its negative effects on your fellow citizens are reduced to a minimum. Productivity and profit cannot be the sole measure of progress; indeed development is not authentic unless it benefits individuals and the promotion of the good of the family, the nation and the world community. True development requires that every man and woman be seen as the subject of inalienable rights and freedoms, and that the social, cultural and religious dimensions of life be always and everywhere defended and promoted.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to education, health-care and social welfare stems from her firm conviction of the innate dignity of the human person and the primacy of people over things. This conviction leads her to seek practical forms of cooperation with governments and international bodies involved in the development of peoples. In this area, the Church’s task is not to prescribe particular social, political or economic models. As her principal contribution, she offers her social teaching as an ethical and ideal orientation which, while recognizing the positive value of the market and of enterprise, insists that these must always be directed to the common good of people (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 43). Respect for the essential moral dimension and ethical imperatives of development is the key to authentic human progress, constituting the only viable foundation for a society truly worthy of the human family.

4. The century that has just ended witnessed much violence, persecution and warfare, from which your own country was not spared. All this has led to an increased awareness of the need for agreement and cooperation among nations in order to prevent conflicts and preserve peace, to defend the rights and freedom of individuals and peoples, and to ensure the observance of justice. The countries of Asia are gradually coming closer together, and serious efforts have been made to bring about reconciliation between peoples divided by painful memories of past history. Within many nations there is a growing commitment to renewing the social order and eliminating the corruption which all too often mars public life. People are becoming more aware that the realm of politics is not morally neutral but must be guided by fundamental ideals and principles. These positive developments and initiatives are to be applauded and encouraged, but at a deeper level they can only succeed if the unique and inalienable value of the human person is respected and safeguarded.

As the experience of the past hundred years clearly demonstrates, failure to recognize the existence of transcendent truth, in obedience to which man achieves his full identity, undermines the principles guaranteeing just relations between peoples and can lead to the rise of various forms of totalitarianism (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 44). Indeed if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power (cf. ibid., 46). At the present time individual nations and the international community are faced with the challenge of formulating the fundamental principles necessary to guarantee the good of individuals, the common good and the genuine development of society. I express the hope and confidence that the people of South Korea will draw on their rich cultural and spiritual patrimony to find the wisdom and discipline of mind and heart needed to build a society worthy of your country’s ancient traditions.

5. Your Excellency, on the happy occasion of your visit, I again express my good wishes for your efforts to promote social renewal and reconciliation among all the members of the Korean family. I pray that the Korean people will safeguard those spiritual values and qualities of character which sustain freedom, dignity and truth, and provide a sure direction for the future. May the Republic of Korea prosper on the path of genuine progress and true peace. This is my heartfelt wish for you, Mr. President, and for your people.

From the Vatican, March 4, 2000


Saturday, 4 March 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Lithuania!

1. Welcome to "Peter's house", the goal of your Jubilee pilgrimage! Almost every week at the General Audiences I have the opportunity to greet groups of faithful from Lithuania. Today there are many of you here representing the entire nation. I greet Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, President of the Episcopal Conference, and thank him for his warm words on behalf of all. I also greet the Archbishop of Vilnius and the other Bishops present, with a cordial wish for Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius, who is at home due to poor health. I also welcome the priests, men and women religious and all of you.

My thoughts naturally turn to my Pastoral Visit to your beloved country in September 1993, as well as to the sixth centenary of its "baptism" in 1987, solemnly celebrated in the Vatican Basilica in the presence of many Bishops from all over Europe. Lithuania was the last of the Baltic countries to become Christian, and the only one that remained faithful to the Catholic Church during the period of the Lutheran Reformation.

Let us thank God for the Lithuanian people's fidelity to the Church and to the Successor of Peter, and for the witness of faith borne by so many Bishops, priests, religious and lay people, in many cases to the point of martyrdom, particularly in the tragic 50 years of communist occupation and persecution.

2. Today, having regained its civil and religious freedom, Lithuania has rediscovered its place in the European family. Freedom entails responsibility: your nation, dear Lithuanians, with its cultural heritage strengthened by the suffering endured in heroic fidelity to the Christian vocation, is called to contribute to the spiritual renewal of Europe and to reconciliation between peoples. St Casimir, your patron, whose feast day is celebrated today, was a great worker for unity in the name of Christ and the Gospel. May his example enlighten and guide you. May the witness of the past be an encouragement for a new evangelizing effort.

At the dawn of the third millennium, Christians hear the Apostle Paul's words echo in their hearts with new force: "Caritas Christi urget nos - the love of Christ impels us" (2Co 5,14).

Contemporary man, in fact, has greater need than ever for the Gospel if he is to walk in the ways of truth, freedom, justice and peace. He needs it especially to know God and himself, and to nurture his own sense of dignity and respect for the value of life, redeemed by Christ's sacrifice.

3. I deeply hope that this Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome will open your communities even more to the universal dimension of the Church. May the visit to the memorials of the apostles and martyrs, the meeting with Peter's Successor, the prayer offered to God with so many of the faithful from all the continents, spur you, dear friends, to love and serve the Church. Strive to deepen your knowledge of the Second Vatican Council, to carry out its teachings in the life of the Church and society, starting with your families and parishes. May fraternal union, mercy and forgiveness, love for little ones and the poor, and generous, disinterested service be your distinguishing mark and an eloquent proof that you are in Christ.

May Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever, accompany you and guide your steps. Christ is with you. May this consoling certainty never leave you. Be courageous messengers and joyful witnesses of his living presence in the world!

The Pope prays for you and blesses you all with great affection.

Speeches 2000 - Cairo, 25 February 2000