Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together" (Ac 2,1). There was the Mother of Jesus, the Apostles, the disciples: they were all waiting in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Among the witnesses of Pentecost there were also "residents of Mesopotamia" (Ac 2,9). Those who were to become the first disciples of the Messiah are amazed, for they hear God's marvels proclaimed in their own tongues (cf. Acts Ac 2,11). Peter, Prince of the Apostles, announces the Good News to them in the power of the Holy Spirit: "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses" (Ac 2,32).
It is a great joy for me, Peter's Successor, to be able to greet you, the Bishops of the Chaldean Church gathered round your Patriarch, and to be able to pray with you, the successors of the Apostles for this beloved Church for which you have pastoral responsibility and which is sorely tried. My thoughts also turn to all the Iraqi people. In recent years I have often been close to all these people, to their children, their elderly, their sick, their families and everyone suffering in body or soul. On many occasions I have reminded the international community of its duty, so that people already suffering might be spared new trials. Today I say again even more forcefully: may everyone strive to end the sufferings of the many civilian victims!
2. On the day after the feast of Pentecost, which reminded us of the mystery of the outpouring of the Spirit on the newborn Church, it is particularly significant to hold a Synod like the one you are beginning today. "They were all together" (Ac 2,1). Your Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Church is a meeting which, according to the word's etymology, is a particular way of journeying together, so that the paths of the different communities can converge. It is an expression of the Church which lets herself be guided by the Spirit and strives to live communion internally and with the universal Church, in accordance with what the Second Vatican Council stated (cf. Orientalium Ecclesiarum OE 9). When I met the Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches on 29 September 1998, on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, I stressed that "episcopal collegiality is exercised in a particularly significant way in the canonical structure of your Churches. The Patriarchs in fact act in close union with their Synods. The aim of any authentic synodal action is harmony, so that the Trinity may be glorified in the Church" (Address to the Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, n. 3). The whole of the Church's history shows that harmony is necessary to express the Church's love for her Bridegroom and to attest before men and women God's merciful love for them. The Acts of the Apostles teach us that it is neither the absence of different opinions nor the absence of conflict which creates harmony, but the Church's ardent desire to obey God's will for her, a desire enlivened by prayer, by listening to one another, by openness to the voice of the Spirit, by mutual trust. Harmony thus makes the Church's face young and wrinkle-free, and allows the Holy Spirit to make the impossible possible.
3. Speaking of Bishops he knew personally, St Ephrem of Nisibis sketches a beautiful portrait of the Shepherd of Christ's flock (Carmina Nisibena, 15-21). What are the features that form the spiritual beauty of a Bishop? Orthodoxy of doctrine, the science and art of preaching, asceticism and chastity, modesty which prevents all jealousy, disregard for material goods, the pursuit of mercy and gentleness with recourse to firmness when necessary, spiritual fatherhood, love for the Holy Mysteries. This is a continuing invitation to each one in the ministry entrusted to him, which makes Pastors witnesses by their exemplary lives and their teaching.
4. It is also the Bishop's responsibility to encourage and motivate the priests of his eparchy, who are his co-workers and form "a precious spiritual crown" around him (St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians, 13). The painful circumstances in which many of the priests and faithful of the Chaldean Church live are a particularly appropriate call in this Great Jubilee year to cultivate priestly and Christian virtues, in order not to lose hope. The priests who assist you need more than ever to be fortified by your example, to feel supported by you in living in fraternal communion and in sharing your apostolic mission, to be closely involved in the pastoral projects that have been or are being prepared for the territories of your Patriarchate and the diaspora.
5. Your Church rightly rejoices in the remarkable attachment of her faithful to their Pastors. Lay people, by virtue of their dignity as sons and daughters of God, also have their part in the Church's mission. As the Second Vatican Council says again: "The Pastors, indeed, know well how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the whole Church. For they know that they themselves were not established by Christ to undertake alone the whole salvific mission of the Church to the world, but that it is their exalted office so to be shepherds of the faithful and also recognize the latter's contribution and charisms that everyone in his own way will, with one mind, cooperate in the common task" (Lumen gentium LG 30). These directives will aid you in your reflection and your search for the means to carry out the mission entrusted to you. Thus all the members of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch, Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful will be able to proclaim God's marvels day after day and be witnesses to the risen Christ, just like the first Christian community.
6. The closeness of the feast of Pentecost also turns our attention to the action of the Holy Spirit in the People of God. Worship of the Lord is the centre of the Church's life, and the Spirit has a particular action in the community and in the hearts of believers. Keep alive your beautiful liturgical tradition, which allows you to discover and to live the divine mysteries so that you may receive life in abundance! The sacraments of our salvation are a source of renewal for the Church. St Ephrem spoke of this in poetic words: "Here is fire and the Spirit in the bosom of your Mother; here is fire and the Spirit in the river of your Baptism. Fire and Spirit in your Baptism; in the bread and in the cup, fire and the Holy Spirit" (Hymns on the Faith, 10, 17). You are called to pass on the treasures of your liturgical and spiritual patrimony to the faithful of your Church, and to make them more widely known. To pass on such a heritage effectively, you must first receive it with love and then live it in your own community, for what is lived is a witness in the eyes of the world.
7. At the end of our meeting, I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady. May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for you, Fathers of this Synod of the Chaldean Church, whom I greet once again with deep fraternal affection. May you have the same sentiments as this All Holy Mother! "Come, let us admire the Virgin all pure, a marvel in herself, unique in all creation; she gave birth without having known man, a pure soul filled with wonder. Each day her spirit was devoted to praise, for it rejoiced at the twofold marvel: virginity preserved, child most beloved! Blessed be the One who shone forth from her!" (Hymn on Mary, 7, 2, attributed to St Ephrem).
I ask the Holy Spirit to accompany you, so that your Synod will bear abundant fruit for the Chaldean Church. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and extend it to your priests, your deacons, your religious and to all the Christian people.
Thursday, 15 June 2000
1. I am pleased to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guatemala to the Holy See. I am deeply grateful to you for your words which show the good relations between the Apostolic See and this noble Central American nation, "where remarkable cultures have developed and where the people are distinguished for their nobility of spirit and for their countless demonstrations of deep faith and love for God, filial veneration of the Blessed Virgin and fidelity to the Church" (Arrival Speech, La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala, 5 February 1996, n. 1).
I am also grateful for the cordial greeting of Mr Alfonso Portillo Cabrera, Constitutional President of the Republic, in which he expresses his personal sentiments and desire to increase the traditional cooperation between the Church and the State for the common good. I ask you, Mr Ambassador, to express my thanks to the President, to whom I extend my best wishes for the important and delicate responsibility he assumed last 14 January.
2. You have come to represent your country on this diplomatic mission to the Apostolic See, which is not unknown to you. Indeed, you already lived here when your father, whom I remember with affection, held the same post that you will be filling and for several years was also Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited here. You will therefore be familiar with the nature of this new and important responsibility which your Government has entrusted to you.
By helping to strengthen the good relations between Guatemala and the Holy See, you will also witness the constant efforts it is making in the concert of nations to improve and foster closer collaboration among all peoples. Its eminently spiritual activity is inspired by the conviction that "faith throws a new light on all things and makes known the full ideal which God has set for man, thus guiding the mind towards solutions that are fully human" (Gaudium et spes, GS 11). For this reason the Holy See, in addition to devoting attention to the particular Churches of each nation, is also concerned for the good of all citizens and seeks to promote in international forums respect for the rights of individuals and peoples, which honour their dignity and the exalted vocation that God has given every human being.
3. Your presence here, Mr Ambassador, reminds me of the two Apostolic Visits which, out of my pastoral concern for all the Churches, I was able to make to Guatemala, the "country of eternal springtime". I thus had an opportunity to become acquainted with its "great variety of ethnic and linguistic riches ... a wealth that makes it the depositary of a rich and varied culture which the Church has been evangelizing for almost five centuries. This is a treasure worth preserving by diligently working for the respect of each person's inalienable rights, which belong to every man and woman since they are made in God's image and likeness" (Departure Speech, La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala, 9 February 1996, n. 3).
4. I would like to assure you, Mr Ambassador, that I feel very close to Guatemala, am delighted with its achievements and share its concerns. When I visited it in 1983 and 1996, the internal civil war was still afflicting large parts of the country and claiming many victims. In these circumstances, I made a pressing appeal for dialogue between the parties concerned in order to end a situation that was being indefinitely prolonged. The signing of the Peace Agreements at the end of 1996 opened a new era for all Guatemalans, closing one of the saddest and most tragic periods in its national history and initiating a phase of hope for the people, afflicted by a tragedy which had so seriously damaged all social classes.
In this regard it is a cause of satisfaction that in recent years the nation has been able to enjoy a climate of political peace without great disturbances, even when it had to confront a legacy of serious difficulties in coexistence, among which should be mentioned the still unexplained murder of Bishop Girardi and delicate situations in the economic sphere. The country has shown that it can face its own destiny through normal democratic activity that ensures the participation of all its citizens in the nation's political decisions.
I ardently hope that this civic maturity will be increasingly supported by a correct concept of the human person. A profound awareness of these values will encourage cooperation between the various political forces, despite legitimate differences, in solving the most acute problems affecting the nation's general interests and especially the demands of justice and peace. This requires truly deep and lasting ideals which are anchored to the objective truth about the human being, ideals to which society's leaders must bear witness by their desire for service, openness and honesty, infecting all the people, so to speak, with their commitment to building a better future.
5. In the same way, the peace achieved by the signing of the above-mentioned Agreements, in which many people of good will and national and international institutions had a hand, requires the repair of the social fabric, so seriously damaged by the scars of the past war. In order to reach this goal, the country must continue to be built on solid, stable principles such as respect for the dignity of every human person and for the legitimate rights of communities and various ethnic groups. It is also important, with regard to any attempted violation, always to respect the principles of the separation and independence of the three powers which are the foundation of democracy in a State governed by law.
For a secure and hopeful future, it is essential not to abandon the basic values and institutions of every society, such as the family, the protection of the young and the most neglected, especially if the very foundations of law, the freedom and dignity of individuals, are being undermined by attacks on life from the moment of its conception. The indigenous peoples deserve special attention: they must be given access to an ever better and more decent life in both quality and quantity - in areas such as education, health care, infrastructure and other services - while respecting their own cultures, so worthy of esteem. In this regard it should be pointed out that the Dioceses in which indigenous communities live should organize specific projects designed to strengthen these communities in the Catholic faith embraced by their ancestors and to promote the recognition of their dignity as persons and as a people, while facilitating their full participation in the benefits of progress enjoyed by the rest of the Guatemalan people.
6. In your address you mentioned the Government's intention to begin a literacy campaign, scheduled for next October, in order to overcome this scourge which seriously threatens human dignity by impeding the integral development of many Guatemalan men and women and preventing them from participating in building the new society. In this regard, I am pleased to note that the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala has accepted the formal invitation extended to it and has indicated its willingness to collaborate with other national forces in this noble endeavour by making available its educational institutions, its qualified personnel throughout the country and its centuries-old experience in this area.
7. Mr Ambassador, as you begin to carry out the high office to which you have been appointed, I hope that your task will be fruitful and will help strengthen further the good relations between this Apostolic See and Guatemala, for which you will always be able to rely on the welcome and support of those who work with me. As I ask you to convey my best wishes to the President and to the beloved people of Guatemala, I assure you of my prayers to the Almighty that he will always help you with his gifts, together with your distinguished family, the staff of this diplomatic mission and the authorities and citizens of your country, which I remember with affection and upon which I invoke the Lord's abundant blessings.
Dear Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate!
1. I am pleased to welcome you and to thank you for this visit which you desired to express your sentiments of filial communion to the Successor of Peter on the occasion of your first General Chapter. I greet your Superior General, Sr Maria Francesca Perillo, and with her Fr Stefano Maria Manelli and Fr Gabriele Maria Pellettieri, the founders of your institute. I also greet each of you. Your presence gives me the welcome opportunity to extend an affectionate greeting to all your sisters in various parts of the world, where they are active in evangelizing and assisting people suffering various forms of poverty.
Your Chapter is being held in the Great Jubilee year. It is a happy coincidence which will certainly help you to reflect on your mission with special intensity, following the teachings of St Francis of Assisi and of someone who gave effective expression to his spirit in our time, St Maximilian Mary Kolbe. His heroic witness to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience was crowned with martyrdom, the supreme sacrifice of his life for love of Christ and of his brethren.
Keeping your gaze fixed on Christ, supported by the help of St Francis and St Maximilian, you will be able to fulfil your mission in the Church and the world.
2. St Maximilian Kolbe's entire life was inspired by the Immaculate. Your institute is dedicated to her and, in addition to the three traditional religious vows, includes a "Marian" vow by which each religious consecrates herself totally to Mary for the coming of Christ's kingdom in the world.
May contemplation of the marvels that the heavenly Father worked in the humble girl of Nazareth always guide your consecrated life on the demanding path of sanctification, in the footsteps of the One who, dedicated to serving God without reserve, became our Mother, Mother of the Church and of all humanity.
Imitate Mary's loving concern in your service to others, always seeking to be diligent in your work and zealous in your apostolate. May this be the spirit of your activity in the Church; may this be the hallmark of your evangelizing and missionary work, as you keep hearts attentive to the needs of every human being. As consecrated persons and, in a special way, as Franciscan Missionaries of the Immaculate, you are called to be, by joyful fidelity to your Rule, "signs of God's tender love towards the human race and to be special witnesses to the mystery of the Church, Virgin, Bride and Mother" (Vita consecrata VC 57).
For this reason, too, may your model be Mary, who promptly responded to the divine plan: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lc 1,38). Her "fiat" was the driving force of her mission. In this way your "fiat" to God will be the secret to your mission's success. To be effective Gospel witnesses, especially among the poor and those in difficulty, it is indispensable for you to abandon yourselves totally to the Lord's hands and to keep your hearts open to his divine plans.
3. To those visiting the "City of the Immaculate" who were amazed at the works accomplished, St Maximilian Kolbe, pointing to the Blessed Sacrament, explained: "The whole reality of Niepokalanůw depends on this". He addressed the Eucharistic Jesus with words of deep faith: "Your Blood flows in my blood; your soul, O God incarnate, penetrates my soul, strengthening and nourishing it". This was the secret of his holiness. The graces which sustain missionaries in their daily work of evangelization radiate from the Eucharist. If your apostolate is to bear the good fruits you desire, be nourished by this inexhaustible source of love through intense prayer and interior life.
I was pleased to learn that your institute has no lack of vocations. I thank the Lord with you for this and invite you to continue to propose the radicalness of your Gospel witness to everyone you meet. Take great care of the human and spiritual formation of those who aspire to the consecrated life.
Conscious that Christians are "in the world ... but not of the world" (cf. Jn Jn 17,13-16), be the good yeast which leavens the whole dough (cf. Gal Ga 5,9); be the salt that gives taste and the light that shines (cf. Mt Mt 5,13-14). Never lose sight of the example of the Incarnate Word who out of love became a servant and gave his life for us. Never tire of walking in his footsteps. Stand at the foot of the Cross with Mary, the Immaculate Virgin to whom your religious family is consecrated!
For my part I assure you of a remembrance in my prayer, as I cordially impart a special Blessing to you and extend it to my venerable Brother, Cardinal Augustin Mayer, who will preside at your Chapter, as well as to all your sisters and to everyone who belongs to your spiritual family.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
For me this is certainly one of the most moving and significant of the many Jubilee events. I wanted to meet you and share a meal with you in order to tell you that you are in the Pope's heart. I embrace each of you, dear friends, with great affection.
I cannot, of course, spend much time with you, but I assure you that I accompany you each day with prayer and affection. As I look at you one by one, I think of all those in Rome and in every part of the world who are experiencing moments of hardship and difficulty. I would like to draw near to them all to tell them: do not feel alone, because God loves you. The Pope loves you, dear friends, and with him the whole Church opens her arms to you in welcome and brotherhood.
Thank you all for accepting my invitation and for coming in large numbers to this festive meeting which is taking place a few days before the beginning of the International Eucharistic Congress in Rome. In its simplicity, our meal is an important preparation for this spiritual event, which is the heart of the Jubilee Year. Today, in fact, we find ourselves gathered round a material table: next week, together and in even greater numbers we will approach the spiritual table, the Eucharistic banquet, to celebrate the love of God who makes us brothers and sisters in solidarity with one another. Let us prepare ourselves well for this extraordinary event, to which we look forward with eager expectation.
Once again thank you for coming; I thank everyone who has organized and prepared this luncheon, as well as those who have brightened it with music and song, making it a peaceful and joyful moment. I cordially impart my Blessing to you all.
1. "Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come" (Ap 1,4). I am especially happy to welcome you as you gather for the Twenty-first General Chapter of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice, taking place in the year of the Great Jubilee. This is a year when the whole Church sings the praises of God for the gift of the Word made flesh and celebrates the Incarnation not just as an event of the past but as the mode of Godís love in every time and place. Among the Felician Sisters too the Word has come to dwell in deep and powerful ways; and for the great things he has done among you let us give thanks to the Father of all mercies.
2. Your Congregation came to birth at a troubled time in Poland. The nation had lost its independence, and the question of how to regain freedom burned in Polish hearts. For some the only answer was armed struggle; but every attempt to throw off by force the yoke of oppression led only to greater suffering. In such a situation, God raised up Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska, who proposed a radically different answer to the question of how freedom might be found, drawing her inspiration from Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Felix of Cantalice. From them your Foundress learnt that the way to true freedom was not violence, but joyful self-emptying. This was not the logic of the world but of the Son of God who "emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Ph 2,7); and it was this which would mark Blessed Mary Angelaís whole life and help to awaken a nation from its spiritual lethargy.
For the great Saint Francis, the logic of the Incarnation led him to empty himself of attachment to all things, in order to possess all things in God. It meant accepting the wounds of the Cross in joyful imitation of the suffering Savior. For Saint Felix, the logic of the Incarnation meant walking the streets of Rome as "the Capuchinsí donkey", begging food for his brothers, responding always with his famous "Deo Gratias", and feeding the poor from his alms-sack. For Blessed Mary Angela, it meant immersing herself in the suffering of the time, embracing "the little ones" in a life of action intensely rooted in contemplation. Such a life placed her firmly within a tradition of holiness reaching back through Saint Felix and Saint Francis to the Crucified Lord himself.
Your Foundress would often take the children in her care to the Capuchin Church in Warsaw where Saint Felix is shown bearing the Infant Jesus in his arms. In the figure of the Holy Child, Blessed Mary Angela recognized the little ones she was called to serve. She knew that Saint Felix was shown bearing the Infant Jesus in his arms because in bearing the burdens of the needy he had carried in his arms the poor Christ himself; and she recognized this as her own calling. By bearing the burdens of the weakest she and her Sisters would bear in their arms the "little" Lord Jesus. Blessed Mary Angela knew too that it was Mary who had placed the Holy Child in the arms of Saint Felix, and that it was Mary who was now placing her Infant Son in the arms of the Sisters of Saint Felix. How right then that she should dedicate the Congregation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
3. Yet the sword which pierced Maryís heart (cf. Lk Lc 2,35) pierced the heart of the Foundress too. "Love means giving", she wrote, "giving everything that love asks for; giving immediately, without regrets, with joy, and wanting even more to be asked of us". In obeying the logic of the Incarnation and bearing in her arms the Lord himself, Blessed Mary Angela became a victim of love. Step by step she ascended the hill of Calvary in a journey of suffering both physical and spiritual, until her life was ablaze with the mystery of the Cross.
As she journeyed more deeply into Calvaryís darkness she became more insistent that at the heart of the Congregationís life there should be devotion above all to the Holy Eucharist and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She bequeathed to her Sisters the motto: "All through the Heart of Mary in honor of the Most Blessed Sacrament". In long hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament she learnt that she and her Sisters were called to "reproduce the pattern of the Lordís death" (Ph 3,10) so that they might become the Eucharist. And in the Mother of Christ, Blessed Mary Angela recognized the one who shared in her Sonís Passion most intimately, and she knew that this was the Sistersí calling as well. In Mary Immaculate she recognized the woman of the Magnificat, the woman whose self-emptying allowed God to fill her with the joy of the Holy Spirit. This was to be the life of the Sisters of Saint Felix.
4. Ours is a very different world, but we are no less challenged by the spiritual lethargy of our time and by the question of where true freedom lies. It is the Churchís sacred duty to proclaim to the world the true answer to that question; and Religious men and women are crucial in that task. For the Felician Sisters, this must mean an ever more radical fidelity to the program of life bequeathed to you by your Foundress, since if there is not this fidelity among you then you too can fall victim to the spiritual confusion of the age, and there may emerge among you the anxiety and disunity which are its fruits.
I urge you therefore, dear Sisters, at this critical time in the life of your Congregation, to commit yourself in this General Chapter to more ardent worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament, to deeper devotion to Mary Immaculate, and to a more radical love of the charism of your Foundress. Embrace the Lordís Cross as Blessed Angela did! Then you will become the Eucharist; your whole life will sing Magnificat; your poverty will be filled with "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ep 3,8). Entrusting the General Chapter and the entire Congregation to Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Mother of all our joys, and to the intercession of Saint Francis, Saint Felix and your Blessed Foundress, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of endless grace and peace in Jesus Christ, "the faithful witness and firstborn from the dead" (Ap 1,5).
Dear Immaculatine Franciscan Sisters!
1. I am pleased to extend a most cordial greeting to all of you, who have come from various parts of Italy, Brazil, the Philippines and India to participate in the General Chapter of your congregation. In particular, I greet the Superior General and the sisters who share with her the service of authority for the good of the entire institute. My affectionate thoughts turn to all the Immaculatine Franciscan Sisters and to the lay people associated with the apostolic work of the institute.
During your intense capitular work, you are reflecting on the theme: "In the Third Millennium, Docile to the Holy Spirit like Teresa, Missionaries on the Paths of the World". Guided by the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, you are endeavouring to study the specific spirituality of your work and the original freshness of the founding charism left to you by Capuchin Fr Lodovico Acernese, a charism lived in an exemplary way by the Servant of God Teresa Manganiello, the true cornerstone of your spiritual family.
This charism, entrusted to you by Providence, must spur every Immaculatine Franciscan Sister to be a missionary in the areas most in keeping with the consecrated life and your apostolic activities: from the instruction and education of children and young people, to catechesis, to collaboration in the pastoral activities of parishes and missions, as well as to all those programmes of solidarity and assistance that are not only compatible with the spirit of the institute, but respond better to the Church's needs in our time.
It is truly a contemporary charism that finds its origin and strength in the authentic Franciscan tradition and in the most genuine Marian spirituality.
2. First of all, you are Franciscans. The first characteristic of your apostolic life and activity is the Franciscan ideal. This is confirmed by your Constitutions, which identify the supreme rule of life for every Immaculatine Franciscan Sister as "following Christ more closely, according to the form of the holy Gospel", as it is proposed "in the examples and teachings of our Seraphic Father St Francis" (Constitutions, n. 2).
The Poverello of Assisi made the Gospel the centre of his interior experience (cf. Testament, 16-18: Fonti Francescane, n. 116) and he proposed it to his friars as their supreme rule of life (cf. Regula Bullata, I, 2: Fonti Francescane, n. 75). He was followed on this evangelical path by a great throng of spiritual sons and daughters, one of whom deserves special mention: his "little plant", St Clare (cf. Rule of St Clare, I, 1-2: Fonti Francescane, n. 2750).
In the school of Francis and Clare of Assisi, every Immaculatine Franciscan Sister is called to show the men and women of the third millennium the transforming power of the Gospel proclaimed by word and example, and thus to bring everyone the Good News of reconciliation and salvation.
May universal brotherhood, which was lived in a particularly intense way by St Francis and St Clare, guide you in your apostolic and missionary efforts, to which your congregation has always given great importance since its humble origins at the Mother House in Pietradefusi, by spreading everywhere the fragrance of Christ, humanity's only Saviour.
3. The other fundamental element of your religious identity is Marian spirituality. As your rule recalls, Fr Lodovico Acernese was distinguished by his extraordinary love of the Immaculate Virgin and, for this reason, he wanted to consecrate the institute he founded to Mary Most Holy as a "new homage to her Immaculate Conception" (Constitutions, n. 4).
Your Constitutions also indicate the most suitable way to show the institute's Marian face: "We will make that "homage' shine in the congregation and in each one of us by a life of total consecration to the Immaculate Virgin. By looking to her and imitating her as the sublime model of Gospel life, we want to live and work for the conversion and sanctification of souls by animating our whole life with joyous sacrifice" (ibid.).
May the Immaculate Virgin, therefore, be your guide, your inspiring model, your constant help in daily life, your refuge in the inevitable difficulties and your happiness in the moments of joy and sharing.
4. Dear sisters, your Chapter is taking place in the heart of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which is a special time of grace and spiritual renewal for everyone. As I stressed in the Bull of Indiction, it also has a missionary aspect. For "the coming of the third millennium prompts the Christian community to lift its eyes of faith to embrace new horizons in proclaiming the kingdom of God" and urges Christ's disciples to fervently embrace the "missionary task of the Church in view of the demands of evangelization today" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 2).
I fervently hope that the celebration of the General Chapter will impart renewed missionary zeal to your institute, so that you may continue in the Franciscan style and Marian spirituality that have characterized you from the beginning and represent the most precious legacy bequeathed to you by Fr Lodovico Acernese and Teresa Manganiello. Continue to walk in their footsteps, bearing abundant good fruits.
I entrust you, your sisters who work in Italy and elsewhere in the world, and your loved ones to the heavenly protection of Mary Immaculate, "Woman of silence, given to listening, docile in the hands of the Father" (ibid., n. 14), and of St Francis of Assisi, as I bless you with affection, together with everyone you meet in your daily Franciscan and Marian apostolate.