Speeches 2000 - 6 July 2000
Dear Brothers of the Capuchin Order!
1. I welcome you affectionately on the occasion of your General Chapter. I cordially greet the Minister General, Friar John Corriveau, and, as I thank him for the sentiments expressed on behalf of you all, I congratulate him and offer him my best wishes for his office of service to the order, in which the Chapter has confirmed him.
One of the most authoritative biographies of your founder relates that, while Pope Innocent III was considering St Francis' request to be authorized to found a "new" form of consecrated life, he felt encouraged by a dream to give an affirmative answer: the Lateran Basilica appeared to him at the point of collapse, but next to it was a little, poor man who was supporting it with his shoulders to prevent it from falling (cf. St Bonaventure, Legenda maior, III, 10; FF 1064). Since its origins your religious family has been distinguished by the commitment, left to it by the man from Assisi, of great
love for the Church and filial obedience and fidelity to her Pastors. All this well explains the significance of your visit today and thus makes it appropriate for the Successor of Peter to address you, the representatives of your confrères throughout the world, in order to urge you to persevere on the path you have taken.
2. The recent celebration of Pentecost has drawn our attention once again to the many gifts given by the Holy Spirit to enrich the Church. The very life of the Bride of Christ is the fruit of that outpouring of the Spirit promised by Jesus at the Last Supper (cf. Jn Jn 15,26-27 Jn 16,4-15). This outpouring, experienced so vividly on Easter evening (cf. Jn Jn 20,21-23) and the morning of Pentecost (cf. Acts Ac 2,1-4), makes the Church a splendid unity of different personal lives, joined in a deep communion of faith and love and engaged in bearing witness to the risen Jesus among all peoples.
The individual religious institutes with their respective charisms are also the fruit of the Spirit's love for the Church. In Christian discipleship and love for the person of Christ, "fidelity to the founding charism and subsequent spiritual heritage of each institute" (Vita consecrata VC 36) merit particular emphasis today. "The very charism of the founders (Evangelica testificatio, n. 11) appears as "an experience of the Spirit', transmitted to their disciples to be lived, safeguarded, deepened and constantly developed by them in harmony with the Body of Christ continually in the process of growth. "It is for this reason that the distinctive character of various religious institutes is preserved and fostered by the Church' (Lumen gentium LG 44 cf. Christus Dominus CD 33, 35, CD 1-2, etc. ).... It is necessary to preserve the identity of each institute so securely that the danger of an ill-defined situation be avoided, lest religious, failing to give due consideration to the particular mode of action proper to their character, become part of the life of the Church in a vague and ambiguous way" (Mutuae relationes, n. 11).
3. My meetings with you on the occasion of your General Chapters have given me an opportunity, among other things, to appreciate your efforts to rediscover St Francis' spiritual heritage in the light of the Council's teachings by taking great pains to identify what is truly essential in your charism. I encourage you to continue this task, remaining ever attentive and docile to the directives of the Magisterium.
You should keep in mind two particular aspects: first of all, the priority and centrality of Gospel brotherhood, as St Francis wished, which distinguishes you as friars and makes you an order of brothers. From this perspective, it will be your task to instil in every aspect of your life what is characteristic of the Franciscan-Capuchin charism: the spirit of prayer, lowliness, simplicity, poverty and austerity, contact with the people, closeness to the needy, zeal for evangelization, joy and Christian hope.
Among these values, you recently gave fresh consideration at your sixth plenary council to the choice of poverty. You were spurred to do so by the renewed sense of brotherhood which has been heightened by the spread of the order throughout the world. For the new problems of our society invite you to examine more closely Gospel poverty in brotherhood, lived, that is, in its communal, institutional and structural dimension (cf. Proposition 4; Analecta OFMCap., 114 , 825). In contemplation of the poor Christ, you will find the inspiration not only to live a poor life personally, but also to love and serve the poor, whom my Predecessor Paul VI called a "sacrament" of Christ (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 60 , 620).
Secondly, you see the timeliness of emphasizing the consistent, practical and concrete attitude of St Francis. It is necessary to move on to deeds, to lived values, to the method of direct witness. For you are all familiar with the criterion which your founder liked to use: plus exemplo quam verbo, more by example than with words (The Legend of the Three Companions, 36; FF 1440).
4. Your General Chapter is taking place in the Great Jubilee year. This is a providential circumstance which cannot be overlooked. The Jubilee is a year of grace for all the People of God: it is a time for conversion to a more authentic following of Christ, of interior renewal, of greater consistency and responsiveness to the Spirit, who challenges consciences through the signs of the times. You will be in full harmony with the grace of this Jubilee celebration to the extent that you strive to live your Franciscan-Capuchin vocation authentically. May the decisions reached at the Chapter help you to be more and more closely conformed to Christ, who entered our history 2,000 years ago.
May your Chapter help you accept the challenges of the new millennium with Franciscan courage. From the perspective of Gospel newness, they invite you to creativity, boldness and optimism. "Especially in our times that same charismatic genuineness, vivacious and ingenious in its inventiveness, is expected of religious, as stood out so eminently in their founders" (Mutuae relationes, n. 23f).
5. May Francis, your Father and Brother, always guide and accompany you in your commitment to live in conformity with your way of life, so that you may become, as he desired, authentic lesser brothers. May you also be accompanied by all your confrères who have preceded you and are given to you as inspiring examples and models to imitate. Among them I am thinking in particular of the many whom I have had the pleasure of canonizing and beatifying during my Pontificate. Lastly, may you be assisted by the motherly love of Mary, the faithful Virgin, "after whose example you have consecrated your lives to God" (Evangelica testificatio, n. 56) with a "response of love and complete dedication to Christ" (Vita consecrata VC 112).
Please express to your confrères around the world my esteem and gratitude for their witness and service in the Church's universal mission. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all the friars of the order wherever they may be and to you, the friars capitular.
July 7, 2000
1. I extend a cordial welcome to you all, dear Catholic doctors who have come to Rome with your family members to attend the international congress organized by the Italian Catholic Medical Association, the European Catholic Medical Association and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. The principal aim of your meeting in the Eternal City is to celebrate your Jubilee. I fervently hope that, refreshed by this timely spiritual break, you will be able to give fresh, courageous vitality to your Gospel witness in the important area of medicine and health care.
I greet you all affectionately, beginning with Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Genoa, and Professors Domenico Di Virgilio, Paul Deschepper and Gian Luigi Gigli, Presidents respectively of the above-mentioned associations. And I greet Fr Feytor Pinto and Fr Valentini Pozaic, along with the ecclesiastical advisers present.
I also extend my greetings to Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, an institution which I entrusted with the task of encouraging and promoting the work of formation, study and action carried out by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, especially in the context of the Jubilee Year. I lastly offer my particular thanks to Prof. Domenico Di Virgilio, who has well expressed the sentiments you share and your loyal fidelity to the Chair of Peter.
2. The theme chosen for your congress - Medicine and Human Rights - is very important, not only for the cultural effort it expresses of combining medical progress with the ethical and juridical requirements of the human person, but also for its timeliness because of actual or potential violations of the fundamental right to life, on which every other personal right is based.
Every day in your professional work you render a noble service to life. Your mission as doctors puts you in daily contact with the mysterious and wonderful reality of human life, prompting you to be concerned for the sufferings and hopes of our many brothers and sisters. Persevere in your generous dedication, showing particular attention to the elderly, the sick and the disabled.
You have firsthand experience that in your profession medical care and technical services are not enough, even if provided with exemplary professionalism. You must also be able to offer the sick that special spiritual medicine which is the warmth of genuine human contact. This can restore the love of life to your patients, inspiring them to struggle for it with an inner determination that is sometimes decisive for their recovery.
The sick must be helped to regain not only their physical health, but also psychological and moral well being. This presupposes that the doctor, in addition to his professional skill, also has an attitude of loving concern inspired by the Gospel image of the Good Samaritan. With every suffering person, the Catholic doctor is called to bear witness to those higher values which have their firmest foundation in faith.
3. Dear Catholic doctors, you know so well that it is your indispensable mission to defend, promote and love the life of every human being from its beginning until its natural end. Today, unfortunately, we live in a society dominated both by an abortionist culture, leading to the violation of the fundamental right to life of the unborn, and by a concept of human autonomy expressed in
the demand for euthanasia as self-liberation from a situation which for some reason has become distressing.
You know that it is never licit for a Catholic to be party to an alleged right to abortion or euthanasia. Since legislation allowing such crimes is intrinsically immoral, it cannot represent a moral imperative for the doctor, who will rightly have recourse to conscientious objection. The great progress made in recent years in the palliative treatment of pain makes it possible to provide
suitable care for the difficult situations of the terminally ill.
The many disturbing ways in which health and life are attacked should be courageously addressed by every person who truly respects human rights. I am thinking of the destruction, suffering and death that afflict entire populations because of conflicts and fratricidal wars. I am thinking of the epidemics and diseases that occur among populations forced to abandon their lands and flee into the unknown. How could we remain indifferent to the agonizing scenes of children and the elderly living in intolerable situations of hardship and suffering, especially when they are denied even the basic right to health care!
A vast field of action lies before you, dear Catholic doctors, and I express my heartfelt appreciation to those of you who courageously decide to dedicate some of their time to people in situations of such dire emergency. Missionary cooperation in the health-care field has always been open-hearted, and I fervently hope that this generous service to suffering humanity will continue to grow.
4. As we enter the third millennium, men and women, especially in the poorest countries, are unfortunately still deprived of access to health services and the essential medicines for their treatment. Many of our brothers and sisters die each day of malaria, leprosy and AIDS, sometimes in the midst of the general indifference of those who could or should offer them support.
May your hearts be attentive to these silent pleas! It is your task, dear members of Catholic medical associations, to work so that every person, regardless of his social or economic status, can exercise his primary right to what is necessary for restoring his health and thus to adequate medical care. Some of you are researchers in the biomedical sciences, which by nature aim at advancing, developing and improving the conditions of human health and life. I urgently appeal to them to make a generous contribution to providing humanity with better health conditions, while always respecting the dignity and sacredness of life. Everything that is scientifically possible is not always morally acceptable.
When you return to your respective nations, take with you a desire to continue with new zeal in your work of formation and updating, not only in the disciplines associated with your profession, but also in theology and bioethics. It is very important, particularly in the nations with young Churches, to see to the professional and ethical-spiritual formation of doctors and health-care personnel, who often have to confront serious emergencies calling for professional skill and suitable preparation in the moral and religious field.
5. Dear Catholic doctors, your congress is providentially occurring during the Jubilee, a favourable moment for personal conversion to Christ and for opening your hearts to those in need. May the fruit of your Jubilee celebration be a deeper concern for your neighbour, a generous sharing of knowledge and experience and an authentic spirit of solidarity and Christian charity.
May our Blessed Lady, Salus infirmorum, assist you in your complex and necessary mission. May St Giuseppe Moscati be your example, so that you will never lack the strength to bear witness with consistency, complete honesty and absolute integrity to the "Gospel of life".
Thanking you again for your visit, I implore the Lord's constant benevolence for you, for your families and for everyone entrusted to your care, as I wholeheartedly impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Clerics Regular of St Paul!
1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of your institute's General Chapter. This is an event of grace which is a powerful call for you to explore the authentic roots of your congregation, to reflect on your specific charism and to try to discern the most suitable ways to live it in today's sociocultural context.
I greet the Superior General and his Council, as well as the delegates to the Chapter meeting. I extend my cordial greeting to all the Barnabites, who are carrying out their generous apostolate in Italy, Europe, Africa, America and Asia. In these days of intense assembly work, you are reflecting on the stimulating theme "Looking to the Future". Faithful to your charism, you intend to keep St Paul's teaching alive and active in the third millennium, at the service of the Church and humanity.
I encourage you in your intentions. Joyfully reaffirm your fidelity to the spiritual heritage of your founder, St Anthony Mary Zaccaria, whose liturgical memorial we celebrated last Wednesday. A priest rooted in God and at the same time enthusiastic about man, he lived a demanding spirituality based on the "folly of the Cross". He took the Apostle Paul as his teacher, model of life and guide in carrying out an apostolate of charity for the clergy and the entire Christian people. At a time of widespread laxity, St Anthony Mary Zaccaria revived the faith by fostering an intense life of inner renewal centred on the Crucified One and on devotion to the Eucharist, the heart of the Church's life. May his example encourage you to continue his mission, as effective today as it was then, because it aims at proclaiming and bearing witness to Christ, who died and rose for our salvation.
2. Dear brothers, in pointing out the ideal of religious and apostolic life to his spiritual sons, St Anthony Mary Zaccaria emphasized charity, which alone is truly effective (cf. Sermon IV), adding that to attain the highest of theological virtues it is necessary to advance in perfection according to three primary spiritual paths: the observance of the Commandments, the study of the Truth and the Gospel, and the proclamation of the Good News (Constitutions VI). The missionary spirituality of your religious family developed on the solid foundation of these concrete reference-points. "Plants and pillars of Christian fervour" (Letter VII), the brothers who formed the first cenacle of ascetical and apostolic life inspired by Fr Anthony Mary at St Barnabas' Church in Milan, chose as their father and guide the Apostle to the Gentiles, and strove to put his doctrine and example into practice. They also committed themselves to reforming morals and devoted particular care to the education of young people in schools and recreational programmes.
On this same demanding and evangelically fruitful path, the Clerics Regular of St Paul still feel that they are being asked today to bear witness to the Gospel of love to their contemporaries. Love for Jesus, the "Crucified One who lives", and the desire to embrace everyone in charity without distinction spur them to seek, with prophetic freedom and wise discernment, new ways to be a living presence in the Church, in communion with the Pope and in collaboration with the Bishops.
3. Looking at the vast horizons of the new evangelization, we see an ever more urgent need to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel message to everyone, without distinction. Thus the field of your apostolate is as vast as the world, and, as your holy founder urged, it must spread to where Christ "set the bounds" (Letter VI). Indeed, how many people are still waiting to know Jesus and his Gospel! How many situations of injustice, of moral and material hardship exist in so many parts of the world! But to carry out this urgent mission, it is indispensable for each of you, dear brothers, to encounter Christ every day in ceaseless and fervent prayer. Only in this way will you be able to show others the way that leads to him.
Strengthened by this interior conversation with the Lord, you will be able to work with him in saving souls and to meet the needs of the people in the spirit of the Apostle Paul, without fearing obstacles or difficulties.
4. In this regard, I have learned that your congregation is questioning itself with deep pain about your other primary apostolate, schools, which are going through a serious crisis in Italy. In recent years, you have unfortunately had to close prestigious educational institutes which formed the consciences of many young people by passing on to them high ideals of human and Christian living. I would like to urge you not to lose heart but to remain calm even in this painful trial, trusting in divine assistance and in your founder's support.
You belong to a religious institute with a great tradition of men who have served the Church in the most varied fields, frequently facing very difficult situations. We need only recall individuals such as St Alexander Sauli, confessor of St Charles Borromeo, and St Francis Xavier Bianchi, a disciple of St Alphonsus Mary de Liguori. Looking at the witness of these your confrères, who were faithful disciples of Christ and generous Gospel workers, go forward with trust and intensify your apostolic zeal.
May the Immaculate Virgin protect and guide the way of your religious family, bringing all your good intentions to fulfilment.
With these wishes, I bless you affectionately, as I assure you of a remembrance in my prayer for each of you and for those you meet in your daily apostolic ministry.
Dear Fathers of the Basilian Order!
1. You have gathered in the Eternal City for the work of your General Chapter. I joyfully welcome you to this special meeting which you requested to confirm, in this way as well, your communion with the See of Peter. In expressing my gratitude to you for this sign of ecclesial charity, I extend a cordial greeting to your Protoarchimandrite Dionysius Lachovicz.
The purpose of your Chapter is to renew the order's statutes, to elect the new General Curia and to prepare sound guidelines for solving the order's current problems. For many of your communities' members, it has only been 10 years since their liberation from the oppressive regimes which severely impeded the life of the Church. This event also coincides with the Great Jubilee year, that is, with a time when we are called in a very particular way to a purification of memory, to forgiveness, in a word, to reconciliation. Those who have suffered so deeply are especially called to a love that "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1Co 13,7).
Such love leads to reconciliation with our brethren, especially those who have been responsible for unspeakable sufferings.
May the Holy Year 2000 be a powerful call for you all to holiness in personal and community life, so that its beneficial effects may spread to the entire Christian community.
2. May the unity of the Church, for which Christ prayed at the Last Supper (cf. Jn Jn 17,20), be a constant commitment for each of you. Your example in this task is St Basil the Great, of whom I wrote: "It was the same love for Christ and his Gospel that made him suffer so much because of the divisions in the Church and made him seek, so perseveringly, hoping against hope for a more effective and manifest communion with all the Churches" (Apostolic Letter Patres Ecclesiae, II, 2 January 1980; Insegnamenti, III/1, 1980, p. 58).
Another primary purpose of your consecration to God in the Basilian Order is the Christian renewal of your people, a goal for which St Josaphat, whose mortal remains now rest here in St Peter's Basilica, laboured so much. We are approaching the 400th anniversary of his entry into the monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Vilnius. The dawn of a new springtime of monastic life in the Greek Catholic Church dates back to that time. With his spiritual asceticism, his life of penance, his tireless service to the Church, he made an effective contribution to the rebirth not only of monasticism but also of the Christian life in those lands. An analogous situation is recurring today wherever the Church was suppressed for many decades. Today too, those peoples are waiting to see the light of God which is reflected in the faces of men transfigured by prayer, love and service.
The unity of the Church today needs a creative fidelity (cf. Vita consecrata VC 37) that can draw on the great and very rich spiritual tradition of the Christian East. This tradition is waiting to be restored in all your communities: it is up to you to be the faithful witnesses to this multifaceted spiritual heritage.
3. St Basil the Great, your patriarch, begins his "Great Rules" with a forceful appeal to the precept of love for God and neighbour. From this flows all the dynamism of the subsequent monastic norms and the path itself to holiness. Love is expressed in a community life inspired by the model of the first community in Jerusalem, which fully shared all its possessions and charisms (cf. Acts Ac 2,42-47). This principle was appealed to by your fathers, Metropolitan Joseph Velamin Rutski and St Josaphat Kuntsevych, who renewed the life of your order.
Your service to ecumenism must be based on a deep interior conversion to Jesus Christ and his Gospel. This presupposes an intense devotion to prayer, "which transforms our lives with light and truth and makes us icons of Christ" (Address at the Church of the Basilian Fathers in Warsaw, 11 June 1999, n. 4). Only through humble contemplation of the Holy Face of our Redeemer can we be reconciled to one another and rediscover the full unity that is born of love.
The liturgy, the summit and centre of all Christian life, has particular importance on this journey. With all its riches, it must be your constant reference-point. A fidelity to the heritage of the past that knows how to be open to a healthy creativity according to the great spirit of the liturgical prayers will guarantee perseverance in your Eastern religious identity.
4. Your charism is based on several essential points: community life, a clear witness to Gospel life, service to the unity of Christ's Church expressed in study, example and especially personal and liturgical prayer, and a varied apostolate for the People of God through spiritual formation and pastoral, catechetical, missionary, academic and publishing activities. St Basil himself "was able to balance wisely indefatigable preaching with periods of solitude and frequent recourse to interior prayer. He regarded this, in fact, as absolutely necessary for the "purification of the soul', so that the proclamation of the word might always be confirmed by the "evident example' of life. In this way he became a pastor and was at the same time, in the real sense of the term, a monk" (Apostolic Letter Patres Ecclesiae, II, PP 53-54).
As I express grateful appreciation to the outgoing father consultors, offering those who will be elected in their place my best wishes for their work, I extend a special greeting to the representatives of the Provinces of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Poland, Romania, the United States, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary and the recent foundation in Prague. I entrust everyone to the motherly
intercession of the Virgin Most Holy, and, with a fraternal thought for Fr Protoarchimandrite, I wholeheartedly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to everyone.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. The desire for a richer experience of the Holy Year, which you are already celebrating in your respective places of origin, has led you to Rome to make your Jubilee pilgrimage and to reaffirm your communion with the Successor of Peter. Welcome! It is a joy to receive you all and I greet each of you with sentiments of affection.
I extend a particular greeting to the Clerics Regular of St Paul (Barnabites) and to the priests of the Basilian Order who are here for their respective General Chapters. I also greet the faithful from St Matthew's Parish in Agerola (Naples), the Capuchin friars from the Cagliari friary and the Augustinian religious who are delegates of their order's Justice and Peace Commission. Lastly, I greet everyone taking part in today's meeting.
You know, dear friends, that the Church is observing a holy time, a suitable occasion for renewing herself in the light of Christ, the Word of God made man 2,000 years ago. In this providential period, believers are invited to draw more abundantly from the treasures of mercy that the Lord gives his Bride. During the Jubilee, a time of grace and mercy, everyone is called to respond to God's voice through a serious examination of conscience, the effort of purification and penance, and more intense prayer.
The Holy Year, in fact, brings us even closer to what has always been the fresh spring at which the Church trustingly quenches her thirst: the Word of God, interpreted in words and deeds by the liturgy, the Councils, the Fathers and the saints. From this foundation she learns that the principal source of unity for believers in Christ is the Most Holy Trinity (cf. Lumen gentium LG 1-8). May the Year 2000 continue to be a hymn of glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!
2. The Church approaches the Triune God only through Christ, the one Way and the true Holy Door leading her into the mystery of divine life. Each one is invited to cross this threshold because "this is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it" (Ps 118,20).
Christ has taken our weakness and frailty upon himself to raise us to the dignity of being children of his heavenly Father.
Through his blood poured out on the cross, he reopened heaven to us, after it had been closed by sin and deceit. God chose this eloquent sign to confirm for us his full involvement in human history. In this month of July, the liturgy reminds us in particular that Christ "did ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Ap 5,9). All who wash their robes, making them white in the blood of the Lamb (cf. Rv Ap 7,14), will receive life in abundance.
Dear consecrated men and women, in the footsteps of Christ, the obedient Servant, always be ready joyfully to accept God's plan for you and to bear witness that Love can fill human hearts. Your consecration expresses the inner nature of the Christian vocation and the striving of the whole Church-Bride for union with her only Bridegroom.
Dear lay faithful, may your dignity as children of God be reflected in all your actions and concrete duties. May your constant practice of faith, hope and love shine brightly in your responsibilities, your work, your dedication to your families, the education of your children, your social and political service, and in the sphere of culture and information.
3. I cordially welcome the pilgrims who have come from Santiago de Compostela, accompanied by Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio, whom I greet with fraternal affection.
Having recently celebrated the Holy Year of Compostela, you are well aware of the wealth that God bestows in jubilee celebrations. I hope that you will receive it with joy as you cross the threshold of the Holy Door in this Great Jubilee, so that your hearts and your communities will open themselves to the new life that is Christ, and with him, who is the source of life and hope, the Church of Santiago may strengthen her faith, her fidelity and her apostolic vigour as she faces the challenges of the third millennium.
Take God's grace and mercy with you to your communities and your families. Give them the Pope's affectionate greeting and the Blessing that I now cordially impart to you.
Dear brothers and sisters, I hope that today's pilgrimage will leave in your hearts effective signs of justice and love in the Lord.
On this journey you will have the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, to be nourished at the table of the Eucharist and to visit the memorials of the Apostles. May these be intense moments of communion with God. In returning home, may you be spurred to love and to do good works, to participate in the life of the community and to urge one
another to hope (cf. Heb He 10,23-24), each one in the state of life to which he belongs.
With these sentiments, I invoke upon you the motherly protection of Mary, Mother of the Lord, and cordially bless you all.
To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Michele Giordano
Archbishop of Naples
I have learned with joy that during the Jubilee Year this Archdiocese intends to commemorate an important anniversary, linked to an historical fact and living reality dear to the people of Naples. This is the fifth centenary of the devout pilgrimage which brought a large group of faithful carrying the icon of "The Brown Virgin" from Naples to Rome. This event led to the widespread practice of the "Wednesdays of Mount Carmel", an expression of Marian devotion in which, as in other similar displays of popular faith, one can see a reflection of the motherly kindness of Mary Most Holy.
This significant occasion recalls to my mind and heart the homage that I had the joy of paying to this icon during my visit to the city and Archdiocese of Naples almost 10 years ago. With deep emotion I address you, Venerable Brother, and the beloved Neapolitan diocesan community, expressing heartfelt wishes for a generous, fruitful ecclesial journey, constantly placed under the watchful and maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
My revered Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, on the occasion of the first centenary of the solemn crowning of the image of the "Brown Virgin" wrote: "The People of God love with immense love the Mother of their Lord, the star of their sky, the haven of their wanderings" (Letter to Cardinal Corrado Ursi, 4 July 1975). On our earthly pilgrimage, Mary is the biblical "pillar of fire" lighting our way, the "guiding star" to our heavenly homeland, the "safe haven" in which to find comfort and refuge. Guided by her, the faithful advance confidently, aware of her sweet presence constantly leading them to Christ. Through the Mother, in fact, we meet her Son Jesus and, strengthened by his support, have no reason to tremble in the face of difficulties, but can always feel ready to respond generously to the action of the Holy Spirit.
The Church thus advances amid the trials of this world and the consolations of God towards the fulfilment of the kingdom in its eschatological phase. This journey grows through an ever closer communion with God and with our brethren; therefore, "especially in our own time, [it] is marked by the sign of ecumenism" (Redemptoris Mater RMA 29). Mary, Mother of the Church, Mother of unity, hope and love, journeys with us. She spurs us to ever deeper communion with the Holy Trinity; she encourages us, by following the Word of God, to be builders of unity and peace with all our brothers and sisters, and to share with those who are joined by their faith in Christ. "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5), Mary said to the servants at the wedding in Cana. She repeats the same command to us today, inviting us to follow the example of her Son, who left the commandment of love and unity to his disciples as a testament.
Speeches 2000 - 6 July 2000