Speeches 2000 - Thursday, 21 September 2000

You must therefore continue to follow the path of contemplation, since your mission requires a profound union with the Lord. Before sending you out, Christ calls you to himself; and if, every day you do not seek him in prayer, you will lack the strength to carry on as missionaries filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Only in the depths of contemplation can the Holy Spirit transform your hearts; and only if your own hearts are transformed will you be able to fulfil the great task of helping others so that the Spirit may guide them "into all the truth" (Jn 16,13), which is the essence of the Christian mission. Social structures will never be able to be perfected or improved without a genuine conversion of hearts. Both of these must go together, because if structures are changed without hearts being converted, the structural changes might camouflage evil, but without overcoming it. This is why mission without contemplation of the Crucified One is condemned to frustration, as the founders very opportunely realized. This is also the reason why they insisted especially on the commitment to adoration of the Eucharistic mystery, since it is in the Sacrament of the Altar that the Church contemplates uniquely the mystery of Calvary, from whose sacrifice flows all the grace of evangelization. Learn in contemplation of the Eucharistic mystery to imitate the One who makes himself bread shared and blood poured out for the world's salvation.

4. A characteristic of your foundation is the fact that men and women form one Congregation, approved by Pope Pius VII in 1817, joined in one charism, one spirituality and one mission. This unity has not always been easy, and it is important for the governing bodies of both branches to work for an ever more mature testimony of evangelical union, solidarity and interdependence among all the members of the Congregation. Within each autonomous branch your communities are called to flourish in a strengthening of a family spirit, that fraternity which leads to each one carrying the burdens of all.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I pray most fervently that the General Chapter will offer wise guidelines for an ever more complete witness to your religious consecration, so that with still greater joy and energy you will cry out to a world sitting in «the shadow of death» (Lc 1,79): «Rise, take up your sleeping-mat and walk! Walk with us in the power of him who is ‘light to those…in darkness’ and who ‘guides our feet in the way of peace’ (ibid.)»! May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Mother of all our joys, lead you always along the paths of contemplation, so that your apostolate throughout the world may truly bear witness to the Church’s spirit, her openness to and interest in all peoples and individuals, especially the least and poorest of Christ’s brothers and sisters (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 89). As a pledge of endless grace and peace in him, I gladly impart to all the members of your Congregation my Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 22 September 2000

Dear Cardinal Maida,

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Almost to the day, three years ago, we were spiritually united in the joy of the groundbreaking ceremony of the Cultural Center, and now you are in the final stages of building, with a view to its opening in the new year. Your visit gives me the opportunity to express once more my heartfelt gratitude to those who have supported the project and worked for its realization.

The importance of the Center lies in the fact that it is an instrument of evangelization. Its purpose is not to honor a particular person but to contribute, using the means provided by modern technology, to making the Church and her message better known and understood. The celebration of the Jubilee Year has shown that people everywhere are not only eager to profess the truths of faith but eager also to build and strengthen the sense of Catholic community through religious and cultural activities. One of the principal issues of our day is the relationship between faith and culture. I wish to encourage you in your efforts to ensure that the Center provides opportunities for the study of important themes affecting Christian life in the present cultural climate of your country. Your task is to make the Center a promoter of activities aimed at communicating to a wide audience the treasures of our Catholic heritage.

With gratitude and encouragement therefore I bless your efforts, and I invoke the abundant gifts of the Lord upon you and your families. May your visit to Rome during the Jubilee Year bring you inner peace and a renewed love of the Church.



Saturday 23 September 2000

Madam President of the European Parliament,

Distinguished Presidents of the Parliaments of the European Union,

1. I am happy to welcome you to the Vatican and to greet you in this place which from the first has been associated with the great epochs of European history. I respectfully greet Senator Nicola Mancino, President of the Italian Senate, who has spoken on your behalf and I thank him for his kind words.

Your Conference is a highly significant sign of the process of European unification which, in recent years, has gone forward still further. Through the century just past, my predecessors and I have lent our support to the great project of rapprochement and cooperation between the States and peoples of Europe.

2. Presiding over the legislatures which represent your people, you are witnesses of the convergence between the interests of your respective countries and the interests of the larger unity of Europe. I am pleased to note that the Union wants to welcome new member States and that it is showing itself open and flexible as it looks to the future. The European Union has retained its creativity, and that is the best guarantee that it will succeed in securing the greatest good of its citizens. It is pledged to maintain their cultural diversity and to safeguard the values and principles of its founders, which constitute the common heritage of all of Europe’s citizens.

True to its distinctive character, the European Union has already developed shared institutions, with a system of checks and balances of power, which safeguard democracy. The time seems ripe to synthesize these achievements in an arrangement which is both less complex and more effective. The European Union will certainly be able to find the right formula both to satisfy the aspirations of its peoples and to ensure that the common good is served.

3. In the Church’s social teaching, which draws upon biblical revelation and natural law, the notion of the common good applies at every level of organization in human society. There is a national common good, which State institutions are meant to serve. And at a time when economies and trade of every kind in Europe and throughout the world are more and more interdependent, who could deny that there is also a continental and even global common good? Europe is becoming increasingly aware of its common good as a continent, that is, of the range of initiatives and values which European nations must together pursue and defend if they wish to respond appropriately to the needs of their citizens.

If the European Union were to move to the point of adopting a formal constitution, it would have to choose the kind of system which it finds more suitable. Among the various systems, different arrangements are possible. In the Church’s view, systems of government stem from the genius of peoples, from their history and from their goals for the future. The Church stresses, however, that all systems must have as their objective the service of the common good. Moreover, every system must resist the temptation to remain selfishly closed within itself and must be open to other States of the continent wishing to cooperate with the European Union, so that the Union may be as broad as possible.

It is a source of deep satisfaction for me to see that the fruitful principle of subsidiarity is increasingly invoked. Put forward by my predecessor Pope Pius XI in his celebrated Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno in 1931, this principle is one of the pillars of the Church’s social teaching. It is an invitation to distribute responsibility at the various levels of political organization of a given community – for example, regional, national, European – so that only those responsibilities which the lower levels are unable to exercise for the sake of the common good are transferred to the higher levels.

4. The protection of human rights is one of the imperative requirements of the common good. The European Union is engaged in the difficult task of composing a "Charter of Fundamental Rights", in a spirit of openness and attention to the suggestions of various groups and individuals. In 1950, the founding nations of the Council of Europe adopted the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties, followed in 1961 by the European Social Charter. Declarations of rights in some way mark out the inviolable area which society regards as not being subject to interference from the play of human power. Further still, it is recognized that power exists in order to protect this area, the focus of which is the human person. Thus, society acknowledges that it is at the service of its members and their natural aspiration to find fulfilment as individuals and as social beings. This aspiration, part of the nature of the person, corresponds to inherent rights of the person, such as the right to life, to physical and mental integrity, to freedom of conscience, thought and religion.

In adopting a new Charter – whatever shape it may take in the future – the Union must not forget that Europe is the cradle of the notions of the person and of freedom, and that these notions emerged because the seed of Christianity was planted deep in Europe’s soil. In the Church’s thinking, the person is inseparable from the human society in which he or she develops. In creating man, God set him within an order of relations which enables him to become what he is intended to be. We call this the natural order, and it is the task of reason to explore it ever more fully. Human rights cannot become pretensions against human nature itself. They can only flow from it.

5. May the European Union witness another step forward on the path of human development! May it succeed in forging the consensus necessary to set among its highest ideals the protection of life, respect for one another, mutual help and a fraternity which excludes no one. Whenever Europe draws from its Christian roots the great principles of its vision of the world, it knows that it can look serenely to the future.

Upon you, your families and the peoples and nations which you represent I gladly invoke the blessings of Almighty God


Saturday, 23 September 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. It is a great joy for me to meet you at this Jubilee audience, which is a beautiful and important moment of your pilgrimage to Rome in the context of the Holy Year. You come from various Dioceses, each with its own history and its own particular traditions. However, our being together like this enables us to feel almost tangibly the profound bonds of communion that make us brothers and sisters in the one Body of Christ which is the Church: the same love that comes from the Trinity and enlivens the people of God, the same faith in Jesus the Saviour, the same commitment to proclaiming the Gospel. You have come to the Eternal City to share this deep experience of reconciliation with God and with your brothers and sisters. I ask the Lord to endow your Jubilee pilgrimage with abundant good fruits!

2. I first extend my affectionate greeting to you, dear pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Naples. I thank your Pastor, Cardinal Michele Giordano, who has just expressed your feelings of affection and spiritual closeness. I congratulate you all for your dedication in preparing to celebrate this Jubilee properly and, in particular, for having rightly placed the theme of the new evangelization at the centre of your pastoral action, making use of the good initiative of the Gospel Centres. I cannot but encourage you to continue generously on the path you have taken, making every effort increasingly to involve families in this missionary undertaking in which they play an essential role.

May these days spent at the tombs of the Apostles, deepening your bond of communion with the Church of Rome, help you face with greater courage and determination the inevitable moments of difficulty. May the Virgin Mary, whom you all love to invoke with the title of the "Brown Virgin", always accompany you with her assistance and maternal protection!

3. I now extend my cordial welcome to you, dear brothers and sisters of the Diocese of Brescia!

I greet you with affection, while extending a fraternal thought to your Bishop, Giulio Sanguinetti, whom I thank for his warm address. You know that celebrating the grace of the Jubilee means above all recovering an awareness of the roots of one's faith. The Christian experience down the centuries has produced an abundance of fruits in the community of Brescia, marked by special attention to the various aspects of society's problems. From this enlivening of social life through the Gospel leaven, the shining testimonies of priests, religious and laity have remained, the authentic champions of a committed Christianity, facing the needs of their time. Brescia in particular can boast of having given the Church a Pontiff of the stature of Paul VI, whose indelible memory lives on in the hearts of all. The examples of these distinguished personalities must spur you to respond with great courage and generosity to the challenges facing the Church of the third Christian millennium. In this Jubilee Year, during which we are all invited to return to the genuine sources of our faith, may you know how to live in depth the reality of the Christian community in its twofold aspect of communion and mission. This is my wish and, at the same time, the commitment I entrust to you as a fruit of your Jubilee pilgrimage.

4. I now greet the group of pilgrims of the Diocese of Parma, accompanied by Bishop Cesare Bonicelli, whom I thank for his kind words. The Jubilee, as the word itself says, is first and foremost a moment of joy and sharing. In this holy time the Church rejoices in the abundance of grace and mercy which God pours out on all who prepare their souls for reconciliation and interior renewal. May the Jubilee be for you, dear friends, an important moment in your ecclesial journey, which will give rise to a renewed enthusiasm for evangelization. Being reconciled with God and one's brethren is an essential condition for the effectiveness of the Gospel proclamation, because there is no Christian mission that does not spring from a deep experience of communion with God and with one's neighbour. I hope, in this Jubilee season, that you will experience the profound mystery of the Church, which is a mystery of both communion and mission.

5. I now address you, dear brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Lucca, who have come to Rome on your Jubilee pilgrimage accompanied by your Archbishop Bruno Tommasi, to whose greeting I listened with gratitude. Your Archdiocese is crossed by the ancient Via Francigena, which was traditionally used by pilgrims to Rome on their journey to the tombs of the Apostles.

This has contributed to increasing your traditional hospitality and fraternal welcome, which are still expressed in many forms of voluntary work and charity today. By relying on the great patrimony of faith and Christian civilization of your land, may you know how to renew, in our time too, the commitment to a witness of Gospel values and the desire to contribute effectively to building a renewed Christian culture. Always put Christ at the centre of your communities through careful listening to his word and the rediscovery of the Eucharist as the source and apex of all ecclesial life.

Not only will the attention to the formation of priests be of great help to you, but so will an ever increasing involvement of the laity in the sectors most suited to their state within the pastoral life of the diocesan community.

6. I now greet with affection the members of the Apostleship of Prayer of the Diocese of Barcelona, who have arrived in Rome on their Jubilee pilgrimage. Remember that it is the encounter with Jesus Christ through prayer which creates apostolic conditions that aim to inspire a sincere desire for holiness. With the help of grace, strive to make your adherence to Christ and his Church stronger and stronger, and your life witness more and more credible. In this way, you will find the Jubilee Year a special event of "personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer and of solidarity with one's neighbour" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 42).

7. The participants in the Conference of European Cancer Leagues are also here at this audience: in cordially greeting them, I extend my heartfelt good wishes for their fruitful work in such an important sector for human health.

I also greet the representatives of the Italian-language Catholic Mission in Switzerland led by the Salesian community of Zurich. May this pilgrimage to Rome and the grace of the Jubilee be an incentive for you to follow, with ever increasing generosity, the example of St John Bosco in your Christian commitments and in your witness of acceptance and solidarity, especially to those who are in spiritual and material difficulty.

Lastly, a special thought and wish go to the Alpine troops of the Bonate Sopra Bergamo Section and to the other groups of pilgrims who, with their participation, make this Jubilee more enriching and joyful.

8. Today is Saturday, the day traditionally dedicated to Our Lady. Let us entrust to Mary the abundance of grace and the commitments of Christian life which have flowed from this Jubilee. May the One who, with her unconditional "yes" to the divine will, offered the Saviour to the world, always guide and protect you on your journey. May you also be accompanied by my Blessing, which I impart to each of you with affection, and which I also willingly extend to your communities, your families and all your loved ones.





Saturday, 23 September 2000

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of this extraordinary concert which fits within the context of the Great Jubilee, the heart naturally feels sentiments of gratitude. Primarily towards God, the first inspirer of every genuine work of art and thus also of the wonderful Missa Solennis of the great Hungarian composer Ferenc (or Franz) Liszt. However, my gratitude is then immediately addressed to all who planned this splendid concert and prepared, organized and performed it.

My thoughts go first of all to the President of the Republic of Hungary, Mr Ferenc Mádl, to the Prime Minister and to the other State authorities, with my special gratitude to all who have honoured us with their presence today. With brotherly affection, I then thank the Cardinal Primate László Paskai and Archbishop István Seregély, President of the Hungarian Bishops' Conference.

I therefore extend a special "thank you" together with my deepest appreciation of the excellent performance to Maestro Domonkos Héja and the musicians of the Danubia Symphonic Youth Orchestra, as well as to Maestro Mátyás Antal, to the soloists and to the National Choir of Hungary.

It is very significant, 1,000 years after my Predecessor Silvester II crowned St Stephen the first King of Hungary, that the Republic of Hungary has wished to offer a special act of homage to the Bishop of Rome. This gesture not only has a high commemorative value, but expresses the awareness of the deep bond that links the Hungarian people to the Church. History bears witness to the benefits for the nation which derived from the Christian leaven that became part of its culture. May the new millennium see further developments of this fruitful exchange on the path of genuine human progress.

In the spirit of Jubilee Year, I am pleased to take my leave of you, dear ladies and gentlemen, with the wish that in Hungary and in every other country in the world, the hearts of all may be generously committed to the service of the true good of humanity, so that peace in justice and freedom in the truth, may prevail everywhere. With these sentiments, I invoke God's blessings upon you all.





Monday, 25 September 2000

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am truly grateful for the kind words you addressed to me at the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay to the Holy See.

I would also like to reciprocate the greetings and sentiments of appreciation which the President of the Republic has wished to convey to me through you, asking you to express to him my best wishes for his lofty mission, as well as my closeness to the Uruguayan people, whom I had the opportunity to meet personally in two unforgettable visits to this beloved South American country. Although it has been some years since then, the experience of what I said at the end of my first visit has endured: "the Pope and the Uruguayans have understood one another perfectly" (Farewell Address, 1 April 1987, n. 1). As I did then, today too I would like to repeat my firm conviction that "Uruguay will continue to offer hospitality for initiatives which promote harmony and mutual understanding among the nations of Latin America" (ibid., n. 3), since it is itself fertile ground for dialogue and national peace.

2. This conviction is confirmed by the peaceful and peacemaking vocation of the Uruguayan people, in harmony with the deepest roots of a nation which, as you have said, Mr Ambassador, has forged its personality in Christian values and principles. For this reason the Church, faithful to her evangelizing mission, wishes to be a sign and instrument of reconciliation and peace on every occasion, with the desire to serve the common good, "by every means possible" (Ecclesia in America ), since the internal or external disagreements and differences of a nation risk becoming violent processes whose only real consequence is a worse aggravation of conflicts and even destruction. In this regard, after certain painful experiences which have wounded your country in the recent past, the ecclesial institutions of Uruguay are always prepared to do their utmost to calm hearts and achieve a just social harmony.

3. The Church's concern for these aspects of the social life of peoples stems from the great esteem she has for the "noble destiny of man and ... [the] element of the divine in him" (Gaudium et spes GS 3), for the human being in his full integrity as a person, whose dignity cannot be subordinated to any other interest, exploited for other ends or violated in the name of any power. Never forget that true peace, as well as the common good, is intimately linked to the cause of justice, both in the context of the internal relations of a local or national community, as well as in the human family as a whole, every day more inclined to building a common history shared by all.

This is why it is also important in the international forums that there be sound agreement between your country and the Holy See, to defend rigorously and promote perseveringly those values which give dignity to human life. Daring work for fundamental human rights, solidarity among the various categories of society and among the earth's peoples, the furtherance of a culture of life and harmony with nature are unavoidable ethical duties for individuals and institutions. However they are also a historical challenge for this generation, a witness of complex processes which at times run the risk of bewildering the people of today, eroding their identity and depriving them of a true meaning of life and a reason for hope.

4. The Church's evangelizing action has always played an important role in Uruguay for its people's welfare, not only because of the good of the Christian proclamation itself or the many activities of social assistance and human advancement, but also because of her effort to strengthen the institutions on which all human society is founded, such as the family and education. In them the person feels welcome and appreciated, he learns to share and trust in others and develops the meaning of life as a common task in which he must take part, assuming responsibilities and contributing with his own work to building a better future for all. These are contexts which affect the essence of the common good and in which the responsibility of the public authorities, as well as the pastoral concern of the Church, converge. Thus they are also privileged fields in which good understanding and collaboration must be closer, with complete respect for specific competencies and with the firm conviction that any initiative in these matters must be subordinate to the fundamental and primary right of the family, which must be recognized and supported with effective measures, so that it can maintain its natural configuration and exercise its right to educate children.

5. Mr Ambassador, you are beginning your mission in a very special year for Christians of the whole world, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the anniversary of the Incarnation of Jesus. It is an event which is being lived with great intensity in Rome, precisely because the message of the Holy Year has very deeply permeated the hearts of people throughout the world. In Rome, the fervour of the Uruguayans has also been strongly felt, especially through the national pilgrimage which I had the pleasure to receive and to greet in St Peter's Square on 7 May last. I am pleased to know that the Jubilee experience is also being lived intensely in the Uruguayan Dioceses, and that the Fourth National Eucharistic Congress will be held in Colonia del Sacramento in October. All this is a demonstration of the faith of so many of Uruguay's children, and of its desire for a new millennium imbued with the grace which God pours out on men and women in abundance. Once again, I express my affection, my remembrance in prayer and my Blessing to them, who have perpetuated the memory of my stay in their country with a special monument in the Plaza Tres Cruces in Montevideo.

6. Mr Ambassador, I extend my cordial welcome to you and to your distinguished family, as I offer you my best wishes that your stay in Rome will be very pleasant, and that the diplomatic mission entrusted to you will be highly beneficial for the good of the beloved Uruguayan nation. I ask Our Lady of the Thirty-Three, so widely venerated by all your country's faithful, to continue to bless the efforts of the authorities and citizens, so that Uruguay will always walk on paths of spiritual and material progress, in an atmosphere of harmony and social peace.


Monday, 25 September 2000

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests and Deacons,
Dear Sisters and Dear Brothers.

1. It is a great joy for me to see so many Swiss faithful here at the tomb of St Peter. You are all welcome. I greet in particular Cardinal Henry Schwery, the President of the Swiss Episcopal Conference, Bishop Amédée Grab, and all the Bishops present. Today's "Day of the Swiss" gives me a timely opportunity to express my gratitude to the members of the Swiss Guard. I thank them for their faithful and diligent service, which precisely in the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is of extraordinary importance. The Swiss Guard is a living visiting card of the Vatican. Dear Swiss people, you can be proud to know that here in the Vatican there are such worthy representatives of your beloved land. Pray that in your country there will never be a lack of committed young men, ready to place themselves at the service of the Pope and of the Church!

2. Like all the Holy Year pilgrims, you too have passed through the Holy Door, which is open to all. The Holy Door is an image of Christ who said: "I am the door" (Jn 10,9). Passing through the Holy Door implies an interior attitude. This must correspond to an orientation of life. Indeed, Christ is demanding. He calls people to decide. Therefore if we also cross the threshold of the Holy Door, let us repeat with the Apostle Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68).

3. Thus the exterior rite expresses a profound profession of faith. I hope that you will return to your country, your cities and your villages strengthened in the faith, to stand beside your brothers and sisters in their daily lives. In the contemporary world, there are many doors that tempt us, but unfortunately they do not lead to either fulfilment or happiness. On the contrary, they can hurl man into the abyss of emptiness and dependency. Those who no longer seek "the way, the truth and the life" (cf. Jn Jn 14,6), no longer find access to God. A pilgrim returning from Rome can show the way to those who are searching for a life full of meaning. I invoke for you from God strength and blessings.

4. Your Jubilee journey leads you, together with the whole Church, into a new period of grace and mission (cf. Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee, n. 3), inviting you to take an increasingly active part in the life of your Christian communities, under the guidance of your Bishops, to be witnesses among your brethren of the ecclesial and missionary communion of the Gospel. The Church enables us to be born to new life through Baptism, communicates God's gifts to us, particularly through the Eucharist and Penance, so that we can lead a new life and be constantly committed to the path of conversion, thereby reviving our spiritual lives and apostolic dynamism. I encourage you in particular to concentrate your efforts on the moral and spiritual formation of young people, to help them in their personal growth and to prepare them to be solid Christians, ready to respond joyfully to their vocation and, for those whom God calls, to commit themselves to the path of priesthood or the consecrated life. In entrusting you to Our Lady's intercession, I cordially impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all.

5. Lastly, I would like to address a greeting to the Italian-speaking Swiss pilgrims. You came to Rome to pass through the Holy Door. May this rite be a strong spiritual experience for you that will help you to welcome Christ in your lives more readily, to be his credible witnesses among your brothers and sisters at the beginning of the third millennium. I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.





To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy

President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

I am particularly pleased, Your Eminence, to entrust to you the task of conveying my esteem and greetings to the distinguished representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the great world religions who have gathered this year in Lisbon for the 13th International Meeting on the theme: "Oceans of Peace: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue".

My thoughts return to 1986, when for the first time men and women of different religions met on the hill of Assisi, marked by the witness of St Francis, to pray to God for peace. That event could not remain isolated. Indeed, it had an explosive spiritual force: it was like a spring from which new energies of peace began to flow. For this reason I hoped that the "spirit of Assisi" would not be extinguished, but could spread throughout the world and inspire new witnesses of peace and dialogue. Indeed, this world, marked by so many conflicts, misunderstandings and prejudices, has the utmost need for peace and dialogue.

I would therefore like to thank the Sant'Egidio Community in particular for the enthusiasm and spiritual courage with which it has received the message of Assisi and taken it to so many places in the world through their encounters with people of different religions. I remember the Bucharest Meeting in 1998, which had such strong echoes in Romania where, during my Apostolic Visit, I heard the cry repeated insistently by the people: "Unity! Unity!". Yes, dear Christian brothers and sisters, may unity remain a priority commitment for us. Let us look with hope at the century which has begun, because - as I wrote in Ut unum sint! - "the long history of Christians marked by many divisions seems to converge once more because it tends towards that Source of its unity which is Jesus Christ" (n. 22).

I am convinced that the "spirit of Assisi" is a providential gift for our time. In the diversity of religious expressions, honestly recognized as such, standing beside one another also visibly shows the human family's longing for unity. We must all walk towards this one goal. I remember when, as a young Bishop at the Second Vatican Council, I too signed the Declaration Nostrae aetate, which marked the beginning of a rich relationship between the Catholic Church, Judaism, Islam and other religions. That conciliar Declaration states that the Church, "[in] her duty to foster unity and charity among individuals, and even among nations, ... reflects at the outset on what men have in common and what tends to promote fellowship among them" (n. 1).

Interreligious dialogue must aim at this and work towards it. Today, by God's grace, this dialogue is no longer just a wish; it has become a reality, even if we still have a long way to go. How can we not thank the Lord for the gift of this reciprocal openness which is the prelude to deeper understanding between the Catholic Church and Judaism, precisely while I still have vivid memories of my unforgettable pilgrimage to the Holy Land? But significant results have also been achieved by the series of meetings with Islam, with Eastern religions and with the great cultures of the contemporary world. At the beginning of the new millennium, if we are to hasten this promising journey, we must not slacken our pace.

You know well that dialogue does not ignore real differences, but neither does it deny our common state as pilgrims bound for a new heaven and a new earth. Dialogue is also an invitation to strengthen that friendship which neither separates nor confuses. We must all be bolder on this journey, so that the men and women of our world, to whatever people or belief they belong, can discover that they are children of the one God and brothers and sisters to one another.

Today you are in Lisbon on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and your gaze turns to the people and cultures of the world. Lisbon is the first stage of your common journey in this new century.

Therefore I thank you, Patriarch José da Cruz Policarpo, for welcoming this pilgrimage with your entire Church. Through you, I greet my Brother Bishops and all the dear Portuguese people, whom I had the opportunity to meet on my recent pilgrimage to Fátima.

So many problems are looming on the world's horizon. However, humanity is in search of new stable forms of peace: "It is therefore necessary and urgent", as I wrote to the Meeting of People and Religions at Milan in 1993, "to find again the desire and determination to walk together to build a more united world, overcoming special interests of peoples, of ethnic groups and of nations.

What an important task religions can carry out in this regard! Poor in human means, they are rich in that universal aspiration which has its roots in a sincere relationship with God" (Insegnamenti, vol. XVI/2, 1993, 778).

As I entrust to you, Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, my Message for the participants in the Lisbon meeting, whom I cordially greet again, I invoke upon all present the blessings of almighty God. With his help, may the men and women of every people on the earth continue with renewed determination on the path of peace and mutual understanding!

From the Vatican, 21 September 2000.

Speeches 2000 - Thursday, 21 September 2000