Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. I would like to extend a cordial welcome to each of you, Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who have come to Rome from every part of the world to celebrate the Great Jubilee. In particular, I greet the Grand Master, Fra Andrew W. N. Bertie, whom I thank for his courteous and noble words to me on behalf of those gathered here. I would also like to extend an affectionate greeting to Cardinal Pio Laghi, Patron of this Sovereign Military Order, who has wished to take part in today's event. With him I greet Mons. Donato de Bonis, your Prelate.
This meeting has special significance because it is being held during the Holy Year 2000 and testifies to the profound communion that joins the members of your Order to the Successor of Peter. On this occasion, I am pleased to express to the Government of the Order, as well as to those who devote themselves generously to the first-aid services at the Roman basilicas and in other Jubilee programmes, my warm appreciation and gratitude for their constant, valuable contribution to the success of the Jubilee.
2. The Great Jubilee, in which the Church is commemorating the second millennium of the Incarnation of the Word, is a "year of grace": a year of the remission of sins and the punishments due to them, a year of reconciliation between disputing parties, a year of manifold conversions and sacramental and extra-sacramental penance. In particular, it is a year which involves "the granting of indulgences on a larger scale than at other times" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 14) and the re-establishment of God's justice, a concrete expression of the commandment of love.
In the Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee I wrote: "One sign of the mercy of God which is especially necessary today is the sign of charity, which opens our eyes to the needs of those who are poor and excluded. Such is the situation affecting vast sectors of society and casting its shadow of death upon whole peoples" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 12).
In this regard, I would like here to mention the praiseworthy initiatives that your Order carries out in various areas of moral and spiritual poverty. They are inspired by a great availability to the needy, expressing to them in a visible and concrete way the love of the Lord and of the Church. These projects are at times an effective encouragement and a kind of model for those who want to contribute their efforts to establishing a new world where dignity and hope are restored to whoever is oppressed by modern forms of slavery and wounded in body and spirit.
3. I am referring especially to the prophetic service for the marginalized and excluded which you carry out with the zeal of an authentic battle for the integral advancement of human beings. Thanks to this noble battle for the defence and development of the human person, a mission to which your Order has been dedicated for many centuries, you have been able to raise the banner of love in many parts of the five continents, where sickness and poverty degrade people and, unfortunately, threaten their future.
It is a real strategy of love, which involves you in hospitals, in leprosy clinics, in relief groups, in nursery schools and in rest homes for the elderly. Everywhere you are concerned to carry forward the primary aims of your age-old Order: the "tuitio fidei" and the "obsequium pauperum", always mindful of the words of your founder, Bl. Gerard: "Our institution will last until God pleases to raise up people who are willing to make suffering lighter and poverty more bearable".
4. Dear brothers and sisters, in this positive context, the special outpouring of grace of the Jubilee year is a renewed occasion of fidelity to Christ and to your brethren for each of you and for your entire spiritual family.
The Jubilee urges you to fix your gaze on Christ, the Redeemer of man, and to welcome him with more and more intense love and awareness. During your Jubilee pilgrimage, you have had the opportunity in a very special way to dedicate yourselves to hearing the Gospel and to prayer, and, by receiving the sacraments, you have wished to renew your fidelity to Christ. It is only from him, the source of eternal life, that you will be able to draw new strength and new energy in the spirit of the Good Samaritan to meet the needs of the poor, ever more evident and tragic in the contemporary world. It is only with his help that you will be able to offer, in every circumstance, responses to the expectations of the poor that are not only skilled, but profoundly inspired by Gospel love.
The Jubilee also encourages you to be constant witnesses of authentic fraternal communion in the areas where you work. It calls you to proclaim Christ's truth with your words and with your lives, so that your presence will be a model of new human and civil harmony for everyone you meet. May your activities be privileged opportunities for evangelization and serve as a sure reference-point for all who seek the kingdom of God and his justice with a sincere heart.
Lastly, may a more intense enthusiasm flow from this Jubilee celebration for each of you, in order to bear witness to the Gospel of charity in a world dominated by selfishness and sin. May your structures be shining outposts of the civilization of love and an effective expression of the Church's social teaching.
With these sentiments, as I entrust each of you, pilgrims of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, to the heavenly protection of the Blessed Virgin, "Comfort of the Afflicted", and of St John the Baptist, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, as a pledge of abundant Jubilee gifts and graces.
I hope the entire Order of Malta will continue to prosper. May the Lord bless you all. Thank you for your visit to Rome and to the Vatican.
1. Please accept my sincere thanks for your very friendly words on the occasion of the presentation of your Letters of Credence as the new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See. I cordially welcome you as you take office and I congratulate you on this noble and important task. At the same time, I ask you to convey my greetings to the Federal President and my best wishes for his health. You are beginning your service as the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 draws to a close. The motto, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever" has put the human person again in the light which lets his value as the image and likeness of God shine in full splendour.
2. Calling attention to the message about the inalienable value of every human being is particularly urgent at the end of the 20th century, especially since the last hundred years, soaked in blood and tears, will go down in history for their wars and conflicts as well. But in recent weeks your compatriots, the citizens of friendly neighbouring States and countless people in Europe and throughout the world were also able to commemorate the happy events which over 10 years ago had so carefully and, at the same time, so resolutely begun your country's reunification process that it could finally arrive at the memorable event on 3 October 1990: Germany - a united homeland.
The Berlin Wall had fallen. The Brandenburg Gate, which has been closed for decades and symbolized division, was opened and once again represented what it had before: a sign of unity.
The Constitution's demand that the unity of Germany be realized in free self-determination was thus fulfilled. We can rightly say: the Brandenburg Gate has become the gate of unity and freedom.
Through the gentle revolution, which had opened the way to freedom without bloodshed, great hopes were raised for over 10 years. The saying about scenes of prosperity, which had long been dismissed as utopian, has proved to be accurate - even if delayed - in not a few areas of the new German states. But unemployment and new poverty are the other side of the coin, which, seen from the obverse, shows the economic upturn and outward prosperity, the vast array of goods for sale and the strengthening of the infrastructure. Above all, overcoming the spiritual aimlessness and inner emptiness caused by decades of communist indoctrination is a task that cannot be dealt with quickly and requires every effort.
Many people have bravely accepted the challenges of the past 10 years and made their contribution, so that what is outwardly reunited may inwardly grow closer and closer. They see this as a school of solidarity, in which one can learn to support in word and deed those who want to put their lives on solid ground. I express my sincere appreciation to your country's government leaders and to all who, at various levels and in the different sectors of society, foster the inner unification of the once artificially separated parts of Germany and the welfare of its citizens. By joining forces it has been possible to deal peacefully with a difficult phase of German history. Barricades, barbed wire and orders to shoot, which once painfully separated families from one another, have given way to connecting bridges, unrestricted streets and open doors.
3. I am delighted that the heavy commitment to German unity has not obscured the vision of European unification. On the contrary, the reunification of your homeland even became an incentive for the leaders of State and society to broaden their view beyond Germany to Europe, to which the fall of the Iron Curtain has given a whole new horizon. With deep respect I realize that the Federal Republic of Germany is a respected international authority and a sought-after partner. Germany has accepted increasing responsibility and plays a crucial role in the European unification process. It is in a position to carry out its task effectively, since decades of experience show that the State's democratic institutions are solid and the overwhelming majority of citizens support them. I would like to take this occasion to express to you, the ambassador of a country which is certainly one the "pillars" of the European house, my hope that it will succeed, within the framework of the negotiations about expanded membership, in bringing the East and West of the old continent closer together, those two lungs without which Europe cannot breathe.
Through their preservation and mutual enlightenment, the variety of Eastern and Western traditions will enrich Europe's culture, as well as provide the foundation for the longed-for spiritual renewal.
Perhaps, then, we should speak less of the "Eastern expansion" than of the "Europeanizing" of the whole continent. What became German's motto after the collapse of the Wall can also serve as a rule for European unification: What belongs together should grow together.
These thoughts are not prompted by boldness or reverie, but by a vision based on hopeful realism. Precisely my three Pastoral Visits to Germany, a treasury of European civilization, have led me to an important realization: European art and culture, history and the present moment were and are still so greatly moulded by Christianity that a dechristianized or atheistic Europe is really impossible. At the same time, I am convinced that Germany and Europe have a future only if they know about their origins.
4. Particularly since your esteemed country remains aware of its own history in a kind of ongoing, collective examination of conscience and is attentively working on the "purification of its memory", it is especially sensitive to injustice and the disregard of human rights. Indeed, it can be increasingly observed in many modern democracies that a spontaneous propensity to violence precisely among young people is combined with a politically desired and organized ideology, which could weigh permanently on domestic peace. General appeals and pleas to learn from history are not enough to overcome the widespread intellectual and spiritual vacuum. What is called for instead is an attentive and sensitive culture of spiritual values among the younger generation, as well as a concrete work of reconciliation which not only offsets the past, but will help in the future to break down mutual prejudices and thus enable Germany to be a solid pillar of support for the common European home.
I realize that this plan sets high standards. For a Western European island of affluence must become more and more an all-European area of freedom, justice and peace. Material sacrifices will be unavoidable for the more affluent countries, if the tremendous drop in prosperity within Europe is gradually to decline. Moreover, spiritual help is needed to support the further building of democratic structures and a political culture in accordance with the conditions of a State governed by law. In these efforts the Catholic Church offers her selfless help to all in her many religious and social institutions. She presents Catholic social teaching as a guide for this development, in which the focus is on care and responsibility for man: "We are not dealing here with man in the "abstract', but with the real, "concrete', "historical' man", whom the Church cannot abandon (Encyclical Letter Centesimus annus, n. 53).
5. In this connection, I return to an issue that is very close to my heart and prompts me to raise my voice precisely at this historical moment, which is marked by rapid, tremendous scientific advances.
Since man is at the point of deciphering the complex blueprint of human genetics, what is called for now is to direct the course of science to a culture of life and love. Man may not do everything he can do. For "in our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the "culture of life' and the "culture of death', there is need to develop a deep critical sense, capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.... All together, we must build a new culture of life: new, because it will be able to confront and solve today's unprecedented problems affecting human life; new, because it will be adopted with deeper and more dynamic conviction by all Christians" (Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, n. 95).
6. Thus there are two key points which I would like to consider more closely. The newness of the problem lies first of all in the context of freedom, in whose name many people think that you may do whatever you want. But freedom does not mean doing whatever you like. Whoever turns freedom into licence has dealt it a deathblow. Freedom requires commitment. Whoever is really free knows that his understanding and behaviour are bound to the truth. The first and greatest truth about man is that he is not self-made, but is God's creation. Just as man did not give himself life, so can no one claim the right - even on supposedly humanitarian grounds - to take his own life or someone else's.
This fundamental truth compels me tirelessly to recall the inviolable value of every human being, from the moment of his conception until natural death. I am pleased that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany rests on the same foundation. It is inspired with the "awareness of its responsibility before God and men" (Preamble), and before making any other statement it recognizes: "The value of the human person is inviolable. It is the obligation of all State authority to respect and protect it" (Art. 1). Precisely when the value of the human person is at stake, the Church would like to stand by the State's side. For pluralistic societies do not expect a value-free State.
That is why the Church makes an offer to the State that she understands as a service to man: he should be enabled to learn and to live a true freedom worthy of human beings. This is also why the Church is present in so many State institutions such as schools, universities, hospitals and barracks.
I am pleased to learn that the Church's outstretched hand has also been taken by the new federal states, which was expressed in the Concordat agreements that the Holy See has been able to conclude in the years since the turning-point with the states of Saxony, Thuringia, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt. A framework was thus created for the Church to intensify her pastoral work for human beings in an area where talk of God had been stifled for decades.
7. Ecumenism, which you yourself spoke of, is another key point to be mentioned in relation to the newness of our time. Just as Germany is the country where the Reformation began, so there are also hopeful signs for the future. I am pleased to recall the solemn signing of the Joint Declaration by representatives of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, which took place almost a year ago in Augsburg. I see it as a "milestone on the difficult path to re-establishing full unity among Christians" and reaffirm that the document represents a sound basis for further theological research in the ecumenical field and for addressing the remaining problems with a better founded hope of resolving them in the future (Angelus, 31 October 1999).
While I never tire of thanking the Lord of history that we have achieved this intermediate goal, at the same time I consider it advisable to give direction to the ecumenical journey towards full unity, a direction which is more timely than ever precisely in view of the culture of life. Perhaps at times there has been so much concentration on ecumenism in doctrine and worship that the strength has been lacking for ecumenism in political parties and parliaments, in the social and cultural sphere. This includes a shared commitment to the kingdom of God which goes beyond the realm of pulpit and altar and includes everything - individuals, society, the whole world - in order to permeate politics, the economy and culture. Precisely the newness of the problems, which affect man in his personal dignity, cries out for the common witness of all who call themselves Christian.
This ecumenism of witness for the sake of an authentic culture of life is a service that Christians owe to their contemporaries. In addition, there are other issues such as the preservation of creation, the defence of Sunday and the sacredness of marriage as "an institution confirmed by the divine law even in the eyes of society" (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, GS 48) and the protection of the family as the foundation of society (ibid., n. 52). For in the eyes of a world in which people live more and more as if God did not exist, "cooperation among Christians [must] become a form of common Christian witness" (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 40). Above all, when it is a question of human life and death, there can be no compromise for Christians, but only the compass of the truth which God himself has revealed about man.
8. I cannot conclude my reflection without expressing my confidence that the friendly relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See, which you rightly stressed in your address, will grow even more fruitful. The close reciprocal relationship between Church and State, which both sides view with sensitive responsibility and from proven experience, and regard as enriching, constitutes a reliable premise for this. Mr Ambassador, as I cordially wish you a good start to your new post in Rome, I gladly impart the blessing of almighty God to you, to your esteemed colleagues at the embassy and especially to your dear family.
To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State
Since the beginning of my Pontificate I have devoted special attention to new lay groups, particularly to movements, so that, under the enlightened and wise guidance of their Pastors, they might offer a providential resource of missionary energy in the Church and in the different cultural, social and environmental situations in which modern man lives and expresses himself. Among these new groups, the Lord raised up Communion and Liberation which, fulfilling a long-cherished desire of Mons. Luigi Guissani, is today inaugurating its own International Centre in Rome, entrusted to the responsible leadership of Prof. Jesús Carrascosa and his wife, Mrs Juana Echarri.
In this way, the Communion and Liberation Movement, which was born in Milan, developed first in Lombardy, then spread throughout Italy and is now present on every continent, can give a stable form to its ecclesial mission. The Eternal City, where the See of Peter is located, does in fact hold a special meaning for every community and movement: in Rome there are the generalates of many religious institutes, the headquarters of a considerable number of cultural, ecclesiastical and civil institutions and the administrative centres of other international lay communities and groups. With the inauguration of this centre, the Communion and Liberation Movement will thus find itself in the beating heart of Christianity, to offer its service to the See of Peter and to the entire Church with renewed commitment.
I entrust to the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, the work that is beginning today, and I sincerely send you, venerable Brother, who will preside over the solemn inaugural ceremony, to those responsible for the Communion and Liberation Movement and to everyone present a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 17 October 2000.
Dear Friends of the "Encounter Community"!
1. Welcome! I am pleased to receive you at this special audience and I greet you all with affection.
My thoughts turn first of all to the community's founder, dear Fr Pierino Gelmini, to whom I extend my cordial congratulations on the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, which he recently celebrated, and I thank him for the kind words he has just addressed to me on your behalf.
With him I greet the Bishops present, the priests, staff and volunteers who carry out their generous work in your community. I also greet the many authorities of every rank and level from various countries who have wished to honour us with their appreciated presence today. To each one I extend my respectful greetings. With the same sentiments I greet the parents, friends, relatives and support groups who have not wanted to miss this important Jubilee event.
But I embrace you with very special affection, dear young people who live in the "Encounter Community" centres and have set out on the path to spiritual and physical rebirth after the sad experience of drugs.
2. You have come on pilgrimage from many cities and nations to cross the threshold of the Holy Door; you have come to meet Christ and resolutely reaffirm your intention to walk with him towards a more peaceful and responsible future. Many of you have brought with you the walking stick you carved during the penitential season of Lent. It is a sign that recalls the spiritual support to lighten the effort of the journey. For you it symbolizes the interior pilgrimage you have undertaken, which must lead you to an ever richer life of faith, hope and love.
The Pope loves you and accompanies you with his prayers and constant remembrance. I gladly take this occasion to repeat to those of you here and to everyone in every part of the world who is involved in the struggle against drugs and for life: the Church is with you and walks beside you!
3. Dear young people, your spiritual family is called the "Encounter Community" because it arose from an important meeting in Piazza Navona 37 years ago. It seeks to offer those who have ended up in the blind alley of drugs the possibility of finding the path of hope. The centres where you reside are a great help in this effort of personal recovery. They are places of brotherhood, where everyone is offered a second chance not to squander the precious gift of life.
Those of you who have been through the sad experience of drugs know quite well how it leads to loneliness, withdrawal and, at times, deep despair. In view of this tragedy, which affects the human person and his physical life itself, and represents a disturbing phenomenon in contemporary society, the Church has said repeatedly that drugs are never a solution. She intends to reaffirm this conviction forcefully in the face of opinions favouring the liberalization of narcotics or, at least, their partial legalization on the grounds that free access to these substances will help to limit or reduce their harm to individuals and to society.
4. Drugs are not fought with drugs. Those who unfortunately have found themselves caught in the tentacles of narcotics testify that this experience is an escape from themselves and from reality.
Drugs are often the consequence of an inner emptiness: they are a refusal, a renouncement and a loss of direction which often leads to despair. This is why drugs are not overcome by drugs, but an extensive work of prevention is needed to replace the culture of death with the culture of life. Young people and their families must be offered concrete reasons for commitment and must be given effective support with their daily problems.
Dear friends, you have discovered the true alternative to the many drugs that stupefy the human person in a community which, rather than proposing technical solutions, offers a process of human and spiritual rebirth. Fortunately there are many other structures in the world like yours, where many of your friends have had the good fortune to escape from the bottomless pit of drugs. I would like to offer my encouragement and cordial greeting to everyone who works in this sector.
They are a valuable presence which supports families tried by difficult hardships. The Church is grateful to all who render this skilled and unselfish service to life and human dignity.
5. Dear friends, I thank you for the two gifts that Fr Pierino has presented to me in your name: the opening of new centres in New York and Kazakhstan, and this beautiful statue of the risen Christ.
The risen Jesus shows you all that in him you can face the future with renewed confidence. He leads you to the heavenly Father's loving embrace. His mercy spurs you to continue on the path you have taken so that, reborn to life, you can make your contribution as protagonists to building a society free from every kind of drug. Take back to your communities the serenity I see on your faces today. May you always show the courage to rise again when you fall and to return quickly to the right path, even when this demands sacrifice and self-denial. Christ, the physician of souls, is your friend. He is the only Redeemer.
May Mary, whom you honour with the significant title of "Our Lady of the Smile", support you with her motherly intercession. May she welcome all who have died in recent years, victims of drugs and their consequences, and be close to the families scarred by this tragedy. May she accompany you all with her powerful protection.
With these sentiments, I assure you of my prayer and willingly impart a special Blessing to each of you and to your loved ones.
To Cardinal Miloslav Vlk
Archbishop of Prague
President of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences
1. The plenary assembly of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, which is being held in Brussels from 19 to 23 October 2000, has particular importance in this year of the Great Jubilee, when the whole Church is celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of the Saviour's birth. Such a gathering is a renewed manifestation of the bonds of communion which join you to the Successor of Peter and a particularly significant expression of collegiality among the continent's Bishops for proclaiming together the name of Jesus Christ with boldness and fidelity.
Throughout its history, Europe has received the treasure of the Christian faith, basing its social life on principles taken from the Gospel. Thus Christianity is constantly encountered in the arts, in literature, in the thought and culture of European nations. This heritage does not belong merely to the past. It is important to transmit it to future generations, because it is the matrix of life for the individuals and peoples who together have forged the European continent.
2. Your meeting is an opportunity to increase the exchange of gifts between the local Churches, to share the pastoral experiences of Western and Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe, to enrich and enlighten each other and to strengthen the various local communities. It will also allow you to experience ecclesial communion, always a gift of God but also a task to be fulfilled. In order for the Catholic Churches in Europe to carry out their mission, which is always the same and always new because "the Church ... exists in order to evangelize" (Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi EN 14), it is important that their members be open to the call of the Spirit, to work intensely for the sake of the new evangelization.
In this perspective, I encourage you to give ever greater attention to educating young people and adults in the faith. The experience of the catecheses during the two most recent gatherings of World Youth Day, during which young people showed a deep desire to know Christ and to live by his Word, reminds us of the urgency of giving the faithful a solid Christian moral, spiritual and human formation. As the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council stressed, one of the principal tasks of the Bishop is the duty to teach and lead the Christian people to perfection (cf. Christus Dominus CD 12,15). In all your Churches a vast field of doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral formation has opened to help the lay faithful to carry out their baptismal mission in the Church, in communion with their Pastors, and to proclaim without confusion the salvation Christ has brought. In a world marked by scientific and technological development, a true understanding of the faith will give Christians the means "to account for the hope that is in them" (cf. 1P 3,15) and to offer the Gospel to their contemporaries as a way of life and as a basis for personal and collective moral action.
I also wish to stress the crucial importance of the formation of priests and deacons, called to be ministers of Jesus Christ and your co-workers. In this way they will form "a precious spiritual crown" around you (St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians, 1, 13). By their words and actions they will be witnesses to the Lord, the Bridegroom and Head of the Church, which is his Body. How could they signify this gift of Christ, who offered his life for the Church (cf. Eph Ep 5,25), without giving themselves totally to their mission and to walking the way of holiness?
3. Throughout the continent, one notices disparities regarding priestly vocations. While some countries are experiencing a disturbing lack of seminarians and young priests, others, especially in the East, are seeing more and more young people take the path of the priesthood or consecrated life. We must pray without ceasing and ask "the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9,37). It is advisable, at the same time, to develop in every Diocese, and jointly, a vigorous pastoral care of vocations that offers young people a faith journey, spiritual life and ecclesial experience, as well as quality philosophical and theological instruction. I know that some countries and regions have organized a system of sharing for better clergy distribution. I gladly invite you to continue to focus on this.
4. Europe is being built as a "union". The Church has a specific contribution to make; not only can Christians join all persons of good will in the realization of this great project, but they are also invited to be in some way its soul by showing the true meaning of the organization of the earthly city. Europe, then, cannot be considered merely an economic market or an area for the free circulation of ideas. It is also and above all an authentic community of nations that wish to join their destinies, in order to live as brothers and sisters, with respect for cultures and spiritual paths, which cannot however remain outside the common project or in opposition to it. At the same time, the strengthening of the continent's union reminds the Church and the Ecclesial Communities that they too must take further steps towards unity.