Speeches 2000 - Friday, 24 November 2000


Friday, 24 November 2000

Mr President,

Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to welcome you, members of the International Union of Catholic Jurists, as you celebrate your Jubilee and have gathered for your plenary meeting; I thank your President, Prof. JoŽl-BenoÓt d'Onorio.

I am glad that the International Union of Catholic Jurists brings together Catholic jurists from around the world who are associated with very diverse political, traditional and historical realities; thus it responds to its profound vocation and reflects the universal character of law. It is not by chance that your journal is significantly titled: Juristes du monde entier. Its Catholic character, however, is not a sign of separation and closure, but far more a sign of openness and an expression of the service that jurists wish to offer the whole human community.

2. It must be recognized however that the danger of particularism weighs heavily on law. If, on the one hand, particularism acts legitimately to safeguard the specific genius of every people and every culture, in other respects it leads not only to divisions but also to situations of rupture and unjustified conflict, insofar as it loses sight of the essential unity of the human race. Certainly, the very approach to the study and theory of law can be legitimately differentiated, although the great scholarly tradition of Roman law, to which the Catholic Church herself has been extremely sensitive throughout her history, has left a mark which cannot fail to affect any jurist, whatever his school.

However, even before making any distinction between legal systems, schools or traditions, a principle of unity is essential. Law arises from a deep human need found in all people and cannot appear foreign or marginal to any of them: it is a question of the need for justice, the achievement of a balanced order of interpersonal and social relations, which can guarantee that each be given his due and no one be deprived of what belongs to him.

3. The ancient and as yet unequaled principle of justice "unicuique suum" presupposes first that every person has what is his due and which he cannot renounce: the recognition and promotion of the good of each individual is a specific duty for every person. The order of justice is not static but dynamic, because the very life of individuals and communities is in itself dynamic. As St Bonaventure said: it is not an ordo factus but an ordo factivus, which requires the continual and impassioned exercise of wisdom, which the Latins called iurisprudentia, wisdom which is able to employ all the person's energies and whose exercise is one of man's most exalted practices of virtue. The possibility of giving his or her due not only to a relative, friend, citizen or fellow believer, but also to every human being simply because he is a person, simply because justice requires it, is the honour of law and of jurists. If there is an expression of the unity of the human race and of equality between all human beings, this expression is rightly given by the law, which can exclude no one from its horizon under pain of altering its specific identity.

In this perspective, the international community's efforts in recent decades to proclaim, defend and promote basic human rights are the best way that law can fulfil its profound vocation. Therefore jurists must always feel they are in the front line in the defence of human rights, for through them it is the human person's very identity that is defended.

4. Our world needs men and women who courageously and publicly oppose the countless violations of rights which unfortunately continue to demean individuals and humanity. For their part, jurists are called - and this is one of the tasks of the International Union of Catholic Jurists - to denounce all situations where the dignity of the person is not recognized, or situations which, although apparently acting in his defence, in fact deeply offend him. Too frequently today, the legal status of the fundamental rights to freedom of thought and freedom of worship are not recognized; in many parts of the world, even on our doorstep, the rights of women and children are unjustifiably demeaned. One increasingly notes cases in which the legislator and the magistrate lose their awareness of the specific juridical and social status of the family, and show their readiness to give equal legal status to other forms of cohabitation, creating great confusion in the area of conjugal, family and social relations, and denying in a certain way the value of the specific commitment of a man and a woman and the basic social value of this commitment. For many of our contemporaries, the right to life, a primordial and absolute right which does not depend on positive law but on the natural right and dignity of every human being, is unrecognized or undervalued, as though it were a question of a disposable and non-essential right; it is enough to think of the legal recognition of abortion, which kills a frail unborn human being in the name of the decisional autonomy of the stronger over the weaker; of the insistence with which some people today seek recognition of a suppposed right to euthanasia, a right to life and death for themselves or for others. There are even cases in which the magistrate and the legislator take decisions independently of any moral value, as if positive law could serve as its own foundation and prescind from transcendent values. There are many risks inherent in a law detached from anthropological and moral foundations, because it subjects decisions to the mere whim of the individuals who enact it and ignores the notable dignity of others.

For the legal world, it is important to take a hermeneutical approach and constantly to recall the foundations of law to the minds and consciences of all, legislators, magistrates and ordinary citizens, for what is at stake is not only the good of this or that individual or community, but the common good which surpasses the sum of individual goods.

5. The field of action for jurists is therefore vast and, at the same time, filled with pitfalls. For their part, Catholic jurists do not possess a particular form of knowledge: their Catholic identity and the faith that motivates them do not provide them with specific knowledge from which non-Catholics would be excluded. What Catholic jurists and those who share the same faith possess is the awareness that their work, passionately supporting justice, equity and the common good, belongs to the plan of God, who asks all human beings to recognize one another as brothers and sisters, as children of one merciful Father, and who gives them the mission of defending every individual, especially the weakest, and of building a society on earth that conforms to the requirements of the Gospel. The establishment of universal brotherhood certainly cannot be the result of jurists' efforts alone, but their contribution to accomplishing this task is specific and indispensable. It is part of their responsibility and their mission.

It is in this spirit of service to our brethren that you are making your Jubilee pilgrimage. May the Holy Spirit help you in your task! I entrust you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St Isidore of Seville, an eminent jurist, as I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your families and to all the members of your international union.



Saturday, 25 November 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I affectionately greet all of you who have come for your Jubilee celebration to the tomb of Peter, on this eve of the feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. According to the images in the Book of Revelation, Christ is "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Ap 22,13). As the true "King of the Universe", he governs and renews everything so that in the end he can "deliver" the world to the Father, "that God may be everything to every one" (1Co 15,28). Today, dear friends, you come to entrust your lives to him anew. Do all you can so that his kingship may be seen in your effort to live the realities of the world by transfiguring them with the love and praise of God.

I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, Camillo Ruini, who celebrated the Eucharist, and I thank him for the words which he addressed to me on behalf of all. Together with him I greet the Bishops, priests, and religious present.

2. My thoughts now turn to you, who are making your pilgrimage as employees of various constitutional bodies of the Italian Republic: the Presidency of the Republic and that of the Council of Ministers, the Senate of the Republic, the Chamber of Deputies and the State Audit Court. I cordially greet you all.

Recently, during the Jubilee of Government Leaders, Members of Parliament and Politicians, I had occasion to extol the nobility of politics, stressing the need for it to be lived with great spiritual inspiration, competence and morality. Today I am pleased to address you, who assist the work of the politicians and government leaders. With your stable service within the institutions, you are called to guarantee their continuity, professional tone and moral standards.

3. Your work actually goes beyond the frontiers of your individual offices and contributes to the overall functioning of an institutional apparatus that is of primary importance for the common good. This is especially the aim of the service rendered to the nation by the Presidency of the Republic and the service of government carried out by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Of no less importance is the role that the Senate of the Republic and the Chamber of Deputies plays in exercising the legislative function, as well as the role of guarantee carried out by the Constitutional Court regarding the conformity of laws to the charta magna of the Republic, and that of controlling the management of public finances performed by the State Audit Court.

You are in a certain way privileged individuals by working in such prestigious sectors. And yet it is easy to understand that even in your professional life there is no lack of difficulties and challenges. In yours, as in every other human sector, daily reality is always far from ideal, and perhaps sometimes you too, overcome by lack of confidence, are tempted to give yourselves up to "routine". Do not yield to this temptation! Always put your heart into even the most bureaucratic work. Always think of the people, their problems and sufferings, even when you have to deal with them only through papers and numbers, articles of law and arid regulations. Make your work an area of true humanity and an occasion for moral growth. A disciple of Christ is never permitted to sink into mediocrity: every job can be a way of holiness.

4. Among the virtues that must shine in you, there is undoubtedly your loyalty to the institutions which you are called to serve in full respect for the primacy of God: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (cf. Mk Mc 12,17).

This shining evangelical principle has directed the Church since her origins, prompting her to foster great respect for civil institutions. In them and in the men and women responsible for them, we can see a sign of the presence of God who guides historical events. Omnis potestas a Deo (Rm 13,1): all authority comes from God. Founded on this is the duty of respect that is owed to the law and to those who exercise authority.

Everything however must always be subject to God's sovereignty, to the extent that anything that goes against his law can in no way become binding. The Christian must be a steadfast witness to this principle, going, if and when necessary, "against the tide". He will thus find strength in prayer. Like the first community of Rome at the beginning of the second century, may believers invoke divine help for all those with public responsibilities, so that the Lord may direct their decisions according to what is good and pleasing in his sight (cf. First Letter of Clement, 61).

5. I now greet you, dear workers in the world of transport, employees of ATAC, other companies in Lazio and throughout Italy. Yours is a vast reality, with a busy network of services that see you involved every day for the benefit of the citizens. In this year of the Great Jubilee you have been especially well-deserving for the welcome you have given numerous pilgrims: for this I sincerely thank you.

Public transport, in the current conditions of more intense movement of persons and often chaotic traffic, is destined to carry out a role of growing importance. There is a widespread need, from an ecological and human point of view, to guarantee greater "liveability" in our cities. Our countrysides should not be further disturbed or polluted, and the human dimension of cities should be protected. And does all this not depend on the way that transport is organized? How important this is for Rome, given its joint role as capital of Italy and centre of Christianity, does not need to be demonstrated.

In fact, the pilgrims and tourists who come from far away, before becoming immersed in the history, art and religious significance of Rome, for the most part come in contact with you. Your readiness, cordiality and efficiency are in a way the Eternal City's visiting card.

Certainly, who cannot imagine the difficulties that can make your service burdensome? Do your best to perform it, in spite of everything, as a true act of love. It is precisely to this that you commit yourselves in opening your hearts to the Jubilee grace that Christ gives you today. For the people you transport may you be so many "christophers", bearers of Christ, who wants to be met and treated with love in each person, especially in the poorest (cf. Mt Mt 25,35).

6. I am pleased now to greet the members of the ANSA Agency club. The role of your agency in the panorama of information is well known. Your presence spurs me to pray that the Lord will enlighten those who work in this sector and help them to carry out their service in the best possible way. Today their service has become particularly demanding and full of responsibility, due to the general conditions of the mass media system and the often excessive influence exerted by a few large holders of informational power.

Together with you I extend my welcome to the numerous other groups present: parish groups, school groups and associations of various types and from different places. Dear friends, I hope that you will live this Jubilee as a time of conversion and inner renewal. Christ asks you to follow his Gospel with greater strength and to translate it into a consistent witness. Trust in him! Before the tempting siren call of a culture that, when it abandons him, vainly promises true and lasting happiness, tell him with the conviction of the Apostle Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!" (Jn 6,68).

May Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain for us that Christ, King of the Universe, may be the king of our hearts, our families and our communities. In the name of the Lord, I bless you all!






To my Venerable Brother Cardinal James Francis Stafford

President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

1. In the coming days the Congress of the Catholic Laity organized by this Pontifical Council for the Laity will be held in Rome with the theme: "Witnesses to Christ in the New Millennium". This is a happy initiative which will offer the participants a further opportunity during the Great Jubilee to grow in faith and ecclesial communion. For the assembly will see many lay people gather with Cardinals, Bishops, priests and religious, signifying all the people baptized in the Lord, the christifideles, who are walking to the Father's house amid the afflictions of the world and the consolations of God (cf. 2Co 1,4). The congress will thus be a moment of reflection and dialogue, of sharing faith and prayer, within the framework of the celebrations for the Jubilee of the Laity, culminating with Holy Mass in St Peter's Square on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Through you I thank the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which wanted to organize this stimulating programme that has us listen to what the Spirit is saying to the Church (cf. Rv Ap 2,7) through the faith experience of so many lay Christians, men and women of our time.

2. The congress is thematically related with the other great meetings of the lay faithful which in the last 50 years have marked important stages on the journey of the promotion and development of the Catholic laity. I am thinking in particular of the world congresses of the apostolate of the laity held in Rome respectively in 1951, 1957 and then in 1967, immediately after the Council. I am also thinking of the two world consultations of the Catholic laity organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity for the Holy Year of 1975 and in preparation for the Seventh General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1987, whose results I synthesized in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici.

In this regard, as I have already had occasion to stress, the present meeting "will sum up the laity's progress from the Second Vatican Council to the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 March 1999, p. 5). Starting with an assessment of the implementation of the Council's teachings in the life and apostolate of the laity, your meeting will certainly help to instil new zeal in their missionary efforts. An essential dimension of the Christian's vocation and mission is to bear witness to God's saving presence in human history, as is well stated by the congress' theme: "Witnesses to Christ in the New Millennium".

3. The last decades of the 20th century saw the seeds of an encouraging spiritual springtime blossoming in the Church. How, for example, could we not be grateful to God for the clearer awareness that the lay faithful - men and women - have acquired of their own dignity as baptized persons who have become a "new creation"; of their own Christian vocation; of the need to grow in the knowledge and experience of faith as christifideles, that is, as true disciples of the Lord; and of their own membership in the Church?

At the same time, however, in a climate of widespread secularism, many believers are tempted to leave the Church, and unfortunately they let themselves be infected with indifference or make compromises with the dominant culture. Many of the faithful, too, have selective and critical attitudes to the Church's Magisterium. To reawaken in the consciences of Christians a livelier sense of their identity, there is a need then, in the framework of the Great Jubilee, for that serious examination of conscience which I spoke of in Tertio millennio adveniente (cf. n. 34). There are essential questions which no one can avoid: What have I done with my Baptism and Confirmation? Is Christ truly the centre of my life? Do I make room for daily prayer? Do I live my life as a vocation and a mission? Christ continues to remind us: "You are the salt of the earth.... You are the light of the world.... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5: 13, 14, 16).

4. The vocation and mission of the lay faithful can be understood only in the light of a renewed awareness of the Church, which "is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen gentium LG 1), and of one's personal duty to adhere more firmly to her. The Church is a mystery of communion which originates in the life of the Blessed Trinity. She is the Mystical Body of Christ. She is the People of God who, made one by the same faith, hope and charity, journey through history to their definitive homeland in heaven. And we, as the baptized, are living members of this marvellous and fascinating organism, nourished by the sacramental, hierarchical and charismatic gifts which are coessential to it. That is why, today more than ever, it is necessary for Christians, enlightened and guided by faith, to know the Church as she is in all her beauty and holiness, so that they can listen to her and love her as their mother. To this end it is important to reawaken in the entire People of God a true sensus Ecclesiae, along with a deep awareness of being Church, that is, a mystery of communion.

5. At the threshold of the third millennium, God calls believers, especially lay people, to a renewed missionary zeal. Mission is not an appendix to the Christian vocation. Rather, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, the Christian vocation by its nature is a vocation to the apostolate (cf. Apostolicam actuositatem AA 2). Christ should be proclaimed by word and the witness of life, and, before being a strategic and organized effort, the apostolate involves the grateful and joyful communication to all of the gift of meeting Christ. An evangelically mature person, or community, is motivated by intense missionary enthusiasm, which spurs him to bear witness to Christ in every circumstance and situation, in every social, cultural and political context. In this regard, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, "by reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will.

They live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary cirumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence. There they are called by God that they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven" (Lumen gentium LG 31).

Dear brothers and sisters, the Church needs you and is counting on you! The promotion and defence of the human person's dignity and rights, today more urgent than ever, demands the courage of individuals who are enlivened by faith, capable of selfless love and deeply compassionate, respectful of the truth about man made in the image of God and destined to grow to the full stature of Christ Jesus (cf. Eph Ep 4,13). Do not be discouraged by the complexity of situations! Seek the source of all apostolic strength in prayer; draw from the Gospel the light to guide your steps.

The complexity of situations must not discourage you, but rather should spur you to look with wisdom and courage for adequate answers to the demand for bread and work, and to the requirements of freedom, peace and justice, sharing and solidarity.

6. Dear lay faithful, men and women, you are also called to accept willingly and generously your share of responsibility for the life of the ecclesial communities to which you belong. The image of your parishes, called to be welcoming and missionary, depends on you. No baptized person can be idle. As participants in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ and enriched by a variety of charisms, lay Christians can make their own contribution to the liturgy, catechesis, and different kinds of missionary and charitable programmes. Some can also be called to assume non-ordained offices, roles or ministries at the parish or diocesan level (cf. Christifideles laici CL 14). This is a valuable service and, in various parts of the world, more and more indispensable. However, the risk of distorting the role of the lay person by excessive withdrawal into intra-ecclesial needs should be avoided. Therefore, the identity both of the lay faithful and of the ordained minister must be respected, while collaboration between lay faithful and priests and, in cases determined by ecclesiastical discipline, the substitution of priests by lay persons must take place in a spirit of ecclesial communion in which tasks and states of life are seen as complementary and are mutually enriching (cf. Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests).

7. Participation of the lay faithful in the life and mission of the Church is expressed and supported by various associations, many of which are represented at this congress. Especially in our times, they represent an important means for deeper Christian formation and more effective apostolic activity. The Second Vatican Council says: "Associations are not ends in themselves; they are meant to be of service to the Church's mission to the world. Their apostolic value depends on their conformity with the Church's aims, as well as on the Christian witness and evangelical spirit of each of their members and of the association as a whole" (Apostolicam actuositatem AA 19). Thus, if they are to remain faithful to their own identity, lay groups must constantly evaluate themselves according to the criteria of ecclesiality which I wrote about in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici (cf. n. 30).

Today we can speak of a "new era of group endeavours of the lay faithful" (ibid., n. 29). It is one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. Along with the associations with a long and praiseworthy tradition, we observe a vigorous and diversified flourishing of ecclesial movements and new communities. This gift of the Holy Spirit is another sign of how God always finds appropriate and timely responses to the challenges posed to faith and to the Church in every historical era. Here too we must thank the associations, movements and ecclesial groups for their work in Christian formation and for the missionary enthusiasm they continue to bring to the Church.

8. Dear brothers and sisters! In these days you are sharing reflections and experiences, evaluating the ground covered and turning your gaze to the future. In looking at the past, you can clearly see how essential the role of the laity is to the life of the Church. How could we forget here the harsh persecutions which the Church suffered in the 20th century in vast areas of the world? It is above all due to the courageous witness of the lay faithful, often to the point of martyrdom, that faith was not erased from the lives of entire peoples. Experience shows that the blood of martyrs becomes the seed of confessors, and we Christians are deeply indebted to these ""unknown soldiers' of God's great cause" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 37).

As for the future, there are many reasons for entering the new millennium with well-founded hope. The Christian springtime, many signs of which we can already glimpse (cf. Redemptoris missio RMi 86), is perceivable in the radical choice of faith, in the genuine holiness of life, in the extraordinary apostolic zeal of many lay faithful, men and women, the young, adults and the elderly. It is therefore the task of the present generation to bring the Gospel to future humanity. Be "witnesses to Christ in the new millennium", as the theme of your congress says. Be well aware of it, and respond with prompt fidelity to this urgent missionary call. The Church is counting on you!

I wish every success to the work of your assembly and, as I invoke upon everyone the protection of Mary, Queen of Apostles and Star of the new evangelization, I cordially impart my special Blessing to you, Your Eminence, and to all the participants, and willingly extend it to your loved ones and to everyone you meet in your apostolate.

From the Vatican, 21 November 2000.



Monday, 27 November 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. In addition to visiting St Peter's Basilica to pass through the Holy Door and to celebrate the sacraments of divine grace, you have wanted to include in your Jubilee pilgrimage a meeting with the Successor of Peter. I cordially thank you for this visit and offer each of you an affectionate welcome.

First of all I would like to greet Dr Robert Zaccaria, Chairman of the RAI. I am grateful to him for his courteous words in your name. With equal respect I greet the General Manager, the members of the Board of Directors, the executives, journalists, staff, artists, technicians, workers and pensioners of your large concern. My thoughts also turn to your families, to those who have joined you on this journey of faith and to those who, although wanting to be here, were unable to come.

Today I have the pleasant opportunity to express again my grateful appreciation of the service which, thanks to your skill and dedication, the RAI has offered and continues to offer to the Church and the Holy See. It is a professional service of religious information, which has been even more demanding during the Holy Year. You have wished to meet these increased needs with a special structure called RAI-Jubilee, to accompany this time of grace and cover its major events. Once again, I thank you with all my heart! May the Lord reward you abundantly.

2. We are living in the era of the "image culture", in which radio and television with their enormous potential cover events where they occur and people where they live. This is why they contribute so much to shaping the daily life and morals of an ever more "globalized" society, to use a term popular today. The formidable instruments that technology makes available to you enable you to transmit messages which reach millions of people, influencing their pace of life and helping to form opinions and lifestyles.

How can we fail to recognize the many positive aspects of your service to society, to families and to individuals? Through your work, people can more easily meet, cultures can engage in dialogue, humanity's dramatic events become the public domain for timely interventions and happy events can be shared. Nor could we fail to mention the educational impact of careful programming attentive to values and responsive to people's expectations. Yours is truly a workshop of words and images.

You are communication workers, primary agents in the common task of building a society worthy of man. In this important profession may you always aim at the common good and never yield to mere economic interests.

3. Moreover, believers who work in this sector have an added responsibility because, by their witness, they can affect the complex mechanisms that form the civil and social conscience. This is a challenging mission, which demands courage and often heroism. At times it is necessary to go against the tide, and one can experience loneliness, misunderstanding and even marginalization.

Faced with a culture of the ephemeral which is often more attentive to sensations than to values, Christians are called to be ministers of the inexhaustible newness of God's word, making their own contribution to a sound culture of life, of solidarity, of the family and of human rights. This route must be taken if we want to help build the civilization of love.

The Church, for her part, is deeply aware of her duty to evangelize society to the grass roots and knows the importance of engaging in correct and sincere relations with the communications world, because the vast means at their disposal today can greatly help to spread the Good News in every area.

She never tires, therefore, of recalling the moral dimension of the communications field. She urges, invites and encourages those who work in social communications to enter into a correct and respectful relationship with people, defending and spreading those indispensable human, moral and spiritual values that are also the heritage of the Italian people. And since the religious sense is one of the constitutive elements of the human person, television programming must also be able to tackle, with balance and unbiased openness, the basic problems of life, leaving the door open to solutions enlightened by sound reason and faith.

4. Dear friends, in preparing for this Jubilee celebration you wanted to make an act of concrete solidarity by collecting funds to rehabilitate child soldiers in Sierra Leone. With this project you intended to live fully the spirit of the Jubilee, which is a year of conversion, reconciliation and concern for the neediest. Your efforts also help to sensitize public opinion to one of the most serious social problems of our time, which affects children and jeopardizes their future. I fervently hope that you will take every opportunity to call attention to this social aspect of the Jubilee Year, working with resolute determination in defending, respecting and loving every human being, especially the weak and defenceless.

May Mary, Star of Evangelization, help you to be faithful to your mission, and may St Clare of Assisi, your protectress, intercede for you. May you also be accompanied by my Blessing, which I cordially impart to you, to all the members of the great working community of the RAI and to all who follow your programmes each day in Italy and in many other countries of the world.

Speeches 2000 - Friday, 24 November 2000