Speeches 2001 - Friday, 4 May 2001


VISIT TO THE CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL OF ST DIONYSIUS - ATHENS

Friday, 4 May 2001



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank above all Archbishop Fůscolos, Archbishop of the Catholics of Athens and President of the Bishops' Conference, for the warm reception and for the great effort expended on the realization of my pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul.

I am delighted with the presence of the Bishops, priests and men and women religious here in the Cathedral of St Dionysius. As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, such assemblies are particularly important; in fact, "all should hold in the greatest esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centred around the Bishop, especially in his cathedral church. They must be convinced that the principal manifestation of the Church consists in the full, active participation of all God's holy people in the liturgical celebrations" (Sacrosanctum concilium, SC 41), presided over by the Bishop surrounded by his presbyterate, which forms around him "a precious spiritual crown" (St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Magnesians, 13, 1).

This Cathedral is placed under the protection of St Dionysius. He was one of the first Greeks to be converted after hearing the preaching of St Paul on the resurrection. May you all receive this mystery of salvation, in order to live it and become witnesses to it with your brothers in a spirit of reciprocal acceptance, solidarity and Christian charity! St Dionysius is also considered a great spiritual man by tradition. Remember always that life in intimacy with Christ reinforces faith and infuses courage for the mission! Do not be afraid of transmitting the Good News of Christ to young people, to allow them to build their own personal lives and be involved in the Church and in the world. In particular, your communities need to have young persons accept the call to follow Christ in a radical way in the priesthood and in consecrated life. Stir up vocations!

May the Lord guide you on your way. May Mary, the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, be for you an example of Christian life, in humble availability to the call of God and in the generous concern to serve her neighbour! To you all, to your families, to your communities, I impart my cordial Apostolic Blessing.



COMMON DECLARATION

OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

AND HIS BEATITUDE CHRISTODOULOS,

ARCHBISHOP OF ATHENS AND ALL GREECE,

BEFORE THE BEMA OF ST. PAUL,

THE APOSTLE TO THE NATIONS




We, Pope John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, and Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, standing before the bema of the Areopagus, from which Saint Paul, the Great Apostle to the Nations, "called to be an Apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God" (Rm 1,1), preached to the Athenians the One True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and called them unto faith and repentance, do hereby declare:

1. We give thanks to the Lord for our meeting and communication with one another, here in the illustrious City of Athens, the Primatial See of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Greece.

2. We repeat with one voice and one heart the words of the Apostle to the Nations: "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no schisms among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment"(1Co 1,10). We pray that the whole Christian world will heed this exhortation, so that peace may come unto "all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,2). We condemn all recourse to violence, proselytism and fanaticism in the name of religion. We especially maintain that relations between Christians, in all their manifestations, should be characterized by honesty, prudence and knowledge of the matters in question.

3. We observe that man's social and scientific evolution has not been accompanied by a deeper delving into the meaning and value of life, which in every instance is a gift of God, nor by an analogous appreciation of manís unique dignity, as being created according to the Creatorís image and likeness. Moreover, economic and technological development does not belong equally to all mankind but belongs only to a very small portion of it. Furthermore, the improvement of living standards has not brought about the opening of men's hearts to their neighbours who suffer hunger and are naked. We are called to work together for the prevailing of justice, for the relief of the needy and for the ministry unto those who suffer, ever keeping in mind the words of St. Paul: "the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rm 14,17).

4. We are anguished to see that wars, massacres, torture and martyrdom constitute a terrible daily reality for millions of our brothers. We commit ourselves to struggle for the prevailing of peace throughout the whole world, for the respect of life and human dignity, and for solidarity towards all who are in need. We are pleased to add our voice to the many voices around the world which have expressed the hope that, on the occasion of the Olympic Games to be held in Greece in 2004, the ancient Greek tradition of the Olympic Truce will be revived, according to which all wars had to stop, and terrorism and violence had to cease.

5. We follow carefully and with unease what is referred to as globalization. We hope that it will bear good fruit. However, we wish to point out that its fruits will be harmful if what could be termed the "globalization of brotherhood" in Christ is not achieved in all sincerity and efficacy.

6. We rejoice at the success and progress of the European Union. The union of the European world in one civil entity, without her people losing their national self-awareness, traditions and identity, has been the vision of its pioneers. However, the emerging tendency to transform certain European countries into secular states without any reference to religion constitutes a retraction and a denial of their spiritual legacy. We are called to intensify our efforts so that the unification of Europe may be accomplished. We shall do everything in our power, so that the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be preserved inviolate.

With this Common Statement, we, Pope John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, and Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, wish that "our God and Father and our Lord Jesus direct our way, so that we may increase and abound in love towards one another and towards all men and establish the hearts of all unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all his saints" (Cf. 1Th 3,11-13) Amen.

Athens, at the Areopagus, 4 May 2001



WELCOME CERIMONY IN DAMASCUS

Saturday, 5 May 2001

Mr President,

Members of the Government,
Brother Patriarchs and Bishops,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. As I arrive in Damascus, this "pearl of the East", I am deeply aware that I am visiting a very ancient land, which has played a vital role in the history of this part of the world. Syriaís literary, artistic and social contribution to the flourishing of culture and civilization is renowned. I am most grateful to you, Mr President, and to the Members of the Government, for making my visit to Syria possible, and I thank you for your kind words of welcome. I greet the civil, political and military Authorities graciously present, as well as the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps.

I come as a pilgrim of faith, continuing my Jubilee Pilgrimage to some of the places especially connected with Godís self-revelation and his saving actions (cf. Letter Concerning Pilgrimage to the Places Linked to the History of Salvation, 1). Today he allows me to continue this pilgrimage here, in Syria, in Damascus, and to greet all of you in friendship and brotherhood. I greet the Patriarchs and Bishops who are here, representing the Syrian Christian community. My heartfelt greeting goes to all the followers of Islam who live in this noble land. Peace be with you all! As-salŠmý ĎalŠikum!

2. My Jubilee Pilgrimage marking the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ actually began last year, with the commemoration of Abraham, to whom Godís call came not far from here in the region of Haran. Later, I was able to travel to Mount Sinai, where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses. And then there was my unforgettable visit to the Holy Land, where Jesus fulfilled his saving mission and founded his Church. Now my mind and heart turn to the figure of Saul of Tarsus, the great Apostle Paul, whose life was changed for ever on the road to Damascus. My ministry as Bishop of Rome is linked in a special way to the witness of Saint Paul, a witness crowned by his martyrdom in Rome.

3. How can I forget the magnificent contribution of Syria and the surrounding region to the history of Christianity? From the very beginning of Christianity, flourishing communities were to be found here. In the Syrian desert Christian monasticism flourished; and the names of Syrians such as Saint Ephraem and Saint John Damascene are etched for ever in Christian memory. Some of my predecessors were born in this area.

I am thinking too of the great cultural influence of Syrian Islam, which under the Umayyad Caliphs reached the farthest shores of the Mediterranean. Today, in a world that is increasingly complex and interdependent, there is a need for a new spirit of dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims. Together we acknowledge the one indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. Together we must proclaim to the world that the name of the one God is "a name of peace and a summons to peace" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 55)!

4. As the word "peace" echoes in our hearts, how can we not think of the tensions and conflicts which have long troubled the region of the Middle East? So often hopes for peace have been raised, only to be dashed by new waves of violence. You, Mr President, have wisely confirmed that a just and global peace is in the best interests of Syria. I am confident that under your guidance Syria will spare no effort to work for greater harmony and cooperation among the peoples of the region, in order to bring lasting benefits not only to your own land, but also to other Arab countries and the whole international community. As I have publicly stated on other occasions, it is time to "return to the principles of international legality: the banning of the acquisition of territory by force, the right of peoples to self-determination, respect for the resolutions of the United Nations Organization and the Geneva conventions, to quote only the most important" (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2001, No. 3).

We all know that real peace can only be achieved if there is a new attitude of understanding and respect between the peoples of the region, between the followers of the three Abrahamic religions. Step by step, with vision and courage, the political and religious leaders of the region must create the conditions for the development that their peoples have a right to, after so much conflict and suffering. Among these conditions, it is important that there be an evolution in the way the peoples of the region see one another, and that at every level of society the principles of peaceful coexistence be taught and promoted. In this sense, my pilgrimage is also an ardent prayer of hope: hope that among the peoples of the region fear will turn to trust; and contempt to mutual esteem; that force will give way to dialogue; and that a genuine desire to serve the common good will prevail.

5. Mr President, the gracious invitation which you and the Government and people of Syria have extended to me, and the warmth of your welcome here today, are signs of our shared belief that peace and cooperation are indeed our common aspiration. I deeply appreciate your hospitality, so characteristic of this ancient and blessed land. May Almighty God grant you happiness and long life! May he bless Syria with prosperity and peace! As-salŠmu ĎalŠikum!



ECUMENICAL MEETING AT THE GREEK-ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL


Saturday, 5 May 2001




Your Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius
Your Holiness Patriarch Zakka
Venerable Bishops and Representatives of the Churches
and Ecclesial Communities of Syria,

1. "When he came and saw the grace of God, [Barnabas] was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose" (Ac 11,23-24). Such was the joy and amazement of the Apostle in Antioch, where he had been sent by the Church in Jerusalem. Today I share his joy and make my own his exhortation. This visit to Syria takes me back to the dawn of the Church, to the time of the Apostles and the first Christian communities. It concludes my pilgrimage in the Biblical lands which I began in the year 2000. It also provides the happy occasion to meet with you in Syria and to return the visits which you have made to the Church of Rome and to its Bishop.

In this Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, I greet most especially Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim. Your Beatitude, I thank you whole-heartedly for your fraternal welcome today and for this Liturgy of the Word which it is our joy to celebrate together. Your Beatitudeís interest and active involvement in the cause of Christian unity is known to all. It is something which I deeply appreciate and for which I thank God. Beloved Brother, I invoke the Lordís blessing upon your ministry and upon the Church of which you are the Pastor.

2. Built upon the foundation of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the Church in Syria was quick to show an extraordinary flourishing of the Christian life. With good reason, the Council of Nicea recognized the primacy of Antioch over the metropolitan Churches of the region. As we think particularly of Ignatius of Antioch, John Damascene and Simeon Stylites, how can we fail to recall as well the many confessors and martyrs of this region who adorned the beginnings of the Church by their fidelity to Godís grace, even to the point of shedding their blood! How many monks and nuns withdrew into solitude, filling the deserts and mountains of Syria with hermitages and monasteries, in order to live lives of prayer and sacrifice, praising God so that in this way they might, in the words of Theodore of Edessa, "attain to the state of beauty" (Discourse on Contemplation). How many Syrian theologians helped to establish the theological schools of Antioch and Edessa! How many missionaries left Syria to go to the East, following the great missionary movement to Mesopotamia and further still to Kerala in India. Is not the Church of the West greatly indebted to the many pastors of Syrian origin who assumed the ministry of Bishop there, even the ministry of the Bishop of Rome? May God be praised for the witness and the influence of the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch!

Unfortunately, the unity of the illustrious Patriarchate of Antioch was lost through the centuries, and we must hope that the different Patriarchates existing now will once again find the path that will lead to full communion.

3. Between the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Greek Catholic Patriarchate a process of ecumenical rapprochement has begun, and for this I thank the Lord with all my heart. It is prompted by the desire of the Christian people, by dialogue between theologians, and by fraternal cooperation between the Bishops and pastors of the two Patriarchates. I urge all those involved to pursue this quest for unity with courage and prudence, with respect but without confusion, drawing from the Divine Liturgy the sacramental strength and theological stimulus which are needed in the process. The quest for unity between the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic Patriarchates of Antioch is clearly part of the wider process of reunion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. That is why I reaffirm my sincere desire that the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches may soon be able to continue its work in the most appropriate way. The more this dialogue touches upon central questions, the more demanding it will become. This is no cause for surprise, and still less an excuse for lethargy. Who can stop us from placing our hope in the Spirit of God who does not cease to kindle holiness among the disciples of Christís Church? I wish to thank most sincerely Patriarch Ignatius IV for the positive and effective contribution which the Patriarchate of Antioch and its representatives have constantly made to this process of theological dialogue. I am likewise grateful to Patriarch Gregory III and his predecessor Patriarch Maximos V for their unfailing contribution to the climate of fraternity and understanding, which is so necessary if the dialogue is to develop well.

4. In the same spirit of gratitude and hope, I would like to mention the deepening of fraternal relations between the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate. I greet especially Patriarch Zakka I, in whom the Catholic Church has always found a faithful promoter of Christian unity, ever since the Second Vatican Council which he attended as an observer. Your Holiness, since your visit to Rome in 1984 it has been our joy to be able to make real progress on the road to unity, having confessed together Jesus Christ as our Lord, true God and true man. On the same occasion, we were able to authorize a plan of pastoral cooperation, notably at the level of sacramental life, in cases where the faithful have no access to a priest of their own Church. With the Syro-Malankar Church in India, which looks to your Patriarchal authority, the Catholic Church has equally good relations. I beg the Lord that the day will soon come when there will be an end to the final obstacles to full communion between the Catholic Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church.

5. In the course of time, and especially at the start of the twentieth century, Armenian, Chaldean and Assyrian communities, forced by violence to leave their homelands, came to the Christian quarters of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and other parts of this region. In Syria they found refuge, a place of security and peace. I give thanks to the Lord God for the hospitality offered by the Syrian people on a number of occasions to Christians of the region suffering persecution. Transcending all ecclesial divisions, such hospitality became the pledge of an ecumenical rapprochement. In the person of the persecuted brother the Christ of Good Friday was recognized and welcomed.

Since then, by conviction and by necessity, the Christians of Syria have learnt the art of sharing hospitality and friendship. Ecumenical contact at the level of families, children, young people and the leaders of society holds the promise of the future of evangelization in this country. It will be up to you, Bishops and pastors, to accompany this happy process of rapprochement and communication with wisdom and courage. The cooperation of all Christians, whether at the level of social and cultural life, in promoting peace, or in the education of the young, is a clear indication of the degree of communion already existing between them (cf. Ut Unum Sint, UUS 75).

By virtue of the apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist unite in very close bonds our particular Churches who call each other, and love to call each other, Sister Churches (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, UR 14). "For centuries, we lived this life of ĎSister Churchesí, and together held Ecumenical Councils which guarded the deposit of faith against all corruption. And now, after a long period of division and mutual misunderstanding, the Lord is enabling us to discover ourselves as ĎSister Churchesí once more, in spite of the obstacles which were once raised between us. If today, on the threshold of the third millennium, we are seeking the re-establishment of full communion, it is for the accomplishment of this reality that we must work and it is to this reality that we must refer" (Ut Unum Sint, UUS 57).

6. Just a few weeks ago, we had the great joy of being able to celebrate the Feast of Easter on the same day. For me, this happy coincidence in the year 2001 was a pressing invitation of Providence, addressed to all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, to return without delay to a common celebration of the Paschal Feast, the Feasts of all feasts, the central mystery of our faith. Our people rightly insist that the celebration of Easter should no longer be a cause of division. Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has shown herself favourable to every effort to re-establish the common celebration of the Paschal Feast. Yet this process seems more difficult than anticipated. Is it perhaps necessary to envisage intermediate or gradual stages, in order to prepare minds and hearts for the implementation of an arrangement acceptable to all Christians of East and West? It falls to the Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East to assume together this responsibility with regard to their communities in the various countries of the region. From the Middle East there could be born and go forth a new energy and inspiration on this point.

7. A few weeks from now, we shall celebrate together the Feast of Pentecost. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit "will stir all the disciples of Christ to desire and to work for the peaceful union of all in one flock under one Shepherd, in the way decreed by Christ" (Lumen gentium, LG 15). Let us implore the Spirit to make us grow in holiness, for there is no lasting unity which is not based upon humility, conversion and pardon, and therefore upon sacrifice.

When the Spirit came upon the Apostles at Pentecost, the Virgin Mary was there in their midst. May her example and her protection help us to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Churches, even today, and to welcome his words with confidence and joy!



MEETING WITH PATRIARCHS AND BISHOPS OF SYRIA

AT THE GREEK-CATHOLIC PATRIARCHATE OF DAMASCUS

Sunday, 6 May 2001



Your Holiness,
Your Beatitudes,
Your Eminences,
My Brother Bishops,

1. My pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul, dear Brothers, brings me today to Syria, to Damascus, and it is a great joy for me to be among you. I thank you for your warm welcome and in particular I express my gratitude to His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory III for his kind words of welcome to his Patriarchal residence.

Every pilgrimage is an opportunity to return to the sources of our faith, to strengthen our love of Christ and the Church, and to enable us to set out again on the mission that Jesus has entrusted to us. Here, in this land which God has blessed over the centuries by the presence of eminent witnesses who, by their lives and writings, have figured in the tradition of the entire Church, sacred history can be read like an open book in the countryside, at the Biblical sites and at the Christian shrines. But this pilgrimage is also clearly meant to be a meeting with the men and women who live in this land, in particular with our brothers and sisters who share our faith in the one Lord, who himself lived in the Middle East and who revealed to us the face of the Father of all tenderness. Was it not in this land, in the city of Antioch which is one of the beacons of the East, that the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were first called "Christians" (Ac 11,26), that is, people who confess that Christ is the Saviour, the Messiah, and who are members of his Body? It is therefore with deep joy that I greet you with the words of Jesus after his Resurrection: "Peace be with you!" (Jn 20,19).

2. The Catholic Church in Syria exists in a situation of great diversity, with the simultaneous presence of several Churches sui iuris each representing one of the many great and rich traditions of the Christian East. Your communities and your faithful have been patiently opening up to one another, progressively overcoming a long-standing isolation due to the vicissitudes of history. While remaining firmly rooted in your own ecclesial heritage and even reasserting it, you have learned to combine efforts. The Assembly of the Catholic Hierarchy in Syria, and more broadly the Council of Patriarchs of the Middle East, symbolize this indispensable coordination. I invite you, despite the difficulties which may arise, to continue this coordination, to extend it and intensify it, in order to provide a better pastoral service to the faithful entrusted to you and a real sharing of the spiritual treasures of your respective traditions. If it is true that communion is in fact first a gift of God to his Church, it is equally certain that on our part there should be a corresponding discernment, respect, mutual esteem and patience. These different elements ensure that diversity contributes to unity. They bear witness to the catholicity of the Church, and they especially glorify the name of God and serve the proclamation of the Gospel by making the word of brothers united in faith and love ever more credible.

This communion at the various levels of your different Churches takes nothing away from the episcopal communion which exists within your respective Synods. Rather, it is an expression which must constantly be put into practice and given fresh impetus.

3. Considering the very concrete circumstances of your communities, I invite you to look again to Christ and to base your entire lives on him. By returning to him, by drawing every day from the living fountain of his word and Sacraments, the Church finds the strength which gives her life and supports her in her witness. Paul wrote to the Galatians: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (2:20). His example helps us to understand ever more fully the mystery of Christís presence in our lives: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20). Christ is with us; his is a consoling presence which gives us peace and reassurance on our journey. It is a demanding presence, which obliges us not to keep for ourselves the treasure we have received: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1Co 9,16).

Brothers, we shall find in him the path that leads to a strong spiritual life, a path of holiness, to be offered to all the baptized of our communities. Faithful in joyfully celebrating the Eucharist which constitutes and gathers the Christian community ever since the Lordís Resurrection, the faithful find in it nourishment for their faith. As they gather round the table of the word and the Bread of Life, they overcome the distractions of everyday life and find strength. They become more aware of their identity as Godís children, and they consolidate this identity in order to be true witnesses in the Church and in the world. By being rooted in prayer, and through attentive listening to the word and love of the liturgy, we become more receptive to the call of the Holy Spirit, who tells us to go forth, proclaim courageously the Gospel of peace (Ep 6,15) and bear witness to it in the family, culture and society. Saint Paul, overcome by the grace of Christís call, bore greater witness than anyone else to the newness of Christianity and taught it thoroughly. He let himself be led into an entirely new way of living, completely dedicated to Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel.

4. I wish to express once again my admiration for the harmony which exists among the Christians of Syria. The presence of His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas and His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV is an eloquent sign of this. Your Beatitude, I was touched by your recent declarations on the depth of fraternal communion that exists among the Christian Churches in this country, a communion which you intend to strengthen further. I take this opportunity to extend fraternal greetings to His Beatitude Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, whom I have called to Rome as a worthy representative of the entire Catholic East. I also greet His Beatitude the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Pierre VIII, as well as the other Patriarchs, Cardinals and Bishops present. The true understanding which exists among the Patriarchs, Bishops and dignitaries of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities is a beautiful testimony to Christian love in a country where the majority of the citizens are Muslim in religion.

We remember that it was in fact in Syria that the Church of Christ discovered her truly catholic character and took on her universal mission. The Apostles Peter and Paul, each according to the grace received, worked here to gather together the one family of Christ, welcoming believers coming from different cultures and nations. It is with satisfaction that we witness the development of cooperation between the Churches and Ecclesial Communities. This cannot fail to contribute to reconciliation and the pursuit of unity. May this coming together help you to bear ever more credible witness to Jesus Christ, who died and rose in order "to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (Jn 11,52). May this cooperation help to make the Church of Christ more beautiful and authentic in the eyes of the followers of other religions.

For their part, the faithful deeply appreciate the opportunities to take part in common ecumenical prayer. This openness should be further strengthened and initiatives promoted in which the Churches can cooperate in all areas.

Divisions among Christians hinder the spread the Gospel. What is more "ecumenism is not only an internal question of the Christian Communities. It is a matter of the love which God has in Jesus Christ for all humanity; to stand in the way of this love is an offence against him and against his plan to gather all people in Christ" (Ut Unum Sint UUS 99). Having lived so close to Muslim believers over the centuries, the Christians of Syria immediately understand the close connection between the unity of the community and the witness which derives from fraternal communion.

In this area too, I encourage you to engage in genuine dialogue in daily life, a dialogue marked by mutual respect and hospitality. Did not Abraham and Sara, according to a poetic tradition recounted by Saint Ephraem the Syrian, receive the gift of the child of the promise because they had eaten what was left over from the hospitable meal which they had offered to the three Angels?

5. Pastors are certainly not short of preoccupations. The most insistent, without a doubt, is the emigration of so many Christian families, and many young people. They all hope to find a more comfortable future elsewhere. I am sure that each of you has often asked the anguished question: What can I do? You can do many things. First, you can make your contribution to making your country economically prosperous. You can help to make it a country in which every citizen has the same rights and duties before the law, where everyone is concerned with living in fairness and peace both inside its borders and with all the neighbouring countries. Contributing to increasing confidence in your countryís future is one of the greatest services the Church can make to society. Another practical step is to encourage Christians to promote solidarity by sharing your peopleís difficulties and sufferings. Your influence on young people is great: speak to their generous hearts by explaining, correcting and encouraging, and especially by showing through your own personal example that the Christian values of mind and heart are better able to make people happy than any material possessions. Give them a human and Christian ideal, and help them to discover that, as the author of the Letter to Diognetus said, "the place that God has assigned to them is so noble that they are not allowed to desert it" (VI, 10).

In this spirit, interreligious dialogue and mutual cooperation, particularly between Christians and Muslims, is an important contribution to peace and understanding between people and communities. It should also lead to common witness to promote full recognition of the dignity of the human person.

6. Dearly beloved brothers in Christ! I cannot end these words of fraternal comfort in any better way than by making my own the recommendations of Saint Paul to the Elders of the Church of Ephesus: "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood" (Ac 20,28).

May the same Lord give you the strength to do this, through the Death and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and son of man, to the glory of God our Father! I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos to whom the liturgy never ceases to sing, to her who is "our sister filled with prudence ... the treasure of our happiness" (Saint Ephraem the Syrian, Opera, II, 318) and who from the Upper Room watches over the Church with maternal care. Amen.



Speeches 2001 - Friday, 4 May 2001