Speeches 2001 - Friday, 6 April 2001
Saturday, 7 April 2001
1. I am very pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federative Republic of Brazil to the Holy See.
This pleasant occasion gives me the opportunity once again to experience the spiritual closeness which the Brazilian people foster for the Successor of Peter; at the same time it offers me the occasion to express once again my sincere affection and high esteem for your noble nation.
I warmly thank you for your kind words to me. I am especially grateful for the cordial thoughts and greetings which the President of the Republic, Mr Fernando Henrique Cardoso, wished to send to me. I ask your Excellency to be so kind as to reciprocate his greetings on my behalf, as well as my best wishes for good things.
2. Mr Ambassador, you mentioned the special moment in history which the universal Church and the Brazilian nation have been living since the celebration of the Great Jubilee, with the felicitous coincidence of the celebrations commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery and evangelization of the people of the Land of the Holy Cross. I pray God that Brazil will be able to preserve this very rich patrimony of spiritual and moral values, not only for the generations of today but also for the future generations that will come, eager to know the reasons for true hope (cf. 1P 3,15), like a seed sown in fertile soil, together with those responsible for the destiny of the nation.
3. Since then, I have wished to confirm your foresight in stressing the need for an ethic that is authentically universal, transcending ideologies, restoring confidence to the world and giving savour to life.
Today, Brazil's leadership in the concert of Latin American nations is taking on ever greater importance and it is necessary to emphasize the contribution it is making to its neighbours' progress, not only in the economic field but also in the socio-political field. Consequently, I cannot fail to point out now the initiatives for promoting peace which have exercised a notable influence on the consolidation of democracy.
In turn, this influence should reflect a leadership that is necessarily linked to the principles of justice and freedom that continually witness to the values of human dignity. Priorities remain the effort to overcome social imbalances, the promotion and defence of the rights of women and children, better conditions in prisons and religious teaching at educational centres.
With all this, I am sure that Your Excellency will agree with me that as priority concerns of the Brazilian government, they require respect for human life in every sector of society. Today there is an inert mass of people subjected to the media, mesmerized by the influence of a globalizing culture and drawn towards an individualistic view of personal freedom undermining the value of human life, the family and the indissolubility of marriage. What causes concern is the misconception that considers as "normal", situations which have already been accepted by developed societies; failure to incorporate them into the culture is thought to imply a backward step in the progress and well-being of individuals.
4. Mr Ambassador, the Church, in her role as mother and teacher, will never stop insisting on the basic principles of human existence established by our Creator. Not only are the loss of faith or its ineffectiveness in life at stake, but also the relaxing or obscuring of the moral sense, due to the lack of the formation of conscience by the moral principles of the Gospel. In the Encyclical Veritatis splendor I affirmed that "today's widespread tendencies towards subjectivism, utilitarianism and relativism appear not merely as pragmatic attitudes or patterns of behaviour, but rather as approaches having a basis in theory and claiming full cultural and social legitimacy" (n. 106).
Brazil's condition as a generally Catholic country, influenced by a profound impact of the faith, which was celebrated by the commemorations of the fifth centenary of its discovery, expressed the spiritual, cultural and moral identity of its people. One can never tire of pointing out the impact of the Gospel, considering that Christian formation was one of the crucial factors which contributed to the nation's peace and stability, without any major disturbances, down through these five centuries of history. The Church, therefore, in recalling basic Gospel principles in the life of every citizen and every community, does nothing more than show her zeal for such a spiritual and moral heritage, which has so often been preserved at the cost of the bloodshed of the martyrs, of the present and past, as was the case of the "protomartyrs of Brazil", in Rio Grande do Norte, whom I had the joy of beatifying last year.
It is of course the Church's responsibility to continue the task of evangelization, obeying the divine mandate to go into the whole world preaching the Gospel to all nations (cf. Mt Mt 28,19). However, respecting the traditional principles of independence between both institutions, she is grateful to the State for its collaboration in her arduous mission. In this regard, I express the hope that the movement of missionaries, both inside and outside the nation, will become easier. It is a matter of relying on new labourers for the Lord's harvest, which is indispensable today.
5. I have also been able to continue a frank and open dialogue with the representatives of the Brazilian Government, in the first place with the President and through my direct co-workers in the Apostolic See. My pastoral visits to your land have left a deep impression, giving me good reasons for hoping that Brazil will continue to be the leader of many South American countries.
As I said above, Brazil's presence in the United Nations and in the international organizations for trade, development and cooperation is increasingly important and influential. I express the hope that the principles which inspired your participation in the society of nations will be guided by criteria whose fundamental rule consists of respect for human dignity, especially with regard to the life of unborn children, today seriously threatened by the reproductive techniques attacking human dignity.
However, this is not all: the drug trade, corruption at every level, inequality among social groups and the irrational destruction of the environment, as I have already said on previous occasions, show that "in the absence of moral points of reference, an unbridled greed for wealth and power takes over, obscuring any Gospel-based vision of social reality" (Ecclesia in America, ).
The promotion of the values of peace, freedom, solidarity and defence of the neediest must inspire private and public life
6. As a result, sharing in the hopes of all Brazilians, I would like to repeat to you, Mr Ambassador, the Church's firm desire to collaborate, within her own mission, in all initiatives that aim at serving the cause of "the whole human person and of the whole of mankind". Thus she will continue with determination in her commitment to promote the values of peace, freedom, solidarity, and defence of the neediest that must inspire both private and public life. Faith and commitment to Jesus Christ require the Catholic faithful, also in Brazil, to become instruments of reconciliation and brotherhood, in truth, justice and love.
Mr Ambassador, before concluding, I ask you to convey my best wishes for happiness and peace to the President of the Republic. Furthermore, I would like to tell you that you can rely on the esteem, cordial welcome and support of this Apostolic See in the fulfilment of your mission, which I hope will be successful and fruitful.
At this moment, my thoughts turn to all Brazilians and to those who guide their destiny. I wish them all happiness with greater progress and harmony. I am certain that Your Excellency will convey these sentiments and hopes to your President. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, I ask almighty God to pour out an abundance of his blessings upon you, your mandate and your relatives, as well as upon all our beloved sons and daughters of the noble Brazilian nation.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. It gives me great joy to receive you today at the end of your visit ad limina Apostolorum which expresses your communion in faith and charity with the Successor of Peter, for whom Jesus prayed that his faith would not fail and that he would strengthen his brethren (cf. Lk Lc 22,32). This same faith, which links us and unites us around Christ, the true Teacher, also fosters the "anxiety for all the Churches" (2Co 11,28), which is the duty of the Apostles and their successors. Welcome, then, to this meeting and know that through each of you I cordially welcome the particular Churches of Paraguay, their priests, religious communities and faithful people.
I thank Bishop Jorge Livieres Banks of Encarnación, President of the Episcopal Conference, for his cordial words of greeting in which he expressed the affection you share for the Pope, as well as the principal hopes and concerns of your pastoral ministry. I fervently hope that the experience of this visit will strengthen and enlighten you in adversity, and encourage you in your desire to build ecclesial communities which are more and more vigorous, consistent with the Gospel and eager to live Christ's saving message with joy.
2. The Church in Paraguay has a glorious tradition of evangelization, which has wisely combined holiness of life with prolific missionary activity, as did the first Paraguayan saint, Fr Roque de Santa Cruz, whom I had the joy of canonizing with his two fellow martyrs during my unforgettable pastoral visit to that beloved land. At the dawn of the new millennium, I wanted to stress this aspect of the holiness of life precisely as the master key to every apostolic project, which must have its centre and starting point in Christ, "to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history and its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 29).
Paraguay also has one of the best known and most significant examples of a creative and daring evangelizing initiative, as were the Jesuit and Franciscan Reductions. Their memory still teaches us today that the "word of life" (Jn 6,68) approaches human beings with gentleness, frees him from many burdens, fosters his integral development and ennobles the culture of every people, purifying its distinctive values and bringing them to fullness. For "the Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and civilization, the centre of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings" (Gaudium et spes, GS 45).
In all this can be seen an invitation to Pastors today to spare no efforts in constantly proclaiming the Gospel and in forming Christian consciences with systematic and continual catechesis that becomes deeply rooted in all the faithful. In this regard, I would like to recall what I said to you during my memorable visit to your country: "It is not enough only to teach doctrine: you must make it your objective that those who receive religious instruction will be strongly motivated to put into practice what they learn" (Address to the Bishops of Paraguay, Asunción, 16 May 1988, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 27 June 1988, p. 7).
3. In this context, priests deserve special mention since they are the Bishop's principal co-workers in his pastoral mission and "assemble the family of God" in his name (Lumen gentium, LG 28). I am aware of the considerable efforts you have made to improve the national seminary, and it is encouraging to note the increase in the number of seminarians. It is important that they receive a sound spiritual, human and intellectual formation, which will continue in their priestly life after the seminary, so that they may be faithful, constant and generous stewards of God's mysteries.
The doubtless need for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life must in no way lead to demanding less or being content with a mediocre formation and spirituality. On the contrary, current circumstances require, perhaps even more than in other eras, greater attention to the selection and formation of those who, in addition to being competent in their own pastoral ministry, must practise by their example what they preach. In fact, the evangelizer, living "a simple life, taking Christ as the model, is a sign of God and of transcendent realities" (Redemptoris missio, RMi 42). Thus a special effort must be made so that priests, far from limiting themselves to the regular fulfilment of specific functions, feel totally imbued with the pastoral charity that constantly impels the apostle (cf. 2Co 5,14).
These reasons prompt us to state the serious responsibility of Bishops not only to organize their clergy's formation well, but also to help them personally "as brothers and friends" (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis, PO 7). In this delicate and crucial task, the Bishop must feel affectively and effectively close to all his priests, concerned for their spiritual and material needs and interested in their pastoral initiatives and daily activities. Do not overlook one aspect that I wanted explicitly to stress in my Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday this year, expressing "my admiration for this ministry, discreet, tenacious and creative, even if it is sometimes watered by those tears of the soul which only God sees" (n. 3), since "such daily commitment is precious in the eyes of God". For there are many occasions in which lack of appreciation for the ordinary exercise of the ministry leads to discouragement, especially in younger priests, who should be given special care and attention.
4. In Paraguay there is a large number of consecrated persons, men and women religious, to whom this country's history is deeply indebted and who continue to make a decisive contribution to evangelization today, either through direct pastoral work in parishes and missions, or through many works in the educational or charitable apostolate.
In this regard, the role played by consecrated women in so many areas of Church life deserves special mention, above all because of their simplicity, spirit of sacrifice and closeness to the people.
Their contribution is extremely valuable, particularly in those areas where the dignity of women is violated or insufficiently recognized, and in those where a specific collaboration of the "feminine genius" (Mulieris dignitatem, MD 31) is awaited in order to overcome this painful discrimination that still exists in our time.
While appreciating the availability, effectiveness and capacity of religious to respond promptly to the new frontiers of evangelization, the Church has continued to stress that they "find in their consecrated life a privileged means of effective evangelization. At the deepest level of their being they are caught up in the dynamism of the Church's life" (Evangelii nuntiandi, EN 69). For this reason she recalls the need for them always to maintain a "creative fidelity" to their charism (cf. Vita consecrata, VC 37). She also repeats that it is the responsibility of Bishops to safeguard and protect the rich spiritual patrimony of each institute (cf. CIC CIC 586,2), thus responding "to the gift of the consecrated life which the Spirit awakens in the particular Churches, by welcoming it with generosity and thanksgiving" (Vita consecrata, VC 48). This makes it clear that in building up the Church it is "God who gives the growth" more than human efforts (cf. 1Co 3,7). Furthermore, in view of the widespread need for spirituality, which appears as a "sign of the times" at the beginning of this millennium, we must expect that consecrated persons, by virtue of their charismatic origin, will bear witness to a truly evangelical life and that "kind of supernatural intuition" (Vita consecrata, VC 94), cultivated with care, which will make a special contribution to each particular Church, so that the presence of God will be kept alive and "a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer" will be inspired in all the faithful (Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 42 Vita consecrata, n. 39).
5. I am pleased to see that the Bishops of Paraguay have accompanied and continue to accompany their people in the sometimes difficult search for a harmonious and peaceful coexistence based on the values of justice, solidarity and freedom. In this connection, the Church, which has no desires unrelated to her mission, seeks the salvation of the human being and proclaims the Gospel, whose light "heals and elevates the dignity of the human person, in the way it consolidates society (Gaudium et spes, GS 40). Therefore, when necessary, she does not hesitate to denounce injustice and in her social teaching presents the ethical principles that must also guide the conduct of civil life.
Spreading the Church's social teaching is "an authentic pastoral priority" (Ecclesia in America, ), in order adequately to face the various situations with a clear conscience enlightened by faith, and to give encouragement and orientation to lay people's commitment in public life. For denunciations and the theoretical proclamation of principles will be of little use unless they are firmly interiorized through a general and systematic formation. This will open a channel so that values inspired by the Gospel can have a real, concrete impact on the world of culture, technology, economics or politics.
In addition to the formation which must guide the faith growth of every faithful Christian, an effort should also be made to evangelize those with responsibility in the various areas of public administration. Since the Gospel also has something to say to them, they must be helped to discover that Jesus' message is also valuable and relevant for them and their personal and family life, as well as for the role they fulfil (Ecclesia in America, ).
A particularly suitable way to enable the faithful to fulfil the great hopes that the Church has for them in their own tasks is an appropriate organization which will facilitate formation, the progressive incorporation of the younger generations, mutual help and coordinated apostolic activity. The birth of various lay movements can, in this respect, be an element of hope that deserves the special attention of Bishops, to whom the Apostle St Paul says: "Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast what is good" (1Th 5,19-21). In this way, with the help of their Pastors and in perfect communion with them, a vigorous laity will be forged and will be firmly committed to the path of personal holiness as they build up the Church and create a more just society.
6. I would not like to end this meeting without mentioning one of the most precious legacies enriching Paraguayan Ecclesial Communities: popular piety. In many cases this is the way that the Gospel has sunk deeper roots in the hearts of many believers. It is necessary to foster this expressive ability, which involves the totality of the person and pervades community life, channeling it towards a progressive deepening in faith that will illumine all the aspects of his life. In this way, they will be more aware each day that they must grow as living stones which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1P 2,5), with the energy that stems from the "masterworks of God", which are the sacraments (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1116).
7. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I entrust you and your pastoral intentions to the Virgin Mary, our heavenly Mother, fervently invoked by the Paraguayan faithful as the Pure and Shining Conception of Caacupé. May she extend her hand to the beloved sons and daughters of Paraguay, to whom I ask you to bring the Pope's greetings and affection. With these hopes, which are accompanied by my prayer and affection, I bless you with all my heart.
1. Welcome to this meeting, which you so desired! I greet you with affection and I thank you for this visit, which permits me to better understand your expectations and hopes as young people from different parts of the world who have come to Rome to study. I greet Mons. Remigio Musaragno, Director of the John XXIII International Cultural Centre, in which he has been active for the last 40 years. In thanking him for the cordial words that he wished to address to me, I extend my best wishes to him that the priestly jubilee he recently celebrated may be an occasion for renewed self-giving to Christ and of ever more generous service to his brethren.
With him I greet the person who interpreted your sentiments and all those who generously cooperate in the life of your community. I think of all the students of the less wealthy nations of the world and the ecclesial communities which look after them. I especially recall, in addition to your worthy centre, those that are represented here today: the Central Office for Foreign Students in Italy (UCSEI) in Rome and in Perugia, and the La Pira International Centre of Florence.
2. You come from 50 countries and you spend an important period of your youth in Rome. This is a precious cultural and formative opportunity, which enriches you with scientific skills and new human experiences, permitting you to prepare to be protagonists who are generous and attentive to the development of your respective nations. It is certainly a unique privilege for you to reside in the Eternal City, the centre of the Catholic Church. Here you can admire important and prestigious traces of ancient Roman civilization, as well as eloquent testimonies of the Christian faith. Here you can open your heart and mind to the knowledge and values of fraternity, of reception and respect for the riches of every people.
In your Centre, where young people of different cultures, races and nations live together, it is possible to obtain a unique and enriching experience of human and spiritual "fellowship". The variety of origins of the residents permits the Centre to be a school of fraternal living, where the invitation to dialogue among cultures, which in the Message for this year's World Day of Peace I proposed as a privileged path for the construction of the civilization of love and peace, becomes current and fruitful. Dialogue does indeed lead to acknowledging the richness of diversity, preparing souls for its reciprocal acceptance, in the perspective of an authentic cooperation responding to the original vocation to the unity of the entire human family.
3. Dear students, I would like today to entrust to you, who one day, please God, will be the protagonists of the history of your countries, the task of making the most of these years of formation to grow humanly, culturally and spiritually. Only in this way can you be builders of new societies, where everyone feels accepted as a member of the same family, called to live in solidarity and peace.
In order for this to happen, apart from the essential scientific and professional preparation, you must also give attention to your personal relationship with God. In a world where the dominant interests seem to be material ones, I urge you to seek "first the kingdom of God and his righteousness", because all the rest, as Jesus himself assures us, will be given to you "as well" (cf. Mt Mt 6,33). Moreover, the experience of faith, in a context of multiculturalism, will help you not to submit to easy standardizations, to cultural models inspired by a secularized and practically atheistic concept of life, as also to forms of radical individualism. It will spur you instead to acquire a more mature relationship with the values of your culture, to enrich them in the comparison with other traditions and to verify them with the experience gained from the encounter with Christ.
4. These, dear young people, are the conditions that can render your Centre a place of hope, a family within which each one respects and loves the other, a training ground for the "civilization of love". Coming from many countries, you can reflect together on the motives which, unfortunately, generate divisions and hate in some of the peoples to whom you belong. Together you can mature in reciprocal knowledge, seeking what unites and overcoming those atavistic contrasts that sometimes humiliate the dignity of man. The experience of welcoming, of mutual understanding and, when necessary, of pardon form a daily training to prepare you for future responsibilities, when you will be asked to be builders of solidarity and peace, healing wounds and recomposing in minds and hearts the positive condition of fraternity.
5. Your house is dedicated to my venerable predecessor, Bl. John XXIII. He was the Pope of dialogue and peace, of goodness and kindness towards all. During his brief but intense pontificate, he began an aggiornamento that was able to impress on the Church a vast and meaningful renewal. With the Second Vatican Council, he then prepared the Church for the challenges of the third millennium. In the various roles to which he was called by Providence, he preserved his simple faith and a constant attachment to his popular roots.
I entrust each one of you to the intercession of Bl. John XXIII, who is particularly close to you. May he help you to preserve with fidelity your human and Christian identity, and make you ready to open yourselves courageously to the needs of your brothers. I also invoke on you the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Lord, and I bless you together with your hopes, your families, the persons that are dear to you and your countries of origin.
Dear Young People,
1. Welcome! As in past years, you have returned to Rome to spend Holy Week together. Many of you perhaps are here in this marvellous city for the first time, but for your association this Roman gathering, which includes a visit to the Successor of Peter, has become something of a custom.
Thank you for this meeting and for your youthful enthusiasm. I affectionately greet you and your superiors. I greet and especially thank those who in your name expressed the sentiments you share. I hope that each of you will spend these holy days in an atmosphere of deep spirituality.
2. The theme of the congress that has has brought you together is "A Human Face for the Global World". This is a topic that allows you to compare experiences and proposals on globalization, a phenomenon that will increasingly mark society in the future.
You grasp the positive aspects of this process, but without ignoring the dangers. It cannot be the economy that dictates the models and pace of development and, even if it is only right to provide for material needs, the values of the spirit must never be stifled. The true must always prevail over the useful, good over well-being, freedom over fashion, people over structures. On the other hand, it is not enough to criticize; we must go further: we must be builders. For Christians cannot limit themselves to analyzing the historical processes under way and maintain a passive attitude, as if they were beyond their capacities to intervene because guided by blind and impersonal forces. Believers are convinced that every human event is under the provident hand of God, who asks everyone to cooperate with him in guiding history to an end worthy of man.
3. In short, the fundamental issue involves a decisive question: How do I live the Christian faith? For me, is it just a set of beliefs and devotions restricted to the private sphere, or is it also a force that demands to be translated into decisions affecting my relationship with others? How much a man and woman of faith can influence society!
Part of Christian realism is to understand that great social changes are the fruit of small courageous daily choices. You often ask yourselves: when will this world of ours be fully conformed to the Gospel message? The answer is simple: when you first think and always act according to Christ, at least a part of that world will, in you, be entrusted to him. Bl. Josemaria, from whose spirituality you draw your inspiration, wrote: "Among those around you, apostolic soul, you are the stone fallen into the lake. With your word and example produce a first ripple ... and it will produce another ... and then another, and another ... each time wider. Now do you understand the greatness of your mission?" (The Way, 831).
4. In today's society, which pursues the optimization of productive activity, we note a process of standardization that endangers personal freedoms and even national cultures. How should we react? The Church's social doctrine contains the principles for an answer that respects the role of individuals and groups. But to promote a global culture of those moral absolutes which are the rights of the person, it is necessary for each Christian to begin with himself by striving to reflect the image of Christ in all his thoughts and actions.
This is certainly not an easy programme. It is instead a demanding act of faith, because following Christ means taking a path that leads to self-denial in order to give oneself to God and to others.
5. In the Message for the recent World Youth Day, which we celebrated yesterday, Palm Sunday, I wrote that Christ "is the Messiah who did not fit into any mould, who came without fanfare and who cannot be "understood' with the logic of success and power, the kind of logic often used by the world to verify its projects and actions". And I explained that following the Master in this way involves the courage of a total "yes" to his call: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lc 9,23). These words express the radicalness of a choice that does not allow for hesitation or second thoughts. It is a hard demand: these words today still sound like scandal and folly (cf. 1Co 1,22-25). And yet this is the demand that we must follow.
Dear young people, may the Lord grant you to grow in understanding the mission to which he calls you. As I wish you a Holy Easter, allow me to renew the invitation contained in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte: "Put out into the deep - Duc in altum!": Jesus' invitation to Peter (cf. Lk Lc 5,4) offers you the measure of the response that the Lord expects from you. A total response of complete abandonment into his hands.
Duc in altum, where the sea is deepest, where the mystery of God's love opens before you marvellous spaces that an entire life will not be enough to explore.
May you be accompanied by Our Lady, whom I ask to guide you on the demanding path of holiness. It is with holiness that the world is changed. I cordially bless you.
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The first Good Friday of the third millennium.
Night has fallen.
The moon shines high in the sky.
The faithful of Rome and countless pilgrims
have gathered to walk with Jesus
along the Way of the Cross.
At the Colosseum, splendid monument
of the Roman Empire, now we celebrate
the Statio Urbis et Orbis.
a journey of solidarity.
Jesus, the Son of God, born of woman,
is one with his brothers and sisters
- humanity, suffering and bewildered -:
in their steps, the steps of exiles
of the disillusioned who wander aimlessly,
in the halting steps of children, the sick,
of the condemned who approach the place
of their execution. Yet Jesus, as he walks
towards the Place of the Skull,
is leading humanity towards the splendour
a journey of discipleship.
Jesus, the one Teacher, has said:
"If any man would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross
and follow me" (Mt 16,24).
Follow me always. Follow me to Calvary.
Beneath the Cross stand Mary,
the first disciple,
and the Beloved Disciple.
As he ascends towards Calvary,
Jesus knows that he is about to teach
his greatest lesson
and to confirm that teaching by the gift
of his very self:
"Greater love has no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends"
Speeches 2001 - Friday, 6 April 2001