Monday, 3 December 2001
I cordially welcome you to the Vatican, and not for the first time as I have had several opportunities to do so in the past when you came here as Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland's Government and later, as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Today, however, I greet you in a special way. Indeed, you come as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland to the Apostolic See, to present the Letters from the President that accredit you to this office. I gladly accept them, and offer you my best wishes that your service as intermediary between Poland and the Holy See may be effective and fruitful, and give you satisfaction and joy.
I thank you for your words in which you referred to the essential elements of the current situation in our homeland, in the Church and in the world. All that can be done here is to sum them up. Indeed, the future of Poland, of the Church and of the world are inseparably and reciprocally linked, interpenetrated and conditioned. The process of social and economic transformation in Poland, which has been underway since 1989, is taking place in the context of positive changes in the world such as the formation of the European Union or the extension of the Atlantic Pact. On the other hand, the distressing wars in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and Afghanistan, the lack of peace in the Middle East and terrifying acts of terrorism like the one perpetrated in New York, giving rise to the feeling that the stability of the political and economical order that has prevailed until now is precarious, have an enormous influence on the mindset and actions of Poles.
However, it seems that in the world's complex political situation Poland is finding its own way to develop the State. Independently of the sequence of events in the world and despite the ups and downs, since 1989, we have seen constant progress in the process of putting our regained freedom into practice. There are obviously plenty of problems; but we cannot overlook the great achievements in the work of building a sovereign State, a State of rights and a State of prosperity, of the Governments that have succeeded one another and of society as a whole. All that we have managed to achieve in the field of political freedom, religious freedom and the democratization of social life should be emhasized here.
I follow all the news from our country carefully. I am delighted that its process of economic development is continuing smoothly. However, at the same time, I am acutely aware of the neediness of many individuals and of numerous families who turn to the Pope for aid and for spiritual and material support. Many of them are painfully affected by the phenomenon of unemployment, the lack of openings for their talents, education and energy in building a future that measures up to their needs and wishes. I am confident that the general development of public life in Poland will open for all citizens new prospects and ample opportunities to build a dignified and happy future.
I can assure you that the Church will continue to second this work in conformity with her own mission and duty.
At the presentation of his Letters of Credence of His Excellency Mr Stefan Frakiewicz on 11 July 1995, I said to him that the Church desires neither privileges nor a special place for herself. All she wants is to have the proper conditions in which to carry out her spiritual mission. Today I can say more. I can point out that in fulfilling this mission the Church is willing and able to continue the work of consolidation and formation of the spiritual, cultural and social inheritance of a nation that for 1,000 years has been linked to the values inherent in Christianity. The signing of the Concordat in 1993, and its ensuing ratification created the conditions for the Church to work actively for the good of the nation. Despite the opinion of sceptics, it has proved possible to see that this Concordat has not only helped to improve cooperation between the Church and State institutions by making more room for the freedom of individuals and of society, but that it has been a key to ecumenism, with regard to other Churches and denominational communities in Poland.
In the same spirit, the Church would also like to be present in the process of Poland's preparation for full entry into the European Union. It is right for Poland to aspire to the place it is due in the political and economic contexts of united Europe's structures. However, she should be present as a State that has its own spiritual and cultural features, its own inalienable historical tradition that has been linked to Christianity since the very dawn of history. Poland cannot deprive itself of this tradition, of its national identity. In becoming a member of the European Community, the Republic of Poland cannot lose any of its material and spiritual wealth which our ancestors defended at the price of their blood. In defending these values, the Church wants to be a partner and an ally of those who govern our country. The Church, as I said to the Polish Parliament during my last pilgrimage to our homeland, "warns against a reduced vision of Europe which would see it solely in its economic and political aspects, as she does against an uncritical attitude towards a consumerist model of life. If we wish Europe's new unity to last, we must build on the basis of the spiritual values which were once its foundation, keeping in mind the wealth and diversity of the cultures and traditions of individual nations. This must be the great European Community of the Spirit". Here I would like to repeat once again that "the Polish nation's historical experience and its spiritual and cultural wealth can contribute effectively to the common good of the entire human family, especially in consolidating peace and security in Europe" (Address to the Polish Parliament, Warsaw, 11 June 1999).
Poland is still facing enormous challenges that are vital for society, today and in the future. I nourish the hope that the Church and the State, whilst preserving their autonomy and specific tasks, will set out to undertake these tasks together and in agreement. I never cease to pray God that these joint efforts may have the expected results, for every Pole and for the whole nation.
I ask you, Madam Ambassador, kindly to convey my cordial greetings to the President and Government of the Republic of Poland. In conformity with St Paul's instructions, I pray that the decisions and actions of all who are responsiblie for the constitutional structure of the Republic and its place on the European scene and that of the world, may be dictated by the deepest concern for its good, and that they may constantly work for this good.
Madam Ambassador, I once again express the hope that your mission as intermediary between the Republic of Poland and the Apostolic See may bring you joy and satisfaction and serve the common good of all the sons and daughters of our beloved country.
Tuesday, 4 December 2001
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I am delighted to receive you today, during your ad limina visit. It has given you the opportunity once again to come in pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to renew your bonds of communion with the Bishop of Rome and with the universal Church. It also helps you to live your mission of guiding the ecclesial community of Honduras, whom I had the joy of visiting in 1983.
I cordially thank Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa and President of the Episcopal Conference, for the kind words he addressed to me in the name of his Brother Bishops. I greet him saying with the Apostle Paul: "grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7). Likewise, I ask you to communicate my affectionate greetings to the members of every ecclesial community of your beloved country.
I feel very much united to you in sharing "the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and the anguish" (Gaudium et spes GS 1) of the Honduran citizens. I keep before me still the grief and the worry in the face of the devastation caused by the hurricane "Mitch" in October 1998 and more recently by the tropical storm "Michelle". Faced with such catastrophes you have sought to relieve the sufferings of your people, already so tried by poverty, and stir up new hopes in them. I hope that the new recently elected political leaders can continue the work of true national reconstruction that brings real development for the Country, with due respect for the dignity of the human person and his fundamental rights.
2. The upcoming commemoration of 500 years of the First Mass celebrated on the continent is another source of hope and joy for the Church in Honduras. This anniversary should be lived as a providential occasion to begin a new journey full of initiatives, always remembering the words of the Lord: "I am with you always" (Mt 28,20). In the flyer you have published for this event you say that "with grateful memories and the impressions still fresh of the great events of spirituality of the Great Jubilee of 2000, the pilgrim Church in Honduras gives thanks to God and with great joy invites the Universal Church to join in her praise to God the Father, who saves through faith in his Son Jesus Christ, made the Lord of History by the Holy Spirit. We are inspired and moved recalling that our territory was chosen by the Providential God so that on 14 August 1502 the humble brother Alejandro celebrated here the First Mass in a place elevated and forested that today we call Baia di Trujillo" (Fifth Centenary of the First Mass on the American continent, Tegucigalpa, 3-1-2001). It is a good occasion to analyze the history of the evangelization of this land, that is part of the history of your Nation. It will contribute to making understood the providential acton of the Lord and to looking with hope to the future, strengthening the faith and giving a new impulse to ecclesial life in all its aspects.
3. As Pastors you are very concerned about the situation of persistent poverty in Honduras, even though it has a fertile territory where material resources are not lacking. This makes us think of the need to improve the social order, by promoting greater justice and structures that favour a more equitable distribution of goods. It is primarily necessary to avoid having a few citizens with so many resources to the detriment of the great majority. When this kind of phenomenon appears, to economic hardship there is added the isolation of the poorest who, locked in their own world, lose hope in a better society. As a result, the country suffers when peasants feel marginalized, when Indian ethnic groups and citizens most in need of protection, such as children and youths, are forgotten and abandoned to their fate.
It is urgent to promote real justice, because "to ignore this demand could encourage the temptation among the victims of injustice to respond with violence", that is "the peoples excluded from the fair distribution of the goods originally destined for all" (Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 10). It is necessary to promote the diffusion of the rich patrimony of the Social Doctrine of the Church, with which Catholics can inspire and favour initiatives aimed at overcoming situations of poverty and marginalization that afflict many people. It must not be forgotten that concern for the social dimension is part of the Church's evangelizing mission (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 41) and that "human promotion is part of evangelization, because the latter tends towards the integral liberation of the person" (inaugural address of the Fourth General Conference of the Latin-american Bishops, 12-10-1992, n. 13).
Once again I invite you, dear Brothers, to insist on the preferential option for the poor, neither exclusive nor excluding, also programming pastoral activities in villages and rural zones. Poor and marginalized people have a right to feel the special closeness of their Pastors, remembering what the psalmist says: "Blessed is he who considers the poor" (Ps 40,2).
4. The break-up of the family, which can also be seen in Honduras, is an equally troubling phenomenon in our day. As you highlight in your five-year report, there are many families who do not live according to Christian norms. Apart from the circumstances that lead to these problematic situations, we cannot remain inactive before them. In the Encyclical Evangelium vitae I wrote: "Although it is true that "the future of humanity passes by way of the family', it must be admitted that modern social, economic and cultural conditions make the family's task of serving life more difficult and demanding. In order to fulfil its vocation as the "sanctuary of life', as the cell of a society which loves and welcomes life, the family urgently needs to be helped and supported.... For her part, the Church must untiringly promote a plan of pastoral care for families, capable of making every family rediscover and live with joy and courage its mission to further the Gospel of life" (n. 94).
Moreover, when the domestic hearth is destroyed, other dramatic situations result like single or abandoned mothers, who must struiggle to support and educate children, and the problem of street children. The Church and society cannot remain indifferent before these facts.
It is necessary to sensitize all the available areas, including mass media, in order to strengthen marriage and the family and respond to certain campaigns or fashions that threaten the family institution and life itself in a concealed way.
5. Looking towards the future of humanity, offering an adequate education to children and young people is of capital importance. Honduran society must keep in mind that education, a fundamental right of every person, is at the foundation of the growth of individuals and of society. A common effort is needed because the field of education regards everyone. The contribution of the Church in Honduras cannot limit itself to a few colleges. The witness of professors and Christian teachers, in addition to Catholic schools must be added to ensure an adequate formation for future generations.
6. The spirituality of communion that "embodies and reveals the very essence of the mystery of the Church" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 42) and is a "great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning" (ibid. n. 43), should be carefully applied to the particular Churches. It is the responsibility of their Pastors to foster harmony among all, and in particular, the unity of priests with one another and around their Bishop. For this I invite you to give your attention to those who are your principal collaborators, not limiting your efforts nor being satisfied with the management and organization of the clergy. Closeness is necessary, constant personal contact, cordiality and encouragement in the mission entrusted to each one, following the example of the Good Shepherd who calls his sheep "one by one" (Jn 10,3). In Honduras, where priests often have to look after a lot of the faithful, at times spread out in remote regions, and where a lot of them have left their native land to serve the Honduran ecclesial communities, the Bishops must be ready to welcome them, considering them as "sons and friends" (Christus Dominus CD 16).
These considerations highlight the validity of the norm that prescribes the personal residence of the diocesan Bishop in his see (cf. CIC., c. 395) as well as the urgency of its strict fulfillment.
7. The spirit of communion must also bear abundant fruit in every particular Church in the consecrated life. The various Institutes and Societies have their own charism and must faithfully keep their foundational spirit, remembering that it is "not restricted to any one Institute, but benefits the whole Church" (Vita consecrata VC 49). In your country, where consecrated persons have an important role as evangelizers, this kind of life must be "more highly esteemed and promoted by Bishops, priests, and Christian communities" (Ecclesia in America ), being fully integrated into the particular Church to which they belong (cf. ibid.). Therefore the Pastors, in coordinating their efforts and initiatives, must propose not only a greater effectiveness in pastoral action, but also a more harmonious growth of the ecclesial community, where there are different charisms and ministries, but only one Lord who "produces all of them in everyone" (1Co 12,6).
8. Though there is a slight increase in the number of seminarians in Honduras, it remains urgent to generously foster vocations to the priesthood and to a life of special consecration. In addition to praying with insistence that the Lord "send laborers into his harvest" (Mt 9,38) and living in such a way that the exemplary life of priests and consecrated persons attracts the new generations, it is necessary to intensify an effective plan of vocational promotion (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 46).
With this plan there is the exciting task of provoking profound unrest in the hearts of youth and preparing them to welcome the invitation of the Lord with generosity: "Come, follow me" (Mt 19,21). This proposal must be made explicitly and directly, but don't forget that the first response to vocation is only the beginning of the journey. An accurate discernment of vocations and a serious spiritual, human, theological and cultural formation are decisive for candidates to the priesthood and consecrated life. The scarsity of vocations cannot be the cause of negligence in examining their fittingness. In the present social and cultural situation the requirements should be stricter than in the past.
9. The participation of laity in Honduran ecclesial life merits special attention. I am thinking of the many agents of pastoral care and the Delegates of the Word of God, chosen and charged with holding appropriate Sunday celebrations, in places where a priest cannot be present to celebrate the Eucharist. Nor can we forget the many ecclesial Movements who enrich the Church with their charisms. Without doubt the services offered to the Church by lay faithful are very valid. However, we must avoid the error of thinking that they can substitute ordained ministers where these are lacking. These lay agents of pastoral care need a solid theological preparation in the spirituality of communion, highlighting the difference between the ecclesial service of the lay faithful and the ministries which are proper and exclusive to Holy Orders (cf. Lumen gentium LG 10 Christifedeles laici LG 22).
Laity should be invited to collaborate in an active, responsible way in the catechesis for the first Communion and for Confermation, in addition to the preparation of couples for the Sacrament of Marriage. It is essential that the parishes offer a systematic education in the Catholic faith that is not limited to superficial preparation to receive the Sacraments of Christian Initiation. Every one of the faithful has the right to receive a deep formation in the Catholic faith from the Church, suited to his age and condition, to grow in the faith. Moreover neglect in this field can be one of the reasons why many of the faithful leave the Church and join sects.
10. Dear Brothers, as I already proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, we are setting out anew from Christ, always contemplating his face, making ourselves witnesses of his love to put out into the deep. In our hope-filled journey, let us seek to stay ever closer to Him, to be invited anew to proclaim his saving message to all our brothers and sisters.
I implore the constant protection of the Virgin of Suyapa on all of you. May She accompany you in these new pastoral challenges. I also entrust to her your priests and the consecrated men and women with all the sons and daughters of Honduras, and I impart to you a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.
1. At the end of the year, that the United Nations dedicated to Volunteer work, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation for your constant dedication, in every part of the world, in going to meet those who live in poverty. Whether you work individually or gathered together in special associations, you represent for children, the elderly, the sick, people in difficulty, refugees and the persecuted a ray of hope that pierces the darkness of solitude and encourages them to overcome the temptations of violence and egotism.
What makes a volunteer dedicate his/her life to others? First of all, the innate movement of the heart that inspires every human being to help his fellow man. It is a law of existence. A volunteer experiences a joy that goes far beyond what he has done when he succeeds in giving himself freely to others.
For this reason, volunteer work is a special factor that contributes to humanization. Thanks to the many forms of solidarity and of service that they promote and make concrete, volunteer workers make society more attentive to the dignity of the human person and his/her many expectations. Through their activity, volunteers come to realize that, only if one loves and gives himself to others, does the human creature reach perfect fulfillment.
2. Christ, the Son of God made man, communicates to us the profound reason for this universal human experience. Revealing the face of God who is love (cf. 1Jn 4,8), He reveals to the human person that love is the supreme law of his being. In his earthly life Jesus made the divine tenderness visible, emptying "himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Ph 2,7) and "gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Ep 5,1). Sharing our earthly life unto death, he has taught us "to walk in charity".
Following in his footsteps in these two millennia, the Church has not ceased witnessing to this love, leaving an exemplary record thanks to the saints who left their mark on history. Among the more recent ones, I am thinking of St Maximilian Kolbe, who sacrificed himself to save the father of a family, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who consecrated herself to the poorest of the poor.
Through love of God and love of the brethren, Christianity releases all of its liberating and salvific power. Charity represents the most eloquent form of evangelization because, responding to corporal needs, it reveals to men God's provident and fatherly love, concerned for each one. It is not a matter of satisfying only the material needs of our neighbour like hunger, thirst, lack of housing, medical care, but to lead him to a personal experience of the charity of God. Through volunteer work, the Christian becomes a witness of this divine charity; he proclaims it and makes it tangible with courageous and prophetic contributions.
3. It is not enough to help whoever is in material difficulty; it is necessary at the same time to respond to his thirst for values and personal spiritual solutions. The kind of help we offer is important, but more important than the kind of help offered is the heart of the one who gives it. Whether dealing with microprojects or great initiatives, in any event, volunteer work is called to be a school of life, especially for young people, contributing to educate them in a culture of solidarity and outreach, open to the free gift of self.
How many volunteers through courageous commitment to their neighbour come to discover the faith! Christ, who asks to be served in the poor, speaks to the heart of the one who places himself at their service. He makes them experience the joy of disinterested love, that is the fountain of true happiness.
I warmly hope that the International Year of Volunteers, the occasion for organizing many initiatives and events, may help society to promote the many forms of volunteer work that are the sign of growth in social awareness. Often, volunteers fill gaps and anticipate the presence of public institutions that must give due recognition to the works born of their courageous initiative and foster them without losing the originating spirit.
4. Dear Brothers and Sisters, who make up this "army" of peace spread over the face of the earth, you are a sign of hope for our times. Wherever situations of hardship and suffering appear, make bear fruit the hidden resources of dedication, goodness and heroism in the heart of the human person.
Making myself the spokesman for the poor everywhere, I want to say "thank you' for your steadfast dedication. Continue your journey with courage; do not let difficulties ever stop you. May Christ, the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk Lc 10,30-37), be the sublime model to be imitated by every volunteer.
Imitate Mary, who going "in haste" to assist her cousin Elizabeth, became a messenger of joy and salvation (cf. Lk Lc 1,39-45). May she teach you her humble and concrete charity and obtain from the Lord the grace for you to recognize him in the poor and suffering.
With these wishes, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, and all whom you meet every day in the course of your service to the human person.
From the Vatican, 5 December 2001.
Thursday, 6 December 2001
With great pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bangladesh to the Holy See. I thank you for conveying the greetings of President A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury and of the Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, and I would ask you to assure them of my fervent prayers for the well-being of the entire nation.
Since the dramatic events of 11 September, it is clearer than ever that there is an urgent need for what you yourself have called "constructive dialogue to foster understanding among cultures and civilizations". Rather than dwelling upon what separates them, people of different cultures and religions must learn to respect one another on the basis of the many fundamental truths and values which they share. As I noted in this year’s World Day of Peace Message, "dialogue between cultures... is based upon the recognition that there are values which are common to all cultures because they are rooted in the very nature of the person" (No. 16). And given that Islam and Christianity worship the one God, Creator of heaven and earth, there is ample room for agreement and cooperation between them. A clash ensues only if Islam or Christianity is misconstrued or manipulated for political or ideological ends.
Among the values which provide a rich soil for fruitful dialogue, one that stands out is the universal need for human solidarity. With increasing global interdependence, the common destiny of the human family and the urgent need for a culture of solidarity become more evident. Yet this growing interdependence has also thrown new light on the many inequalities existing in our world. Despite the promises held out by globalization, social and economic imbalances in some places have become worse, and certain poorer nations may have reached a point of even further decline. For the sake of peace in the world, and in order to meet the demands of justice, these nations and their peoples must be helped, not only with immediate aid but also with the educational and technological support that will enable them to be a part of the process of global development and not remain excluded or marginalized. It is not a matter of dispensing favours but of recognizing the basic human right to a just share of resources. The promotion of justice is essential to a culture of solidarity.
Another point of quasi-universal agreement among the world’s peoples is a yearning for true peace. Sadly, there are some in the world who want conflict, and they will always try to wreak havoc. But most individuals and nations are prepared to make the courageous choices required to build genuine peace. At a time like this, the quest for peace sets before the international community decisions which can no longer be postponed. Even the most entrenched and long-standing conflict can be resolved if the will to work for reconciliation prevails.
Religion has an important role in this regard. The view of the person and of the world which it teaches greatly determines attitudes and thinking in facing the challenge of building a properly ordered society. Both Muslims and Christians insist upon the essentially transcendent character of the human person, created by God for a higher destiny, and the need to respect that element of transcendence in each individual. They agree further that the Creator has also revealed a way of life, based upon what you rightly call "fundamental human values and norms" which have their origin in God himself. In a sense, it is in regard to these fundamental values and norms that Islam and Christianity can most fruitfully engage in the constructive dialogue needed at this time.
A clear example of the possibility of such dialogue is to be seen in the shared reverence for the value of life itself. For Islam and Christianity, human life is a sacred and inviolable reality, since it has its origin and destiny in God himself. Therefore, it is never possible to invoke peace and despise life, a contradiction found all too often within human societies and human hearts. In cultures of both East and West, rich and poor, traditional and post-industrial, respect for human life is being threatened and eroded in so many ways. A great educational effort is needed in all religious traditions to teach the sacred value of life and spread an attitude of respect for it in every circumstance.
In the values which all people share we find what I have called the "moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples" (Speech to the United Nations General Assembly, 5 October 1995). This is the point where Islam and Christianity can and must meet, not only in a dialogue of words, but in a dialogue of service for the peace of the world.
Mr Ambassador, I am confident that the mission you are assuming today will help to strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between your nation and the Holy See; and I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Renewing my good wishes for your success and happiness, I invoke the abundant blessings of the Most High God upon yourself, the Government and the beloved people of Bangladesh.
Thursday, 6 December 2001
1. I am pleased to welcome your Excellency on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Djibouti to the Holy See, and I thank you for your kind words.
I would be grateful, Mr Ambassador, if you would kindly convey my thanks to President Ismaël Omar Guelleh for the courteous wishes he has conveyed to me through you and pass on to him my cordial good wishes for the prosperity and peace of all the inhabitants of your country.
2. You wished to stress the importance of peace and dialogue for understanding among nations. In the context of the recent events, safeguarding peace at an international level has become a priority for the collective union of the civil authorities and citizens of the countries in the world. As you know, this has long been a constant concern of the Holy See. It endeavours to encourage nations to seek peace with patience and determination, setting forth the necessary conditions to maintain it, fostering a dialogue that respects the parties involved, especially minorities, for whom every society should make room by appreciating each group's special contribution to the common good.
At both the local, regional and world levels dialogue is essential: on the one hand to avoid the tragically painful clashes and conflicts that unleash violence among human beings and peoples, and on the other, to assure an increasingly fraternal understanding. North East Africa, the region of the world in which your country is located, has not escaped distressing situations of tension and conflict. Mr Ambassador, I want to recognize the authorities of your country for their active part in solving the Somali conflict, thanks to the Conference on Reconciliation that took place in Arta last year. I hope that the lasting effort expended on the quest for friendly coexistence among the different protagonists will be followed up and if possible extended to other troubled areas, giving priority to negotiation and the avoidance of every form of violence. There is no doubt that this is the way to peace, a solid, enduring peace, to which all people of good will aspire.
3. However, whether it is between persons, among the different members of a single nation or among states, there can be no solid, lasting peace unless all are guaranteed living conditions which respect their dignity. This need for justice certainly calls for a more equitable sharing of resources among the rich and the poor at all levels of social life, and for the institution of a real culture of solidarity (Message for World Day of Peace, 2001, n. 17). It is a fundamental right, and at the beginning of this new millennium, requires that we develop a new and fruitful dialogue among cultures and religions with the desire for mutual recognition and in order to offer a common service to men and women that may truly respect their moral and spiritual values. Initiating, keeping up and intensifying this dialogue is one of the missions that the Holy See will continue to pursue. As you recalled, Mr Ambassador, your presence here also shows that your country, "a land of exchanges and encounters", is interested in and eager to defend these values, which are an expression of the fundamental dignity of every human being and must be respected as such.
4. I am pleased, Mr Ambassador, through you to be able to greet the Catholic community of the Republic of Djibouti. It is small in numbers, but is actively involved in the nation's economic and social development, as well as in the service of the education of youth. I know that the Catholic schools are appreciated, not only because of the teachers' competence but also because of the quality of human values they pass on. The Catholic Church in your country has good relations with the entire population, as well as with the different religious authorities. She wishes to keep alive a fraternal dialogue with everyone, in mutual respect and with a view to greater mutual esteem and the quest for the common good. Through you, may I greet all the members of the Catholic community, the bishop and the priests, and encourage them, through a creative charity, to witness tirelessly to God's love for every man, woman and child.
5. Mr Ambassador, at the time that you are beginning your mission as representative to the Holy See, please accept my very best wishes for its success and for the continuation and development of harmonious relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Djibouti. I assure you that to assist you in your noble task, you will always find an attentive welcome and cordial understanding among those who work with me. I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, and upon your family, your personnel and all the people of Djibouti.
Thursday, 6 December 2001