1. I am pleased to receive you today and to welcome you at the time when you are presenting the Letters accrediting you to the Apostolic See as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your countries: Bangladesh, Djibouti, Finland, Eritrea, Georgia, Lesotho, Rwanda, Mauritius and Mali. I also greet the new Ambassador of Switzerland on a special mission. I would be grateful if you would kindly convey to your respective Heads of State my gratitude for the messages that you have brought me and convey my cordial and respectful greetings and warm good wishes for them and for their mission at the service of all their fellow-citizens. May I also use this occasion to greet through you the authorities of your countries and all your fellow countrymen. I am happy to greet in a special way your Catholic fellow-citizens and their pastors. They are all eager to contribute to the harmony and peace of your country.
2. Today, our contemporaries are full of anxiety, produced by the unstable situation our world is going through and from uncertainty about the future; many seem unable to envisage a serene future, especially the young who are disturbed by the tragic events that the adult world has to offer them. In particular it is the duty of national leaders and their representatives in the diplomatic service to be deeply committed to uprooting what is a source of conflict and tension among human groups and among nations through dialogue and international cooperation. There is no specific issue, for which you cannot find a negotiated solution, that should destroy the respect for individuals and peoples.
3. Your mission, Your Excellencies, consists of serving the noble cause of your country and the noble cause of peace. These are the highest acts of love for neighbour that must be carried out with a desire to contribute to the common good and to better understanding between individuals and peoples. We will then be able to offer the generations that come after us a world it will be good to live in. We must constantly remember that all the injustices that our contemporaries can suffer, all situations of poverty, the lack of education for youth are the source of a great number of the violent conflicts that have erupted in the world. Justice, peace, the fight against poverty and against the lack of spiritual, moral and intellectual formation of young people, these are the essential features of the commitment for which I appeal to national leaders, diplomats, and all persons of good will.
4. At the time that you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I would like to offer you my very best wishes. I gladly invoke an abundance of divine blessings upon you, your families, your staff and the nations that you represent.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. I joyfully welcome you and extend a warm welcome to each of you. Thank you for your visit; it takes place as a way to observe an important date: the 150th anniversary of the birth of your Founder Bl. Annibale Maria Di Francia. I greet your Superior General, Fr Georg Nalin, and thank him for the kind words he addressed to me in the name of everyone.
By welcoming you, who represent the Rogationists, the Daughters of Divine Zeal, the Rogationist Missionaries, the graduates and Lay Vocation Promoters who share the same charism, I wish to greet your colleagues and all who form a network of apostolic life in your religious families. On every continent they give themselves humbly, generously and joyfully for the spreading of "Rogate" (Ask the Master) born from the Heart of Christ.
During the Jubilee Year, your zealous religious Families had the opportunity to revisit their shared origins in an ideal way to draw from them inspiration and encouragement. At the same time, they did not fail to look to the future, with a renewed commitment to know the Rogationist charism better and to disseminate it enthusiastically on every continent.
2. Together with you, I want to give thanks to God for the good done by your Congregations in these 150 years of history. I thank Him because the reassuring stream of charity and zeal which had its beginning in 1878 continues to flow. Fr Annibale's providential meeting with an almost blind beggar was the spark that set him on fire with evangelical love. He came into contact with the "Avignone" slums of Messina (Italy), where the poorest of the poor lived, the real "rejects" of society.
"From that time" - he writes in his memoirs - "I found myself involved, according to my limited energies, in the spiritual and temporal promotion of that abandoned people" (Annibale Maria Di Francia, Preziose Adesioni, Messina 1901, p. 3). From that time the flame of charity burned brightly in his life. He chose to consecrate himself totally to the poor and humble, seeing and serving Christ in them. That humble little seed has grown in a marvellous way during the last 150 years. It has become a majestic tree, that already spreads its branches to every part of the world, through the ardent zeal of the sons and daughters of Fr Annibale. While I congratulate you on the journey accomplished, I encourage you to live even more faithfully your calling and more generously, your apostolic efforts.
The observance of this important event for your Institutes cannot be limited to a simple recalling of the past, however wonderful, but it must become an impulse to look to the future, to respond with the original fervour of the beginning to ancient longings and new challenges of humanity.
3. What needs to be done to ensure that the vigorous tree, planted by your Blessed Founder, continues to bear fruit in abundance?
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the answer to the question that you pondered over in the Jubilee Year, is age-old and yet ever new: it is holiness, the fertile soil in which your religious Family has grown, a soil that can still promise a hopeful and fruitful future in the new millennium.
Yes, holiness is possible even in these troubled times. Rather, it is the priority that I pointed out in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte at the end of the Great Jubilee as the way for thinking about the whole pastoral life of the Church (cf. n. 30).
Thus, today more than ever, consecrated life has to play a crucial role: it must be holy, if it does not want to lose its basic authenticity; it must be lived entirely in accord with the strict requirements of prayer, humility, poverty, the spirit of sacrifice and the faithful observance of the vows.
The teaching of your Blessed Founder is a solid foundation for you. Fr Annibale Maria Di Francia knew "that the vocation to the religious state is the same as the vocation to holiness" (L'Anima del Padre, p. 38).
How relevant are his words! They can inspire you to ensure the primacy of the interior life in the midst of your many educational, assistance, charitable, missionary and editorial activities.
4. Do not be afraid that the time given to prayer can somehow be a brake on the apostolic dynamism and praiseworthy service to your brethren, that make up your daily labour.
Precisely the contrary is true. To love and put prayer at the centre of every plan of life and apostolate is the true school of the saints. Distinguish yourselves in the art of prayer: this "is the secret of a truly vital Christianity, which has no reason to fear the future, because it returns continually to the sources and finds in them new life" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 32).
May the Blessed Virgin Mary be your example and support. Remain in Mary's school, preserving in all its primitive freshness the distinctive Marian direction impressed on your congregation by your Founder as an unmistakable characteristic of the families he founded.
As long as you contemplate Her, the highest masterpiece of God, the model and ideal of every consecrated life and the support of all apostolic activity, the fountain of your generosity and dedication, of your interiority and fervour, of your holiness and grace that makes you valuable workers in the harvest of the Lord, will not dry up.
Finally, be deeply Eucharistic souls, who know how to adore, love, enjoy the Eucharist. Blessed Di Francia at the dawn of your Congregations gave the central place to the Eucharistic Mystery. From Eucharistic adoration you will obtain not only the gift of new vocations, but also the grace of increasing the enthusiasm and joy of your priesthood, of your consecration and of your Christian activism.
5. Dear Brothers and Sisters, this is what the Church expects of you! Do not disappoint her, but confirm her hopes with your generous dedication. The convinced witness is the secret for attracting fervent and generous young people to your ideal.
May the Lord bless you for all that you have thus far accomplished and fill you with his grace, so that in the present and for the future you continue to work with self-denial and joy for the Kingdom of God. My prayer, that I offer to the Lord relying on the intercession of Blessed Annibale Maria Di Francia, goes with you. May the Lord give a great increase of vocations to your Institutes and to the whole Church.
With these wishes, I impart my Blessing to all present and I gladly extend it to your whole spiritual Family.
Friday, 7 December 2001
With great pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Turkey to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you bring from President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and I would ask you to convey my own good wishes to His Excellency, and to the Turkish Government and people, and assure them of my prayers for the nation in these unsettled and economically difficult times.
My visit to your country in 1979 enabled me to see at first hand a society grappling with complex questions of identity in a changing world, and showing that it is possible for peoples to live together in a spirit of what you have called understanding and conciliation between different cultures. It also allowed me to pay homage to a land which, as you have noted, was so much a part of Christianity’s development. It was there that Saint Paul was born and where he and other Apostles preached the Gospel; it was there that many of the great Fathers of the Church in later centuries built upon the apostolic tradition; and it was there that the first Councils made momentous decisions defining the Christian faith. That memorable visit left me with a profound esteem not only for Turkey’s past, but also for what the nation has achieved in more recent times.
During the last millennium relations between Turkey and the Holy See were not always untroubled. Happily, the twentieth century saw fresh attempts to build a constructive relationship, based upon the trust and respect which at times require what I have called a healing of memories. The need for such healing is everywhere evident, for in so many parts of the world we see that wounds of past grievances continue to fester from generation to generation. Encouraging signs of a new cordiality were the visit to the Vatican of the President of Religious Affairs, whom I was pleased to receive on 16 June 2000, and the celebrations in Istanbul in honour of my revered Predecessor Pope John XXIII in December of last year, to which you have referred.
Richly symbolic occasions such as these help to strengthen the determination of Turkey and the Holy See to work together for the good of the international community. Recent events make it clear that such cooperation is all the more necessary when new conflicts, of which there are not a few in your region, are added to older ones. At a time when there is a risk of increasing tension between different cultural and religious traditions, your country has a particular role to play.
Turkey stands both geographically and culturally between East and West, and this is the first sense in which it can be an important bridge. It is a largely Muslim society, profoundly marked by the great religious and cultural heritage which came from the early centuries of Islam through the Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Yet Turkey also looks to the West with its Christian roots, and there are communities of Turkish immigrants in many Western countries, as well as Christian communities in Turkey itself. The ancient interaction between the Christian West and the Muslim East, more intense and complex than is often recognized, continues still in Turkey. And therefore, at a time when the cause of peace must be served by promoting dialogue between the religious cultures of the world, in particular between Islam and Christianity, the international community looks hopefully to your nation.
Yet Turkey is also an avowedly secular state, in which Islamic culture has opened to those forces of modernization, usually associated with the West, which have led to a distinction between religion and politics, the sacred and the secular, making Turkey what you yourself have referred to as a synthesis of East and West. Yet distinction at this point cannot mean total separation: and your nation is well placed to serve as a society which builds bridges between religion and politics. For if distinction becomes separation, the transcendent dimension vanishes from public life. It is then that totalitarianism appears, with its customary disregard for freedom and human dignity.
For a secular state, the challenge is to be genuinely open to transcendence: that is, to base itself upon a vision of the human person created in the image of God and possessed therefore of inalienable and universal rights. There are in fact certain rights which are universal because they are rooted in the nature of the human person rather than in the particularities of any culture.
Among the most basic of these rights is religious freedom, which includes but goes beyond freedom to worship as one chooses; for religion cannot be relegated to the purely private realm. In a secular state which is open to the transcendent, religious freedom also includes the right to bring personal values to bear upon public life, in the belief that these values contribute to the common effort to build a society genuinely open to every dimension of the human person.
In Turkey, Catholics are a small minority. They see no contradiction of any kind in being Catholic and Turkish and they look forward, as I do, to seeing the juridical status of the Church recognized. They are confident that in their homeland they will continue to find the respect for minorities which is "the touchstone of social harmony and the index of the civic maturity attained by a country and its institutions" (Message for the World Day of Peace 1989, 12). This too is a point where Turkey can serve as a bridge, by making clear that justifiable concerns for national unity are not in conflict with respect for the rights of individuals and minorities. On the contrary, it is this respect, sanctioned by law, which is the surest guarantee of a nation’s cohesion and security.
Your Excellency, as you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer my good wishes for the success of your high mission, confident that it will further strengthen the good relations between us. I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you. Upon you and the beloved Turkish people I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
1. Immaculate Mother, on this solemn day, brightened by the splendour of your Immaculate Conception, behold us at your feet, in this historic square, at the heart of Christian Rome.
Each year we come to offer our traditional floral tribute of the 8 December, and with this gesture we wish to express the filial love of our City, that holds so many signs of your presence as our Mother. We come on humble pilgrimage, and in the name of the faithful, we call upon you with confidence:
"Show yourself a Mother [Monstra Te esse matrem]...
Show yourself our mother,
he will hear your pleading,
whom your womb has sheltered,
and whose hand brings healing" (from the hymn Ave Maris Stella).
2. "Show yourself a Mother!"
Show yourself to be a Mother to us, as we stand before the historic image and give thanks to God with joyful hearts for the gift of your Immaculate Conception. You are the all Beautiful One, whom the Almighty has clothed by means of his power. You are the All Holy One whom God prepared to be the unsullied habitation of his glory. Hail, hidden Temple of God, hail full of grace, intercede for us!
Prayer for peace
3. "Show yourself a Mother!"
We ask you to present our prayer to the Father who clothed you with grace, withdrawing you from every shadow of sin. Dark clouds are gathering on the horizon of the world. The human race who greeted the dawn of the third millennium with hope, now feels overwhelmed by the threat of new and disconcerting conflicts. Peace in the world is endangered. This is why we come to You, Immaculate Virgin, to ask You to obtain, as our understanding and strong Mother, that souls freed from the smoke of hatred may be open to mutual pardon, to constructive solidarity and to peace.
Prayer for the whole Church and the Diocese of Rome
4. "Show yourself a Mother!"
O Mary, watch over the great ecclesial family, so that all believers, as true disciples of your Son, may walk in the light of your presence. Continue to watch over the Church of Rome, that on 8 December 1995, at your feet and with great trust in you, launched the evangelization of the city to prepare for the Great Jubilee. It was a fruitful mission, that helped to spread the Gospel of hope to every corner of the City, mobilizing priests, men and women religious and the laity for a vast and profound spiritual renewal. It was a dynamic and courageous activity that, with the grace of the Jubilee, reawakened families, communities and parishes to the missionary mandate that urges them to put to good use each one's charisms.
Prayer for spiritual renewal of the city and for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life
5. "Show yourself a Mother!"
Star of the new evangelization, inspire us and be with us on the way of an untiringly missionary pastoral care with one distinguishing goal: to proclaim Christ, Redeemer of the human person. May every believer, in the circumstances of daily life, become a witness and may the Christian face of Rome be renewed so that all may see clearly that fidelity to Christ changes one's personal life and shapes a future of peace, a better future for everyone. Immaculate Mother, who make the Church fruitful in her children, support our constant appeal for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. May the Roman convention on vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, to be held by the diocese next June, encourage young people and their families to respond with generous hearts to the call of the Lord.
6. "Show yourself a Mother!"
Be for us a rock of courage and fidelity, humble handmaid of Nazareth, glorious Queen of the world. Offer our prayer to the Incarnate Word of God, who, becoming your Son, became our brother. Thanks to your powerful intercession, may the People of God and the beloved Church of Rome "put out into the deep" towards the holiness that is the decisive requirement of every fruitful apostolate. Mother of mercy and peace, Immaculate Mother of God, pray for us!
Tuesday, 11 December 2001
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
1. Today I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of the Chaldean Church from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Egypt, Syria, Turkey and the United States of America, with your Patriarch, His Beatitude Raphaël I Bidawid for this visit ad limina Apostolorum. I greet you with the words that open the Second Letter of Peter: "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the justice of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ: may grace and peace be yours in abundance" (II PT 1,1-2). I would especially like to thank those of you who, after long years of service and self-sacrifice, have put their episcopal charge at the disposition of the Patriarchal Synod. With St Paul, I "give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, so that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge - even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you" (1Co 1,4-6).
2. At this time, we remember that the blood of countless martyrs has made fruitful your ancient and venerable Chaldean Church from the first centuries of the Christian era. She has shone in her great poets and teachers, in her schools of theology and exegesis, such as that of Nisibis. Her masters of asceticism and monks make her resplendent with a mystical tradition of unusual spiritual depth: it suffices to mention St Ephrem, Doctor of the Church, called the "Harp of the Holy Spirit", who alone stands for all that the Church in your region has given to the universal Church!
3. Today the Chaldean Church in Iraq is going through a difficult period. This crisis has many causes, internal as well as external. But is it not especially at this time of crisis that we Bishops should "hear what the Spirit says to the Churches" (Ap 2,7)?
Dear Brothers, once again I want to express my compassion for your communities in Iraq, sorely tried like the entire population of the country, suffering for years from the severity of the embargo imposed upon it. I implore the Lord to enlighten the minds and hearts of the leaders of nations so that they may work for the re-establishment of a just and lasting peace in this part of the world, and all attacks on the security of individuals and the good of peoples will stop. The day of fasting, for which I have appealed to all faithful Catholics, will offer every Church a good chance to have a closer relationship with people who are suffering by going without food on the day. On that day, we will ask God to help your people and to open the hearts of all to the sufferings unjustly inflicted on so many of your brothers and sisters.
4. In the course of the past 2,000 years, the Lord has never stopped loving and protecting your Church, faithful to his promise: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20). This loving fidelity of the Lord to his disciples acts as the mirror in which the bishops can discern their own fidelity, as the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops suggested, when it stressed that they are called to live holiness "in the exercise of their apostolic ministry with the humility and strength of the Good Shepherd" (Message of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, n. 14; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 7 November 2001, p. 6).
As I have said before, a bishop's ministry "is not under the banner of triumphalism, but rather of the Cross of Christ" (Address to the New Bishops appointed between 1 January 2000 and June 2001, 5 July 2001, n. 2; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 July 2001, p. 3), which makes you servants of your brethren after the example of the One who became the Servant of all.
In your quinquennial reports, the bishop clearly appears as the servant of unity when he is engaged in the mission of supporting the priests, his collaborators, in the service of their apostolic ministry, and of imparting them a missionary zeal that is always rooted in the sacramental brotherhood, in deepest communion with the mystery of Christ. It is the bishop's concern to include the faithful, with their charism, in the pastoral orientations he gives his Church so that she may accomplish her first mission: to announce the Gospel. The bishop is also the servant of unity when, with his brother bishops of the same region or rite or of different rites, he undertakes to develop collaboration and to discern the signs of the times. By normally residing in their Dioceses as the pastors of the flock, as the Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches justly recommends (can 93; 204), the Patriarch and Bishops give witness to the people, by carrying out the mission that is entrusted to them with prudence and fairness, deeply concerned to live in conformity with their ministry.
5. Your Church is justly proud of her priests, her religious and her faithful: they are her vital strength in times of trial and I want to encourage them. First of all I want to thank the priests. Please convey to them the affectionate greetings of the Pope, who thanks them for all they are doing in their ministry. They live among the faithful often in difficult situations, in order to bring them the Good News of salvation, to celebrate the sacraments of the New Testament, and to lead them through the complexities of the present time to our heavenly home. They are particularly attentive to the situation of young people, supporting their Christian hope and helping them take their place in society. They are close to those who have left their native country and are living in precarious conditions as refugees or immigrants. May they continue their apostolic work with courage, and never weary of doing good (cf. 2Th 3,13)!
In a large number of your Dioceses, there are young men who want to be priests. This is a sign of the spiritual vitality of the communities that have them. I insist on the good fortune and and the responsibility that these young vocations represent for you, bishops, and on your obligation to guide them in their discernment up to the moment of their ordination. The Patriarchal Interritual Seminary, in Baghdad, must be an important concern of your episcopal ministry; it is important that it be directed by a team of competent and respected priests, who can transmit to the seminarians the deposit of the faith and open them to the understanding and contemplation of the Christian mystery.
The fact that the seminary forms seminarians of different rites augurs well for the Church of tomorrow, permitting future priests to study their own tradition in depth while they accept with esteem and understanding those of other rites, with a view to necessary collaboration, and learn to be open to future cooperation with the faithful of other Churches or Ecclesial Communities.
I also want to thank the men and women religious who collaborate in many ways with the life of your Dioceses. In great pastoral closeness to the people, they courageously witness to the values of the Gospel in accord with their religious vows; and they have shown great readiness for the service of the mission, collaborating with the diocesan priests. Often involved in educating children and young people, as well as in nursing the sick and helping the poor, they are witnesses of God's tenderness for a people who suffer.
6. The faithful hunger for God's Word, and also for a sound doctrinal and spiritual formation in order to grow in the experience of God and to find the strength and encouragement to become true witnesses of the Gospel in daily life, in the family, at work or in society. Wherever possible I invite you to develop formation programmes that correspond to this desire. Indeed, lay people will be able to take part in the work of the new evangelization, in a special and original way, through the witness of their life and the proclamation of Christ the Saviour, and show respect for and willingness to dialogue with other religious believers among whom they live.
7. You have come, dear Brothers, to celebrate a Synod of your Patriarchal Church here in Rome. I thank you for this brotherly work which offers you mutual support and helps you to evaluate together the needs of the Church, and your common progress, so that you can pursue with courage the necessary renewal of your communities in the spirit of your tradition and in fidelity to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
I ask you to be very attentive to the structures of communion within your patriarchal Church. In an Eastern Catholic Church, the Synod Assembly is one of the privileged places for fraternal communion, which will always be the source of your apostolic effectiveness, as you observe the Lord's commandment: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35). In the name of the Lord, I urge you to go beyond any partisan spirit and ever more to join forces. Do everything with brotherly frankness, so that you may continually seek the will of the Lord and personal interest may not becloud the pastoral service entrusted to you!
The Patriarch is "father and head" of your Church. In fact, it is his duty to set the example and to foster communion within the episcopate called to work for the common good. I ask the Holy Spirit to create among you an atmosphere that is truly fraternal and trusting, to move beyond the present difficulties. I warmly hope that in the same perspective, you may give fresh vigour to the work of the Interritual Meeting of the Bishops of Iraq, which must be convoked at regular intervals to keep up its common, real and effective work at the service of evangelization.
I encourage you to pursue good relations with our Christian brethren of other confessions, ever willing to inspire renewed initiatives of prayer and common witness, and I ardently invoke upon all Christ's disciples the gift of unity for which the Lord so ardently prayed. I know you have good relations with the other religious authorities of your country. Since you realize the importance of interreligious dialogue today, in the effort to bring about mutual understanding and peace among men and in the spirit of my recent invitation to all religious leaders throughout the world to meet once again in Assisi, I ask you to continue this dialogue daily with all!
8. You must face the urgent pastoral care of your faithful in the diaspora objectively. I know you consider the problem of emigration a serious one that impoverishes the local communities and uproots people, a phenomenon that is accentuated further by the economic sanctions against Iraq. You can only face this tragedy collegially, in the conviction that the Chaldean Church's future also depends on the diaspora. Be assured that the Holy See and the particular Churches around the world will help you to meet the pastoral needs of the diaspora, for whom you also need to offer all the pastoral direction you can!
9. Your Beatitude, dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood, in the name of the Successor of Peter, please greet warmly all the faithful of the Chaldean Church in your Dioceses; offer my affectionate support to the priests and deacons, as well as to the men and women religious, who are so devoted to the service of their brethren! May the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Conception we have just celebrated, be with you every day in your mission! I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
As I stated in the letter of invitation, our meeting today intends to confirm once more the interest and concern with which the Holy See follows the situation in the Holy Land and shares with special spiritual closeness in the tragedy of those peoples who for a long time have been harshly tried by acts of violence and discrimination. Likewise, the Holy See desires to witness to the concern of the whole Church for the Christians in the Holy Land, and for the Catholic community in particular, to show our shared commitment to the continuity of its millenary presence in that region and to offer its contribution to justice and reconciliation among all those who in those places have the roots of their faith.
Unfortunately, we are meeting at a time that I do not hesitate to call "dramatic", both for the peoples who live in this area and for our brothers and sisters in the faith. Indeed, they seem to be crushed by the weight of two different extremisms that, independently of the reasons that fuel them, are disfiguring the face of the Holy Land.
To inaugurate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Patriarchs and leaders of the Christian communities in the Holy Land addressed a message of faith, hope and charity to their faithful and to Christians throughout the world: a spiritual message which, from the Grotto of Bethlehem, with courage and determination, invited all the inhabitants of the Holy Land and of the whole world to live in justice and peace.
How we wished that this message would be heard and promptly put into practice! How pleased we would have been not to have to repeat it! How happy we would have been to see our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters walk beside us in loving agreement and solidarity to restore the Holy Land's true face as a "crossroads of peace" and "land of peace".
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate of the Holy Land, you must shoulder the important task of continuing to be witnesses to the presence of God's love in those lands and of bearing his message in areas where the majority are Muslim or Jewish.
In your message for the beginning of the Jubilee Year (4 December 1999), stressing that your vocation consists "in being Christians in the Holy Land and not in another country of the world", you asked everyone not to let fear overcome them, and not to lose hope in the face of difficulties: "Facing all problems", we read in your touching address, "let us stand firm, with the power of God's Spirit and that of his love.... Life in the third millennium requires deep reflection on, and a greater sense of, our identity and mission, so that we may accept what God wants for us today and tomorrow in our Holy Land".
Today too, as I did at the meeting with you in Amman on 21 March 2000, I invite you to put your trust in the Lord, to remain united with him in prayer so that he, your Light, may help you guide the flock entrusted to your care.