Speeches 2001 - Saturday, 10 November 2001


TO THE VOLUNTEERS OF THE DIOCESE OF ROME

Saturday, 10 November 2001



Dear Volunteers,

1. I greet you warmly at the end of the Eucharistic celebration with which you wished to open this session, organized as part of the observance of the UN International Year of Volunteers 2001, as set by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar and I thank him for his kinds words of respectful greeting. With him, I greet Bishop Armando Brambilla, Bishop Delegate for Pastoral Care of the Roman hospitals, confraternities and religious associations. I also greet those who head the Caritas and Migrantes organizations in the Church in Rome, as well as the participants in the convention sponsored by the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and the Agostino Gemelli Polyclinic of Rome. I greet you all, dear brothers and sisters, who are eager to serve your brethren following the example of Jesus who, after washing his disciples' feet on the eve of his Passion, said to them: "I have given you an example, that as I have done, you also should do" (Jn 13,15).

What example is he speaking of? The answer is obvious from the context in which these words were spoken. In performing a service for his Apostles that was usually reserved for slaves, he foretold his death on the following day, when he was to give himself on Calvary. Jesus is speaking, therefore, of a total, unconditional love on which he wants to inspire his disciples to learn how to model their behaviour.

The Lord's words at the Last Supper, should be for you a lifelong programme: in fact, your unqualified mission consists in reproducing the actions of the One who, although he was in the form of God, out of love took the form of a servant (cf. Phil Ph 2,6-7).

2. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte I invited the whole Church to "put out into the deep", namely, with vigour and renewed enthusiasm, to spread the Gospel in the new millennium. Today this appeal resounds particularly for you, who are called to collaborate in a unique way in the work of the new evangelization.

Thank you for your generous witness in a society that is all too often dominated by the yearning to have and to possess! As faithful disciples and imitators of Christ, you are urged to go against the current, choosing the evangelical option of serving the brethren, not only because you are motivated by the desire of achieving legitimate objectives of social justice, but also, and above all, because you are impelled by the unceasing power of divine charity.

The field of action that unfolds daily before your eyes is enormous. Indeed, many serious problems afflict our society. Looking at the reality of our City, how can you not recognize, unfortunately, the shortcomings of the social services and the inadequacies of the basic services in various outlying districts, serious forms of inequality of income and of access to such primary goods as education, housing and health care. Then what can be said of the marginalization of beggars, nomads, drug addicts and AIDS patients, not to mention the disintegration of families that penalizes the weakest, and of the forms of physical or psychological violence inflicted on women or children? And how can we forget the problems associated with immigration and with the growing number of lonely elderly people, of the sick and of the underprivileged?

This disturbing social scene that is often combined with a regrettable lack of respect for life and for the human person and a disconcerting absence of moral and religious values, challenges the institutions first, but is also a particular incentive to the Christian community, which has always seen charity as a primary route to evangelization and human advancement.

3. Volunteer work, so widespread in Italy, is an authentic "sign of the times" and reveals a keen awareness of the solidarity that links human beings. By giving citizens an opportunity to take an active part in the management of the services intended for them and for the various structures and institutions, volunteer work contributes to bringing to them the "supplement of soul" which makes them more human and respectful of the human person.

To carry out their prophetic role, the actions of volunteers must be faithful to certain typical and essential features: first and foremost the desire for the authentic promotion of persons and of the common good that goes beyond the minimum of necessary assistance, then the spirit of unselfish generosity that, after the example of the Lord Jesus, must always shape the activity of believers.

The life-style of the volunteers who witness to the Gospel should be carefully maintained, even when they benefit from the forms of economic support provided by law for performing the tasks of volunteer work.

Dear friends, may every inhabitant of our city, no matter what his race or religion, find in you generous brothers and sisters who know how to practise charity, not as pure philanthropy, but in the name of Christ. To remain faithful to this vocation, persevere in prayer and in listening to the word of God, as well as in participating in the Eucharist. In this way you will be able to discern in your suffering brethren the face of the Lord, contemplated in your prayer and in the celebration of the divine mysteries. Thus you will contribute to the work of the Permanent Mission, to which in recent years I have so often called the diocesan Church of Rome.

With these hopes, I entrust you to the motherly protection of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani, and I wholeheartedly impart to each one of you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your relatives and friends and to all who benefit from your daily service.



REMARKS OF JOHN PAUL II

TO THE DELEGATION

FROM THE NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Saturday, 10 November 2001



I offer a warm welcome to the delegation from the New York City Fire Department, so many of whose members lost their lives in the terrorist attack of September 11. May Almighty God grant the bereaved families consolation and peace, and may he give you and your fellow firefighters strength and courage to carry on your great service to your City. With the promise of my continued prayers, I invoke upon you and your families Godís abundant blessings.


TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SPIRITUAL FAMILY "DAS WERK"

Saturday, 10 November 2001



Dear Sisters and Brothers of The Spiritual Family The Work,

I welcome you with great joy to this audience and I am happy to meet the new family of consecrated life. At the begininig of a new century you are facing a great challenge: our contemporaries are seeking men and women who can show them Jesus Christ. Through your lofty ideals and your youthful enthusiasm, you would like to be "an index finger" pointing to Jesus. For that you have my appreciation.

Your young community can certainly be very useful for the old continent of Europe, so that our contemporaries may listen to convinced Christians who let themselves be involved in and sent out by God. The foundress of your spiritual family, Mother Julia, leaves you a beautiful thought: "Ever since Jesus Christ founded his Church, everything has been founded. He only needs people who live this foundation deeply".

So that you may generously fulfil your mission for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.



MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II

TO "THE SPIRITUAL FAMILY THE WORK"


Dear Sisters and Brothers of The Spiritual Family The Work,


1. In the joyful communion of the Triune God, of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I send you my heartfelt greetings. The joy over the approval of your spiritual family encourages you to give renewed witness to your solidarity with the Successor of Peter and your readiness to serve him. With you I gladly thank Christ, the Lord of the Church, for your charism and I pray that it may produce abundant fruits.

2. In the spirit of your foundress you are determined to face the challenges of our time with the strength of the Catholic faith. You must serve the Church and humanity joyfully as a contemplative and, at the same time, apostolic community, that seeks to work as a leaven in the world.

You have generously accepted the invitation of the Lord to get "to work" for His Kingdom. If you always remain open to the plan of God and put your talents at the service of the salvific mission of the Church, your Spiritual Family can become a powerful instrument of the new evangelization, especially in Europe. Your lived surrender to God is the best response to the urgent questions of mankind and to the needs of the times.

3. In dialogue with the Father, Jesus Christ summed up his salvific mission: "I have glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do" (Jn 17,4). The work of Christ, the glorification of God and the redemption of mankind, is continued by the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit throughout time. Your spiritual family was born from the Church. As members of The Work you are ready to make the mission of the Church of Christ your own.

4. The Church is the great work of God. If her divine origin is questioned at times today, The Work contributes to the understanding and living of the mystery of the Church in its profundity. Remain faithful to the aim of your Community: you are the reflection of the Church to the praise of the Triune God and for the salvation of humanity. Bear witness to the beauty of the Church as the People of God, the Spouse of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Remain deeply rooted in the Holy Eucharist, the source of unity with God and with one another.

5. The spirit of adoration is vital in your Community. God is in the centre: your thoughts and deeds revolve around Him. In this way The Work can be an effective instrument against the resignation, that at times can take hold even of the servants of the Church. May your prayers and actions in the great work of God bear fruit for the salvation of mankind! May the Lord of History guide the way of your spiritual family into the future. I warmly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

The Vatican, 10 November 2001.

JOHN PAUL II





TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE ASSEMBLY

OF THE COUNCIL OF THE INTERNATION CATHOLIC

MIGRATION COMMISSION (ICMC)

Monday, 12 November 2001

Dear Friends in Christ,


1. I am happy to welcome you, members of the Council of the International Catholic Migration Commission, on the occasion of your Assembly. Your presence here is especially significant, after the tragic events of 11 September forced the cancellation of your meeting in New York; it shows your determination to pursue your vital work in the face of every setback. I thank Professor Zamagni for his kind words, and I extend a special greeting to the representatives of Migrantes, your partners in the Italian Episcopal Conference. I greet as well the Commissionís benefactors, whose contribution is especially important at a time when you are seeking to reduce dependence upon public funding, so that the Commission can operate always as an independent Catholic agency.

2. This year you celebrate your Fiftieth Anniversary, and that is cause for thanksgiving. At the inauguration of the Commission, the future Pope Paul VI declared that its cause was the cause of Christ himself. In these decades, the Commission has not ceased to show to migrant people the face of the Son of Man who himself had "nowhere to lay his head" (Lc 9,58).

In the time since your foundation, patterns of human migration have changed, but the phenomenon is no less dramatic, and your work grows more urgent as the problem of refugees grows ever more acute. Indeed, now is the time for still more generous and effective forms of service in the field of human migration, helping to ensure that people already marginalized will not be further penalized because they are not a part of the process of economic globalization. Today, therefore, I wish to invite you to an ever deeper awareness of your mission: to see Christ in every brother and sister in need, to proclaim and defend the dignity of every migrant, every displaced person and every refugee. In this way, assistance given will not be considered an alms from the goodness of our heart, but an act of justice due to them.

3. We live in a world in which peoples and cultures are being drawn into ever closer and more complex interaction. Yet paradoxically we see greater ethnic, cultural and religious tensions, which severely affect migrants and refugees, who are especially vulnerable to the prejudice and injustice which often accompany these tensions. That is why the Commissionís advocacy with governments and international organizations and its promotion of laws and policies to protect the defenceless are especially important aspects of its mission. It is also the reason why it is necessary to continue developing training programmes for your personnel, to help them to deepen their understanding of the realities of forced migration and the possibilities for assisting uprooted families and promoting mutual respect among people of different cultures.

4. Your service is bound by a two-fold fidelity: to Christ, the one mediator who is the Way, the Truth and the Life for the whole human family; and to the Church, which he established as the universal sacrament of salvation. The soul of your work is a vision of human dignity which is based upon the truth of the human person created in the image of God (cf. Gen Gn 1,26), a truth which illumines the entire Social Teaching of the Church. From this vision there flows a sense of inalienable rights which do not depend on any human power to concede or deny, for they are rights which have their source in God. This is a profoundly religious vision which is shared not only by other Christians, but also by many followers of the other great religions of the world. That is why the work of the Commission has been such a fruitful point of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation; and this too is a precious achievement in a troubled and divided world. I urge you, therefore, as a Catholic International Organization united with the Holy See in the great task of promoting solidarity, never to grow weary in the search for new modes of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation, which are needed now more than ever.

Remembering you in my prayers, and entrusting the Commissionís work to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially invoke upon you abundant grace and peace in Jesus Christ, "the faithful witness and firstborn from the dead" (Ap 1,5).

5. Today representatives and members of the Migrantes Foundation have joined the International Catholic Commission for Migration and I cordially greet them. This year this organism, which works for the Italian Episcopal Conference, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its establishment.

Set up for the evangelization and pastoral service of Italians abroad, the Foundation is now dedicated to supporting Italian ecclesial structures for the human and spiritual care of emigrants who arrive in Italy. Encouraging dialogue among the cultures for a civilization of love and peace, it is called to spread understanding and appreciation of all who arrive in the peninsula, in an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence, respectful of the rights of the human person.

Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I hope that this praiseworthy institution may continue to carry on its precious work according to the spirit of Christ. My blessing to you all.

MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II

TO CARDINAL WALTER KASPER

FOR THE PLENARY MEETING

OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL

FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN UNITY



To my Venerable Brother CARDINAL WALTER KASPER
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

1. I cordially greet you and all those participating in the plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, dedicated to a weighty theme: Communion: gift and commitment - Analysis of the results of the dialogues and the future of ecumenical research.

I fervently hope that this important meeting will give an impetus to the ecumenical journey towards the restoration of full unity among all Christians, a pastoral priority I have constantly kept before me from the beginning of my Pontificate. Indeed, in carrying out my Petrine ministry, I want to comply fully with the Second Vatican Council's invitation that the Catholic Church be committed "irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture, thus heeding the Spirit of the Lord who teaches people to interpret carefully the "signs of the times'" (Encyclical Letter, Ut unum sint, n. 3).

"The signs of the times"! Aware that "to believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church" (ibid., n. 9), the Catholic Church never ceases to advance with confidence on this path, that is difficult but so rich in joy, which leads to unity and full communion among Christians (cf. ibid., n. 2). How many signs of the times have reassured and sustained us on our journey in the various decades since the Council, and at the beginning of this new millennium! The ecumenical celebrations at key moments of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 offered moving and prophetic signs and have "given us a more vivid sense of the Church as a mystery of unity" (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 48).

Moreover, what can be said of the many encouraging signs given by the theological research of the major Churches and Ecclesial Communities? The commissions of international dialogue, with patience and perseverance and at times overcoming discouragement and distrust, have attained results of convergence which, although they are intermediate, constitute a solid basis on which to continue in our common research. At the national level there are more initiatives of dialogue, study and reflection, which show how profitable these exchanges are: they help people to become better acquainted and to compare their respective positions in charity, encouraging the rapid attainment of results in this age of on line communications. The reception of the results and the consequent emphasis on the ecumenical dimension in catechesis, in formation and in diakonia, likewise represent a providential pair that will not fail to give substance to the ecumenical efforts made so far. From the readiness of this ecclesial task comes the possibility of entering more deeply into that dynamism of mutual enrichment among ecclesial communities, which we have received as a gift and which is a force that impels us towards full koinonia.

2. "It is the first time in history that efforts on behalf of Christian unity have taken on such great proportions and have become so extensive. This is truly an immense gift of God, one which deserves all our gratitude" (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 41). I have experienced this gift personally on my apostolic pilgrimages, during which I often receive many signs of genuine, fraternal charity from members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I have been able to see the degree of communion that exists among Christians, which has strengthened my conviction that knowing how "to make room" for our brothers and sisters, bearing their burdens and entrusting them with our own, encourages growth in the spirituality of communion that must mark all our actions and, in particular, our ecumenical activity.

Two tasks must always guide this effort: the dialogue of truth and the meeting in fraternity.

These tasks are welded into an organic whole, enabling us to continue on our long journey: we have more clearly identified its destination, we have sought the means to continue it effectively, we have established norms and principles that can sustain the ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church. In particular, we call for the presence of other Christians. On every solemn and significant occasion, when we run into difficulties or obstacles, our rediscovered brotherhood comes to our rescue, encouraging us to have that fundamental attitude of conversion that opens hearts to forgiveness. Nor would it otherwise be possible, because several times already we have exchanged the promise to forgive one another, placing the memories and wrongs of the past in God's merciful hands.

Yes! Unfortunately, the full communion of all Christians has not yet been achieved, nor have we been granted to know what development the Holy Spirit will desire to give to ecumenical research in the years to come. However, it cannot be denied that we have come a long way, and that the climate prevailing between Catholics and the Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities is quite different today from what it was in the past. We are beginning the third millennium knowing that we are in a new situation that we could hardly have imagined even 50 years ago. Today we feel we cannot do without this endeavour that brings us together. May the Lord help us treasure what has been achieved so far, safeguard it with care and hasten its developments. We must make this intermediate period, as it were, a favourable opportunity to intensify the pace of ecumenical progress.

3. The theme chosen for your plenary meeting sheds light on how the theological dialogues that are underway converge, at various levels and with different accents, around the central concept of "communion". This corresponds with the vision of the Second Vatican Council and calls attention to the fundamental core of its documents. Basically, to examine more closely the theological and sacramental meaning of the notion of "communion" is to reconfirm the Council's teachings as a compass to guide ecumenical commitment in the new millennium. By deepening research and debate on this topic, ecumenical theology will confront the most demanding acid test. Establishing a true ecclesial notion of "communion", gradually purified of anthropological, sociological or merely horizontal understandings, will permit greater reciprocal enrichment.

May each person live ecumenical dialogue as a pilgrimage towards the fullness of catholicity that Christ wants for his Church, harmonizing the many different voices in a single symphony of truth and love.

I am certain that with the exchange of gifts to which the ecumenical movement has accustomed us and with rigorous and serene theological research, constantly imploring the light of the Spirit, we will even be able to face the most difficult questions that have seemed insurmountable in many ecumenical dialogues such as, for example, that of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, which I mentioned in particular in my Encylcical Letter Ut unum sint (cf. nn. 88-96).

4. Our journey is still long and hard. The Lord does not ask us to assess its difficulties in human terms. Today there are new horizons, profoundly different in comparison with the still recent past: we are grateful to God for this. May it imbue us with courage and induce everyone to banish from his ecumenical vocabulary such words as crisis, delay, slowness, rigidity, compromise! Although I am aware of the present problems, I invite you to take as key words for this new period: trust, patience, constancy, dialogue, hope. And to these I would also like to add: the impulse to act. I refer here to the enthusiasm inspired by a good cause that stimulates us to seek the means to support it, fostering creativity and sometimes even the courage to change. The awareness of serving a good cause acts as a driving force that impels us to involve others, so that they may know it too and join us in supporting it. The impulse to act will let us discover how many new things we can do to support our common aspiration to the full and visible communion of all Christians.

However, this said, I do not intend merely to propose the attitude of Martha, who - according to Christ's words - was anxious and fussed about many things, neglecting to listen to his teachings (cf. Lk Lc 10,41). Indeed, prayer and constant listening to the Lord are indispensable, for it is He who, with the power of His Spirit, converts hearts and makes possible practical progress on the path of ecumenism.

As I hope that the plenary session of this Pontifical Council will offer important starting points for reflection on your future work, I commend all your projects to the Lord. I ask him, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, to help all Christians always to act in accordance with the commandment of unity which he himself left to us in the Upper Room: "Ut unum sint".

With these wishes, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to each one of those taking part in your important meeting.

From the Vatican, 10 November, 2001.

JOHN PAUL II





TO THE BISHOPS OF THAILAND

ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT


Friday, 16 November 2001




Dear Cardinal Kitbunchu,
Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With great joy I welcome you Ė the Bishops of Thailand Ė on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. You have come to Rome to re-affirm your faith at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to seek guidance and strength for the service of the Gospel which has been entrusted to you. Your visit is a sign of the communion of mind and heart (cf. Acts Ac 4,32) which unites you with the Successor of Peter in the Apostolic College. I assure you of my prayers during these days that you may be filled with the knowledge of Godís will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (cf. Col Col 1,9), so that through your ministry Godís kingdom may continue to grow and make progress among your people. My thoughts go too to the priests, consecrated men and women, and laity of the Church in Thailand, and through you I encourage them to remain steadfast in faith and in the love of the Lord.

Last yearís Great Jubilee of the Birth of Jesus Christ unleashed new energies and fresh enthusiasm in the Christian community around the world, and also in your own country. It is not possible for us to know all the ways in which God touched the lives of people during the year, but we do know that many Christians experienced his merciful love, especially in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. The countless graces and blessings of the Jubilee urge us to give heartfelt thanks to the Lord, "for he is good, for his love endures for ever" (Ps 118,1). Our responsibility now is to direct our thoughts to the future and to profit from the grace received, by developing a practical programme of pastoral renewal capable of responding to the Churchís needs at the beginning of this new millennium.

2. Your ad Limina visit is taking place almost immediately after the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which has concentrated attention once more on the figure of the Bishop as a man of God whose first concern is for his own personal holiness and the holiness of Godís people. The Synod Fathers repeatedly stressed that the Bishop must be a man of prayer and growth in grace through the Sacraments; a man of exemplary life, wholly dedicated to the task of teaching, sanctifying and governing the part of Godís flock committed to his care. Today I wish to encourage you to place all your trust in Jesus Christ, who called you and consecrated you for this task. He will not fail you as you strive to respond to that call and seek to fulfil in your country the great command which the Lord gave his Apostles at his Ascension: the evangelization of all nations.

In this sense, your pastoral programme already exists. It is centred in Christ himself, "who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 29). Your constant thought must be to discern what has to be done in your particular Churches in order to enable the proclamation of Christ to reach peopleís hearts, to build and shape vibrant Christian communities, and to have a deep and incisive effect in bringing Gospel values to bear on society and culture.

The commitment and self-sacrifice of countless foreign missionaries has contributed much to the growth of the Church throughout Asia, and the example of their zeal should be remembered and imitated with deep gratitude. Today, however, the missionary endeavour has to be carried out primarily by Asians themselves. The pressing work of evangelization in your country will depend on the convincing witness of life, the zealous dedication, and a display of fresh energies on the part of all Thai Catholics. Likewise, the Thai Missionary Society, founded in recent years, is a maturing fruit of your local Church deserving your close support, for it is in giving to others that you too will receive all that you need from the Lord.

3. Since there can be no true evangelization "if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 22), Pastors must ensure that their people receive a thorough and systematic knowledge of the person and message of Jesus Christ, a knowledge that will enable them in turn to communicate to others the saving message of the Gospel with joy and conviction. As the first teachers of the faith in your Dioceses, your task is to make the Christian message accessible to your people, explaining how the Gospel sheds light on lifeís meaning amid the demands posed by contemporary society.

Though the Catholic community in Thailand forms a small minority, it is nevertheless held in high esteem for the good work that is being done in the fields of health care and education. Your Catholic schools provide instruction of a high standard, and this makes an invaluable contribution to the life of the Church and of society. By its very nature Catholic education aims not only to provide knowledge and training but also, and more importantly, to transmit a coherent vision of life, shaped by the Gospel, which will enable young people to grow in true wisdom and freedom. Contemporary society urgently needs such educational institutions to provide a solid moral training and help students to acquire the virtues and skills required for the service of God and neighbour. Students should be encouraged to engage in forms of service and volunteer work so that they may become more actively involved in the Churchís mission and learn to contribute in a real way to the renewal of society. I am confident that you will do all you can to maintain and strengthen the Catholic character of your schools and to find new ways of ensuring that the poor and marginalized, who otherwise would not have the opportunity, will be given greater access to education.

4. Since the family is the foundation of society and the place where people first learn the values which will guide them through life, it has to have a special place in your pastoral concern. In every Diocese an active family apostolate should aim at ensuring that parents and children are helped to live their vocation according to the mind of Christ, and that couples in interreligious marriages receive the help they need to avoid any weakening of faith. The family is under threat from various forms of materialism and from widespread offences against human dignity, such as the scourge of abortion and the sexual exploitation of women and children. Fresh efforts must be constantly made in your local communities to meet these difficulties and to train the lay faithful to carry out their specific mission in the temporal order, in every area of political, economic, social and cultural life.

It is essential then that both lay and religious catechists, who play such an important role in your communities, continue to be "equipped for every good work" (2Tm 3,17) by receiving opportunities for systematic training, as well as through days of prayer and courses of renewal. In the task of transmitting the faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be an invaluable resource.

Consecrated men and women, whose form of life enables them to bear particularly effective witness to Godís love for his people, make a significant contribution to the life of the Church in Thailand. Their special charism enables them to respond to the widespread demand for genuine spirituality and spiritual direction among the faithful. The apostolate of prayer is the secret of a truly vital Christianity in any age (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 32), and for this reason consecrated men and women, particularly contemplatives, should not only offer a clear example of a life committed to prayer and reflection but should become true masters of prayer for others. It is not without significance that the Second Vatican Council reminds us that contemplatives "enlarge the Church by their hidden apostolic fruitfulness" (Perfectae Caritatis PC 7).

5. It is above all in attention to the formation and welfare of priests that a Bishop shows himself to be a true pastor, and a true father, brother and friend of those who are his closest collaborators in the ministry. The Church in Thailand continues to be blessed with numerous vocations. It is important that you pay close attention to the various elements of seminary training in order to ensure that your particular Churches will always have the exemplary priests which your communities have a right to expect. Candidates need a solid grounding in the ecclesiastical sciences and a well-structured spiritual training if they are to have a proper and profound grasp of their ministry, the expression of a special sacramental configuration with Christ which cannot be reduced to a role patterned after secular careers.

During the Jubilee Year, I had the joy of beatifying a Thai priest, Father Nicolas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, who was "outstanding in teaching the faith, in seeking out the lapsed and in his charity towards the poor" (Homily, 5 March 2000, No. 3). Blessed Nicolas is a true model for Thai priests and I am confident that his example will inspire seminarians and priests to understand that, far from being a mere custodian of ecclesiastical institutions, the priest should always think of himself as a living instrument of Christ the eternal High Priest (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 12). His life "is a mystery totally grafted on to the mystery of Christ and of the Church in a new and specific way" which "engages him totally in pastoral activity" (Directory for the Life and Ministry of Priests, 6). In a real sense, the priest in his identity and in his activities of preaching the word, celebrating the Sacraments and spreading Godís Kingdom, must be Christ for others; he must put on the "very mind of Christ" (cf. 1Co 2,16). At a time when there is a deep yearning for authentic spirituality, the priest must be a man of prayer, familiar with Godís word and strong in his attachment to the Lord. Since the message we preach is the truth about God and man, priests should dedicate particular attention to the preparation of the Sunday homily, so that the faithful may come to know how the Gospel sheds light on the path of individuals and society. A close relationship between the Bishop and his priests, and fraternal cooperation between priests themselves, help to build the Diocese as a family in which all the members Ė Bishop, priests, religious and laity Ė can place their gifts and talents at the service of Christís Body.

6. As you well know from daily experience, evangelization in Asia, a continent shaped by ancient cultures and religious traditions, presents particular challenges. The Church accomplishes her missionary task in obedience to Christís command, in the knowledge that every person has the right to hear his saving message in all its fullness. She must do so with respect and esteem for her listeners, taking account of their philosophical, cultural and spiritual values, and engaging in dialogue with them. In your country, as in the rest of Asia, the question of interreligious dialogue is a pressing one. Contact, dialogue and cooperation with the followers of other religions represent both a duty and a challenge for you. Thailandís ancient monastic tradition should provide a point of contact and fellowship which can foster fruitful dialogue between Buddhists and Christians. That tradition is a reminder of the primacy of the things of the spirit and should act as a counter-balance to the materialism and consumerism which affect such a large part of society.

The truths of the faith which form the content and context of this missionary task are the doctrine of Jesus as the one Saviour of the world and the Church as the necessary instrument of Godís redemptive plan.These are truths which must be proclaimed in a reasoned and convincing manner, so as to invite those who hear them to ponder them with an open heart. At the beginning of a new millennium the Church in Thailand is being challenged to present the mystery of Christ in a way that corresponds to your peopleís cultural patterns and ways of thinking, by drawing on the positive elements of Thailandís great human patrimony. On the other hand, the process of inculturation calls for careful discernment on your part to ensure that the principles of compatibility with the Gospel and communion with the universal Church are fully respected. Clearly, inculturation is more than external adaptation, for it entails "the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration into Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 52). I urge you to make continuing efforts in this field, so that the truths and values of the Gospel will be seen ever more clearly as responding to your peopleís genuine spiritual and human needs and aspirations.

7. Dear Brother Bishops, my thoughts often turn to your land and to its people. With affection I pray that the graces of the Great Jubilee will continue to strengthen your attachment to Christ and your commitment to evangelization. I ask Mary, bright Star of Evangelization in every age, to intercede for the people you serve and to lead all of you to the saving encounter with her Son, our Redeemer. To her I entrust the needs and hopes of your particular Churches, as well as the burdens and joys of your episcopal ministry. To you and the priests, religious and laity of your Dioceses I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Speeches 2001 - Saturday, 10 November 2001