1. I greet you all with great joy and I extend a cordial welcome to all present. Thank you for accepting my invitation to take part in this gathering of prayer for peace in Assisi. It brings to mind the meeting here in 1986, and is in a sense an important continuation of that event. It shares the same goal: to pray for peace, which is above all a gift to be implored from God with fervent and trusting insistence. In times of greater anxiety about the fate of the world, we sense more clearly than ever the duty to commit ourselves personally to the defence and promotion of the fundamental good which is peace.
2. I extend a special greeting to the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomeos I, and those who have accompanied him; to the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Beatitude Ignatius IV; to the Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV; to the Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania, His Beatitude Anastas; to the Delegates of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Rumania; of the Orthodox Churches of Bulgaria, Cyprus and Poland; to the Delegates of the Ancient Churches of the East: the Syro-Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, the Syro-Malankar Orthodox Church. I greet the Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop George Carey, the many Representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, Christian Federations and Alliances of the West; the Secretary General of the Ecumenical Council of Churches; the distinguished Representatives of world Judaism who have joined us for this special day of prayer for peace.
3. I also wish to greet most cordially the followers of the various religions: the Representatives of Islam who have come from Albania, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Jerusalem, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Senegal, the United States of America, Sudan and Turkey; the Buddhist Representatives, from Taiwan and Great Britain; the Hindu Representatives from India; the Representatives of African Traditional Religion who have come from Ghana and Benin; and also the Japanese Delegates representing various religions and movements; the Sikh Representatives from India, Singapore and Great Britain; and the Confucian, Zoroastrian and Jain Delegates. I cannot mention everyone by name, but I do wish my welcome to include all of you, dearly cherished Guests, whom I thank once again for having agreed to take part in this important Day.
4. I am grateful too to the Cardinals and Bishops here present; in particular to Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York, the city so terribly affected by the tragic events of September 11. I greet the Representatives of the Episcopate of those countries where the need for peace is especially felt. A special thought goes to Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti, Pontifical Delegate for the Patriarchal Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, and to the beloved Conventual Franciscans who, as always, are offering a generous welcome and warm hospitality.
With deference I greet the Prime Minister of Italy, the Honourable Silvio Berlusconi, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and the other public Authorities who honour us with their presence. I greet the Police forces and all those who are doing everything possible to ensure the success of this day.
Finally, my greeting goes to you, dear Brothers and Sisters here present, and especially to you, dear young people who have kept vigil through the night. God grant that todayís gathering may produce those fruits of peace for the whole world which we all so ardently desire.
1. We have come to Assisi on a pilgrimage of peace. We are here, as representatives of different religions, to examine ourselves before God concerning our commitment to peace, to ask him for this gift, to bear witness to our shared longing for a world of greater justice and solidarity.
We wish to do our part in fending off the dark clouds of terrorism, hatred, armed conflict, which in these last few months have grown particularly ominous on humanityís horizon. For this reason we wish to listen to one other: we believe that this itself is already a sign of peace. In listening to one another there is already a reply to the disturbing questions that worry us. This already serves to scatter the shadows of suspicion and misunderstanding.
The shadows will not be dissipated with weapons; darkness is dispelled by sending out bright beams of light. A few days ago I reminded the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See that hatred can only be overcome through love.
2. We are meeting in Assisi, where everything speaks of a singular prophet of peace known as Francis. He is loved not only by Christians, but by many other believers and by people who, though far-removed from religion, identify with his ideals of justice, reconciliation and peace.
Here, the "poor man of Assisi" invites us first of all to raise a song of gratitude to God for his gifts. We praise God for the beauty of the cosmos and of the earth, the marvellous "garden" that he entrusted to men and women in order that they might cultivate it and tend it (cf. Gen Gn 2,15). It is good that people remember that they find themselves in a "flowerbed" of the immense universe, created for them by God. It is important for people to realize that neither they nor the matters which they so frantically pursue are "everything". Only God is "everything", and in the end everyone will have to give an accounting of themselves to him.
We praise God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, for the gift of life and especially human life, which has blossomed on this planet through the mysterious plan of his goodness. Life in all its forms is entrusted in a special way to the care of man.
With daily renewed wonder, we note the variety of manifestations of human life, from the complementarity of male and female, to a multiplicity of distinctive gifts belonging to the different cultures and traditions that form a multifaceted and versatile linguistic, cultural and artistic cosmos. This multiplicity is called to form a cohesive whole, in the contact and dialogue that will enrich and bring joy to all.
God himself has placed in the human heart an instinctive tendency to live in peace and harmony.This desire is more deeply-rooted and determined than any impulse to violence; it is a desire that we have come together to reaffirm here, in Assisi. We do so in the awareness that we are representing the deepest sentiment of every human being.
History has always known men and women who, precisely because they are believers, have distinguished themselves as witnesses to peace. By their example they teach us that it is possible to build between individuals and peoples bridges that lead us to come together and walk with one another on the paths of peace. We look to them in order to draw inspiration for our commitment in the service of humanity. They encourage us to hope that, also in this new millennium just begun, there will be no lack of men and women of peace, capable of irradiating in the world the light of love and hope.
3. Peace! Humanity is always in need of peace, but now more than ever, after the tragic events which have undermined its confidence and in the face of persistent flashpoints of cruel conflict which create anxiety throughout the world. In my Message for 1 January, I stressed the two "pillars" upon which peace rests: commitment to justice and readiness to forgive.
Justice, first of all, because there can be no true peace without respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, respect for the rights and duties of each person and respect for an equal distribution of benefits and burdens between individuals and in society as a whole. It can never be forgotten that situations of oppression and exclusion are often at the source of violence and terrorism. But forgiveness too, because human justice is subject to frailty and to the pressures of individual and group egoism. Forgiveness alone heals the wounds of the heart and fully restores damaged human relations.
Humility and courage are required if we are to take this path. Our gathering today, in a context of dialogue with God, offers us a chance to reaffirm that in God we find pre-eminently the union of justice and mercy. He is supremely faithful to himself and to man, even when people wander far from him. That is why religions are at the service of peace. It is the duty of religions, and of their leaders above all, to foster in the people of our time a renewed sense of the urgency of building peace.
4. This was recognized by those who took part in the Interreligious Gathering in the Vatican in October 1999. They affirmed that religious traditions have the resources needed to overcome fragmentation and to promote mutual friendship and respect among peoples. On that occasion, it was also recognized that tragic conflicts often result from an unjustified association of religion with nationalistic, political and economic interests, or concerns of other kinds. Once again, gathered here together, we declare that whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religionís deepest and truest inspiration.
It is essential, therefore, that religious people and communities should in the clearest and most radical way repudiate violence, all violence, starting with the violence that seeks to clothe itself in religion, appealing even to the most holy name of God in order to offend man. To offend against man is, most certainly, to offend against God. There is no religious goal which can possibly justify the use of violence by man against man.
5. I turn now in a special way to you, my Christian Brothers and Sisters. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ calls us to be apostles of peace. He made his own the Golden Rule well known to ancient wisdom: "Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them" (Mt 7,12 cf. Lk Lc 6,31) and Godís commandment to Moses: "Love your neighbour as yourself" (cf. Lev Lv 19,18 Mt 22,39 and parallels). He brought these laws to fulfilment in the new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13,34).
In his death on Golgotha, Jesus bore in his flesh the wounds of Godís passion for humanity. Bearing witness to the heavenly Fatherís loving plan, he became "our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility" (Ep 2,14).
With Francis, the saint who breathed the air of these hills and walked the streets of this town, let us fix our gaze on the mystery of the Cross, the tree of salvation sprinkled with the redeeming blood of Christ. The lives of Saint Francis, Saint Clare and countless other Christian saints and martyrs were marked by the mystery of the Cross. Their secret was precisely this sign of the triumph of love over hatred, of forgiveness over retaliation, of good over evil. We are called to go forward in their footsteps, so that the world will never cease to long for the peace of Christ.
6. If peace is Godís gift and has its source in him, where are we to seek it and how can we build it, if not in a deep and intimate relationship with God? To build the peace of order, justice and freedom requires, therefore, a priority commitment to prayer, which is openness, listening, dialogue and finally union with God, the prime wellspring of true peace.
To pray is not to escape from history and the problems which it presents. On the contrary, it is to choose to face reality not on our own, but with the strength that comes from on high, the strength of truth and love which have their ultimate source in God. Faced with the treachery of evil, religious people can count on God, who absolutely wills what is good. They can pray to him to have the courage to face even the greatest difficulties with a sense of personal responsibility, never yielding to fatalism or impulsive reactions.
7. Brothers and Sisters gathered here from different parts of the world! Shortly we shall go to the arranged places in order to beg from God the gift of peace for all humanity. Let us ask that we be given the gift of recognizing the path of peace, of right relationship with God and among ourselves. Let us ask God to open peopleís hearts to the truth about himself and the truth about man. We have a single goal and a shared intention, but we will pray in different ways, respecting one anotherís religious traditions. In this too, deep down, there is a message: we wish to show the world that the genuine impulse to prayer does not lead to opposition and still less to disdain of others, but rather to constructive dialogue, a dialogue in which each one, without relativism or syncretism of any kind, becomes more deeply aware of the duty to bear witness and to proclaim.
Now is the time to overcome decisively those temptations to hostility which have not been lacking in the religious history of humanity. In fact, when these temptations appeal to religion, they show a profoundly immature face of religion. True religious feeling leads rather to a perception in one way or another of the mystery of God, the source of goodness, and that is a wellspring of respect and harmony between peoples: indeed religion is the chief antidote to violence and conflict (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace 2002, 14).
Today, as on 27 October 1986, Assisi becomes once more the "heart" of a vast multitude of people calling for peace. From yesterday until this evening, many people are united with us in places of worship, in homes, in communities, throughout the world, praying for peace. They are old people, children, adults and young people: a people tireless in their belief that prayer has the power to bring peace.
May peace dwell especially in the soul of the rising generations. Young people of the Third Millennium, young Christians, young people of every religion, I ask you to be, like Francis of Assisi, gentle and courageous "guardians" of true peace, based on justice and forgiveness, truth and mercy!
Go forward into the future holding high the lamp of peace. The world has need of its light!
What happened yesterday in Assisi will live long in our hearts and will, we hope, have a profound echo among the peoples of the world. Let me thank each of you for your generosity in responding to my invitation. I recognize that your coming here has meant a great effort. I thank you above all for your willingness to work for peace, and for your courage in declaring before the world that violence and religion can never go together.
From the hills of Umbria we have come to the hills of Rome, and with great joy, I welcome you to my own home. The door of this house is open to all people, and you come to this table not as strangers but as friends. Yesterday we gathered in the shadow of Saint Francis. Here we gather in the shadow of the fisherman, Peter. Assisi and Rome, Francis and Peter: the places and the men are so different. Yet they were both bearers of the message of peace sung by Angels at Bethlehem: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to his people on earth!
With all our differences, we sit at this table, united in our commitment to the cause of peace. That commitment, born of sincere religious sentiment, is surely what God expects of us. It is what the world seeks in religious men and women. That commitment is the hope we have to offer at this special time. May God grant us all to be humble and effective instruments of his peace.
May he bless us and these foods which come to us from the gracious bounty of the earth which he has created. Amen.
I hope with all my heart that a burst of missionary enthusiam will come from this providential event [the imminent Pastoral Visit], especially for the parishes, in which ecclesial communion is most immediately and visibly seen. In them, in fact, is "the Church herself, living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters" (Christifideles laici CL 26).
May every parish community be a privileged place for listening to and announcing the Word; a house of prayer, of meditation centred on the Eucharist; a true school of communion in which the passion for charity overcomes superficial or folkloric religiosity, and constitutes a suitable atmosphere in which to teach the faithful the high standard of ordinary Christian living that is holiness (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 31). With this stimulus, believers will not be content with a life lived under the banner of mediocrity or ethical minimalism; rather they will acquire a stronger awareness of their baptismal commitments.
When a greater effort is made to attain holiness, fatigue and disappointment are overcome letting the ""creativity' of charity" grow stronger and attention to those who are afflicted by the old and new forms of poverty matures. Committed Christians feel the need to face today's serious social and cultural problems with courage and competence, and are ready to accept the challenges of the environment we live in, making a personal contribution to ensure that the quality of civil coexistence improves.
4. In the commitment that must be a feature of your apostolic action, dear brothers and sisters, pay special attention to the family, the primary cell of society and bastion of humanity's future, reacting with firmness to some of the serious cultural pressures that offend and relativize the value of marriage.
It is in Christian families that budding vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are most likely to develop. May God bless the Diocese of Oria with an abundant flourishing of vocations, so that it will never be short of ministers and apostles of Christ who are totally dedicated to building the Kingdom.
1. I cordially thank Monsignor Funghini, the Dean, who, while expressing your sentiments of respect and concern, explained your daily labour with comments and statistics that stress the serious and complex matters on which you must render a decision. The solemn inauguration of the new judicial year gives me the welcome chance for a cordial meeting with all those who carry out the mission of justice in the Tribunal of the Roman Rota - Prelate Auditors, Promoters of Justice, Defenders of the Bond, Officials and Advocates - to show them my appreciation, my esteem and encouragement. The administration of justice in the Christian community is a precious service, because it constitutes the indispensable premise for authentic charity.
Your judicial activity, as the Dean has stressed, is directed above all to causes of matrimonial annulment. On this subject, together with other ecclesiastical tribunals and with a special role among them, that I emphasized in Pastor Bonus (cf. art. 126), you constitute a particular institutional expression of the solicitude of the Church in judging, according to truth and justice, the delicate matter of whether or not a marriage exists. This mission of the tribunals in the Church, an indispensable contribution, belongs to the whole area of the pastoral service to marriage and family life. The pastoral aspect itself calls for the constant effort to develop more fully the truth about marriage and the family, even as a necessary condition for administering justice in this field.
2. The essential properties of marriage - unity and indissolubility (cf. CIC, CIC 1056 CCEO, can. 776 3) - offer an opportunity for a fruitful reflection on marriage. Today, taking up what I treated last year in my discourse on indissolubility (cf. AAS, 92 , PP 350-355), I want to examine indissolublity as a good for spouses, for children, for the Church and for the whole of humanity.
A positive presentation of the indissoluble union is important, in order to rediscover its goodness and beauty. First of all, one must overcome the view of indissolubility as a restriction of the freedom of the contracting parties, and so as a burden that at times can become unbearable. Indissolubility, in this conception, is seen as a law that is extrinsic to marriage, as an "imposition" of a norm against the "legitimate" expectations of the further fulfilment of the person. Add to this the widespread notion that indissoluble marriage is only for believers, who cannot try to "impose" it on the rest of civil society.
3. To give a valid and complete response to this problem one must begin with the word of God. I am thinking concretely of the passage of the Gospel of Matthew that recounts Jesus' conversation about divorce with some Pharisees and then with his disciples (cf. Mt Mt 19,3-12). Jesus goes radically beyond the debates of his day concerning the factors that could justify divorce asserting: "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19,8).
According to the teaching of Jesus, it is God who has joined man and woman together in the marital bond. Certainly this union takes place with the free consent of both parties, but this human consent concerns a plan that is divine.In other words, it is the natural dimension of the union and, more concretely, the nature of man created by God himself that provides the indispensable key for interpreting the essential properties of marriage. The further reinforcement that the properties obtain in Christian marriage by virtue of the sacrament (cf. can. 1056) is based on a foundation of natural law that, if removed, would make incomprehensible the very work of salvation and elevation of the conjugal reality that Christ effected once and for all.
4. Countless men and women of all times and places have complied with this divine and natural plan, even before the Saviour's coming and a great many others have done so after his coming, even without knowing him. Their freedom expands to the gift of God, both at the moment of their marriage and throughout their entire conjugal life. Yet the possibility always exists of rebelling against that loving plan: then returns the "hardness of heart" that had led Moses to permit divorce but which Christ definitively overcame. To such situations as these, one has to respond with the humble courage of faith, a faith that supports and corroborates reason itself, to enable it to carry on a dialogue with all who are in search of the true good of the human person and of society. To treat indissolubility not as a natural juridical norm but as a mere ideal empties of meaning the unequivocal declaration of Jesus Christ, who absolutely refused divorce because "from the beginning it was not so" (Mt 19,8).
Marriage "is" indissoluble: this property expresses a dimension of its objective being, it is not a mere subjective fact. Consequently, the good of indissolubility is the good of marriage itself; and the lack of understanding of its indissoluble character constitutes the lack of understanding of the essence of marriage. It follows that the "burden" of indissolubility and the limits it entails for human freedom are no other than the reverse side of the coin with regard to the good and the potential inherent in the marital institution as such. In this perspective, it is meaningless to speak of an "imposition" by human law, because human law should reflect and safeguard the natural and divine law, that is always a freeing truth (cf. Jn Jn 8,32).
Pastoral care entails clarity about indissolubility and the support of marital love and communion
5. This truth about the indissolubility of marriage, like the entire Christian message, is addressed to the men and women of every time and place. In order to make that a reality, testimony to that truth must be given by the Church and, in particular, by individual families as "domestic Churches" in which husband and wife recognize that they are bound to each other forever by a bond that demands a love that is ever renewed, generous and ready for sacrifice.
One cannot give in to the divorce mentality: confidence in the natural and supernatural gifts of God to man prevents that. Pastoral activity must support and promote indissolubility. The doctrinal aspects should be transmitted, clarified and defended, but even more important are consistent actions. Whenever a couple is going through difficulties, the sympathy of Pastors, and of the other faithful must be combined with clarity and fortitude in remembering that conjugal love is the way to work out a positive solution to their crisis. Given that God has united them by means of an indissoluble bond, the husband and wife by utilizing all their human resources, together with good will, and by, above all, confiding in the assistance of divine grace, can and should emerge from their moments of crisis renewed and strengthened.
6. When one considers the role of law in marital crises, all too often one thinks almost exclusively of processes that ratify the annulment of marriage or the dissolution of the bond. At times, this mentality extends even to canon law, so that it appears as the avenue for resolving the marital problems of the faithful in a way that does not offend one's conscience. There is indeed some truth to this, but these eventual solutions must be examined in a way that the indissolubility of the bond, whenever it turns out to be validly contracted, continues to be safeguarded. The attitude of the Church is, in contrast, favourable to convalidating, where possible, marriages that are otherwise null (cf. CIC, CIC 1676 CCEO, can. 1362). It is true that the declaration of the nullity of a marriage, based on the truth acquired by means of a legitimate process, restores peace to the conscience, but such a declaration - and the same holds true for the dissolution of a marriage that is ratum non consummatum or a dissolution based upon the privilege of the faith - must be presented and effected in an ecclesial context that is totally favourable to the indissolubility of marriage and to family founded upon it. The spouses themselves must be the first to realize that only in the loyal quest for the truth can they find their true good, without excluding a priori the possible convalidation of a union that, although it is not yet a sacramental marriage, contains elements of good, for themselves and their children, that should be carefully evaluated in conscience before reaching a different decision.
7. The judicial activity of the Church, which is always at the same time genuinely pastoral activity, draws its inspiration from the principle of the indissolubility of marriage and strives to guarantee its effective existence among the People of God. In effect, without the proceedings and sentences of ecclesiastical tribunals, the question of whether or not an indissoluble marriage exists would be relegated solely to the consciences of the faithful, with the evident risk of subjectivism, particularly when the civil society is experiencing a profound crisis concerning the institution of marriage.
Every correct judgement of the validity or nullity of a marriage contributes to the culture of indissolubility, in the Church and in the world. It is a very important and necessary contribution: indeed, it has an immediate practical application, since it gives certainty not only to the individual persons involved, but also to all marriages and families. Consequently, an unjust declaration of nullity, opposed to the truth of the normative principles or the facts, is particularly serious, since its official link with the Church encourages the spread of attitudes in which indissolubility finds verbal support, but is denied in practice.
At times, in recent years some have opposed the traditional "favor matrimonii" in the name of a "favor libertatis" or "favor personae". In this dialectic it is obvious that the basic theme is that of indissolubility, but the antithesis is even more radical with regard to the truth about marriage itself, more or less openly relativized. Against the truth of a conjugal bond, it is not right to invoke the freedom of the contracting parties, who, in freely consenting to that bond, were bound to respect the objective demands of the reality of marriage that cannot be altered in the name of human freedom. Judicial activity must therefore be inspired by a "favor indissolubilitatis"; that clearly does not mean prejudice against just declarations of nullity, but an active conviction of the good at stake in the processes, together with the ever renewed optimism that derives from the natural character of marriage and from the support of the Lord for the spouses.
8. The Church and every Christian must be the light of the world: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5,16). Jesus' words have a special application today to the indissoluble nature of marriage. It could perhaps seem that divorce is so firmly rooted in certain social sectors that it is almost not worth continuing to combat it by spreading a mentality, a social custom and civil legislation in favour of the indissolubility of marriage. Yet it is indeed worth the effort! Actually, this good is at the root of all society, as a necessary condition for the existence of the family. Its absence, therefore, has devastating consequences that spread through the social body like a plague - to use the term of the Second Vatican Council to describe divorce (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 47) - and that have a negative influence on the new generations who view as tarnished the beauty of true marriage.
9. The essential witness to the value of indissolubility is given through the married life of the spouses, in their fidelity to the bond, through all the joys and trials of life. However the value of indissolubility cannot be held to be just the object of a private choice: it concerns one of the cornerstones of all society. Therefore, while all the initiatives that Christians, along with other persons of good will, promote for the good of the family (for example, the celebrations of wedding anniversaries) are to be encouraged, one must avoid the risk of permissiveness on fundamental issues concerning the nature of marriage and the family (cf. Letter to Families, n. 17).
Among the initiatives should be those that aim at obtaining the public recognition of indissoluble marriage in the civil juridical order (cf. ibid., n. 17). Resolute opposition to any legal or administrative measures that introduce divorce or that equate de facto unions-including those between homosexuals- with marriage must be accompanied by a pro-active attitude, acting through juridical provisions that tend to improve the social recognition of true marriage in the framework of legal orders that unfortunately admit divorce.
On the other hand, professionals in the field of civil law should avoid being personally involved in anything that might imply a cooperation with divorce. For judges this may prove difficult, since the legal order does not recognize a conscientious objection to exempt them from giving sentence.
For grave and proportionate motives they may therefore act in accord with the traditional principles of material cooperation. But they too must seek effective means to encourage marital unions, especially through a wisely handled work of reconciliation.
Lawyers, as independent professionals, should always decline the use of their profession for an end that is contrary to justice, as is divorce. They can only cooperate in this kind of activity when, in the intention of the client, it is not directed to the break-up of the marriage, but to the securing of other legitimate effects that can only be obtained through such a judicial process in the established legal order (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2383). In this way, with their work of assisting and reconciling persons who are going through a marital crises, lawyers truly serve the rights of the person and avoid becoming mere technicians at the service of any interest whatever.
10. I entrust to the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Family and Mirror of Justice, the heightening of everyone's conviction of the good of the indissolubility of marriage. To her I also entrust the zealous work of the Church and of her children, together with that of many other men and women of good will, in this cause that is so crucial for the future of humanity.
With these wishes, as I ask divine assistance on all your activities, Prelate Auditors, Officials and Advocates of the Roman Rota, I warmly impart my Blessing to you.