Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. With great joy I welcome you today after the personal meetings I have had with you. I greet you with a cordial brotherly greeting and thank the Lord for the full communion that binds you to your local Churches and to the Successor of Peter.
The still recent division of the Ecclesiastical Province of Salvador, with the creation of the two new Provinces of Feria de Santana and Vitória da Conquista, aims to facilitate the organizational work and accompaniment of this territory that, like the ecclesiastical province of Aracaju, challenges your creativity and the capacity of the whole Church to evangelize.
You have before your eyes like an open book, this region with its full historical, social and religious reality. The faith of the Brazilian people originated mainly in this area. In 1676 the Ecclesiastical Province of Brazil was founded, with the Archiepiscopal See in Bahia, around which were grouped as suffragans the Dioceses of Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Maranhão, and later, in the following century, the Dioceses of Grão-Pará, São Paulo and Mariana, with the Prelatures of Cuibá and Goiás. Time cannot erase the memory of many native Pastors and those who came from abroad who devoted themselves generously to scattering the seeds of the Word.
I thank Bishop Ricardo José Weberberger of Barreiras, President of your Region, for describing in your name the hopes and difficulties, the plans and expectations of the Dioceses entrusted to your care. I would like to take this opportunity to send my affectionate greeting to all the priests, religious and Christian faithful of your dioceses, whom I think of with esteem and sympathy.
2. Consecrated persons in the Church have a special place in the Pope's heart and, I am sure, also in all of your hearts, dear Bishops. The charism of each one is an eloquent sign of participation in the manifold riches of Christ, whose "breadth and length and height and depth" (cf. Eph Ep 3,18) always exceed by far what we are able to absorb of his fullness. The Church, which is the visible face of Christ in time, welcomes and nourishes congregations and institutes with very different lifestyles, since they all contribute to revealing the richly diversified presence and dynamism of the Word of God incarnate and of the community of those who believe in Him.
At a time when there is a visible risk of creating human beings with a single dimension, which inevitably ends by being historicist or immanentist, consecrated persons are called to keep alive the value and meaning of the prayer of adoration, that is not separate but united with the living commitment of generous service to their neighbour. From this prayer religious draw motivation and effectiveness: prayer and work, action and contemplation, are binomials which, in Christ, never degenerate into contradictory opposites, but develop in reciprocal complementarity and fruitful integration.
Contemporary society needs to see in consecrated men and women how great is the harmony that exists between the human and the divine, between the visible and the invisible (cf. II Cor 4,18). It needs to see how much more important is the invisible than the visible, without ever trivializing or humiliating the visible but animating and elevating it to the level of the eternal plan of salvation. This is the witness they must bear in the world today: to show all the goodness and love that are contained in the mystery of Christ (cf. Ti Tt 3,4), and, at the same time, how much the transcendent and supernatural are needed for their mission among men and women.
3. I want to underline how much we need to give credit to the many religious congregations who sent the flower of their vocations to form and educate this people with great love and dedication. We cannot forget the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Benedictines, Jesuits, Salesians, Vincentians, Comboni Missionaries and fidei donum priests. What we see today in your national territory is the fruit of the hidden, silent, praiseworthy work of many lay persons and religious, men and women, who have contributed and are contributing to create a Christian soul in Brazilians. Let us recognize them and thank God, for in the silence and disinterested gift of themselves, the City of God has grown and the vigorous tree of the Church has borne the good fruit of grace.
The many religious communities, both active and contemplative, certainly constitute a great treasure for the Churches you govern. Each one of them is a gift for the diocese, which it helps to build, offering the experience of the Spirit that goes with its own charism and the evangelizing activity characteristic of its mission. Precisely because they are a priceless gift for the whole Church the Bishop is required "to support and help consecrated persons, so that, in communion with the Church, they open themselves to spiritual and pastoral initiatives responding to the needs of our time, while remaining faithful to their founding charism" (Vita consecrata VC 49). In this important mission, respectful and fraternal dialogue will be the best way to join forces and ensure the indispensable pastoral cohesion in each diocese, under the guidance of its pastor.
Support and encourage religious communities that are integrated into the life of the diocese
4. Religious communities that are integrated in the life of their diocese deserve all possible support and encouragement. They make a precious contribution, since although "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1Co 12,4). The Second Vatican Council said in this regard: "Let religious see well to it that the Church truly show forth Christ through them with ever-increasing clarity to believers and unbelievers alike - Christ in contemplation on the mountain, or proclaiming the kingdom of God to the multitudes, or healing the sick and wounded and converting sinners to a better life" (Lumen gentium LG 46).
The Church can only show joy and appreciation for all that the religious accomplish in universities, schools, hospitals and other institutions. This vast service to the people of God is reinforced by all the religious communities which have responded adequately to the Conciliar exhortation, by being faithful to their founding charism and by a renewed dedication to the essential elements of religious life (cf. Decree Perfectae caritatis PC 2). I pray God that he will abundantly reward all the religious communities for their collaboration in the pastoral work of the diocese, both in the hidden, silent life of the monastery and in the activity of assisting and forming in the faith all sectors of society, including the indigenous peoples.
May pastoral activities be guided by a sound initiative in spreading the revealed faith in all walks of life. Here for example, one can bring up the need to challenge the means of social communication for a correct presentation of the truth. Religious throughout the world, and Brazil is no exception, make use of the mass media as a major instrument for spreading the Good News. Hence the importance of giving appropriate guidance, so that they are not carried away by ideologies contrary to the Magisterium of the Church, but endeavour to preserve unity with the See of Peter.
In its great diversity, consecrated life constitutes a great resource for the Church in your country. The spiritual quality of consecrated persons, who offer great benefit to the faithful and are a valuable help to priests, continually fosters in the people of God an awareness of "the need to respond with holiness of life to the love of God poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit ... by reflecting in their conduct the sacramental consecration which is brought about by God's power in Baptism, Confirmation, or Holy Orders" (Vita consecrata VC 33).
In fidelity to their charism, in communion and in dialogue with the other members of the Church and with bishops first of all, religious communities will respond generously to the Spirit's call, and be concerned to seek new ways for the mission so that Christ may be announced to all the cultures even in the most remote regions.
5. In a profoundly secularized environment, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God through the witness of men and women religious is decisive. For this reason I desire to invite you to renew your attention to the promotion and care of consecrated life in your country. The practice of the evangelical counsels witnesses to "the new and eternal life which we have acquired through the redemptive work of Christ and preluding our future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom". (Lumen gentium LG 44). The distinctive role of the evangelical message fully justifies the increase of initiatives, both on the diocesan level and at the Bishops' Conference to motivate young people ever more to respond generously to a vocation to institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.
If we consider that in less than two decades in Brazil the number of vocations to the diocesan priesthood has overtaken the number of vocations to the religious life, we will understand the increased effort that the religious themselves have to exert, to recruit new workers for the Lord's harvest.
This problem is of great importance for the life of the Church in the world. There is "a pressing need to implement an extensive plan of vocational promotion, based on personal contact and involving parishes, schools and families in the effort to foster a more attentive reflection on life's essential values. These reach their fulfilment in the response which each person is invited to give to God's call, particularly when the call implies a total giving of self and of one's energies to the cause of the Kingdom". (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 46).
I encourage the superiors of the congregations and institutes present in your dioceses to offer to the novices of both sexes a human, intellectual and spiritual formation that allows a conversion of their whole being to Christ, so that their consecration may ever more shape their self-offering to the Father.
The activity and programmes of the Brazilian Conference of Religious must first of all "be distinguished by its reverent respect and special obedience to the Successor of Peter and to his directives" that emanate from this Apostolic See. I also remind you once again that "all initiatives in this important sector, both those promoted by the Brazilian Conference as well as the others, initiated by other structures of regional or local coordination, must be put under the effective supervision and responsibility of the major superiors and the diocesan bishop.... The bishops of the region ... have an objective responsibility and should be in a position to control and effectively support" (Address to Brazilian Bishops from North East Region II, 11 July 1995, n. 6; ORE 19 July 1995, p. 5).
Moreover, one sometimes hears talk of the refoundation of congregations, but disregarding - over and above the insecurity and confusion created in many people of good faith - that it is above all, a matter of their setting out anew completely from Christ, and of examining their sentire cum Ecclesia (thinking with the Church). It is therefore urgently necessary that the reorganization not only aim at human competence, but at an explicit Christian and Catholic formation. A religious life that does not express the joy of belonging to the Church, and with her, to Jesus Christ, has already lost its first and basic opportunity for promoting vocations.
6. As a bishops' conference and also individually as pastors, you will certainly examine with objectivity and respect the growing scarcity of vocations that is occurring in many institutes, while others constantly flourish.
It is a constitutive part of your ministry to sustain and guide the observance of the evangelical counsels, through which religious are consecrated to God, in Jesus Christ, to belong to him exclusively.
The care of religious life is particularly urgent when one speaks of vocational identity. In a spirit of deep humility, and taking as a reference point Him "who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Ep 3,20), men and women religious should ask themselves a few questions about the renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council. Are they seeking to follow it faithfully, has it produced the expected fruits of holiness and apostolic zeal?
Have they put into practice the directives of certain documents, published with my approval in recent years, on formation in religious institutes and on contemplative life (for example, the Instruction on the Contemplative Life and the Enclosure of Nuns Verbi sponsa of 1999)?
The renewal of religious life will depend on growth in God's love, keeping in mind that the "contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer is to be the first and foremost duty of all religious" (Code of Canon Law, CIC 663 CIC 1). The only effective way the better to discover one's identity is the rigorous but consoling process of sincere, personal conversion, with humble recognition of one's imperfections and sins. Confidence in the power of Christ's resurrection (cf. Phil Ph 3 Phil Ph 10) will help overcome all dryness and weakness, eliminating the sense of disenchantment that is felt on certain occasions.
7. Men and women who are consecrated to God in perfect chastity sometimes have to face the abandonment or indifference of those around them and consequently face solitude in the harsh and bitter sense of the word. At those times, the desire for human support and consolation can reawaken the memory of what they have left behind in life: the natural desire to be prolonged through children, the desire for affection and the comfort of family warmth. These are humanly understandable aspirations but in the perspective of the faith it is possible to transcend them in view of the Kingdom of God.
Whoever has taken the crucial step of consecration did so reassured by Christ's promise that "there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive much more in the present time, and eternal life in the age to come" (Lc 18,29-30). In moments of trial it is necessary to imitate Jesus who, on the eve of the Passion, abandoned himself without reserve to the Father's will, thus setting the example of a true obedience, which is not servile nor does it limit one's autonomy, but is a path of true freedom for the children of God. It is therefore necessary to reassert the serene conviction that He who began this good work in consecrated persons will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil Ph 1,6).
History teaches that certain cases of decline in the fervour and vitality of religious life are connected with a decline in the understanding and practice of evangelical poverty, although the lack of fulfilment of the other evangelical counsels, to a greater or lesser extent, also affects fidelity to the consecrated life. In imitating Christ "who became poor" for our sake (cf. II Cor 8,9), religious are called to "carry out a sincere review of their lives regarding their solidarity with the poor" (Redemptoris missio RMi 60). If they do not do this, they will fall into the temptation of being preachers of a poverty of which they do not set an example in their own lives, when they demand poverty of others without living it themselves.
Finally, through the free and total gift of themselves to Christ and to the Church, women and men religious can witness in a surprising way that the spirit of the Beatitudes is the way par excellence to transform the world and re-establish all things in Christ (cf. Lumen gentium LG 31).
8. Venerable brothers, in concluding my fraternal meeting with you, I desire to reaffirm all the affection and esteem I have for each of you. In listening to you, I have realized the dedication with which you govern your dioceses, and appreciated the communion that binds you to one another.
May Mary, sublime model of consecration, sustain your dedication and your unity, which I wholeheartedly confirm with an ample Apostolic Blessing which I also impart to the priests, seminarians, novices and the other members of your Christian communities.
To Mons. Francesco Follo
Permanent Observer of the Holy See at UNESCO
1. The 50th anniversary of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See at UNESCO enjoys a special importance, and I am happy to join in spirit and cordially greet all the participants in the colloquium called to observe this event. On this occasion, I am pleased to recall the illustrious memory of your predecessor, Mons. Angelo Roncalli, Blessed Pope John, who was the first Permanent Observer of this Mission of the Holy See.
2. Created in the 20th century immediately after the Second World War, the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) was born of the desire of the nations to live in peace, justice and freedom, and to provide one another with the means to promote this peace actively through a new international cooperation, marked by a spirit of mutual assistance and founded on the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity. It was natural for the Catholic Church to be associated with this great project because of the unique sovereignty of the Holy See, but, as I said to this assembly in 1980, also and especially, by reason of the "organic and constitutive link which exists between religion in general and Christianity in particular, on the one hand, and culture, on the other" (Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980, n. 9; ORE, 23 June 1980, p. 10).
3. The intuitions that prevailed at the foundation of UNESCO more than 50 years ago, stressed the importance of education for peace and solidarity, not losing sight of the fact that "if wars are born in people's minds, it is in the human spirit that the defences of peace must be built" (Constitution of UNESCO, 16 November 1945). Today these intuitions have been fully confirmed. The phenomenon of globalization has become a reality defining economics, politics and culture, bringing with it positive and negative values. They are areas that offer a challenge to our sense of responsibility so that a truly worldwide solidarity can be organized that alone can give our earth a secure future and lasting peace. In the name of the mission she has from her Founder to be the universal sacrament of salvation, without ignoring any situation, the Church never ceases to speak and act in favour of justice and peace, inviting nations to dialogue and understanding. Thus she bears witness to the truth she has received about man, his origin, his nature and his destiny. She knows that this search for the truth is the person's innermost pursuit and that it is not defined by what he possesses but by what he is, by the capacity to surpass self and to mature in humanity. The Church also knows that, by inviting our contemporaries to seek the truth about themselves with burning rigour, she calls them to their true freedom, while other voices, enticing them to take an easier path, contribute to enslave them to the renewed fascination and power of today's idols.
4. The Catholic Church, in her mission to all the peoples of the earth, is not identified with any race, nation, or culture. In the course of her history, she has always used the resources of many cultures to make known to humanity the Good News of Christ because she is fully conscious that the faith that she proclaims can never be reduced to one cultural element, but is the source of salvation for the whole human person and his activity. However, it is through the diversity and multiplicity of languages, cultures, traditions and mentalities, that the Church expresses her catholicity, unity, and faith. She does her best to respect every human culture, because in her missionary and pastoral activity she follows the rule that "whatever good is found sown in the minds and hearts of men or in the rites and customs of peoples, these not only are preserved from destruction, but are purified, raised up, and perfected for the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man" (Lumen gentium LG 17).
For these reasons, the Catholic Church holds in high esteem the nation, since it is the forge in which the sense of the common good is created, where one learns what it means to belong to a culture, through language, the transmission of family values and formation in the common memory. Similarly, the multiform experience of human cultures that she possesses because she is "catholic", that is, universal in both space and time, makes her desire to help people abandon an excessive particularity and narrow and exclusive nationalism. We should keep in mind that "every culture, as a typically human and historically conditioned reality, necessarily has its limitations" (Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2001, 8 December 2000, n. 7; ORE, 20/27 December 2000, p. 10). Thus, "in order to prevent the sense of belonging to one particular culture from turning into isolation, an effective antidote is a serene and unprejudiced knowledge of other cultures" (ibid. n. 7).
It is precisely the noble mission of UNESCO to foster such reciprocal knowledge of cultures and to encourage their institutional dialogue by all sorts of projects at the international level, namely, meetings, exchanges, formation programmes. Building bridges beween human beings, and, even sometimes rebuilding them when the folly of war has worked to destroy them, is a long-term, never finished project that entails the formation of consciences, the education of youth and the change of mentalities. This is a major opportunity for a globalization that will not produce a homogenization of values or reduce everything to the laws of the global market, but rather bring about the possibility of pooling the legitimate treasures of each nation in order to serve the good of all.
5. For her part, the Catholic Church rejoices in what has been done, even if she knows its limitations, and she continually encourages the peaceful encounter of human beings through their cultures and the consideration of the religious and spiritual dimension of individuals, which is part of their history. This really is the reason for the presence of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, who for 50 years has been a vigilant witness to the catholic nature of the Church and to her resolute dedication to the service of the human community.
May the observance of this anniversary strengthen everyone's dedication to work tirelessly to serve true dialogue among the peoples through their cultures, so that everyone may be more conscious of belonging to the same human family and peace in the world may be better guaranteed!
To you and to those taking part in the colloquium, I cordially grant a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 25 November 2002.
1. With a cordial greeting, I welcome all of you to the Apostolic Palace. I am happy to join you in your rejoicing over the 400th anniversary of papal approval of the Congregation of the Devout Virgins of St Catherine, Virgin and Martyr, and the 450th anniversary of your foundress's birth.
This double anniversary invites us, in faithfulness to the charism of Bl. Regina Protmann, to renew your dedication to the mission you have inherited, to bring God's love to all who are seeking and suffering.
2. The spirituality of a religious community must be inspired by the founding charism, challenged and measured by it. Regina Protmann was born in Braunsberg im Ermland at the time of the Reformation. She herself lived the spirit of authentic religious reform in following Christ. She visited the poor, the sick and children to bring to them the witness of the divine goodness. She held it to be her sacred duty to comfort the afflicted and nurse the sick (cf. Mt Mt 25,35 ff.) and to give children a good education.
3. Closely connected to this service of love, Bl. Regina Protmann's main concern was her living relationship with Jesus, her Lord and Spouse. "She prayed in the truth and without ceasing" her biographer says. Prayer prepares the ground for action. "By opening our heart to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God's plan" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 33).
4. Dear Sisters! As daughters of Mother Regina you are called to love Christ in the poor. The Rule (of 1602) urges you to "serve Christ, Lord and Spouse with diligence, according to his divine counsel" (art. 1). This readiness to serve is a sequel to the adoration of Christ in daily life.
"Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts". Peter says: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope" (1P 3,15). Thus you will truly be able to bring the Saviour to humanity.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and Martyr, Catherine, of Bl. Mother Regina and of all the saints, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, dear Sisters, and to all who are entrusted to your care.
I extend a warm welcome to you as I accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the Holy See. Grateful for the greetings which you bring from President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and the Government, I gladly offer my own good wishes to the authorities and people of your country and — mindful of the great hardships which the population is enduring due to years of conflict — I ask you to assure the nation of my prayers.
In the past century, tremendous progress has been made in the social, economic and scientific spheres. During this same period, however, humanity has also witnessed the violence, destruction and death that ensue when peoples and nations have recourse to arms rather than to dialogue, when war is chosen over the often more difficult path of mutual understanding and respect. And more sadly still, the beginning of this new millennium has been scarred by further terrible violence in the form of international terrorism. Thus, despite the many cultural and technological advances that have been made in the past hundred years, there remain important areas which have seen little improvement or which have even grown worse.
In situations where tensions and conflict arise within a country or between nations, the proper response is never violence and bloodshed but dialogue, with a view to the peaceful resolution of the crisis. Authentic dialogue presupposes an honest search for what is true, good and just for every person, every group and every society; it is a sincere effort to identify what people have in common despite tension, opposition and conflict: this in fact is the only sure path leading to true peace and genuine progress. Furthermore, authentic dialogue helps the peoples and nations of the earth to recognize their mutual interdependence in the economic, political and cultural spheres. Precisely in our modern day, which is all too familiar with the latest technologies of death and destruction, there is an urgent need to build a consistent culture of peace that will help to forestall and counter the seemingly inevitable outbreaks of armed violence. This includes taking concrete steps to put an end to trafficking in arms.
Here, the duty of governments and of the international community remains essential, for it belongs to them to contribute to the establishment of peace through solid structures that, despite the uncertainties of politics, will guarantee freedom and security to all people in every circumstance.
The United Nations itself has been taking on a role of ever greater responsibility for maintaining or restoring peace in areas besieged by war and conflict. In your own country the U.N. has just extended the mandate of its peace-keeping mission: thus, the international community is itself a partner with your Government in its efforts to reintegrate ex-combatants, to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons, to ensure the full respect of human rights and the rule of law, with special protection afforded to women and children. In this context I cannot fail to express my immense satisfaction that after years of armed conflict, suffering and death, civil stability is returning to Sierra Leone, bringing positive prospects for the normalization of national life: may your country continue along this path with courage and perseverance.
The Catholic Church too lends her full support to activities aimed at restoring peace and bringing about reconciliation. Indeed, her Divine Founder has entrusted to her a religious and humanitarian mission, different than that of the political community, but open nonetheless to many forms of cooperation and mutual support. It is this mission which underlies the Holy See’s presence in the international community, a presence directed solely to the good of the human family: promoting peace, defending human dignity and human rights, working for the integral development of peoples.
This is a duty which derives necessarily from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is a responsibility shared by all Christians. For this reason, the Church will continue to be a committed partner with your country as Sierra Leone continues along the path of political, social and economic development.
Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your mission to the Holy See will strengthen the bonds of understanding and friendship between us. You can be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the discharge of your high duties. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Sierra Leone I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Jamaica to the Holy See. I gratefully recall the warm hospitality which I received from the Government and people of your country during my Apostolic Visit in 1993, and I would ask you kindly to convey my greetings and best wishes to the Governor General, the Prime Minister and your fellow citizens. Please assure them of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the Nation.
You are well aware that the mission of the Church in the world is eminently spiritual and therefore distinct from the political order. The Church nonetheless offers civil society the contribution of her teaching, her two-thousand-year experience of humanity’s journey through history, and her many different forms of service to the human family. She knows that society will develop peacefully and prosper only to the extent that it reflects the moral order established by God, the Creator, who from the fullness of his love seeks to draw all men and women into the wholeness of his life. It is for this reason that the Holy See speaks so insistently to the international community about the duty to respect human dignity and about the fundamental importance of supporting the family as the primary cell of society.
The scourge of destructive social ills, present in many societies and which undermine moral values and threaten family life, is a great tragedy of our time. Drug trafficking, gang violence, attacks on law and order, oppression of women and children are all part of the ‘culture of death’ which social institutions must assiduously work together to overcome. I note with appreciation Your Excellency’s reference to your Government’s principal priority of achieving reconciliation and national unity through the promotion of wholesome values and attitudes. Such objectives depend upon the ability of all members of society to feel that they have a stake in their national community and that they are able to contribute to its progress. For her part, the Catholic Church, in proclaiming the Gospel of life received from her Lord, ardently desires to promote among all people, and especially among the young, the culture of truth and love which leads to authentic freedom and happiness.
During my visit to Kingston I encouraged the Jamaican people to let the Gospel transform their lives and society. The future of society, I observed, is essentially linked to the strength of its families, and it is indispensable that every person of good will should be committed to saving and promoting the family as the most effective means for humanizing and personalizing society. The God-given dignity of every person is first realized and experienced within the family. When this dignity is expressed in principles of equality, justice and respect for the common good, the renewal of society is assured.