Consequently, the witness of this distinguished Pontiff lives on as an example for us too, Christians of today who have only recently crossed the threshold of the third millennium and look confidently to the future. To build a future of serenity and solidarity, it is right to turn our gaze to this true disciple of Christ and to follow his teaching, courageously presenting anew to the contemporary world the saving message of the Gospel. Indeed, it is only in Christ and in him alone that human beings of every epoch can find the secret to the total fulfilment of their most essential aspirations.
I warmly hope that you too, eminent Professors, through the fruitful collaboration between the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences and the "Accademia dei Lincei", may make a significant contribution to building a new civilization that is truly worthy of man by acquiring a deeper knowledge of the thought and action of this great Pontiff.
With these sentiments, as I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I cordially bless you all.
From the Vatican, 22 October 2003
I am pleased to greet you, the members of the Pro Petri Sede and …trennes Pontificales Associations, who have come to Rome together to demonstrate the new bonds that unite your two organizations, and especially, to express your common attachment to the See of Peter.
For many years you have taken care to keep alive in your Dioceses and parishes the spirit of communion that marks the Catholic Church and is expressed in the openness of each Church to the others around the See of Peter, guarantor of unity and communion among them all. This sense of ecclesial communion is expressed in particular by the practice of charity and the promotion of fraternal sharing, so that the more favoured help the less privileged (cf. II Cor 8: 13-15) and the Church is truly the Body of Christ in which each member feels solidarity for all the others (cf. 1Co 12,25-26).
The Pope is grateful to you for the generous and faithful help that your associations give to the Church. It enables her, in her communities and throughout the world, to continue her spiritual and material action for everyone and, especially for the poorest of our brethren, to ensure a greater respect for their dignity everywhere. Please express, therefore, to all the members of your associations my deep gratitude for their gifts and their commitment. In their daily lives, may they always be attentive to the lowliest and thereby express to them the love of God who "shows no partiality" (Ac 10,34)!
Dear pilgrims, as I entrust you and your families to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom we venerate, especially in this month, as Our Lady of the Rosary, I wholeheartedly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, which I extend to all the members of both your associations and to their loved ones.
To Cardinal Lubomyr Husar
Major Archbishop of Lviv for Ukrainians
1. I learned with deep joy of the international Conference organized by the Ukrainian Catholic University, in collaboration with the Solovyov Society of Geneva and other cultural Ukrainian Institutions, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov.
On this happy occasion I would like to convey through you, Venerable Brother, my cordial greetings and encouragement to the organizers, the speakers and the participants of this Conference for this initiative that aims to examine in depth the thought of one of the greatest Russian Christian philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
This event, which gathers people of the Eastern and Western cultures, will enable them to compare their reflections on the truth of the one Gospel of Christ and to see the reciprocal fruitfulness that can result, confirming the Church's need to be able to breathe with both her lungs: the Eastern Tradition and the Western Tradition. The strictly cultural dimension is consequently combined with an undeniably ecumenical aspect, so important in the ecclesial context of our time.
2. The unity of the Church was one of the main aspirations of Vladimir Solovyov, who was very familiar with the prayer that Christ addressed to his Father during the Last Supper (cf. Jn Jn 17,20-23). Raised in deep Orthodox spirituality from his earliest years, he lived through various cultural periods during which he had the opportunity to become acquainted with Western philosophical thought. Disappointed, however, by the incomplete responses that human reflection offered to the anguish that tormented his heart, in 1872 he returned to the Christian faith of his childhood.
His thought, based on God's wisdom and on the spiritual foundations of life, like his insight concerning moral philosophy and the meaning of human history, influenced the rich flourishing of contemporary Russian thought and also made an impact on European culture by fostering a fertile and enriching dialogue concerning the fundamental issues of theology and spirituality.
Especially in his later years, Solovyov harboured the ardent desire that the Churches would likewise enter into a perspective of encounter and communion, each one contributing the treasures of her own tradition and feeling mutually responsible for the unity of the faith and for ecclesial discipline. With a view to attaining this goal, so dear to the great Russian thinker, the Catholic Church has irrevocably committed herself at all levels.
3. The theme of the Congress, "Vladimir Solovyov, Russia and the Universal Church", clearly mirrors the basic concern of this great author. The study of his thought on the universal nature of Christ's Church will highlight once again the duty of the Christian communities of East and West to listen to Christ's desire with regard to the unity of his disciples. Solovyov was convinced that it is only in the Church that humanity will be able to coexist in full solidarity.
May the rediscovery of the treasures of his thought foster a better understanding between East and West and, in particular, hasten the progress of all Christians towards full unity in the one fold of Christ (cf. Jn Jn 10,16).
As I express my fervent best wishes for the success of this international Conference, I invoke the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of the Saviour, and I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, the source of abundant heavenly gifts, to you as well as to the other Cardinals, to the different speakers and to all the people who in their different capacities will be attending this meeting.
From the Vatican, 28 October 2003, Feast of the Holy Apostles, Sts Simon and Jude
Dear Italian Capuchin Friars,
1. I turn to you with affection and cordially greet you on the occasion of the Chapter of the Mats of your Italian Capuchins. I extend my greeting to your entire meritorious Order, led by the Minister General Fr John Corriveau, to whom I offer best wishes.
Your gathering in the seraphic city of Assisi at the tomb of St Francis, living wellspring of the Franciscan charism, is of significant importance: be it for the number of you here present - actually 500 of you, representing about 2,500 Italian Confreres - be it for the profile of your meeting, which allows you to relive that first and remarkable gathering that was willed by St Francis and known as the "Chapter of the Mats" (Leggenda Perugina, n. 114; FF 1673). The themes that you intend to study are inspired by the well-known "Little Testament" of Siena (FF 132-135), which clearly focuses on your Founder's concern for the Order and his last wishes: reciprocal love between the Friars, love for evangelical poverty, love for the Church. You intend to set your reflections in the highly existential and dynamic context of the altered conditions of the present time, which are in continual evolution, according to the light of the providential designs of God, who accompanies the "sacred history" of our epoch with his love.
2. "As a sign in memory of the blessing and testament" (cf. FF 133) of St Francis, your primary concern will be to highlight the meaning attached to the name that your Founder gave you: he wanted you to be called "Friars", "Brothers". The terms "Fraternity" and "Brother" express in a meaningful way for you the evangelical newness of the "new commandment". Being brothers must characterize your behaviour towards God, towards yourselves, others and towards all creatures.
The typical features of your charismatic identity as a well-defined group within the Church derive from the fundamental Gospel value of lived fraternity, your spirituality, way of life, concrete choices, criteria of teaching and activities and apostolic methods.
This form of life in fraternity constitutes a challenge and a proposal in today's world, often "torn apart by ethnic hatred or senseless violence", marked by passions and conflicting interests, seeking unity but uncertain "about the ways to attain it" (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 51). To live in fraternity as true disciples of Jesus can constitute a singular "blessing" for the Church and a "spiritual therapy" for humanity (cf. ibid., n. 87). Indeed, evangelical fraternity, almost constituting "a model and leaven of social life, invites men to encourage fraternal relations among themselves, and to join forces in favour of the development and liberation of the entire person, as well as authentic social progress" (cf. Constitutions OFM Cap., 11, 4).
As brothers and members of a fraternity, you make up an "Order of brothers". This unique fraternal style must reflect and favour the sense of each one's belonging to an extended family without boundaries. A continual and total conversion to "fraternity" on the part of the individual members, local and provincial fraternities, will lead to a sort of globalization of charity lived by brothers at the level of the Order, with the ordinary and real possibility of making the individual and community resources available for the brotherly and Franciscan service and for the general priority needs of the entire Capuchin Fraternity.
3. Another theme that you wish to explore is that of love of poverty in the light of "minority" (littleness). This term qualifies your full name ("Friars Minor"), and embraces, together with other meaningful aspects of the Capuchin charism, poverty. The dimension of "minority", which must characterize your being and acting, is at this moment the focal point of attention of the entire Order, looking ahead to the upcoming Plenary Council. I am sure that the reflections that emerge in this "Chapter of the Mats" will contribute to understanding better and putting into effect this value that specifically identifies you in the Church. As I was able to tell you on other occasions, it allows you to be "close in solidarity to the humble and simple people", and makes your Franciscan fraternities "a cordial and accessible point of reference for the poor and for those who are sincerely seeking God" (Message to Fr John Corriveau, Minister General of the Capuchins, 18 September 1996; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 16 October, p. 8).
"Minority" requires a heart that is free, detached, humble, gentle and simple, as proposed to us by Jesus and lived by St Francis. It requires the total denial of self and full availability to God and neighbour. Lived "minority" is not only an expression of the disarmed and disarming strength of the spiritual dimension in the Church and in the world, but true minority frees the heart and opens it to an ever more authentic fraternal love, in the expansive behaviour characteristic [of your Order]. It fosters, for example, a style of life characterized by simplicity and sincerity, spontaneity and solidness, humility and joy, self-denial and availability, neighbourliness and service, especially towards the littlest and the neediest people.
4. Next to fraternal love and love of poverty, you will also meditate on faithful love for the Church. A love which requires of you, in imitation of your Father and Brother St Francis, a disposition of faith and obedience that is lived out in a humble and creative service which becomes a stimulating and convincing "sign" of ecclesial fidelity and of openness to one's brothers and sisters. St Francis became a promoter and a messenger of a humble yet incisive message of evangelical renewal, so that the Gospel would be presented in its integrity and purity by way of a life characterized by love, closeness [to one's neighbour], dialogue and Christian tolerance. Beloved friars, witness your obedience to the Church with your heart and your Founder's way of life; this means unremitting effort, one that will make you happy and aware of spending your existence for God's Kingdom in the name of Jesus.
5. I cordially hope that the "Chapter of the Mats" will produce the expected spiritual fruits, helping you to single out the right direction to go forward, faithful to your charism in a changing world. It is a beautiful experience for you to come together to strengthen your fraternal, Franciscan and ecclesial vocation. In an atmosphere of prayer, reflection and dialogue you are better able to appreciate the grace of being sons and brothers of St Francis, and it will be possible for you to affirm your mission as the third millennium begins. Discerning and examining the past will open you to the needs of the present-day to build the future of your Order together.
I likewise hope that this important meeting will help you to understand better the urgent need to travel the "narrow way" of the Gospel: the way of permanent conversion to Christ, which the journey of holiness is. According to Gospel teaching, it is necessary to have a change of heart if one truly desires to change one's life. Otherwise, one may run the risk of feeling disenchanted and frustrated, as words and proposals, encounters and gatherings, though pleasant, become meaningless and nullify much of the energy expended on elaborating spiritual and apostolic programmes.
May the "Virgin made Church" (FF 259), Holy Mary of the Angels, Queen of the Order of Minors, assist you in this effort towards Christian perfection. May the continual intercession of St Francis and the numerous Saints and Blesseds of the Capuchin Order support and encourage you, so that you may live faithfulness despite change, through permanent conversion of heart.
With this wish, I impart to you, to the other Confreres of Italy and throughout the world, a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 22 October 2003
My Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy,
1. It is with great joy that I welcome you, the third group of Filipino Bishops, as we come to the end of this series of Ad Limina visits. I am especially pleased to greet Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, and I thank him for the good wishes he has expressed on behalf of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Manila, Lingayen-Dagupan, Nueva Segovia, San Fernando, Tuguegarao and the Military Ordinariate. I give thanks to Almighty God that during the last few months I have had the pleasure of meeting almost every Bishop from your country, which is home to the largest Catholic presence in Asia and is one of the most vibrant Catholic communities in the world. Not only have these visits reinforced the bond between us, but they have also offered a unique opportunity for us to look more closely at the accomplishments achieved and the challenges still facing the Church in the Philippines. In this regard, I wish to commend all of you for your successful work on the National Pastoral Consultation. You are well aware that implementing a plan of such breadth is not an easy task, but you also realize that you are not alone in this undertaking. In fact, as "Shepherds of the Lordís flock", you know that you can count on a special divine grace as you carry out your ministry as Bishops (cf. Pastores Gregis ).
Having already discussed themes related to the Church of the poor and the community of disciples of the Lord, I wish to reflect on the commitment to engage in "renewed integral evangelization".
2. Christ left those he loved with the command to spread the Gospel to all people in all places (cf. Mk Mc 16,15). The pledge of the Church in the Philippines to engage in renewed integral evangelization demonstrates her desire to ensure that Christian faith and values permeate every aspect of society. Your Vision-Mission Statement describes evangelization in this way: "We shall embark on a new integral evangelization and witness to Jesus Christís Gospel of salvation and liberation through our words, deeds and lives". This description of the "new evangelization" clearly recognizes that an essential element of this process is witness. Todayís world is one that is constantly bombarded with words and information. For this reason and possibly more than at any time in recent history, the things Christians do speak louder than the things they say. Perhaps this is the reason that the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta speaks to so many hearts. She put what she heard into action, spreading Christís love to all those she encountered, always recognizing that "it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into what we do" that matters. Indeed, "people today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching and in life and action than in theories". Therefore a loving witness of the Christian life will always remain "the first and irreplaceable form of mission" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 42).
3. Men and women of today desire role models of authentic witness to the Gospel. They have a longing to be more like Christ and this is apparent in the many ways Filipino Catholics express their faith. An example of the effort to bring Christ to others is found in the Churchís development of social welfare programs for the poor and outcast, at both national and local levels. This dedication to the proclamation of the Good News is also evident in your effective use of the mass media to heighten moral sensitivity and stimulate greater concern for social issues. Notwithstanding these notable achievements, there still remain various obstacles, such as the participation of some Catholics in sects which witness only to the superstitious; the lack of familiarity with the teachings of the Church; the endorsement by some of anti-life attitudes which include the active promotion of birth control, abortion and the death penalty; and, as I discussed in my last address to the Filipino Bishops, the persistent dichotomy between faith and life (cf. Proceedings and Addresses of the NPCCR, January 2001, p. 146).
A solid way to address these concerns is found in your commitment to animating and developing the mission ad gentes. Jesus, the "chief evangelizer", appointed the Apostles to follow in his steps by becoming his personal "emissaries". As their successors it is your sacred duty to make certain that those who assist you in your pastoral ministry are ready to carry Christís message to the world (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 858-859). You can ensure such readiness if you guarantee that Filipinos are given ample opportunity to hear the word of God, to pray and contemplate, to celebrate the mystery of Jesus in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, and to see examples of "true communion of life and integrity of love" (Ecclesia in Asia ). Once again I affirm that "the more the Christian community is rooted in the experience of God which flows from a living faith, the more credibly it will be able to proclaim to others the fulfillment of Godís Kingdom in Jesus Christ" (ibid.).
4. Events of recent years in the Philippines have illustrated the urgent need for integral evangelization in all sectors of society, especially in the spheres of government and public policy. As concerned Christians and citizens of the world, we can never ignore "the evil of corruption which is undermining the social and political development of so many peoples" (Message for the 1998 World Day of Peace, 5). In this regard, it must be made clear that no office of public service can ever be treated as private property or as a personal privilege. Considering public office as a benefice necessarily results in favoritism, which in turn leads to the abuse and misuse of public money, bribery, graft, influence peddling and corruption (cf. Proceedings and Addresses of the NPCCR, January 2001, p. 120).
The people of the Philippines are aware that to denounce corruption publicly requires great courage. To eliminate corruption calls for the committed support of all citizens, the resolute determination of the authorities and a firm moral conscience. The Church has a major role here inasmuch as she is the primary agent for properly forming peopleís conscience. Her function, as a rule, should not be that of direct intervention in matters that are strictly political, but rather that of converting individuals and evangelizing culture, so that society itself can take up the task of promoting social transformation and develop a keen sense of transparency in government and abhorrence of corruption (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 7 and the Message for the 1998 World Day of Peace, 5).
5. One way to ensure that a society engages actively and faithfully in integral evangelization is to give young people a proper formation early on in their faith and life journeys. My presence at the World Youth Day in Manila in 1995 allowed me to witness at first hand the enthusiasm that young people can have for Christ and his Church. This eagerness to know more about their faith is evidenced by the numbers of young people who are involved in parish life. I compliment the Church in the Philippines for all it has done to offer suitable pastoral care to youth. Many of your dioceses provide summer camps, retreats, frequent youth Masses and youth formation offices. Most impressive is the manner in which your local communities listen to the concerns and suggestions of young people, allowing them to have an active voice in the Church (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ).
At the same time, obstacles still exist to evangelization among young people. In some families parents do not encourage their children to participate in Church-sponsored activities. Young peopleís potential is threatened by illiteracy, the desire for material goods, a casual attitude towards human sexuality and the temptation to abuse drugs and alcohol. You have mentioned your distress over the numbers of youth who have left the Catholic Church in favor of fundamentalist sects, many of which accentuate material riches over spiritual ones. In response to these concerns, I pray that you will continue to engage young people, especially those most at risk, by providing them access to affordable Catholic education and Church-sponsored youth activities, and by helping them to understand better that Christ alone has the words of everlasting life (cf. Jn Jn 6,63).
6. Finally, I ask you, dear Brothers, to continue to encourage the clergy and religious who spend so much of their time and energy trying to develop creative and effective ways of spreading Christís saving message. Assure them that their unique role as heralds of the Gospel is essential to the success of integral evangelization. In this regard, I wish to express my gratitude both to the missionaries and religious of the past who brought Jesus to the Filipino people and also to those who continue to make his presence known today. We thank God that, as the Second Vatican Council stated, "the Lord always calls from the number of his disciples those whom he wishesÖ so that he may send them to preach to the nations" (Ad Gentes AGD 23). It is my hope that all the faithful of the Church will continue to encourage young men and women to answer the call to this "special vocation" modeled on that of the Apostles (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 65).
7. My dear Brother Bishops, as you make your way back to your local Churches, I ask God to strengthen you in your commitment to a renewed integral evangelization, in your efforts to "present the One who inaugurates a new era of history and announce to the world the good news of a complete and universal salvation which contains in itself the pledge of a new world in which pain and injustice will give way to joy and beauty" (Pastores Gregisł 65). Commending you, the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Philippines to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
I cordially thank you for the fervent best wishes extended to me by your Dean, on your behalf and on behalf of the entire Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of my Pontificate. I also thank you for the meaningful gift that has been presented to me on this occasion.
In your Delegation, representative of the world's various geographic areas, I am delighted to greet all of the countries with which the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations. I also take advantage of this occasion to show my gratitude for the numerous signs of affection that have reached me in these days from each one of these nations.
To you, distinguished Ambassadors, I renew my best wishes for a peaceful and advantageous fulfilment of your important mission at the service of peace and harmony.
With these sentiments, I invoke upon you, your loved ones and upon your work the abundance of the blessings of the omnipotent God.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I extend a respectful greeting to all, with a special word of gratitude for Hon. Giuseppe Pisanu, who has fittingly expressed your common sentiments.
I greatly appreciate the fact that, for the Conference of Ministers for the Interior of the European Union, you have chosen as your theme: "Interreligious dialogue: factor of cohesion in Europe and instrument of peace in the Mediterranean area". Highlighting this topic shows that you understand the importance of religion, not only for the protection of human life but also for the promotion of peace.
"Religions worthy of this name", I said at the beginning of 1987 to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, "the open religions spoken of by Bergson - which are not just projections of human desires but an openness and submission to the transcendent will of God which asserts itself in every conscience - such religions permit the establishment of peace.... Without an absolute respect for man founded on a spiritual vision of the human being, there is no peace" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], Address to Diplomatic Corps, 10 January 1987, p. 6, n. 6).
2. Your Conference has taken place in the perspective of the primary objective of the Ministers for the Interior of the European Union, namely, the construction of a free, secure and just space in which all feel themselves at home. This entails the search for new solutions to problems connected with respect for life, the rights of families and immigration issues; problems that must be considered not only in the European perspective but also in the context of dialogue with the Countries of the Mediterranean area.
The hoped-for social cohesion will increasingly demand that fraternal solidarity which derives from the knowledge of being one family of persons called to build a more just and fraternal world. This knowledge is already present in some way in the ancient religions of Egypt and of Greece that had their beginnings in the Mediterranean, but also, and most of all, in the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And how can one fail to note, with a degree of sadness, that the faithful of these three religions, whose historical roots are in the Middle East, have not yet established among themselves a fully peaceful co-existence right there where they were born? There can never be too many attempts to create frank dialogue and solid cooperation among all the believers in one God.
3. Europe, born from the encounter of different cultures with the Christian message, today is experiencing a rebirth in its bosom because of immigration and the presence of various cultural and religious traditions. Experiences of fruitful collaboration are plentiful, and the actual efforts for an intercultural and interreligious dialogue provide glimpses of a unity in diversity that bodes well for the future.
This does not exclude an adequate recognition, including legislatively, of the specific religious traditions in which each People is raised and with which they often identify themselves in a particular way. The guarantee and the promotion of religious freedom constitutes a "test" of respect for the rights of others and is realized through the forecast of an adequate juridical discipline by the different religious Confessions, as a guarantee of their respective identities and of their freedom.
The recognition of the specific religious patrimony of a society demands the recognition of the symbols that qualify it. If, in the name of an erroneous interpretation of the principle of equality, one gives up expressing such religious traditions and connected cultural values, the fragmentation of today's multiethnic and multicultural societies could easily transform itself into a factor of instability and, thus, of conflict. Social cohesion and peace cannot be built by eliminating the religious features of every People: otherwise, such a proposition would result in less democracy, because it would be contrary to the spirit of nations and the sentiments of the majority of their peoples.
4. Following the dramatic events surrounding the terrorist acts of 11 September 2001, the representatives of many religions have also redoubled their initiatives in favour of peace. The Day of Prayer that I conducted at Assisi on 24 January 2002 concluded with a declaration of the religious "leaders" present, called by some "the Assisi Decalogue". We pledged ourselves, among other things, to eradicate the causes of terrorism, a phenomenon that contrasts with the authentic religious spirit; to defend the right of each person to a worthy existence according to his or her cultural identity and to freely form one's family; to sustain the common effort in order to defeat egoism and suppression, hate and violence, appreciating the experience of the past that peace without justice is not true peace.
To the representatives of religions present at Assisi I expressed the conviction that "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". For this, the "religious traditions have the resources needed to overcome fragmentation and to promote mutual friendship and respect among peoples.... Whoever uses religion to foment violence contradicts religion's deepest and truest inspiration" (Holy Father's Concluding Address, 24 January 2002, n. 4; ORE, 30 January 2002, p. 6).
5. Despite the failures thus far registered in the initiatives for peace, we continue to hope. Dialogue at all levels - economic, political, cultural, religious - will bear fruit. The trust of believers is founded not only in human resources but also on Almighty and Merciful God. He is the light that enlightens every man. All believers know that peace is a gift from God, and it has its true source in him. Only he can give us the power to confront problems and to persevere in the hope that good will triumph.
With these convictions, which I know you share, I wish complete success to the work of the Conference and I invoke the Blessing of Almighty God on you all.