Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
1. Welcome! I am grateful to you for your visit and address my cordial greeting to each one. In particular I greet Archbishop Amédée Grab, President of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE), and I thank him for his words on your behalf. I greet Bishop Cesare Nosiglia, Delegate of the CCEE for catechesis, the other prelates, the General Secretary of the CCEE and all those present.
This meeting of Bishops and those responsible for catechesis in the various European countries provides an opportunity to reflect on the urgent needs and challenges of the new evangelization on the European continent. I thank all of you who are responsible for coordinating catechesis for your dedicated commitment to a task that is so vital for the growth of the Christian communities. In them, as in those of the apostolic times, believers must "devote themselves to the apostles' teaching" (Ac 2,42).
2. The theme of the meeting - "Priests and Catechesis in Europe" - recalls the gift and the primary task of Bishops and priests: that is, the building up of the Church through the proclamation of the Word of God and catechetical teaching.
"The priest", I recalled in Pastores Dabo Vobis, "is first of all a minister of the Word of God... sent forth to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to all" (n. 26). Today, the boundaries of the priest's ministry are increasingly being extended to include pastoral contexts that enrich the Christian community but sometimes risk fragmenting his activity into thousands of commitments and activities.
His attention to catechesis suffers from this as it can be reduced to sporadic moments that have little effect on the formation of catechists. After the example of the Apostle Paul (cf. Rom Rm 1,14), he must instead feel, as it were, indebted to the entire people of God to preach the Gospel and to do so with the most careful theological and cultural preparation.
The General Directory for Catechesis notes: "Experience bears out that the quality of catechesis in a community depends very largely on the presence and activity of the priest" (n. 225).
3. As the first catechist in the community, the priest, especially if he is a parish priest, is called to be the first believer and disciple of the Word of God, and to devote painstaking care to the discernment and guidance of vocations to catechetical service. As a "catechist of catechists" he must be concerned with spiritual, doctrinal and cultural formation.
In a communitarian perspective, the priest will always be aware that the ministry of catechetics at the service of the people of God derives from his Bishop, to whom he is indissolubly bound by the sacrament of Orders and from whom he has received the mandate to preach and to teach.
The reference to the teaching office of the Bishop within the one diocesan presbyterate and the obedience to the guidelines for catechesis which every Pastor and Bishops' Conference issues for the good of the faithful, are elements that the priest must utilize in his catechetical action. In this perspective, it is particularly important to study and to apply the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an indispensable vademecum (guide book) offered to priests, catechists and all the faithful, to direct catechesis on the paths of authentic fidelity to God and to the people of our time.
4. "Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mc 16,15). This command of the Lord is addressed to every baptized person, but for Bishops and priests it "has pride of place" (Lumen Gentium LG 25). Like Christ the Good Shepherd, the priest is asked to assist the community because his life is one of continual missionary outreach. Catechesis in the family, in the working world, at school and at University, through the mass media and new languages, involves priests and lay people, parishes and movements. All are called to cooperate in the new evangelization, to keep alive and to revitalize their common Christian roots. The Christian faith is the richest patrimony from which the European peoples can draw to achieve their true spiritual, economic and social progress.
May Mary, Star of the new evangelization, ensure that the reflections and guidelines you have drawn up in these days serve to foster a renewed catechetical commitment in your Churches. For my part, I assure you of a remembrance in prayer as I wholeheartedly bless you all, along with the communities from which you come.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to meet you here on this joyful occasion which has gathered together lecturers and students of the "Pope's University". I would like to greet the Cardinals and Bishops present, as well as the participants in the Convention organized on this occasion, the teachers and students of the various faculties.
I also thank Bishop Rino Fisichella, Rector Magnificent, for the sentiments he has expressed and for the important gift of the two works with which the university intends to commemorate this moment.
2. I am thinking back to the three visits that God has granted me to make to your athenaeum in the course of these years. Every meeting of this kind sparks memories of my own experience in academic teaching at Kraków and Lublin. They were years enriched by study, contacts and research, fired by the desire to identify and explore new paths for an evangelization alert to the challenges of the modern age. The knowledge I acquired at that time was useful to me in my pastoral ministry, first in Kraków and later as Successor of Peter, in the service I continue to carry out for the entire people of God.
In every phase and stage of university life and pastoral ministry, one of the esential reference points for me was attention to the person, placed at the centre of all philosophical or theological research.
3. I therefore appreciate that to commemorate the 25th anniversary of my Pontificate, you have chosen to organize this convention on a particularly timely theme: "The Church at the service of humanity", requesting the highly qualified and representative participation of members of the Roman Curia and the world of culture.
I wrote in my first Encyclical, Redemptor Hominis: "The Church cannot abandon man, for his "destiny', that is to say his election, calling, birth and death, salvation or perdition, is so closely and unbreakably linked with Christ... this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption" (n. 14).
4. The Gospel message is intended for men and women of every race and culture, to serve as a beacon of light and salvation in the various situations in which they exist. This perennial service to the "truth" about man stirs up enthusiasm in all who desire to know more and more about themselves and perceive with increasing awareness the longing to encounter Christ, the total fulfilment of the human being. This also represents a vast field of action for you who, with missionary verve, intend to contribute to identifing new paths for the evangelization of culture.
Christ is the truth that sets free all who seek him with sincerity and perseverance. He is the truth that the Church proclaims tirelessly in different ways, spreading the one Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth and inculturating it in the various regions of the world.
St Irenaeus recalled with wisdom: "As the sun, a creature of God, is unique in the whole universe, so the preaching of the truth shines forth everywhere and illumines all who desire knowledge of the truth.... A great orator or a poor speaker, all teach the same truth. No one can diminish the value of Tradition. The faith is one and the same. Thus, the eloquent speaker cannot enrich it, nor the stammerer impoverish it" (Adversus Haereses, 1, 10, 3).
5. Your university, like other centres for ecclesiastical or religious studies, is a special training ground where different generations of "apostles" can gain a personal experience of Christ, deepen their knowledge of him and prepare themselves to be witnesses of his love in pastoral ministry. May your technological, philosophical and scientific research help the people of our time perceive more clearly the longing for God, hidden in the depths of every heart!
I ask God to make your activities fruitful by his grace. May Mary, Sedes Sapientiae (Seat of Wisdom) help you with her motherly protection. For my part, I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer, as I impart to each and every one of you a special Apostolic Blessing.
1. I address a cordial welcome to Bishop René Séjourné of Saint-Flour, who was an appreciated collaborator of the Secretariat of State, as well as to the delegation from the diocese which has come to celebrate the Pope of the year 1000, Sylvester II, on the occasion of the 1,000th anniversary of his death.
2. I am pleased to be able to recall some distinctive features of the person described as the "most cultured man of his times". Indeed, Gerbert of Aurillac stood out uniquely in his century because of his knowledge and erudition, his moral standing and sense of the spiritual. At the same time, he was an intellectual and a man of action, a diplomat and a man of the Church. The issues today may be different from those he had to face, but his spiritual and intellectual attitude remains an appeal to seek the human truth which is never opposed to the truths of the faith. "Let us always unite knowledge and faith", he used to say.
3. It is essential to stress the European dimension of his ministry, for he was attentive to the life of the Church in the nations then being formed. As a Benedictine from the monastery of Saint-Géraud of Aurillac, he belonged to the Order whose different houses helped to shape Europe. He was first Archbishop of Rheims, then of Ravenna, and in 999 became the first French Pope. He actively participated in this movement; for example, in the year 1000, he founded in Gniezno the first metropolitan Church of Poland, among whose suffragans was the new Diocese of Kraków of which I was Pastor. Gerbert thus contributed to the intellectual rebirth and vitality of the continent.
His example helps us understand that it will only be possible to build Europe if it clearly recognizes its Christian roots. They constitute an essential dimension of its identity and have left their mark on the cultural, artistic, juridical and philosophical production of the continent.
4. While praiseworthy efforts are underway to give a juridical form to Europe, it is good to remember this initial impulse, contributed by a Frenchmen at the beginning of the second millennium. By spreading the Gospel and participating in the life of their respective nations, Christians today are still eager to participate in building society. Through you, I gladly encourage the people of France to draw from their spiritual roots the elements they need for their own existence and for a life in fraternal solidarity with their brothers and sisters on the continent.
5. At the end of this audience, I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady, and I wholeheartedly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families and to all the members of the Diocese of Saint-Flour.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
1. With pleasure I cordially welcome each of you. Today, it gives me great joy to meet the superiors and students of the Pontifical Colleges and formation communities of the Eastern Catholic Churches in Rome.
I first greet the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, and thank him for his cordial words expressing your common sentiments. I then extend my greeting to the Secretary, the Undersecretary, the officials and personnel of the Congregation, as well as to the superiors of the seminaries and colleges and to all those present.
2. This happy occasion reminds me of the Apostolic Visits I have been able to make in recent years to the Ecclesial Communities to which you belong. I carry in my heart a fraternal memory of your Patriarchs, Bishops, priests and the entire People of God whom I was able to meet. I am also very conscious of the complex problems and challenges that the Catholic Churches of the East are called to face in our time.
Then, turning my gaze to many of your countries, I spontaneously and forcefully reassert the hope that peace will be constantly consolidated in those regions; that just and peaceful solutions will restore harmony and acceptable living conditions to the peoples who have been so sorely tried by tension and unjust oppression. May the Lord enlighten the leaders of Nations so that they work courageously, respecting the law, for the common good and for the freedom of every religious Community.
3. I am grateful to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches that takes care of the formation of seminarians and priests, collaborates with and supports religious institutes in the training of their members and helps with the formation of competent lay men and women for the apostolate. This praiseworthy activity is expressed in various initiatives that embrace the contexts of Eastern studies, of the liturgy proper to the tradition of every rite, of continuing formation at all levels and of the constant updating of pastoral experiences.
The work of the Congregation during this academic year has included the creation of St Ephrem College in Via Boccea, which offers Arab-speaking priests of various rites a suitable place for prayer, ecclesiastical studies and rewarding apostolic activity.
I ask you, dear seminary superiors, to carry out with dedication the precious work you are already doing for the students entrusted to your care. You provide them with spiritual guidance, human education and vocational discernment, advanced training in theological and ecclesiastical studies, cultural deepening and the protection of ritual identity, and ecclesial and pastoral growth.
Dear students, seminarians and priests, men and women religious, dear lay men and women, do your best to make the most of the various opportunities that you are offered in Rome so as to serve your Communities better in the future.
4. In Orientale Lumen I noted that it is indispensable to improve our knowledge of one another in order to grow in reciprocal understanding and unity. I then indicated some guidelines which I am repeating here, so that they may be a constant programmatic and pedagogical reference for you. I particularly want to mention the knowledge of the liturgy of the Eastern Churches and of the spiritual traditions of the Fathers and Doctors of the Christian East.
It is necessary to follow the example of the Eastern Churches for the inculturation of the Gospel Message: to avoid tension between the Latin and Oriental faithful and to encourage dialogue between Catholics and the Orthodox. Moreover, it is advisable to train in specialized institutions theologians, liturgists, historians and canonists for the Christian East, who in turn can spread knowledge of the Eastern Churches, as well as to provide appropriate teaching on these subjects in the seminaries and theological faculties, especially to future priests (cf. n. 24).
5. I offer these suggestions for your consideration as I invoke upon each of you and on your Communities the motherly protection of Mary, "Queen of the Holy Rosary".
I am close to you with affection, and as I assure you of my prayers, I cordially impart to you all a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your loved ones, to those who collaborate with the colleges, to the Communities to which you belong and to all who, with their charity, support your work of education which is so important for the Church's mission in the East.
Your Eminence, Venerable Major Archbishop,
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. "Peace be with you!" (Jn 20,26). In this Easter Season it is fitting that I greet you, the Bishops of the Syro Malabar Church, with the words our Risen Lord used to comfort your father in faith, Saint Thomas. Indeed the origins of your Church are directly linked with the dawn of Christianity and the missionary efforts of the Apostles. In a way, your journeying here to meet me reunites the Apostles Peter and Thomas in the joy of the Resurrection as we join in proclaiming to the beloved people of India "an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading" (1P 1,4). In a special way I greet Your Eminence, Cardinal Varkey Viathyathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and I wish to thank you for the greetings and sentiments you have conveyed on behalf of the episcopate, clergy and faithful of the whole Syro-Malabar Church.
2. The Liturgy of the Syro-Malabar Church, for centuries a part of India’s rich and varied culture, is the most vivid expression of your peoples identity. The celebration of the Eucharistic Mystery in the Syro-Malabar Rite has played a vital part in moulding the experience of faith in India (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ). Since "the Eucharist, as Christ’s saving presence in the community of the faithful and its spiritual food, is the most precious possession which the Church can have in her journey through history" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 9), I exhort you to guard and renew this treasure with great care, never allowing it to be used as a source of division. Gathering round the altar in "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Ep 1,23) not only defines you as a Eucharistic people, but is also a source of reconciliation helping to overcome obstacles which can hinder the journey toward unity of mind and purpose. As the primary custodians of the liturgy, you are called at all times to be vigilant to protect against unwarranted experimentation by individual priests which violate the integrity of the liturgy itself and can also cause great harm to the faithful (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 10).
I encourage you in your efforts to renew your "ritual patrimony" in the light of the council documents, with particular attention given to Orientalium Ecclesiarum, and in the context of Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches and my own Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen. I am certain that with prudence, patience and proper catechesis this renewal process will bear abundant fruit. The many positive results already achieved by your efforts make this task less daunting and, in fact, will be a source of future strength. I encourage you to continue this essential work so that the liturgy will not merely be studied but also be celebrated in all its integrity and beauty.
3. In a similar fashion, constant commitment to fraternal charity and cooperation is required for the successful functioning of a Synod of Bishops. Here, I commend your unwavering dedication to this shared journey: a sign of strength, confidence and unity among the Syro-Malabar Bishops and "a particularly eloquent way of living and manifesting the mystery of the Church as Communion" (cf. Address to the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, 8 January 1996, 4). The Synod, in fact, is one of the most noble expressions of affective collegiality between bishops and is a forum well-suited for discussing serious matters of faith and society in order to find solutions to the challenges that face the Syro-Malabar community (cf. OrientaliumEcclesiarum OE 4). Maintaining this necessary unity requires sacrifice and humility. Only through concerted mutual effort can you "sustain common works that intend to promote more expeditiously the good of religion, to protect more effectively ecclesiastical discipline, and also to foster more harmoniously the unity of all Christians" (cf. Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, Canon 84).
4. The issue of the pastoral care of Oriental Catholics in India and abroad continues to be of concern to the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and to the Syro-Malabar Synod. Here, I wish to emphasize the "urgent need to overcome the fears and misunderstandings which appear at times between the Eastern Churches and the Latin Church... especially with regard to the pastoral care of their people also outside their own territory" (Ecclesia in Asia ). It is heartening to see the strides you have already made in attempting to find a solution to this matter.
I am certain that you will continue to work closely with your Brother Bishops of the Latin Rite and the Holy See to ensure that Syro-Malabars throughout India and the world receive the spiritual support they deserve in strict respect for canonical dispositions which are, as we know, appropriate means for the preservation of ecclesial communion (cf. Christus Dominus CD 23 Codex Iuris Canonici, Canon CIC 383 §2; Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium, Canon CIC 916 §4). It is necessary that clear distinctions be made between the work of evangelization and that of the pastoral care of Eastern Catholics. This must always be done with respect towards the local bishops, who are placed by the Holy Spirit to govern the holy Church of God in union with the Roman Pontiff, the Pastor of the Universal Church.
5. Charity urges every Christian to go forth proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. As the Apostle says, "For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1Co 9,16).
Evangelization lies at the heart of the Christian faith. India, blessed with so many different cultures, is a land in which the people yearn for God; this makes your distinctly Indian liturgy an excellent way of evangelization (cf. Ecclesiain Asia ).
Authentic evangelization is sensitive to local culture and custom, always respecting the "inalienable right" of each and every person to religious freedom. Here the principle remains valid: "The Church proposes, she imposes nothing" (RMi 39). Therefore, in your relations with your brothers and sisters of other religions, I encourage you to "strive to discern and welcome whatever is good and holy in one another, so that together you can acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral truths which alone guarantee the world’s future" (cf. Address to Religious Leaders in India, 7 November 1999, 3). This openness, however, can never diminish the obligation to proclaim Jesus Christ as "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14,6). For the Incarnation of our Lord enriches all human values, enabling them to bear new and better fruit.
6. I join you in giving thanks that your Eparchies have been blessed with so many priests and Religious. To all of them I send the assurance of my prayers for the success of their ministry and for their lasting fidelity to their religious vocation. The burden of your pastoral mission could not be fulfilled without the clergy, your co-workers in the sacred ministry. Your necessary reliance on your priests compels you to foster a strong bond with them. They are your sons and friends. As their father and confidant, you must be ever "ready to listen to them and cultivate an atmosphere of easy familiarity with them, thus facilitating the pastoral work of the entire Diocese" (CD 16).
Likewise, the Religious in your care are members of your family. The witness borne by so many men and women consecrated to lives of chastity, poverty and obedience stands as a true sign of contradiction in a nation which is becoming increasingly secularized. "In a world in which the sense of God’s presence is often diminished, consecrated persons need to bear convincing prophetic witness to the primacy of God and to eternal life" (Ecclesia in Asia ).
The Bishop should assist in assuring that candidates for religious life are equipped to meet this challenge through appropriate spiritual and theological preparation. I am confident that you will encourage the Religious in your Eparchies to continue to revise, refine and improve their programmes of formation so that they can meet the specific needs of the Syro-Malabar community.
7. The ad Limina visit offers you an opportunity, as Pastors of Particular Churches, to share with me a view of how the Holy Spirit is at work in your Eparchies. In fraternal union with your Venerbale Major Archbishop, you have shared the challenges and accomplishments which mark the Syro-Malabar Church and its faithful members as they daily strive to fulfil their baptismal promises. In this year of the Rosary, I commend you, your clergy, religious and laity to the protection of Our Blessed Lady, and I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. "Christo pastorum Principi". Repeating the words employed by my illustrious predecessor, Pope Pius XI, when he received your forefathers into full communion just over seventy years ago, I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. In being with you, I draw closer to the priests, Religious and lay faithful of your Eparchies. Indeed, it is fitting that as your community celebrates the Fiftieth Anniversary of the death of Archbishop Mar Ivanios, a tireless apostle for unity, you find yourselves at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul praying with Christ "ut omnes unum sint". I take this opportunity to greet especially Archbishop Cyril Mar Baselios. I am grateful for the good wishes you have conveyed on behalf of the clergy, Religious and faithful of the Syro-Malankara Church.
As we give thanks together for these important landmarks in your ecclesial life, we are also mindful of the multiple blessings that have been bestowed on your Church in a relatively short time. You have become one of the fastest growing Catholic communities in the world, boasting large numbers of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and your pusillus grex is home to many educational and welfare institutions. The new Law of Christ which compels us to go beyond the boundaries of family, race, tribe or nation is concretely manifested in your generosity to others (cf. Mt Mt 5,44).
2. An undaunted commitment to Christian love, so clearly demonstrated in the Syro-Malankara community, is the product of a strong and vibrant spirituality. The people of India rightly take pride in their rich cultural and spiritual heritage, expressed in the innate characteristics of "contemplation, simplicity, harmony, detachment, non-violence, discipline, frugal living, the thirst for learning and philosophical enquiry" which distinguish those living on the subcontinent. These same traits permeate the Syro-Malankara community, allowing the Church to "communicate the Gospel in a way which is faithful both to her own traditions and to the Asian soul" (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ).
The mystical heritage of your continent is not only expressed in the spiritual life of your faithful but is also seen in your time-honoured rites. The ancient and revered Syro-Malankara liturgical tradition is a treasure which reflects the universal nature of Christ’s salvific work in a uniquely Indian context. Your Eucharistic Celebration, like all celebrations of the Paschal Sacrifice, "contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our Passover and living bread. Consequently the gaze of the Church is constantly turned to her Lord present in the Sacrament of the Altar, in which she discovers the full manifestation of his boundless love" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 4).
3. At a moment of growing secularism and, at times, of blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life, Bishops are called to remind the people by their preaching and teaching of the need for an ever deeper reflection on moral and social issues. The Syro-Malankara presence in the fields of education and social services places you in an excellent position to prepare all men and women of good will to face these issues in a truly human manner. In fact, all Christians are obliged to participate in this prophetic mission by taking a firm stand against the current crisis of values and by constantly reminding others of the universal truths which must be manifest in daily living. More often than not, this lesson is taught by actions rather than by words. As the Apostle Paul says: "Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy" (1Co 14,1).
Responding to this challenge in a proper fashion necessitates an inculturation of Christian ethics at all levels of human society; this is a difficult and delicate task. "By her very mission the Church travels the same journey as all humanity and shares the same human lot with the world: she is to be leaven, and as it were the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God" (cf . Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 854). Your long experience as a small community of Christians in a predominately non-Christian land has prepared you to become this "leaven", a fitting instrument of transformation. The process is never simply an "external" one but requires an intimate change of cultural values through integration into Christianity and subsequent insertion into the various human cultures. This complicated task cannot be accomplished, however, without adequate reflection and evaluation, ensuring always that Christ’s saving message is never diluted or altered in an attempt to make it more culturally or socially acceptable (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ).
4. Your special ministry, as shepherds of growing flocks, requires close collaboration with your co-workers. As I wrote in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, "priests exist and act in order to proclaim the Gospel to the world and to build up the Church in the name of Christ the Head and Shepherd" (No.15). Properly trained ambassadors of Christ are necessary for this ministry of "building up the Church". For this reason Bishops must work unceasingly to identify and encourage young people to answer the call to the priesthood and the religious life. In this regard, I pray that you will continue to do all in your power to ensure that those with priestly or religious vocations are well prepared. This entails ensuring that the seminaries under your protection are always models of formation according to the example of Jesus Christ and his commandment to love (cf. Jn Jn 15,12). Training must be specifically Christ-centred through the proclamation of the holy Scriptures and the celebration of the Sacraments.