Speeches 2003 - Thursday, 22 May 2003


TO A DELEGATION FROM THE FORMER

YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA


Friday, 23 May 2003




Dear Prime Minister,
Distinguished Friends,

The feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius has brought you once more to Rome, where the relics of Saint Cyril are preserved, and I am pleased to greet you. I thank the President of the Government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for his kind words and good wishes. It is my fervent prayer that your country will be ever strengthened in its commitment to unity and solidarity, ideals which the Holy Brothers of Salonika so effectively embodied in their lives dedicated to preaching the Christian faith.

During their earthly life, these two saintly men were bridges linking East and West. By the values they taught and the example they gave, they brought different cultures and traditions together into one rich heritage for the entire human family. In fact, the witness of their lives reveals an ageless truth that the world of the Third Millennium urgently needs to rediscover: only in charity and justice can peace become a reality enveloping all human hearts, overcoming hatred and conquering evil with good. This charity and justice become tangible realities when people of good will in every part of the globe, like the Brothers Cyril and Methodius, are uncompromisingly committed to "the cause of reconciliation, friendly coexistence, human development and respect for the intrinsic dignity of every nation" (Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli, 1).

Ladies and Gentlemen, this annual pilgrimage to Rome is not just a tribute to Saint Cyril but is also a testimony to the bonds of friendship existing between your nation and the Catholic Church. I encourage you to see that these bonds grow ever stronger, especially within your local communities, thus producing fruits of increased goodwill and attitudes of greater cooperation towards the Catholic Church in your country. May Almighty God fill your minds and hearts with this peace, and may he abundantly bless the people of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.




TO THE BISHOPS OF INDIA ON THEIR AD LIMINA VISIT

Friday, 23 May 2003



Dear Brother Bishops,

1. As this series of Ad Limina visits of the Latin Rite Bishops of India begins, I warmly welcome you, the Pastors of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Calcutta, Guwahati, Imphal and Shillong. Together we give thanks to God for the graces bestowed on the Church in your country, and recall the words of our Lord to his disciples as he ascended into heaven: "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20). During this Easter Season, you are here at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul to express again your particular relationship with the universal Church and with the Vicar of Christ.

I thank Archbishop Sirkar for the warm sentiments and good wishes he has conveyed on behalf of the Episcopate, clergy, Religious and faithful of the Ecclesiastical Provinces here represented. By Godís grace I have been able to visit your homeland on two occasions and have had first-hand experience of warm Indian hospitality, so much a part of the rich cultural heritage which marks your nation. Since the earliest days of Christianity, India has celebrated the mystery of salvation contained in the Eucharist which mystically joins you with other faith communities in the "oneness of time" of the Paschal Sacrifice (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 5). I pray that the faithful of India will continue to grow in unity as their participation in the celebration of the Mass confirms them in strength and purpose.

2. We must always be mindful of the fact that "the Church evangelizes in obedience to Christís command, in the knowledge that every person has the right to hear the Good News of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ" (op. cit., 20). For centuries Catholics in India have been carrying on the essential work of evangelization, especially in the fields of education and social services, freely offered to Christians and non-Christians alike. In parts of your nation the road to a life in Christ is still one of extreme hardship. It is most disconcerting that some who wish to become Christians are required to receive the permission of local authorities, while others have lost their right to social assistance and family support. Still others have been ostracized or driven out of their villages. Unfortunately, certain fundamentalist movements are creating confusion among some Catholics and even directly challenging any attempt at evangelization. It is my hope that as leaders in the faith you will not be discouraged by these injustices but rather continue to engage society in such a way that these alarming trends can be reversed. It should also be noted that obstacles to conversion are not always external but may occur within your own communities. This can happen when those of other religions see disagreement, scandal and disunity within our Catholic institutions. For this reason it is important that priests, Religious and lay people should all work together and especially cooperate with their Bishop, who is the sign and source of unity. It is the Bishopís responsibility to support those involved in the vital task of evangelization by ensuring that they never lose the missionary zeal which is central to our lives in Christ. I am convinced that because of these challenges you will continue to preach the Good News with even greater courage and conviction. "What counts, here as in every area of Christian life, is the confidence that comes from faith, from the certainty that it is not we who are the principle agents of the Churchís mission, but Jesus Christ and his Spirit" (RMi 36).

3. Fundamental to sustained efforts of evangelization is the development of a local Church which is itself poised to become missionary (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 48). This presumes the eventual emergence of a well-trained local clergy able not only to look after the needs of those under its care, but also ready to embrace the mission ad gentes. As I said during my first Pastoral Visit to India, "A vocation is both a sign of love and an invitation to love. The decision to say Ďyesí to Christís call carries with it a number of important consequences: the need to give up other plans, a willingness to leave behind people who are dear, a readiness to set out with deep trust along the path that will lead to ever closer union with Christ" (Homily at Pune, 10 February 1986, 3).

The commitment to follow Christ as a priest requires the best training possible. "To serve the Church as Christ intends, Bishops and priests need solid and continuing formation, which should provide opportunities for human, spiritual and pastoral renewal as well as courses on theology, spirituality and the human sciences" (Ecclesia in Asia ). Candidates for the priesthood must understand as fully as possible the Mystery they will celebrate and the Gospel they will preach. To be applauded are the initiatives you have already taken to ensure that your institutes of priestly formation reach the high standards of education and training necessary for todayís clergy, and I encourage you to continue this endeavour, ensuring that those called will be truly prepared to act "in the name and in the person of him who is Head and Shepherd of the Church" (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 35).

4. Through the Body and Blood of Christ the Church is granted the spiritual power necessary to spread the Good News. "The Eucharist thus appears as both the source and the summit of all evangelization, since its goal is the communion of mankind with Christ and in him with the Father and the Holy Spirit" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 22). As Bishops, you are well aware that every Diocese is responsible for primary evangelization and for the continuing formation of the laity. In India, as in many other countries, much of this work is done by catechists. These workers in the Lordís vineyard are much more than teachers. Not only do they educate people in the tenets of faith, but they also perform so many other duties which are integral to the mission of the Church. These include: working with people in small groups; assisting with prayer services and music; preparing the faithful to receive the sacraments, most especially the sacrament of marriage; training other catechists; burying the dead and, in many cases, helping the priest with the day to day administration of the parish or outstation. In order to be effective in this apostolate, catechists require not only adequate preparation but also the knowledge that their Bishops and priests are there to offer them the spiritual and moral support necessary for the effective transmission of the word of God (cf. Catechesi Tradendae CTR 24, 63, 64).

5. All the Christian faithful are called to "be committed to change their lives and make them in a certain way completely Eucharistic. This entails a love for the poor and a desire to alleviate their suffering. For it is unworthy of a Christian community to partake of the Lordís Supper amid division and indifference towards the poor" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 20). India is fortunate to have a direct reminder of the Churchís vocation to love the weakest in the witness and example of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, soon to be beatified. Her life of joyful sacrifice and unconditional love for the poor stir in us a desire to do likewise. For to love the least among us without expecting anything in return is truly to love Christ. "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink" (Mt 25,35).

Dear Bishops, like Mother Teresa you too are called to be outstanding examples of simplicity, humility and charity for those entrusted to your care. I am heartened by the ways you already demonstrate love for the poor. Your Dioceses boast many programmes designed to assist them: homes for the destitute, leprosaria, orphanages, hostels, family centres and vocational training centres, to name but a few. As the Church in India continues to confront these challenges, notwithstanding severe shortages of personnel and resources, I pray that you will use the example of Mother Teresa as a model for the works of charity in your communities.

6. Todayís world is so infatuated with material things that often even the wealthy find themselves caught in the mad rush for more, in a futile attempt to fill the emptiness of their daily existence. This is an especially alarming tendency among our young people, many of whom live in spiritual poverty, seeking answers in ways that only produce more questions. For the Christian, however, it must be different. Our eyes have been opened by Jesus Christ, and so we are able to recognize the foolishness of such temptations. All Christians, and in a special way Bishops, priests and Religious are called to stand apart, living simple yet fulfilling lives of evangelical poverty, witnessing to the fact that God is the true wealth of the human heart.

In a world in which so many people have so many questions, it is only through Christ that they can hope to find sure answers. Sometimes, however, the clarity of the response is muddled by a modern culture which reflects not only a crisis of conscience and of the sense of God but also a "progressive weakening of the sense of sin" (cf. Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 18). Indeed, only an active and engaged participation in the mystery of reconciliation can bring true peace and a genuine response to the burdens which weigh on the soul. I am pleased to hear that in many of your Dioceses the faithful frequently avail themselves of the grace of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and I encourage you to continue to stress the importance of this sacrament.

7. Dear Brother Bishops, as you return to your respective Dioceses it is my hope that you will take with you a renewed sense of your pastoral responsibilities. I pray that you will be filled with the same zeal as the first disciples to whom the ascending Christ left the instructions: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,20). To the intercession of Mary, woman of the Eucharist, I commend the sufferings and joys of your local Churches and the whole Catholic community in your country. To all of you and to the clergy, Religious and laity of your Dioceses I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




TO THE PLENARY ASSEMBLY OF THE CONGREGATION

FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF PEOPLES

Saturday, 24 May 2003



Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I welcome and greet with affection each one of you who are taking part in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I greet first of all Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of your Congregation; I am grateful to him for the words he has addressed to me on your behalf. With him, I greet the Secretaries, the Undersecretary and the collaborators of the Dicastery; I greet the Cardinals, Bishops, men and women Religious and all who are present.

During the work of the Plenary Meeting, you have addressed an important aspect of the Church's mission: "Formation in the mission lands", with reference to the priests, seminarians, Religious, catechists, and lay people involved in pastoral activities. This topic deserves your full attention.

2. The urgent need to train apostles for the new evangelization was reasserted by the Second Vatican Council as well as by the Synods of Bishops held in recent years. The work of the Synodal Assemblies has resulted in important Apostolic Exhortations, of which I will only mention Pastores Dabo Vobis, Vita Consecrata, Catechesi Tradendae and Christifideles Laici.

The recently founded Ecclesial Communities are rapidly expanding. Precisely because weaknesses and difficulties in their development process have sometimes been identified, it appears urgently necessary to insist on the formation of well-qualified pastoral workers by means of systematic programmes, adapted to the needs of the present time and attentive to "inculturating" the Gospel in the different settings.

There is an urgent need for integral formation, a training that will produce competent and holy evangelizers equal to their mission. This requires a long and patient process in which every form of biblical, theological, philosophical and pastoral study finds its strong point in the personal relationship with Christ, "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14,6).

3. Jesus is the first "formation teacher", and the fundamental task of each educator will be to help people in formation to develop a personal relationship with him. Only those who have learned to "stay with Jesus" are ready to be "sent out by him to evangelize" (cf. Mk Mc 3,14). Passionate love for Christ is the secret of a convinced announcement of Christ. I was alluding to this when I wrote in my recent Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: "It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn Jn 13,25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart" (n. 25).

The Church, especially in the mission countries, needs people who are prepared to serve the Gospel freely and generously, who are prepared to promote the values of justice and peace, pulling down every cultural, racial, tribal or ethnic barrier; people who can penetrate the "signs of the times" and discover in them the "seeds of the Word", without indulging in reductionism or relativism.
In the first place, however, such persons are required to be "experts" and "in love" with God. "The world", my venerable Predecessor Paul VI observed, "is calling for evangelizers to speak to it of a God whom the evangelists themselves should know and be familiar with as if they could see the invisible" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 76).

4. Next to personal intimacy with Christ, it is necessary to foster a constant growth in love for the Church and service to the Church. As far as priests are concerned, it will be useful, therefore, to be particularly attentive to the instructions contained in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, in the Conciliar Decrees Presbyterorum Ordinis and Optatam Totius, and in other texts published by various dicasteries of the Roman Curia.

I noted in Pastores Dabo Vobis: "Inasmuch as he represents Christ, the Head, Shepherd and Spouse of the Church, the priest is placed not only in the Church but also in the forefront of the Church. In his spiritual life, therefore, he is called to live out Christ's spousal love towards the Church, his Bride" (n. 22). Then it is the Bishop's task, in communion with the priest, to outline a project and establish a programme "which can ensure that ongoing formation is not something haphazard but a systematic offering of subjects which unfold by stages and take on precise forms" (ibid., n. 79).

5. I would like to make the most of this opportunity to thank all those who generously dedicate themselves to the work of education in mission territories. And how can we forget that many seminarians, priests, Religious and lay people who belong to mission lands complete their formation here in Rome at colleges and centres, many of which depend on your Dicastery? I am thinking of the Pontifical Urban College, the College of St Peter and St Paul for Priests, the Paul VI Foyer for women Religious, the Mater Ecclesiae Centre for catechists, and the International Centre for Missionary Animation for the spiritual renewal of missionaries. I warmly hope that the Roman experience may be a true cultural, pastoral and, above all, spiritual enrichment for each and every one.

I also hope that every Christian community may advance with docility at the school of Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church. In the Message for the next World Mission Sunday I wrote that a "more contemplative Church" becomes a "holier Church" and a "more missionary Church".

As I ask the Lord that this may be so for every ecclesial community, especially in mission territories, I assure you of my prayers, and I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.




TO A DELEGATION OF THE HOLY SYNOD

OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH OF BULGARIA

Monday, 26 May 2003



Your Eminence,
Venerable Metropolitans and Bishops,
Dear Loved Ones in the Lord,

1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,2).

With sentiments of joy I address to you the greeting that the Apostle Paul repeated so often, evoking in your presence the name of God, the Father of glory, who enlightens the eyes of our hearts to make us understand the "hope" to which he has called us in Christ, and the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his "power" (cf. Eph Ep 1,17-19).

I thank Metropolitan Kalinik for his cordial words on behalf of the entire Delegation. I greet Cardinal Walter Kasper and the Catholic Bishops who accompany him.

Our meeting today truly calls us to hope. We perceive with grateful hearts the effective power of the One to whom all things are possible, despite the human obstacles to the free outpouring of his grace. We feel a growing desire for deeper communion with one another, and we discern more clearly the road that lies before us.

Our hope is especially well founded, because we are not meeting for the first time but rather we meet again, a year after my visit to Sofia. On 24 May last year, in the Patriarchal Palace, I had the joy of talking to His Beatitude Maxim for the first time. It was a brotherly meeting which had the momentum to inspire others. It was as if distances were diminished and brothers better acquainted.

The right context was created for the growth of reciprocal confidence which is the prerequisite for understanding, peaceful coexistence and communion.

2. I will never be able to forget my visit to your land! Please convey to His Beatitude Maxim my heartfelt remembrance which is fostered in prayer; I ask you to tell him once again of my spiritual closeness in the desire that the full unity of Catholic and Orthodox Christians become reality as soon as possible. I also add my warmest good wishes, a few days after the solemn celebrations in Sofia to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Patriarchate.

In their task at the beginning of this new millennium, His Beatitude Maxim, the Orthodox Church and her Holy Synod have a weighty burden of responsibility. While Bulgaria is also opening to the new, aspiring to join the enlarged Europe, it must revive that rich patrimony of faith and culture which the Church and the Bulgarian nation share, and which constitutes the miracle of the work of evangelization carried out by the two holy Brothers of Salonika, Cyril and Methodius, whose inheritance, after eleven centuries of Christianity among the Slavs, is and remains for them deeper and stronger than any division (cf. Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli, n. 25).

3. By presenting anew in a language better suited to the new generations the contribution of Cyril and Methodius, a means of unification of peoples who differed from one another, the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria can in turn renew the evangelical foresight of the Holy Brothers, forcefully and by direct experience; they believed that the different living conditions of individual Christian Churches can never justify discord, dissent or injury in the profession of the one faith and the practice of charity (cf. ibid., n. 11). Not long before his death here in Rome, Cyril, as we read in his Vita Constantini, addressed these words to the Lord: "Make them, O Lord, a chosen people, of one mind in the true faith and the authentic doctrine; make your Church grow in number, and gather all her members into unity".

This message of faith, so deeply rooted in your culture and in your being Church, is and remains the goal to strive for so that the Christian East and West may be fully united and together make the pleroma of the catholicity of the Church shine forth.

Dear Brothers! Your Delegation is here in Rome for several reasons. First of all, the date of your visit coincides with that of the Feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius, according to the calendar in use in Bulgaria. You also want to commemorate the first anniversary of my Visit to Sofia and my unforgettable meeting with His Beatitude Maxim. Thank you for this sign of solicitude and fraternal appreciation!

4. You have also come to Rome for a very joyful event: the liturgical inauguration of the Church of Sts Vincent and Anastasius by the Trevi Fontain. The prayer meeting on Saturday, 24 May, was very solemn due to the presence of so many distinguished members of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, of H.E. Mr Simeone di Sassonia Coburgo-Gotha, Prime Minister of the Government of Bulgaria, as well as various representatives of the Holy See and the Vicariate of Rome led by my representative, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I know that the Community and its Rector pro tempore have been fraternally welcomed in the Church of Sts Vincent and Anastasius, which has also been adapted for the liturgical and pastoral service of Orthodox Bulgarian residents in Rome. It is a significant example of the ecclesial sharing here in Rome which I have so much at heart.

5. Indeed, if we want to progress on the path of renewed communion, we must follow in the footsteps of Sts Cyril and Methodius, who were able to win "the recognition and trust of the Roman Pontiffs, the Patriarchs of Constantinople, of Byzantine Emperors and various Princes of the young Slav peoples" (Encyclical Slavorum Apostoli, n. 7). This shows that diversity does not always give rise to friction.

An experience of fraternal sharing marked by the reciprocal respect of our legitimate differences can be an encouragement to know one another better and to collaborate also in other contexts and circumstances, each time the opportunity arises. May this be a good omen for our relations in the future! I thank the Lord and I ask him to bless our steps on the path we have undertaken.

I cordially thank you for your visit. Please assure His Beatitude Maxim of my constant remembrance to the Lord. May God bless him, all of you and the beloved people of Bulgaria.




TO THE CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


Monday, 26 May 2003




To Father Pierre Schouver, C.S.Sp.
Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit

1. I am pleased to greet you today, dear Father Superior General, with the members of the General Council of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, founded on 27 May 1703. An anniversary is always an opportunity for giving thanks for the ground covered and the gifts received. The Church gladly does so today, joining you in thanking the Lord for all that has been achieved by your Congregation in three centuries, especially in the evangelization of Africa, the Antilles and South America.

Celebrating an anniversary also means turning a corner and going ahead. What I said to the whole Church (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 8), I repeat to each one of you: "Duc in altum!". "Put out into the deep!". Be faithful to the dual heritage of your founders: attention to the poor and to missionary service, in other words, the proclamation of the Good News of Christ to all people.

These two approaches to life unfold vast horizons before you. It is a matter of joining those whom the world either keeps dependent or alienates: the poor, who account for the vast majority of the inhabitants of some continents, but who also live in our more advanced societies. In this way you will be witnesses of Christ's closeness to them and enable them to hear his joyful call.

2. Without allowing yourselves to be halted by problems, which have always been and will always be, entrust yourselves to the freedom and power of the Spirit who accompanies and guides the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who builds up the Church like a family: help our contemporaries discover her through community and fraternal life, a powerful sign of evangelical life, and have at heart the search for unity and remain attached to this devotion to the Holy Spirit which has always distinguished your religious family!

3. From the outset, your founders desired to place you under the protection of the Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Heart. I once again entrust you to her kindly intercession, you yourselves and all the members of your Congregation scattered throughout the world to serve Christ and his Church.

May the Virgin's confidence in the Word of God always light your life! I very warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.




TO H.E. MR GUNKATSU KANO, AMBASSADOR OF JAPAN

ACCREDITED TO THE HOLY SEE

Friday, 30 May 2003



Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Holy See.

I thank you for the respectful greetings you have conveyed to me from His Imperial Highness Emperor Akihito. I would be grateful if you would reciprocate by expressing my cordial good wishes to him for his well-being and for the whole imperial family. I also extend good wishes to the members of the Government and to all the Japanese people, in the hope that they may continue without respite their courageous efforts to build a nation that is increasingly united and supportive, attentive to the human person who is the centre of every society, and to human dignity. In particular, I express my good wishes to those who were injured in the recent earthquake.

I was touched by your kind words. They witness to the attention your country pays to developing active and fruitful relations with the Holy See. You recall, Mr Ambassador, how eager your nation is to serve the cause of peace. The international situation today is disturbing; it is marked by recurrent tension in various parts of the globe and by an upsurge of terrrorist activity. However, these circumstances must not dampen the determination of all who are already involved in the search for peaceful solutions to settle the conflicts. To make a significant contribution to international security and stability, it is important that nations express ever more clearly their effective desire to play an active part in the common process of reducing the tensions and threats of war.

Unremitting efforts must be made in a balanced and controlled way to progressively eliminate weapons of mass destruction and further non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament; thus, the conditions of the security of peoples and the preservation of all of creation will be properly guaranteed. It is also up to the international community to be permanently mobilized to guard against potential acts of aggression at global and regional levels, so that appropriate measures may be taken that do not jeopardize the fundamental needs of the civil populations concerned which may lead to poverty and despair. I am convinced that a concerted political will and enlightened ethical reflection will enable nations to be the protagonists of a true culture of peace, based on respect for human life and the primacy of law in its dimension of justice and equity, and geared to the patient building of peaceful coexistence between nations and the promotion of the common good.

Japan, Mr Ambassador, has a wealth of religious and philosophical traditions, containing spiritual resources which can effectively stimulate this ardent desire to work for peace and reconciliation among human communities and individuals. Likewise, through the painful vision of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, your country continues to be a living witness of the tragedies of the 20th century, inviting everyone to repeat, after Pope Paul VI, "Never again war!", for war endangers the very future of humanity (cf. Paul VI, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 4 October 1965, n. 5). I hope that your country will work unremittingly to put these exalted values at the service of peace in the region and in the world. As I recalled in my Message for World Day of Peace 2003, "the question of peace cannot be separated from the question of human dignity and human rights" (n. 6; ORE, 18/25 December 2002, p. 4).

Furthermore, the efforts that Japan has made possible, especially in the area of economic cooperation with the Asian countries as well as in setting up aid programmes to help poor countries become the protagonists of their own development, highlight the active role your country has played in the advancement of peoples.

In this perspective, your country's reflection on ecological problems and the place of the human being should also be pointed out. It is to be hoped that the International Exhibition of AÔchi, scheduled to take place in 2005, will enable the many nations participating calmly to discuss concrete solutions to the problems connected, among other things, with the preservation of the environment and the management of natural resources. The safeguard of creation is a moral duty for all. The Creator wanted men and women to be worthy of their vocation, managing nature not as ruthless exploiters but as responsible stewards (cf. Encyclical Redemptor Hominis RH 15). This also means leaving to the future generations an earth that is fit on which to live.

Mr Ambassador, may I address through you my affectionate greetings to the Bishops and the Catholic community of your country. Although her members are but few, the Catholic Church is constantly concerned to offer to the young Japanese generations, especially through an integral education imparted at schools and universities, an effective contribution to their human, spiritual, moral and civic growth that equips them to take an active part in national life. Schools also play an important role in evangelization, "inculturating the faith, teaching the ways of openness and respect, and fostering interreligious understanding" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia ).

The Church also wants to welcome the many immigrants who come to Japan in search of work, dignity and hope. With all people of good will, she is determined to combat the phenomena of discrimination and exclusion, which alienate the weakest and impair relations between men and women. By her commitment, she wants to encourage all the members of the Japanese nation to question themselves about the meaning of life and human destiny. She invites each one to build responsibly a fraternal and equitable society which expresses its values in the first place through the establishment of a system of penal justice increasingly in conformity with human dignity (cf. Appeal of the Bishops' Conference of Japan to Mr Kokichi Shimoinaba, Minster of Justice, 21 November 1997). With affection, I invite Catholics to be enthusiastic artisans of peace and charity, strongly united around their pastors, working for a more and more fruitful encounter between the faith and Japanese culture.

As you begin your mission, I offer you my cordial wishes for the noble task that awaits you. Rest assured that you will find here with my collaborators the attentive and understanding welcome you may need.

I cordially invoke upon His Imperial Highness Emperor Akihito, on the imperial family, on the Japanese people and their leaders, on you, Your Excellency, and on all who are close to you, as well as on the embassy staff, an abundance of divine Benefits.




Speeches 2003 - Thursday, 22 May 2003