Speeches 2003 - Thursday, 26 June 2003
1. I am delighted to welcome you, dear members of ROACO who have come together in Rome at your annual meeting, and I offer my cordial welcome to each one. I address a special greeting to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, and I thank him for expressing your common sentiments. I extend my greeting to the Secretary, Archbishop VegliÚ, to the Undersecretary, the Officials and Staff of the Dicastery, as well as to the Apostolic Nuncio in Israel and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, to the Custodian of the Holy Land, to the directors of the Agencies, to the Authorities of Bethelehem University and to all who are here.
2. You are a great help to the Churches of the Christian East with your generosity. This is particularly appreciated in light of recent tragic events. I am thinking of the recent war in Iraq, of the conflict in the Holy Land which unfortunately continues, as well as to the enduring famine in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Your collaboration through the medium of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches makes present and active the Church's charity, as well as the Pope's personal concern.
It is necessary to intensify this work and to widen the fields of action; above all, you must nurture the spirit of divine charity which, recognizing all that is received from God as a free gift, disposes us to share it with our brethren in the service of an authentic human promotion.
In my recent Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia I wrote that the Eucharist "spurs us on our journey through history and plants a seed of living hope in our daily commitment to the work before us. Certainly the Christian vision leads to the expectation of "new heavens' and "a new earth' (Ap 21,1), but this increases, rather than lessens, our sense of responsibility for the world today (Gaudium et Spes GS 39)". This is why Christians must feel obliged more than ever not to neglect their duties as citizens in this world, contributing with the light of the Gospel to building a more human world that is in full harmony with God's plan (cf. n. 20).
3. You rightly pay special attention to the territories of the Holy Land because of what this region, sanctified by Jesus, means to all Christians. There is a special Collection for it, and my venerable Predecessors, beginning with Leo XIII, insisted that all Catholic communities contribute generously to it. Alas, the Holy Land continues to be the scene of conflicts and violence, and the Catholic communities there are suffering and in need of support and help for their many urgent needs. From those peoples rises a heartfelt invocation for a stable and lasting peace.
Thank you for all you do! Thank you for the caring solidarity you have shown to the Christians harshly tried in Iraq by the recent war. I pray God that peace will be achieved rapidly in that country, and that the peoples, so tried for so long, partly because of a lengthy international isolation, may at last live in concord. I am certain that your interventions, which aim to set up pastoral and social institutions in support of believers, will cooperate in giving life to a better future for the whole nation.
4. Dear Brothers and Sisters! The service you are rendering to the Christian East is always very attentive to all the needs of the local Churches. Besides structures and buildings, although these are indispensable, it is at times more necessary to help form consciences and to safeguard the faith inherited from the ancestors. This requires an appropriate catechesis, the care of the liturgy proper to the Church of participation, an attention to the formation of the clergy and laity, an enlightened openness to ecumenism and a prophetic presence that supports the poor.
The Pope thanks you for responding to the situations presented to you with intelligence, sparing no efforts or resources. At the same time, you express the gratitude of all the Communities to whose needs you give a concrete response.
Your experience shows that still today the Christian East has a deep desire to meet, know and love more and more God, who has revealed his merciful face in Christ. Eastern Christians want a living experience of Christ, especially where for decades an attempt was made to wipe out even traces of him, and where instabilty and war seek to erode the ancient foundations of the Eastern Churches.
5. To this end, I assure you of my prayers. Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the constant divine assistance accompany you in your daily activities, as a pledge of which I cordially impart to you all my Blessing, which I willingly extend to the Organizations you represent, to your families, to the Dioceses and to the Communities to which you belong.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. "Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fratres in unum" - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!". I remembered these well-known verses of Psalm 133 while I was listening to the courteous and cordial words of Archbishop Csaba TernyŠk, Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, who has expressed the sentiments of all those present. Yes, it is indeed a profound joy to meet and to be aware of the brotherhood that is born among us, dear priests who share in the one and eternal Priesthood of Christ. This morning you were able to experience this mystery of communion during the Eucharistic Celebration at the Altar of the Chair in St Peter's Basilica. It is now the Successor of Peter who opens to you the doors of his and your home.
I offer each of you the most fraternal greeting in the Lord. I greet in a special way the organizers and the animators of your national Convention, and all the participants. I greet those in charge of the Apostolic Union of the Clergy at the national and international levels, as well as the representatives of the newly-formed Apostolic Union of the Laity.
2. During the congress you have been reflecting on the theme: "In the particular Church on the manner of Trinitarian Communion: Diocesan spirituality is a spirituality of communion".In continuity with the previous meetings, you are intending to focus on the role of Pastors in the particular Church.
The mystery of Trinitarian Communion is the exalted model and reference of ecclesial communion. I wanted to reaffirm this in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, recalling that "the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning" is precisely this: "to make the Church the home and the school of communion" (n. 43). This entails, in the first place, "promoting a spirituality of communion" which becomes as it were a "guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed" (ibid.).
We become experts of the "spirituality of communion" above all through a radical conversion to Christ, a docile openness to the action of his Holy Spirit and a sincere acceptance of our brothers and sisters. "Let us have no illusions", I recalled in Novo Millennio Ineunte, "unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, "masks' of communion rather than its means of expresiosn and growth" (ibid.).
3. If, therefore, the effectiveness of the apostolate does not depend solely on the activity and efforts of organizations, necessary though these may be, but first of all on divine action, it is necessary to foster an intimate communion with the Lord. Today, as in the past, it is the saints who are the most effective evangelizers, and all the baptized are called to aspire to "this high standard of ordinary Christian living" (ibid., n. 31). This is especially true for priests, who have positions and roles of great responsibility among the Christian people. The World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy, which by a fortunate coincidence is observed on this very day, is a favourable opportunity to beg from the Lord the gift of zealous and holy ministers for his Church.
4. To achieve this ideal of holines, every priest must follow the example of the divine Master, the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. A saint of our time, Josť MarŪa EscrivŠ, writes that "the Lord uses us as torches, to make [his] light shine out.... Much depends on us; if we respond many people will remain in darkness no longer, but will walk instead along paths that lead to eternal life" (The Forge, n. 1). But where can we set light to these torches of brightness and holiness other than in the Heart of Christ, an inexhaustible furnace of love? It is not by chance that the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of the Clergy is celebrated precisely today, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.
In the heart of his Only-begotten Son, the heavenly Father has filled us with infinite treasures of mercy, tenderness and love - "infinitos dilectionis thesauros", as we pray in today's liturgy. In the Heart of the Redeemer "the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily" (Col 2,9), from which we can draw the indispensable spiritual energy to make his love and joy shine out in the world.
May Mary help us follow in docility Jesus, who repeats to us time and time again: "Come to me... and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 11,29).
Dear friends, I thank you again for your visit and I bless you all with affection.
Dear Brothers in Christ,
1. I joyfully welcome you to the Vatican for this annual meeting on the occasion of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Your presence here, as representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomaios I, is a sign of our common love for Christ and an act of ecclesial fraternity, by which we reaffirm the legacy of love and unity which the Lord left to his Church, built on the Apostles. These yearly meetings nurture our fraternal relationship and they sustain our hope as we proceed step by step along the way to full communion and the overcoming of our historical divisions.
2. I give thanks to the Lord that, in the year that has passed, the Holy See has had many occasions for meeting and cooperation with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Among these I would recall the message which I sent to His Holiness Bartholomaios I for the Fifth Symposium on the Environment, which set out from my native land of Poland. I am most appreciative of the kind words and the prayerful good wishes which His Holiness recently offered at two conferences marking the approaching twenty-fifth anniversary of my Pontificate. Finally, I am deeply grateful for the Ecumenical Patriarchateís efforts in these past months to coordinate the continuance of the work of the International Mixed Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. I ask you to assure His Holiness of my fervent prayers that this initiative, which is indispensable for our growth in unity, will be crowned with success.
The rapid changes taking place in todayís world call for all Christians to show how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can shed light on the critical ethical issues facing the human family, including the urgent need to promote interreligious dialogue, to work for an end to the injustice which creates conflict and emnity between peoples, to safeguard Godís creation and to meet the challenges posed by new advances in science and technology. Here in Europe, the Lordís followers especially need to cooperate in acknowledging and giving new life to the spiritual roots at the heart of this continentís history and culture. The consolidation of European unity and identity demands that Christians, as witnesses to the saving mercy of the Triune God, play a specific role in the present process of integration and reconciliation. Is not the Church of Christ called first and foremost to offer the world a model of harmony, mutual forbearance and fruitful charity which reveals the power of Godís grace to overcome all human division and discord?
3. Dear Brothers, as we seek to advance in the dialogue of truth and the dialogue of charity, let us not be discouraged by the difficulties we encounter. There is always a way forward if we are committed to fulfilling the Lordís will for the unity of his disciples. We must continue our efforts, reinforce our desire for unity, and overlook no opportunity to grow towards full communion and cooperation, all the time bringing before God in prayer our needs, our hopes and our failings, that he may heal us through his great mercy.
I entrust these sentiments to you as I ask you to convey my fraternal greetings to His Holiness Bartholomaios I and to the Holy Synod. May the Lord grant us the strength to bear faithful witness to him, and to pray and work without ceasing for the unity and peace of his holy Church.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. After yesterday's solemn celebration, during which I had the joy of conferring the sacred Pallium on you, dear Metropolitans who were appointed during the past year, I am very glad to be able to meet you again, together with your relatives and friends. I renew my cordial greeting to everyone and I express special thanks to those who have come from afar. Your presence helps make even more visible the special value of this event, the conferral of the Pallium, which is also an expression of unity and ecclesial universality.
The Holy Father then greeted those present in various languages. To the English-speaking visitors he said:
2. I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking Metropolitans and to the pilgrims accompanying them: from Milwaukee, Gandhinagar, Madurai, Konakry, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Yangon and Mandalay. May this pilgrimage to the tomb of Peter in the company of your Archbishops strengthen your love for the Church and confirm all of your local Churches in communion with the Successor of Peter. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Holy Father ended with a special greeting in Italian to the Archbishops present:
3. Dear Metropolitan Archbishops, in naming your Sees we have touched on many different regions of the world. This is the world that God loved so much that he sent his Son to save it. The Church, whose Pastors you are, is sent to this world by virtue of the same love.
Equipped with the Pallium, a sign of communion with the Apostolic See, go forth! Duc in altum! (Put out into the deep!). May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul always watch over your ministry, and may Mary Most Holy, Queen of the Apostles, protect you. For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I warmly bless you, together with all who are present here and the communities entrusted to your care.
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† July 2003
Mr Chief of Mission,
At the solemn moment in which you are presenting to me the Letters that accredit you as Representative of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the Holy See, I would like to offer you a cordial welcome.
I thank you for your courteous words and I am pleased to reciprocate, through you, the kind greeting which H.E. Mr Moammar El Gheddafi, Leader of the Libyan Revolution, has conveyed to me, at the same time recalling the common commitment of the Holy See and of his country with regard to the understanding between States, the reinforcement of dialogue in the international arena, and the safeguard of the principles of tolerance among peoples and the pursuit of peace and justice.
Please convey to the Government you represent my sentiments of respect and consideration for the various projects it is carrying out to consolidate processes of reciprocal respect and collaboration in the assembly of nations, in the framework of international law. I likewise offer the assurance of my constant affection to the beloved people of Libya, and my prayers for their serene progress in well-being and in the full achievement of every high human and spiritual ideal.
The action of the Holy See in the context of subjects of international law is marked by its persevering search for a sincere dialogue which emphasizes what unites rather than what divides, so as to foster understanding between nations, the achievement of peace and justice, the defence of each people' distinctive, legitimate features and concrete solidarity with the less fortunate.
The method of courageous and persevering dialogue has proven particularly effective in alleviating the many tensions existing in the world which give rise to concern and, to be overcome, require the effective cooperation of all with a vivid awareness of the fundamental principles of truth, justice, love and freedom. I am thinking of the situation in the Middle East that I have very much at heart; of terrorism which, since it can strike anywhere indiscriminately, threatens cities, peoples and even all humanity; of the conflicts which prevent the peoples of many African regions from taking care of their own development; of the unequal distribution of the goods of the earth and the fruits of technological, human and spiritual research.
Dialogue, based on solid moral laws, helps contendents find solutions and fosters respect for life, for every human life. Here I would like to recall the enlightening words that my venerable Predecessor, Blessed Pope John XXIII, wrote precisely 40 years ago in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris: "Any well-regulated and productive association of men in society demands the acceptance of one fundamental principle: that each individual is truly a person. His is a nature that is endowed with intelligence and free will. As such he has rights and duties, which together flow as a direct consequence from his nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable, and therefore altogether inalienable" (n. 9). This is why recourse to weapons to settle controversies is always a sign of the defeat of reason and of humanity.
The Church, conscious of the role of religion in awakening and fostering the culture of encounter, of reciprocal understanding and effective collaboration, wants to pursue her mission of peace and urges everyone to assume responsibility for each other in order to build a world that is more just, more solidary and free (cf. Message for World Day of Peace 2003, n. 9; ORE, 18/25 December 2002, p. 4).
This witness is also offered by the small and active Catholic community that lives in Libya. Despite its scant resources it puts itself, in Christ's name, at the service of the human being, of all human beings, for it recognizes in every human being the face of God, to be welcomed, loved and served. It is this truth that inspires consecrated persons who are dedicated to various humanitarian activities or social assistance. The Catholic Church in Libya wishes to continue her action, fostering the spirit of fraternal communion and availability to her neighbour with a discreet and loving presence.
I should like to request you, Mr Chief of Mission, to convey my gratitude to the Libyan Authorities and to the entire people for the esteem and consideration with which they surround the Church's mission and work.
This esteem is reciprocal. The sincere desire for honest collaboration constitutes the basis of fruitful cooperation among believers and between all peoples. This is particularly true for followers of Islam and for Christians. In the face of certain attempts to distort religion and abuse sacred traditions, it is necessary to reassert forcefully that practices which incite people to violence and contempt of human life are contrary to God and man.
The path of dialogue and mutual understanding with respect for differences should be encouraged so that true peace may be pursued and the meeting between different peoples may take place in a context of solidarity and understanding.
As I willingly accept the documents accrediting you as Chief of Mission of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the Holy See, please accept my fervent good wishes for the important task that has been entrusted to you. In fulfilling your mission, you will be able to count on my constant attention as well as on the competent and disinterested help of those who work with me.
I accompany these wishes with the invocation of an abundance of divine blessings upon you and your collaborators, upon the people of Libya and their leaders.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. In the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ I cordially welcome you, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bangalore, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, and make my own the greeting of Saint Paul: "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world" (Rm 1,8). In particular I thank Archbishop Pinto for his good wishes and kind sentiments offered on your behalf, which I warmly reciprocate, and I assure you and those entrusted to your care of my prayers. Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum expresses the profound communion of love and truth which unites the particular Churches in India with the Successor of Peter and his collaborators in the service of the universal Church. In "coming to see Peter" (Ga 1,18) you thus confirm your "unity in the same faith, hope and charity, and more and more recognize and treasure that immense heritage of spiritual and moral wealth that the whole Church, joined with the Bishop of Rome Ö has spread throughout the world" (Pastor Bonus, Appendix I, 3).
2. To bear witness to Jesus Christ is "the supreme service which the Church offers to the peoples of Asia" (Ecclesia in Asia ). Living with many people who do not know Christ convinces us ever more of the need for the missionary apostolate. The radical newness of life brought by Christ and lived by his followers awakens in us the urgency of missionary activity (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 7). This demands an explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord: a bold testimony founded on his command - "go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19) and sustained by his promise - "I am with you always" (Mt 28,20). Indeed it is in fidelity to the threefold mission of Christ as Priest, Prophet and King that all Christians, in keeping with their baptismal dignity, have a right and duty to participate actively in the missionary endeavours of the Church (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 71).
The call for a new evangelization and renewed missionary commitment which I have addressed to the whole Church resounds just as clearly for your ancient Christian communities as it does for your newest. While the initial evangelization of non-Christians and the continuing proclamation of Jesus to the baptized will highlight differing aspects of the same Good News, both stem from a firm commitment to make Christ ever more known and loved. Such an obligation has its sublime origin in the "fountain-like love" of the Father made present in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit (cf. Ad Gentes AGD 2). All Christians are thus drawn up into Christís impelling love, of which "we cannot but speak" (Ac 4,20), as the source of the hope and joy that marks us.
3. A correct understanding of the relationship between culture and Christian faith is vital for effective evangelization. On your own Indian subcontinent you are faced with cultures rich in religious and philosophical traditions. Within this context, we see how absolutely essential is the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Son of God. It is in this understanding of Christís uniqueness as the second person of the Blessed Trinity, fully God and fully man, that our faith must be preached and embraced. Any theology of mission that omits the call to a radical conversion to Christ and denies the cultural transformation which such conversion will entail necessarily misrepresents the reality of our faith, which is always a new beginning in the life of him who alone is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6).
In this regard, we reaffirm that interreligious dialogue does not replace the missio ad gentes but rather forms a part of it (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus, 2). Similarly, it must be noted that relativist explanations of religious pluralism, which state that the Christian faith is of no different value than any other belief, in fact empty Christianity of its defining Christological heart: faith alienated from our Lord Jesus, as the only Saviour, is no longer Christian, no longer theological faith. An even greater misrepresentation of our faith occurs when relativism leads to syncretism: an artificial "spiritual construct", that manipulates and consequently distorts the essential, objective, revelatory nature of Christianity. That which renders the Church missionary by her very nature is precisely the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God (cf. Dei Verbum DV 2). This is the foundation of our faith. It is this which makes Christian witness credible. With joy and humility we must welcome the duty that "we, who have received the grace of believing in Christ, the revealer of the Father and the Saviour of the world, have to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 33).
4. Dear Brothers, your quinquennial reports give ample evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit vivifying the missionary dimension of the Churchís life in your Dioceses. Notwithstanding the obstacles encountered by people - especially the poor Ė who wish to embrace the Christian faith, adult baptisms are numerous in much of your region. Equally encouraging is the high percentage of Catholics who attend Sunday Mass, and the increasing numbers of laity properly participating in the liturgy. Such examples of the ready acceptance of Godís gift of faith also indicate the need for the diligent pastoral care of our people. Responding to the aspiration for a new impetus in Christian living, I have stated that we must remain firmly focused on the plan already found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition which has its centre in Christ himself (cf. ibid., 29).
The reason to develop pastoral initiatives adapted to the social and cultural circumstances of your communities, yet firmly rooted in the uniqueness of Christ, is clear: "What we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord with ourselves as servants" (2Co 4,5). Far from being a matter of power or control, the Churchís programmes of evangelization and formation are conducted in the belief that "every person has a right to hear the Good News of God who reveals and gives himself in Christ" (Ecclesia in Asia ). While there are many signs of dynamic ecclesial life in your provinces it is also the case that challenges remain. A deeper appreciation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation will help to ready your people spiritually for the task of "doing everything possible to witness to reconciliation and to bring it about in the world" (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 8). Similarly, our teaching of marriage as a sacred sign of the unfailing fidelity and selfless love of Christ for his Church points to the invaluable worth of a comprehensive marriage preparation programme for those readying themselves for the sacrament and, through them, for society as a whole. Further, the festivities and devotions associated with the many shrines dedicated to Our Lady in your areas, while attracting thousands of followers from other religions, must be soundly incorporated within the liturgical life of the Church if they are to become a gateway to authentic Christian experience.
5. In a world disfigured by fragmentation the Church - as the sign and instrument of the communion of God with humanity (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1) - is a powerful bearer of unity and the reconciliation which it entails. As Bishops called to manifest and preserve the apostolic tradition you are joined in a communion of truth and love. Individually you are the visible source and foundation of unity in your own particular Churches which are constituted after the model of the universal Church. So, while it is true to say that a Bishop represents his own Church it is also necessary to recall that together with the Pope all Bishops represent the whole Church in the bond of peace, love and unity (cf. ibid., 23).
In this regard, a Bishop must never be considered a mere delegate of a particular social or language grouping but must always be recognized as a successor of the Apostles, whose mission comes from the Lord.The repudiation of a Bishop, whether by an individual or a group, is always a transgression of ecclesial communion and thus a scandal for the faithful and a counter-witness to the followers of other religions. Any spirit of antagonism or conflict Ė always wounding the Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 1,12-13) - must be put aside and replaced with that practical and concrete love for every person which arises from the contemplation of Christ.
6. I give thanks to God for the many indications of growth and maturity in your Dioceses. In addition to the often selfless dedication of your priests, Religious and catechists, and the generosity of your own people, this development has also depended upon the ministry of missionaries and the financial generosity of overseas donors. The "pooling of resources and aspirations in order to promote both the common good and the good of individual churches" (Christus Dominus CD 36), which has been practised from Apostolic times, is an eloquent manifestation of the Churchís nature as communion. Yet it is also true to say that particular Churches, including those in countries of the developing world, should seek to build up their own resources to promote local evangelization, and build pastoral centres and institutions of educational and charitable works. To this end, I encourage you to further the considerable advances which you have already achieved with the laity and in collaboration with Religious Institutes (cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 222). For your own part I urge you to set an unquestionable example by your impartiality in the stewardship of the communal resources of the Church (cf. ibid., can. 1276; 1284). You must ensure that the administration of "goods... meant for all" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 42) is never sullied by temptations to materialism or favouritism but is wisely undertaken in response to the needs of the spiritually or materially poor.
7. Dear Brothers, it is a particular joy for me to share these reflections with you on this feast of the glorious Apostle Saint Thomas, so venerated by your people. I again assure you of my prayers and support as you continue to shepherd in love the flocks entrusted to your care. United in our proclamation of the saving Good News of Jesus Christ, renewed in the zeal of the first Christians, and inspired by the steadfast example of the Saints, let us go forward in hope! In this Year of the Rosary, may Mary, model of all disciples and bright Star of Evangelization, be your sure guide as you "seek to do what Jesus tells you" (cf. Jn Jn 2,5). Commending you to her maternal protection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses.
Speeches 2003 - Thursday, 26 June 2003