Speeches 2004 - Monday, 17 May 2004

4. The recitation of the Rosary marked the days of St Nimatullah Al-Hardini from his childhood. Throughout his life, he discovered in the Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the very model of faithfulness to Christ, after whom he aspired. Following the example of Mary of Nazareth who kept watch over the Divine Infant, he lived his monastic vows in patience and hiddenness, giving himself over completely to the divine will.

May his witness stir up in all of us a sincere and filial love for Mary, our Mother and protectress!

5. Paola Elisabetta Cerioli, wife and mother, in short time deprived of her children and husband, united herself to the mystery of Our Lady of Sorrows and to her spiritual maternity. At that time, she began to dedicate herself to taking in orphans and the poor, drawing inspiration from the Holy Family of Nazareth. At the school of Mary, she knew how to transform natural love into supernatural love, allowing God to widen her maternal heart.

May her example continue to speak to many hearts: wives, mothers, consecrated souls!

6. Gianna Beretta Molla also nurtured a deep devotion to Our Lady. Reference to the Holy Virgin is frequent in the letters to her fiancť, Pietro, and in the successive years of her life, especially when she was hospitalized for the removal of a tumour, without endangering the child she was carrying in her womb. It was precisely Mary who sustained her during the extreme sacrifice of death, to confirm what she herself always loved to repeat: "Without the help of Our Lady, you cannot make it to Heaven".

7. Dear friends, may these new Saints help you to treasure their lesson of Gospel living. Follow in their footsteps and imitate them, especially their filial devotion to the Virgin Mary, in order to make continual progress at her school on the path of holiness.

With this wish, joined by prayer, I once again impart to you and your loved ones the Apostolic Blessing.




TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE PLENARY ASSEMBLY

OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE PASTORAL CARE

OF MIGRANTS AND ITINERANT PEOPLE

Tuesday, 18 May 2004



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

1. I am pleased to meet with you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I address my heartfelt greeting to everyone and I direct a special thought to your President, Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, thanking him for his kind words on behalf of all. I greet the Secretary and collaborators of the Dicastery, congratulating them on their work in a sector that is gaining importance in today's world.

The theme, too, of today's meeting, "Intercultural, interreligious and ecumenical dialogue in today's context of migration", underlines the relevance and importance of the service that your Pontifical Council is called to carry out in this moment of history.

2. Today, the Christian community is called to face situations profoundly different from those of the past. Without a doubt, one of these is the widespread phenomenon of migration, which is linked to tragedies that shake our conscience. Ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism has resulted from this phenomenon, a usual feature of today's nations.

Comparison with the actual reality of migration makes a renewed Gospel proclamation on the part of the Christian community urgent. This calls into question the pastoral duty and practical witness of all: priests, Religious, laity.

3. Indeed, if "globalization" is the term which more than any other describes historical modern development, the word "dialogue" must also characterize the mental and pastoral attitude that we are all called to adopt in view of a new world balance. The steady number of 200 million migrants makes this even more urgent.

Integration on the social level and interaction on the cultural one have therefore become the presupposition necessary for authentic peaceful co-existence between peoples and nations. This is more necessary than ever now due to the process of globalization, which increasingly unifies economic, cultural and social development.

4. Every culture serves as an approach to the mystery of man, also in his or her religious dimension, and this explains, as the Second Vatican Council affirms, why certain elements of truth can be found even outside of the revealed message, even among those non-believers who respect outstanding human values without realizing who the author of those values is (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 92). It then becomes necessary to draw near to all cultures with the respectful attitude of one who is aware that they do not just have something to say or give, but also much to listen to and receive (cf. Message for World Day of Peace 2001, n. 12).

This attitude is not only a requirement enforced by the transformations of our time, but is necessary so that the proclamation of the Gospel can reach everyone. This calls for intercultural dialogue: an open process that, by accepting what is good and true in the different cultures, can remove certain obstacles in the journey of faith.

Such a dialogue requires a profound change of mentality and also of pastoral structures, so that all that pastors invest in spiritual and cultural formation, even through gatherings and intercultural meetings, is directed toward the future and becomes a factor of the new evangelization.

5. The process of globalization not only calls the Church to intercultural dialogue but also to interreligious dialogue. Indeed, humanity of the third millennium urgently needs to rediscover common spiritual values on which to found the project of a society worthy of man (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 60).

However, the integration between populations that belong to different cultures and religions is never free of uncertainties and difficulties. This especially regards the immigration of Muslim faithful, who present specific problems. It becomes necessary in this regard that pastors accept precise responsibility, promoting an evermore generous evangelical witness given by Christians themselves. Fraternal dialogue and reciprocal respect must never serve as a limit or barrier to Gospel proclamation. Instead, love and welcome are the first and most effective forms of evangelization.

The particular Churches, therefore, must be centres of welcome through pastoral initiatives of meeting and dialogue, but especially by helping the faithful to overcome prejudice and teaching them to become, in their turn, missionaries ad gentes in our countries.

6. Likewise, the always more numerous presence of Christian immigrants not in full communion with the Catholic Church offers to the particular Churches new vistas for fraternity and ecumenical dialogue. This encourages them to arrive at, far from convenient irenicism and proselytism, a better reciprocal understanding between Churches and the Ecclesial Community (cf. Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, n. 58; Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms of Ecumenism, 1993, n. 107).

The present-day phenomenon of migration leads to a consideration of the condition of the People of God on their way toward the heavenly homeland. The ecumenical movement itself can be understood in this way as a great exodus, a pilgrimage, which merges and coincides with the current exoduses of peoples in search of a more stable condition of life. In this sense, the ecumenical duty becomes an added incentive to welcome fraternally those whose customs and ways of thinking are different from those with which we are familiar. In this way, the phenomenon of migration and the ecumenical movement become a stimulus, in their respective settings, toward better human understanding.

While invoking God's help upon your work, which I entrust to the protection of the Most Holy Virgin, I impart to all my Blessing.




TO H.E. MR JOS… MANUEL DUR√O BARROSO

PRIME MINISTER OF PORTUGAL

Tuesday, 18 May 2004



Mr Prime Minister,
Your Eminence, the Cardinal Patriarch,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

The new Concordat has just been signed. It confirms the reciprocal sentiments of respect that mark the relations between the Holy See and Portugal. I offer a warm welcome to Your Excellency, Mr Dur„o Barroso, to the members of the official delegation and to the Portuguese Ambassador to the Holy See. I also greet Cardinal Josť Policarpo, the Apostolic Nuncio and the members of the Bishops' Conference who are taking part in this solemn ceremony.

I express my deep appreciation for the attention to the Church's mission that the Government and the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic have shown, and which has culminated in the signing of this document today. I also hope that the new Concordat will encourage ever better understanding between the State Authorities and the Pastors of the Church for the common good of the Nation. With these sentiments and wishes, I invoke the Blessing of Almighty God upon you, your families and your People.




TO H.E. MR ALEKSANDER KWASNIEWSKI

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND

Tuesday, 18 May 2004



Distinguished Mr President,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I offer you a cordial welcome. Our meeting today is taking place in special circumstances. Indeed, it coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino. Every Pole will remember with pride that combat which, thanks to the heroism of the army commanded by General Anders, paved the way for the Allies to achieve the liberation of Italy and the defeat of the Nazi invaders. At the military cemetery in Monte Cassino there are graves marked by Latin and Greek Crosses next to the stones engraved with the Star of David. This is the resting place of the heroes who fell, united by the ideal of fighting for "your freedom and ours" which implies, in addition to patriotic love, concern for the political and spiritual independence of other nations. They all felt it their duty at all costs to oppose the attempt to physically overpower individuals and nations as well as to wipe out their traditions, their cultures and their spiritual identity.

I am mentioning this as a reminder that the cultural and spiritual patrimony of Europe was formed and defended down the centuries at the cost of the lives of those who professed Christ as well as of those who referred to Abraham in their religious belief. It seems necessary to remember this in the context of the constitutional foundation of the European Union that has recently admitted Poland.

The fact that our fellow countrymen shed their blood at Monte Cassino is a strong argument today in the discussion of what spiritual form to give Europe. Poland cannot forget it nor fail to remind others of it who, in the name of the secular status of democratic societies, seem to have forgotten Christianity's contribution to forging their very identity.

I would like to express my appreciation to the President and Authorities of the Republic of Poland for having spared no effort in defending the presence of the Christian values in the European Constitution. I am confident that these initiatives will have a beneficial result. I warmly hope so, for the sake of Poland and for the whole of Europe.

I am informed of the current political difficulties in Poland. I hope that they will be quickly overcome. I trust that this will happen in such a way that everyone, and especially the poorest of the poor, large families, the unemployed, the sick and the elderly, may feel safe in our Homeland. It is a challenging task. I therefore hope, Mr President, that you will have the strength and courage, in the contexts of both the Polish State and the European Union, to guide appropriately the efforts of all those who are assuming responsibility for the shape of Europe and the world today.

I assure all my compatriots of my remembrance in prayer, and I warmly bless them all.




TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE 53RD GENERAL ASSEMBLY

OF THE ITALIAN BISHOPS' CONFERENCE

Thursday, 20 May 2004



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ga 1,3). With the Apostle Paul's words, I offer my affectionate greeting to each one of you and assure you of my closeness in prayer, so that the Lord may enlighten and sustain your daily work as Pastors at the service of the Church and of the beloved Italian Nation.

I greet in particular your President, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and thank him for his words on behalf of all. I also greet the other Cardinals, the Vice-Presidents of your Conference and the Secretary General.

2. At this General Assembly of yours you have continued your reflection on the parish, to which you dedicated your Assembly last November in Assisi, with a view to reaching shared decisions on the necessary renewal in the perspective of the new evangelization of this fundamental ecclesial organism. Parishes, especially in Italy, guarantee the constant and caring closeness of the Church to the whole population for whose spiritual needs they provide; moreover, they often look after many other needs as well, to offer to each person the possibility of a journey of faith that takes them more deeply into the life of the Church and enables them to share in her apostolic mission.

In this regard, dear Brother Bishops, I know and share profoundly in your concern for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. I would also like to extend a warm invitation on your behalf to young Italians to consider calmly and attentively the call the Lord may address to them and possibly to accept it, not with fear but with joy: a vocation is an extraordinary gift which opens up new horizons of life for the person called, and for many of his brothers and sisters.

I likewise invite the families of those with a calling, today all too often worried about the future of their children, to be open and trusting. I tell them: do not stop at short-term considerations. Know that the Lord does not let himself be outdone in generosity and that his every call is also a great blessing for the family of the person who is called.

3. Social communications has been another major topic of discussion at your Assembly, together with the presentation and examination of the Directory entitled: "Communication and Mission".

We are well aware of the penetrating influence that the media exercise today on mindsets and behaviour, personal and collective, proposing a vision of life that unfortunately often tends to corrode basic ethical values, especially those that concern the family.

The media, however, also lend themselves to being used for and with very different purposes and results, making an important contribution to the affirmation of positive models of life and also to the spread of the Gospel.

Therefore, the Pope is beside you, dear Italian Bishops, in the work you have been carrying out for many years, promoting and supporting the Catholic daily newspaper and the diocesan weeklies, and more recently you have ensured that there is a qualified Christian presence in the milieu of the radio and television. I warmly hope that all Italian Catholics may understand and agree about the importance of this commitment and thereby help to make the cultural atmosphere in which we all live more positive and more tranquil.

4. Terrorism, acts of war, violations of human rights that make the international situation so difficult and dangerous weigh heavily on our hearts, dear Brother Bishops. I continue to join in your prayers, especially for those who are still hostages in Iraq, for all who risk their life and for all who lose it while on duty.

I deeply appreciate the initiative you took more than a year ago to promote pilgrimages of peace to the Holy Land and I encourage it with all my heart. Many of you have actually been to those places and taken numerous pilgrims with you. This is also a strong sign of closeness and solidarity for the Christian communities that live there and are in great need of our help.

5. Dear Italian Bishops, I cordially share in the attention you devote to the life of this beloved Nation.

It is vital that the sincere search for the common good prevail over causes of disagreement and dissent so that Italy may function more smoothly and a new phase of development may begin, leading to the creation of a larger number of jobs, so necessary especially in certain southern regions.

A crucial theme for which we should redouble our efforts continues to be the family founded on marriage, the protection and acceptance of life and the primary responsibility of parents for their children's education. Today I repeat with you the words that were chosen as the theme for this year's Pro-Life Day: "There is no future without children!".

Truly necessary and urgent for the future of Italy are: an effort to combine social policies, the pastoral care of the Church and of all those who can influence public opinion, so that young couples may rediscover the joy of conceiving and raising children, taking part in a very special way in the Creator's work.

6. Dear Italian Bishops, I assure you of my daily prayers for you, for your Churches, for the entire national community, so that the Italian people may keep alive their great heritage of faith and culture and put it at the service of the united Europe that is being built.

With sentiments of deep affection I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your priests, to each diocese and to each Italian parish.



MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II

TO CARDINAL RENATO R. MARTINO

ON THE OCCASION OF THE SYMPOSIUM

ON THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT OF AFRICA


To Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino

President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

On the occasion of the meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on the theme: "The economic and social development of Africa in the age of globalization", I address an affectionate greeting to all the participants. Numerous hotbeds of violence are bathing Africa in blood, besides which AIDS and other pandemics, tragic poverty and injustice still threaten the continent's future. Their negative consequences sign away the development of solidarity in Africa and the establishment of lasting peace in a just, equitable society. The continent is in urgent need of peace, justice and reconciliation as well as the assistance of the industrialized countries, called to sustain the continent's development so that the African peoples may truly be the active subjects and protagonists of their own future. It is important, therefore, to train the young generations for their future responsibilities since they will be entrusted with society's organization. May the international community contribute with determination and generosity to promoting a society of justice and peace on the African continent! Catholic communities across the world are asked to support their brothers and sisters in Africa to enable them to lead a more human and fraternal life. As I entrust all the participants at this meeting to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to them all.

From the Vatican, 21 May 2004

JOHN PAUL II





TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE HELEN CLARK

PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND

Friday, 21 May 2004

Prime Minister,


I am happy to welcome you to the Vatican and through you to greet the people of your nation. New Zealanders have always cherished the fundamental values of freedom, justice and peace. Indeed, in the face of aggression or threat, they have generously sought to defend and promote such rights in the Pacific and beyond.

Today, in our world so troubled by the scourge of racial divisions and conflict, I encourage you and your fellow citizens to foster dialogue. In acknowledging the fundamental God-given dignity of every person, dialogue leads to a recognition of diversity while opening the mind to the mutual acceptance and genuine collaboration demanded by the human familyís basic vocation to unity. Upon you and all the people of New Zealand, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




TO THE BISHOPS OF THE ECCLESIASTICAL PROVINCES

OF SAN ANTONIO AND OKLAHOMA CITY

ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT

Saturday, 22 May 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,


1. It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops from the ecclesiastical provinces of San Antonio and Oklahoma City, on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. I am grateful that during the last few months I have had the pleasure of meeting so many Bishops from your country, which is home to a large and vibrant Catholic community. "We give thanks to God always for you all. . . remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Th 1,2-3). These visits not only strengthen the bond between us, but they also offer a unique opportunity for us to look more closely at the good work already accomplished and the challenges still facing the Church in the United States.

In my last talks I discussed themes related to the munus sanctificandi. In particular I looked at the universal call to holiness and the importance of a loving communion with God and one another, as the key to personal and communal sanctification. "God created man in his own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, he called him at the same time for love" (Familiaris Consortio FC 11 cf. Gen Gn 1,26-27). These essential relationships are based on Godís love, and act as the point of reference for all human activity. The vocation and responsibility of every person to love grants us not only the ability to cooperate with the Lord in his sanctifying mission but also gives us the desire to do so. Accordingly, in this my final reflection on the sanctifying office, I wish to concentrate in a special way on one of the cornerstones of the Church itself, namely, the complex of interpersonal relationships known as the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 11).

2. Family life is sanctified in the joining of man and woman in the sacramental institution of holy matrimony. Consequently, it is fundamental that Christian marriage be comprehended in the fullest sense and be presented both as a natural institution and a sacramental reality. Many today have a clear understanding of the secular nature of marriage, which includes the rights and responsibilities modern societies hold as determining factors for a marital contract. There are nevertheless some who appear to lack a proper understanding of the intrinsically religious dimension of this covenant.

Modern society rarely pays heed to the permanent nature of marriage. In fact, the attitude towards marriage found in contemporary culture demands that the Church seek to offer better pre-marital instruction aimed at forming couples in this vocation and insist that her Catholic schools and religious education programs guarantee that young people, many of whom are from broken families themselves, are educated from a very early age in the Churchís teaching on the sacrament of matrimony. In this regard, I thank the Bishops of the United States for their concern to provide a correct catechesis on marriage to the lay faithful of their dioceses. I encourage you to continue to place a strong emphasis on marriage as a Christian vocation to which couples are called and to give them the means to live it fully through marital preparation programs which are "serious in purpose, excellent in content, sufficient in length and obligatory in nature" (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops ).

3. The Church teaches that the love of man and woman made holy in the sacrament of marriage is a mirror of Godís everlasting love for his creation (cf. Preface of Marriage III). Similarly, the communion of love present in family life serves as a model of the relationships which must exist in Christís family, the Church. "Among the fundamental tasks of the Christian family is its ecclesial task: the family is placed at the service of the building up of the Kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the Church" (Familiaris Consortio FC 49). In order to ensure that the family is capable of fulfilling this mission, the Church has a sacred responsibility to do all she can to assist married couples in making the family a "domestic church" and in fulfilling properly the "priestly role" to which every Christian family is called (cf. ibid., 55). A most effective way to accomplish this task is by assisting parents to become the first preachers of the Gospel and the main catechists in the family. This particular apostolate requires more than a mere academic instruction on family life; it requires the Church to share the hurts and struggles of parents and families, as well as their joys. Christian communities should thus make every effort to assist spouses in turning their families into schools of holiness by offering concrete support for family life ministry at the local level. Included in this responsibility is the satisfying task of leading back many Catholics who have drifted away from the Church but long to return now that they have a family.

4. The family as a community of love is reflected in the life of the Church. Indeed, the Church may be considered as a family Ė Godís Family gathered as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. Like a family, the Church is a place where its members feel free to bring their sufferings, knowing that Christís presence in the prayer of his people is the greatest source of healing. For this reason, the Church maintains an active involvement at all levels of family ministry and especially in those areas which reach out to youth and young adults. Young people, faced with a secular culture which promotes instant gratification and selfishness over the virtues of self-control and generosity, need the Churchís support and guidance. I encourage you, along with your priests and lay collaborators, to have youth ministry as an essential part of your diocesan programs (cf. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops and Pastores Gregis ). So many young people are seeking strong, committed and responsible role models who are not afraid to profess an unconditional love for Christ and his Church. In this regard, priests have always made and should continue to make a special and invaluable contribution to the lives of young Catholics.

As in any family, the Churchís internal harmony can at times be challenged by a lack of charity and the presence of conflict among her members. This can lead to the formation of factions within the Church which often become so concerned with their special interests that they lose sight of the unity and solidarity which are the foundations of ecclesial life and the sources of communion in the family of God. To address this worrisome phenomenon Bishops are charged to act with fatherly solicitude as men of communion to ensure that their particular Churches act as families, so "that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another" (1Co 12,25). This requires that the Bishop strive to remedy any division which can exist among his flock by attempting to rebuild a level of trust, reconciliation and mutual understanding in the ecclesial family.

5. My Brother Bishops, as I conclude these considerations on family life, I pray that you will continue your efforts to promote personal and communal sanctification through devotions of popular piety. For centuries the Holy Rosary, Stations of the Cross, prayer before and after meals and other devotional practices have helped to form a school of prayer in families and parishes, acting as rich and beautiful supplements to the sacramental life of Catholics. A renewal of these devotions will not only help the faithful in your country grow in personal holiness but will also act as a source of strength and sanctification for the Catholic Church in the United States.

As your nation marks in a special way the One-hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, I leave you with the words of my illustrious predecessor, Blessed Pope Pius IX: "We have, therefore, a very certain hope and complete confidence that the most Blessed Virgin will ensure by her most powerful patronage that all difficulties be removed and all errors dissipated, so that our Holy Mother the Catholic Church may flourish daily more and more throughout all the nations and countries, and may reign Ďfrom sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earthí" (Ineffabilis Deus). I invoke the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States, who untainted by sin unceasingly prays for the sanctification of Christians, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and joy in Jesus Christ.



MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II

TO THE CHIEF RABBI OF ROME

DR RICCARDO DI SEGNI

FOR THE CENTENARY OF THE GREAT SYNAGOGUE OF ROME




To the most distinguished Dr Riccardo Di Segni
Chief Rabbi of Rome

Shalom!

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Hinneh ma tov u-ma na"im, shevet akhim gam yakhad!" (Ps 133 [132]: 1).

1. With deep joy I join the Jewish Community of Rome which is celebrating the centenary of the Great Synagogue of Rome, a symbol and a reminder of the millennial presence in this city of the people of the Covenant of Sinai. For more than 2,000 years your community has been an integral part of life in the city; it can boast of being the most ancient Jewish Community in Western Europe and of having played an important role in spreading Judaism on this Continent. Today's commemoration, therefore, acquires a special significance for religious, cultural and social life in the capital and cannot but have a very special resonance in the heart of the Bishop of Rome! Since I am unable to attend in person, I have asked my Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to represent me; he is accompanied by Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Holy See's Commission for Relations with the Jews. They formally express my desire to be with you on this day.

In offering you my respectful greeting, distinguished Dr Riccardo Di Segni, I extend my cordial thoughts to all the Members of the Community, to their President, Mr Leone Elio Paserman, and to all who are gathered to witness once again to the importance and vigour of the religious patrimony that is celebrated every Saturday in the Great Synagogue of Rome. I would like to extend a special greeting to Professor Elio Toaff, Chief Rabbi emeritus; with his open and generous spirit, he welcomed me to the Synagogue when I visited it on 13 April 1986. The event lives on, engraved in my mind and heart as a symbol of new developments in relations between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church in recent decades after periods that were at times difficult and troubled.

2. Today's celebration, in whose joy we all readily join, recalls the first century of this majestic Synagogue. It stands on the banks of the Tiber, witnessing with the harmony of its architectural lines to faith and to praise of the Almighty. The Christian Community of Rome, through the Successor of Peter, joins you in thanking the Lord for this happy occasion. As I said during the Visit I mentioned, we greet you as our "beloved brothers" in the faith of Abraham, our Patriarch, of Isaac and Jacob, of Sarah and Rebecca, Rachael and Leah. In writing to the Romans (cf. Rom Rm 11,16-18), St Paul was already speaking of the holy root of Israel on which pagans are grafted onto Christ, "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Rm 11,29), and you continue to be the first-born people of the Covenant (Liturgy of Good Friday, General Intercessions, For the Jewish People).

You have been citizens of this City of Rome for more than 2,000 years, even before Peter the fisherman and Paul in chains came here sustained from within by the breath of the Spirit. Not only the Sacred Scriptures, in which to a large extent we share, not only the liturgy but also very ancient art forms witness to the Church's deep bond with the Synagogue; this is because of that spiritual heritage which without being divided or rejected has been made known to believers in Christ and constitutes an inseparable bond between us and you, the people of the Torah of Moses, the good olive tree onto which a new branch was grafted (cf. Rom Rm 11,17).

In the Middle Ages, some of your great thinkers, such as Yehuda ha-Levi and Moses Maimonides, sought to examine how it would be possible to worship the Lord and serve suffering humanity together, thereby paving the way to peace. The great philospher and theologian, well known to St Thomas Aquinas, Maimonides of Cordoba (1138-1204), the eighth centenary of whose death we are commemorating this year, expressed the hope that better relations between Jews and Christians might lead "the whole world to unanimous adoration of God as has been said: "I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord' (So 3,9)" (Mishneh Torah, HilkhÚt Melakhim XI, 4, ed. Jerusalem, Mossad Harav Kook).


Speeches 2004 - Monday, 17 May 2004