Speeches 2003 - Tuesday, 9 December 2003
I cordially greet the welcome guests from Zakopane and the region of Podhale. I thank you who - as each year - come to the Pope "with Christmas carols", with mountain music, song and gifts. Besides your love and devotion you bring me beautiful Christmas trees that speak of Poland. I thank the Reverend Dean for the best wishes expressed in the name of all of you and I cordially exchange them.
In a few days we will see the light of the night of Bethlehem and will again hear the message of the angel: "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lc 2,10-11).
May this light and this message be always present in the hearts of all so that hope and joy overcome every fear. For this I pray and this I wish for you, Polish mountain people here present, and for your compatriots. May God be praised because in the Vatican's Clementine Hall, I was able to hear Polish Christmas carols.
God bless you!
Dear Officials and Pilots of the Italian Military Air Force,
Welcome! I cordially greet you all, starting with Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, Military Ordinary and Staff Head of your Force.
The feast of your heavenly Patroness offers me the opportunity to invite you to turn your gaze continually to Our Lady of Loreto. May she be your constant model and the safe guide of your lives. Call upon her with trust in every situation: she will be your support, comfort and hope.
I welcome this occasion to give best wishes for a Holy Christmas to you and to your families.
I impart my Blessing upon you all!
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Singapore to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind greetings you have expressed on behalf of President S. R. Nathan and the Government and people of Singapore, and I ask you kindly to convey my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation.
Your presence here today takes my thoughts to the visit I was privileged to make to your country in 1986. The time I spent in Singapore allowed me the opportunity to experience at first hand a culture shaped by the influence of so many different ethnic and religious groups, which have for years lived in harmony with one another. Singapore has been greatly enriched by its variety of cultures and peoples and should take pride in its tradition of respect and esteem for this patrimony. In fact, your country’s commitment to encouraging an authentic spirit of unity in diversity has made a significant contribution to the region and you can rightly claim that it is one of the most developed in Asia. Although Singapore is small in size and population, it nevertheless plays an important role in the area, often acting as a bridge of cultural exchange between East and West.
In order for authentic globalization to be achieved, governments and peoples should encourage cultural diversity, at all times ensuring that it remains grounded in the moral principles and values which govern human behaviour and relationships. Singapore has demonstrated its dedication to these precepts by the ongoing commitment to religious tolerance, which it has enthusiastically fostered since independence. It is to be hoped that the harmony which has traditionally prevailed among the followers of the various religions in Singapore will continue and grow even stronger. This is especially important today, as moments of recent tension and tragic incidents in your region have challenged the mutual respect which is basic to the peaceful co-existence of all peoples. In accordance with your best traditions, there is a need for continued dialogue, understanding and cooperation among the followers of the various religions in order to ensure that all people work together for a civilization built upon the universal values of solidarity, justice and freedom.
Singaporean society is permeated by a deep appreciation for the importance of the spiritual and transcendent dimensions of human life. This has contributed to a recognition of the need to develop a culture in which "people live together" always avoiding the temptation to become a society which rejects, marginalizes, uproots or oppresses others (cf. Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, No. 18). This fundamental responsibility towards our brothers and sisters is a characteristic of social interaction which must be exercised at both national and international levels. Your country’s resolve to assist those beyond its borders is evident in the impressive international support which you offer. In fact, our shared commitment to the less fortunate is one of many areas which unite Singapore and the Holy See in our desire to serve the common good. An example of this cooperation can be seen in our joint efforts to form young professionals from poor countries in the region through the Singapore-Vatican Third Country Training Programme, initiated five years ago. Education is a key to sustained development. I am therefore hopeful that our attempts to train young people as conscientious and honest citizens will not only benefit their individual countries but will also assist Asia and the entire global community.
Responsibility for the well-being of others extends to all sectors of life. In this regard, I am aware of the significant contributions your country has made, especially in the spheres of science and technology. The ability to serve humanity through these is a gift demanding great respect. At no time can governments support initiatives which threaten the sanctity of human life for scientific or economic gain. "The great moral challenge facing nations and the international community in relation to development is to have the courage of a new solidarity, capable of taking imaginative and effective steps to overcome both dehumanizing underdevelopment and the ‘overdevelopment’ which tends to reduce the person to an economic unit" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, No. 32). For this reason, proper judgment and prudent deliberation concerning the control of these fields is essential. Such discussions should include the different religious traditions which play a significant role in the life of your nation. These groups make an essential contribution to the genuine progress of society by drawing attention to the most profound human questions and values and by giving the spiritual and moral direction which must always accompany scientific and technological advances.
Even though the Catholic Church in Singapore is relatively small, her members are proud contributors to the country’s political, cultural and social development. At a time when your nation and much of Asia are attempting to rethink past policies concerning family life and demographics, Catholics have much to offer. As I stated in 1986, "Families have a unique place in the Church as a community of life and love. While being a communion of persons in dialogue with God, they have an important role in society. They must remain open to the larger community, so that the loving concern they show in their homes may be extended to others for the betterment of all" (Homily in Singapore, No. 9). A firm commitment to a culture of life and a culture of the family is an essential building block to the social fabric of every country and a requirement for long-term success.
Mr Ambassador, it is my hope that, as you take up your new responsibilities, the bonds of friendship between the Holy See and Singapore will be increasingly strengthened. You can be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in fulfilling your mission. Upon yourself and the beloved people of your nation I invoke abundant divine blessings.
Friday, 12 December 2003
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to His Excellency Mr Arnold Rüütel my appreciation of his good wishes, which I warmly reciprocate, and to assure him and the people of Estonia of my prayers for the nation’s well-being. Ten years ago I embarked on my "pilgrimage of peace" to various Baltic nations including your own beloved country, where I thanked God that "the lamp of freedom" had been lit anew. That visit remains vivid in my mind and I gratefully recall the warmth and hospitality with which I was received by civic and religious leaders alike.
The Church’s diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the whole human family. Her heartfelt desire to foster fruitful relations with civil society is anchored in her conviction that the hope of building a more just world – a world more worthy of man – cannot ignore an understanding of man’s supernatural vocation. The Holy See’s diplomatic activity seeks therefore to promote an understanding of the human person who "receives from God his essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness" (Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, No. 38). From this foundation the Church applies the universal values pertaining to truth and love to the vast array of cultures and nations that constitute our world.
As Your Excellency has observed, the arrival of the Catholic Church in Estonia dates back to the twelfth century. Together with other Europeans, Estonians rightly understand that the truths and values of Christianity have long been the foundation of the very fabric of European society. This heritage does not, however, belong just to the past. It is a project always in the making. It is therefore imperative that as the nations of Europe move towards a new configuration, Christianity’s perennial proclamation of the truth should be recognized and reclaimed. It is in recovering Europe’s true identity, upon which its freedom and democracy are founded, that the genuine progress of its cultural and civic institutions can be assured (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, No. 109).
The people of Estonia know only too well that, when the treasure of the Christian faith is repressed or even denied, authentic social development founders and the vision of a society marked with hope fades. In the wake of a tragic period of fear and intimidation in European history, when the supremacy of force prevailed, the Christian faith proposes its Gospel of life assuring a future of hope and freedom, a future in which the supremacy of love and truth will prevail. No human folly or shallow sense of inclusiveness can be allowed to deny future generations this path to genuine personal fulfilment and sustainable solidarity between peoples, rooted in the hope that "does not disappoint" (Rm 5,5). In this regard I am confident that the Government of Estonia will support the efforts of the Holy See to ensure that the Treaty of the Constitution of Europe will recognize Christianity’s place at the heart of the Continent’s life and future.
As Estonia continues to engage in the delicate but profoundly satisfying task of forging its national spirit there is much for which to be grateful. Freedom of thought and expression, now enjoyed by your citizens, is the condition for the search for truth which defines the human person. The experience of history teaches us however that the journey from oppression to liberty is arduous. It is often marked by hollow promises of hope and the lure of false forms of freedom detached from an essential link with truth. The passing of an era of repressive political ideology must not be allowed to usher in one of destructive secularist ideology. The human person – the one who seeks truth – is also the one who lives by belief (cf. Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, No. 31). It is to believing communities then that political and civic authorities can turn with confidence for a commitment to the humanization of society, by shaping a European social order respectful of every man and woman and thus in accordance with the common good (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, No. 117).
There is no doubt that one of the greatest needs in Estonia today is to ensure that the sacred institution of marriage, willed by God in the very act of creation, with its concomitant of stable family life, is affirmed and supported. Both civic and religious leaders of all denominations must work together towards this end. Many cultural, social and political factors are in fact conspiring to create an increasingly obvious crisis of the family. The tragedy of divorce desolates family life and harms communities and individuals, especially children. The scourge of abortion, in addition to violating the essential dignity of human life, often causes untold emotional and psychological pain to the mother who herself is frequently a victim of circumstances contrary to her deepest hopes and desires. Faced with these afflictions, I again remind civil leaders that they have a duty to make courageous choices to protect life through legislative measures (cf. Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, No. 90) and to uphold the values and demands of the family through effective social policies. I also appeal to the Christian community of Estonia to bear steadfast witness to the sublime beauty of the intimate communion of life and love which defines the family and brings joy to human society.
Members of the Catholic Church, though few in number in your country, will continue to pray and work for the continuing development of the Estonian people and nation. I thank you for your gracious words of appreciation for what the Church is achieving through her humanitarian organizations, notably Caritas, in bringing a spirit of hope and practical assistance to vulnerable groups. Her mission of service to all peoples, particularly the poor and marginalized, stands at the heart of her witness to Christ’s all-encompassing love.
Mr Ambassador, during your term as Estonia’s representative to the Holy See the various departments of the Roman Curia will do all they can to assist you in the discharge of your duties. I offer my best wishes for the success of your endeavours to strengthen the cordial relations already existing between us. Upon you, your family and all your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Denmark to the Holy See. Though my visit to your country took place some years ago, I fondly recall the warmth and hospitality with which I was received. I thank you for the gracious words of greeting which you bring from Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, and I would ask you to convey to Her Majesty, to the Government and to the people of Denmark my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation.
The Holy See’s steadfast commitment to promoting the dignity of the human person stands at the heart of her diplomatic activity. Without an authentic understanding of the incomparable worth of men and women, claims to defend fundamental human rights and efforts to attain peaceful coexistence among peoples will prove vain. It is only in the respect and protection of the inviolable dignity of every person that the search for solidarity and harmony in our world finds its sure basis. Indeed, the urgent need for the entire human family to give practical expression to what my predecessor, Blessed Pope John XXIII, called the four pillars of peace – truth, justice, love and freedom – stems precisely from their being "requirements of the human spirit" (Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, No. 3).
Within the international community Denmark has long been esteemed for the generosity which has marked its relations with the developing nations of the world. Tangible expression of such solidarity is found in Danish leadership of peace-keeping operations, generous assistance with aid projects, and readiness to contribute to the requirements of international stability and security necessary for social and economic advancement across the globe. In this regard, I am particularly glad to acknowledge Your Excellency’s observation concerning the way in which Denmark and the Holy See have mutually supported the Millennium Declaration. Your nation’s exemplary commitment to funding that Declaration’s goals has not gone unnoticed and I am confident that Denmark will be a reliable supporter of the newly proposed International Finance Facility, the initiatives of which the Holy See welcomes.
Effective solidarity is always an expression of a firm and persevering desire to promote the common good. Though this desire resonates deeply within the hearts of all men and women, it also requires the determination to foster actively a culture of acceptance. To this end, your country has sought to introduce peace education programmes, to support projects combating poverty and injustice, and to encourage tolerance especially in regard to the immigrant community. At their most significant level such laudable initiatives help to elicit a recognition of the essential nature of human life as a gift and of our world as a family of persons. True commitment to human solidarity on an international level in fact finds its roots in the domestic family. If authentic and mature communion between persons within the family – the first and irreplaceable school of social life – is not truly appreciated and protected, then the relationships of international solidarity, marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love, which serve the common good will be severely impeded (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, No. 43).
During my visit to Denmark I observed that your flag, the Dannebrog, is marked with the sign of the Cross. I suggested that by being faithful to this historical symbol of your existence as a people, Denmark will be faithful to her very self. Integral to your history is the Christian Gospel which, as an inspiration and support for your people (cf. Arrival Speech, Copenhagen, 6 June 1989), is as crucial today as it has been for over a thousand years. However, one cannot but notice that an eclipse of the sense of God has cast its shadow not only over your own country but over others on the Continent of Europe as well. Many people are disoriented, uncertain, and some even without hope. With numbers of Europeans living without spiritual roots, it is not surprising that there are political and social moves to create a vision of Europe which ignores its religious heritage and, in particular, its profoundly Christian soul (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, No. 7). The advocates of these misguided efforts assert the rights of the peoples of Europe, and claim to speak in their name, yet are blind to the reality of the higher objective law written on the heart of every man and woman and known to the human conscience.
A vision of Europe detached from God can only herald social fragmentation, moral confusion and political disunity. In the face of the troubling signs which cloud the horizon of the European continent I wish to repeat again the words from Scripture which I quoted during my visit to your country: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son … this light has come into the world and those who live by his truth come out into the light so that it may be plainly seen that what they do is done in God" (Jn 3,16 Jn 19-21). Christ’s truth does not disappoint. It illuminates and directs our ways, dispelling the shadows of bewilderment and fear. Christ again invites us all "to blaze new trails leading to a ‘Europe of the spirit’, in order to make the continent a true ‘common home’ filled with the joy of life" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, No. 121).
With these words of encouragement I assure you that the Catholic Church, in ecumenical fellowship with her Christian brothers and sisters in your land, will continue to work for the spiritual enrichment and social development of the Danish people. Through the witness of charity the Church reaches out to all men and women, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, facilitating the growth of a "culture of solidarity" and restoring life to the universal values of human existence (cf. ibid., No. 85).
Mr Ambassador, I am confident that the mission which you begin today will help to strengthen the cordial bonds of understanding and cooperation between Denmark and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
I am pleased to greet you, Your Excellency, on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Qatar to the Holy See, and I thank you for your kind words.
I would be grateful, Mr Ambassador, if you would express to His Highness the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad ben Khalifa Al-Thani, as well as to His Highness the Crown Prince, Sheikh Tamim ben Hamad ben Khalifa Al-Thani, my thanks for the courteous greetings they have conveyed to me through you. Please reciprocate them with my cordial good wishes for the happiness and peace of all the Country's inhabitants.
Mr Ambassador, your young Country, located in a part of the world considered from many points of view as strategic, is eager to take its place in the concert of nations, opening to regional and international exchanges and participating in international life in various ways. Convinced of the interest and fruitfulness of the meeting between cultures and religions, it is striving to encourage dialogue as a means to resolve the tensions among peoples and to progress towards a better understanding for the good of all.
As you know, this is also a constant concern of the Holy See. It encourages nations to do all they can to solve the many serious problems that overshadow international life today and to defuse the risk of clashes, keeping up a courageous and unflagging dialogue that respects all the parties concerned. In this way the conditions of a solid, lasting peace will be truly guaranteed.
Globalization, which is a feature of our time, must not be understood merely as an economic phenomenon, marked by the ever closer interdependence of financial and commercial exchanges, nor as a wonderful acceleration of communication between human beings thanks to the considerable technological advances. More fundamentally, it expresses the acquisition of an awareness that "there are values which are common to all cultures because they are rooted in the nature of the person.
These values express humanity's most authentic and distinctive features" (Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2001, n. 16). The gratitude of our common belonging to the same world and the same human family must transform relations between individuals and peoples, so that the common good is always respected and violent, murderous confrontations between people cease; for all are brothers and sisters created for the glory of the one God.
For the Catholic Church, religious freedom is one of the most fundamental human rights because it expresses, precisely, the inviolable dignity of every person in his noblest dimension, that is, his relationship to the Creator, and because it belongs to freedom of conscience. For this reason the Holy See does all in its power to appeal for the necessary respect of this right that applies to all believers of all religions.
I am truly delighted to know that the State of Qatar recognizes freedom of worship for all believers and I appreciate your Government's welcoming attitude to Christians, especially members of the Catholic Church. I warmly thank those who have been involved in this area. I know that, for their part, the Catholic faithful apply themselves to working wholeheartedly for the good of the Country in which they live, with respect for its laws and traditions and concern for the dialogue of life with everyone, especially Muslims.
The hoped-for dialogue between nations must enable violence to be overcome and pave the way to the conditions of true peace. Interreligious dialogue is also an indispensable requirement. On this topic, I hail the attention that your Country's Authorities devote to actively promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims. I am convinced, for my part, that "the various Christian confessions, as well as the world's great religions, need to work together to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism. They can do this by teaching the greatness and dignity of the human person and by spreading a clearer sense of the oneness of the human family. This is a specific area of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and cooperation, a pressing service which religion can offer to world peace" (Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2002, n. 12).
I am grateful to you, Mr Ambassador, for mentioning the dramatic situation in the Holy Land and your ardent wish to see the end of this conflict in the near future. The Holy See shares constantly in this concern and never misses an opportunity to remind the international community of its duty to work hard with the parties involved so that they will engage in real negotiations. It also invites the Authorities and people present to take every possible opportunity to envisage a future of peace and brotherhood. Indeed, there will be no true peace in this region except through the renunciation of reciprocal violence and recourse to a courageous dialogue that can lead to the recognition of the right of each one to live freely in his land with respect for justice and safety for all, especially in the vicinity of the Holy Places. May the longed-for day arrive when this land, so dear to all the children of Abraham, will see peace restored!
May I be permitted through you to address a warm greeting to the Catholic community that lives in Qatar, as well as to all the Christian faithful of other denominations. May they have at heart to behave as true disciples of Christ, putting into practice the twofold commandment of love for God and for one's neighbour! May I also extend my fervent good wishes to all the inhabitants of your noble Land.
At the time when you are beginning your noble mission, Your Excellency, I assure you of the attentive availability of all my collaborators and I offer you my very best wishes for success in your work, so that harmonious relations may develop between the Holy See and the State of Qatar.
Upon you, Your Excellency, your family, your collaborators and all your compatriots, I invoke an abundance of Blessings from the Most High.
1. I am pleased to welcome you at the time when you are presenting the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries: Denmark, Singapore, Qatar and Estonia. I thank you for the courteous words you have conveyed to me from your Heads of State, and I would be grateful if you would reciprocate by conveying to them my respectful good wishes as well as for their important mission at the service of their peoples. Through you, I greet the civil and religious Authorities of your Countries and all your compatriots. Please pass on to them my cordial and fervent good wishes.
2. The end of the civil year is a favourable period in which to analyze the world situation and the events that we are witnessing. Like all diplomats, you are eager to create links between individuals and countries, thereby encouraging peace, friendship and solidarity between peoples. You do so on behalf of your Governments that are involved in the globalization of brotherhood and solidarity, convinced that what unites human beings is more important than what divides them. The future for peoples and the hope for the world depend on respect for the fundamental human values.
3. For lasting development as well as for international stability and even for the credibility of national and international Government bodies, it is right that all who are involved in public life, especially in the context of politics and economics, should have an ever keener moral sense in the management of public affairs. Their essential goal should be the common good, which adds up to more than the total good of individuals. I therefore appeal to all people of good will, called to serve their Country, to endeavour always to put their talents at the disposal of their fellow citizens and more generally, of the international community!
4. In this period when people will be exchanging wishes of peace and happiness throughout the world, these are the wishes that I express to you straight away, for your Governments and for all the inhabitants of your Countries, as well as for all humanity. At the moment when you are beginning your noble mission to the Holy See, I offer you my very best wishes and invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, upon your families, upon your collaborators and upon the Nations you represent.
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to meet with you on the occasion of the "Christmas in the Vatican" Concert, a show organized to raise money for the construction of new churches, especially on the outskirts of the city of Rome.
I express fervent best wishes so that you are able reach the goals you have set. At the same time, I wish to extend to each one of the promoters, organizers and artists a cordial wish for the nearly-arrived Christmas celebrations. Christmas reminds us that the Son of God, taking on human nature, became a travel companion for the men and women of every epoch. May this feast, so felt by families, become a favourable occasion to experience the closeness and love of God.
I accompany these wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your loved ones and to those who will be watching the concert on television.
Happy Christmas to all!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am very happy to meet with you and cordially welcome each one.
I greet, in the first place, Hon. President Mario Pescante and the members of the 49 European Olympic Committees, participating in the annual Assembly of the International Olympic Committee. I welcome this occasion to emphasize once again the value and importance of sport, especially in the formation of young people. Europe is the cradle of modern sport, descended from the athletic training of the ancient Greeks marked by reciprocal respect and friendship. May the well-known motto of modern Olympics - "Citius, Altius, Fortius" - continue to be imprinted on the athletic activity of the new generations.
2. I then greet the group of the Italian Optics Association and the Italian Association for Eye Disease Research. May St Lucy, your Patroness, whose feast we are celebrating today, help you to continue with ever great effort your activity of helping people with eye problems. This is an important service that you offer to society.
3. Furthermore, I turn my thought to you, members of the "Interdis" group, and I thank you for today's visit. I am also grateful for the generous support you give to the Pope's initiatives of charity for the good of the neediest.
Dear brothers and sisters, as Holy Christmas comes closer, I express fervent best wishes to you and your families, and assure each one of you of my prayers. I cordially bless you all.
Speeches 2003 - Tuesday, 9 December 2003