From the Vatican, 18 February 2004
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am pleased to greet you, Pastors of the Province of Paris and the Military Ordinary, on the occasion of your ad limina visit. I thank Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger for the kind words he has just addressed to me. I earnestly hope that your visit, which enables you to meet the Successor of Peter, will strengthen you in your mission at the service of evangelization. Proclaiming the Gospel is the special mission of the Bishop and an “outstanding manifestation of his spiritual fatherhood” as Pastor. He “must be aware of the challenges of the present hour and have the courage to face them” (Pastores Gregis ). We cannot forget the words of the Apostle to the Gentiles: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1Co 9,16). The Council recalled the urgent need of evangelization to “bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church” (Lumen Gentium LG 1).
2. The quinquennial reports describe the secularization of French society, often understood as a rejection in the social life of those anthropological, religious and moral values that left a deep mark on it. Hence, even for those who are already baptized, the need for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel is making itself felt, to the point of noticing that almost everywhere a first proclamation of the Gospel is necessary (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, nn. 46-47). You also mention that fewer and fewer children attend catechetical instruction, while at the same time you are pleased with the growing number of catechumens among young people and adults, as well as the rediscovery of the sacrament of Confirmation. These signs show that the transmission of the faith can spread, despite difficult conditions. May the cries of people who want “to see Jesus” (Jn 12,21) and knock at the door of the Church help you inspire a new springtime in evangelization and catechesis! I am following with interest your Conference's reflections with a view to proposing the faith in contemporary society and inviting the diocesan communities to regain new boldness in this area, a daring that stems from love for Christ and for his Church and which can be found in sacramental life and prayer.
3. With regard to catechesis for children and young people, it is important to offer them a high-quality religious and moral education based on the clear and solid elements of faith which lead to an intense spiritual life. As the Fathers of the Church used to say a child is also capax Dei, open to the sacramental dimension that leads to a dignified and beautiful human life. To constitute the solid core of existence, catechetical formation must be accompanied by regular religious practice. How can the proposal made to children truly take root in them and how can Christ transform their being and their action from within if they do not meet him regularly (cf. Dies Domini, n. 36; Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 31)? It is also important that with respect to the laws in force, the Authorities concerned make room for catechesis and for the religious practice of the faithful, privately and in the community, recalling that this dimension of life has a positive effect on social relations and on people's lives. I would like to express cordial thanks to the diocesan catechetical service and to all the catechists who are dedicated to the religious education of youth. I encourage them to persevere in their beautiful and noble mission, so important in the contemporary world, and always to take care to transmit faithfully the treasure the Church has received from the Apostles (cf. Acts Ac 16,5), so that the Christian people may grow and truly achieve ecclesial communion. Perhaps they will not always see the immediate results of their activity, but may they know that what they sow in hearts God will be able to develop, for it is he who gives the growth (cf. 1Co 3,7). May they remember that it is the future of the transmission of faith and the practice of it that are at stake! The visibility of the Church of the future will also largely depend on them.
Therefore, attention should be paid to the formation of parents and catechists, so that they may go to the heart of the faith they must communicate. Christian life is not built on a mere sociological attitude, nor on the knowledge of a few rudiments of the Christian message that would not lead to participation in the life of the Church. It would be a sign that faith had remained totally outside people. Pastors and catechists will also remember that children and young people are particularly sensitive to the consistency between people's words and their actual life. Indeed, how can young people become aware of the need to take part in the Sunday Eucharist or the practice of the sacrament of Penance if their parents or teachers do not themselves lead this type of religious life in church? The more in tune the witness of faith and morals is with the profession of faith, the better young people will understand how Christian life brightens the whole of life and gives it its strength and depth. Daily witness is the seal of authentic teaching.
I invite you to continue to be concerned with the formation of young people by seeking appropriate forms of teaching. In response to their desire for a warm human experience, suggest to them that they become acquainted with Christ and meet him in a strong and structured process of personal and community prayer. In this regard, I know that you are committed to the continual renewal of all catechetical and educational tools used for catechesis, in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Directory for Catechesis, which provide the theological bases and key points of catechetical teaching for people in all categories.
4. In this perspective, the vocation and mission of the baptized in the Ecclesial Community and in the world can only be understood in the light of the mystery of the Church, “a sign and instrument... of communion with God and of unity among all men” (Lumen Gentium LG 1). In this spirit it is important that a way of acquiring knowledge of the faith be suggested to the faithful that will enable them to harmonize their religious and human knowledge better, so that they can achieve an ever stronger synthesis between their scientific and technical knowledge and their religious experience. I am delighted with the suggestion to promote schools of faith in the heart of university institutions, or outside them but with their support, for they are particularly well-suited to providing high-quality teaching, faithful to the Magisterium, in a perspective that is not only intellectual but also concerned to develop the spiritual and liturgical life of the Christian people and help them discover the moral requirements associated with living in accordance with the Gospel. I would like to recognize the activity of the Cathedral School of Paris that forms many people in your Province and invites each one to deepen untiringly the mystery of faith so that having understood and assimilated it better, he or she may pass it on in a suitable language but without changing its substance. It seems to me that this harmonization between a rational understanding of the gift revealed and an inculturated transmission of it is one of the world's challenges today. I would also like to hail and to encourage the initiative some Pastors have taken in a certain number of European capitals, by joining forces in order to give a new impetus to evangelization in the great cities on the Continent, thus contributing to reviving the Christian soul of Europe and reminding Europeans of the tenets of the faith of their ancestors who helped build the peoples and international relations.
5. I would also like to draw your attention to the catechetical and evangelizing role of the liturgy, which must be understood as a path to holiness, the inner strength of apostolic dynamism and the missionary character of the Church (cf. Apostolic Letter Spiritus et Sponsa for the 40th anniversary of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 6). The purpose of catechesis is, in fact, to proclaim in the Church faith in the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to reject “all service of any human absolute”. It thus forms the life and actions of men and women (cf. General Directory for Catechesis, nn. 82-83). Hence, it is important that Pastors take ever greater care in the preparation of the Sunday liturgy with the collaboration of lay people, paying special attention to the rite and to the beauty of the celebration. Indeed, the entire liturgy speaks of the divine mystery. Along the lines of the World Youth Day in Paris, your Conference is working happily on the renewal of catechesis in order to keep the proclamation of the faith constantly focused on the experience of the Easter Vigil, the heart of the Christian mystery, which proclaims the death and Resurrection of the Saviour until he comes again in glory. In their homilies, priests will take care to teach the faithful the doctrinal and scriptural foundations of the faith. I once again strongly appeal to all the faithful to root their spiritual experience and mission in the Eucharist around the Bishop, who is minister and endorser of communion in the diocesan Church, for “wherever the Bishop is... there is the Catholic Church” (St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Church of Smyrna, 8, 2).
6. At the end of our meeting, I ask you to convey my affectionate greetings to your communities. Thank the priests and religious communities of your Dioceses, who are generously dedicated to proclaiming the Kingdom of God! My thoughts today go to all those who are unstinting in their efforts for young people, in parish catechesis, in the institutions and movements where catechetical activities take place; the Church is grateful to them for their commitment to making Christ better known and better loved. Please pass the Pope's gratitude on to those who devote themselves to charitable activities in the name of the Gospel. Are not they in a certain way “catecheses in action” that help people to discover Christ's love? France has produced many saints who knew how to combine catechetical teaching and works of charity, such as St Vincent de Paul or, again, St Marcellin Champagnat, an eminent teacher whom I had the joy of canonizing.
I entrust your Dioceses to the protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, whom I would like to invoke with you under the title “Star of the Sea”; may she guide Christian people in fidelity to their Baptism, whatever the stumbling blocks of the time may be, so that they may walk joyfully towards the encounter with Christ the Saviour. To you yourselves, to the priests, the deacons, the consecrated persons and all the faithful, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. With pleasure I send you my Message on the occasion of the day on which you are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Once again I express my gratitude to each one of you for the Academy's high-quality service of spreading the "Gospel of life". I greet in particular Prof. Juan de Dios Vial Correa, President, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Vice-President, and the entire Administrative Council.
First of all, I thank the Lord with you for your useful Institution which was added 10 years ago to the others created after the Council. The doctrinal and pastoral Bodies of the Apostolic See are the first to benefit from your collaboration with regard to the knowledge and facts that decisions in the area of moral norms regarding life require. This is the case with the Pontifical Councils for the Family and for Health Pastoral Care, as well as in response to requests from the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and from other Dicasteries and Offices.
2. As the years have passed, the importance of the Pontifical Academy for Life has become more and more evident. However, while progress in the biomedical sciences gives us a glimpse of promising prospects for the good of humanity and the treatment of chronic and distressing diseases, it also frequently presents serious problems concerning the respect for human life and the dignity of the person.
The growing control of medical technology in the process of human procreation, discoveries in the fields of genetics and molecular biology, changes in the therapeutic treatment of seriously-ill patients as well as the spread of currents of thought of a utilitarian or hedonistic inspiration are factors that can lead to aberrant conduct as well as to drafting laws which are unjust with regard to the dignity of the person and the respect that the inviolability of innocent life requires.
3. Your contribution is also invaluable to intellectuals, especially Catholics, "who are called to be present and active in the leading centres where culture is formed, in schools and universities, in places of scientific and technological research..." (Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, n. 98). The Pontifical Academy for Life was set up for this purpose, with the specific task "to study and to provide information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church's Magisterium" (Motu Proprio Vitae Mysterium, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 9 March 1994, p. 3).
In a word, your highly responsible role includes the complex subject known today as "bioethics". I thank you for your commitment to examining specific issues of great interest and likewise for furthering the dialogue between scientific investigation and philosophical and theological reflection, guided by the Magisterium. Researchers, especially those who work in the field of biomedicine, must be made more and more aware of the beneficial enrichment that can derive from combining scientific rigour and the claims of anthropology and Christian ethics.
4. Dear brothers and sisters, may your service now with 10 years of experience continue to be increasingly appreciated and supported and provide the desired results in the field of the humanization of biomedical science and the convergence of scientific research and faith.
To this end, I invoke upon the Academy for Life continuous divine assistance through its Patroness, the Virgin Mary, and as I assure my remembrance in prayer to each one, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all, which I willingly extend to your collaborators and your loved ones.
From the Vatican, 17 February 2004
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to be able to personally meet all of you, members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on this special occasion when you are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Academy's foundation. You are commemorating all the people who contributed to its birth, with a special thought for the distinguished and meritorious Prof. Jérôme Lejeune, your first President, whose memory I cherish with gratitude and love.
I thank Prof. Juan de Dios Vial Correa, President, for his kind words, and I also greet the Vice-President, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, and the members of the Administrative Council, expressing to one and all my appreciation for the great dedication with which you support the Academy's activity.
2. You are now taking part in two "Study Days" devoted to the topic of artificial procreation. The subject is proving full of serious problems and implications which deserve careful examination. Essential values are at stake, not only for the Christian faithful but also for human beings as such.
What emerges ever more clearly in the procreation of a new creature is its indispensable bond with spousal union, by which the husband becomes a father through the conjugal union with his wife, and the wife becomes a mother through the conjugal union with her husband. The Creator's plan is engraved in the physical and spiritual nature of the man and of the woman, and as such has universal value.
The act in which the spouses become parents through the reciprocal and total gift of themselves makes them cooperators with the Creator in bringing into the world a new human being called to eternal life. An act so rich that it transcends even the life of the parents cannot be replaced by a mere technological intervention, depleted of human value and at the mercy of the determinism of technological and instrumental procedures.
3. Rather, it is the scientist's task to investigate the causes of male and female infertility, in order to prevent this situation of suffering in spouses who long to find "in their child a confirmation and completion of their reciprocal self-giving" (Donum Vitae, II, A, n. 1). Consequently, I would like to encourage scientific research that seeks a natural way to overcome the infertility of the spouses, and likewise to urge all specialists to perfect those procedures that can serve this end. I hope that the scientific community - I appeal particularly to those scientists who are believers - may advance reassuringly on the road to true prevention and authentic treatment.
4. The Pontifical Academy for Life will not fail to do everything in its power to encourage every valid initiative which aims to avoid the dangerous manipulation that is part of the processes of artificial procreation.
May the community of the faithful itself strive to support authentic research channels and, when making decisions, resist technological possibilities that replace true parenthood and is therefore harmful to the dignity of both parents and children.
In support of these wishes, I cordially impart my Blessing to you all, which I willingly extend to all your loved ones.
I extend a warm welcome to you as I accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey to the Holy See. One of the very first pilgrimages of my Pontificate brought me to your nation, "as a messenger of peace and as a friend" (Farewell Address at Smyrna, 30 November 1979). With the memories of that historic trip indelibly etched in my mind, I thank you for the greetings which you bring from President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and I gladly offer my own good wishes to the authorities and people of your country. I would ask you to assure them of my prayers.
You have referred to Turkey’s status as a democratic State governed by the rule of law and in which all citizens enjoy equal rights. Indeed, the rule of law and equality of rights are essential traits for any modern society that truly seeks to safeguard and promote the common good. In fulfilling this task, the clear distinction between the civil and religious spheres allows each of these sectors to exercise its proper responsibilities effectively, with mutual respect and in complete freedom of conscience. I am pleased to note that the Constitution of the Republic recognizes this freedom of conscience, as well as freedom of religion, worship and instruction. These constitutional guarantees, once they have become part of ordinary legislation and therefore of the living fabric of society, permit all citizens regardless of religious belief or affiliation to make their contribution to the building up of Turkish society. The nation is thus able to benefit from the hope and the moral qualities that draw their strength from the deeply held religious convictions of the people.
In light of this, and as Turkey prepares to establish new relations with Europe, I join the Catholic population in looking forward to recognition on the part of the Turkish authorities and institutions of the Church’s juridical status in your country. In no way does the Church seek special privileges or preferential treatment for herself; rather she simply insists that the fundamental human rights of her members be respected and that Catholics be free to exercise those rights. As I had occasion to point out at the beginning of this year, in a pluralistic society the secularity of the State allows for "communication between the different spiritual dimensions and the nation" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 12 January 2004, No. 3). The Church and the State, therefore, are not rivals but partners: in healthy dialogue with each other they can encourage integral human development and social harmony. It is in this same regard that I would express my hope that the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights of the Turkish National Assembly will see fit to respond in an adequate manner to the petition presented to it last September concerning the common religious and pastoral needs of the Christian and non-Muslim minorities living in Turkey.
As my Predecessor and former Apostolic Delegate to your country Blessed Pope John XXIII noted in his Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, the question of peace cannot be separated from that of human dignity and human rights. In other words, the far-reaching problems of order in world affairs cannot be properly addressed without dealing with issues of morality and ethical behaviour. Accordingly, peace and harmony within nations and between peoples and States require an ever more inclusive and participatory exercise of political authority, even at the international level, and greater transparency and accountability at every level of public life. Identifying truth, justice, love and freedom as the four pillars of peace, Pope John called for a nobler vision of public authority and "boldly challenged the world to think beyond its present state of disorder to new forms of international order commensurate with human dignity" (Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, No. 6).
One of the primary means for securing this world order, and hence for pursuing peace, is international law, which today is called more and more to become a law of peace in justice and solidarity. Thus the international community in general has a special role to play in promoting human dignity, fostering the freedom of peoples and preparing cultures and institutions for the necessary task of building peace. The Catholic Church lends her full support to activities aimed at restoring peace and bringing about reconciliation. For this reason I welcome the news of the progress being made in moving towards a just settlement of the Cyprus question. I heartily encourage the parties involved to spare no effort in hastening the re-unification and pacification of the island.
Within the wider international community, the United Nations has a particular role to play. While there is need for "a reform which would enable the United Nations Organization to function effectively for the pursuit of its own stated ends" (Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, No. 7), this international body still represents the most suitable agency for confronting the grave challenges facing the human family of the twenty-first century. Among these challenges, the deadly scourge of terrorism represents an especially pernicious problem: for it often defies the traditional logic of a legal system set up for regulating relations between sovereign States. In the ongoing fight against terrorism, therefore, international law is called to develop multilateral legal instruments capable of effectively monitoring, counteracting and preventing this heinous crime. I would here renew the expression of my prayerful solidarity with the nation in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in your country.
Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your mission to the Holy See will strengthen the bonds of understanding and cooperation between us. You can be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the discharge of your high duties. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Turkey I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Saturday, 21 February 2004
1. The Feast of Our Lady of Trust, the heavenly Patroness of the Roman Major Seminary, is by now an appointment to which we look forward with expectation. On this occasion I am delighted to meet you, the students of the Roman Major Seminary, as well as you, dear students of the Capranica, Redemptoris Mater and Divino Amore Seminaries.
I welcome you with great joy and greet you all with affection. I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, the Auxiliary Bishops, the Rectors and the Superiors. I also greet the many young people who have joined you at this moving event, as they do every year. A special “thank you” to Mons. Marco Frisina and to the Choir and Orchestra of the Diocese of Rome for the fine performance they have given us of the Oratory inspired by the Roman Triptych.
2. It is a cause of renewed joy and comfort to me every time I meet the seminarians of Rome. Since I was Bishop of Krakow I have always wanted to keep up a privileged dialogue with seminarians, and it is easy to understand why: they are, in a very special way, the future and hope of the Church; their presence in the seminary testifies to the magnetic attraction that Christ exercises on young peoples' hearts. This magnetism in no way diminishes freedom; indeed, it enables them to fulfil themselves completely by choosing the greatest good: God, to whose exclusive service we dedicate ourselves forever.
Forever! In these times, one has the impression that young people are somewhat reluctant when faced with responsibilities that are decisive and demanding. It seems they are afraid to make lifelong decisions. Thanks be to God, in the Diocese of Rome there are many young men who are prepared to consecrate their whole life to God and their brethren in the priestly ministry. However, let us constantly pray to the Lord of the harvest always to send new workers to his harvest and to sustain them in their commitment to adhere consistently to the demands of the Gospel.
3. In this perspective, humility and trust have shown themselves to be particularly precious virtues. The Blessed Virgin is a sublime example of them! Without the humble abandonment to God's will which made the most beautiful “yes” bloom in Mary's heart, who could assume the responsibility of the Priesthood? This also applies to you, dear young people who are preparing for Christian Marriage. Indeed, there are all too many reasons for the fear that you might feel within you and in the world. But if you keep your gaze fixed on Mary, you will hear her reply to the Angel echoing in your spirit: “Behold... let it be done to me according to your word” (Lc 1,38).
Our theme this evening is eloquent in this regard: “Blessed is she who believed” (Lc 1,45). Luke the Evangelist presents the faith of the Virgin of Nazareth to us as an example to follow. And we must look constantly to her!
I entrust you to her, dear seminarians and dear young people, so that neither you nor those responsible for your formation may ever be without her motherly support.
With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to all of you and to your loved ones.
Debitor factus sum. Not for the first time. Beginning with Italy, many people have already written about this Roman Triptych: the distinguished professor, Giovanni Reale, an expert on Plato, and our own Cardinal Ratzinger; in my Poland, in Krakow, Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel Prize winner, and E. Marek Skwarnicki, the poet who worked with me on the publication of this Roman Triptych. So truly, debitor factus sum. Today I have become indebted to my Roman Seminary.
I thank the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, I thank the Monsignor Rector of the Roman Seminary, I thank (Mons.) Marco Frisina. He interpreted some poetical passages from the Roman Triptych. He set them to music. It is the first time I have ever heard a musical interpretation of it. Then the Roman Seminary chose its Feast day, Our Lady of Trust, for the event. I am very grateful to you all. I feel I am truly indebted to you, so again I say: Debitor factus sum.
Much could be said, but perhaps it is better not to prolong this Address. I only want to tell you that this morning I celebrated Mass, the most Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist, for the intentions of my Roman Seminary. Traditionally, on this occasion I would visit the seminary. Today you have come here, the seminarians, the teachers, the rector, all the Seminary authorities and all the guests. I would like to conclude by saying to everyone: thank you very much!
What more can I say to you? Perhaps I could return to the first words of this Address: Debitor factus sum. I have run up a debt. And I have to pay. A just, or rather, the right price! I shall leave it in the hands of Cardinal Camillo Ruini, for the good of our beloved Roman Seminary. My best wishes, all my very best wishes!
Praised be Jesus Christ.
I receive with great pleasure the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Mexican States to the Holy See, and I cordially welcome you to this ceremony at which the mission entrusted to you by your Government begins. I thank you for your considerate words and for the greetings you have conveyed to me from the President of the Republic, H.E. Mr Vicente Fox Quesada. I reciprocate them by renewing my very best wishes for him and for his lofty responsibility.
Mr Ambassador, please convey my affection and closeness to the beloved people of Mexico. I have had the opportunity to visit them five times: 25 years ago, I began my Apostolic Visits as Successor of the Apostle Peter in your land. I would like to make the most of this opportunity to repeat the Message of encouragement that I addressed to all Mexicans during my last Visit to Mexico City in July 2002: "I encourage everybody to work for the building up of an ever renewed homeland and for the Country's continual progress" (Address on Arrival at Airport, Mexico City, 30 July 2002, n. 2; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 7/14 August 2002, p. 5).
More than 10 years have passed since the re-establishment in September 1992 of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See. Throughout the years marked by deep and rapid changes in the political, social and economic structure of the Country, the Catholic Church, faithful to her pastoral mission, has continued to foster the common good of the Mexican people. She has sought dialogue and understanding with the various public institutions, upholding her right to take part in the Nation's life. Today, in the present legal context, thanks to the new climate of respect and collaboration between Church and State, progress has been made that has been of benefit to all parties. Nevertheless, it is necessary to continue working to ensure that the principles of autonomy in the respective competencies, reciprocal esteem and cooperation with a view to the integral promotion of the human being may increasingly inspire future relations between the State Authorities on the one hand, and on the other, the Pastors of the Catholic Church in Mexico and the Holy See.
It is to be hoped that the Church in Mexico may enjoy full freedom in all the areas where she carries out her pastoral and social mission. The Church is not demanding privileges, nor does she wish to encroach on provinces that are not her own; all she desires is to carry out her mission for the spiritual and human good of the Mexican people without hindrance or obstacles. This requires that State institutions guarantee the right to religious freedom of persons and groups and avoid every form of intolerance or discrimination. In this regard, it is to be hoped that further steps, protected by the development of up-to-date legislation, may be taken in the near future concerning, among other areas, religious education in various contexts, spiritual assistance in health-care centres, social rehabilitation and assistance in the public sector, as well as representation in the media.