Speeches 2005 - Saturday, 15 January 2005
With joy I recall the many visits of the Finnish Ecumenical Delegation to the Vatican. Let us give thanks for the warm relations between the Catholic Church, the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Over the years our dialogue has been strengthened by mutual visits, shared prayers and, in a particular way, by the Joint Declaration on Justification. All this is evidence of the significant progress we have made in the search for full unity among Christians.
As the people of Finland together celebrate eight hundred and fifty years of Christianity, I encourage you to build on the Christian roots of Europe, so vital for the future of this Continent. Upon you and all the beloved people of Finland I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Officials and Officers of the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican,
1. I am pleased to welcome you and to offer each one of you my cordial greeting. I greet you all with affection. In particular, I greet Dr Salvatore Festa and thank him for his words of esteem on behalf of all. I would like to offer you and your families my warmest good wishes for the year that has just begun. May it be a peaceful year, especially rich in heavenly blessings and consolation!
For Christians, there is no doubt that the greatest gift is Jesus, our salvation. In the Eucharist he has chosen to stay with us: he has made himself our "viaticum", that is, our spiritual nutrition for the journey through life. He sustains us in times of trial and difficulty; he renders us strong in hope and in our daily duties.
2. In the course of this year, specially dedicated to the Eucharist, all the faithful are called to participate more and more fervently in the celebration of Holy Mass, especially on Sundays. For you too, dear friends, may Sunday Mass be a privileged opportunity for a personal encounter with Christ!
As I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I would like to tell you once again of my gratitude and my appreciation for the service that you carry out with self-denial and loyalty, and I cordially bless you all, together with your families.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am delighted to welcome each one of you, representatives of the great Ferrari "family" that has scored successes and trophies down the years. In particular, I congratulate you on winning the recent world championship.
I greet you all with affection: directors, drivers and engineers who have come to present to me a "model" of the Formula I race car. I extend a special greeting to your President, Luca di Montezemolo, and thank him for his words on your behalf. I address the skilled workers, mechanics and all who have joined us via television from Maranello. My warmest greetings to you all!
2. Dear friends of Ferrari! Your presence also affords me an opportunity to stress how important sport is in contemporary society. The Church considers sports played with full respect for the rules an effective means of education, especially for the young generations.
In addition, Ferrari, as your President has just emphasized, is a unique "community of people" among whom great understanding exists. Its remarkable results in sports and industry are due above all to the enthusiasm that stems from its community spirit. Continue, dear friends, to cultivate this approach to work and make constant growth in solidarity one of your prime goals. In this way you will spread the values of sport, and at the same time help build a more just and supportive society.
3. With these hopes, as I assure you and your families of my special remembrance in prayer, I willingly impart my Blessing to you all.
With affection I greet the members of the "Pave the Way Foundation" on your visit to the Vatican, and I thank Mr. Krupp for the kind words which he has addressed to me on your behalf.
This year we will be celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate, which has significantly contributed to the strengthening of Jewish-Catholic dialogue. May this be an occasion for renewed commitment to increased understanding and cooperation in the service of building a world ever more firmly based on respect for the divine image in every human being.
Upon all of you, I invoke the abundant blessings of the Almighty and, in particular, the gift of peace. Shalom aleichem.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the International Union of Schönstatt Families,
1. On the occasion of the opening of your General Chapter you have come to Rome to reflect in prayer at the tombs of the Apostles and to renew your fidelity to the Church before the Successor of Peter. I am delighted with your visit and warmly welcome you to the Pope's house. May these days spent in the "Eternal City" be a time of grace in which you all experience the closeness of God and of his saints!
2. "The future of humanity passes by way of the family" (Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio FC 86). I encourage you to have a profound understanding of marriage and the family in the light of the faith. It is a positive sign that families actually represent the charism of your Federation. The family is a "school of love". May you transmit your enthusiasm for marriage and the family to others! More than ever, society needs healthy families in order to guarantee the common good. If we strengthen the sacred institution of marriage and the family according to God's plan, then love and solidarity among human beings will increase!
3. Dear brothers and dear sisters, the Year of the Eucharist is a pressing invitation to you all to find "in the supreme sacrament of love the wellspring of all communion" (Message for the World Day of Peace 2005, n. 12). Rediscover the great gift of the Eucharist! You will thus be able to "experience fully the beauty and the mission of the family" (Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, n. 30; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, Special Insert, 13 October 2004).
Through the intercession of the Mater Ter Admirabilis, I impart to you with all my heart the Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I greet you all with great joy, Counsellors and Members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who are taking part in this Plenary Meeting whose theme is: "Sunday Mass, the centre of Christian life in Latin America". Your Continent has a very special place in my heart because of the large number of Catholics and the religious vitality that are features of the countries of which it consists. I personally cherish pleasant memories of my Pastoral Visits to your countries.
I am deeply grateful to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re for his kind and affectionate words, introducing your work in these days.
2. I am pleased that in this year dedicated to the Eucharist you have chosen to reflect on the various initiatives in order to "experience Sunday as the day of the Lord and the day of the Church" (Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, n. 23). It was not the Church who chose this day but the Risen Christ himself, and this is why the faithful should welcome it with gratitude, making Sunday a sign of their fidelity to the Lord and an indispensable element of Christian life.
3. I already wrote in my Apostolic Letter Dies Domini: "It is crucially important that all the faithful should be convinced that they cannot live their faith or share fully in the life of the Christian community unless they take part regularly in the Sunday Eucharistic Assembly" (n. 81). Taking part in Sunday Mass is not only an important obligation, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out clearly (cf. n. 1389), but first and foremost a profound need of every member of the faithful. It is impossible to live faith without taking part regularly in Sunday Mass, the Sacrifice of the Redemption, the common Banquet of the Word of God and of the Eucharistic Bread, centre of Christian life.
4. The importance of the topic demands of us, Pastors of the Church, a new effort to make people discover the central place of Sunday in the ecclesial and social life of today's men and women. For all Bishops and priests it is a challenge to summon the faithful to constant participation in Sunday Mass, an encounter with the living Christ.
You therefore need to focus your efforts on giving them a better and more careful instruction and catechesis on the Eucharist, as well as watching that the liturgy is dignified and decorous so that it inspires true, authentic devotion before the immensity of the Eucharistic Mystery.
Sunday must be appropriately prepared by the celebrant so that his spiritual disposition then shines forth through his gestures and words, and in his properly prepared homily. Special attention should be paid to choosing and arranging the hymns, symbols and other means that enrich the liturgy, always with due respect for the established norms and making full use of all the spiritual and pastoral riches of the Roman Missal and the measures proposed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
5. I then ask you, in union with the priests, Religious and faithful, to devote your greatest effort to thinking and deepening this essential dimension of the sacramental life of the Church, and to strive to inspire an ever greater love for the Mystery of the Eucharist in your Dioceses. This is no easy task and will require the collaboration of all: priests and deacons, consecrated people and faithful lay persons who are present in parishes or who belong to associations or ecclesial movements. Accept everyone's collaboration, join forces and work in communion!
6. I place all these desires and the proposals that emerged at this Plenary Meeting at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary, venerated throughout America as Our Lady of Guadalupe. We must imitate her in her relationship with the Most Holy Sacrament (cf. Mane Nobiscum Domine, n. 31). May she intercede for the outcome of your reflections during these days so that the conclusions you have reached may take shape in more determined and firmer actions, in order to ensure that the love of the faithful for Jesus in the Eucharist constantly increases and that they take advantage of the priceless fruits they can obtain by taking part in this Mystery.
With these sentiments, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I offer you my cordial greeting, with a special thought of gratitude for Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, who has expressed your common sentiments.
Your Plenary Assembly is taking place on the 20th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, established in 1985 with the "Motu Proprio" Dolentium Hominum. Consequently, this is a particularly favourable opportunity to thank the Lord for the good achieved by the Pontifical Council at the service of the dissemination of the Gospel of Christian hope in the vast world of the suffering and of those who are called to care for them.
2. May this moment also become for you an effective incentive to renew your commitment to putting into practice your programmes "to spread, explain and defend the Church's teachings on the subject of health care, and to encourage their penetration into health-care practices", as the "Motu Proprio" Dolentium Hominum says (n. 6). Indeed, it is your Dicastery's task to guide, sustain and encourage all that is promoted in this field by the Bishops' Conferences and by Catholic Organizations and Institutions for professionals in medicine and in health-care promotion.
In this regard, it is comforting to think of all the pastoral work that the Dicastery is able to carry out with harmonious and specific animation, linked to the Bishops' Conferences and Catholic Organizations, "to promote and spread an ever-better ethical-religious formation of Christian health-care workers in the world, keeping in mind the different situations and specific problems which they must face in carrying out their profession... to safeguard essential values and rights connected with the dignity and the supreme destiny of the human person" (Dolentium Hominum, n. 5).
In her pastoral action, the Church is called to face the most delicate and unavoidable issues that well up in the human heart in the face of suffering, illness and death. It is from faith in Christ who died and rose that these issues can draw the comfort of the hope that does not disappoint.
Today's world, which often does not possess the light of this hope, suggests solutions of death. Hence, there is the urgent need to promote a new evangelization and a strong witness of active faith in these vast secularized areas.
3. The Pontifical Council, therefore, does well to focus its reflections and programmes on the sanctification of illness and the special role of the sick in the Church and in the family, by virtue of the living presence of Christ in every suffering person. From this viewpoint, the year dedicated to the Eucharist is an appropriate opportunity for a more intense pastoral commitment in the administration of both Viaticum and the Anointing of the Sick. By fully configuring patients to Christ who died and rose, these sacraments enable sick persons themselves as well as the community of believers to experience the comfort that comes from supernatural hope.
Properly enlightened by the words of the priest and of those who assist him, the sick person can joyfully discover the particular mission entrusted to the sick in the Mystical Body of the Church: united with the suffering Christ, each one can cooperate in the salvation of humanity, making the most of his or her prayers with the offering up of one's suffering (cf. Col Col 1,24).
4. This must not, however, dispense Church leaders from paying stimulating and active attention to the structures where sick people sometimes suffer forms of marginalization and a lack of social support. Church leaders must also extend this attention to the areas of the world where the neediest of the sick, despite the progress of medicine, lack medical drugs and appropriate treatment.
The Church must also devote special care to those areas of the world where those sick with AIDS receive no help. The Good Samaritan Foundation was created especially for them; its aim is to contribute to helping the peoples most exposed with the necessary therapeutic support.
The work of evangelization, the formation of consciences and the charitable witness that your Dicastery promotes in the world are a precious contribution, not only to comforting the suffering but also to guiding civil societies towards the demanding goals of the civilization of love.
5. I therefore thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for all the work done in these years, and I urge you to continue it with renewed enthusiasm. You know that I am constantly close to you and accompany you in your Dicastery's tasks with my prayers and my full confidence in the dedication you devote to your important activities. I encourage you in them, and to comfort you in your work I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, with which I also intend to embrace all those to whom you reach out through your work.
I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of The Netherlands to the Holy See.
I cordially thank you for conveying Her Majesty Queen Beatrix's courteous message to me, and I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate by expressing to her my very best wishes for herself, the royal family and all the People of The Netherlands.
Every day, world news reminds everyone of the pressing need to build a future of peace among human beings and, if they are to succeed, to consolidate a stable international order which is guaranteed in particular by a fairer distribution of resources among nations and an active development aid policy.
As you stressed, Madam Ambassador, your Country has recently had to face new tensions that result from the rapid transformation of our societies in a world more and more open to cultural diversity. People there are also becoming aware of the urgent need for a deeper dialogue between the different groups that make up the Nation, so that they may all learn to know and respect one another. This openness to others is indispensable in order to cross the frontiers of each group, as I recalled in my Message for the World Day of Peace of 1 January 2001: "In order to prevent the sense of belonging to one particular culture from turning into isolation, an effective antidote is a serene and unprejudiced knowledge of other cultures" (n. 7).
On this condition, it will be possible to establish peaceful relations between the different communities with a view to building together the common edifice of the Nation.
To ensure that the Catholic Church makes a powerful contribution to this process that prepares as it were "a new political culture" (Message for World Day of Peace 2005, n. 10), I once again took the initiative more than three years ago of gathering the leaders of the great world religions at Assisi, to demonstrate together our common desire for peace. I appealed to them to initiate a profound dialogue between all religions, and I asked them in particular to give up once and for all any legitimization of recourse to violence for religious reasons and further, to explicitly condemn it.
Ever since, the Holy See has endeavoured to encourage authentic interreligious dialogue at all levels, inviting Christians in all the societies in which they live to act in the spirit of artisans of peace and dialogue, especially with the faithful of other religions with whom they co-exist. I know that the Catholic Church in The Netherlands has recently expressed her opinion on this subject through the voice of her Bishops, and I assure them on this occasion of my full support.
Your Excellency, you emphasized your Country's important role in the fight against hunger and poverty in the world. You also mentioned its involvement in development projects and health-care assistance for peoples particularly at risk in the drama of pandemics such as that of AIDS, which has spread so rapidly in Africa, claiming countless victims.
As you know, the Holy See considers that in order to combat this disease responsibly, it is first necessary to increase its prevention, in particular by teaching respect for the sacred value of life and the correct practice of sexuality. This implies chastity and fidelity.
At my request, the Church has also mobilized projects for the victims, especially to ensure that they are guaranteed access to the preventive treatment and medicines they need at numerous health-care centres.
The Netherlands has just taken over the presidency of the European Union, at a time when it is accepting new member countries and when other new applications for memberships are being made. The Holy See has always followed and encouraged the European project as a constructive contribution to peace, on this Continent but also beyond it, considering it a prospect of cooperation for other regions of the world. As I asked outright in my recent Message for the celebration of World Day of Peace, 1 January 2005 (cf. n. 10), I appeal to the Governments of the European Union to join forces to make new efforts for development by working on agreements of true cooperation and partnership, especially in Africa, a neighbouring Continent that has become so close to Europe because of the historical connections of cooperation and partnership.
For several years, Dutch society, marked by the phenomenon of secularization, has been committed to a new policy with regard to legislation concerning the beginning and end of human life. The Holy See, therefore, has not failed to make known its clear position and to ask Catholics in The Netherlands to witness ever more forcefully to their attachment to unqualified respect for the human person, from conception until natural death.
I once again ask the Authorities and medical personnel and those who have an educational role to ponder on the gravity of these issues and thus on the importance of their decisions, so as to build a society that will be more and more attentive to individuals and their dignity.
Several generations of young people in your Country have been fortunate enough to live peacefully in the heart of the European Union and aspire to legitimate fulfilment and happiness. To prepare themselves for their future responsibilities, they require a sound education that will develop and unify their personality, strengthening the "inner man" within them, to use the Apostle Paul's beautiful expression (Ep 3,16), and that will open them very specially to the encounter with others in an increasingly cosmopolitan and multicultural society.
For her part, the Catholic Church, which has always been attentive to youth, will continue to be concerned with the integral education of the young. She will also be ready to contribute with her own endeavours to ensuring that the whole Nation makes an effort in this area.
Through you, Your Excellency, I am pleased to greet the Catholic community of The Netherlands and its Pastors. I know that Catholics are deeply involved in the life of the Country, attentive to social developments and determined to make a full contribution to the common good. They do so by witnessing to their beliefs and hopes and seeking to live in conformity with the commandment of love received from the Lord.
I encourage the Catholic community to take special care every day to foster dialogue between the people and groups that make up society, especially in the sprawling urban agglomerations where the complexity of human relations can give rise to deep loneliness.
I also appeal to Catholics to devote themselves without reserve to serving the weakest who are often marginalized in modern societies, marked by financial and social rivalry.
Madam Ambassador, today you are inaugurating the noble mission of representing your Country to the Holy See. Please accept my very best wishes for its success and rest assured that you will always find among my collaborators the understanding and support you may need.
I wholeheartedly invoke upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family, upon all your collaborators and upon all your compatriots an abundance of divine Blessings.
Dear Students of the Almo Collegio Capranica,
1. This year too, I welcome you with joy on the occasion of the feast of St Agnes, your heavenly patroness. I offer each one of you a cordial greeting. I first greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini and thank him for his words of filial devotion and spiritual closeness on your behalf. I greet your Rector, Mons. Ermenegildo Manicardi, the superiors, alumni and all who collaborate with your formation, dear students, who have embarked on the educational curriculum that the Church proposes in order to train for the ordained ministry.
During your years at the Collegio Capranica the Lord's grace shapes your personalities so that you acquire an effective presence in the Christian community and in society.
2. If you are to make a correct discernment, it is indispensable that you take part in an intense and trusting dialogue at various levels with your superiors and with your fellow students. You also need to pay constant attention to what the Church and the world, and especially the poor, expect of you.
Persevere in listening docilely to Christian tradition, making your own in a special way the principal values typical of the "Capranica family". Moreover, you should combine with the study of the theological sciences meditation on God's Word and an intense, personal conversation with Jesus, our divine Teacher.
Above all, may the Eucharist be your lives' reference point: may the sacrament which is "the sum and summary of our faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1327) become in the reality of daily life the source of grace that prompts your action and the summit of perfection to which you constantly aspire.
3. Twenty-five years ago I had the opportunity to visit your Almo Collegio. Recently you desired to commemorate this event with a congress dedicated to the theology of priesthood and the historical forms that from the outset have characterized the formation process at your Institute. May this important anniversary be a further incentive to you to grow in communion with the Successor of Peter and in love for the Church.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, and beloved St Agnes, the mystical bride of the Lamb, sustain you with their intercession and example. I cordially impart my Blessing to you all.
Monday, 24 January 2005
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I receive you with joy, Pastors of the pilgrim Church of God in Spain. You are the first group to come to Rome on your ad limina visit and to strengthen the close bonds that unite you with this Apostolic See.
I greet with affection the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, President of the Spanish Bishops' Conference, with his three Auxiliaries; the Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain, with his two Auxiliaries; the Archbishop who is Military Ordinary and the Archbishops of Burgos, Oviedo, Valladolid, Zaragoza, Mérida-Badajoz, as well as the suffragan Bishops of these metropolitan sees and of the See of Pamplona, to whose Archbishop I wish a speedy recovery. Through you, I would like to greet with affection and esteem the priests, men and women religious and faithful of your particular Churches.
I cordially thank Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela for his kind words on behalf of you all, presenting to me the worries and the hopes of your pastoral activity in which you courageously exercise your ministry, guiding the People of God on the path of salvation and vigorously proclaiming the principles of the Catholic faith for a better formation of the faithful.
2. Spain is a Country with deep Christian roots. Believing in Christ and belonging to the Church has been part of Spanish life and history and has inspired the achievements of the Spanish down the centuries. The Church in your Nation has left a shining trail of generosity and sacrifice, of strong spirituality and altruism, and has bestowed upon the universal Church many sons and daughters who were often distinguished by their practice of the virtues to a heroic degree or by their witness to martyrdom. I myself have had the joy of canonizing and beatifying many sons and daughters of Spain.
In my Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, I suggested to the faithful the study, updating and presentation of the "heritage of sanctity" (n. 37). I am convinced that at this time in history it will be a precious and effective help for Pastors and the faithful as a reference point in their Christian life, especially since many of the challenges and problems that still exist in your Nation already existed in other periods, and it was the saints who gave a brilliant response to them with their love for God and neighbour. Spain's deep Christian roots, as I pointed out during my last Pastoral Visit in May 2003, cannot be torn out; indeed, they must continue to nourish the harmonious growth of society.
3. Your quinquennial reports demonstrate the concern for the vitality of the Church and the challenges and difficulties to be confronted. In recent years, in Aragón, Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y Léon, Extremadura, Madrid, Navarra and the Basque Country, the regions where you exercise pastoral charity in your guidance of the People of God, much has changed in the social, economic and even religious spheres. At times these changes have led to religious indifference and to a certain moral relativism that influences Christian worship and consequently conditions social structures themselves.
Certain areas have an abundance of resources, whereas others are suffering from serious deprivation. Sometimes, what in previous periods were a source of wealth - for example, mining and the iron and steel industry, shipbuilding and various kinds of business - are now going through a certain crisis in which it is necessary to keep hope alive. In some areas there has been a civil confrontation over a natural resource: water. Since water is a common property it must not be wasted, nor must people forget that it is their duty, out of solidarity, to share it. Wealth cannot be monopolized by those who possess it, nor can desperation or dissatisfaction justify certain uncontrolled actions on the part of those who do not.
4. A mindset inspired by a secular outlook is spreading in society. This ideology leads gradually, more or less consciously, to the restriction of religious freedom to the point that it advocates contempt for, or ignorance of, the religious environment, relegating faith to the private sphere and opposing its public expression. All this is alien to the most noble Spanish tradition, since the impression left by the Catholic faith in the lives and culture of the Spanish People is too deep for them to yield to the temptation to cancel it. A correct concept of religious freedom is incompatible with this ideology that is sometimes presented as the only rational voice. Religious freedom cannot be curtailed without depriving human beings of something fundamental.
In the contemporary social context, new generations of Spaniards are growing up influenced by religious indifferentism and by ignorance of the Christian tradition with its rich spiritual heritage. Moreover, they are exposed to the temptation of moral permissiveness. Young people are entitled to instruction in the faith from the very beginning of their schooling; nor can the integral education of younger children fail to include the teaching of religion at school, when parents request it, with an academic appreciation that does credit to its importance. The public Authorities, for their part, are duty bound to guarantee this parental right. And they must assure the real conditions for it to be effectively exercised, as set down in the Partial Agreements between Spain and the Holy See in 1979 and currently in force.
5. With regard to the religious situation, your reports reflect a serious concern for the vitality of the Church in Spain, while they emphasize at the same time various challenges and problems. Attentive to the difficulties and expectations of the faithful as they face this new situation, you feel called as Pastors to remain united in order to make the Lord's presence among men and women more tangible through pastoral projects better suited to the new situations.
To succeed in this, it is essential to preserve and increase the gift of unity that Jesus requested of the Father for his disciples (cf. Jn Jn 17,11). In your own Dioceses, you are required to live and bear witness to the unity that Christ desired for his Church. Moreover, far from threatening this unity, the diversity of peoples with their different cultures and traditions must enrich it, starting with their common faith. It is up to you, as successors of the Apostles, to strive to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ep 4,3). I would like to remind you, therefore, that "in the historical transition that we are experiencing, you have a difficult mission before you: to make the Church the place where we live and the school where the mystery of God's love is taught. How will this be possible without rediscovering an authentic spirituality of communion?" (Message to 25th Conference of Bishops-Friends of the Focolare Movement, 14 February 2001, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 4 April 2001, p. 7), valid for all people at every moment.
6. Since the sacraments are vital for the growth of Christian life, Pastors must celebrate them with dignity and decorum. Special importance must be given to the Eucharist, the "Sacrament of devotion, a sign of unity, a bond of charity" (St Augustine, Evangelium Iohannis Tractatus, 26, 13). Participation in it, as the Holy Fathers recall, makes us "members of Christ's body and gives us kinship with Christ" (St Cyril of Alexandria, Mystagogical Catecheses, IV, 3), and spurs Christians to engage in spreading the Gospel and in increasing awareness of Christianity in society.
In this regard, on the occasion of the close of the Jubilee Year of Santiago de Compostela, I asked the Spanish faithful to find in the Blessed Sacrament the strength to overcome the obstacles and face the difficulties of our day. At the same time, if they are sustained by their Bishops, they will feel stronger in their faith in order to bear a public and credible witness to defending "effective respect for life in all its stages, the religious education of children, the protection of marriage and the family and the defence of the Name of God and of the human and social value of Christianity (Letter to the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, 8 December 2004). There should then be an increase in pastoral activities that encourage the faithful to participate more regularly in Sunday Mass. Holy Mass must be experienced not as an obligation but rather as a requirement that is deeply rooted in every Christian's life.
7. In your quinquennial reports you expressed concern for your priests and seminarians. Priests are on the front line of evangelization and bear "the burden of the day and the scorching heat" (Mt 20,12). They especially need your pastoral care and closeness, since they are your "sons" (Lumen Gentium LG 28), your "friends" (Christus Dominus CD 16) and your "brothers" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7).
Your relations with priests must not be merely of an institutional and administrative kind but must first and foremost be inspired by love (cf. 1P 4,8). Indeed, in your relations with them you should show your episcopal fatherhood, which will set an example to priests that they in turn can hold up to the faithful in their care. In the current situation you must express this fatherhood especially to sick and elderly priests, and with those who face the greatest number of pastoral responsibilities.
Priests, for their part, must remember that before anything else, they are men of God and cannot therefore neglect their spiritual life and their continuing formation. All their ministerial work "must effectively begin with prayer" (St Albert the Great, Commentary on Mystical Theology, 15). Among the many activities that fill every priest's day, they should give priority to the celebration of the Eucharist, which conforms them to the Eternal High Priest. Priests find in God's presence the strength to live the demands of the ministry and the docility to the will of the One who called and consecrated them, sending them forth to carry out a special and necessary mission. The devout celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, private prayer, assiduous meditation on the Word of God, devotion to the Mother of the Lord and to the Church and the veneration of the Saints are as many valuable instruments that priests cannot afford to ignore if they are to assert the splendour of their own identity and ensure that they exercise a useful priestly ministry.
8. The increase in vocations to the priesthood that is recorded in some places keeps hope alive. It is true that the social and religious situations do not encourage listening to the Lord's call to follow him in the priestly or consecrated life. It is therefore important to pray ceaselessly to the Lord of the harvest (cf. Mt Mt 9,38) so that he will continue to bless Spain with many holy vocations. To this end, you must encourage a specific vocations apostolate, broad and far-reaching, which prompts those in charge of youth to be daring mediators of the Lord's call. You should not be afraid of proposing it to young people and then, of giving them continuous human and spiritual guidance so that they will make progress in the discernment of their vocational decision.
9. It is incumbent upon Catholic faithful to seek the Kingdom of God in dealing with temporal realities and in ordering them in accordance with the divine will. They are called to be courageous witnesses of their faith in the various public arenas. Their participation in Church life is fundamental, and there are times when without their collaboration your apostolate as Pastors would not reach all persons "of every epoch and all over the earth" (Lumen Gentium LG 33).
Young people, the future of the Church and of society, must be the special object of your pastoral care. Here you must spare no efforts that are necessary, even if they are not always immediately fruitful. In this regard, how is it possible not to remember the impressive and moving prayer vigil at which I presided with hundreds of thousands of young people at Cuatro Vientos, reminding them that it is possible to be both modern and Christian? Many of them are now getting ready to go to Cologne to take part in World Youth Day. Tell them that the Pope expects them there, under the theme of "We have come to worship him" (Mt 2,2), so that, together with their peers from other countries, they may discover in Christ the face of God and of the Church as "the home and the school of communion" and love (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43).
10. Dear Brothers, you have taken the initiative of dedicating a special year to the Immaculate Virgin, Patroness of Spain, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Marian Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This is an invitation to the faithful to renew their consecration to our Mother, personally and as a community, and to accept my invitation to the whole Church to "listen to Mary Most Holy, in whom the mystery of the Eucharist appears, more than in anyone else, as a mystery of light" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 62).
In Spain, evangelization and religious practice have always gone hand in hand with special love for the Virgin Mary. This is demonstrated by the many churches, shrines and monuments that dot the whole of your countryside; and by the confraternities, congregations, university corporations and councils that persist in defending her privileges as well as the practices of popular piety and celebrations in honour of the Mother of God. Moreover, she has also been a source of inspiration to many artists, celebrated painters and famous sculptors.
Spain is Mary's Land. To her I commend your pastoral intentions. I place all priests, men and women religious, seminarians, children, young people and the elderly, families, the sick and the needy under her protection. Take back to them all the greeting and affection of the Pope, together with the Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005 - Saturday, 15 January 2005