Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am pleased to receive you during your symposium on the roots of anti-Judaism. I especially greet Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President of the Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, who is presiding over your work. I thank you for having devoted these days to a theological study of great importance.
Your colloquium is in keeping with preparations for the Great Jubilee, for which I have invited the sons and daughters of the Church to assess the past millennium, especially our century, in the spirit of a necessary "examination of conscience", on the threshold of what should be a time of conversion and reconciliation (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 27-35).
The subject of your symposium is the correct theological interpretation of the relations between the Church of Christ and the Jewish people. The Councilís Declaration Nostra aetate laid the foundations for this and I myself, in exercising my Magisterium, have had occasion several times to speak on them. In fact, in the Christian world ó I do not say on the part of the Church as such ó erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability have circulated for too long, engendering feelings of hostility towards this people. They contributed to the lulling of consciences, so that when the wave of persecutions inspired by a pagan anti-Semitism, which in essence is equivalent to an anti-Christianity, swept across Europe, alongside Christians who did everything to save the persecuted even at the risk of their lives, the spiritual resistance of many was not what humanity rightfully expected from the disciples of Christ. Your lucid examination of the past, in view of a purification of memory, is particularly appropriate for clearly showing that anti-Semitism has no justification and is absolutely reprehensible.
Your work complements the reflection conducted particularly by the Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, expressed, among other ways, in the Guidelines of 1 December 1974 (LíOsservatore Romano English edition, 16 January 1975, PP 3-4) and in the Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church of 24 June 1985 (LíOsservatore Romano English edition, 24 June 1985, PP 6-7). I appreciate the fact that your symposium intends to conduct its theological research with great scholarly rigour, in the conviction that to serve the truth is to serve Christ himself and his Church.
2. In the closing chapters of his Letter to the Romans (ch. 9-11), in which he gives us crucial insights into the destiny of Israel according to Godís plan, the Apostle Paul raises a resounding song of adoration: "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Rm 11,33). In Paulís ardent soul, this hymn echoes the principle he had just stated and which is in a way the central theme of the whole Epistle: "For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all" (ibid., 11:32). Salvation history, even when its events seem disconcerting to us, is guided by the mercy of the One who came to save what was lost. An attitude of adoration before the unfathomable depths of Godís loving Providence allows only a glimpse of what is a mystery of faith.
3. The fact of divine election is at the origin of this small people situated between the great pagan empires whose brilliant culture overshadowed them. This people was gathered together and led by God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Thus its existence is not a mere fact of nature or culture, in the sense that through culture man displays the resources of his own nature. It is a supernatural fact. This people perseveres in spite of everything because they are the people of the Covenant, and despite human infidelities, the Lord is faithful to his Covenant. To ignore this primary fact is to embark on the way of a Marcionism against which the Church immediately and vigorously reacted, in the awareness of her vital link with the Old Testament, without which the New Testament itself would be emptied of its meaning. The Scriptures cannot be separated from the people and its history, which leads to Christ, the promised and awaited Messiah, the Son of God made man. The Church ceaselessly confesses this fact, when in her liturgy she recites the psalms each day, as well as the canticles of Zechariah, the Virgin Mary and Simeon (cf. Ps Ps 132,17 Lc 1,46-55 Lc 1,68-79 Lc 2,29-32).
That is why those who regard the fact that Jesus was a Jew and that his milieu was the Jewish world as mere cultural accidents, for which one could substitute another religious tradition from which the Lordís person could be separated without losing its identity, not only ignore the meaning of salvation history, but more radically challenge the very truth of the Incarnation and make a genuine concept of inculturation impossible.
4. On the basis of what has just been said, we can draw some conclusions for guiding the attitude of Christians and the work of theologians. The Church firmly condemns all forms of genocide, as well as the racist theories that have inspired them and have claimed to justify them. One may recall Pius XIís Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge (1937) and Pius XIIís Summi Pontificatus (1939); the latter cited the law of human solidarity and of charity towards every individual, regardless of the people to which he belongs. Racism is thus a negation of the deepest identity of the human being, who is a person created in the image and likeness of God. To the moral evil of any genocide the Shoah adds the evil of a hatred that attacks Godís saving plan for history. The Church knows that this hatred is also aimed directly at her.
From St Paulís teaching in the Letter to the Romans we learn those fraternal sentiments, rooted in faith, that we must feel towards the children of Israel (cf. Rom Rm 9,4-5). The Apostle stresses: "For the sake of their forefathers", they are beloved of God, whose gifts and call are irrevocable (cf. Rom Rm 11,28-29).
5. Be assured of my gratitude for the work you are doing on a very important theme that deeply concerns me. You are thus helping to further the dialogue between Catholics and Jews, which we are pleased to note has taken a new, positive direction in recent decades.
I express my best wishes to you and your loved ones, and I willingly grant you my Apostolic Blessing.
1. In receiving the Letters accrediting Your Excellency to the Apostolic See as Ambasador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada, I am pleased to welcome you to the Eternal City. I thank you warmly for your words, which show your interest in and understanding of the Catholic Churchís life and activity.
Touched by the messages you convey from the Prime Minister and other members of the Government, I would be grateful if you would convey all my gratitude to them.
You have expressed how attached to the See of Peter are Catholics belonging to the First Nations of your land, whom I was pleased to greet during my visits to Canada and also on the occasion of their various meetings here; please tell them I remember them and give them my cordial thanks for these signs of thoughtfulness in my regard. I am moved by the wishes you convey to me from your compatriots of Polish descent and I am grateful to them for their fidelity to the Church, as well as to the land and culture which are so dear to us.
2. Mr Ambassador, you have kindly wished to recall several aspects of the Church's activity and particularly that of the Holy See in promoting peace; and you have stressed that its prevailing spirit corresponds to your country's role in international life and to its principles. I am therefore pleased to note once again the convergence of the concerns of the Catholic Church with those of your country regarding the still unfinished tasks of reinforcing peace in the world and of a development which should ensure the lasting well-being of nations. Canada takes part in the discusions of international organizations and your compatriots do not hesitate to be generously involved in humanitarian aid and peace-keeping, sometimes at a great distance from their country and at the price of real sacrifices. Their devotion to the great causes of humanity is widely appreciated and, we hope, will spur many others effectively to pursue the same objectives.
In the important and sensitive area of disarmament, the necessity of which humanity should understand more clearly, you have appropriately drawn attention to the process finally undertaken to ban those terrible weapons, anti-personnel land-mines. Ottawa, your capital, will soon be hosting the signatories to an agreement meant to prevent the death or mutilation of great numbers of innocent people in many regions of the world. I ardently hope that every country will adhere to this agreement, and that there will be no delay in freeing multitudes of men, women and children from these destructive devices insidiously buried under their steps.
When we consider the conflicts that continue to rend peoples on different continents, I can understand your lament that in many places "a heritage of hatred and revenge is passed on from generation to generation". No one can be resigned to the continuation of these confrontations. The efforts of peacemakers should not be a question of merely limiting the effects of conflicts, treating the wounded, dealing with food shortages or welcoming refugees as well as possible, even if the efforts to do so must be maintained and increased. In the name of the Gospel message, the Church continues to call our contemporaries to accept and respect one another, to consider clearly the historic origins of conflicts, in order better to overcome them, and to develop the harmony to which the one human family is called by its profound common destiny. The intensification of relations between individuals and peoples of goodwill has its greatest raison díÍtre in this spirit; and I am certain that it is here that your compatriots and their leaders will discover the Catholic Churchís concern for the common good of humanity.
3. A significant number of your fellow citizens, as you have pointed out, Mr Ambassador, are members of the Catholic Church, firmly rooted in your land since the first generations of Gospel pioneers came from Europe in the 17th century. Through you, I would like to send the Bishop of Romeís friendly greetings to all Canadian Catholics. I know the fruits of holiness and missionary dynamism produced by their forebears. They are attached to them, as their fervour testifies when they celebrate the anniversaries of the foundations that gradually built up their Dioceses and communities. Today I encourage them to continue with this building, perhaps less visible than before, but founded on hearts by adherence to the Gospel truth and made firm and radiant by fraternal communion.
The history of your land is such that in Canada the Church herself is visibly different: there are many cultural origins, and the Eastern-rite traditions are still alive. This situation is a true source of richness and certainly helps Canadian Catholics to be aware of the unity in diversity which characterizes Christís disciples.
4. Today my thoughts also turn to your compatriots who come from other Churches or Ecclesial Communities; I greet them as brothers and sisters, in the desire that exchanges should continue between them and Catholics, in order to seek the truth, an essential condition for advancing towards the full communion so ardently desired and for establishing social life on a solid human basis.
Together with the members of other religious traditions, Catholics are committed to deepening the dialogue: that of daily social interaction in the same cities and that of a more developed mutual knowledge; thus it will be possible for all persons of different religious convictions to work together in order to make the life of society ever more human. In Canada I am sure that Catholics are keen to advance in the knowledge of these different relations and dialogues, which cannot fail to benefit everyone.
5. Your mission, Mr Ambassador, begins just before the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in Rome. Prepared by your experience of international life and your knowledge of ecclesial life, you can follow the exchanges of this exceptional meeting between the Pastors of the Catholic Church in North, Central and South America. You will certainly contribute to making your compatriots understand the nature of the pastoral quest which the members of this Assembly will undertake together with the Bishop of Rome and his co-workers, and in conjunction with the representatives of the Episcopate of the other continents. Through detailed consultations of this kind, the Catholic Church wishes to be ever more faithful to her mission of service to her brothers and sisters of this age, especially in this case by reinforcing the solidarity which unites the different communities on your continent.
6. Your Excellency, as you begin your office, I hope that you will successfully fulfil your duties, so that the Holy Seeís relations with Canada may be continually strengthened. I hope that you will find at the See of Peter the satisfaction you expect from your stay in Rome.
Be assured that, on the part of my co-workers, you will find a considerate welcome and any help you may need.
In your person, I greet the Rt Honourable Governor-General, the authorities and all the Canadian people, as I offer everyone my very best wishes for happiness and prosperity.
May God grant all the benefits of his blessings to you, as well as to your loved ones, the members of your embassy, the authorities of your countries and all your compatriots.
Distinguished Members of the Pontifical Academies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am especially pleased to meet you on the occasion of the second public session of the Pontifical Academies. I thank Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Co-ordinating Council of the Pontifical Academies, who on behalf of you all wished to explain the objectives, aims and goals that you have set for yourselves in view of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. I greet the Cardinals, my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, the ambassadors to the Holy See, the priests, the religious and all the members of the various Pontifical Academies.
We met for the first time 12 months ago in this same place to celebrate the reform of the Pontifical Academies and to give new impetus to the Holy See's cultural institutions. In that way public recognition was accorded to the scientific and artistic work carried out by your Pontifical Academies in service to the new evangelization in the various fields of culture and art, theology and apostolic action.
2. The plan for your academic work, even in the variety of disciplines that you so competently represent, seeks to be a special "contribution to Christian humanism at the dawn of the third millennium". As I express my appreciation for this interesting and ever timely programme, I urge you to continue courageously on this path so that your contribution to a more precise, extensive and deeper understanding of Christian humanism may help the cause of the human person and the recognition of his specific value and inalienable dignity.
The variety of contemporary cultures increasingly reveals the challenge that the Church is called to meet inasmuch as she has the precise duty of "reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.... In language intelligible to every generation, she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which men ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other" (Gaudium et spes GS 4).
Christians must be able to present the truth about man, as revealed by Jesus Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6) and the "first-born among many brethren" (Rm 8,29), because in him alone shines the full dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn Gn 1,26).
3. I am grateful to the representative of the Pontifical Roman Academy of St Thomas Aquinas and the Catholic Religion and to that of the Roman Theological Academy for their wise reflections on the outlines of Christian humanism, inspired by Aquinas' thought. It is to the Angelic Doctor's outstanding teaching that one can fittingly refer to delineate the authentic humanism that can recognize and give suitable expression to all the dimensions of the human person.
In the present cultural context, often marked by uncertainties and doubts that stifle basic spiritual values, Christian humanism ó perennial in its substance but always new in its approach and its presentation ó offers an effective answer to the thirst for values and for a truly human life which burns in the soul of every person concerned about his destiny.
4. The activity of the Pontifical Academies is closely linked to the mission of the Successor of Peter. While I confirm your generous commitment, I hope that, through the studies, publications and artistic works you produce and promote, people of all cultures may discover authentic humanism, the true mirror revealing the face of God and the face of man.
I also hope that, under the influence of your example and the seriousness of your academic work, philosophical and theological research and the teaching of these disciplines will be imbued with new enthusiam, so that human reason, enlightened by divine Revelation, can discover new ways of expressing in the language of the various cultures "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ep 3,8).
Many of our contemporaries, especially young people, are disappointed because the alluring promises that marked the second half of the 20th century have often proved utopian, incapable of lifting man from his existential anxieties. There are many who today feel that they are walking down a blind alley. It is the task of Christians, particularly you members of the Pontifical Academies, to spread the knowledge of Christian humanism, especially when the truth about man is obscured or denied by intellectual positions which do not respect his specific dignity.
With the humility of disciples and the strength of witnesses, you, distinguished Academicians, have the exalting mission of delving deeper into the philosophical, theological and cultural patrimony of the Church, to share it with those who are searching for a satisfying answer.
5. And now, in response to the recommendation of the Co-ordinating Council I am pleased to award the Pontifical Academies Prize to the Pontifical Institute "Regina Mundi", which offers university courses in Rome for the philosophical, theological, spiritual and pastoral formation of women religious from every part of the world. The Pontifical Institute presented the works of three women religious: Eufrasie Beya Malumbi, from the Congo, who translated into contemporary language with the cultural categories of her own country some significant aspects of St Thomas Aquinas' theology of salvation; Cecilia Phan Thi Tien, from ViÍt Nam, who studied the evangelizing power of song, with special reference to the music of her land; and Marie Monique Rungruang-Kanokkul, from Thailand, who made a pastoral-theological study of preparation for the sacrament of the Eucharist for the children of mixed marriages in her region.
In awarding this prize I also wish to express my appreciation to the Reverend President, Mother Fernanda Barbiero, and to the teachers of the "Regina Mundi" Institute for the work carried out to promote Christian humanism in the many cultures to which the student religious belong.
I entrust all those present and their mission to Mary most holy, Seat of Wisdom, and I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families and to all your loved ones.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. It is a great joy for me to welcome to the house of Peterís Successor you who are responsible for leading the People of God in Belgium. Your presence reminds me of my journey to your country in June 1995 for the beatification of one of your compatriots, Fr Damien de Veuster, a striking spiritual figure and exemplary witness of love for the sick. I thank Cardinal Godfried Danneels, President of your Bishopsí Conference, for his warm words and I would like to offer him my cordial wishes on his name day. You have come to Rome to visit the tombs of the Apostles, so that you may find light and support for your episcopal mission of "building up the Body of Christ" (Ep 4,12) in communion with the universal Church, and may regain your courage for guiding, reinforcing and strengthening the hope of your co-workers, the priests and deacons, as well as that of all the People of God.
2. In your quinquennial reports you have shared with me the various initiatives your Dioceses are taking in view of the Great Jubilee, a new Advent for the Church. I am delighted with the welcome they have received from your diocesans and the vitality they have fostered in your Christian communities. It is a tangible sign of the faithfulís spiritual desire, of their thirst for discovering anew the mystery of the Trinity so as to live by it and witness to it in their daily lives.
On the eve of the second year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, I ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and sustain you in your ministry. As Pastors, you must strengthen your priests in their mission by being close to them, encouraging them and supporting them, so that they will continue to proclaim the Gospel in the tasks assigned to them and will never tire of exemplifying a life of authentic prayer and one in conformity with their commitment. While respecting individuals and using the necessary discretion, it is also your responsibility to correct by insistent warnings and to rectify erroneous moral situations, so that no one will be a source of scandal for his brothers and sisters and nobody will be lost, as I have already stressed in a letter of 11 June 1993 to the American Episcopate, faced with social problems similar to your own (cf.LíOsservatore Romano English edition, 30 June 1993, p. 2; 1Co 10,32 2Co 6,3 Code of Canon Law CIC 1044, ß2; CIC 1395).
3. I salute the important efforts made in your Dioceses to intensify the catechesis of children and young people, which you consider one of your pastoral priorities. The step taken by many young people during the recent World Youth Day can offer you an opportunity to intensify this pastoral activity, particularly through a deeper spiritual and religious formation. The latter is actually one of the essential areas and a keystone of the Churchís evangelizing mission, as the recent General Directory for Catechesis prepared by the Congregation for the Clergy stresses. This document is a valuable tool and guide that opportunely recalls that Christ and his message are the centre of all teaching of the faith. The ministry of catechesis should thus have a choice place in the mission of every Christian community. Under the Bishopís leadership, it calls for the participation of parents, priests, consecrated persons and the faithful, who, in agreeing to become catechists, will receive the proper formation.
Furthermore, I appreciate the attention you are paying to the theological and moral formation of the laity through publications and various courses organized in your Dioceses. You combine this formation with an introduction to prayer and the liturgy, so that the discovery of Christ will not only be a question of knowledge, but will also involve the will and emotions to the point of transforming daily life. In your recent statement Au souffle de lí…sprit vers líAn 2000, you have fittingly reminded the faithful that hope is a gift of the Spirit based on fidelity to God, for which we must continually ask. It is through the sacramental life and participation in the ecclesial community that Christians receive its many fruits. A deeper understanding of the Christian mystery and an authentic spiritual life enables them to the find the enthusiasm for actively co-operating in the Churchís mission of evangelization and specifically in the development of civil society. In the light of the Gospel and the Churchís social doctrine, lay people are called to work for the common good through involvement in the temporal order with all their compatriots, by promoting the fundamental principles regarding the purpose of creation and the way to live in the world, as well as moral values (cf. Vatican II, Apostolicam actuostitatem, n. 7).
I particularly encourage you to develop the pastoral care of young people, making a point of assigning priests who can guide them with the sensitivity required for those whose personality is still being formed. It is important that young people can discover Christ and calmly face the problems associated with modern society. I am delighted with the renewed commitment of catechists, parents, religion professors and other teachers, who are responsible for religious education in schools and parishes; congratulations are also in order for the vitality shown by the different movements which offer young people activities for discovering and living Christian values and a spiritual life.
4. You have told me of your fears about the increasing shortage of priests and the heavy workload they must currently bear, sometimes to the limits of their strength and until a very advanced age. Knowing the burdensome conditions in which they live, I salute their dedication, perseverance and fidelity, as I invite them to remain hopeful and to find in personal and liturgical prayer, particularly in the celebration of the Eucharist, the strength to live in conformity with Christ, whose living icon they are, in order to be servants of the Gospel and to show people that a life given to God in celibacy is a source of deep joy and inner stability. As you have already done, you must be concerned about the quality of their material life, seeing that they take care to maintain a proper balance between their spiritual life, pastoral life, leisure activities and friendships.
On the other hand, it is important to encourage everything that can strengthen the unity and fraternal sense of the "presbyterate, which is in harmony with the Bishop like the strings of a lyre" (St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the ). Priests are united with their confrŤres "by the bond of charity, prayer and total co-operation" (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis PO 8). Therefore, their relations should be marked by friendship and concern for one another, with the younger ones asking to be supported at the start of their ministry and in their first responsibilities and the older ones being able to contribute all their experience. All this is fostered by periods of retreat and theological formation offered to the entire clergy, so that their teaching may be strengthened and be capable of responding more precisely to the questions of our contemporaries. Convey to the priests and deacons my warm encouragement and the assurance of my prayer, particularly to those who are ill or are experiencing difficulties in their ministry. Extend my best wishes to the members of institutes of consecrated life who, despite the lack of vocations, carry on their missions at the cost of severe effort, out of love for Christ and the Church. I hope that they will find possible ways to regroup their strength and to impart their spirituality to the lay people working with them, as they are already doing.
5. You have decided to maintain a major seminary in each Diocese; it is a central and essential institution, which shares in the Churchís visibility and apostolic dynamism. You have made a courageous choice, which shows your remarkable concern for the formation of future priests and your care about good discernment. Because of this closeness, young people strengthen their trustful relationship and filial obedience with their Bishop and become aware of the diocesan realties which they will later have to face. With regard to formation, one should first of all verify whether candidates for the priesthood have the right intention and are sufficiently mature, as well as help them to develop their personality (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 62). In this regard, it would be harmful for young people to chose for themselves their place of formation on the basis of criteria connected with their subjectivity, their sensitivity and their history. This can limit their discernment and weaken the aspect of service that the priestly ministry requires. I appreciate the attention you give to philosophical and theological instruction, as well as to the spiritual progress of your future priests, by choosing professors and directors specially trained for this delicate ministry.
The presence of a seminary is also an opportunity for all the faithful to be close to their future pastors and to support them with their fraternal prayer. All Christians, including parents, should encourage vocations in their families and support young people who feel called to follow Christ in the priestly or religious life. In this spirit, I am delighted with the new vigour you have wished to give the different Vocation Services.
6. The current situation has led you to reorganize and restructure your parishes, taking into account the possibilities available to you and the pastoral needs. The parish is not a mere association. It is a sign of the Churchís visibility and a home where communion among all the members of the community is expressed. It is the basic unit which ought to provide the chief services of the Churchís mission, but which for that reason must have a certain supply of vital forces. Thus it is important that these reorganizations take into account the number of faithful, the possibility of providing the various indispensable pastoral services and the human fabric that finds some of its vitality in the Sunday gatherings and parish activities.
7. In your reports you express your worries and those of a significant number of Belgians about changes in society. You underscore the growing phenomenon of poverty, which is associated with the economic situation and increased unemployment, and is causing a rise in delinquency in all its forms and the temptation to despair over the future. You also note the erosion of moral values which are the basis of an upright personal life, of relations between your fellow citizens, of the necessary solidarity within the national community and of the conduct of the res publica. The Church must be concerned about all people, particularly those who are marginalized. So I urge Christians to put themselves more and more at the service of their brothers and sisters and to be attentive to the need that just assistance be given to every individual through involvement in all areas of life in society, with a heightened sense of the integrity that should characterize every person called to take part in the administration of the common good. Certainly, action of this sort will further strengthen the confidence of your compatriots in national institutions.
The Church also must never tire of calling to mind that every person is to be protected, particularly children who, because they are weak and defenceless, are often the target of perverted adults who seriously harm young people in a lasting way, in order to give free rein to their passions. At the moment I am thinking especially of the families who have recently been suffering from criminal behaviour that has victimized their children. Assure them that the Pope joins them in prayer and has been aware of the great courage they have shown in their pain, as he invites all their compatriots to a profound moral revival and to forgiveness.
8. The future of society poses a great ethical challenge to all our contemporaries; for this reason a renewed moral reflection is necessary, which can give everyone the principles for discerning and judging the moral goodness of an action and for adopting correct attitudes. In this regard I appreciate the strong and courageous statements made by the Bishops, who have called the attention of the faithful and of all the Belgian people to the necessity of respecting the intrinsic dignity of the human being from his conception to his natural death. In every country the Church has the duty to make the voice of the weakest heard and to teach, in season and out of season, the moral values that no law can scorn with impunity. Moreover, even if the Church can in no way be identified with the political community, which she respects, she must remind those who carry out a legitimate public service and all our contemporaries what is the basis of personal and community behaviour and, conversely, what gravely harms the individual and humanity. In fact, "the exercise of authority is meant to give outward expression to a just hierarchy of values in order to facilitate the exercise of freedom and responsibility by all" and with a view to the common good (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2236).
9. At the end of our meeting, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I ask you to convey my affectionate greeting to the priests, deacons, religious and laity of your communities. Assure them of my prayer that, amid their current difficulties, they will not lose hope and that the Spirit will inspire in everyone courageous and prophetic actions that will be a brilliant sign for their brothers and sisters of the salvation offered by Christ and of the conversion that he accomplishes in hearts. As I entrust you to the intercession of your countryís saints, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the members of Godís People entrusted to your pastoral care.