Speeches 2005-13 22112


Your Excellency,
Deputy Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to be able to receive you on the occasion of your Conference and I would like, first of all, to thank the Justice Minister of the Italian Government, Professor Paola Severino, and the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Dr Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, for their words of greeting, addressed to me on behalf of all present.

Matters of criminal justice are continually being brought to the attention of the public and of governments, especially at a time when economic and social inequalities and increasing individualism are feeding the roots of criminality. There is a tendency, though, to limit the debate to the legislative aspect of the question of crime and punishment or to the judicial process – how best to arrive swiftly at a sentence that corresponds as closely as possible to the true facts. Less attention is given to the way custodial sentences are carried out. In this regard, alongside the parameter of “justice”, another essential element is respect for human dignity and human rights. Yet this too, while indispensable and unfortunately still far from being observed in many countries, is not enough to safeguard fully the rights of the individual. A concrete commitment is needed, not just a statement of principle, in order to bring about the offender’s effective re-education, which is required both for the sake of his own dignity and with a view to his reintegration into society. The prisoner’s personal need to undergo in prison a process of rehabilitation and maturation is actually a need of society itself, both because it stands to regain someone who can make a useful contribution to the common good, and also because such a process makes the prisoner less likely to reoffend and thus endanger society. In recent years there has been considerable progress, even if there is still a long way to go. It is not just a question of releasing sufficient financial resources to make the prison environment more dignified and to ensure more effective means of support and paths of formation for prisoners: a change in mentality is also needed, so as to link the debate regarding respect for the human rights of prisoners with the broader debate concerning the actual implementation of criminal justice.

If human justice in this area is to look to divine justice and be shaped by that higher vision, the re-educational purpose of the sentence must be regarded not as an ancillary or secondary aspect of the penal system, but rather as its culminating and defining feature. In order to “practise justice”, it is not enough that those found guilty of crimes be simply punished: it is necessary that in punishing them, everything possible be done to correct and improve them. When this does not happen, justice is not done in an integral sense. In any event, it is important to avoid giving rise to a situation where imprisonment that fails in its re-educational role becomes counter-educational and paradoxically reinforces rather than overcomes the tendency to commit crime and the threat posed to society by the individual.

As Directors of Prison Administration, you can make a significant contribution, together with all those responsible for the administration of justice in society, towards promoting this “more genuine” justice that is “open to the liberating power of love” (John Paul II, Message for the Jubilee in Prisons, 9 July 2000) and is tied to human dignity. Your role, in a certain sense, is even more crucial than that of the legislators, since even when adequate structures and resources are in place, the effectiveness of re-educational strategies always depends on the sensitivity, ability and attentiveness of those called to put into practice what is prescribed on paper. The task of prison officers, at whatever level they operate, is by no means easy. That is why today, through you, I would like to pay tribute to all those in prison administration who carry out their duties with diligence and dedication. Contact with offenders paying the price for what they have done and the commitment needed to restore dignity and hope to people who in many cases have already suffered marginalization and scorn call to mind the mission of Christ himself, who came to call not the just, but sinners (cf.
Mt 9,13 Mc 2,17 Lc 5,32), the privileged recipients of divine mercy. Everyone is called to become his brother’s keeper, transcending the homicidal indifference of Cain (cf. Gen Gn 4,9). You in particular are asked to take custody of people who, in prison conditions, are at greater risk of losing their sense of life’s meaning and the value of personal dignity, yielding instead to discouragement and despair. Profound respect for persons, commitment to the rehabilitation of prisoners, fostering a genuinely educational community: these things are all the more urgent, in view of the growing number of “foreign prisoners”, whose circumstances are often difficult and precarious. Clearly, it is essential that the role of prison institutions and staff be matched by a corresponding willingness on the part of the prisoner to undergo a period of formation. Yet it is not enough simply to wait and hope for a positive response: this should be solicited and encouraged by means of initiatives and programmes capable of overcoming idleness and breaking the isolation in which prisoners are often trapped. Particularly important in this regard is the promotion of forms of evangelization and spiritual care, capable of drawing out the most noble and profound side of the prisoner, awakening his enthusiasm for life and his desire for beauty, so characteristic of people who discover anew that they bear within them the indelible image of God.

Where there is confidence in the possibility of renewal, prison can perform its re-educational function and become the occasion for the offender to taste the redemption won by Christ through the Paschal Mystery, which guarantees victory over all evil.

Dear friends, I thank you sincerely for this meeting and for all that you do, and I invoke upon you and your work abundant divine blessings.


Venerable Brothers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you with joy, at the end of your work in the 23rd World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea. I cordially greet Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People, grateful for his courteous words, as well as the collaborators of that Dicastery and those working in this specific area. These have been intense days for you, delving into important themes, such as proclaiming the Gospel to a growing number of seafarers who belong to Eastern Churches, helping Christians and non-Christians alike, seeking to make ecumenical and interreligious collaboration ever more solid. Confronted with the hardships faced by workers in the maritime industries, such as fishermen — and their families — there is a growing need to face these problems with “an integral vision of man, reflecting the different aspects of the human person, contemplated through a lens purified by charity” (Encyclical Caritas in Veritate ).

These are only a few of the many points which the Apostleship of the Sea has at heart and which were discussed at your Congress and, especially, are well attested by the long history of this worthy initiative. In fact, already in 1922, Pope Pius XI approved its Constitutions and its Rule, encouraging the first chaplains and volunteers in their mission to “expand the maritime ministry”; and, 75 years later, Blessed Pope John Paul II confirmed this mission in his Motu Proprio Stella Maris. In continuity with this precious tradition, you find yourselves reflecting on the new evangelization in the maritime world, in the same hall as that in which the 13th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was held in October, to find “the new methods and means for transmitting the Good News to people in our world today with a renewed enthusiasm” (Lineamenta, Introduction). In this way you have answered the appeal, that I addressed to all in proclaiming the Year of Faith, to give a renewed impetus to the mission of the Church “so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel” (Motu Proprio Porta Fidei, n. 8).

Since the dawn of Christianity, the maritime world has been an effective vehicle for evangelization. The Apostles and disciples of Jesus were able to go all over the world, preaching the Gospel to the whole creation (cf.
Mc 16,15) thanks to sea voyages; we need think only of St Paul’s journeys. This is how they began their journey to spread the Word of God “to the end of the earth” (Ac 1,8). Today too the Church sails the seas to bring the Gospel to all the nations and the network of your presence in all the ports of call around the world, your daily visits to ships in port and your brotherly welcome to crews during their layovers — are a visible sign of your affectionate attention to those who cannot receive ordinary pastoral care.

This world of the sea, with the continuous migration of people today, must take into account the complex effects of globalization and, unfortunately, must come to grips with situations of injustice, especially when the freedom of a ship’s crew to go ashore is restricted, when they are abandoned altogether along with the vessels on which they work, when they risk piracy at sea and the damage of illegal fishing (cf. Angelus, 18 January 2009). The vulnerability of seafarers, fishermen and sailors calls for an even more attentive solicitude on the Church’s part and should stimulate the motherly care that, through you, she expresses to all those whom you meet in ports and on ships or whom you help on board during those long months at sea.

A special thought goes to those working in the vast fishing sector and to their families. Indeed, they more than others must face the difficulties of the present time and live the uncertainty of the future, marked by the negative effects of climate change and the excessive exploitation of resources. To you fishermen, who seek decent and safe working conditions, safeguarding the dignity of your families, the protection of the environment and the defence of every person’s dignity, I would like to ensure the Church’s closeness. In this context the lay apostolate is already particularly active and has many permanent deacons and volunteers in the “Stella Maris” Centres. Yet, among mariners themselves there is above all a growing concern to support other seafarers, encouraging them to rediscover and intensify their relationship with God during long ocean voyages, and helping them with the spirit of charity in times of danger.

To use a metaphor well known to you, I urge you to take up the treasure of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which is like “a compass that permits the Barque of the Church to put out into the deep in the midst of storms or on calm and peaceful waves, to sail safely and to reach her destination” (General Audience, 10 October 2012). In particular, recalling the decree Ad Gentes on the Church’s Missionary Activity, I wish today to renew the ecclesial mandate that places you, in communion with your local Churches, in the front line in the evangelization of so many men and women from different nations who pass through your ports. Be apostles faithful to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, show the loving face of the Church which also welcomes and makes herself close to this portion of the People of God; respond without hesitation to maritime people who wait for you on board to appease the deep longing of their soul and make them feel active members of the community. I hope that each one of you may rediscover every day the beauty of faith, in order always to bear a consistent witness to it. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Stella Maris and Stella Matutina, never cease to illuminate your work so that seafarers may know the Gospel and encounter the Lord Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Light. I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to each one of you, to your colleagues and to your loved ones.


PAPAL MASS Vatican Basilica Saturday, 24 November 2012


“I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

These words, which the new Cardinals are soon to proclaim in the course of their solemn profession of faith, come from the Niceno-Constantinopolitan creed, the synthesis of the Church’s faith that each of us receives at baptism. Only by professing and preserving this rule of truth intact can we be authentic disciples of the Lord. In this Consistory, I would like to reflect in particular on the meaning of the word “catholic”, a word which indicates an essential feature of the Church and her mission. Much could be said on this subject and various different approaches could be adopted: today I shall limit myself to one or two thoughts.

The characteristic marks of the Church are in accordance with God’s plan, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities” (no. 811). Specifically, what makes the Church catholic is the fact that Christ in his saving mission embraces all humanity. While during his earthly life Jesus’ mission was limited to the Jewish people, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (
Mt 15,24), from the beginning it was meant to bring the light of the Gospel to all peoples and lead all nations into the kingdom of God. When he saw the faith of the centurion at Capernaum, Jesus cried out: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 8,11). This universalist perspective can be seen, among other things, from the way Jesus applied to himself not only the title “Son of David”, but also “Son of Man” (Mc 10,33), as in the Gospel passage that we have just heard. The expression “Son of Man”, in the language of Jewish apocalyptic literature inspired by the vision of history found in the book of the prophet Daniel (cf. 7:13-14), calls to mind the figure who appears “with the clouds of heaven” (v. 13). This is an image that prophesies a completely new kingdom, sustained not by human powers, but by the true power that comes from God. Jesus takes up this rich and complex expression and refers it to himself in order to manifest the true character of his Messianism: a mission directed to the whole man and to every man, transcending all ethnic, national and religious particularities. And it is actually by following Jesus, by allowing oneself to be drawn into his humanity and hence into communion with God, that one enters this new kingdom proclaimed and anticipated by the Church, a kingdom that conquers fragmentation and dispersal.

Jesus sends his Church not to a single group, then, but to the whole human race, and thus he unites it, in faith, in one people, in order to save it. The Second Vatican Council expresses this succinctly in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium: “All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Therefore this people, while remaining one and unique, is to be spread throughout the whole world and through every age, so that the design of God's will may be fulfilled” (no. 13). Hence the universality of the Church flows from the universality of God’s unique plan of salvation for the world. This universal character emerges clearly on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit fills the first Christian community with his presence, so that the Gospel may spread to all nations, causing the one People of God to grow in all peoples. From its origins, then, the Church is oriented kat’holon, it embraces the whole universe. The Apostles bear witness to Christ, addressing people from all over the world, and each of their hearers understands them as if they were speaking his native language (cf. Ac 2,7-8). From that day, in the “power of the Holy Spirit”, according to Jesus’ promise, the Church proclaims the dead and risen Lord “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Ac 1,8). The Church’s universal mission does not arise from below, but descends from above, from the Holy Spirit: from the beginning it seeks to express itself in every culture so as to form the one People of God. Rather than beginning as a local community that slowly grows and spreads outwards, it is like yeast oriented towards a universal horizon, towards the whole: universality is inscribed within it.

Our Lord proclaims: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mc 16,15); “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28,19). With these words, Jesus sends the Apostles to all creation, so that God’s saving action may reach everywhere. But if we consider the moment of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the disciples are still closed in their thinking, looking to the restoration of a new Davidic kingdom. They ask the Lord: “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Ac 1,6). How does Jesus answer? He answers by broadening their horizons and giving them both the promise and a task: he promises that they will be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and he confers upon them the task of bearing witness to him all over the world, transcending the cultural and religious confines within which they were accustomed to think and live, so as to open themselves to the universal Kingdom of God. At the beginning of the Church’s journey, the Apostles and disciples set off without any human security, purely in the strength of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and the faith. This is the yeast that spreads round the world, enters into different events and into a wide range of cultural and social contexts, while remaining a single Church. Around the Apostles, Christian communities spring up, but these are “the” Church which is always the same, one and universal, whether in Jerusalem, Antioch, or Rome. And when the Apostles speak of the Church, they are not referring to a community of their own, but to the Church of Christ, and they insist on the unique, universal and all-inclusive identity of the Catholica that is realized in every local church. The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic, she reflects in herself the source of her life and her journey: the unity and communion of the Trinity.

Situated within the context and the perspective of the Church’s unity and universality is the College of Cardinals: it presents a variety of faces, because it expresses the face of the universal Church. In this Consistory, I want to highlight in particular the fact that the Church is the Church of all peoples, and so she speaks in the various cultures of the different continents. She is the Church of Pentecost: amid the polyphony of the various voices, she raises a single harmonious song to the living God.

I cordially greet the official Delegations of the different countries, the bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and lay faithful of the various diocesan communities and all those who share in the joy of the new members of the College of Cardinals – their family, friends and co-workers. The new Cardinals, who represent different dioceses around the world, are henceforth associated by a special title with the Church of Rome, and in this way they reinforce the spiritual bonds that unite the whole Church, brought to life by Christ and gathered around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, today’s rite expresses the supreme value of fidelity. Indeed, the oath that you are about to take, venerable brothers, contains words filled with profound spiritual and ecclesial significance: “I promise and I swear, from now on and for as long as I live, to remain faithful to Christ and his Gospel, constantly obedient to the Holy Apostolic Roman Church”. And when you receive the red biretta, you will be reminded that it means “you must be ready to conduct yourselves with fortitude, even to the shedding of your blood, for the increase of the Christian faith, for the peace and well-being of the people of God”. Whereas the consignment of the ring is accompanied by the admonition: “Know that your love for the Church is strengthened by your love for the Prince of the Apostles”.

In these gestures and the words that accompany them, we see an indication of the identity that you assume today in the Church. From now on, you will be even more closely and intimately linked to the See of Peter: the titles and deaconries of the churches of Rome will remind you of the bond that joins you, as members by a very special title, to this Church of Rome, which presides in universal charity. Particularly through the work you do for the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, you will be my valued co-workers, first and foremost in my apostolic ministry for the fullness of catholicity, as Pastor of the whole flock of Christ and prime guarantor of its doctrine, discipline and morals.

Dear friends, let us praise the Lord, who “with manifold gifts does not cease to enrich his Church spread throughout the world” (Oration), and reinvigorates her in the perennial youth that he has bestowed upon her. To him we entrust the new ecclesial service of these our esteemed and venerable Brothers, that they may bear courageous witness to Christ, with a lively growing faith and unceasing sacrificial love. Amen.


Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Friends,

Today, with our minds full of gratitude to the Lord, let us prolong the sentiments and emotions we experienced yesterday and the day before yesterday on the occasion of the creation of six new Cardinals. They were moments of intense prayer and of deep communion, experienced in the awareness of an event that concerns the universal Church, called to be a sign of hope for all peoples. I am therefore glad to welcome you today too, at this simple family meeting and to address my cordial greeting to the new Cardinals and likewise to their relatives, to their friends and to all who have accompanied them on this most solemn and important occasion.

I extend a cordial greeting to the English-speaking Prelates whom I had the joy of raising to the dignity of Cardinal in last Saturday’s Consistory: Cardinal James Michael Harvey, Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St Paul’s Outside-the-Walls; Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum for Syro-Malankaras, India; Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria; and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, the Philippines. I also welcome their family members and friends, and all the faithful who accompany them here today.

The College of Cardinals, whose origin is linked to the ancient clergy of the Roman Church, is charged with electing the Successor of Peter and advising him in matters of greater importance. Whether in the offices of the Roman Curia or in their ministry in the local Churches throughout the world, the Cardinals are called to share in a special way in the Pope’s solicitude for the universal Church. The vivid colour of their robes has traditionally been seen as a sign of their commitment to defending Christ’s flock even to the shedding of their blood. As the new Cardinals assume the burden of office, I am confident that they will be supported by your prayers and assistance as they strive with the Roman Pontiff to promote throughout the world the holiness, communion and peace of the Church.

I cordially greet the French-speaking Cardinals, and especially the Lebanese, in the happy memory of my recent Apostolic Visit to their country. I went there in particular to sign the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente. By creating Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï a Cardinal I wish to give special encouragement to the life and presence of Christians in the Middle East, where they must be able to live their faith freely, and at the same time to launch a pressing appeal for peace in the region. The Church encourages every effort with a view to peace in the world and the Middle East, a peace which will only be effective if it is based on genuine respect for the other. May the Season of Advent, which is at our door, enable us to rediscover the greatness of Christ, true man and true God, who came into the world to save all people and to bring peace and reconciliation! I wish you all a fruitful pilgrimage!

I greet with deep affection Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez, Metropolitan Archbishop of Bogotá and President of the Bishops’ Conference of Colombia, and the relatives, bishops, priests, religious and lay people who have accompanied him and who share in his deep and spiritual joy at becoming a member of the College of Cardinals. I ask you all to raise fervent prayers for the new Cardinal that he may be increasingly united to the Successor of Peter and collaborate tirelessly with the Apostolic See. Let us also ask God to help him with his gifts, so that he may continue to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel of salvation, explaining its content with rectitude and faithfulness and bringing to all the redeeming strength of Christ. May Mary Most Holy, who in these noble regions is invoked under the sweet name of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Chiquinquirá [Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá], always support him with her motherly love, as well as all the beloved sons and daughters of Colombia, whom I keep very present in my heart and in my prayers, that they may advance in peace and harmony on the paths of justice, reconciliation and solidarity.

Dear and Venerable Brothers who have become members of the College of Cardinals! Your ministry is enriched by a new commitment in supporting the Successor of Peter in his universal service to the Church. Therefore, as I renew to each one of you my most cordial good wishes, I trust in the support of your prayers and in your precious help. May you continue confident and strong in your spiritual and apostolic mission, keeping your gaze fixed on Christ and strengthening your love for his Church. Moreover we can learn this love from the saints, who are the most complete realization of the Church: they loved her and, letting themselves be moulded by Christ, they spent their whole life to ensure that men and women might be illuminated by the light of Christ that shines out from the Church’s face (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium
LG 1). I invoke upon you and upon those present the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and I warmly impart to you and to all those present a special Apostolic Blessing.



Dear Cardinal,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I retain a vivid memory of my Apostolic Visit to France on the occasion of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes. You are the last of the three groups of the Bishops of France to come on an ad limina visit. I thank you, your Eminence, for your kind words. On addressing your predecessors, I opened a sort of triptych of which the essential panel might be the Discourse which I addressed to you in 2008 at Lourdes. The study of this inseparable text will certainly be useful to you and will guide your reflections.

You are responsible for regions where the Christian faith took root very early and bore praiseworthy fruit. Regions linked to distinguished names who worked very hard to implant and spread the Kingdom of God in this world: martyrs such as Photinus and Blandina, great theologians such as Irenaeus and Vincent of Lérins, teachers of Christian spirituality such as Bruno, Bernard and Francis de Sales and many others. The Church in France has a long line of saints, doctors, martyrs and confessors of the faith. You are the heirs of a great human experience and of an immense spiritual wealth, that without a doubt are a source of inspiration for you in your mission as Pastors.

These origins and this glorious past, ever present in your thoughts and very dear to our spirit, allow us to nourish a great hope, both firm and bold, in the hour of taking up the challenge of the third millennium and listening to the expectations of the people of our time, to whom only God can give a satisfying answer. The Good News, that we have the duty to proclaim to the men and women of all times, of all languages and of all cultures, can be summed up in a few words: God, creator of man, in his Son Jesus, allows us to know his love for humanity: “God is love” (cf.
1Jn 4,8). He wishes for the happiness of his creatures, for his sons and daughters. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (cf. n. 10) takes up the key issues of human existence; the meaning of life and death, of evil, of illness and suffering, so present in our world. It recalls that in his fatherly goodness, God wanted to answer all of these questions and that Christ founded his Church so that all might understand them. Therefore one of the most serious problems of our time is ignorance of religious practice in which many men and women live, including some Catholic faithful (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, Chapter V).

For this reason the new evangelization, to which the Church has been resolutely committed since the Second Vatican Council and of which the Motu Proprio Ubicumque et Semper outlined the central modalities, is particularly urgent as underlined by the Fathers of the Synod which ended recently. The new evangelization calls all Christians to account for the hope that is in them (cf. 1P 3,15), aware that one of the worst obstacles for our pastoral mission is ignorance of the content of the faith. In fact it is a dual ignorance: a lack of knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ and ignorance of the sublimity of his teachings, of their universal and perpetual value in the search for the meaning of life and happiness. Moreover this lack of knowledge results in an inability in the new generations to understand history and to feel that they are heirs to this tradition which has shaped the life, society, art and culture of Europe.

In the current Year of Faith, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a Note dated 6 January 2012 gave useful pastoral instructions for mobilizing all of the Church’s energy, the action of her Pastors and her faithful in order to enliven society in depth. It is the Holy Spirit who, through “the power of the Gospel, permits the Church to keep the freshness of youth” (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 4). This Note recalls that “every initiative for the Year of Faith should be designed to promote the joyous rediscovery of the faith and its renewed transmission. The recommendations provided here have the goal of inviting all of the members of the Church to work to make this Year a special time to share what is dearest to Christians: Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, universal King, ‘leader and perfecter of faith’ (He 12,2)”. The Synod of Bishops recently proposed to each and everyone the way to complete this mission successfully. The example of our divine Master is always the basis of all our reflection and action. Prayer and action, these are the means which our Saviour still and always calls us to implement.

The new evangelization will be effective if it can thoroughly involve the communities and parishes. Signs of vitality and the commitment of the lay faithful in French society are already an encouraging reality. In the past many lay people played a part; I am thinking of Pauline Marie Jaricot, the 150th anniversary of whose death we celebrated and of her work of spreading the faith, ever crucial for Catholic missions in the 19th and 20th centuries. The laity with their bishops and priests are the leaders in the life of the Church and her mission of evangelization. In various documents (Lumen Gentium, Apostolicam Actuositatem, among others), the Second Vatican Council underlined the specificity of their mission: permeating human realities with the Gospel spirit. The laity are the face of the world in the Church and at the same time the face of the Church in the world. I appreciate the quality and manifold apostolates of the laity, men and women. I join my voice to yours in expressing my appreciation to them.

The Church in Europe and in France must not remain indifferent to the decrease in vocations and priestly ordinations and in other types of vocations that God inspires in the Church. We must urgently mobilize all the energy available so that youth may hear the voice of the Lord. God calls whom he wants and when he wants. Nevertheless Christian families and fervent communities continue to be particularly favourable areas. These families, these communities and these young people are therefore at the centre of every initiative of evangelization, despite the cultural and social context marked by relativism and hedonism.

Since young people are the hope and the future of the Church and of the world I cannot fail to mention the importance of Catholic education. This plays an admirable and often difficult role, made possible by the tireless devotion of formators: priests, consecrated people and laity. Beyond the passed-on knowledge, the testimony of the lives of formation teachers must enable young people to imbibe human and Christian values in order to deepen their search for, and love of the truth and of beauty (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 15). Continue to encourage them and open them to new prospects so that they too may benefit from evangelization. Catholic institutes clearly hold the first place in the great discussion between faith and culture. The love of the truth which radiates from them is in itself evangelizing. They are places of learning and dialogue and even research centres which must be increasingly developed and ambitious. I understand well the contribution that the Church in France has made to Christian culture. I know of your attention — and I encourage you in this regard — to cultivate academic rigour and to weave stronger ties of communication and collaboration with universities in other countries, both so that they may benefit from your experience and that you may learn from them in order to better serve the Church, society and the whole person. I am grateful for the initiatives in some of your dioceses to promote the theological initiation of young students in secular disciplines. Theology is a source of knowledge, joy, wonder that cannot be reserved only for seminarians, priests and consecrated people. Proposed to numerous youth and adults, theology will comfort them in the faith and will make them without a doubt bold and convincing apostles. Thus it is a prospect which could be broadly proposed to higher institutions of theology, as an expression of the intrinsically missionary dimension of theology and as a service to culture in its deepest sense.

As regards Catholic schools which have shaped the Christian and cultural life of your country, today they have a historical responsibility. As places for the transmission of knowledge and the formation of the person, of unconditional acceptance and of learning, these schools often enjoy a well-deserved status. It is necessary to find ways to ensure that the transmission of the faith stays at the centre of the educational project. The new evangelization will pass through these schools and through the manifold work of Catholic education which underlies numerous initiatives and movements, for which the Church is grateful. Educating in Christian values is the key to the culture of your country. Education, in opening to hope and authentic freedom, continues to contribute its dynamism and creativity. The ardour given to the new evangelization will be our best contribution to the development of human society and the best answer to the challenges of every kind which confront everyone at the beginning of the third millennium. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I commend you, with your pastoral work and the communities that have been entrusted to you, to the motherly care of the Virgin Mary that she may accompany your mission in the years to come! And as I stated before leaving France in 2008: “From Rome I shall remain close to you, and when I pray before the replica of the Lourdes Grotto which has been in the Vatican Gardens for a little over a century, I shall think of you. May God bless you!”.

Speeches 2005-13 22112