Speeches 1998 - Tuesday, 7 April 1998

Man is a creature of God, and for this reason human rights have their origin in God, are founded on his design for creation and are part of his plan of Redemption. One could almost boldly say that human rights are also God's rights. That is why the duty to safeguard and promote them is an essential part of the Church's mission. Today the Church condemns every abuse of the person because she knows that it is also a sin against the Creator. She does all she possibly can to encourage the authentic development of every person's humanity, in the conviction that respect for the person is the way to a better world.

The Church must serve man if she wants to serve God. This is a distinctive element of her fidelity to him. Christians are therefore bound to do all they can to give evidence of this belief in their daily lives. I know that in your forum you will be able to describe numerous volunteer projects carried out in areas of the world marked by poverty, injustice, violence and disease. I urge you to continue in this commitment; indeed I would like to ask you to do even more. Be apostles of the love of Christ, by responding to people's material expectations, yes, but especially by satisfying the spiritual thirst for God which every human being experiences.

I recently said: "The world and humanity are deprived of their life-breath if they are not open to Jesus Christ" (Homily, 23 January 1998, Camagüey; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 January 1998, p. 4). Never tire of evangelizing and of being formed in the truth of Christ. "Today also", I wrote in my first Encyclical Redemptor hominis, "even after 2,000 years, we see Christ as the one who brings man freedom based on truth, frees man from what curtails, diminishes and as it were breaks off this freedom at its root, in man's soul, his heart and his conscience" (n. 12).

4. Here another point is involved which we can express in this way: the Church, in addition to rights, insists on duties. The conscience of every Christian must be deeply marked by the concept of duty. Man's relationship with God, the Creator and Redeemer of man, his beginning and his end, has true binding force.

Conscience is where true freedom is won, but on condition that we are prepared to recognize "the rights of God" inscribed in our inmost being. It is "the witness of God himself, whose voice and judgement penetrate the inmost depths of a man's soul, calling him fortiter et suaviter to obedience ... the sacred place where God speaks to man" (Encyclical Veritatis splendor VS 58). The inescapable question, which should arise spontaneously in us before God, is therefore that which Paul asked Jesus when he met him for the first time on the road to Damascus: "What shall I do, Lord?" (Ac 22,10).

Christ asks for everything. The witness to the Father's intimate love is demanding. But when the Holy Spirit awakens in us the living awareness that we are sons of God (cf. Rom Rm 8,15), his call does not frighten us but attracts us with the power of love. Anyone who entrusts himself totally to him experiences the marvellous exchange described by Bl. Josemaría Escrivá in these words: "My Jesus: what is mine is yours, because what is yours is mine, and what is mine I leave to you" (The Forge, 594).

May Mary, Mother of the Church, help each one to understand that the generosity of her own response to God is the decisive factor for the development of the gifts received. Be prepared, dear young people, to make your life a gift to God and to your neighbour.

For my part, I assure you of a remembrance in my prayer, as I affectionately wish you a Happy Easter and wholeheartedly bless you all.



Good Friday, 10 April 1998

1. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (cf Jn 3,16). For the salvation of the world, the eternal Son of God, who in the womb of the Virgin Mary assumed our human nature by the power of the Holy Spirit, became "obedient to the Father unto death, even the death of the Cross" (cf. Phil Ph 2,8). Every day the Church ponders the supreme mystery of the saving Incarnation and the redeeming death of the Son of God, sacrificed for us on the Cross.

On this day, Good Friday, we pause to contemplate this mystery with still greater intensity. In the darkness of the late evening, we have come here, to the Colosseum, to follow once again, in the devotion of the Way of the Cross, the steps of Christ's journey of suffering, leading to the tragic climax of his death.

The spiritual ascent of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified and surrendered his spirit, assumes a special significance among these ruins of Imperial Rome, particularly in this place linked to the death of so many Christian martyrs.

2. At this moment our mind goes back to everything recounte in the ancient Sacred History, where we find foreshadowings and foretellings of the Lord's death. How could we fail to evoke, for example, the journey of Abraham to Mount Moriah? We rightly recall this great Patriarch, whom Saint Paul calls the "father of all believers" (cf. Rom Rm 4,11-12). It is he who receives the divine promises of the Old Covenant, and his life prefigures moments of the Passion of Jesus.

With his son Isaac, son of the promise, Abraham climbed Mount Moriah (cf. Gen Gn 22,2), which looks symbolically to the mount on which the Son of Man would die on the Cross, to offer him in sacrifice. God had asked for the sacrifice of this only son, whom he had long awaited with unfailing hope. At the moment of sacrifice, Abraham himself becomes in a sense "obedient unto death" : the death of the son, and the spiritual death of the father.

This act, though it remained only a test of obedience and fidelity, since the angel of the Lord stayed the Patriarch's hand and did not allow Isaac to be killed (cf. Gen Gn 22,12-13), is an eloquent foreshadowing of the definitive sacrifice of Jesus.

3. The Evangelist John writes: the eternal Father so loved the world that he gave his only Son (cf. Jn Jn 3,16). The Apostle Paul echoes him: the Son became "for us obedient unto death, even death on the Cross" (cf. Phil Ph 2,8). The angel did not stay the executioners' hand when the Son of God was sacrificed.

And yet in Gethsemane the Son had prayed that, if possible, the chalice of suffering might pass him by, though he immediately declared his complete readiness to do the Father's will (cf. Mt Mt 26,39). Obedient for love of us, the Son offered himself in sacrifice, completing the work of redemption. Of this shocking mystery we are all witnesses today.

4. We stand silently on Golgotha. At the foot of the Cross is Mary, Mater dolorosa: this woman who is heartbroken with grief, but prepared to accept the death of her Son. The sorrowful Mother recognizes and accepts in the sacrifice of Jesus the Father's will for the redemption of the world. Of Mary the Second Vatican Council says: "The Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and loyally persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan (cf. Jn Jn 19,25), suffering grievously with her only- begotten Son. There she united herself with a maternal heart to his sacrifice, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth. Finally, the same Christ Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her as a mother to his disciple. Thus he did when he said: "Woman, behold your son" (Lumen Gentium LG 58).

Mary was given as a mother to all of us, who are called to follow faithfully the steps of her Son who for us was made obedient unto death, death on a cross: "Christus factus est pro nobis oboediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis" (Antiphon of Holy Week; cf. Phil Ph 2,8).

4. It is now the dead of night. As we contemplate Christ dead on the Cross, our thoughts turn to the countless injustices and sufferings which prolong his passion in every part of the world. I think of the places where man is insulted and humiliated, downtrodden and exploited. In every person suffering from hatred and violence, or rejected by selfishness and indifference, Christ continues to suffer and die. On the faces of those who have been "defeated by life" there appear the features of the face of Christ dying on the Cross. Ave, Crux, spes unica! Today too, from the Cross there springs hope for all.

Men and women of our time, look upon the One who was pierced! Out of love he gave his life for us. Faithful and docile to the will of the Father, he is for us an example and an encouragement. Precisely by reason of this filial obedience, the Father "has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name" (Ph 2,9).

May every tongue proclaim "that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (cf. ibid., 2:11)





Friday, 17 April 1998

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I cordially welcome you to the Apostolic Palace and assure you that I was pleased to grant your request for this meeting. For the third time you are making a pilgrimage to Rome as the Schönstatt Family Association. This year the days spent near the tombs of the Apostles should be an important stage in the spiritual path leading us to the threshold of the third millennium.

2. Today I am in the midst of many families, surrounded by different generations, grown-ups and children, young and old. Your presence shows me that the family is alive! Better than so many words, your living community demonstrates that today there are still many successful Christian couples and families. Moreover, there is a growing awareness of the need to form relationships between individual families for mutual spiritual and material help. The Schönstatt Family Association is indeed an eloquent example that more and more families are discovering their ecclesial mission and their responsibility for building a more just society.

3. Just as God has a plan for each individual, so he has a plan for the family. In this divine plan the family not only finds its identity - what it "is" - but especially its mission, that is, what it can and should "do". According to God's will, the family has been established as "an intimate partnership of life and love" (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes GS 48). It has been sent to become more and more what it is, that is, a partnership of life and love. Thus, a person's life decision for marriage and the family is a response to a personal call from God. It is a genuine vocation, which includes a mission.

4. In a family that fulfils God's plan, the individual experiences a living community, in which each one knows he is responsible for the others. In the family the law of mutual co-operation applies: husband and wife, adults and children, brothers and sisters accept one another as God's gift and give each other the life and love of God. In the family the healthy and the sick stand by one another. Young and old speak up for one another. They try to solve problems together. The individual experiences his own uniqueness and, at the same time, his interconnectedness with others. Because everyone is different and yet knows he is part of the family community, the family becomes the privileged place where one can learn to live together in peace despite differing interests. Lastly, the family is also the place where everyone can experience mutual forgiveness in an atmosphere of love. A "culture of peace", which the world is still seeking, is based on the family, as I expressed it four years ago in the theme for the World Day of Peace: "The family creates the peace of the human family".

5. Everything great requires patience. It must grow. Marriage and the family also develop. In your marriages and families, dear brothers and sisters, your own salvation history is unfolding, in which God accompanies you on every path, even paths that are incorrect, misleading or erroneous. The personal religious life of children also begins in the family. In short, basic experiences such as the joy of life, confidence, gratitude and solidarity are imparted here, on which all later instruction in the faith is based. This enjoys greater success, the more that the life of the family corresponds to a church in miniature. The domestic church needs forms in which to live: prayer in common; observance of Sunday, which must be more than a holiday; attention to religious customs, which contain profound wisdom; and the lived love of neighbour, without which Christian witness remains ineffective.

6. Dear members of the Schönstatt Family Association, I express my deep appreciation that you have joined together as family groups and support one another in faith. May the Mother of God, under whose special protection you have placed your community, intercede so that families may increasingly become communities of life and love. For this I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 17 April 1998

Dear Friends,

1. The Bishop of Rome is happy to welcome you to his house on the occasion of your week of prayer and reflection. I warmly greet you all, particularly Archbishop Joseph Duval of Rouen, who is directing your pilgrimage.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, you wish to discover God's Church which is in Rome, a Church founded by the Apostles Peter and Paul. By following in the footsteps of these two great witnesses to Christ, you have wanted the Church to be at the heart of your spiritual search. Prolonging what the young people of the whole world experienced last summer in France during World Youth Day, I warmly encourage you all to participate in building fraternal Christian communities that are open to others.

The Easter season is a favourable time for rediscovering that your Baptism enables you to take part in the new life of Christ as active members of his Church. The risen Christ invites you to follow him on the way of holiness. Advance confidently on the paths of life where he comes to meet you, by being diligent in listening to his word, faithful to fraternal communion, to the Eucharist and to prayer (cf. Acts Ac 2,42)! In this way you will be putting your baptismal commitments into practice.

2. In this year dedicated to the Holy spirit, tomorrow several of you will receive the sacrament of Confirmation. May this be an occasion for you all to become more deeply aware of the Spirit's place in the life of the Church and of each Christian. It is he who gives growth in human lives to the seeds of the definitive salvation which will come at the end of time. It is he, again, who creates the unity of all, through the complementary gifts he grants to each person: this constitutes the Church's wealth.

3. During the privileged time of this pilgrimage, I invite you to ask the Lord for enlightenment about your own vocation. Each of you is called to find his place in the Church. Some are invited by Christ to follow him more especially through the ministerial priesthood or the religious life. Do not be afraid to respond to him generously! Dear friends, in offering your life for the service of God and men, you will find happiness and fulfilment for your whole being!

4. At the tombs of Peter and of the Apostle to the Gentiles may your hearts also be opened to the breadth of the Church's universal mission. You are sent into the world to live out your Baptism, recognizing everyone as a brother and sister to be loved. As I frequently recalled, following the Second Vatican Council, humanity forms one family, and God sent his Son to share our life for the salvation of all. As we celebrate the Lord's Resurrection, may the Holy Spirit lead you to become ardent witnesses to the message of Christ's salvation for ever!

5. Dear friends, I entrust you to the motherly intercession of Mary, whom we like to address with the title Mother of the Church; may she help you meet her Son in order to follow him! I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.





Saturday, 18 April 1998

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am happy to meet you, as it gives me the opportunity to consider the important theme of educational commitment, which this congress has assembled to reflect upon, with the participation of many experts in so essential a matter.

I extend my cordial greeting to you, with special gratitude to Prof. Giuseppe Dalla Torre who, while expressing the sentiments of his colleagues, effectively explained the work of your convention.

"Educability" is undoubtedly a dimension which characterizes man and emphasizes his psychological wealth, which allows him to endlessly improve himself. Being able this morning to address not only the educators, but also educational theorists, leads me to dwell on some less obvious aspects of this complex matter, which holds so much importance for the life of each human being.

2. I would like to reflect with you on the complexity of researching this delicate subject. Yours is a research that has its own precise rules, which are nevertheless difficult to define. The term that best expresses and summarizes them could be that of "seriousness": research in the educational field must be carried out with a seriousness that cannot be reduced to simple correctness of the means, thoroughness of the analyses, or fidelity in approaching the sources. Seriousness means, above all, committed and conscientious personal responsibility in using the methods at your disposal in this field.

One need only make a few brief observations: in evaluating the practical results of your research, time limits cannot be set; the negative consequences are not, unfortunately, so immediate that they can be quickly remedied; positive results appear as such only after the variables have run their course. How, in the light of these numerous unknown factors, can we fail to acknowledge the need for a particular "seriousness" on the part of the researcher who studies such a complex area?

A suitable approach to the object, which is the mystery of man with his historical and metahistorical values, is central to your particular kind of research. The approach must be such as to permit the full unfolding of the human spirit, which has its own ability to open itself to transcendence.

3. Serious research also means resisting the tendency to adopt narrow parameters or scientific forms which are inappropriate to the object. When research concerns man or the development of his capacity for improvement, even though restricted by influences of every kind, it cannot lower its tone, nor permit any degrading short cuts.

Besides, even before researching the person, you are "committed" to the effort to fulfil yourselves as persons.Your research, in fact, is not solitary: it takes place and is expressed in the copresence of the members of the university world: teachers and students. When the Academy was first founded a unique form of interaction was considered the high point of the educational process: it was the test of authenticity, also for the humanity of the teacher, while the student was given the chance to discover, "embodied" in him, values and ideals for entering into a strengthening synergy.

Whoever dedicates himself to the theoretical study or the practical application of the educational mission must feel committed to setting an example of successful humanity, thus to become a person in whom the splendour of the human can be glimpsed, a person who, by his witness of life even before that of his culture, invites others to complete self-fulfilment.

4. Two obstacles, in particular, can stop or divert the educational effort. There is first of all the risk of directing research towards fleeting success. If this is always unbecoming, it is all the more so when it involves the truth about man, his living and his dying, his joy and his sorrow. Here opportunistic concessions or utilitarian adaptations are absolutely unacceptable. Research on man always has something sacred about it, which forbids every kind of exploitation.

The other risk which one must be careful to avoid is the fatal attraction of power. The mind's eye is incapable of grasping the profound value of the human and of respecting its mysterious sacredness, if it is dazzled by the fascination of power: to be understood, man must be approached with a real attitude of service. But it is impossible to serve man and be slaves to the seduction of power. This would result in disregard for the human being precisely where one says that one wishes to probe his value in order to encourage accomplishments that best respond to the quality of personal and community living.

5. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the attentive service of man, the daily commitment so that he can progressively carry out the plan he bears within himself, is a difficult, sometimes even unpopular mission, but it is the way to provide a space where the eternal in man can find its fitting development. The educational mission is always a demanding, hard and rigorous service. To have chosen this area of study and this profession is therefore a noble commitment, worthy of the highest appreciation. I gladly take this occasion to express my great esteem and, in giving you my heartfelt encouragement to persevere despite the difficulties of the task you have undertaken, I wish to assure you of my special prayer that you will never lack the necessary help from above.

I accompany these wishes with a special Blessing, which I gladly extend to all those to whom your attentive study and teaching are directed.





Thursday, 23 April 1998

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to welcome you as you gather in the Vatican for the fourth plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which has as its theme "Democracy - Some Acute Questions".

I extend a cordial greeting to each of you, and in particular I thank your President, Prof. Edmond Malinvaud, for expressing the sentiments of all and for explaining the purpose of this session.

In these four years since the foundation of the Academy, in plenary meetings and in study sessions you have chosen as the central themes of your research and analysis two questions of vital importance for the social doctrine of the Church: first, work and employment, and now democracy.

I congratulate you and express my deep gratitude for the fruitful work you have already accomplished in such a short time. The acts of the plenary session and the book on the problems concerning democracy, which you have already published and kindly sent to me, show not only a great wealth and variety of content, but at the same time offer concrete applications for making the world more human, more united and more just.

2. I was able to note with pleasure how all the research you have carried out has always kept in mind the fundamental orientation of the Church's social doctrine, from the memorable Encyclical Rerum novarum of Leo XIII to the more recent Laborem exercens, Sollicitudo rei socialis and Centesimus annus.

The Church's teachings on social matters form a doctrinal corpus that is always open to new developments and applications. In fact, as I wrote in Centesimus annus: "The Church has no models to present; models that are real and truly effective can only arise within the framework of different historical situations, through the efforts of all those who responsibly confront concrete problems in all their social, economic, political and cultural aspects, as these interact with one another" (n. 43).

The Church's social doctrine is not called to concern itself with the technical aspects of the various social situations, in order to formulate her own solutions. The Church proclaims the Gospel and wants to manifest in all its richness the newness that characterizes it. The Gospel message must permeate the various cultural, economic and political situations. In this effort of inculturation and spiritual reflection, the Academy of Social Sciences is also called to make its particular contribution. As experts in the social disciplines and as Christians, you are called to play a role of mediation and dialogue between faith and science, between ideals and concrete situations; a role that is sometimes one of pioneers, because you are asked to indicate new paths and new solutions for solving in a more equitable way the burning issues of today's world.

3. A few moments ago, your President, Prof. Malinvaud, stressed how in this fourth plenary session your intention is to study the complex theme of democracy, which you have divided into three great issues of investigation: the relation between democracy and values; the role of civil society in democracy; the relation between democracy and supranational and international aspirations.

These are subjects that await study and guidelines suitable for directing researchers, political authorities and nations in this millennial passage between the 20th and 21st centuries. How important is this period of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, from which we expect a strong message of reconciliation and peace for the Church and for the world!

Distinguished and dear academicians, may the Spirit of the risen Lord accompany you in this journey of analysis and research. I am following you with keen attention and, as a token of my closeness to your work, I cordially impart to you, the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the experts you have invited, your coworkers and all your loved ones.





Thursday, 30 April 1998

Your Eminence,

Dear Superiors and Students of the Archdiocesan Seminary of Florence,

1. I was very pleased to grant your request to meet the Pope. I know that it corresponds to a deep desire, expressed by your Archbishop, my venerable and dear Brother, Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli, whom I cordially greet and thank. While I was listening to him, I remembered your house of formation, which the Lord gave me the joy of visiting in October 1986 on the occasion of my apostolic pilgrimage to the Archdiocese and city of Florence.

Your coming here today in a sense repays my visit, in order to testify that the seminary is alive and functioning. Dear superiors and students, whom I affectionately welcome, I am indeed aware that your community draws its members from different Dioceses. It consists of seminarians from Florence, San Miniato, Volterra, Massa Marittima, Piombino, without forgetting the young men from Poland and from Kerala, India. You are therefore a community that, in a sense, can rightly call itself international.

No particular circumstance has brought you here today. Nevertheless, what moment could have been more suitable than this, immediately before what is called "Good Shepherd Sunday"? Precisely on this Sunday, the fourth of Easter, the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated. The liturgical and ecclesial context offers our meeting a very significant background and invites us all to feel united, in a communion of prayer and purpose, with all the vocational communities throughout the world, especially with those where, at this particular time of year, priestly ordinations take place.

2. The whole Church is really a "vocational community": she exists because she was called and sent by the Lord to evangelize the people and to make the kingdom of God grow in their midst. The soul of this spiritual dynamism, through which every baptized person is invited to discover the gift of God and to employ it in building up the community, is the Holy Spirit. I stressed this remarkable fact in my Message for the 35th World Day of Prayer for Vocations.

The Spirit is like a wind filling the sails of the great ship of the Church. If, however, we look at her closely, she uses numerous other small sails that are the hearts of the baptized. Everyone, dear friends, is invited to hoist his sail and unfurl it with courage, to permit the Spirit to act with all his sanctifying power. By allowing the Spirit to act in one's own life, one also makes the best contribution to the Church's mission.

Do not be afraid, dear seminarians, to unfurl your sails to the breath of the Spirit! Let his power of truth and love enliven every aspect of your existence: your spiritual commitment, the inmost intentions of your conscience, the deepening of your theological study and your experiences of pastoral service, your sentiments and affections, your very corporality. Your whole being is called to respond to the Father through the Son in the Spirit, so that your whole person may become a sign and instrument of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

3. You, dear seminarians, are preparing to become, in the Church and for the Church, "a sacramental representation of Jesus Christ, the Head and Shepherd" (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 15), for authoritatively proclaiming his Word, repeating his acts of forgiveness and salvation, particularly in Baptism, Penance and the Eucharist, and showing his loving concern to the point of a total gift of self for the flock (cf. ibid.). This expression "sacramental representation" is very strong and eloquent. It demands to be meditated on in depth and, above all, to be interiorized in the silence of prayer.

Who in fact could consider himself worthy of such a dignity? The words of the Letter to the Hebrews come to mind: "One does not take the honour upon himself, but he is called by God" (5:4). We must receive this undeserved gift with the humble and courageous willingness of Mary, who says to the angel: "How can this be?", and after having listened to the enlightening response, offers herself without reserve: "Behold, ... let it be to me according to your word" (cf. Lk Lc 1,34-38).

Dear friends, the seminary is the providential period offered to those called to renew, day after day, this "yes" to the Father through the Son in the Spirit. On the basis of this "yes", the priestly ministry can become, in the concrete forms of its historical development, an "Amen" to God and to the Church, configured to the saving "Amen" of the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep (cf. 2Co 1,20). For this I pray for you and with you.

For this I invoke the loving intercession of the Queen of Apostles, as I cordially impart to each of you a special Apostolic Blessing.





Thursday, 30 April 1998

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to meet you and delighted to grant the request for this meeting which you had expressed some time ago. In a highly qualified way, you represent the profession of labour consultants, as it is found at the institutional level in Italy, Spain and Poland, that is, in the three National Councils of your respective organizations.

I thank Mrs Gabriella Perini for the kind words she addressed to me on your behalf.

First of all, I would like to express my satisfaction with the relationship you have been able to establish between your respective national organizations through links that are based primarily on common interests and professional problems, but which are also strengthened and confirmed by the concept of man and society inspired by the Christian message and the social doctrine of the Church.

It is a fitting occasion, then, for recalling some general elements of this concept, in the conviction that this will prove useful for your specific objectives.

2. From the point of view of social ethics, the main interest of your profession is the fact that it deals with work itself, or better with work relations, to protect their correctness and security in their various stages, to safeguard the dignity of the person and of the family, and to respect the legitimate concerns of business.

Speeches 1998 - Tuesday, 7 April 1998