Speeches 1997 - Friday, 7 November 1997




Saturday, 8 November 1997

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to each one of you attending the 12th International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers on the theme: "The Church and Health in the World: Expectations and Hopes on the Threshold of the Year 2000". I wish to express particular gratitude to Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán for his many efforts in organizing this Symposium and for the courteous words he addressed to me on behalf of all those present. With him I greet and thank all his co-workers.

During these concentrated days of study and discussion, the various papers emphasized how complex health problems are, calling for joint, co-ordinated action for effectively involving not only health-care workers, called to offer increasingly "skilled" therapy and assistance, but also those engaged in the field of education, in the world of work, in protecting the environment and in the economic and political spheres. "To safeguard, recover and better the state of health means serving life in its totality", states the Charter For Health-Care Workers, drawn up by your Pontifical Council. In this perspective the lofty dignity of medical and health-care work takes the form of a collaboration with that God who in Scripture is presented as a "lover of life" (Sg 11,26). The Church commends you and encourages you in the work you undertake with generous readiness in the service of vulnerable, weak and sick life, at times leaving your homeland and even risking your lives in fulfilling your duty.

2. There are many signs of hope present in the last part of this century. One need only recall the "scientific, technological and especially medical progress in the service of human life, a greater awareness of our responsibility for the environment, efforts to restore peace and justice wherever they have been violated, a desire for reconciliation and solidarity among different peoples..." (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46).

The Church rejoices over these important achievements, which have increased hopes for life in the world. However, she cannot be silent about the 800 million people reduced to surviving in conditions of poverty, malnutrition, starvation and precarious health. Too many people, especially in poor countries, still contract illnesses that can be prevented and cured. With regard to these serious situations, world organizations are making a considerable effort to promote health-care development based on equity. They are convinced that "the struggle against inequality is both an ethical imperative and a practical necessity, and on this will depend the achivement of a health system for everyone in the whole world" (World Health Organization, Projet de document de consultation pour l’actualisation de la strategie mondiale de la santé pour tous, 1996, p. 8). While I express my sincere appreciation of this worthy action on behalf of our poorer brothers and sisters, I wish to address an urgent invitation to be vigilant so that human, economic and technological resources will always be fairly distributed in the various parts of the world.

I likewise urge the responsible international bodies to commit themselves to drawing up effective legal guarantees to ensure that the health of those who do not have a voice will also be promoted in its entirety and that the world of health care will be imbued with the logic of solidarity and charity rather than with the dynamics of profit. In preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the year of the Lord's favour, the Church repeats that riches must be considered a common good for all humanity (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 13), to be used in a way that fosters, without any discrimination of persons, a healthy and dignified life.

3. Health is a precious good that even today is compromised by the sin of many and is at risk from behaviour lacking proper moral standards. The Christian knows that death entered the world with sin (cf. Rom Rm 5,12) and that vulnerability has marked human history from its very beginnings. However, sickness and pain, which accompany the journey of life, often become occasions for fraternal solidarity and of heartfelt supplication to God that he show his consoling and loving presence. "In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ" (Salvifici doloris, n. 19). Pain lived in faith leads the sick person to discover, like Job, the true face of God: "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you" (Jb 42,5). That is not all: through his patient witness, the sick person can help even those who are caring for him to see themselves as images of Jesus who went about doing good and healing.

In this regard I would like to emphasize, as the Charter for the Health-Care Workers recalls, that medical health-care service is both a "therapeutic ministry" (n. 5) and "service to life". Consider yourselves collaborators with God, who, in Jesus, is shown as the "physician of souls and bodies", so that you may really proclaim the Gospel of life.

4. Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, is the ultimate Word of salvation. The love of the Father, which he gave to us, heals the deepest wounds of the human heart and calms its anxieties. For believers involved in health care Jesus' example is the motivation and model for daily commitment in the service of those who are wounded in body and spirit, to help them regain their health and be healed, in expectation of their final salvation.

Looking at the mystery of the Trinity, the health-care worker, by making decisions that respect the ontological status of the person created in the image of God, his dignity and the rules inscribed in creation, continues to tell the story of God's love for humanity. Likewise the believing scholar, by obeying the divine plan in his research, gradually brings out all the potentiality with which God has enriched creation. Study, research and technology applied to life and health must, in fact, be factors of growth for all humanity, in solidarity with and respect for the dignity of every human person, especially the weak and defenceless (cf. Evangelium vitae EV 81). In no way can they become an expression of the creature's desire to replace the Creator.

5. The care of physical health must not disregard the constitutive and life-giving relationship with the interior life. It is necessary therefore to cultivate a contemplative outlook that "does not give in to discouragement when confronted by those who are sick, suffering, outcast or at death’s door. Instead, in all these situations it feels challenged to find meaning, and precisely in these circumstances it is open to perceiving in the face of every person a call to encounter, dialogue and solidarity" (Evangelium vitae EV 83). In the Church's history contemplation of God's presence in weak and sick human beings has always inspired persons and works that, with enterprising inventiveness, have expressed the infinite resources of love, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta has witnessed to in our time. She became a good Samaritan to every suffering and despised person, and as I noted on the occasion of her departure from this world, "she leaves us the witness of contemplation which becomes love, of love which becomes contemplation" (Angelus, 7 September 1997, n. 2; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 September 1997, p. 1).

6. The Virgin Mary, Mother of Health and Icon of Salvation, who in faith opened herself to the fullness of Love, is the highest example of the contemplation and acceptance of Life. The Church, which "by preaching and Baptism ... brings forth children, who are conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of God", looks to her as her model and mother (Lumen gentium LG 63-64). To her, Salus infirmorum, the sick turn to receive assistance as they flock to her shrines.

May Mary, the welcoming womb of Life, make you ready to understand in the requests of so many sick and suffering people the need for solidarity and the "plea for help to keep on hoping when all human hopes fail" (Evangelium vitae EV 67). May she be near you to make every treatment a "sign" of the kingdom.

With these wishes, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your coworkers and to the sick for whom you lovingly care.




Saturday, 8 November 1997

Mr President,

Mr Director General,
Distinguished Delegates and Observers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the first place I wish to thank you, Mr President, for allowing me to speak to this worthy assembly, which brings together representatives of all the world’s countries and is therefore a sign of the real universal character of FAO and of practical adherence to the ideals which from the beginning have sustained it.

To you, Mr Director General, go my heartfelt thanks for the welcome given me, but above all for having permitted this meeting at the moment of the solemn opening of the 29th Conference of FAO.

The words you have just spoken to illustrate to the conference the lines of action of the Organization for the next two years are a guarantee of continuity in its meritorious work and a powerful call to the tasks and responsibilities of each member.

1. My presence here is part of the consistent tradition which, since 1951, the year of FAO’s arrival in Rome, has seen a meeting with the Successor of Peter during each conference.

Circumstances this year do not permit the Pope to repeat that personal meeting in order to support your efforts through his word and encouragement. His Holiness has therefore charged me with bringing you his greetings and expressing his esteem.

In His Holiness' name I would therefore offer some points of reflection, in the light of the Church’s teachings.

2. There can be no doubt that through the creation of FAO the international community is giving expression to the duty to act in order to achieve the important goal of freeing human beings from malnutrition and the threat of suffering from hunger.

At the same time the action undertaken by the Organization, including recently, has marked a significant evolution, and not only conceptual, in the whole culture of international relations. This culture has been too often neglected, leaving room for a pragmatism which lacks a solid ethical and moral foundation.

In the conclusions of the World Food Conference, in fact, it was emphasized that hunger and malnutrition are not phenomena that are natural or even an endemic evil in certain parts of the world. The truth is that they are the result of a more complex situation of underdevelopment, poverty, degradation. Hunger is an aspect of a certain structural condition — economic, social and cultural — strongly opposed to the full realization of human dignity.

As a matter of fact, this is the perspective which is summarized in the Preamble of FAO’s Constitution, which proclaims each country’s commitment to raise its own nutritional level, to better the conditions of agricultural work and of rural populations, so as to increase food production and set in motion an efficacious distribution of food in every part of the globe.

3. The right to nutrition rightly figures among the first and fundamental rights of the person, not only as an integral part of the right to life of each individual, but, I would dare to say, as an essential condition of that right to life.

How can we forget this fact at the moment when the international community is preparing to give due attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 50 years after its proclamation? Likewise, the commitments subscribed to at the conclusion of the recent Food Summit have appropriately identified the community dimension of that fundamental right in the right to food security on the part of peoples, groups and States.

Hence FAO’s objective remains a primary one and has become all the more necessary to attain in our day. It is tangibly clear that underdevelopment, poverty and hunger, which undermine the normal co-existence of peoples and nations, can become causes of tension and hence threaten international peace and security.

We see sad situations in which people are dying of hunger because peace has been forgotten and security is not guaranteed, or in which people fight one another in order to satisfy their hunger to the point of forgetting their own humanity.

The daily bread of every person on earth, that Fiat panis which FAO chose as its motto, is an instrument of peace and a guarantee of security. This is the objective to be attained, and the task of working out the paths to be taken has been entrusted to the work of this conference.

4. I believe it necessary to direct attention to a significant element which emerges from the documentation prepared for your discussion: the world situation must be changed if we wish to guarantee a balanced agricultural activity and hence an effective struggle against hunger. The present socio-economic situation makes us all aware of how much the hunger and malnutrition of millions of human beings is the result of unjust mechanisms of economic organization, of unequal criteria regarding the distribution of resources, of policies exclusively designed to safeguard specific interests, or of various forms of protectionism involving particular areas.

This reality, when analyzed in terms of moral categories, can be related to certain views, such as utilitarianism and, even more radically, selfishness, and consequently to the negation in practice of the principle of solidarity.

Solidarity is in fact a choice of life, made in the full freedom of those who give and of those who receive. This freedom however must be authentic, and therefore capable of spontaneous exercise because it is able to grasp needs, express necessities and point out practical ways of becoming involved.

To bring about solidarity in international relations in a concrete way requires the overcoming of the narrow limits dictated by an uneven affirmation of the principle of reciprocity, an affirmation which seeks at all costs to consider on the same level countries which are in fact unequal because of their different levels of human, social and economic development.

5. It is necessary to understand the causes of such a complex situation, in order to modify the attitude of each one of us, especially our interior attitude. If we desire the world to be free of hunger and malnutrition, we must ask ourselves about our deepest convictions, about what inspires our action, about how our talent is used for the benefit of the present and future of the human family.

There are many paradoxes underlying the causes of hunger, starting with that of "abundance" (cf. John Paul II, Address to the International Conference on Nutrition, 5 December 1992). I believe I am expressing the feelings also of those who acquaint themselves with your documentation, particularly with the finding, which continues to amaze us, that at present the planet with its resources is capable of feeding all the earth’s inhabitants.Despite oscillating levels of production and the consequent parameters of food security in certain regions, at the global level enough food is produced. Why then, in the context of such potential availability, are there so many who suffer hunger?

The causes which you well know, although diversified, are rooted in a culture lacking ethical motivation and a moral foundation. This culture is then reflected in the way international relations are pursued and in the values which guide them.

In his recent Message for World Food Day, on 16 October last, Pope John Paul II highlighted the priority of establishing relations among peoples on the basis of a continuous "exchange of gifts". Underlying this approach is the view that the human person is the foundation and end of all activity, that giving is supreme over having, involving a readiness to help and to practise policies of assistance, and a closeness to the situation of every "neighbour": persons, communities, nations. These are the different elements which alone can inspire a true and effective "culture of giving" which will make every country ready to share the needs of others (cf. John Paul II, Address on the 50th Anniversary of FAO, 23 October 1995).

6. For an effective campaign against hunger, then, it is not enough to aim at a correct evaluation of market forces or to attain higher and more functional levels of production. Certainly, an adequate place needs to be given to agricultural work through an ever better use of the human resources which play a fundamental role in this activity, but it is necessary to recover the true value of the human person and the person’s central role as the foundation and primary objective of every action undertaken.

A concrete example in this regard is to be found in the agenda of this conference, with its attention to the environmental question, understood as the safeguarding of the "human environment". FAO is thereby committed to containing the damage done to the agricultural ecosystem, preserving it from phenomena such as desertification and erosion, and from careless human activity. This also involves a more rational and reduced use of strongly toxic substances through specific "Codes of Conduct"; these latter appear to be an effective instrument received in the policies of the member States.

Tomorrow’s challenge in this sensitive sphere lies above all in the commitments assumed on the international level for the defence of the natural environment. These bring out FAO’s central role in the implementation of the many programmes of Rio de Janeiro’s "Action 21" and in the preservation of the different biological species.

This last area requires further efforts in order to assume a needed ethical and conceptual approach which would see as a question of international justice the universal availability of the natural genetic pool.

Access to biological resources is a property of the whole of humanity, inasmuch as those resources form part of the latter’s common patrimony, as FAO emphasized in 1982 when it adopted the specific "International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources".

Bringing about effective justice in relations between peoples involves an awareness of the universal destination of goods and an awareness that the criterion towards which economic and international life must be guided remains the sharing of those same goods.

7. The Catholic Church is close to you in your efforts. This is also testified by the attention and involvement with which the Holy See, for its part, has been following the activity of FAO since 1947 — 50 years now — when FAO was the first of the intergovernmental organizations of the United Nations System with which the Holy See established formal relations.

In the pursuit of her specific mission of bringing the Good News to all peoples, the Church does not fail to recall Christ’s injunction that we should ask our heavenly Father for our "daily bread". Consequently she is close to the situation of the least ones, the forgotten ones; so too she is familiar with the lives of those who till the land with toil and trepidation, and she is ready to support the initiatives of those who work to ensure that all people receive their daily bread. For they are co-operating in a work which, in the Christian message and understanding, is the first of the works of mercy. Indeed, the measure of human activity remains a ready response to the words "I was hungry" (Mt 25,42).

This is the impulse which seems to accompany all FAO’s activity, marked by a properly realistic and at the same time a serenely optimistic outreach. As your presence and your commitment testify, FAO does not appear to be discouraged in the face of the numerous obstacles along its path, nor does it halt before objective difficulties, but prefers instead to confront them directly.

The Church, in fidelity to her message, cannot fail to praise this positive spirit marked by disinterested service and well-founded audacity, a spirit buoyed up by confidence in the possibility that one of the great problems of the human family is capable of being resolved.

May almighty God, who is rich in mercy, bestow his gracious blessing on you and your labours. This is the message which I have been charged to bring to you from His Holiness Pope John Paul II





Monday, 10 November 1997

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

1. The hymn of joy and thanksgiving to God for the solemn liturgy of yesterday’s beatification is renewed in our meeting today, when we wish to pause again to meditate on the example and teachings of the three new blesseds. I sincerely greet all of you who honour them by your presence. I extend my greeting to your families, your communities and to the countries from which you come. Convey my cordial greeting to them all. For us these new blesseds are bright beacons of hope which, in the communion of saints, illumine our daily journey on earth.

2. "The Cross strengthens the weak and makes gentle the strong". The motto chosen by the Hungarian Bishop and martyr Vilmos Apor is a wonderful synthesis of his spiritual journey and his pastoral ministry. Strengthened with the truth of the Gospel and with the love of Christ, he courageously raised his voice always to defend the weakest from violence and abuse.

During the difficult years of the Second World War he untiringly devoted himself to relieving the poverty and suffering of his people. His active love for the flock entrusted to him led him to make even the Bishop’s palace available to the war evacuees, while he protected those most exposed to danger even at the risk of his own life.

His martyrdom, which took place on Good Friday of 1945, was the worthy crowning of a life totally marked by his intimate sharing in the Cross of Christ. May his Gospel witness be for you, dear brothers and sisters of Hungary, a constant encouragement to an increasingly greater dedication in serving Christ and your fellow men.

3. Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini shines today as an example of a pastor with a sensitive and open heart. Through his wonderful work for the People of God, Bishop Scalabrini tried to lessen the material and spiritual wounds of his many brothers and sisters forced to live far from their homeland. He supported them in defending the human person's fundamental rights and he wished to help them to live the obligations of their Christian faith. As an authentic "Father of migrants" he worked to sensitize communities to offering a respectful, open and supportive welcome. He was convinced that, through their presence, migrants are a visible sign of the universality of the family of God and they can help create the indispensable bases for that authentic meeting of peoples which is the fruit of the Spirit of Pentecost.

I sincerely hope that his example may be a constant encouragement for all of you, dear pilgrims, who came here to pay homage to him. I cordially greet you. I especially greet you, pilgrims of the Diocese of Piacenza-Bobbio, who are present with your Bishop, Luciano Monari, and with Cardinals Ersilio Tonini and Luigi Poggi, natives of your land. May the apostolic service that the new blessed gave for many years in your Diocese continue to inspire your present commitment to the Christian life, so that the Gospel may always enlighten the steps of all believers.

A special word for the Missionaries of St Charles, the religious and lay people belonging to the spiritual family founded by the new blessed. By their presence in the Church and their apostolate among migrants, they continue the work of their Father and Teacher for the good of their many brothers and sisters who are migrants and refugees in various parts of the world.

4. I now cordially greet the large group of faithful from the Diocese of Como, who together with their Bishop, Alessandro Maggiolini, rejoice today for the beatification of a native of their region, Bishop Scalabrini. Dear people, your presence reminds me of the Pastoral Visit I had the joy of making to your diocesan community last year. During the days I spent in the Como area I was able to observe that in the city of Como, in the lake district and in Valtellina there is still a solid tradition of religious values and holiness. I am thinking especially of the first martyrs, Carpophorus and his companions, the first Bishops, Felix and Abundius, Pope Innocent XI, Bl. Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari, Bl. Luigi Guanella, and Chiara Bosatta, without forgetting, lastly, Ven. Nicholas Rusca. This host of generous witnesses to Christ is joined today by this new blessed, who was rector of Como's St Abundius Seminary and parish priest of St Bartholomew's.

May this rich Christian tradition continue and be enriched with more and more faithful servants of Christ. To this end, allow yourselves to be formed by the Holy Spirit, to whom the Church devotes special attention during 1998, the second year of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Your parish and local communities can thus carry out the task of evangelization with consistent apostolic fervour. May you be assisted by the patron saints of your Diocese and especially by Our Lady, whom you particularly venerate in the cathedral and in the shrines of Our Lady of Help, of Gallivaggio and of Tirano.

5. I am pleased to welcome the Mexican pilgrims who, accompanied by their Bishops, have come to Rome from Guadalajara, cradle of the work of the new blessed, María Vicenta of St Dorothy Chávez Orozco, and from other Dioceses of this beloved country, to share the rich spiritual patrimony of this brave woman, born in the land of Mexico and called to give glory to the universal Church. "Caritas Christi urget nos" (2Co 5,14): the love of Christ impels us. This was Mother Vicentita's motto and distinctive mark. Her great love for Christ crucified drove her to give the best of herself to the suffering, living an authentic preferential option for the sick, the elderly and the poor. Demanding with herself and extremely gentle with others, she was able to incarnate the maternal and evangelizing face of the Church in hospital wards, teaching the sick that in suffering there is hidden a special power that brings man closer to Christ and becomes a source of peace and spiritual joy (cf. Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, n. 26).

Dear brothers and sisters, the extraordinary witness of this soul completely consecrated to the Triune God is an invitation to everyone, and especially to the Servants of the Holy Trinity and of the Poor, to live their Christian vocation with self-sacrifice and simplicity, thus making the spirit of the beatitudes present in the world.

May this new blessed intercede for the work of the forthcoming Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops! May her holy example enliven the great challenge of the new evangelization, to which the whole Church is invited on the threshold of the third Christian millennium.

6. Dear brothers and sisters, when you return to your native communities, take with you the memory of these special days spent in Rome. By following in the footsteps of the new blesseds, may each of you have an intense desire to respond ever more generously to the Lord's grace and to the universal call to holiness. To this end I invoke the heavenly protection of Our Lady and of Bl. Vilmos Apor, John Baptist Scalabrini and María Vicenta of St Dorothy Chávez Orozco, and I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families, to your communities and to all those who are dear to you.




Thursday, 13 November 1997

Your Eminence,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. I welcome you with joy at the end of the ecumenical conference that you have held over the last few days at the "Mariapolis Centre" in Castel Gandolfo. To everyone I extend my affectionate greeting and my cordial gratitude for this visit.

I especially thank Cardinal Miloslav Vlk for the courteous words he addressed to me on behalf of you all and for the interesting description he gave me of your work and of the evangelical and ecumenical spirit that animates it. I am pleased to greet the Bishops and those responsible for the Churches and other Christian Communions who have come from various parts of the world, as I address a cordial thought to Chiara Lubich and the other representatives of the Focolare Movement.

2. This year, as the Cardinal Archbishop of Prague wished to emphasize, you focused your meeting on an in-depth study of the spirituality of the Focolare Movement as an ecumenical spirituality for fully living the ecclesiology of communion which is an essential condition for an increasingly convinced and harmonious journey towards complete unity. In this regard, you certainly received particular help from the remarkable testimonies about recent developments in your Movement in the area of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

These annual meetings, which give the Bishops and those responsible for the various Churches and Christian Communions, all friends of the Focolare Movement, the chance to spend some

days together in useful common work, even with their informal and private character, certainly help to deepen your knowledge of the ideals and Gospel spirituality that are the basis of Christians' journey to the full unity desired by Christ.

Common prayer and celebrations of the Word, exchanging testimonies about living the Gospel and fraternal sharing are not only an undeniable mutual enrichment, but they help increase and spread an intense spiritual union in love and truth, which nourishes the hope of completely overcoming, with the help of God's grace, the barriers that unfortunately still divide Christians.

3. As Cardinal Miloslav Vlk fittingly recalled a few moments ago, your meeting intends to make a significant contribution to the great ecumenical cause in the historical and ecclesial period in which we are living on the threshold of the third Christian millennium. During the Extraordinary Consistory that I convoked in 1994 to prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I wished to emphasize the desire for unity that is being felt with increasing intensity by all Christ’s disciples. I subsequently confirmed this point in the Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen: "We cannot come before Christ, the Lord of history, as divided as we have unfortunately been in the course of the second millennium. These divisions must give way to rapprochement and harmony; the wounds on the path of Christian unity must be healed" (n. 4).

In the past few days, your concern was to help infuse new courage and hope in the ecumenical journey, so that Christ's desire at the Last Supper will be fulfilled: that they may all be one so that the world may believe (cf. Jn Jn 17,21).

With this hope, made even more intense as the historic date of the Jubilee approaches, I again extend my cordial greeting to each of you, dear brothers and sisters, as I invoke on you all an abundance of divine blessings and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Speeches 1997 - Friday, 7 November 1997