Speeches 1998 - Monday 2 February 1998




Thursday, 5 February 1998

1. I am pleased to extend my cordial welcome to you, dear Brigittine Sisters, who have gathered in Rome these days for your Eighth General Elective Chapter. I extend a particular greeting to Mother Tekla, elected Abbess General once again, and I thank her for the affectionate words she has addressed to me on behalf of you all. In congratulating her on the new mandate conferred on her by her fellow sisters, I hope that under her guidance the order will continue its generous service to Christ and the Church. My cordial thoughts go also to Mons. Mario Russotto, chaplain to the Brigittine Oblates; with him I greet the dear priests and lay people, Brigittine Oblates, who wished to join the sisters on this special occasion.

2. "Watch at all times, praying" (Lc 21,36). In responding to Jesus' invitation, your order, founded by St Birgitta of Sweden, seeks first of all to live the charism of praising the Lord, witnessing to the absolute primacy of God and to his tender love for humanity. The experience of God, matured in contemplation, also leads you to live your sanctification in reparative communion with the Divine Saviour, who in his priestly prayer consecrated himself to the Father for his brethren (cf. Jn Jn 17,19). In your order this charism is enriched by the ecumenical dimension, borrowed from the noble heart of Birgitta, who sacrificed herself and strove with all her might so that the Pope's return from Avignon to Rome might serve as the necessary premise for restoring peace among all Christians.

In refounding the order, Mother Mary Elizabeth wished to revive the reparative dimension of ancient monastic inspiration, adapting it to the contemporary situation. In this way, she gave the institute a clear orientation towards prayer and reparation with an ecumenical emphasis, in union with Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper: "That they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,21).

3. In addition to ecumenical fervour, there is another aspect of your charism which is very clear: your missionary commitment. Following the example of St Birgitta, you live the primacy of giving praise to God as a continuous act of love for humanity, which has been wounded by sin and division. In fully and willingly accepting the invitation of the Spirit, through the enlightened witness of St Birgitta and Mother Elizabeth on the threshold of a new millennium, your General Chapter is called to give the order new zeal and renewed enthusiasm, in order to serve on the front lines of evangelization and charity in the modern world.

This project is the goal of the centres for spirituality and ecumenical activity which, on the example of those in Farfa and Lugano, you plan to establish over the next six years in Gdañsk and Tallinn. I urge you courageously to pursue this worthy apostolate, to show the men and women of our time the exciting possibilities offered by a life of total dedication to God and to one's brothers and sisters. May your houses be a school of prayer, especially for young people, through lectio divina and Eucharistic adoration, which in many of your communities continues all day with the constant participation of the lay faithful. I also invite you to strengthen your presence in the Scandinavian countries, where your Gospel witness of poverty and hospitality is already appreciated and bearing fruit.

4. May St Birgitta renew your special concern for her country and your ardent desire to proclaim the Gospel to the children of those beloved nations. May your charity, which has already borne promising fruits in India and Mexico, be generously extended to other situations in the developing countries and, without surrendering to the inevitable difficulties, also make present there, by your words and deeds, the light of the Gospel, an inexhaustible source of civilization and human development.

Wherever your communities are found, may they encourage those who approach them to live the unity of the Church, which, "called to the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, ... is, on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom" (Lumen gentium LG 5).

This is the commitment to be stressed in your ecumenical initiatives, and especially in the activities you are planning with a committee of Catholics and Lutherans for the approaching Jubilee of the Year 2000. May your prayers and your constant ecumenical concern further the journey towards the full unity of all Christians.

With these wishes, as I entrust each of you to the heavenly protection of the Mother of God and St Birgitta, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.






Saturday, 7 February 1998

Mr Ambassador,

Your presence here today crowns the establishment of diplomatic relations between this Apostolic See and your country on 8 July 1997. I am therefore very pleased to receive the Letters of Credence appointing you the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Angola to the Holy See. I am grateful for the kind words and gracious sentiments you have expressed and, in particular, for the respectful greetings and good wishes you bring me from H.E. Mr José Eduardo dos Santos, President of the Republic, who wished to mark the day and the act of the establishment of our diplomatic relations by his welcome visit here to the Vatican. I ask Your Excellency to express my cordial greetings to the President, together with the assurance of my prayers for the reconciliation and prosperity of his people.

By establishing their representative's residence in Rome, the Angolan authorities show the importance they attach to strengthening those bonds with the Successor of Peter that faith and history have forged in the soul of generation after generation of people living in the territories which today constitute Angola. Having embraced the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the complete answer to their longing for salvation, they sometimes feel cheated in their expectations due to poverty and human limitations or to the events and misfortunes of history. Now, when they wish to show their joyful gratitude for the faith they received, or in the past, when they had to find a remedy for pastoral needs or for the abuses of which they were victims, they thought of Rome, as you said, Mr Ambassador, which in this regard can interpret your presence here as the realization of a five-centuries-old dream. Thus in giving you my cordial welcome at this presentation, I would like to assure you of my esteem for the fulfilment of the lofty mission which your Government has entrusted to you, and, through Your Excellency, to express once again the deep affection I feel for all Angola's children.

During my Pastoral Visit to Angola in June 1992, I could personally experience the loyalty and warm friendship of Angolans for the Successor of Peter and admire the deep religious feeling in people's hearts which led to a clamour for peace and justice. My happy memories of those days became a prayer during the tragic events that in the last months of 1992 disrupted the social and political life of the country, which was once again caught up in a spiral of violence that was to last until November 1994, when Angola, through the Lusaka agreements and the consequent formation of the National Government of Unity and Reconciliation, returned to political pluralism and the democratization of social life.

This path is difficult and full of obstacles, but the culture of violence must give way to the culture of peace. Only a sincere desire to achieve real reconciliation will permit resistance to be overcome and ensure that the common good is given priority over particular interests. God blesses the courageous efforts of clear-sighted leaders in their search for what is best for the nation. In this regard, together with my voice others are being raised on all sides demanding that the desired meeting between Mr José Eduardo dos Santos and Mr Jonas Malheiro Savimbi take place as soon as possible. As everyone hopes, this meeting will provide a climate of mutual trust and esteem, which will greatly contribute to the process of national and regional normalization.

Angolans cannot allow the war to continue to mortgage their future in the form of fear, suspicion and division. In my Message for the World Day of Peace 1997, I said: "One cannot remain a prisoner of the past, for individuals and peoples need a sort of 'healing of memories', so that past evils will not come back again. This does not mean forgetting past events; it means re-examining them with a new attitude and learning precisely from the experience of suffering that only love can build up, whereas hatred produces devastation and ruin" (n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18/25 December 1996, p. 3). In speaking of a new attitude, I was thinking concretely of the offer of forgiveness. Forgiveness and reconciliation are the way to strengthen the bonds of solidarity between individuals and peoples. This solidarity will produce the true and lasting peace that everyone wants.

Another attitude is dialogue as an option for personal and community growth. Everyone must encourage dialogue, both in public life and in the various areas of social life; this will enable each individual and group to be recognized in their diversity and, at the same time, to feel that they are called to serve their homeland. The existence of different groups within the country is both a challenge and an opportunity, especially for political leaders and legislators. Civil authorities must be aware of the legitimate demands of various groups and respond to them appropriately.

May I assure you, Mr Ambassador, that the Church and the Holy See wish to co-operate with the Angolan nation and its leaders, just as the Government and the nation wish to collaborate with the Church. The nature of this co-operation was clearly defined by the Second Vatican Council in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes on the Church in the modern world: "The political community and the Church ... both are devoted to the personal vocation of man, though under different titles. This service will redound the more effectively to the welfare of all in so far as both institutions practise better co-operation according to the local and prevailing situation" (n. 76). Man, in his transcendent existential dimension, is a meeting point for the Church and the political community.

Conscious of her mission on man's behalf, the Church does not seek to interfere in the concrete direction of the nation's sociopolitical life, but wishes, within the scope of her mandate, to indicate the motives she receives from the Gospel and the faith, motives that help unite hearts and minds in building a society which is sound, strong and tolerant, and can resolve conflicts by means of dialogue, an Angolan society open to man and, in international relations, open to Africa and the world. The Church will support every effort and initiative whose objective is the common good of all.

Mr Ambassador, your presence here confirms that the Republic of Angola is really beginning a new era. I am convinced that as a result of the mission Your Excellency is beginning today, the bonds of friendship and co-operation between your nation and the Holy See will be increased and strengthened. I assure you that the various agencies and dicasteries of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. As I again offer you my best wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of the Most High on Your Excellency, on your distinguished family and your co-workers in the Embassy, on the Government and the beloved people of Angola.


Saturday, 7 February 1998

1. "And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house" (Ac 16,32).

Dear families of Rome, this verse from the Acts of the Apostles frames our meeting of faith and prayer which ends the diocesan week dedicated to life and the family as part of the City Mission.

I greet the Cardinal Vicar, Camillo Ruini, whom I thank for his kind words. With him, I greet Bishop Francisco Gil Hellín, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Honourable Carlo Casini, national president of the Pro-Life Movement, Mons. Luigi Moretti, diocesan director of the Pastoral Centre for the Family, and Mons. Renzo Bonetti, national director of the Italian Episcopal Conference's Office for Family Ministry.

At this time I am thinking of all the families in the Diocese, especially those who feel particularly troubled: may the constant attention of the Pope and of all the local Church be an encouragement to them. I would like to repeat to everyone the words spoken by St Paul and his fellow prisoner, Silas, after their miraculous release, to the astounded jailer who asked them what he should do to be saved. The Apostle replied: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" (Ac 16,31). Welcome Christ's presence into your family: this is the invitation that rings out this evening.

Dear families of Rome, do not be afraid to open the doors of your home to Jesus Christ. His divine plan enriches families, frees them from all slavery and leads them to the total fulfilment of their own vocation.

2. At the many meetings I have been able to have with young people in Italy and throughout the world, I see evidence of a growing desire to build families in which the genuine values of love, respect for life, openness to others and solidarity can be lived. How can we fail to notice in these aspirations an implicit opposition to the permissive behaviour contemporary society is seeking to endorse?

Dear Christian families, look at the need for love, self-giving and openness to life that exists in the hearts of your children, who are confused by examples of failed unions. Children learn how to love their future husband or wife by seeing their parents' example. Do not be satisfied with living the Gospel of the family in private, but proclaim it and witness to it to everyone you meet on your way and in every area of public and social life.

In this bold yet connatural task of bearing witness you are not alone. The Holy Spirit is with you: he dwells within you by virtue of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage! He will sustain you in the fulfilment of your mission!

3. Our city of Rome, like all Italy, has great need of a new, systematic policy for the family, in order to face with the hope of success the very serious challenges that lie before us, the first of which is the fall in the birth rate.

It is an illusion to think that wellbeing can be created by a selfish mentality which in various ways denies space and acceptance to new generations. The attempt to equate other forms of cohabitation with the family based on marriage proves just as irrational. All this inevitably leads to a civilization's decline, both morally and spiritually, as well as socially and economically.

Therefore I ask you, the families of Rome and all the families of Italy, to join forces, also through the activity of the Family Forum, to promote the identity of the family as a social subject and thus to achieve those cultural and legislative changes which can do justice to families and ensure the true welfare of society. The Church is at your side in this task and will never desert you.

4. Dear families of Rome, as we contemplate the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth, let us pray the Rosary together. Let us entrust to the intercession of Mary and her husband, Joseph, all the families in our city and especially those who are living in difficult situations. Let us entrust to them the young people preparing for marriage through that moment of grace which is their engagement. Let us also entrust to them those responsible for promoting more just and constructive family policies. May the Lord bless all families and make them privileged places for meeting him, through the authentic proclamation of his love.

May Mary, Queen of the Family, protect you all with her maternal heart and, through her intercession, obtain for you from God an abundance of consolations.





Thursday, 12 February 1998

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests and Lay Faithful,

1. I am pleased to welcome you at the conclusion of the second meeting of the Central Committee with the delegates for the Jubilee, gathered here on behalf of their respective Episcopates. I first of all greet Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President of the Central Committee, the Cardinals on the Executive Council, Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, the new General Secretary, the members of the Central Committee and the delegates of the Episcopal Conferences. I extend a special welcome to the fraternal delegates of the non-Catholic Churches and Communities. To you all I express my appreciation for your active participation!

Your meeting is particularly important for the opportunity it offers to focus on pastoral plans for the Jubilee celebration, to outline the calendar for them and to prepare a concrete plan for welcoming pilgrims. I wish to congratulate you as you offer your valuable, enlightening contribution to making the celebrations of the jubilee year more meaningful and productive

2. The journey towards that historic deadline is advancing more quickly, because the moment for opening the Holy Door, which will begin a year of grace and reconciliation for the whole Church, is drawing closer.

Therefore, the effort being made for the outward organization is praiseworthy; but it must be accompanied by an interior preparation which prepares the heart to receive the Lord's gifts. First of all, we must rediscover a sense of God and acknowledge his lordship over creation and history. This will lead to a review to which each one must, with sincere conviction and love, submit his thoughts and choices, in his desire to seek the fullness of supernatural charity.

3. The commemoration of the millennium of Christ's birth brings us to the centre of the mystery of Redemption: "Apparuit gratia Dei et Salvatoris nostri, Iesu Christi" (Tt 2,13). It is God who calls all people, none excluded, to share in the fruits of the work of salvation, which is achieved and spread across the earth through the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit. The Great Jubilee invites us to live again this moment of grace, while being aware that the gift of salvation must be accompanied by conversion of heart, through which one is reconciled with the Father and returns to the communion of his love.

This conversion however would not be authentic if it did not also lead to reconciliation with one's brothers and sisters, who are children of the same Father. This is the social dimension of the restored friendship with God: it includes the members of one's own family; it extends to the workplace; it permeates the whole civil community. While welcoming us with his pardon, the Lord entrusts us with the mission of being the a leaven of peace and unity all around us.

4. The rediscovery of this wealth of grace, which is offered to us in Christ, and his welcoming us into his own life require a suitable journey of spiritual preparation: we are trying to carry it out in these years, and you are well aware of the programme for this which I suggested to the whole Church. I wished to invite every Christian first of all to revive his faith in the mystery of the Triune God and to deepen his knowledge of the mystery of Christ the Saviour.

Only in this way will the People of God on their earthly pilgrimage be able to rediscover and revive their enthusiasm for the faith; every Christian will be able to savour the experience of meeting Christ, Teacher and Shepherd, Priest and Guide of every conscience. This will prepare the faithful to receive the gift of a renewed Pentecost, in order to enter the third millennium enlivened by a more fervent desire to rediscover the ever timely truth that God the Father, through his Son made man, not only speaks to man, but seeks him and loves him.

5. The task entrusted to you is important. Your countries are already in expectation. Curiosity and hope are raised; there is especially a desire for authentic inner peace, enlightened by the truth of the Gospel. Thus everyone must hear the words of hope: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11,28).

You must therefore be the assiduous promoters of initiatives that will transmit the message of the Great Jubilee to the people of your countries, be they Christian or not. See that pastoral plans are known and carried out, plans that refer to the sacraments, to the Word of God, to liturgical life, to prayer, to the fundamental theme of ecumenical dialogue, to meetings with non-Christians. See that information circulates, communicate news, keep alive the dialogue with your communities, bearing in mind the expectations of every community. See that the transition to the third millennium is a moment of renewal and grace for all.

6. As everyone knows, the Jubilee of the Year 2000 differs from the other Jubilees because it will be celebrated simultaneously in Rome, the Holy Land and the individual local Churches.

The celebration of every Jubilee also implies the idea of 'pilgrimage', a very ancient religious expression and one that is found in almost all peoples and religions with a primarily penitential purpose. Pilgrimages reflect the final destiny of man. Christians know that the earth is not their final dwellingplace, because they are journeying towards a goal that is their true homeland. For this reason, the pilgrimage to Rome, the Holy Land and the sacred places chosen in the Dioceses emphasizes how all our life is a journey to God.

For a pilgrimage to bear fruit it must provide intense moments of prayer, significant acts of penance and conversion and works of fraternal charity that can be understood as living proof of the love of God. In this spirit, the Jubilee will be an occasion for increasing the expressions of charity in every particular Church, in every association, in every ecclesial group.

The concrete sign of love will show that authentic progress has been made in the longed-for renewal, heralding peace and universal brotherhood.

Yours is the task of intelligently giving life to appropriate initiatives for this purpose. The Church of Rome's task is welcoming you with open arms, with a great heart, with active and generous friendship. The See of Peter, which "presides over the communion of charity", wishes to be present and active in this contest of solidarity involving all the Churches throughout the world. Today we must bear witness with special sensitivity for justice and the promotion of social development. We are all convinced that it is necessary to seek and possible to find ways for overcoming tensions other than through the logic of conflict and that we can make plans for resolving the difficult economic situation with which many States struggle, freeing entire populations from conditions of slavery and inhuman misery.

7. The Jubilee is a providential ecclesial event. However, it is not an end in itself but a means - in the solemn celebration commemorating the Incarnation of the Son of God, our salvation - to spur Christians to conversion and interior renewal. Strengthened in faith they will be able to proclaim the Gospel message with renewed enthusiasm, showing that its acceptance is the way to build a world that is more human because it is more Christian.

I entrust your zealous service of preparation for this great ecclesial event to the Blessed Virgin, with the wish that it may bear abundant fruit for the benefit of the Church and the whole world.

I must tell you that the Jubilee is arousing great interest, not only among the Bishops of the whole world, but also among politicians. The date of 2000 creates an attitude of openness. We can say that it is the Christian memory of the peoples and of the world that is open and manifested. I would like to end this meeting by reciting the Angelus with you, because this is the prayer of the Incarnation.

With affection and gratitude I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.




Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to extend an affectionate and fraternal greeting to you on the occasion of the spiritual conference which has brought you here from various parts of the world to deepen the bond of ecclesial communion between yourselves and with the Successor of Peter, and to reflect, by sharing your respective pastoral experiences, on some specific aspects of the spirituality of the Focolare Movement of Unity.

Your annual meeting gives me the welcome opportunity to assure each of the participants of my spiritual closeness and my remembrance in prayer, so that Christ himself - who, as the Letter to the Hebrews stresses, is "the great shepherd of the sheep" (He 13,20) - may assist these days of intense work with his grace and accompany you in your daily episcopal ministry.

2. This conference is part of the journey of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. We are now well into the second year of immediate preparation for the Jubilee, in which the Church is called to reflect in particular on the Holy Spirit and his sanctifying presence within the community of Christ's disciples.

As I recalled in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, the same Spirit who inspires the various charisms and ministries in the Church sustains with his divine strength the close connection between her various members and enlivens the communion of the entire Body of Christ. "The unity of the Body of Christ is founded on the activity of the Spirit, guaranteed by the apostolic ministry and sustained by mutual love (cf. 1Co 13,1-8)" (n. 47). The in-depth reflections of your meeting, further enriched by a broad exchange of pastoral experiences, are a valuable opportunity for a more intense and vital understanding of the meaning of effective and affective collegiality and ecclesial communion as it is concretely lived in the apostolic service entrusted to you.

3. The theme chosen for this year's conference - "Towards the unity of nations and the unity of peoples" - follows the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which paid great attention to the universal mission of the Church, open to the vast horizons of the modern world, for which it is called to be "a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen gentium LG 1). The very diversity of the areas you come from and where you are called to serve the Gospel clearly emphasizes the "catholicity" of the Church, which, formed of people of various nationalities, constitutes the one People of God, redeemed by Christ and enlivened by the Spirit.

On the way towards the full Christian unity for which, guided by Providence, history is striving despite numerous tensions and difficulties, the successors of the Apostles are called to make their own particular contribution through the threefold office of teaching, governing and sanctifying the portion of Christ's flock entrusted to them.

4. Venerable and dear Brothers, may the Virgin Mary's motherly intercession guide and support you in your service of leadership. As is clearly illustrated by the icon of Mary in the Upper Room with Peter and the other Apostles gathered together as they await the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts Ac 1,12-14), the apostolic mission and the mission of the Mother of God are intimately linked and complementary. Indeed, the ideal of holiness at which the entire mission of the Church aims is already preformed and prefigured in Mary.

Therefore in addition to her "Petrine aspect", the Church also has an irreplaceable "Marian aspect": the former expresses the apostolic and pastoral mission entrusted to her by Christ, the latter, her holiness and total submission to the divine plan of salvation. "This link between the two aspects of the Church, the Marian and the Petrine, is profound and complementary" (Speech to the Roman Curia, 22 December 1987; Insegnamenti X/3 [1987], p. 1484).

I hope your Christian communities will faithfully reflect this twofold aspect of the Church, the "Marian" and the "Petrine", and I entrust the spiritual fruits of your convention to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles and Mother of Unity, as I affectionately impart my Blessing to each of you.

From the Vatican, 14 February, the feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius, patrons of Europe, in the year 1998, the 20th of the Pontificate.






Saturday, 14 February 1998

Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry,

1. It is now the third time in a brief period that I have the joy of meeting the Bishops of Poland. I extend my cordial greetings to Cardinal Józef Glemp, Metropolitan Archbishop of Warsaw and President of the Bishops' Conference of Poland, to the Metropolitan Archbishops of Bialystok, Lublin and Warmia and to the Metropolitan of Przemysl-Warsaw of the Byzantine Ukrainian rite. I also greet the residential Bishops of the Dioceses of Drohiczyn, Elblag, Elk, Lomza, Lowicz, Plock, Sandomierz, Siedlce and Warsaw-Praga, the Military Ordinary and the Bishop of Wroclaw-Gdañsk of the Byzantine Ukrainian rite. Lastly, I greet the Auxiliary Bishops of the above-mentioned Archdioceses and Dioceses. With you I remember in prayer Archbishop Bronislaw Dabrowski, who for many years was secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Poland and recently passed into eternity.

In a certain sense today's meeting during your visit ad limina Apostolorum is the continuation of that uninterrupted series of meetings with you on three other occasions and with pilgrims from all the Dioceses of Poland who come in large numbers to the Eternal City. These meetings should be seen in the perspective of time, that is, in the light of the 1,000-year tradition of our nation's close ties with the Apostolic See, ties which down the centuries have been of great importance to our country. They were established by the Baptism of Mieszko I and his court. Thanks to this event, Poland entered the cultural context of the Christian West and began to build her own future on the foundations of the Gospel. Since that time, we have become a full member of the European family of nations with all the ensuing consequences. Together with the other European nations, we are coauthors and coheirs of the rich history and culture of the continent.

In the context of the quinquennial visits ad limina Apostolorum of the Polish Bishops, yours takes place in the second year of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. This year is "dedicated in a particular way to the Holy Spirit and to his sanctifying presence within the community of Christ's disciples" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 44). The Polish Bishops have prepared a pastoral programme for this year, desirous that the Church in Poland should listen to "what the Spirit says to the Churches" (Ap 2,7) and have a vivid experience of the healing breath of the Holy Spirit who renews the face of the earth down the ages and before our eyes. The implementation of this programme and of all the Church's pastoral work in view of the Great Jubilee opens our consciences to the Holy Spirit, so that we may purify them from dead works to serve the living God (cf. Heb He 9,14).

2. "O most blessed Light divine, shine within these hearts" (cf. Sequence Veni, Sancte Spiritus). A true renewal of man and society always takes place through the renewal of consciences. The change of social, economic and political structures alone - although important - can nevertheless prove a wasted opportunity if people of conscience are not behind it. It is they, in fact, who ensure that social life as a whole is definitively constituted according to the rules of that law which man does not give himself but discovers "deep within his conscience he must obey" (Gaudium et spes GS 16). This voice is the inner law of freedom, which directs man towards the good and warns him to shun evil. In the long run, consenting to the violation of this law by an act of positive law often turns against one's freedom and dignity. The idolatrous cult of freedom (cf. Veritatis splendor VS 54), frequently proposed to contemporary man, is basically a great danger to this inner voice. Indeed, by leading to chaos and the warping of conscience, it deprives man of the most effective self-defence against various forms of slavery.

How much we all owe to people of correct conscience - known and unknown! Regained freedom cannot be developed or defended unless there are people of correct conscience in every segment of social, economic and political life who can stand up not only to various changeable external influences and pressures, but also to all that weakens or even destroys man's freedom from within. People of conscience are spiritually free and can discern, in the light of eternal values and norms so often verified, the new tasks which Providence sets before us at the present time. Every Christian must be a person of conscience who first wins the most important, and in a sense the most difficult, of victories - the victory over self. He must be so in everything that concerns his private and public life. To form a correct conscience in the faithful, beginning with children and young people, must be a constant concern for the Church. If today Poland calls on people of conscience, the Pastors of the People of God must define more precisely the areas in which the weakness of consciences is most evident - taking into consideration the specific nature of the causes - to be able to offer their help in patiently repairing the moral fabric of the whole nation.

3. Science and culture can and must be a natural ally in the moral rebirth of Polish society. Since people of science and scientific milieus, university teachers, literary people and those in the area of cultural creativity have an experience of the specific transcendence of truth, beauty and goodness, they become the natural stewards of the mystery of God, which discloses itself to them and to which they must be faithful. This requirement of fidelity ensures that every one of them, as a scholar or an artist, "independently of his personal convictions, is called ... to function as a a critical conscience regarding all that endangers humanity or diminishes it" (Address for the 600th anniversary of the Theology Faculty of the Jagiellonian University, 8 June 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 June 1997, p. 7). In this way "the service of thought", which can be expected of men and women of science and culture, comes into contact with what the Church is undertaking for human consciences. Consequently the Church's dialogue with men and women of science and culture is not so much a requirement of the moment as, rather, the expression of a specific alliance for the benefit of man in the name of truth, beauty and goodness, without which human life is threatened by emptiness and lack of meaning. Those who represent science and culture have an enormous responsibility, in view of the fact that they exercise a great influence on public opinion. On them depends to a large extent whether science will serve the culture of man and his growth, or whether it will turn against man and against his dignity, or even against his life. The Church and culture need one another and must work together for the good of the consciences of present and future generations of Poles. During my third pilgrimage to the homeland in 1987, at my meeting on 13 June in Holy Cross Church, Warsaw, with representatives of the creative sectors, I said that people of culture "have rediscovered to an unprecedented degree their bond with the Church". I then expressed the hope "that the Polish Church will respond fully to the trust of these men and women who sometimes come from afar, and that the Church will discover the language which will reach their hearts and their minds" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 3 August 1987, p. 10). This task is still of interest, because the time has come when the bond in question is producing the expected results.

Thus, there is an urgent need to strengthen this bond with representatives of the worlds of culture and science. This is also one of the Church's important evangelizing tasks. "Evangelization" is also "the encounter of the Gospel with the culture of each epoch" (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, p. 108). The Good News of Christ, brought to the world, transforms its mentality, in a certain sense fighting for the soul of this world. The seeds of goodness and truth found in it are purified, ennobled and brought to fulfilment by the Gospel. In addition, the Gospel inspires culture and seeks to be embodied in culture. This has been the case since the beginning of evangelization and must continue to be so because the marks the Gospel leaves in a culture are the sign of a vitality which never weakens and a strength that can move the hearts and minds of every new generations. However, we unfortunately notice that this spiritual wealth and this cultural heritage of our nation are frequently exposed to the danger of secularization and trivialization, especially in the area of the basic human, humanistic and moral values which should be defended.

The Church in Poland has a very important role to play in this area. She must ensure that the values and content of the Gospel permeate man's categories of thought, criteria of evaluation and norms of action. Our aspiration must be for all culture to be imbued with the Christian spirit. Contemporary culture has at its disposal new means of expression and new technical possibilities. The universality of these means and the power of their influence have a great impact on the mentality of society and the formation of its attitudes. Thus it is necessary to provide support for important initiatives which can attract the attention of people with artistic creativity and stimulate the promotion of their activities and the development and inspiration of their talents, in harmony with the nation's Christian identity and its praiseworthy tradition. The necessary means to cultivate all that is noble, sublime and good must not be spared. A common effort must be made to build trust between the Church and people of culture, a language must be sought for reaching their minds and hearts, to bring them into contact with the influence of Christ's paschal mystery, with that love with which Christ "loved his own to the end" (cf. Jn Jn 13,1). The Church must also turn her attention to the lay faithful who have their own specific mission to fulfil in this area. It consists in a courageous, creative and active presence in the places where culture is created, developed and enriched. It is also a very important task to teach society and especially the young generation how properly to receive all that is the fruit of culture. "The Church recalls to mind that culture must be subordinated to the integral development of the human person, to the good of the community and of the whole of mankind. Therefore one must aim at encouraging the human spirit to develop its faculties of wonder, of understanding, of contemplation, of forming personal judgements and cultivating a religious, moral and social sense" (Gaudium et spes GS 59).

The question of the Church's relationship with culture and their reference to each other is a problem that always comes up in my pastoral teaching. Therefore I could not overlook it in addressing you during this visit. It is also a matter of particular importance for our homeland. The nation, in fact, exists "through" culture and "for" culture. Thanks to its authentic culture, it becomes fully free and sovereign (cf. Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980).

4. In the context of what has already been said, I would further like to stress the role of Polish culture in the unification process of the European continent. We must be careful that this process is not reduced to its purely material and economic aspects. It is therefore particularly important to safeguard, maintain and develop this precious spiritual heritage transmitted by the Christian fathers of today's Europe. I said so very clearly in my homily at Gniezno: "The goal of the authentic unity of the European continent is still distant. There will be no European unity until it is based on unity of spirit. This most profound basis of unity was brought to Europe and consolidated down the centuries by Christianity with its Gospel, with its understanding of man and with its contribution to the development of the history of peoples and nations.... For the history of Europe is a great river into which many tributaries flow, and the variety of traditions and cultures which shape it is its great treasure. The foundations of the identity of Europe are built on Christianity" (3 June 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 11 June 1997, p. 4).

In this great work which lies before the continent on its way towards unification, the contribution of Catholic Poles cannot be lacking. Europe has need of a Poland that believes deeply and is culturally creative in a Christian way, conscious of the role entrusted to her by Providence. What Poland can and must offer as a service to Europe is more or less identical to the task of rebuilding spiritual communion based on fidelity to the Gospel in one's own home. Our nation, which has suffered so much in the past, especially during the Second World War, has much to offer Europe: first of all, her Christian tradition and rich, contemporary religious experience.

The Church in Poland thus faces great historical tasks, which require missionary freshness and apostolic fervour to be accomplished. She must find sufficient strength in herself to ensure that our nation effectively resists those tendencies of contemporary civilization which advocate the elimination of spiritual values in favour of unbridled consumerism, and the abandonment of traditional religious and moral values, in favour of a secular culture and ethical relativism. Polish Christian culture, the religious and national ethos, are an invaluable reservoir of the energies Europe needs today for guaranteeing the integral development of the human person within its own borders. In this field the efforts of the universal Church and of all the local Churches of Europe are interconnected. Each must contribute its own cultural heritage, tradition, experience, faith and apostolic zeal to this great task.

5. The means of social communication have an important role in the creation of culture and its transmission. In today's world, they constitute a powerful and omnipresent force. They can awaken consciences, defend human rights, direct human wisdom to goodness, freedom, justice, solidarity and peace, but "the Church also knows that man can use them in ways that are contrary to the Creator's design and damaging to himself" (Inter mirifica IM 2). In them the Church particularly sees a sleeping giant of potential evangelization and is seeking ways to make the most of it in her apostolic activity. It is essential to keep in mind that the proper purpose and task of the media is the service of truth and its defence. This consists in objectively and honestly transmitting information, in avoiding manipulation of the truth and in adopting the attitude of not wanting to corrupt the truth. The service of truth is a service to the cause of the whole man, body and soul, expressed in the development of his cultural and religious needs in both the individual and social spheres. Indeed, truth is inseparably linked to goodness and beauty. Wherever the truth is passed on, the power of goodness and the splendour of beauty are also expressed and the person who experiences them acquires nobility and culture. This is a particular mission that makes a large contribution to society's well-being and progress.

In recent years a great opportunity has been given to the Church in Poland for the work of evangelization. She should include in her range of action everyone employed in the world of the media, but also everyone who uses the means of social communication. It is necessary to concentrate not only on the professional training of personnel who can understand the specific social character, the power, the language and the technique of their activity, and who can use them for man's spiritual and material benefit. This work must also take into account the spiritual formation of those who work in the mass media. The Gospel must be brought to them; they must be introduced to Catholic social teaching, to the Church's life and activity and to the moral problems of contemporary man. With the help of persons formed in the Christian spirit, it will be much easier for the Church to reach a vast audience, the various areopagi of the world, and milieus thirsting for God. There is also an urgent need for all society, but particularly young people, to be suitably educated in the appropriate and mature use of the communications media, so that no one is a passive and uncritical consumer of the content and information he receives. Society must also be put on guard against the possible dangers - for both faith and morals and general human development - of certain magazines, books, films and radio and television programmes. It is impossible to close our eyes to the fact that the means of social communication are not only an enormous tool of information, but in a certain sense attempt to create a world of their own. Indispensable here is the common, coordinated action of the Church, schools, families and the media themselves, which can be a great help in this educational process.

In this context, it is easy to note how important it is for the Church in Poland to own and use her own means of social communication. At the present time she has at her disposal numerous radio stations for parish, diocesan and national broadcasts, as well as for local television. Vatican Radio programmes are also broadcast. It is a cause of joy that in Poland the media have become an important ally of the Church in fulfilling her saving mission. The Catholic press has a long tradition in our society and great merit for its cultural, moral and religious formation. Currently in Poland there are diocesan and national periodicals, the Polish edition of L'Osservatore Romano which brings us papal teaching is sent from the Vatican, the Catholic Information Agency is active, and many books are published. I also think that the Church in Poland enjoys, though as yet in a small way, the possibilities for information and evangelization offered by the Internet and multi-media publications. One task of the Church - of pastors and the lay faithful - is firmly to support the development of the Catholic press and an increase in its range of action, as well as to encourage people to read it in order to deepen their knowledge of the truths of the faith, the Church's teaching and religious culture. We must be grateful to God and to men for this great variety and wealth of media that exist in Poland. I hope that this apostolic work, which is a service to culture, truth and charity, will form Christian attitudes, engender apostolic fervour and build up the community of the Church.

6. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, there is a further matter I would like to reflect on with you during your visit ad limina Apostolorum; it is the question of priestly formation. In the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis I wrote: "The formation of future priests, both diocesan and religious, and lifelong assiduous care for their personal santification in the ministry and for the constant updating of their pastoral commitment are considered by the Church one of the most demanding and important tasks for the future of the evangelization of humanity" (n. 2). Yes, concern for the formation of candidates for the priesthood, and of priests themselves - I repeat it again - is one of the most important tasks of Bishops. At the present time, the Church in Poland is facing new challenges, the effect of the profound sociocultural changes occurring in our country. The Church's field of action has increased and, as a result, so has the need for well-trained pastors, who are responsible for the spiritual growth of the faithful entrusted to their care.

The diocesan and religious seminaries are very important for the People of God. Throughout the Church and in every part of her they are a particular proof of her vitality, in a certain sense, of her spiritual fruitfulness, which is expressed in the readiness of young men to make a total gift of themselves in the service of Christ. The local Churches' possibilities for evangelizing and missionary commitment depend on their priestly and religious vocations. The Church ceaselessly prays "the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest!" (Mt 9,38), since the question of vocations is one of her most important concerns. Everything possible must be done in the Polish Church to prevent the spirit of sacrifice and the magnanimous fervour for accepting Christ's call from being extinguished. A joint effort is indispensable for awakening vocations and for forming new generations of candidates for the priesthood. This must be done in an authentic Gospel spirit, while at the same time properly interpreting the signs of the times, to which the Second Vatican Council paid such close attention. This effort should also be accompanied by a genuine witness of life on the part of priests who are unreservedly devoted to God and to their brothers and sisters. Catchesis and the pastoral care of youth, the sacramental life and that of prayer, in addition to spiritual direction, must help the young man mature so as to make his choices of life responsibly and to be faithful and constant. I beg you, dear Brothers, to surround your seminarians with paternal care. May those to whom you have entrusted the formation of these future priests always find in you understanding, support and good advice. It seems that a new ratio fundamentalis and ratio studiorum for seminaries in Poland are necessary, adapted to the Church's current situation, to the mentality of contemporary youth and to the new challenges our future priests are facing.

In addition to formation for the priesthood, the continuing formation of both diocesan and religious priests is very important. This was broadly treated in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis. I advise you to take this problem to heart and be ever mindful of it, in the spirit of pastoral love and as a great responsibility for the future of the priestly ministry. May your love and concern spur you to prepare and carry out a programme of continuing spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation for priests in all its aspects. Encourage them, so that they pay great attention to their own continuing formation, which they must always pursue, that is, at every stage of their life and regardless of their condition and the functions they exercise in the Church. It is a serious, constant task whose purpose is to help priests become ever more fully and more maturely men of faith and holiness, capable of preserving within them this great gift offered to them by the imposition of hands (cf. 2Tm 1,6), and of bearing the burden of the ministry which is inherent in the priesthood. "Today's world demands holy priests! Only a holy priest can become, in an increasingly secularized world, a resounding witness to Christ and his Gospel. And only thus can a priest become a guide for men and women and a teacher of holiness. People, especially the young, are looking for such guides. A priest can be a guide and teacher only to the extent that he becomes an authentic witness" (John Paul II, Gift and Mystery, ch. IX).

7. At the end of this visit ad limina Apostolorum, which gave me the opportunity to meet each of you personally, I would like to express my appreciation of the great, generous work of pastoral care and evangelization the Church in Poland carries out every day, undertaking the task of renewal in the light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. I am thinking here of the Pastors of the Church in Poland, the diocesan and religious priests, the women religious, the members of institutes of consecrated life and lay Catholics. I embrace with my heart and my thoughts all their efforts and endeavours, perhaps not always fully noticed and appreciated. No one must feel forgotten, alone, or disillusioned when faced with the difficulties and setbacks of apostolic activity. Indeed, may the prayer of the entire Church accompany them all, always and everywhere. May the Pope's prayers also accompany them all, each day!

On the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, my wish for the Church in our homeland is that, docile to the Holy Spirit, she will ceaselessly nurture an apostolic concern for the People of God and will courageously face the challenges that the new times bring. The Holy Spirit is "the soul's most welcome guest" who knows better than any other the inner mystery of every man. Only the Holy Spirit can purify the human heart from all that is unclean. It is he who heals the deepest wounds of human existence, transforming the evil within into fertile fields of grace and holiness. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, the inner or "spiritual" man, made in the image of God and marked by holiness, matures and grows strong, able to "walk in newness of life" (cf. Rom Rm 6,4), which is life according to God's commandments. Through his influence the human world is renewed from within, from inside hearts and minds (cf. Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 58,67).

I entrust you, Pastors, your faithful and all my countrymen to Mary, Mother of Jesus, "who shines forth as a sign of true hope and comfort for the pilgrim People of God" (Lumen gentium LG 68). For your generous dedication to the Gospel task of serving in love and truth, I cordially bless you all: in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Speeches 1998 - Monday 2 February 1998