Speeches 1998





To the Superior General
and the Capitulars
of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters
of the Holy Family

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you at the end of your 19th General Chapter, in which you reflected on the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in your lives, in order to be “women of Spirit”, in the Franciscan style of your founder, Ven. Luis Amigó y Ferrer, and so to offer today's world new expressions of Christian life and courage in your service. On this occasion I extend my most cordial greeting to each of you and, through you, to all the sisters of the congregation who in your various houses in Europe, America, Asia and Africa make present the spousal dimension of the Church and her virginal motherhood, collaborating with their unconditional devotion and discreet, but fruitful presence in bettering the human family.

The Church greatly appreciates the particular contribution that you, as consecrated women, make to the tasks of the new evangelization. By embracing the evangelical chastity, poverty and obedience of Jesus, you become, in a certain sense, a prolongation of his humanity and bear prophetic witness to the primacy of God and the good things to come in present-day society, where the trace of the divine seems to have been lost (cf. Vita consecrata VC 85).

Given the new challenges that the third millennium presents to religious life, your commitment and mission must be guided by supernatural discernment, which can distinguish between what comes from the Spirit and what is contrary to him (cf. Gal Ga 5,16-22). It is only by starting from this dynamism of fidelity to the Spirit that you can act effectively in the respective areas of your foundational charism, remembering in your hearts and in your prayer the many needs of the men and women of our time.

While encouraging you in your praiseworthy educational work of assisting children and young people who have difficulty in growing in humanity under the guidance of the Spirit, I invoke on the whole institute the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth, so that they will always support you in your religious life. With these sentiments I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all the sisters of the congregation and to all who work with you in your various apostolates.

From the Vatican, 31 October 1998.


November 1998





Thursday, 5 November 1998

Venerable Brothers,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have gratefully taken part in this special homage and I am now pleased to extend my cordial greetings to each of you, with a particularly respectful greeting to the authorities who have wished to honour this encounter with their presence.

I thank the members of the Italian Inter-parliamentary Group and their colleagues from all over the world for the commitment they have made to contributing together to the preparation of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, taking into account both the meeting which concerns them directly as politicians and, more generally, the ethical-social objectives of the Holy Year. In this regard I am delighted that the proposal to reduce the foreign debt of the poorest countries, and that of a moratorium on executions at least during the Jubilee Year, are supported by persons with senior institutional posts who can therefore contribute effectively to their acceptance.

I would like to say a special “thank you” to those who offered me a message of good wishes this evening: to Senator Ombretta Fumagalli Carulli and to each of the distinguished political and religious personages who were linked up with us from a distance.

I thank the conductor Paolo Olmi with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Rome Opera and the Boys Choir of Poznañ as well as the very fine soloists and I congratulate them for their excellent performance.

This evening — as well as being a special demonstration of closeness to the Pope — offered a significant witness of unity centred on the fundamental spiritual and ethical values of the human person and the community.

Upon all of you present here and upon everyone who has joined us through the media, I invoke abundant blessings from the Lord.






Thursday, 5 November 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am very pleased to receive the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guatemala to the Holy See. As I offer you my cordial welcome on this solemn occasion, I would like once again to express the sincere affection I feel for all the sons and daughters of this noble nation, culturally so rich and lavishly endowed by nature.

I am deeply grateful for the respectful greeting you have conveyed to me from President Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen, as well as for the kind words for this Apostolic See and my person, which also attest to the filial sentiments of the Guatemalan people. Please be kind enough to convey my sincere gratitude to them.

2. I recall with deep feeling the two Pastoral Visits I had the joy of making to your country in March 1983 and February 1996. I remember the warm welcome with which thousands of Guatemalans wanted to show their yearning for peace and their ardent desire to see the end of the fratricidal war. This is why, recalling the appeal of my Brother Bishops of Guatemala, I said: “True peace is urgently needed. A peace that is God’s gift and the fruit of dialogue, of the spirit of reconciliation, of serious commitment to integral development in solidarity with every level of society, and especially with respect for the dignity of each person” (Arrival Address at La Aurora International Airport, 5 February 1996, n. 4; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 7 February 1996, p. 2).

After lengthy and laborious negotiations, Providence willed that firm and lasting Peace Accords be signed on 29 December that same year, a courageous act which filled Guatemalans, the international community and particularly this Apostolic See with great joy, hope and gratitude to the Prince of Peace for this valuable gift which I myself went to implore, especially by my pilgrimage to the Shrine of the “Black Christ”, the Lord of Esquipulas.

3. At the end of the 20th century, new prospects of freedom and hope are opening to humanity, unfortunately often disturbed by unstable political situations, fragile social structures and distressing conflicts. Today, before these hopeful horizons in which the “logic of war” is more absurd than ever, the way is paved to interdependence between peoples. It is therefore necessary and urgent to work on building a domestic and international order that promotes peaceful coexistence, co-operation, respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples, by recognizing the centrality of each person and his inviolable dignity. I am delighted to see that in Guatemala there is a glimmer of those new horizons which are inviting people to intensify their efforts to continue building a renewed society of greater solidarity.

Mr Ambassador, you have referred to the role of the Catholic Church, which in a constant and self-sacrificing way, at times misunderstood, has offered her valuable contribution during the long peace process in your country. Many appeals for reconciliation and forgiveness were made by the Guatemalan Bishops. In this regard, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 offers a unique opportunity to achieve this reconciliation and thus to strengthen the accords made with so much effort. This will be the greatest tribute your country can pay to those who generously spent their lives, even shedding their blood for these noble and lofty objectives.

4. The Church in Guatemala, aware of her grave responsibility at the present time and faithful to her religious, moral and social mission, without relinquishing her legitimate autonomy, is prepared to continue the “healthy collaboration” with the authorities and the various institutions of the State and of Guatemalan society, to promote and support all initiatives directed to the greater good of the individual, of society and especially of the family, the sanctuary of love and life (cf. Centesimus annus CA 39). Far from purely temporal interests, the Church will continue to proclaim the Good News of salvation, ready to make her generous contribution in areas which are so important for the integral development of the person, such as education, health care, the defence and promotion of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all, as well as to continue her tireless charitable activity at the service of the most needy.

Your Excellency also recalled that it is necessary to continue evangelizing in order to build a society of greater justice, brotherhood and solidarity, if we want the Christian conception of life and the Church’s moral teaching to be the essential inspiration for the people and groups who work for the nation’s good. When I received the Bishops of your country during their ad limina visit in 1994, I referred to the Episcopate’s joint document entitled “500 años sembrando el Evangelio”: “The new evangelization then must preserve the spiritual treasures of your people and encourage in everyone a conversion which increasingly corresponds to the Gospel” (4 March 1994, n. 2; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 16 March 1994, p. 3). Only in the light of the Gospel can solutions be found to achieve “whatever affects the dignity of individuals and peoples, such as authentic development” (Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 41). A society without fundamental values and ethical principles gradually deteriorates.

5. I am pleased to see your Government’s efforts to improve the conditions and quality of life of Guatemalans, as well as the results already achieved. It is a service to human dignity, which requires the support of all social groups, in order to continue laying the foundations of an ever more just society. It is the common desire to see soon in Guatemala a society in which the rights of the individual and of the community are increasingly protected and guaranteed; all children have access to health services and education; the spirit of participation is fostered by overcoming party or class interests; there is greater access to land ownership for those who lack economic resources; the ethical imperative is an inescapable reference- point for all Guatemalans; wealth is distributed more equitably; in a word, everyone will think of the country’s good and fulfil his human and Christian vocation, and the different ethnic groups which make up the rich mosaic of cultures in this nation will learn to live in harmony and mutual respect.

6. The ecclesial community, especially in Guatemala, experienced great sorrow at the detestable assassination of Bishop Juan José Gerardi Conedera, Auxiliary of Guatemala City, who worked so hard for peace in his country and for the recognition and defence of human rights. As I said on that sad occasion, I hope that this tragedy “will clearly show the futility of violence and will spur everyone to commit himself to the search for understanding and dialogue, the only way to ensure the triumph of peace and justice over every obstacle and provocation, and that it will in no way disturb the implementation of the peace accords”.

I ardently hope that Guatemala, after experiencing so much suffering, destruction and death which has deeply affected the new generations, will succeed as quickly as possible in moving from this “culture of death” to the “culture of life”; from the “culture of fear”, to the “culture of freedom in the truth”. The Guatemalan people’s desire to know the truth about these and other crimes corresponds to their legitimate yearning never to be oppressed again by insecurity, fear and lawlessness, but to live instead in a renewed society, where the foundations of a solid and lasting peace will be laid on tolerance, justice, freedom and mutual love.

7. Mr Ambassador, before closing this meeting, I would like to express my sincere esteem to you and assure you of the Holy See’s support, so that you can successfully carry out the high mission which begins today. At the same time, I ask you once again to convey my best wishes to your Government and your country’s other authorities, as I invoke God’s blessing upon you and your relatives, upon your staff and upon all the beloved sons and daughters of the noble Guatemalan nation.




Saturday, 7 November 1998

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. For the second time since the changes have taken place in your country and throughout Eastern Europe, I welcome you with great joy to Rome where you have come to carry out your ad limina visit, thus tangibly expressing your communion with the Successor of Peter. I thank your President for his words just now. In recent years, you have been anxious to equip your communities with the necessary material and pastoral structures for the good of the faithful and of the whole Church. I thank you for this commitment and for your many efforts which, I am certain, are beginning to bear fruit that will be even more abundant in the future. Wherever a Christian presence emerges or is reborn, through the indispensable freedom of persons and peoples the hope of believers is strengthened, as they feel ever more motivated to build up the ecclesial community day after day and, at the same time, to take part in social life, enlivened as they are by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

2. Through you, I would like to encourage the priests, religious and lay people, who are always active in the service of the Gospel. I am pleased with the growth in the number of faithful, a sign of the vitality of your communities. They feel the need, in order to be witnesses of Christ in their daily life, to receive the sacraments more frequently and to take a more active part in the Sunday liturgy. In this intimate relationship with Christ, they will find the strength and daring to fulfil their baptismal vocation in their personal, family and social life. It is particularly important that they be supported in order to face the problems posed by civil society and to make their contribution to the moral rebuilding of society, marked by the era of totalitarian ideologies whose burden still weighs on consciences, and to the management of the res publica, in a spirit of fraternal collaboration with all their fellow citizens. A serious study of the Church’s social teaching will be a precious help to them.

3. As I rejoice with you in the first fruits of your pastoral decisions, I also give thanks for the pastors and faithful who, in the trial and night of persecution as well as in their endless sufferings, preserved their faith and fought the good fight. May their witness and the gift they have made of their life in martyrdom be seeds of the Good News and examples to our contemporaries! One of these witnesses, a symbol of them all, is the Bishop-martyr Vincent Eugene Bossilkov, whom I had the joy to beatify on 15 March last. In a letter written between the end of 1948 and the beginning of 1949, he wrote: “Our bloodstains will pave the way to a splendid future; and even if we will not see it ourselves, others will reap what we sowed in suffering”. This treasure is put into the hands of the pastors and faithful of Bulgaria so that they may safeguard it and present it to the people as a way of freedom and life.

The beatification of Bishop Bossilkov has rightly been an experience of deep joy for your communities; the exaltation of one of their sons to the glory of the altars is the recognition of a local Church's fidelity to Christ and to the See of Peter. The saints and confessors of the faith teach us that the path leading to God’s victory in human life consists in the willingness to collaborate with his grace, for it is God “who gives the growth” (1Co 3,7). This collaboration, which is precisely the path of spiritual life, is an essential factor in Christian life at the time when we are preparing to enter the Great Jubilee. Personal conversion and the return to God are indispensable conditions for the transformation of hearts and interpersonal and social relations, so as to establish an era of justice and peace. “Everything ought to focus on the primary objective of the Jubilee: the strengthening of faith and of Christian witness. It is therefore necessary to inspire in all the faithful a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer and of solidarity with one’s neighbour, especially the most needy” (Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 42). I hope that through the commitment of all people of goodwill, the third millennium may be the millennium of freedom in the truth, because only the truth sets us truly free and enables us to set out on the path of happiness to which we aspire. “Truth and freedom either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery”, as I recently recalled in my Encyclical Fides et ratio (n. 90). Christ the Lord is the Way; he heals our internal and external wounds and restores in us the divine image which we have obscured by sin.

4. Among the more essential missions of the ecclesial community is attention to the family. Marriage is the basic instiution of society and of the Church. It is important to help the younger generations discover the joy of building a lasting relationship with a person through commitment in fidelity, which strengthens love and enables the spouses to find fulfilment. The gift of self to another in marriage also disposes each to give his life without reserve in a responsible attitude, thereby accomplishing the mission received from the Creator: to accept every new life, to raise children with joy and respect so that they become adult Christians who can take part in the life of their country. It is indispensable that children’s education be based on the teaching of a hierarchy of truly authentic values, and not dictated by fashion or mere personal interest.

Society will gradually evolve through the deep transformation of families, called to live moral values and pass them on to young people. Everyone has witnessed the disastrous consequences of lack of respect for human life in recent decades. Your people have experienced this truth in their own flesh: if a new society is to be built, the cornerstone must be respect for life, for all life, particularly that which is defenceless. Thus in its present situation your country is called, through a salutary moral impulse, to resist the undiscerning attraction of the consumer society, moral relativism, withdrawal into self, apathy, the lack of respect for life; these attitudes must give way, on the part of Christians, to taking deliberate steps on the path of holiness and to an ever greater commitment of solidarity towards their brothers and sisters. All people of goodwill must remember that the human person is the centre of social life and that his fundamental dignity must be respected. The struggle for true freedom comes through the protection of every human being, particularly the smallest and the poorest.

Of course among your married compatriots, some will encounter difficulties in their conjugal and family life. As I pray for these troubled families, I invite them to revive the enthusiasm of their initial commitment: fidelity, accepted not as a burden but as a joyous choice, will make it possible to overcome the fears and incomprehensions which have taken root, day after day, to become the source of true maturation and a deep experience of happiness. As Pastors, with the help of the clergy and catechists, it is your task to support parents and intensify catechesis among the young, as well as to continue to provide suitable preparation for marriage. The discovery of the Christian mystery and the truth about human love will help young people in their spiritual and human growth.

5. To deal effectively with pastoral realities as they are in your country, priests, despite being overburdened by the work that sometimes confronts them, should increase their efforts with a view to proclaiming the Gospel and initiation to the sacraments. By guarding the flock entrusted to their care, they will also have at heart to pursue collaboration with lay people, who, by virtue of their Baptism, have a specific and active role in the Church’s mission. Through their generous availability and competence in various areas, they will be able to make a valuable contribution under the direction of their Bishops.

The shortage of priests is one of your concerns. I encourage you to continue to develop the vocations ministry in schools, catechesis and families, so that young people will hear God’s call. The witness of the clergy is essential in order to give young people a desire to commit themselves on the path of the priesthood. By the example of their joyous life, spiritual direction and other suitable initiatives, priests will be able to inspire in youth the desire to make themselves available, to make a courageous choice to follow Christ in accordance with God’s will (cf. Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, n. 32a). This time of initial discernment must be extended in a serious preparation for the priestly ministry by profound philosophical and theological instruction, so as to be able to answer the many questions of the people of our time. “Philosophical subjects should be taught in such a way as to lead the students gradually to a solid and consistent knowledge of man, the world and God. The students should rely on that philosophical patrimony which is forever valid, but should also take account of modern philosophical studies” (Decree on the Formation of Priests Optatam totius OT 15); in the same way, the Council continues, “theological subjects should be taught in the light of faith, under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church” (ibid., n. 16). Indeed, it is thanks to these well-trained priests that the Church will be able to proclaim the Gospel to all cultures.

6. You come from a land where for centuries the traditions of East and West have met in their common praise of the Lord. However, you are all descended from the evangelization by the great work of Sts Cyril and Methodius who, with their extraordinary charism brought the Good News as well as their specific culture to the Bulgarian people. This complimentarity of Eastern and Latin traditions, which you experience personally in your Episcopal Conference, is a pressing invitation to unity for the two lungs of Europe.

If this unity is a duty for all the children of the Catholic Church, it is an inescapable commitment for everyone who believes in Christ. As I hoped it would be in the Apostolic Exhortation Tertio millennio adveniente, the Great Jubilee is “a promising opportunity for fruitful co-operation in the many areas which unite us; these are unquestionably more numerous than those which divide us” (n. 16). I consequently urge you to seek the means which will enable you to strengthen the ties between the different Christian denominations, especially in communion with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. The sharing of gifts and our cultural and spiritual heritages can only enrich us mutually, to activate the deep Christian roots which belong to the history of your country and of the whole continent.

At the end of your visit, I ask you to convey the Pope’s affectionate sentiments to your priests, religious and beloved faithful of Bulgaria, assuring them of my prayer. I entrust the trials and hopes of the Catholic Church in Bulgaria to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. To you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, and to all those whose Pastors you are, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.





Saturday, 7 November 1998

Mr. Ambassador,

1. In accepting the Letters of Credence appointing you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Colombia to the Holy See, I am first of all pleased to offer you a most cordial welcome and to thank you for the kind words you have addressed to me and for the respectful greeting of President Andrés Pastrana Arango, which I gratefully and sincerely reciprocate, together with my best wishes for him and for all the beloved Colombian nation.

2. This occasion, Mr Ambassador, marks the beginning of your high and noble office of representing your country to the Holy See and it is an opportunity to reflect on the great responsibility you are assuming, as well as on the importance of your role. In fact, a diplomatic mission by its nature aims at dialogue, to seek ways that lead to good understanding and co-operation among peoples.

The persistence of many conflicts which afflict humanity today, with their devastating and tragic consequences, make more and more intolerable the idea of a humanity that is still unable to overcome its differences through dialogue and reconciliation. In addition, there is the conviction that peace does not only mean the silencing of weapons, but that it is necessary to go to the very roots of what makes force and selfish interest the ultimate principle of human conduct. This is why the service to peace becomes, in reality, a commitment to justice.

Justice, in turn, is never complete or lasting without promoting the dignity of individuals and peoples, and rigorous respect for the inalienable rights that flow from that dignity.

These are the values that govern the Holy See’s activities in the concert of international relations, in which it claims to have no other power than that of its own convictions nor other interest than that of bringing people to the fulfilment of their sublime vocation as children of God, by carrying out its mission of proclaiming Christ’s message and calling it to mind. These are the terms in which the Holy See deals with its interlocutors, highlighting the ethical dimension of the social and political phenomena of each moment, thus going to the very root of the problems to help solve them practically.

3. The world in this last part of the century is experiencing as never before the impact of the globalization process: communications are increasing, exchanges are growing and once strong barriers seem to be crumbling in the face of technological progress. It is a situation rich in unprecedented possibilities, but also in enormous challenges, which increasingly call for great responsibility and a profound ethical sense from those who must make decisions that could jeopardize the destiny of human society.

This is clearly happening in the economy, where a series of factors and agents are linked with one another in close interdependence, whether within each nation or on an international scale, to the point that it is almost unthinkable that certain problem situations could be resolved without the determined and concerted solidarity of a whole country and the co-operation of the international community. In this respect, I would like to recall that “the decision to invest in one place rather than another, in one productive sector rather than another, is always a moral and cultural choice” (Encyc. Centesimus annus CA 36). In fact, respect for the human person and his fundamental right to lead a worthy life must prevail over interests of accumulating benefits or maintaining privileged positions.

4. Social imbalances and the inordinate difference in the distribution of material resources at times initiate processes of conflict and violence. But these can also have other origins and, in any, case give rise to new situations of instability and injustice, thus continuing a harmful cycle that affects the entire life of citizens and mortgages their harmonious and integral development. For this reason your Government’s serious commitment to establishing peace in a climate of national reconciliation, undertaken with determination and breadth of vision, should thus be appreciated. In this regard, the Church, in fidelity to and consistent with the Gospel of life, must always condemn every attack on the integrity and freedom of individuals, every terrorist act against innocent people, including those whose only mission is to serve the community in the pastoral ministry.

Also in this most painful area, the art of dialogue, the primacy of a State governed by law, the sincere search for the common good and respect for the inalienable rights of the person, guarantee a satisfactory and lasting outcome.

5. A most important factor for the stability and growth of any society is attention to the family. This basic cell of life in every country needs the support and co-operation of the public authorities, following a correct application of the principle of subsidiarity, so that the family can achieve its particular goals. Favourable conditions should be created so that families can be established, stably maintain themselves in worthy conditions, welcome the gift of life without fear and exercise the fundamental right to educate their children properly. This right of parents to choose the educational model for their children must be safeguarded and encouraged with the proper help of the State, thus guaranteeing its effective exercise.

The deplorable cases of abandoned children, drug-dependent children and adolescents, child prostitution and other tragic situations that affect young people, frequently stem from an unhappy or broken home life caused by various circumstances. For this reason, Mr Ambassador, the programmes your Government is carrying out in this sensitive area should be appreciated, in the hope that it will continue in this direction, as a very suitable means for achieving con- stant and encouraging social progress in this beloved country.

6. I am pleased to see that the good relations between Colombia and the Holy See encourage honest collaboration in the respective areas of their competence, in order to serve people and society better. But over and above mere formal relations, Mr Ambassador, you mentioned this Apostolic See’s affection for the Colombian people. This is certainly a long-standing sentiment, because of the deeply Christian roots of your nation, which was confirmed by my venerable Predecessor Paul VI’s visit, whose 30th anniversary was celebrated this year.

I personally recall with deep gratitude my visit to Colombia in 1986. Those unforgettable days showed the authentic face of Colombian society, the firm faith of its people, their mutual solidarity, their deep sense of hospitality, their ability to share and to work together, their joy of life. All this represents a rich spiritual and cultural heritage, which enables us to cherish well-founded hopes for a better future.

Mr Ambassador, as I ask you to convey these sentiments and hopes to your Government and to the beloved Colombian people, I express my best wishes for the fruitful exercise of the lofty mission entrusted to you. As a pledge of the divine favours that will help you fulfil your duties, and as I invoke the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I am pleased to extend to your distinguished family and staff, and to all the citizens of your beloved nation.

Speeches 1998