Speeches 1998 - Saturday, 7 November 1998




Saturday, 7 November 1998

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Members of the Pontifical Academies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. This third public session of the Pontifical Academies, convened to highlight their contribution to Christian humanism at the dawn of the third millennium, offers me an opportunity to meet you again. I cordially thank everyone present.

I greet Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Co-ordinating Council of the Pontifical Academies, and thank him for his courteous words to me on behalf of you all. I also greet the Cardinals, my Venerable Brother Bishops, the ambassadors, the priests, the consecrated men and women and the distinguished members of the Pontifical Academies. Lastly, I greet Prof. Bruno Cagli, President of the National Academy of St Cecilia, and cordially thank the members of the Academy’s Youth Choir, directed by Maestro Martino Faggiani, who are making this meeting even more festive by their masterly performance of well-known musical pieces inspired by the Christian people’s love for Blessed Mary.

2. It is to the Virgin Mary that today’s solemn session is dedicated: Mary, Icon and Model of humanity redeemed by Christ.

The attention given to her is also fostered by the theological contributions offered by the distinguished speakers on various aspects of her role in salvation history. In fact, the reflection on man developed over the centuries in various cultures has experienced extraordinary growth from contact with the mystery of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh in Mary’s womb. The eminent role of the Virgin Mother of God stands out against the new horizon of knowledge disclosed by Revelation.

In his Letter to the Galatians, St Paul writes: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Ga 4,4-5). The Apostle’s words take us to the very heart of history: “when the time had fully come”, the Son of God was born of a woman, Mary of Nazareth, who uniquely shared in the mystery of the Word by giving birth in time to the Son begotten by the Father from all eternity.

Mary is a daughter of the chosen people, and for this very reason she is a daughter of their culture, enriched by its millenary contact with the Word of God: she the Woman who actively shared in Jesus’ first miracle at Cana, when he manifested his glory (cf. Jn Jn 2,1-12), and was present on Golgotha to be designated as the Mother of the beloved disciple and our Mother.

The Gospels and Christian tradition teach us to see her as the “place” where the Incarnation occurred in history. For 2,000 years, the life of Jesus and the preaching of the Good News of salvation have had a distinctively Marian dimension. The Virgin Mother is close to human hearts in every age and culture, as demonstrated by the masterpieces of human genius that have flourished in every period of history.

3. The Blessed Virgin is presented by the New Testament as an extraordinary woman in her simplicity of life. The Fathers of the Church, masters of spirituality, expressed the faith of the believing community by emphasizing the truths regarding Mary’s remarkable distinction. She is the Theotokos, the Deipara, the Mother of God, whom the Church honours with a “special cult” (Lumen gentium LG 66).

On the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I am pleased to recall the immense wealth of love, devotion and art shown for 2,000 years by the Churches of the East. They honour Blessed Mary, the Theotokos, with other splendid titles such as Panagia, the All-Holy; Hyperagionorma, Holy beyond all bounds; Platytera, Wider than the heavens; Hodegetria, She who shows the way; Eleousa, She who is full of merciful tenderness. The Eastern Marian tradition contemplates, venerates and sings the praises of the Blessed Virgin, whose icons remind everyone that the Mother of God is the chosen image of humanity redeemed by Christ. The Churches of the East thus offer us, in the wealth of their Marian patrimony, not only an ecumenical path but also a model of Christian humanism.

4. As for the West, in order to honour the Mother of God and to emphasize her universal spiritual motherhood, theology, spirituality and art draw on the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnate Word. Her union with Christ is the archetype of the union of the Church and of individual believers with the Redeemer. In reflecting on her, the Lord’s disciples very quickly understood that Blessed Mary was the first to be redeemed, the perfect image of Redemption. Bl. John Duns Scotus, poet of the Immaculate Conception, wrote in this regard: “If Christ, then, has reconciled us most perfectly with God, he merited that this most grievous punishment be withheld from someone. This could only be in favour of his Mother” (Opus Oxoniense, III, d. 3, q. 1). I am delighted that the Pontifical International Marian Academy and the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum have established a chair of Mariological studies named after this great theologian.

Following the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus of my revered Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, I wished to stress in the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater the essential link between Mary and the Church by emphasizing her mission within the community of believers. In the Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem, I later recalled how Mary enlightens and enriches the Christian humanism inspired by the Gospel, because, in addition to the various aspects of the “new humanity” which is realized in her, she brings out the dignity and “genius” of woman. Chosen by God to fulfil his plan of salvation, Mary helps us understand the mission of woman in the Church’s life and in the preaching of the Gospel.

5. Dear brothers and sisters, accepting the proposal made by the Coordinating Council of the Pontifical Academies, I am pleased now to give the Pontifical Academies Award to Dr Deyanira Flores Gonzales of Costa Rica for her work in Mariology entitled: La Virgen María al pie de la cruz (Jn 19,25-27) en Ruperto Deutz, presented at the Pontifical Theological Faculty Marianum. I am also pleased to give a medal of my Pontificate, as a sign of appreciation, to two new doctors: Dr Marielle Lamy, of France, for her thesis, Le culte mariale entre doctrine et dévotion: étapes et en- jeux de la controverse de l’Immaculée Conception au Moyen Age (XIIe-XVe siècles), presented at the University of Paris X Nanterre, and Fr Johannes Schneider, an Austrian Franciscan, for his thesis, Virgo Ecclesia facta: la presenza di Maria nel Crocifisso di San Damiano e nell’Officium Passionis di San Francesco d’Assisi, presented at the Pontifical Athenaeum Antonianum in Rome.

As you know, the Pontifical Academies Award, instituted two years ago, is meant to encourage young university students, artists and institutions to contribute to the growth of religious studies, Christian humanism and its artistic expressions. I particularly hope that a renewed commitment by scholars to Mariological research will be able to highlight the features of a humanism made fruitful by the Spirit of grace, of which Blessed Mary is the Model and Icon.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families and to all your loved ones.




Dear Italian Bishops!

1. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus” (1Co 16,23-24).

I am pleased to greet each of you with these words of the Apostle Paul. I greet in particular the Cardinal President, Camillo Ruini, the three Vice-Presidents and the General Secretary, Archbishop Ennio Antonelli, thanking them for their commitment and the wisdom with which they put themselves at the service of your Conference.

Consider me spiritually present at this General Assembly, which is a time of grace for living more intensely Episcopal communion and your shared concern for the Church of God in Italy. To you all I express my personal gratitude for your participation in the 20th anniversary of my election to the See of Peter and the 40th of my Episcopate.

2. I am aware of your enthusiasm in guiding the preparation of your Dioceses for the Great Jubilee, which is now very close. The education of young people in the faith, the main theme of your assembly, is an essential part of this process, not only because World Youth Day will be an especially important event during the Holy Year, but also and above all because the fundamental aim of the Jubilee is to reinvigorate and relaunch, in view of the new millennium, the proclamation and witness of faith in Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world. This mission is entrusted in a special way to young people, who will have to shape the Christian image of future society.

With the Encyclical Fides et ratio I wished to recall and reflect on the intimate bond that joins the revelation of God's mystery and the human intellect. This bond can also give an impulse to the cultural project of the Italian Church and all the initiatives of social communication, to whose development you are rightly committed. Thus the younger generation can be offered a way out of the too narrow confines of their own subjectivity, discovering a common horizon of shared truth and values for which to work together.

3. In your assembly you will also deal with promoting the financial support of the Church. I wish to publicly thank you for your generosity in coming to the aid of so many less fortunate Sister Churches and nations, in that spirit of global solidarity that is the hallmark of ecclesial communion.

I congratulate you on your Conference's new Statutes, aimed at ever more effectively supporting collegial affection and common pastoral work. This is also the purpose of the Apostolic Letter issued “Motu proprio” Apostolos suos, in which I sought to clarify the theological and juridical nature of Bishops' Conferences. On our mission as Bishops at the dawn of the third millennium we will have the chance to reflect more extensively together during the next Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

4. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I am well aware and I deeply share the loving concern with which you follow events in the beloved nation of Italy.

I am thinking, in particular, of the family based on marriage, which today is still Italy’s most valuable and important resource. However, it has up to now received little assistance due to weak family policies, and indeed is subjected to numerous attacks, both culturally as well as politically, legislatively and administratively. I am thinking of the defence and promotion of human life, from its conception until its natural end. I am thinking of the school, which must regain its most noble educational objectives, in a framework of effective freedom and parity as in other European countries. I am thinking of the possibilities of work and development, which must be increased within a logic of solidarity and of appreciation for the variety of people in society, to deal with the unemployment and poverty that afflict large sectors of the population in many regions of Italy.

5. In view of these and other problems, my invitation, dear Brothers, is never to abdicate the mission that has been entrusted to us, never to give in to conformism or passing fashion, to react to every mistaken division between faith, culture and personal and social life.

By working in deep communion between ourselves and our Churches, and always proceeding with love and trust, we can help Italy not to lose its inner soul and to make good use of its renowned inheritance of faith and culture, which also is a precious good for Europe and the world.

I join you in the great prayer for Italy, which has now received a new impulse from the Shrine of Loreto, and I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, and to the Churches entrusted to your pastoral care.

From the Vatican, 9 November 1998.





Monday, 9 November 1998

Your Eminence,
Dear Friends of the École Française,

According to tradition you come regularly to meet the Successor of Peter, in keeping with your over 100-year-old institution's bond with Holy See. I am pleased to receive you and I thank Mr André Vauchez, Director of the École Française, for his cordial wishes on your behalf.

Your visit is particularly important during these days when you have organized a symposium on the end of the Middle Ages entitled: Suppliques et requêtes. Le gouvernement par la grâce en Occident. You have also just published three new volumes by Mr Charles Pietri, Christiana Respublica.This also gives me the opportunity to pay homage to the memory of the man whose well-known works are unforgettable, who was a director of the École Française, as has just been recalled, and, at the same time, a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture. In his research he combined cultural activity in civil society with service to the Church. Among the eminent members who have worked at the École Française, I cannot forget Mons. Louis Duchesne, who profoundly renewed the study of Christianity in the first centuries.

The École Française is part of the Roman cultural scene and its publications are its principal ambassadors among researchers and the wider public, in the desire to spread French culture, according to the approach that governed its creation and continues to guide its activities. I am pleased with the fruitful relations your institution maintains with the Pontifical Council for Culture, with the Vatican Archives and with the Vatican Library, as well as with the other organizations mentioned previously by Mr Vauchez. The joint organization of symposia is a tangible sign of the fruitful collaboration between the Holy See and one of France’s important study centres. “From the time the Gospel was first preached, the Church has known the process of encounter and engagement with cultures” (Encyclical Fides et ratio FR 70). The various forms that a culture takes are the essential expressions of man’s humanity and of his search for the meaning of life. They bring out the spiritual dimension of man and his life, as well as his desire to enter into relationship with God. In rereading history, we never cease to discover the extent to which the Christian faith has inspired cultural production over the past two millenniums, a sign that it inwardly motivates the development of individuals and peoples. Human achievements in turn play a part in evangelization, expressing in symbolic form the Christian mystery, certain aspects of which everyone can then grasp and learn, to encourage their adherence to the person of the Saviour and to increase their faith. In their own way, all forms of culture connected with Christianity contribute to bridging the gap which separates the Gospel from cultures, which, as Paul VI underscored, is one of the greatest tragedies of our time (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi EN 20).

To preserve the memory of our rich heritage as it is engraved in the many vestiges we possess, particularly in Rome, is a service to humanity and a present-day task in order to forge new bonds between faith and cultures: thus by rediscovering in our history the values lived by past generations we will be able to live them in turn and advance towards our meeting with the Lord.

With the hope that you will continue with your fruitful research, I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady, and impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.






Wednesday, 11 November 1998

Your Eminences,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Rectors of the Pontifical Universities and Athenaea of Rome,
Dear Students,

1. It is a great joy for me to preside over this solemn academic convocation at the end of which I will bless the renovated Aula Magna of this pontifical university. It is here that those who will go to various parts of the world to proclaim, like new apostles, the Gospel of Jesus Christ are spiritually prepared and theologically formed. First of all, I cordially greet Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Urbanian University, and I thank him for the kind words that he addressed to me at the beginning of our meeting on behalf of all those present. I also express my sincere gratitude to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the learned paper he presented a short while ago. I greet the rectors and professors of the pontifical universities and athenaea of Rome. And I affectionately greet all of you, dear teachers, students and staff of the Urbanian University, as well as those who wished to participate in this significant moment of theological reflection and ecclesial communion.

2. Cardinal Ratzinger has given us a masterful interpretation of a specific aspect of the Encyclical Fides et ratio. As a continuation of his thoughts I would now like to call your attention to what constitutes, so to say, the nucleus of the Encyclical, that relation between faith and reason which should be the focus of our reflection, especially in a period such as ours, marked by epoch-making changes in society and culture. The progressive transition towards forms of thought that are collectively termed “postmodernity” also calls for the Church to pay due attention to this process, making her voice heard so that nobody is deprived of that special contribution that flows from the Gospel (cf. Fides et ratio FR 91). Such a concern is justified, moreover, if we consider the sensitive role that philosophy plays in the formation of conscience, in the vitalization of cultures and, as a result, in the inspiration of laws that regulate social and civil life. In this task, while maintaining its autonomous epistemological status, philosophy cannot fail to benefit from contact with faith, which shows it the ways to reach even higher peaks.

3. Everyone knows of the importance that philosophy has gradually acquired over the centuries. Some systems survive to this day because of the speculative weight that allowed them to promote sure progress in human history. On the other hand, the role that philosophy plays cannot be relegated to a limited circle of persons. As I wrote: “All men and women are in some sense philosophers and have their own philosophical conceptions with which they direct their lives. In one way or other, they shape a comprehensive vision and an answer to the question of life's meaning; and in the light of this they interpret their own life's course and regulate their behaviour” (Fides et ratio FR 30). The act of thinking distinguishes man within the created world. It is by thinking that he can respond in the best way possible to the task entrusted to him by the Creator of cultivating and caring for the Garden of Eden, where “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” is to be found (cf. Gn Gn 2,15 cf. Fides et ratio FR 22). Therefore, with his thought, everyone can have an experience, so to speak, of “self-transcendence”: in fact, he goes beyond himself and the limits that restrict him in order to approach the infinite. Those who proclaim the Gospel need philosophical preparation

4. However, the more he opens himself to the infinite, the more man discovers his own limits. A crucial experience, because, as he delves into new areas, he discovers that he is unable to go further. To this is added the experience of sin: human existence is marked by it, so that even reason feels its burden. Almost as a comment on the text of Genesis, a sentence in the Epistle to Diognetus, written at the dawn of Christian literature, offers us a profound insight into this condition. The unknown author writes: “In this place the tree of knowledge and the tree of life was planted: It is not the tree of knowledge, but disobedience that kills” (XII, 1). Here, then, is the real reason for the weakness of thought and for its inability to rise above itself. It is disobedience, a sign of the desire for independence, that undermines human behaviour, risking to block man’s ascent to God, even in the area of philosophical reflection. When knowledge proudly withdraws into itself, it runs the risk of not always expressing prospects for life; if, on the contrary, it is accompanied by faith, then it is assisted in seeing the human good. The Apostle Paul warns: “‘Knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” (1Co 8,1). Faith, which is made strong by love and is expressed in it, suggests to knowledge a criterion of truth that sees the essence of man and his real needs.

5. In an academic context such as today's, I believe that it is important to stress a further aspect which I mentioned in Fides et ratio. In the Encyclical I insisted not just on the necessity but also on the urgency of resuming that dialogue between philosophy and theology that, when well conducted, has proven highly beneficial to both. The invitation I made to “pay special attention to the philosophical preparation of those who will proclaim the Gospel to the men and women of today” (Fides et ratio FR 105) is an echo of the same invitation once made with firm conviction by the Council Fathers (cf. Optatam totius OT 15). While the study of philosophy opens the minds of young students to understanding the needs of modern man and his way of thinking and dealing with problems (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 57), the deep study of theology will make it possible to offer Christ, “the Way, and the Truth and, the Life” (Jn 14,6), as the answer to these demands, by directing their sights to the full meaning of life. At a time when knowledge seems fragmented, it is important for theology to discover forms that make it possible to identify the fundamental unity linking the various paths of research, by showing their ultimate goal in the truth revealed by God in Jesus Christ. In this perspective, a philosophy open to mystery and its revelation can support theology itself in explaining how understanding the contents of faith promotes the dignity of man and his reason.

6. Recovering what was the patrimony of Christian thought, I wrote that the relationship between theology and philosophy “is best construed as a circle” (Fides et ratio FR 73), as was also mentioned a short while ago by Cardinal Ratzinger. In this way both theology and philosophy will help each other not to fall into the temptation of reducing to a system the perennial newness found in the mystery of Revelation brought by Jesus Christ. It will always retain its power of radical newness, which no thought will ever be able to fully explain or exhaust. Truth can be accepted always and only as a fully gratuitous gift that is offered by God to be received in freedom. The richness of this truth forms part of the human fabric and calls for expression in the many forms that constitute human language. The fragments of truth that each person carries within himself must seek fulfilment in that one, definitive truth of which Christ is the perfect form. The truth about man is given to him in the Holy Spirit without measure (cf. Jn Jn 3,34) in order to inspire thought that is no longer indebted to reason alone but also to the heart. Proof of this profound and fruitful thought is that “science of the saints” which led me a year ago to proclaim St Thérèse of Lisieux a “doctor of the Church”, in the footsteps of many saints, both men and women, who have left a significant mark on the history of Christian theological and philosophical thought. It is time for the experience and thought of the saints to be more carefully and systematically developed for a deeper understanding of Christian truths.

7. Theologians and philosophers, according to the requirements of their respective disciplines, are called to look to the one God who is revealed in creation and in salvation history as the perennial source of their work. The truth that comes “from above”, as history shows, does not compromise the autonomy of rational knowledge, but spurs it on to further discoveries that lead to authentic human progress, by encouraging a thought that can reach the human heart, thus producing fruits of life. I wish to entrust these prospects and these hopes to the intercession of the One who is invoked as the “Seat of Wisdom” and, as I call upon her constant protection for you and for the “intellectual forge” that your university is called to be, I impart my affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all. Thank you!





Thursday, 12 November 1998

Mr. Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome the distinguished representative of Brazil for the presentation of his Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. You are received here today, as you always will be, with the attention and interest deserved by Your Excellency and your noble country; the latter has shown its reciprocal esteem even in the choice of representatives for this mission, reflecting the sincere affection for the Successor of Peter of the Brazilian people and, in the first place, of the President of the Federative Republic of Brazil.

I therefore thank you for the kind words and greeting that the nation's chief executive has wished to convey to me through Your Excellency. I earnestly entreat you to do me the kindness of reciprocating his greeting on my behalf, together with good wishes for peace and prosperity.

2. With the President's recent re-election, the Brazilian Government is preparing to continue the work of social improvement rendered necessary, as Your Excellency said, on account of "the distortions and injustices accumulated" in the years of political and economic instability. I have followed with great interest the application of those measures destined, among other things, to promote a more just distribution of wealth, the right to instruction at school and to education at all levels, the thorny problem of the public debt and the drama of unemployment in many sectors of the national economy. I note with pleasure the results achieved by the Brazilian Government's commitment to give priority to the social sector, the defence of human rights, especially those of children, and the effective implementation of agrarian reform. These are serious challenges to the peace and harmonious progress of society, as you understand, but they concern a wider social need which sees in the future well-being of the Brazilian family an indispensable reference point for all government action.

In this case may I add, Mr. Ambassador, that the evidence of Brazil's development recorded in recent years will endure as long as there is an improvement in moral values which make solidarity, especially with the most needy, the focus of the most important decisions. The global crisis the world is experiencing is not only financial but is a crisis of values, of ideals, of the moral foundations which guide the family in a special way. For this reason, last year during my Pastoral Visit to Rio de Janeiro for the Second World Meeting with Families, I wished to emphasize the fact that "through the family all human life is oriented to the future. In the family man comes into the world, grows and matures. In it he becomes an increasingly mature citizen of his country, and an increasingly aware member of the Church" (Homily, 5 October 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 8 October 1997, p. 1).

3. The moment of hope the country is experiencing and its people's concern to see society renewed as a whole are strong incentives to wider co-operation and sentiments of sharing for the common good, which is at the root of the Christian tradition of the people of the Land of the Holy Cross.

The approach of the celebrations to mark the 2,000th anniversary of Christ's birth, coinciding with the fifth centenary of Brazil's evangelization, will doubtless help people learn from past experience and be open to the challenges of the future, with a view to the role Providence will call your great nation to play on the international scene.

Nevertheless, we know that a more just temporal order can only be achieved if material progress is accompanied by an improved spiritual outlook, that is, of moral values at the national and international level, as I recalled in the Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis; with the awareness of interdependence which today marks and conditions the life of individuals and peoples, there must be a moral presupposition which leads to "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good" (n. 38). The protection of society's most abandoned, transparency in political decisions which complies with criteria of justice, fairness and solidarity, the constant integration of races and cultures are, among other things, principles which no society may postpone, especially Brazil, since it has widely participated in the area of international decisions as a champion of peace and harmony among nations.

I express the wish, Mr. Ambassador, that in consolidating these requirements Brazil may continue to rely on its people's Christian principles for a renewed commitment to the common good, to counter the selfishness prevalent in so many parts of the world which is stifling the many noble aspirations to good. In this regard, I would like to repeat here that the Church will always keep to the path marked by the Redeemer of men, making use of the Gospel principles of charity and justice, so that in the area of mission which is her own and with due respect for pluralism, she may promote all those initiatives which serve the cause of man as a citizen and child of God. The example of Fra Galvão, recently beatified, known by all as "the man of charity and peace" and reborn in Christ the very year your country regained its independence, holds up to all people of goodwill the path of a nation ever more just and fraternal.

The Holy See, for its part, will not cease to encourage better understanding among peoples, especially in Latin American countries - united by strong historical, cultural and religious ties - strengthening those moral and spiritual values which reinforce effective solidarity and eliminate the barriers that are such a hindrance to understanding and dialogue within the international community.

4. Mr Ambassador: at the end of our meeting, will you kindly convey my sincere good wishes to the President, at the time when he is preparing for another term of office to guide Brazil's lofty destiny; I would also like to express my gratitude to you for the words that Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardosso sent me, together with all Brazilians, on the occasion of the beatification of Fra Antônio de Sant'Anna Galvão. I express to Your Excellency the esteem and support of the entire Apostolic See for the new and important mission you are beginning today; please God it will be crowned with abundant fruits and joys.

In asking you kindly to convey my sentiments and good wishes to those in your Government who guide the future of the Brazilian people, I make the most of this opportunity to implore through the intercession of Our Lady of the Apparition abundant blessings from almighty God for your person, for your mandate and for your family members, as well as for all the beloved children of the noble Brazilian nation.

Speeches 1998 - Saturday, 7 November 1998