Speeches 1998 - 28 May 1998

As you have remarked, the Kingdom of Swaziland and the Holy See enjoy bonds of friendship and cooperation which are made ever stronger by the goals which we share in our common work for peace and well-being at all levels of society. Our meeting today affords us the opportunity to reflect together on some of the concerns which unite us as we strive to foster ever greater understanding and collaboration. In fact, the sole purpose of the Holy See’s efforts in the area of international affairs is the building of a more just and humane world, established on the firm foundation of respect for human dignity and human rights. There can be no doubt that, if this objective is to be attained, the international community must commit itself to a real and effective solidarity with all peoples, both in promoting the new possibilities for human development now emerging and in overcoming the threats to peace that are ever present.

Looking to your own continent, we can identify certain challenges that international solidarity must meet in order to safeguard integral human development in Africa as well as to ensure the political, economic and social well-being of the world at large. Among the most pressing concerns is the need to put an end to armed conflicts, to provide food for the hungry and to care for the multitude of refugees. Singly, each of these problems is itself a source of great suffering; but they can be rightly considered together, for each is both a cause and an effect of the others. In Africa, hunger has often been the result of social disintegration caused by conflict and violence. And among the victims of war and famine are those forced to abandon their homes and seek shelter elsewhere, with the extensive dispersal and scattering of men, women and children throughout Africa. During these last years of the twentieth century, reliable statistics speak of six million refugees and another sixteen million persons displaced within their own countries. The net result is more wars, more starvation and more refugees; and so the vicious cycle continues, with devastating effects.

Those who are concerned for Africa’s welfare, and for the welfare of other regions of the globe where similar tragedies are taking place, must spare no effort to provide speedy relief to the victims of war, famine and displacement. Everyone, including national leaders and directors of international organizations, must work together to find ways to stop these evils from spreading and indeed to bring them to an end. It is widely accepted that violence must give way to dialogue, that food must never be used as a tool of negotiation, and that the distribution of humanitarian aid must be unimpeded and unconditional. Unfortunately, moving from statements of principle to concrete plans of action is not always easy, and it is precisely here that the Holy See has repeatedly called on the international community to act decisively and in effective solidarity to help those who are truly in need.

While this appeal is made to the international community as a whole, a particular call for solidarity is also addressed to the countries of Africa itself. The nations of Africa must not rely on outside assistance for everything; they have many men and women with all the requisite human and intellectual aptitudes to meet the challenges of our time. As I said to the Diplomatic Corps earlier this year: in Africa, “more 'African’ solidarity is needed to support countries in difficulty, and also to avoid discriminatory measures or sanctions being imposed on them” (Speech to Diplomatic Corps, 10 January 1998, No. 4). Cooperation in the analysis and evaluation of political options, reciprocal agreement to ban arms trafficking, active participation in programmes promoting peace and reconciliation: these are all ways of increasing African credibility in the eyes of the rest of the world and will encourage other countries to increase assistance and to be more respectful of the sovereignty of the nations involved.

It is this same concept of solidarity which inspires the Catholic Church in her commitment to humanitarian projects. Christian charity prompts the active involvement of Swazi Catholics, although they are only a small minority among their fellow citizens, in the work of advancing human development in their own country, especially through the Church’s activity in the fields of education, healthcare and social services. I thank you for your words of appreciation of the Church’s commitment in these spheres, and I am confident that, with the legal guarantee of religious freedom in Swaziland, the Catholic community will be able to continue to obey freely the Lord’s command to preach the Good News of salvation and to bear witness to it through practical deeds of love and compassion.

Your Royal Highness, it is my hope that during the term of your service the friendship and understanding which have marked relations between Kingdom of Swaziland and the Holy See will continue to grow. I assure you of the full cooperation of the Roman Curia in the exercise of your lofty mission, and I invoke upon you and the entire Swazi people the abundant blessings of Almighty God.





Thursday, 28 May 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. Welcome to the Vatican, where I have the pleasure to receive you for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Madagascar to the Holy See.

Thank you for conveying the greetings of His Excellency President Didier Ratsiraka. I would be grateful if you would kindly express my best wishes to him for his person and for the fulfilment of his important mission of leading the nation on the road to prosperity and harmony among all its members. I also extend my cordial greetings to the Malagasy people and their leaders, and I pray that God will let them see the success of their efforts to establish a society based on respect for life and on relations of solidarity, the true fihavanana which constitutes the wealth of your culture, for the sake of harmonious development.

2. You have told me of your country’s commitment to progress resolutely towards the strengthening of a State of law and democracy by observing the fundamental rights of all its citizens. The governance of nations must be based on respect for laws that safeguard the rights and define the duties of individuals. Indeed, we know that constraints on the free participation of each person in the decisions governing a society’s life often lead to conflicts whose consequences can imperil a nation’s future. Moreover, the duty of solidarity between the various members of society should become an ever greater priority: the management of the common patrimony, based on justice and honesty, must seek to provide for the needs of all, enabling them to lead a dignified and respected life.

In your address, you also stressed the important place family values have in Malagasy culture. It is the State’s task to support and protect the family by introducing a social, economic and educational policy which enables it to fulfil all its obligations in a truly human way, especially with regard to children, for the family unit is a primary and vital reality for society as a whole. As I recalled in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, “it is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself” (n. 42).

When, all too often, the world subjects the earth’s resources to its will without restraint, it is also important to remember that human dignity and the flourishing of society cannot fully develop, as you yourself stressed, except in a healthy and protected environment that preserves the overall balance of nature, which must not be harmed in any way. In fact, there is a duty to respect the precious gift God has made to the human race, so that it can progress harmoniously and collaborate with his work of creation for the sake of the common good. It is also a serious responsibility towards the generations to come.

3. In a spirit of dialogue and co-operation with people of goodwill, the Catholic Church in Madagascar intends to share fully, in her own specific role, in building a prosperous and fraternal nation. Christ’s love, to which she wants to bear witness in the heart of humanity, invites her to be concerned for all people, giving priority to the weakest and the suffering. Through her words and effective efforts, the Church wishes to protect man from all forms of exploitation, constantly recalling the need for the integral development of the person and of a society based on human and spiritual values. Through her social teaching, she also wishes to help form consciences in their search for the truth about man, so that they can respond to the urgent needs and challenges resulting from the profound and rapid changes society is undergoing.

4. Mr Ambassador, allow me, through you, to greet the Bishops and members of the Catholic community of Madagascar, whose warm hospitality I had the pleasure of experiencing. In this second year of preparation for the Great Jubilee dedicated to the Holy Spirit, I encourage them to bear ever more intense wit- ness to Christian hope in the face of global developments and the situation of each human person, in “a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God’s plan” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46).

5. As you begin your mission to the Holy See, I offer you my best wishes. Be assured that you will always receive an attentive welcome here and cordial understanding from those who work with me.

I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine blessings on Your Excellency, on the Malagasy people and on their leaders.




28 May 1998

Mr Ambassador,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Latvia to the Holy See. As I accept your Letters of Credence, I thank you for the warm greetings which you bring from President Guntis Ulmanis, and I ask that you convey to him and to the Latvian people my own good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation.

Our meeting vividly reminds me of my Pastoral Visit to your country in 1993, when I saw and heard for myself how much the Latvian people had suffered through long years of oppression, and how deep was the yearning for freedom which had sustained them through those years. I witnessed the nobility of a nation in which the hope for freedom had never died; and in this hope I recognized the seed of the Gospel, sown long ago in Latvian hearts by Saint Meinhard, but bearing new fruit in the liberation of recent times. I trust most sincerely that this same hope will lead Latvia beyond the complex task of reconstruction into the future for which Latvians have struggled, a future at the heart of the European community of nations.

For all the achievements of recent years, this remains a delicate time of transition for Latvia, a time when the country finds itself poised between the sorrows of the past and the promises of the future. The past is gone, but its wounds remain; and the process of healing is long and slow. The new Freedom Monument in Riga, built to commemorate the events of January 1991, is an enduring reminder that there is much to be forgiven and nothing to be forgotten. The future beckons, but its promises are more elusive and demanding than they seemed at first. The events of 1991 were extraordinary, but they did not suddenly bring a new world to birth. More than ever they seem now the beginning of a long journey. Yet, however daunting the task of reconstruction can seem, the strength which led your nation to independence will surely not fail the Latvian people as they face this challenge.

The complexities of such a task can at times obscure the most basic demands. In the wake of economic devastation, it is tempting to see material reconstruction not only as an urgent task but as the only task. Yet material reconstruction without moral and spiritual reconstruction will only hinder the great venture of freedom which Latvia is now living. At the heart of all the challenges facing Latvia in this time of transition there lies the moral imperative. Freedom came in 1991 because the Latvian people were prepared to defend it, whatever the cost. That freedom still needs to be defended, although in different ways; and to defend it now the Latvian Government and people will need to continue clear-sightedly and courageously on the path of moral reconstruction.

Freedom is only freedom if it is directed towards the truth and governed by it; separated from truth, it withers and leads eventually to new forms of slavery. The oppression from which Latvia has only recently emerged rose from an ideology which did not tell the truth. It used the rhetoric of freedom, but what it produced was oppression. If the future is not to repeat the past, there is a need to build on the basis of the truth about man and about society.

At the heart of this vision there lie certain fundamental values which provide the one sure foundation for a society worthy of man. These values cannot be ignored or rejected in the task of reconstruction. Among them, there is the need for a true notion of independence, which implies not only a rejection of the destructive dependence of the past, but also an acceptance of the creative interdependence which has become more and more a reality of international life and which calls for dialogue and mutual respect between peoples. Secondly, there is the need for a true notion of democracy, which does not coincide with the idea that rights and duties are conferred solely by majority vote, with the result that the strong overpower the weak. It involves respect for universal moral principles and demands a vivid sense of the common good. Thirdly, there is the need for an authentic notion of economic development, which does not place profit before people or reduce the individual to the status of a commodity valued on the basis of price or productivity. As she builds her future, Latvia has to seek true independence, democracy and economic development; and this search demands above all an acceptance of the governing truth about the human person and human society.

It is at this point that the Church wishes to make her distinctive contribution within the dialogue which diplomatic relations make possible. When I was in Latvia, I made it clear that “the role that the Church claims as her own, with all respect for the State and the society in which it lives, is not a role of power, still less of privilege, but of witness, directed most of all towards the task of forming people in the highest values of existence” (Riga, 9 September 1993). This unique witness is based not upon ideology of any kind but upon the Gospel, in which, “by means of the Church’s social doctrine, economic, political and social problems can find certainly not technical solutions but clear principles from which to draw inspiration” (Riga, 10 September 1993). This is a contribution which reaches beyond the circle of faith, since it involves principles which may be shared by those who do not consider themselves Christians or believers of any kind. The truth which the Church proposes is born of faith but it is offered to all, since it concerns not the interests of the Church narrowly conceived but the interests and well-being of all individuals and peoples.

Latvia faces a magnificent new opportunity, and this brings a new responsibility. The future is yours to shape; but you are not alone in that task. The Church seeks to offer Latvia whatever she can to ensure that the promises of this time find their fulfilment in a society based on truth and the freedom which truth alone can bring. That is the pledge which I renew today and which I ask you to convey to the President and the Latvian people. It is a pledge motivated by a profound respect for your nation and by the solemn duty which the Gospel imposes upon the Church.

Mr Ambassador, as you enter the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the ready collaboration of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia as you carry out your duties. May your mission serve to strengthen the bond of understanding between your Government and the Holy See; and may that bond contribute richly to your country’s reconstruction. Upon yourself, your family and all the people of Latvia I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.






28 May 1998

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Majesty King Hussein Bin Talal appoints you Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Holy See. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between us, you are the third in a distinguished line of Ambassadors who have worked effectively to strengthen the ties uniting us. I extend to you my good wishes for the success of your mission. I thank you for the greetings which you bring from King Hussein, and I ask you to convey to His Majesty my own greetings and to assure him of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation.

Inevitably, the peace and prosperity of Jordan are closely tied to the situation in the Middle East as a whole. In recent years, hopes have been raised that negotiations would produce peaceful solutions to the many problems of the region. But these hopes have not yet been fulfilled. Indeed in times such as the present the prospect of fulfilment even seems to have receded.

It is clear that there will be no peace unless there is the will to pursue the path of dialogue and understanding which alone can lead to peace. When this determination is not present on all sides, frustration and anger take hold, which in turn lead to violence. I pay tribute to your country and to His Majesty the King, for Jordan has demonstrated a strong will to pursue the way of dialogue and understanding, to work patiently and courageously for peace. The most recent negotiations suggest that, with the prospect of a breakdown in the peace process which would surely prove disastrous for all, there is still determination to find non-violent solutions. It is my fervent hope that the voice of reason will prevail. I repeat once again that there is only one path that can be taken - that of respect, justice and cooperation. History has repeatedly shown that the rejection of dialogue in favour of aggression is a decision which creates many more problems than it solves; thus, it is not a reasonable option. The only reasonable option, in the Middle East as elsewhere, remains that of dialogue and understanding.

In the current complex and difficult situation, the Church seeks to make her distinctive contribution, not in favour of one people or another but in favour of peace, and therefore in favour of all the peoples of the region. In this, the Church is motivated not by narrow institutional self-interest nor by political calculation, but by a profound respect for all the peoples of the Middle East and by the solemn duty which the Gospel imposes. It is the Gospel rather than any ideology which enables the Church to see the truth about the human person and human society, a truth easily obscured when pressures are so great and complexities so daunting. In such a situation, the Church seeks to speak a word of truth about the human person and human society, since without that truth any agreement which might be negotiated would be illusory. It would lack the one sure foundation upon which a just and lasting peace may be built.

The Church is inspired by a moral vision, born of faith, it is true, but reaching beyond the circle of Christian faith to be shared by all people committed to the common good. It is a moral vision which Jews, Christians and Moslems can share, since all three are born of a tradition of ethical monotheism. We are all children of a religious tradition which insists that man cannot worship the one true God without respecting the moral imperative which has its roots in God. Such a vision understands that a peace process which ignores justice will descend sooner or later into short-sighted pragmatism, self-interest or opportunism.

In fact, there can be no peace without justice. All the peoples of the Middle East have in some way been wronged, and all have inalienable rights. Justice demands that wrongs be redressed and rights be respected. But neither will there be justice without truth. To see the necessary relationship between peace, justice and truth is to understand the moral structure of peace. It is this above all which any peace process must respect; and it is at this point that the Church pledges to cooperate in every way possible.

The history of the Middle East shows how religion, when linked to ideology, can divide and lead even to violent conflict. Yet it is equally clear that, when religion is allowed to be what it truly is, then it can unite, enabling believers to walk together in trust and mutual respect. With its enlightened Constitution and the initiatives in favour of interreligious dialogue taken by His Majesty the King and by Crown Prince Hassan, the Kingdom of Jordan has indicated that such a way forward is possible. It is my hope that Christians in your country will continue to participate in all sectors of social life and in public institutions. But also beyond the borders of Jordan, it is vital now that Jews, Christians and Moslems should find that common path which leads to a strengthening of mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.

In reflecting upon peace, my thoughts turn inevitably to the Holy City, so often destroyed yet always rebuilt, its stones a symbol of both human desolation and the power of human hope. The long and troubled history of Jerusalem will reach a new threshold in the year 2000 as the Third Millennium of Christianity dawns. It is my fervent hope that this may prompt formal recognition with international guarantees of the unique and sacred character of the Holy City. Indeed, it is we who belong to Jerusalem, since we are all her children; and if this is true, then the City ought to become a place where all peoples of the world can meet in peace. The Holy City has always had a special place in Jordanian history and in the heart of the Jordanian people.

Mr Ambassador, I trust most sincerely that the bonds of friendship and understanding between the Kingdom of Jordan and the Holy See will be strengthened by your time of service in Rome, so that we may collaborate ever more effectively in the search for peace. I assure you of the ready assistance of the various offices and agencies of the Holy See as you perform your duties. Upon yourself, your family and your beloved country I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.






28 May 1998

Mr Ambassador,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you today to the Vatican and accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Gambia to the Holy See. This occasion, as well as the cordial meeting which I had three months ago with your President, His Excellency Yahya Jammeh, rekindle the happy memory of my Pastoral Visit to your country six years ago: the people of the Gambia remain dear to me and ever close to my heart. I ask you kindly to convey to the President and the members of Government my warm greetings and to assure them of my esteem and respect for all Gambians.

As Your Excellency has noted, our modern world is experiencing rapid changes in the social, economic and political spheres. Sometimes these changes are positive and are a source of hope and promise; at other times, they seem arbitrary at best and bring much anxiety and many problems. It is in great part due to changes of this latter type that the continent of Africa, despite its immense human and natural resources, faces great difficulties as it strives to meet the challenges of poverty, hunger and ethnic rivalry, each of which is complicated by an ever growing materialism, the tragic spread of AIDS and the deadly onslaught of the drug culture. High moral ideals and strict adherence to the principles of goodness, truth and justice in human relationships are necessary if adequate responses to these complex situations are to be found. And this is true not for Africa alone, but for the world community at large. In fact, it is respect for universal moral norms that, as I wrote in my Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor, protects “the inviolable personal dignity of every human being” and helps to “preserve the human social fabric and its proper fruitful development” (loc. cit., No. 97).

It is just such values and principles which guide the Holy See in its activity in the field of international diplomacy. It is these same moral ideals which the Catholic Church seeks to uphold and foster in her own work in the various areas of social service wherever she is present, especially in education and healthcare. Here I wish to thank Your Excellency for your words of appreciation of the Church’s role in contributing to the national development of the Gambia.

Indeed, the Church is a willing partner in the authentic development of all peoples. This development requires that the tensions and conflicts which continue to be a threat throughout the world be overcome. And these tensions and conflicts cannot be properly overcome unless efforts aimed at increasing justice, peace and security have individual human beings — in the fullness of their inalienable rights and God-given dignity — as their explicit and manifest object. For it is only when the human person is placed resolutely and unambiguously at the centre and forefront of every endeavour to share knowledge, technology, resources and skills that genuine progress can take place.

The challenge, then, is to build an ever more united, just and peaceful world where all sectors of society — at the local, national and international levels — can work together for the good of all. It is not economic interests alone which must determine and guide this work, but keen attention to people’s cultural, ethical and spiritual needs. In this perspective, development is first and foremost a question of people: people are the subject and the aim of true development. People must be the focus of all that is done to improve living conditions. People must be active agents, not passive recipients, in any process aimed at fostering integral human development.

It is important to reach out and offer material assistance to those in need, but people must also be helped to discover the values which will enable them to improve their lives and to claim their rightful place in society with dignity and justice (cf. Message for the 1987 World Day of Peace, No. 6). Social choices themselves have consequences that either promote or debase the true good of the human person in society. In the field of development, and especially in the area of assistance programmes, projects are often put forward which claim to be “value free” but which in fact promote values which are contrary to life and true freedom. When this happens we must declare clearly and forcefully that such programmes are an affront to human dignity and human freedom, that they violate authentic justice and solidarity.

Whatever impedes true freedom militates against the development of society and of social institutions. Exploitation, threats, forced subjection, the denial of opportunities by one sector of society to another contradict the very notion of human development. Without freedom and security, the conditions for development are lacking. Not only individuals but also nations must be able to share in making the choices which affect them. The freedom which nations need in order to ensure their growth and development as equal partners in the family of nations is dependent on the establishment of mutual trust and respect among them. The principles of goodness, truth and justice must ever be the hallmarks of all efforts, both individual and corporate, aimed at building a future truly worthy of the human family.

Mr Ambassador, I offer my good wishes as you begin your diplomatic mission, and assure you of the ready cooperation of the offices of the Holy See in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon yourself and all the beloved people of the Gambia I invoke God’s blessings of prosperity and peace.





Thursday, 28 May 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Chad to the Holy See.

I appreciate your courteous words, as well the greetings you have conveyed to me from your President, Mr Idriss Deby. In return, I would like you to express my best wishes for the nation's happiness and prosperity to your President and to all the people of Chad, as I ask God to grant that all may live in a united and fraternal society where each individual sees his place recognized and can fully develop.

2. I am pleased to know that after a difficult period in its life, your country is resolutely involved in a democratic process which should allow all the people of Chad to live in harmony and with respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and communities. Indeed it is essential to develop a "culture of peace" by courageously facing the historical, social, political or economic phenomena which cause or encourage violence, in order to maintain stability and mutual understanding, and to develop the solidarity of the nation as a whole.

To do this, as I have already had the opportunity to stress, it is for governments "to contribute to the building of peace through the establishment of solid structures capable of withstanding the uncertainties of politics, thus guaranteeing to everyone freedom and security in every circumstance" (Message for World Day of Peace 1997, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18/25 December 1996, p. 3). Nevertheless, to establish lasting cordial relations between all the constituents of the nation, it is necessary that each individual be willing to face the future by accepting others and offering sincere forgiveness.

People must constantly learn how to live in diversity. It is necessary to overcome the fear of differences and to seek basic similarities that enable them to coexist in mutual understanding. Trusting dialogue among all the communities which form a country is an essential element in building peace and harmony, which for all citizens are the indispensable conditions of a worthy and peaceful life.

3. You referred, Mr Ambassador, to the role played by the Apostolic See in promoting justice and peace. For her part, the Church in Chad is sincerely involved in the work of reconciliation and understanding among all the constituents of the nation. Indeed, the Catholic community is aware that for the common good it is essential to fight, together with all people of goodwill, against all forms of exclusion and intolerance, which can have devastating effects on the unity and the future of society.

In this regard, in order to promote the values of justice, solidarity and freedom, I firmly hope that the relations of trust and friendship between Christians and Muslims, which already exist in many places, may grow through good neighbourly relations and fruitful cooperation, with mutual respect and sincerity. By drawing from the authentic heritage of their religious traditions, may they together make their contribution to the renewal of the nation!

4. I take this happy occasion, Mr Ambassador, to ask you to convey my warm greetings to the Bishops and Catholics of your country. I know of their commitment to building a united and harmonious nation. As we prepare to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I strongly encourage them in their steadfast witness to the Gospel of Christ among their brothers and sisters, and I invite them to continue sharing the hope that is in their hearts. With sincere cooperation may they work fervently with their compatriots in the joint development of their country!

5. As you begin your mission to the Holy See, I am pleased to offer you my cordial wishes for its success. Be assured that those who work with me will always listen to you with the attention and understanding you may require.

Upon Your Excellency, upon the people of Chad and their leaders, I fervently invoke an abundance of blessings from the Almighty.

Speeches 1998 - 28 May 1998