Speeches 1998 - 6 June 1998





Saturday, 6 June 1998

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am particularly pleased to meet your delegation gathered here to represent the entire Association of Parents of Catholic Schools (A.Ge.S.C.). I extend my greeting to the President, Dr Stefano Versari, whom I thank for the cordial words he addressed to me on behalf of those present. Your association serves the family and the Catholic school, promoting the values of integral education, freedom and dialogue, all of which are fundamental values for the development of an authentically democratic society.

The family and the Catholic school: these are two social realities for which the Church is constantly concerned. It could be said that your association epitomizes these realities, by seeking to guarantee young generations the necessary conditions for growing and maturing in spiritual, cultural and civil life.

Over the last 20 years in Italy, the association has contributed to a considerable extent in overcoming a long period of neglect of the Catholic school and in bringing to the attention of the political world and public opinion the problem of freedom of education. I am certain that the recent approval of the new Statutes by the Italian Episcopal Conference will encourage your commitment even more, especially regarding the formation of parents.

Attention to the formative aspect seems, in fact, to be particularly urgent, because you are asked not just to claim your rights, but above all to participate creatively and constructively in the life of the Catholic school, in its ecclesial, educational and social dimensions.

2. Yours is an ecclesial association. This characteristic demands that the work it does, although carried out primarily in the educational field, should never lose sight of the Church’s saving message and evangelizing mission. Participation in the life of the Christian community helps believing parents to carry out fully their educational task by making their family a “little Church”, called to bear witness to the values of God’s kingdom in human institutions.

Parents within the ecclesial community, by experiencing the superabundant wealth of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, will be able to open themselves to the horizons of the Gospel and to the needs of mankind and, as a result of a serene community discernment, they will be able to undertake specific services that foster the integral growth of the new generations.

In my Letter to Families I recalled that parents are “the first and most important educators of their own children” and as such “possess a fundamental competence in this area They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. [But the mission of education] must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the principle of subsidiary”, that is, with respect for the diversity of roles and responsibilities (n. 16).

Parents are often unprepared for and perplexed by the problems that educational structures encounter, the hardship that students undergo and the signs of the school's detachment from society. In this regard the role of parents' associations becomes very useful, by helping them to fulfil their educational responsibility and to foster constructive co-operation with the scholastic institution. In the Catholic school this collaboration has Christian education as its basis and permits parents to examine their choices, and the scholastic institution to define better its identity and its cultural and pedagogical offerings.

It is therefore necessary for Catholic schools to give special care to the formation of parents, so that they can become aware of their tasks and specific responsibilities. The organized presence of parents within Catholic schools is a basic element for the realization of their formative project.

3. Parents express the sensitivity and expectations present in society; in a way they are the natural bridge between the Catholic school and the surrounding reality. It is therefore their duty to submit their requests to the school regarding the guidance to be given their children and to share with the teaching staff those specific formative tasks in which the family is called to co-operate responsibly.

This characteristic of being a “bridge” between the school and society also requires that parents and their associations bring to the attention of politicians the problems concerning the education of their children and the Catholic school, by intervening in the changes under way in society and in the drafting of reform projects for the Italian school system.

In this context, I renew my hope that in Italy, as in many other countries of Europe and the world, a law on parity will be approved that would acknowledge the valuable service carried out by Catholic schools and guarantee parents complete freedom in choosing the educational orientation for their children.

Dear parents, the schools that your children attend have arisen from the charism and often prophetic insight of men and women who left a luminous trail of holiness in the Church. May the rediscovery of the wonders achieved by the Holy Spirit in their lives sustain you in your daily effort to direct your children to the everlasting values of the Gospel and the living person of Christ. I also hope that Catholic schools will welcome and value your charism as parents.

With these wishes, I entrust you to the protection of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, model of Christian parents. Encouraging you to continue in your praiseworthy service to Catholic schools, I bless you all with affection.




To The Most Reverend Father
José Hernández Sánchez
Minister General of the Order
of the Most Holy Trinity

1. This year the meritorious Order of the Trinitarians recalls the eighth centenary of the approval of its Rule of Life. It was in 1198 that, having acceded to the desires of Bro. John of Matha, my Predecessor Innocent III, with the Bull Operante divinae dispositionis clementia of 17 December, confirmed the fundamental document that established a Brotherhood in the Church with the aim of ransoming those who were imprisoned for their faith in Christ.

I am delighted to share in your joy at this happy anniversary. I first of all greet you, Most Reverend Minister General, and, as I once again express the Holy See's appreciation of the apostolic activity carried out by this order and by the entire Trinitarian family, I offer my wishes that this jubilee will, for all who follow in the footsteps of St John of Matha a reason and occasion for renewed fidelity to their charism by drawing from the fresh springs of your original spirituality.

2. This auspicious jubilee celebration providentially occurs during the immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which will commemorate the Incarnation of the Son of God, who came “to bring good tidings to the afflicted; ... to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour” (Is 61,1-2). Your order made the liberation of the oppressed and love for the poor a defining feature of its mission in the Church and the world, faithfully following the holy founder who, in obedience to an inner call, felt spurred to work for the salvation of Christian slaves and for the humble and generous service of the poor as a witness of praise and glory to the Most Holy Trinity.

With the Trinitarian Order Christianity established a humanitarian contact with the world of Islam; in fact, Innocent III himself presented the redemptive and liberating work of your institute to leaders of the Muslim world, thus initiating a dialogue on the practice of the works of mercy (cf. Vat. Arch., Reg. Vat., vol. 4, fol. 148r-v, an. II, n. 9).

Eight centuries later, such an exceptional charism still seems extraordinarily contemporary in the modern multicultural social context, marked by tensions and challenges that are even critical at times. This charism obliges Trinitarians to identify with courage and missionary boldness ever new forms of evangelization and human advancement, just as John of Matha did throughout his life.

He “unceasingly sought the will of God”. During his first Holy Mass, at the time of the consecration, he had a vision of Christ the Redeemer holding two slaves in his hands — one white, one coloured — to whom he offered redemptive freedom. This happened in the year 1193. The event, depicted in an artistic mosaic around the year 1210, is still visible on the portal of the house of St Thomas in Formis, given by Innocent III to the founder himself. From this divine inspiration arose his desire to care for slaves.

To reflect on this revelation and to develop his project, Bro. John retired to the wilderness of Cerfroid, where he met Felix of Valois and other hermits. With their help and that of the Bishops of Meaux and Paris and the Abbot of St Victor, he wrote and tested the Trinitarian Rule, which in 1198 he submitted to the Successor of Peter for approval.

3. The Most Holy Trinity as the source, model and goal of one's whole life: this is the heart of your spirituality. Your Rule begins, in fact, with the words, “in the name of the holy and undivided Trinity”, underscoring how faith in this fundamental mystery pervades the entire existence of those who, like your founder, choose radically to follow the Son of God. From this inexhaustible source of love comes your mission on behalf of slaves and the poor, which you, rightfully, live as a continuation of Christ's redeeming work.

Contemplating the mysteries of the Trinity and Redemption nourishes and directs your apostolic ministry, spurring you to share every spiritual and material gift you have received, to the point of making your lives a sacrifice of love for ransoming the victims of every form of material and spiritual slavery.

May each of your houses and your works be an upper room of praise to the Triune God and a source of generous self-giving to your brothers and sisters.

4. The centuries-old history of the order testifies that your mission is ever timely, even amid changing social and political situations. The examples of holiness and martyrdom that enrich your religious family prove the strength of your charism. Therefore, the present disciples of St John of Matha and Felix of Valois have the task of proclaiming to the world the Trinitarian mystery, thereby helping, as modern apostles of liberation for contemporary man, those who risk remaining prisoners of less visible but no less tragic and oppressive forms of slavery.

We are on the eve of a new Christian millennium: may this prospect further encourage you to make God's merciful face, revealed to us in the Incarnation of Christ, shine among men. Thus, you will become valiant defenders of the dignity of every human being. May the whole Trinitarian family in its various communities — nuns, sisters, secular institute, secular order, lay state — join in this task, thus translating your reflection on the specific Trinitarian charism, developed in recent years in the light of the Second Vatican Council, into a concrete ecclesial commitment.

To live among people today as the epiphany of Christ the Redeemer, as credible witnesses through whom God acts and reveals his merciful and redeeming love: this is still your mission. With this objective you carry out a service of mercy and redemption for the marginalized and oppressed in our society, and especially for those who suffer persecution or discrimination because of their religious faith, their fidelity to conscience or to the values of the Gospel. Your action will only be effective to the extent that you follow in the footsteps of Jesus, making his life-style your own in a constant commitment to proclaiming the joyful and liberating “news” of the kingdom to every person.

5. Most Reverend Minister General, over the past eight centuries the disciples of St John of Matha have summarized their spirituality and their apostolic work in the motto: Gloria Tibi Trinitas et captivis libertas. May this motto continue to guide your ministry and your activity through the complexities of modern society. May you be sustained by constant and fervent prayer, in which you can draw from the inexhaustible reserves of light and love found in the unfathomable depths of Trinitarian life.

May the Virgin Mary, Tabernacle of the Most Holy Trinity, be at your side and implore from her divine Son abundant graces and spiritual consolations for every member of your great spiritual family.

With these sentiments, I assure everyone of an affectionate remembrance at the altar of the Lord and cordially impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 7 June, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, in the year 1998, the twentieth of my Pontificate.






Tuesday, 9 June 1998

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to receive you at this audience, a few months after my memorable visit to your homeland. On that occasion I could experience first hand the warmth of Cubans and the wealth of values with which these beloved people are blessed. In the words of the Apostle Paul, I tell you “for this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ep 1,15-16). At the same time, I ask the Lord of history to make every Cuban the principal agent of his own “aspirations and legitimate desires” and to enable Cuba to “offer to everyone a climate of freedom, mutual trust, social justice and lasting peace” (Arrival Address at José Martí Airport, Havana, 21 January 1998; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 January 1998, p. 2).

I am deeply grateful for all your efforts in preparing for my Visit, together with the priests, religious and committed lay people and then for seeing that it all went smoothly. I am also grateful for your concern to keep alive the genuine hopes aroused by the message I left you, and to ensure that the teachings which stem from it are gradually put into practice in the future.

2. In the almost five months that have passed since my unforgettable Visit to your country, I have seen that my invitation to help Cuba “open itself up to the world, and ... the world to open itself up to Cuba” (ibid., n. 5) has been accepted by various nations and organisations, and that many ecclesial communities have intensified their desires and achievements, expressing their solidarity in concrete action and showing a fraternal spirit to the children of God who live in this beautiful land. You can be sure that the Holy See and the Successor of St Peter will continue to do everything possible, in accordance with the specific requirements of their spiritual mission, so that this response will continue to grow and that the interest aroused by my Visit will not subside but will achieve the results hoped for by the Cuban people.

In this regard, I also appreciate the gestures made by the Cuban authorities since my return to Rome. I would like to see them as the pledge and first-fruits of their readiness to create legal and social opportunities so that Cuban civil society can grow in autonomy and participation, and the country take its rightful place in the region and the concert of nations.

3. The desired opening is not limited to a mere improvement in international relations which tend to promote a process of mutual interdependence among peoples in the current context of globalisation. It is primarily a question of each individual's inner attitude, so that a new mentality and an openness of spirit may lead to true personal conversion and thus encourage the process of improvement and change in social structures. In this regard, I said after arriving on Cuban soil: “Do not be afraid to open your hearts to Christ. Allow him to come into your lives, into your families, into society. In this way all things will be made new. The Church repeats this appeal, calling everyone together without exception — individuals, families, peoples — so that by faithfully following Jesus Christ all may find the full meaning of their lives, commit themselves to serving their neighbour, and transform the bonds of family, work and friendship. This will always redound to the benefit of the nation and of society” (ibid., n. 4). And I repeated in Santa Clara: “Do not be afraid; open your families and schools to the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which are never a threat to any social project” (Homily at the Mass with families, 22 January; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 January 1998, p. 3).

By overcoming ideological, historical or political barriers which prevent the human person from growing in freedom and responsibility, peoples and nations should do all they can so that the truth, every human being’s deepest aspiration, will be sought with honesty, found with joy, proclaimed with enthusiasm and generously shared by all, without arbitrary restrictions on basic freedoms, such as freedom of expression, of assembly and of association. This enables a society to achieve a state of social harmony where mutual trust, participation, solidarity and justice prevail. In this regard, Cuba is called to embody and live her own identity, which has deeply Christian roots, by setting out towards honesty, openness and solidarity.

4. The Catholic Church in Cuba, of which you are the lawful Pastors, is a living community which promotes love and reconciliation and spreads the truth that stems from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in season and out of season (cf. 2Tm 4,2). The Church forms a substantial part not only of your national history, but also of its present, and is in a certain sense co-responsible, together with other institutions, for the future. With her daily work, “amidst the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God” (St Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XVIII, 51, 2), she contributes to the enrichment of all society, and not only of believers, since she strives to foster the spirituality of each individual, knowledge of the highest values and brotherhood among men. For this reason, when the Church is recognized and can count on sufficient means and opportunities to fulfil her mission, society benefits as a whole. In seeking the integral welfare of all its citizens, the State, although secular, must acknowledge this mission and guarantee these opportunities.

The Church which lives in every nation presents herself as “the new People of God” who, “although it does not actually include all men, and at times may appear as a small flock, is, however, a most sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race” (Lumen gentium LG 9).

5. Dear Brothers in the Epsicopate, “by virtue of the Holy Spirit” who has been given to you, you have “been constituted true and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors” (Christus Dominus CD 2), dedicating your- selves to the continual, daily care of the faithful (cf. Lumen gentium LG 27) and finding in it your joy and fulfilment. I urge you to live it as authentic ministers of reconciliation (cf. 2Co 5,18), so that under your guidance the message I gave Cuba will have continuity and produce fruit in abundance.

At this historic moment in the nation’s life, as Pastors you must meet the challenges created by my Pastoral Visit. May your voice, which is the voice of Christ who has sent you and consecrated you for his service, never be lacking! May your work as true spokesmen and authentic Pastors of the pilgrim Church in this beloved nation be recognized! May everyone see you as “messengers who announce peace” (Is 52,7), as I said to you at my meeting in Havana in a programmatic message which retains all its validity!

The exercise of your ministry is sometimes a burden and is always marked by the Cross of Christ. Do not be disheartened by this; persevere in prayer and offer at the altar of the Lord the sacrifices and lack of understanding involved in a courageous and daring exercise of the cultural, prophetic and charitable mission he has entrusted to you. You are not alone on this path. You are aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, together with the solidarity and affection of the whole Church, as well as the prayer of the Vicar of Christ. I also ask God, the Lord of the harvest, not only to send in- to the fields without delay the new workers needed by the Cuban nation, but also to increase the efforts, creativity and availability of the generous and dedicated priests and religious who are working in Cuba, so that evangelization will be new not only in its ardour, methods and expression, but also in its influence, by inculturating the Gospel in all areas of personal and social life.

6. During my visit to Cuba I had the opportunity to recall several aspects of the “social Gospel”. The lay faithful must respond with maturity, perseverance and boldness to the challenges of applying the Church’s social doctrine to the economic, political and cultural life of the nation. In this regard, the faithful are called to take part in public life with full rights and equal opportunity, to make their own contribution to national progress and to participate generously in rebuilding the country, having access to the various sectors of social life, such as education and the means of social communication, within an appropriate legal framework.

Christians in Cuba must join in seeking the common good, contributing their critical conscience and abilities, and even making sacrifices to foster the changes which the country needs at this time, with the help of all her children. Man’s true dignity is found in the truth revealed by Christ. He is the light of the world, and those who believe in him will not walk in darkness (cf. Jn Jn 12,46). For this reason, the obstruction of the light, personal dishonesty and social duplicity must be overcome by the culture of truth, so that, by profoundly respecting every person and every culture, the conviction may be proclaimed that the fullness of life is reached when one transcends the limits of materialism and reaches the ineffable and transcendent Light that frees us from all selfishness.

7. The rain that saw me off when I left Cuban soil reminded me of the hymn “Rorate caeli”, and I asked that the seeds sown with sacrifice and patience by all of you, Pastors and faithful, would grow vigorously and that Cuba would open her doors to Christ’s redemptive power, so that all Cubans can live a new advent in their national history.

When you return to the island, please convey the Pope’s affection and closeness to all Cubans. May they be certain that “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making my prayer with joy And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (Ph 1,3-10).

To Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Mother of all Cubans, deeply moved as I recall the moment when I placed on her the crown that her children had offered her, I present the hopes and desires, the joys and sorrows of them all, while from my heart I affectionately impart to them a special Apostolic Blessing.


TO Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo

President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

To my Venerable Brother
Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

The meeting currently taking place has been promoted by this dicastery and by the heads of associations, movements and non-governmental organizations, committed to the service of the family and life on the European continent. On this occasion I wish to extend my cordial greetings to you, Your Eminence, and courteously through you, to the participants and relators of the congress, with the wish that these providential moments of reflection and dialogue may produce the desired results and offer a renewed incentive to the family apostolate in Europe.

Everyone should be aware of the importance of the historical moment through which we are passing. It is also well known how on the “old continent” as in other parts of the world, the family institution has long been subject to profound and not always positive changes, and for this reason the constant and careful concern of the Bishops and the entire ecclesial community is required. The defence of the family and of human life is also a pastoral priority in the next millennium, which we are rapidly approaching.

In fact, among the truths obscured in man’s heart due to the growing secularization and widespread hedonistic atmosphere, it is those truths regarding the family that are most seriously affected. On the occasion of the Second World Meeting of Families in Rio de Janeiro, I had the opportunity to stress that “the basic struggle for human dignity is centred on the family and life” (Speech to the Pastoral Theology Congress at Rio de Janeiro, 3 October 1997: L’Osservatore Romano English Edition, 15 October 1997, p. 4). The entire Christian community is called to defend and promote these fundamental human and evangelical values.

An increasingly important role is played in pastoral service to the family and to life by associations, movements and non-governmental organizations in the broader context of lay participation in the apostolate and of guidance in temporal situations, as the Second Vatican Council recommended. The Church relies on their contribution, on their constant and courageous commitment. “People who work to protect and foster marriages and families will accomplish much for the future of Europe” (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for Europe, Final Declaration, n. 10: L’Osservatore Romano English Edition, 23/30 December 1991, p. 14).

As I sincerely hope that this meeting will effectively contribute to keeping alive in the faithful and in all people of goodwill an increasingly determined desire to work for the authentic promotion of human life and of its natural habitat, I would like to stress once again the truth that the family is founded on marriage.

These, Your Eminence, are the thoughts with which I accompany the work of this convention, while invoking on you and on the participants an abundance of gifts of the Holy Spirit and the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of life, I sincerely impart a special Apostolic Blessing to everyone.

From the Vatican, 11 June 1998.






13 June 1998

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome the members of the Harvard Law School Alumni Association on the occasion of your Reunion, being held this year in Rome. It is fitting that your group, which includes distinguished jurists from throughout the world, is meeting in this City so closely associated with the development of Western law, both civil and canonical. It is my hope that your own work of framing, applying and teaching the law will be guided by the lofty ideals of justice and equity which inspired the great tradition of jurists who, in the course of over two thousand years, sought to make Roman law not only an instrument of public order, but also of education in civic virtue and therefore a teacher of civilization itself.

The century now drawing to its close has been marked by unprecedented crimes against humanity, often carried out under the guise of legality. But we are also seeing a rebirth of hope in the power of law and legal institutions to protect human dignity, to foster peace and to promote justice between peoples. The fulfillment of this hope will require not only the establishment of more effective structures of law, but also, more importantly, the renewal of a juridical culture of respect for the objective requirements of the universal moral law as the basis and ultimate criterion of all positive legal enactments. What is needed, in effect, is a rediscovery of those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very nature and truth of the human person, and which express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 71).

Dear Friends, may the words of the Psalmist be fulfilled in all of you: “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times” (Ps 106,3). May your daily efforts in the service of the law contribute to the growth of a more peaceful and humane world. Upon you and your loved ones I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.







13 June 1998

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. On the occasion of your ad Limina visit, I warmly welcome you, the Pastors of the Church in the ecclesiastical region of St. Louis, Omaha, Dubuque and Kansas City. Through you I greet the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses: “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1Tm 1,2). Continuing the theme of these ad Limina talks, today it is my intention to devote my remarks to the reality of the consecrated life in the Churches over which you and your Brother Bishops preside in charity and pastoral service. These brief reflections aim neither to be a full presentation of the consecrated life nor to address all the practical questions which come up in your relations with religious. Rather, I wish to support you in your ministry as Successors of the Apostles, a ministry which extends also to the consecrated persons living and working in your Dioceses.

In particular, I wish to express a special word of appreciation, gratitude and encouragement to the women and men who, through the observance of the evangelical counsels, make visible in the Church the form that the Incarnate Son of God took upon himself during his earthly life (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 14). By their consecration and fraternal life, they bear witness to the new creation inaugurated by Christ and made possible in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. By their prayer and sacrifice, they sustain the Church’s fidelity to her saving mission. By their solidarity with the poor, they imitate the compassion of Jesus himself and his love of justice. By their intellectual apostolates, they serve the proclamation of the Gospel in the heart of the world’s cultures. By giving their lives to the hardest tasks, countless consecrated women and men in the United States, and all over the world, testify to the supremacy of God and the ultimate significance of Jesus Christ for human life. Many of them are involved in missionary work, especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and in recent times some of them have borne the ultimate witness by shedding their blood for the Gospel’s sake. The witness of consecrated persons makes tangible in the midst of God’s People the spirit of the Beatitudes, the value of the great commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. In a word, consecrated persons are at the very heart of the mystery of the Church, the Bride who responds to Christ’s infinite love with her whole being. How could we Bishops fail to praise God unceasingly and be filled with gratitude for such a gift to his Church!

2. The gift of consecrated life forms an integral part of the pastoral solicitude of the Successor of Peter and of the Bishops. The indivisibility of the Bishops’ pastoral ministry means that they have a specific responsibility for overseeing all charisms and callings, and this translates into specific duties regarding the consecrated life as it exists in each particular Church (cf. Mutuae Relationes, 9). Religious Institutes for their part ought to be eager to establish a cordial and effective cooperation with the Bishops (cf. ibid., 13), who by divine institution have succeeded the Apostles as shepherds of the Church, so that whoever hears them hears Christ (cf. Lk Lc 10,16 Lumen Gentium LG 20). The new springtime which the Church confidently awaits must also be a time of renewal and even re-birth of the consecrated life! The seeds of renewal are already showing many promising results, and the new Institutes of consecrated life now taking their place alongside the older ones bear witness to the abiding relevance and appeal of the total gift of self to the Lord according to the charisms of the Founders and Foundresses.

Speeches 1998 - 6 June 1998