Speeches 1998 - 27 June 1998





Saturday, 27 June 1998

Dear Colonel,
Dear Chaplain,
Dear Friends of the Swiss Guard,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Before the swearing-in ceremony of the Pontifical Swiss Guard, I am pleased to welcome you to the home of Peter’s Successor. I extend my warm thanks to Colonel Roland Buchs, who has very devotedly filled in during a difficult period. At this time I would like to express my cordial sentiments to the new Commandant, Colonel Pius Segmüller, and the Vice-Commandant, Lieutenant Colonel Elmar Theodor Mäder, who have agreed to serve in the Swiss Guard Corps and who will soon be taking up their duties. I also thank the Swiss authorities for facilitating these appointments. I offer my best wishes to the officers, to the non-commissioned officers and to all the members of this illustrious corps, who carry out their mission of service to the Holy See with courage, fidelity and loyalty.

Today we cannot forget those who have recently left us in a tragedy which continues to be a source of suffering for us all, but is also a call to remain faithful to the Lord and to be attentive to those around us. The great family of the Swiss Guard must continue its mission: its history and its generosity are a testimony in the sight of Catholics and of all nations.

2. I extend a welcome to all the parents, relatives and friends who have come here and are taking part in the swearing-in ceremony in order to assure the young recruits of their love and affection. I thank these people for their presence, a sign of the bond between Swiss Catholics and the Church, and even more, the See of Peter.

Dear young men, during your service you will be experiencing an extraordinary time, for you will be participating in the Great Jubilee of Year 2000. This period will be a special opportunity for preparing your future as men and as Christians. Your wish today to serve the Church and to devote several years of your life to protecting the Pope expresses your willingness to walk at Jesus Christ’s side every day of your life and to remain watchful in prayer and brotherhood. Despite the sometimes heavy burdens of your service, I would like you to be able to strengthen your faith and your love for the Church. You should support one another with trust and listen to your brothers; this is a duty each of you has towards his comrades.

3. Today’s swearing-in ceremony is another opportunity for me to express my deepest gratitude to all the members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps for their fidelity to the Successor of Peter and for their attention to maintaining order and security within the walls of Vatican City, as well as at Castel Gandolfo and everywhere the Pope may be. I know, dear friends, what pains you take to welcome with kindness and courtesy the pilgrims who are becoming more and more numerous as the third millennium approaches; in this way you bear an important witness to the welcoming heart of the Vatican and the Church. I ask the Lord to reward you for your valuable service and to fill your relatives with his heavenly favours.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.





28 June 1998

Dear Brothers in Christ,

I cordially welcome you, the Delegates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, who have come to Rome to take part in the solemn Eucharistic Celebration to mark the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul. For a number of years, this brotherly exchange has brought together representatives of the Church which owes its beginning to the apostolate of Saints Peter and Paul here in Rome and the Church which traces its origin to Saint Andrew.

The two brother Apostles Peter and Andrew, Patrons respectively of the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople, bring to mind the vocation received from the Lord to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom: "As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’" (Mt 4,18-19).

This is the mysterious vocation prefigured in their condition as fishermen, which now takes on a new and superior meaning. Jesus himself provides the perfect example of the Apostolic task: "He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people" (Mt 4,23).

This is the perennial task of the disciples of the Lord in every age and every place: the proclamation of the Kingdom and the healing of the evils afflicting the People of God. As we approach the Third Millennium, the Spirit makes us understand the urgency of a more intense dedication to this task. And the witness of Christian unity becomes even more imperative: "that they may all be one...so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,21). In this perspective, it is with joy that I recall the Joint Declaration signed by His Holiness Bartholomew I and myself, in which we urged Catholics and Orthodox "to make this spiritual pilgrimage together towards the Jubilee". We expressed our shared conviction that "reflection, prayer, dialogue, reciprocal forgiveness and mutual fraternal love will bring us closer to the Lord and will help us better to understand his will for the Church and for humanity".

Your presence among us for the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul is a clear sign of our common will to undertake this journey in fraternal charity and in love for the truth, trusting in Jesus Christ, the only Lord and Saviour of the world.

I ask you to take the assurance of my cordial greeting and fraternal regard to His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch. May God who has begun a good work in us bring it to completion. Amen.





Dear Brothers in the Priesthood,

1. I am pleased to send you a cordial greeting on the occasion of your participation in the Third International Meeting of Priests. It is taking place at the feet of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the basilica of her name in Tepeyac, Mexico. This is the third phase of a spiritual pilgrimage towards the Holy Door of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 after the previous phases in the Marian shrines of Fátima, Portugal, and Yamoussoukro , Côte d’Ivoire.

You have a very special place in the heart of Peter’s Successor. Thinking of you, I am reminded of the churches and chapels in which you celebrate Mass, the houses where you live, the places you visit, the characteristic activities of your ministry with children, young people, adults, families and other groups to whom you dispense God’s treasures. On this occasion, I would like once again to express my affection and esteem to all of you who have set out on this pilgrimage from the places where you normally exercise your priestly ministry to renew the bonds of communion of life, the missionary dimension of your work and the catholicity of your horizons. To achieve a new, increasingly effective and united evangelization, I would also like you to encourage one another, expressing most eloquently the new brotherhood created among you through the sacrament of Orders. In this regard, I am pleased to know that thanks to a basic solidarity fund you have set up, you have enabled priests from countries with economic difficulties to be present here.

I am grateful to the Congregation for the Clergy, to the Prefect, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, to the Secretary, Mons. Csaba Ternyák and to the organizers who have worked to ensure the success of this meeting. I also thank the Cardinals and Bishops whose participation clearly demonstrates their esteem and love for priests.

2. Dear brothers, you have been marked with an indelible character that confers a specific priestly identity on your entire life and in a particular way configures you to Christ the Head, to the men and women of our time you are called to be living images of the Lord, the Supreme Pastor of all the faithful. Everyone you encounter on your priestly journey through life must see you as such, as we read in the Guadalupan text Nican Nopoua, where it cites the Most Holy Virgin’s words to Juan Diego: “Listen, Juanito my son, where are you going?” And he said: “My Lady and Queen, my Joy, I am going to your little house at Tlatelolco in Mexico to look after God’s affairs which are given and taught to us by those who are images of Our Lord: our priests” (nn. 22-23).

We well know that all the baptized share in Christ’s priesthood; but although the common and the ministerial priesthoods are ordered one to another, they differ essentially and not only in degree (cf. Lumen gentium LG 10). So that the faithful may be united in one body in which each member methodically carries out different and complimentary tasks, the Lord himself appoints some as ministers, endowing them with a sacred power that derives from ordination (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis PO 2).

By virtue of Christ’s seal which has been impressed upon you, you are transformed into God’s exclusive property to occupy yourselves, body and soul, with extending the mission to proclaim the presence of God’s kingdom among men. This is a reality you must always bear in mind, recalling that Christ called the first Apostles “to be with him, and to be sent out to preach” (Mc 3,14). He sends them out in his name with the power of the saving Word and the force of the Spirit, so that he can clearly explain to them: “He who receives you receives me” (Mt 10,40).

3. Your sacramental character enables you to continue Christ’s mission by proclaiming the Good News. Through you, he continues to guide and shepherd his flock and, by means of the sacred acts you accomplish, offers his redemptive sacrifice, forgives sins and dispenses his grace. It is you who put the divine Teacher’s mission into practice and you were chosen from eternity to act on behalf of men in matters relating to God, as a living continuation of Christ’s ministry (cf. Heb He 5,1). As St John Chrysostom wrote on the priesthood: “If God did not work through him, you would not have been baptized, you would not share in the mysteries, nor would you be a Christian” (Homily on 2Tm 2,2-4).

Be mindful of him who sent you and take care of the mission you have received. May Jesus’ words resound within you: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20,21). Since it is you who are in charge, you are at the forefront of the new evangelization, having been endowed with the strength, authority and dignity that will enable you to carry out the work of Jesus Christ.

With regard to the difficulties you will have to face, never doubt that the Spirit, the Paraclete, will be your counsel and advocate and will give you the strength to overcome all obstacles. Continue therefore confident and secure in his power and may you experience relief and rest in frequent and prolonged prayer. Prayer unifies the priest’s life which so often risks being fragmented by the multiplicity of the tasks he must undertake; prayer makes what you do authentic, because it draws from the Heart of Christ the sentiments that motivate your work. Do not be afraid to dedicate time and energy to it, indeed strive to be men of diligent prayer, enjoying the silence of contemplation and the devout daily celebration of the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours which the Church has entrusted to you for the good of Christ’s entire Body. The priest’s prayer is also a requirement of his pastoral ministry, since Christian communities are enriched by the witness of the prayerful priest who proclaims the mystery of God with his words and with his life.

4. Your mission dear brothers, is one of great dignity and this must inspire you to devote yourselves to caring for the faithful with concern and generosity like the Good Shepherd. The number of priests who dedicate their lives with selfdenial to the service of God and their brethren is a consolation. The holy People of God loves you, appreciates your sacrifices, is grateful for your dedication and pastoral service. May the misunderstandings, fears and sometimes even persecutions of different kinds which mark the lives of some, not diminish the fervour of your self-giving nor the zeal you show in your holy ministry (cf. Rom Rm 8,37). Do not be afraid, since you represent Jesus, conqueror of the world and of evil. Do not lose the enthusiasm of the first years of your priestly ministry nor feel downcast, but sustain each other in the fraternal priesthood that draws its strength from the same sacrament.

5. This meeting will focus on three themes: “To be converted in order to convert”, “In communion to promote communion” and “With the Virgin Mary for mission”. Through reflection and study on these lines, it will be possible to achieve good results and especially to intensify the preparation for our entry now close at hand through the Holy Door of the Great Jubilee, to “celebrate the Incarnation and coming into the world of the Son of God, the mystery of salvation for all mankind” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 40) when the time has fully come (cf. Gal Ga 4,4).

I ardently hope that at the end of this meeting you will return to your mission posts enriched with a magnificent experience of priestly fraternity and keen to transmit to your diocesan parishes and the communities you serve a renewed apostolic dynamism which will encourage evangelization, taking as a reference point the distinctive pillars of religious life in the Latin American lands which welcomed you during these days: the Eucharist, “source and the summit of all preaching of the Gospel” (Presbyterorum ordinis PO 5); ecclesial communion, fruit of the presence of Jesus Christ (cf. Lumen gentium LG 4) and the Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Church.

I entrust the work of this meeting to her whose image was miraculously imprinted on the mantle of Juan Diego, who is venerated by the peoples on this continent by the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe and “is the first evangelizer of America” (cf. Letter Los caminos del Evangelio, n. 34), and as I ask her to continue to guide your steps and make your evangelizing tasks fruitful, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you.

From the Vatican, 29 June 1998, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.






Tuesday, 30 June 1989

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Yesterday, on the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, in accordance with a significant tradition, I had the joy of conferring the pallium on you, dear Metropolitan Archbishops, who were appointed during the last year. Today, with a glad and grateful heart, I welcome you with your relatives and the faithful who have accompanied you to Rome for this happy occasion. I extend a cordial welcome to everyone and a special greeting to the new Italian Metropolitans, Archbishop Gennaro Franceschetti of Fermo and Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari of Aquila.

As you know well, the pallium is a papal liturgical symbol, which, since the ninth century, Metropolitan Archbishops have requested from the Bishop of Rome as a sign of unity and full communion with the See of Peter’s Successor. Woven each year from the wool of two white lambs blessed on the memorial of St Agnes, the pallia are kept in a special casket near Peter’s tomb, beneath the altar of the Confessio, and are then conferred on the new Metropolitans on the Apostle’s feast-day.

2. I rejoice with you, dear faithful, at today’s meeting, because it provides this most ancient tradition with a very fitting ecclesial setting which highlights its value and meaning. You come from various countries of the world and your prayerful and festive presence with your respective Pastors makes even more eloquent the sign of the conferral of the pallium, which in itself expresses catholic unity cum Petro et sub Petro.I therefore express to you, dear brothers and sisters, the pleasure your pilgrimage gives me. I hope that it will produce abundant fruits of faith and Gospel life in each of you, in your families and in your ecclesial communities.

I extend a cordial welcome to Metropolitan Archbishop Josip BozaniC of Zagreb and the faithful who have accompanied him. May your witness to communion with the Successor of Peter contribute to a new flourishing of the faith in your homeland.

I warmly greet Archbishop Gyula Márfi and the priests and faithful of the Archdiocese of Veszprém present here. May today’s celebration strengthen your unity with the See of St Peter.

I am pleased to greet the new African Archbishops, Archbishop Nestor Assogba of Parakou, Benin, Archbishop Basile Mvé Engone of Libreville, Gabon, and Archbishop Floribert Songasonga Mwitwa of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Mân of Hô Chi Minh City, Viêt Nam. Upon each of them and upon their loved ones and the members of their Dioceses, I invoke the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit in this year which is especially dedicated to him.

With affection in the Lord, I greet all of you who have come from Zimbabwe with Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, bearing with you the many hopes and sorrows of Africa. Others of you have come from the United States of America, with Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland in Oregon and Archbishop Alexander Brunett of Seattle. I welcome you all, and urge you to stay close to your Bishops in the bond of faith. And with the memory of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia still fresh in my mind, I greet those of you who have come from India with Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara of Nagpur, from Myanmar with Archbishop Matthias U Shwe of Taunggyi, and from the Philippines with Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato. All Asian Christians are called to work to ensure that the Gospel of Christ takes ever deeper root in the cultures of your continent, to which the human spirit owes so much. May God bless you all.

I would like to address a cordial greeting to Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro Quiroga of Tunja, Colombia, to Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and to Archbishop Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa of Santiago, Chile, as well as to the priests and faithful of their respective particular Churches and the relatives and friends who have accompanied them for the reception of the pallium which distinguishes them as Metropolitans of their respective Ecclesiastical Provinces.

I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother in heaven and the Star of the New Evangelization, to protect their ministry in this new responsibility which the Church has entrusted to them and to encourage the priests and religious communities of their particular Churches, in order to increase in them vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life and to strengthen the faith of their faithful. Please convey my affectionate greeting to them all, together with the cordial Apostolic Blessing which I now impart to you.

I affectionately greet Archbishop Angelo Massafra of Shkodrë, Albania, and the faithful who are accompanying him, with the hope that this witness of communion with the See of Peter will help to strengthen the Christian faith in their homeland.

I also invoke an abundance of the Holy Spirit’s light upon Archbishop Cláudio Hummes, who will have an immense flock to shepherd in a city overflowing with pastoral vitality and many pastoral challenges. I therefore greet with special affection the new Archbishop of São Paulo, all his relatives and the pilgrims who are united with him in prayer, so that God may enlighten and protect him on this new path in the service of the Church in Brazil.

Dear brothers and sisters, I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Church, as I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all and to the communities you come from, and renew my kiss of peace to the Metropolitan Archbishops, your zealous Pastors.

July 1998






Thursday, 2 July 1998

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Beloved Priests, Professors, Students and
Friends of the Spanish Section
of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family,

I am pleased to receive you at this audience during your pilgrimage to Rome, which coincides with the ad limina visit of the Bishops of your Ecclesiastical Province, for the theme of marriage and the family is prominent among their pastoral priorities. You wished to come to express your gratitude for the foundation of the Spanish Section and to show me the fruits of these four years of intense academic work.

I thank Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco of Valencia, Vice-Grand Chancellor of the Section, for his kind words addressed to me. I also greet Bishop Juan Antonio Reig of Segorbe-Castellón, dean of the institute, as well as the civil authorities and the members of the recently established foundation that supports the institute's work.

As you are well aware, when the Synod of 1980 reflected on the lights and shadows of the family, I felt the need to create an academic instrument that would appropriately prepare priests to guide and support families as true fathers, brothers, pastors and teachers by assisting them with the resources of grace and illumining them with the light of truth. I also thought it appropriate for lay people to receive this formation so that they could contribute, either individually or through associations, their advice, guidance and support for promoting the family institution. Thus, four years ago, the Spanish Section of the institute you represent was founded. Among its achievements are the formation of a considerable number of students, Bishops and faithful as qualified professionals to help transform the various contexts of society with the leaven of the “Gospel of life”.

In view of the confusion prevalent in both the family and in life, it is necessary to offer the beauty and attraction of God's plan for marriage and the family in order to strengthen the will of today's men and women to live up to the greatness of this plan, while being aware of the demands it involves. For this reason study and academic preparation are necessary, tasks to which you must commit yourselves with passion and joy. I encourage you to continue this service to man and society.

The aim of your institute is to study and impart the natural and revealed truth about marriage and the family, offering to the pastoral care of the family suitable philosophical and theological support that will enable it to react to the materialistic conception of man which is unfortunately so widespread in society. Therefore, once you, who are the first generation of the Spanish Section, have acquired a suitable formation, you must commit yourselves as teachers and leaders in the family apostolate to enriching the lives of the faithful by helping them discover the “call to holiness” that belongs to couples and other family members.

This year you are devoting special attention to the study and dissemination of the “Charter of the Rights of the Family”, which can be an effective means for shedding light on many current problems. I congratulate you for this decision and I urge you to continue to work for an authentic family humanism that will help the family to be seen as the shrine of life, the school for transmitting the faith and for fostering dialogue between its own members and God. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Family, whom you venerate in Valencia as “Mare de Deu dels Desamparats”, protect the good work you are carrying out with her maternal intercession. Through her, I impart to you, as a pledge of fruitful service to the family and to life, a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all who work with you.





Friday, 3 July 1998

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to extend my cordial welcome to you at the conclusion of a specialized course on technical services and business policies. I greet Prof. Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, President of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, and I thank him for his kind words.

Rapid and profound changes are transforming relations between individuals and nations in our time. Of particular importance is the phenomenon of a globalized economy which is creating unprecedented scenarios with unique opportunities for planning and development but also with the risk of serious injustice to the poorer countries. In this context, rather than a duty, solidarity is a necessity that derives from the objective network of relationships and the need to put productive processes at the service of man. The useful initiative, promoted by IRI together with the Consortium for International Training, for training technical and managerial staff to assist developing countries in transition towards a market economy is intended to respond to this requirement.

In expressing my appreciation, I hope that an atmosphere of attention and dialogue established during the course may be a meaningful premise of increasingly respectful and peaceful relations among peoples. With these sentiments I invoke on each one of you and on your families the blessing of God, generous giver of every good.





Saturday, 4 July 1998

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. With great joy I welcome here this morning those taking part in the World Congress on the Pastoral Promotion of Human Rights which the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has organized, within the framework of the Holy See’s initiatives, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I warmly thank the new President of the Pontifical Council, Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, for his presentation of your work. I am also pleased with the opportunity I have been given to express to our dear and tireless Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, the outgoing President, my deep gratitude for the devotion and competence with which he has directed this dicastery for 14 years.

I greet all the participants and with them, the Pontifical Council’s members, consultors and staff. The presence among you of representatives of the other Christian Churches and of various international bodies is a sign of our common concern and the commitment of us all to the promotion of the human person’s dignity in today’s world.

2. God’s plan for the human person, through the “human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption”, was one of the principal themes of my first Encyclical Redemptor hominis (cf. n. 10). In considering man as “the primary and fundamental way for the Church” (ibid., n. 14), I showed the significance of the “objective and inviolable rights of man” (ibid., n. 17) which in the midst of the trials and tribulations of our century have gradually been formulated at the international level, especially in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Subsequently, throughout my ministry as Pastor of the universal Church, I have paid special attention to in all the phases of his life and in every political, social, economic or cultural circumstance.

In the Encyclical Redemptor hominis, in analysing the tension between the signs of hope concerning the protection of human rights and the most painful signs of a state of menace for man, I questioned the relationship between the “letter” and the “spirit” of these rights (cf. n. 17). Still today one can note the gap that exists between the “letter”, as acknowledged in many international documents, and the “spirit”, currently very far from being respected. For our century is still marked by serious violations of fundamental rights. There are still countless people in the world, women, men and children, whose rights are cruelly derided. How many persons are unjustly deprived of their freedom, of the possibility of expressing themselves freely or of freely professing their faith in God? How many are victims of torture, violence and exploitation? How many persons, because of war, unjust discrimination, unemployment or other disastrous economic situations cannot attain full enjoyment of the dignity God has given them and of the gifts they have received from him?

3. The first objective of the pastoral promotion of human rights is therefore to see that the acceptance of the “letter” of universal rights also entails their practical application in “spirit”, everywhere and in the most effective way, starting with the truth about man and the equal dignity of every person, man or woman, created in God’s image and who has become a child of God in Christ.

On this earth, every person has the right to know the “truth about man” and to be able to live by it, each according to his personal and irreplaceable identity with his spiritual gifts, his intellectual creativity and his work, in his family — also a specific subject of rights — and in society. Each human being has the right to make the gifts he has received from God fruitful. As a result, every act which belittles man’s dignity and frustrates his potential for fulfilling himself is an act contrary to God’s plan for man and for all creation.

The pastoral promotion of human rights is therefore closely connected to the mission of the Church herself in the modern world. The Church, in fact, can never abandon man, whose destiny is closely and indissolubly linked to Christ.

4. The second objective of the pastoral promotion of human rights consists in asking “the essential questions concerning man’s situation today and in the future” (Redemptor hominis RH 15), with objectivity, loyalty and a sense of responsibility.

In this regard, one can see that in our times the economic and social conditions in which people live assume particular importance. The persistence of extreme poverty, which contrasts with the opulence of a minority in a world marked by great humanistic and scientific breakthroughs, is a real scandal, one of those situations that seriously hinder the full exercise of human rights today. In your work you will certainly have noticed, almost every day, the effects of poverty, hunger or the lack of access to the most basic services, on people’s lives and on their struggle for their own survival and that of their loved ones.

Too often the poorest, because of their precarious situation, are the worst hit by the economic crises that affect developing countries. Economic prosperity, we must remember, is primarily the result of human work, of honest and often laborious toil. The restructuring of the economy on a world scale must be based on the dignity and rights of the person, especially on the right to work and the worker’s protection.

Today therefore this requires that fresh attention be paid, within the general framework of human rights, to social and economic rights which are inseparable. It is important to reject every attempt to deny these rights a true juridical status and it should be repeated that to achieve their total and effective implementation, the common responsibility of all the parties — public authorities, businesses, civil society — must be involved.

5. Today the educational dimension is assuming particular importance in the pastoral promotion of human rights. Education in respect for human rights will naturally lead to the creation of a true culture of human rights, necessary if the state of rights is to function and if international society is truly to be based on respect for rights. The Diplomatic Conference of the United Nations is currently taking place in Rome to set up an international criminal court. I hope, as everyone hopes, that this conference will conclude with the creation of a new institution to protect the culture of human rights on a world scale.

It will in fact be possible for total respect for human rights to be integrated in every culture. Human rights are by nature universal, for their source is the equal dignity of every person. While recognizing the cultural diversity that exists in the world and the different levels of economic development, it is appropriate to reiterate forcefully that human rights concern every person. As I said in my Message for World Day of Peace this year (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 17 Dec. 1979, p. 3) the argument of cultural specificity must not be used to mask human rights violations. Rather it is far more necessary to promote an integral concept of every person’s rights to development, in the sense of what my Predecessor Paul VI hoped for, an “integral” development, that is, the development of every person and of the whole person (cf. Populorum progressio PP 14). To focus on the promotion of a single right or category of rights, to the detriment of the integrity of human rights, would be to betray the very spirit of the Universal Declaration.

6. The pastoral promotion of human rights must, by its nature, be particularly concerned with the person’s spiritual and transcendent dimension, especially in the current context where there is a tendency to reduce the person to a single, economic dimension and to consider development first and foremost in economic terms.

From the consideration of the person’s transcendent dimension follows the obligation to protect and promote the right to religious freedom. This pastoral congress gives me the opportunity to express my solidarity and support in prayer for all those in today’s world who are still unable to exercise this right fully and freely, personally and as a community. I address to national leaders my pressing and renewed appeal to guarantee the concrete realization of this right for all their citizens. Indeed, public authorities will find among the faithful men and women of peace who are keen to collaborate with everyone, with a view to building a more just and peaceful society.

7. I thank you all, not only for taking part in this congress, but also for your daily witness and educational action in the Christian community. With you, I pay homage to the witness of those who in our time have lived their fidelity to Christ’s message about the dignity of man by renouncing their own rights through love of their brothers and sisters. I entrust your various missions to Mary, Mother of the Church, who will help you penetrate, as she did, the deepest meaning of the great mystery of the Redemption of man.

I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, to your loved ones and to everyone who shares in your work.

Speeches 1998 - 27 June 1998