Speeches 1998





Monday, 6 July 1998

Mr Ambassador,

I am particularly pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters with which His Majesty King Albert II accredits you to the Holy See as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Belgium.

I was touched, Mr Ambassador, by your respectful words which express your desire to continue the deep relations that unite the Apostolic See and Belgium. As I recall the recent visit to Rome made by your sovereign, I would be grateful if you would tell him once again of my joy in receiving him and express to him my fervent good wishes for his person, for the royal family, for the members of the government and for all the people of Belgium. I ask the Lord to grant that your compatriots may live in a society where a spirit of solidarity and fraternity prevails, through the harmonious and united efforts of all.

You have stressed the concern of your country’s authorities for the fundamental respect of the dignity of the person and of peoples in the sometimes delicate affairs of domestic or foreign policy. In her social teaching, the Church never ceases to recall that the management of public affairs must put man at the heart of the decisions of those responsible for governing; progress cannot be made to the detriment of persons and peoples, nor of authentic human development. Today we understand that a society which is totally subjected to the primacy of politics or the economy at the national or international level, that is, to a “mere accumulation of goods and services, even for the benefit of the majority, is not enough for the realization of human happiness” (Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 28). Attention to every person and to every people is a fundamental element of public life.

It is also in this spirit that all the European countries must be more and more committed to making a concerted effort to resolve essential matters concerning international co-operation. In particular, the different nations of the continent must face the serious situation in the Balkans; they must work more closely together to solve this conflict, so that refugees and displaced persons may return to their places of origin, that freedom of movement be granted to all and aid provided to rebuild houses and public buildings. More comprehensively, Europe is called to encourage and firmly support reconciliation among the region’s peoples and to take part in the economic development of countries generally weakened by war. Peace depends on the common action in solidarity of all the partner-nations of a continent which, with the international community's support, will certainly strengthen the bonds between the countries.

You have just described some features of Belgian society which is made up of various religious confessions and cultures that are not only required to coexist, but rather to intensify their dialogue and collaboration in building a single society with many faces. Therefore the leaders’ first challenge consists in presenting a social model which enables several communities to coexist with respect for their specific features but with the concern that all people share in building the national community, founded on the essential human, spiritual and moral values of its heritage, over and above particular interests. Many Belgiums, especially affected by painful events, would like people to be better protected because human life is a primordial and inalienable value. To respond to this legitimate request, as well as to adapt facilities to the current situation and to fulfil their mission in the most appropriate way with all the inhabitants of Belgium, your country’s authorities have wished to restore the citizens’ trust by means of federal and local institutional reforms; trust in persons and in institutions is in fact one of the essential elements of democratic life. In this area, elected officials and State employees have a decisive role. They are called to ensure the triumph of moral values such as concern for the common good, equity, justice, solidarity and integrity, and to provide a disinterested service for their compatriots. At this point, I would like to acknowledge the courageous decisions made by the country’s leaders as well as the humble, hidden work of men and women at the service of all their brothers and sisters.

Governments are invited to pay renewed attention to the young and to supervise their integration into the social and economic networks. In this way they will avoid the increasing marginalization of a growing number of young people, and will prevent, particularly in the cities and suburbs, the development of exacerbated forms of violence and crime which would weaken social relations and those between the generations. Likewise, the family, as the basic cell and essential structure of society, must be given priority in political and economic decisions. The parents, father and mother, fulfil a most important social role with their children. They are responsible for their moral and civil education. To carry this out properly, they need to be sustained and backed by the leaders.

In the areas of education, the family and health care in which she has a long experience, as well as in all the other social contexts in which the faithful are involved beside their brothers and sisters, the Catholic Church in Belgium intends to participate fully in the national endeavour, in a spirit of dialogue and collaboration with all people of goodwill and through her own specific role. I shall avail myself of your presence in the Vatican to greet warmly, through you, the Bishops and all the Catholics of Belgium. I know their deep attachment to their country and I encourage them in their ecclesial life, so that they may express the essential spiritual, moral and human values in their words and actions.

At the moment when your mission as the Kingdom of Belgium’s representative to the Apostolic See is beginning and when you have expressed your satisfaction at being called to this new office, I offer you my best wishes. I can assure you that you will always find a warm, welcome and attentive understanding with my co-workers.

I cordially invoke an abundance of divine Blessings on His Majesty King Albert II and on the royal family, on the Belgian people and on those who are responsible for the country’s future on the threshold of the third millennium, on Your Excellency and your loved ones and on the embassy staff.




To Fr Salvador Sánchez Terán
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Radio Popular – Cadena COPE

1. I am pleased to send a cordial greeting to those taking part in the annual convention of the directors of all the COPE broadcasting stations, their associates and the directors of the main programmes, now taking place in the Eternal City. In view of the forthcoming extraordinary Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, their intention is to demonstrate their sentiments of loyalty and affection to the Successor of the Apostle St Peter, and of their closeness to the Holy See.

I truly thank you for this act which is most eloquent. On the last day of this convention, the participants will have the opportunity to be present at the General Audience which every Wednesday gathers numerous pilgrims around the Pope and, on this occasion, they will be able to receive the Apostolic Blessing, together with some words of encouragement. However, in the meantime I would like to offer them my greetings in advance and to reiterate my appreciation and gratitude for their contribution, made over the radio, to the Church’s mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ to the men and women of our time.

2. The origin of the Cadena COPE broadcasting network dates back to the parish broadcasts promoted by the apostolic zeal of priests and lay Catholics who enlivened the villages and towns of Spain in the 1960s. There was no lack of diocesan broadcasting stations whose outreach and possibilities were certainly greater. A few became firmly established and so emerged the Cadena COPE of the present day. Since then and for almost 40 years, many men and women have contributed their work and hopes to it, not always with abundant means but always motivated by a creative and enthusiastic apostolic spirit.

Today times have changed. Technical progress has given us powerful means, and although there is no lack of material or equipment, the work of social communicators is still difficult. The present challenge consists rather in knowing how to channel the immense power of the modern media to ensure that it contributes to a worthier life with higher standards. Concerning this, as I wrote in my Message for World Communications Day this year: “It can never be forgotten that communication through the media is not a utilitarian exercise intended simply to motivate, persuade or sell. Still less is it a vehicle for ideology. The media can at times reduce human beings to units of consumption or competing interest groups, or manipulate viewers and readers and listeners as mere ciphers from whom some advantage is sought, whether product sales or political support” (L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 January 1998, p. 7).

In this regard, as COPE you must keep your objectives and motivations clear. The Spanish Episcopal Conference which follows your activity with concern and is represented at this meeting by its President, Archbishop Elías Yañes Alvarez of Zaragoza, has established principles on your behalf with the aim of effectively applying the Church's teaching on the role of the means of social communication in society.

The Catholic character of COPE must avoid ambiguities that jeopardize its adherence to the principles and values of Christian humanism. This does not necessarily mean identifying with a form of radio broadcasting with an explicitly and exclusively religious content, although this may be a very valid way respected and followed by several broadcasting stations. As COPE you have opted for a more general radio model which claims to reach a wider public and therefore assumes broader horizons. Nevertheless, this must not prevent you from attempting to take the message and peace of Jesus Christ to everyone, near and far (cf. Eph Ep 2,17), including those who show no interest in him. It obliges you to seek to maintain a balance; putting you on your guard in order to overcome the tension between the human and the divine, between the Gospel and materialism, between the perennial values proclaimed by Jesus Christ and the demands of secularization.

3. Christians who work in the social communications media face a great challenge which I mentioned in the Message for World Communications Day cited: “not only to use the media to spread the Gospel but actually to integrate the Gospel message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications, with their ‘new languages, new techniques and a new psychology’” (L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 January 1998, p. 7). In this sense, a serious commitment is required of you: on the one hand, to carry out joyfully your explicit evangelizing activity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Magisterium of the Pastors in expressive and persuasive language; on the other, to adopt the realities of the present world, presenting them to the men and women of our time within the framework of the Christian vision of the cosmos which embraces the person, society and all nature.

Furthermore, the transcendental importance of the personal and professional witness of those who work in Cadena COPE should be kept in mind. This is why I encourage you not to succumb to temptations as subtle and misleading as ambition, vanity, money or popularity. Make yourselves available with simplicity to those who expect of you the invaluable service of rigorous information, a considered opinion, the call to a respectful and peaceful coexistence with others, and in short, Christian love.

4. Finally I would like to refer to the great event awaiting us and for which we are preparing: the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, when the Church will be celebrating the 2,000th anniversary of Christ’s coming into the world, the principal event of all history, the fullness of time (cf. Ga 4,4) and the origin of Christianity. Jesus Christ is the centre of the cosmos and of history, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. With regard to this event, it is necessary to energetically ask the question I put to communicators last year: “Is there still a place for Christ in the traditional mass media? Can we claim a place for him in the new media?” (Message for the 31st World Communications Day, 24 January 1997; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 January 1997, p. 9). I therefore encourage you to redouble your efforts in Cadena COPE so that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, may be present and guide your footsteps in a task as noble as the one you are accomplishing.

On this occasion, I am pleased to impart the desired Apostolic Blessing to you all, to the workers and staff of the COPE, to your relatives and to your listeners.

From the Vatican, 6 July 1998.






Tuesday, 7 July 1998

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. It is a joy for me to have this meeting during your ad limina visit, when the Lord grants us an opportunity to live with renewed intensity, near the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the experience of ecclesial communion in love and fidelity to the faith we have received, and thus to reinforce the commitment to evangelization and to enliven the ministry of continuing the mission Christ entrusted to the Apostles.

I cordially thank Archbishop Carlos Amigo Vallejo of Seville for his kind words expressing your common sentiments of affection and loyalty as Pastors who lead the People of God living in the East and South of the Spanish peninsula, as well as the Balearic and Canary Islands. I greet you all cordially, Archbishops of Seville, Valencia and Granada, Bishops of the respective suffragan Dioceses and the Auxiliaries. As Pastor of the whole Church I feel your closeness and union “in a bond of unity, charity and peace” (Lumen genium, n. 22). I support you in your pastoral efforts as ministers of the Gospel (cf. Lumen gentium LG 24,27) and I encourage you: “Do not be weary in well doing” (2Th 3,13).

2. The Gospel arrived in your lands at the dawn of Christianity, creating communities of faith which shared the Church’s destiny during the various stages of her almost 2,000-year-old history. They felt the warmth of the apostolic tradition, joyfully welcoming its message of salvation; with their particular councils they contributed to articulating the faith and reinforcing a lifestyle consistent with the truth professed; they knew persecution and the anguish of doctrinal deviations; they were able to live quietly under the domination of other cultures and beliefs, and participated in re-establishing the faith which they had originally cherished in their hearts; they witnessed at close hand the Church's great reform movements and collaborated with intense missionary zeal in the evangelization of the New World; lastly, they have lived and are living at a fascinating time when the whole ecclesial community, under the impetus of the Second Vatican Council, feels deeply committed to living Christ’s Gospel authentically and to proclaiming it in all its splendour to the men and women of today.

The historical fortunes and misfortunes experienced by your peoples have forged their tradition and have created a rich heritage that can be displayed to the world in many works of art, culture and civilization. This inheritance has deep Christian roots. Its ancient tradition has been handed down to our day in literary works and in monuments which must not be forgotten and deserve to be studied and revered as a precious gift to your Churches and to your peoples.

You have also inherited abundant fruits of holiness which have appeared in the most disparate circumstances. Among them are many famous examples of dedication to the apostolic ministry which can inspire your daily tasks, such as Leander and Isidore; Peter Pascual, a martyred Bishop of Jaén, John of Ávila, patron of Spanish clergy, and the Hieronymite monk, Hernando de Talavera; the Augustinian, Thomas of Villanova, and the Sevillian, John de Ribera, Archbishops of Valencia and the founders of colleges for priestly formation. A few years ago, during my first visit to Spain, I myself had the opportunity in Seville to beatify Sr Angela of the Cross, who worthily continued the tradition of commitment and Christian love for the most needy in which John of God and John Grande had distinguished themselves centuries before.

3. On this occasion, I would like to reflect with you on some of the most important challenges you must face at this time, so that today your ecclesial communities, as they were in the past, may also be faithful to their “mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Lumen gentium LG 5) and of communicating Christ’s grace and truth to everyone. The events celebrated in the metropolitan sees of your Ecclesiastical Provinces during my above-mentioned visit to Spain have a certain symbolic significance, still valid today, whose interest extends beyond the localities where they occurred. In Valencia I ordained a large number of priests; in Granada I had a meeting with teachers of the faith and in Seville, as I have said, I beatified Sr Angela of the Cross, an example of Christian charity. These acts highlight the essential aspects which mark the Church of all times as a community which gathers around the living Christ and celebrates his presence, which proclaims the Gospel to all peoples and sows it in the inmost depths of their hearts, and which is distinguished by its resolute and unconditional love for their brothers and sisters (cf. Acts Ac 2,42-45 Jn 13,35).

4. Liturgical reform has been one of the most visible fruits and has been welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm by the People of God. We should not only see it as a desire for change, which seems to be typical of our time, or a legitimate wish to adapt the celebration of the sacred mysteries to the sensitivities and culture of our day. In fact, behind this phenomenon lies the aspiration of believers to live and to express their deepest and most authentic identity as disciples gathered around Christ, present in their midst in a unique way through his Word and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 7). In this way not only is the edifice of the faith built on firm and lastly foundations (cf. Lk Lc 6,48), but all Christian communities become aware of their duty to celebrate the mystery of Christ, Saviour of the human race, to proclaim him and to make him openly known to the people of today. In doing so they must overcome the temptation they sometimes feel within and outside themselves to attribute other identities and interests to the Church. Indeed, the Church lives more on what she receives from her Lord than on what she can do with her own strength alone. In this respect we should also recognize with the Apostle: “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2Co 12,9).

This is why, in an atmosphere which sometimes tends to trivialize the deepest convictions, it is particularly important to teach the faithful to feel an inner need to receive the sacraments frequently, to participate actively in the liturgical celebrations, and to gather on Sundays with their other brethren to celebrate the Passover of the Lord in the sacrament of the New Covenant. No one must lack the support of the whole Christian community. In this regard, it is useful to recall that it is the particular concern for Bishops to see “that the Lord’s day be properly recognized, honoured and celebrated by all the faithful as the true ‘day of the Lord’ on which the Church gathers together to renew the memory of the Lord’s paschal mystery, to listen to the word of God, to offer the sacrifice of the Lord, and also to sanctify the day with prayer, charity and abstention from work” (Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Ecclesiae imago, 22 February 1973, n. 86).

5. I am pleased to note how, together with the other Bishops of Spain, you are seeking to shed the light of the Gospel on all human and social milieus, without excluding the moral and social dimensions. This aspect of your ministry, which you must always exercise fearlessly, although with great prudence and sensitivity, must reach peoples’ hearts, so that each believer can experience the transforming power of faith in his daily life, express it with authenticity and bear effective witness to it.

The Church, which has always considered the formation of the faithful as one of her most essential tasks, is also aware of its decisive importance at a time when circumstances are changing at a dizzy pace, posing new questions everyday which challenge the faith of believers. As I said in Granada, “an immature Christian and ecclesial group is unable to withstand the attacks of an increasingly secularized society” (cf. Homily, Celebration of the Word with Teachers of the Faith, Granada, 5 November 1982, n. 3).

As Pastors in a land that has given the Church and society distinguished figures in the field of education, you know well that in life, as in faith, one never stops learning. This is why it is constantly necessary to promote the Christian formation not only of children and young people, but also of adults and families, of the individual and of groups, according to their own charism and vocation, without forgetting the teachers and priests themselves, who are also pilgrims in this world and permanent disciples of the Lord.

You must take particular care of them, because they are your most immediate co-workers in the pastoral mission. They will frequently need you, especially during the first years of their ministry, not only as teachers and guides in caring for the People of God, but also as fathers in whom to confide their aspirations and problems, from whom they can receive understanding and encouragement for fulfilling their priestly ministry. In turn, they will learn from you how to be close to the needs and concerns of the faithful, to whom they must give themselves as true shepherds who know each of them by name (cf. Jn Jn 10,3).

6. The creativity, refined sensitivity and rich expressive ability of your peoples are positive factors as you lead them to meet God, an unspeakable mystery which is frequently reached through images, gestures and symbols. I am well aware that this aspect of popular piety has an important place in your pastoral concern, and I encourage you to continue your efforts to ensure that, as in the divine pedagogy, words accompany actions, so that the presence and will of God are more and more clearly expressed (cf. Dei Verbum DV 2).

In fact, it is important that religious expression enable people to acquire a deeper understanding of the faith and that it illumine all aspects of the life of believers, making them day by day more conscious that they must grow like living stones to be built into God’s temple in this world (cf. 1P 2,5). For this reason you must see that every ecclesial group, such as fraternities and confraternities, become centres for the Christian formation of their members and a way for them to be fully involved in the life of the ecclesial community by participating in the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, in union with their Pastors, collaborating with them within the framework of their common pastoral ministry and constantly promoting the commitment to charity and solidarity which is characteristic of a truly Christian and fraternal community. In fact, the Second Vatican Council recalled the objectives of Christian education: to ensure that every baptized person learns to worship God the Father in spirit and in truth, especially through the liturgy; that he lives as the new man in justice and holiness; that he contributes to the growth of the Mystical Body by bearing witness to the hope that is in him and promoting the most prized human and social values (cf. Gravissimum educationis GE 2). In this way we can hope that the lay faithful, whose value and full dignity are recognized in the Church, will be more involved in the tasks proper to a Christian community which intensely lives the Gospel, proclaims it courageously and spreads its values in all areas of human life, both individual and social.

7. In their plans for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Bishops of Spain have fully accepted the objective set for Christians throughout the world, which includes “solidarity with one’s neighbour, especially the most needy” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 42). This is one of the Church’s greatest concerns in our day and involves many of you in particular, since you have seen among your people the devastating effects of a conception of man “only as a producer and consumer of goods, or as an object of State administration” (Centesimus annus CA 49). In addition to the difficult situation of men who work in the fields or at sea, there are others more recent and equally tragic in which the Church, like the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:29f.), encounters the unemployed, young people in despair, drifting between trivialities or ravaged by drugs, immigrants arriving from other lands, women disparaged, homeless children and men stripped of their dignity. Do not let any of your faithful or your communities be indifferent to these realities, which are always in need of attention despite all the declarations of a society that seems self-satisfied and proud of its achievements. It is essential to bear convincing witness to Christ who came “to preach the Good News to the poor ... [and] to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lc 4,18-19), with words and deeds which leave nothing untried, from “emergency” charity in those cases where necessary, to reforms of a more institutional nature that create a social fabric of greater justice and solidarity.

At this time in history, when your Churches are called to be the threshold of a Europe where a new social and political scene is taking shape, you also have the great responsibility of being a welcoming gateway for other peoples and of giving an example of generosity, knowing how to share your bread in a fraternal way with those who come to your land in search of new hope.

8. I would like to end this fraternal conversation by asking you to convey my affectionate greetings to all the members of your particular Churches: to the priests, and the religious communities; to the catechists and Christians committed to the apostolate; to young people and their parents; to the elderly, to the sick and to all who are suffering. May God grant that your peoples' Christian roots will instil a living hope and new dynamism in everyone, which will help them overcome the difficulties of the present time and assure them of a future of increasing spiritual and human progress. Tell your priests, consecrated persons, the other pastoral workers and the seminarians that the Pope appreciates their work for the Lord and the Gospel cause, and that he hopes and trusts in their fidelity.

I entrust you and your pastoral intentions to the Virgin Mary, our heavenly Mother, whom your peoples revere and invoke with such fervour, so that you may fulfil the task of a new evangelization which prepares hearts for the Lord’s coming.

Together with these wishes, I accompany you with prayer and affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.



Tuesday, 21 July 1998

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Here I am back among you, dear people of Castel Gandolfo, after the restful days I spent among the fascinating mountains of the Cadore. I am pleased to be back and to be spending the entire summer period with you. This is a familiar place where once again I meet persons known and dear to me, to whom I immediately wish to extend my cordial greetings.

First of all I affectionately greet the Pastor of the Diocese of Albano, Bishop Dante Bernini, together with Auxiliary Bishop Paolo Gillet and the parish priest of Castel Gandolfo. I would then like to greet and thank the entire Christian community for its habitual affectionate welcome and for the fervent prayers with which it accompanies me.

I address a grateful word to the Mayor and to the municipal administration, who are always careful to ensure that my stay here is peaceful and fruitful.

I keep you all in my heart and invoke God’s constant protection upon you, your families, your projects for good and upon the entire community.

With these sentiments, I willingly impart my Blessing to you all.

The Holy Father then spoke extemporaneously:

Once again I cordially thank all those who gave me hospitality during my two weeks in Lorenzago di Cadore. I thank them all and I greet Lake Albano, I greet Mount Cavo and this whole area to which I am deeply attached. I wish everyone good weather and an enjoyable stay in Castel Gandolfo.

August 1998



To The Most Reverend Father Michelangelo Riccardo M. Tiribilli
Abbot General of the Olivetan Benedictine Congregation,

1. This year marks the 650th anniversary of the death of Bl. Bernard Tolomei, an impassioned “God-seeker” (cf. Benedictine Rule, 58:7), which this monastic congregation is joyfully preparing to celebrate. On this happy occasion, I am pleased to send you, Most Reverend Father, and the entire monastic congregation of the Olivetans my best wishes, while gladly joining in the common hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the gift to his Church of such an important Gospel witness.

By a providential coincidence, this anniversary falls in the second year of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the year dedicated to the Holy Spirit. The shining figure of Bl. Bernard, who established “schools of the Lord’s service” (cf. Benedictine Rule, Prol. 45), is a remarkable example of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, the source of the great variety of charisms on which the Bride of Christ lives.

In the heart of Bl. Bernard, “God’s love was poured out ... through the Holy Spirit” (cf. Rom Rm 5,5) in abundance, and it thus made him a sign of the risen Lord. As a result, he was able to excel “in the life to which God has called him, for the increase of the holiness of the Church and for the greater glory of the one and undivided Trinity” (Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium LG 47), by “striving to become a bearer of the Cross” (cf. Ap. Exhort. Vita consecrata VC 6), as is significantly shown in the name of Monte Oliveto which he gave to the wilderness of Accona. By “preferring nothing to the love of Christ” (Benedictine Rule, 4:21; cf. 72:11), Bernard entered with dynamic fidelity into that uninterrupted tradition which has proven the nobility, beauty and fruitfulness of Benedictine spirituality.

2. His extraordinary experience of the dead and risen Christ was an “experience of the Spirit lived and transmitted” (cf. Mutuae relationes, n. 11) to the monastic congregation founded by him and which is present today in many countries of the world.

With the approach of the third millennium of the Christian era, the Olivetan Benedictine spiritual family, looking with hope towards the future, intends courageously to strengthen its vocation to the service of the Gospel. It feels the urgent need to “present to the divine majesty a service at once humble and noble” (Decr. Perfectae caritatis PC 9), while joyfully accepting “the blessing of obedience” (Benedictine Rule, 71:1), “practising fraternal charity” (ibid., 72:8), progressing in the “conversion of life” (ibid., 58:17) and the practice of humility (cf. ibid., 7).

It is precisely through a careful and deeply contemplative celebration of the Opus Dei, even in the midst of many trials, that over the centuries the Olivetan monks have been able to make their communities ever greater places of silence, peace, brotherhood and ecumenical sensitivity. In this way Olivetan monasteries have become an eloquent witness to communion, hospitable dwellings for those who are seeking God and spiritual realities, schools of faith and workshops of study, dialogue and culture.

3. The 650th anniversary of the death of Bl. Bernard is therefore an appropriate occasion to emphasize with renewed vigour the timeliness of this order's charism. In recalling the founder's radical witness of monastic life, it will not be difficult to identify the reasons for the choices suggested to him by the state of monasticism in his day and used by him in founding a new Benedictine congregation that differs from the others by “its own structure, in which the monks make their profession in the hands of the Abbot General or his delegate and, even if living in different monasteries, are so united to the Archabbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore that they form a single family by a juridical bond in addition to one of charity” (Olivetan Constitutions, 1).

I am aware that attention to his “rereading” of the Rule of St Benedict will be the subject of reflection and discernment in your forthcoming General Chapter, an important examination of your charismatic identity. I firmly hope that, through everyone's efforts and collaboration, the historical memory of your origins may become a living memory that imparts new vitality to your apostolate.

Because it is important to distinguish the charism from the contingent forms in which it was expressed in the past, it will be opportune to revise it in a balanced and realistic way, following the principles of solidarity and complementarity already acknowledged by your Constitutions, but which perhaps are in need of new clarification to better suit the contemporary situation of your congregation.

4. Let us thank the Lord that in the over six centuries of its existence your congregation has experienced how divine Providence guided the monks on the ways of authentic religious perfection. In particular, the congregation has always known how to keep alive that typically monastic apostolate of hospitality, by offering a “loving welcome” (cf. Benedictine Rule, 53:3) to those who feel the need for an ideal place to become reconciled with themselves, with others and with God. It is important that the monks be for their guests witnesses of the theological virtue of hope, thus helping them in the daily task of transforming history according to God’s plan.

My heartfelt wish is that, while faithfully observing the Constitutions, the legitimate diversity of each monastery may enrich the spiritual wealth of what the Olivetan tradition calls “unum corpus”. This tradition makes your congregation a fraternal agape of community and is at the origin of that special bond between monks and monasteries that distinguishes your contemplative family.

In this regard the Capitulars will be called to search for suitable ways to express in updated forms this indispensable characteristic of their monastic identity, both on the basis of the current, now international, situation of the congregation, and because of the profoundly altered historical and ecclesial circumstances in which they are called to make it present.

May the Holy Spirit revive in every member the specific gift which God has entrusted to your contemplative family, by a wise and prudent reformulation of the intentions that guided Bl. Bernard when it was founded.

5. I implore upon all the Olivetan monks the maternal protection of Mary, whose name shines in the official title of your religious family, called precisely the Benedictine Congregation of St Mary of Monte Oliveto. I ask her, a pilgrim in the faith, to guide your steps towards the third millennium, while continuing to imbue the congregation with the gifts of spiritual fruitfulness which have distinguished its glorious past and will continue, I am sure, to mark its future.

With these wishes, while I invoke on the congregation the heavenly protection of Our Lady and of Bl. Bernard Tolomei, I affectionately impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Most Reverend Father, to the Olivetan monks and to all who seek your daily religious and spiritual ministry.

Castel Gandolfo, 1 August 1998.

Speeches 1998