Speeches 1998 - 4 September 1998




Friday, 4 September 1998

Dear Missionaries of Infinite Love,

1. Welcome to this meeting, which you desired in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of your secular institute. I extend my cordial greeting to each of you, with a special mention of fraternal affection for Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, who is accompanying you. He rightly wished to join you today as Bishop of the particular Church where the foundation took place, that is, the Diocese of Ivrea. In fact, the Work of Infinite Love originated in that land, made fertile at the beginning of this century by the witness of the Servant of God Mother Luisa Margherita Claret de la Touche, and it was from this work that your family was founded. Having obtained diocesan recognition in 1972, the institute was later approved by me for the whole Church. It is now present, in fact, in various parts of the world.

Your basic sentiment in celebrating this anniversary is certainly one of thanksgiving, in which I am very pleased to join.

2. Dear friends, we are living in a year that is entirely dedicated to the Holy Spirit. Well, is the coincidence that you are celebrating the institute’s 50th anniversary in the year dedicated to the Holy Spirit not another special reason for gratitude? It is only because of the Spirit and in the Spirit that we can say: “God is love” (1Jn 4,48), a statement that constitutes the inexhaustible core, the well-spring of your spirituality. Who reveals to men this fundamental Gospel truth, the synthesis of all Christian belief, if not the One who “searches everything, even the depths of God” (1Co 2,10) and reminds the disciples of all that Christ taught (cf. Jn Jn 14,26)?

“It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons, and that through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this self-giving, of this being-love. He is Person-Gift” (Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 10).

3. The Church exists and is sent into the world to proclaim this truth, the principle of salvation and hope for all men: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3,16). The Christian message of love, as Christ revealed it and transmitted it to the Church, can only be proclaimed in the form of witness. The whole Church, in the fullness and variety of her members, is involved in this work of evangelization, of which the Holy Spirit is the principal agent (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 45).

He, “who wondrously fashions the variety of charisms, has given rise in our time to new expressions of consecrated life, which appear as a providential response to the new needs encountered by the Church today as she carries out her mission in the world. One thinks in the first place of members of secular institutes” (Vita consecrata VC 10), in one of which the Lord has also called you to live, dear sisters.

Therefore be “a leaven of wisdom and a witness of grace” in ecclesial, professional and social life, through your “specific blending of presence in the world and consecration”, which “makes present in society the newness and power of Christ’s kingdom” (ibid.). I also encourage you to continue the valuable service that you offer to priests through your prayer and collaboration.

In contemplating the sublime figure of Mary most holy, in whom every state of life in the Church recognizes its own perfect model, we can also see the features of women's Gospel involvement in the world. May the Holy Spirit, who leads us into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn Jn 16,13), lead each of you and the whole institute in the Blessed Virgin's footsteps to become ever more and ever better missionaries of God's infinite love.

May you be accompanied in this journey by my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to you.




Saturday, 5 September 1998

1. “Adults together: Pilgrims of hope”.

Dear brothers and sisters, these are the words that accompanied the course of your preparation for this national meeting in the See of Peter. I welcome you with affection. I greet your General Chaplain, Bishop Agostino Superbo, and the National President and Vice-Presidents, and am deeply grateful for their warm words on behalf of you all. I extend an affectionate welcome to the Cardinals and Bishops present. I also greet the Prime Minister, Hon. Romano Prodi, the Mayor of Rome and all those who have honoured this meeting with their presence.

You have called yourselves pilgrims, dear adults of Catholic Action, who are advancing with hope towards the Jubilee of the Year 2000. This date, which marks our entry into the new millennium, needs men and women who can look joyfully to the future. It needs women and men who can build that future with trust and hard work, striving to direct all temporal affairs to God. You are adult pilgrims who share the Church's vision as she passes through temporal events towards the heavenly homeland: “Sunday after Sunday the Church moves towards the final ‘Lord’s Day’, that Sunday which knows no end” (Dies Domini, n. 37).

Your journey did not only start today. Yours is a long pilgrimage which has been traversing the history of this country for a long time. This is why you wanted to begin your national assembly yesterday by meeting in Viterbo at the grave of Mario Fani who, together with Giovanni Acquaderni, founded the “Catholic Youth Society” 130 years ago. Since then, profoundly holy men and women have marked your journey. I will just mention one of the most eminent, Ven. Giuseppe Toniolo, the 80th anniversary of whose death occurs this year.

They are men and women of the past who sowed the seed so that you, the adults of today, may be ready to take up your responsibilities as you face the difficult and fascinating present.

2. Being adult is not a condition that is merely acquired with age. Rather it is an identity that should be formed by having sound guideposts wherever we are called to live. Being lay Christian adults is a vocation that must be acknowledged, accepted and practised. This is why as adult members of Catholic Action you see yourselves as continual pilgrims through history. You are walking on the paths of history “together”.

Your association has been recognized by the Magisterium as a form of ministry for the local Church, with the aim of serving her in the Diocese and the parish, as well as in places and situations where people have their own human experiences.

This service, inherent in your being lay adults in the Church and in the world, finds its source in Baptism and Confirmation. For many, it is later confirmed by Matrimony; for everyone, it receives its principal strength from the Eucharist.

Through the sacramental life and by strengthening the primacy of the spiritual life, you are called to make your contribution to building the Church as a home “living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters” (Christifideles laici CL 26). Thus you must be committed to being a living home, where every member feels part of one family. Indeed, as Catholic Action, you must be a family of families, in which the dignity and subjectivity of every family is defended and has an active role in pastoral action.

3. Everyone must bring his own gifts, his own skills. No one should feel useless or a burden, since the Lord assigns a task to everyone. The Church grows rich in apostolic energy when these individual gifts are placed at the service of the whole community.

May your membership in Catholic Action thus be understood as a service to the growth of ecclesial communion: a communion which must not be expressed in vague affection alone, but must be put into practice as an organized solidarity between all the members of the local Church.Moreover, as an association that exists throughout Italy, you must work with all your strength to reinforce communion between all the Churches in Italy and between the latter and the Church of Rome, which presides in charity.

The unbreakable link with the hierarchy, and in particular with the Successor of Peter, belongs to the very nature of your association. May your love for the Pope continue to be expressed in that joyful and prompt acceptance of his Magisterium which is proper to your long-standing tradition.

4. Your association wishes to be a home among the homes of men. This expresses your missionary dimension. The Second Vatican Council already assigned a necessary role to Catholic Action in “the implanting and growth of the Christian community” (Ad gentes AGD 15). For you, this means rediscovering today that missionary zeal which is also necessary for the Churches of age-old Christianity. As I said about these in Redemptoris missio, there are “entire groups of the baptized [who] have lost a living sense of the faith or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel” (n. 33).

Moreover, the urgent need to “re-make the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community” (Christifideles laici CL 34) has become even more pressing today. This is why your apostolic action must acquire a cultural dimension; it must be capable, that is, of creating among people a mentality that stems from inalienable Christian values and is interwoven with them.

May your formation therefore be ever more attentive and open to the problems raised by society today. May it also be able to create that political culture which in every age and in every way works for the common good and the preservation of values. A culture which knows how to nurture human life: “This is a particularly pressing need at the present time, when the ‘culture of death’ so forcefully opposes the ‘culture of life’ and often seems to have the upper hand” (Evangelium vitae EV 87).

5. Dear brothers and sisters, the Pope urges you to continue to be pilgrims of hope, concerned for the future of every woman and every man you meet on your way. Be able to show Jesus Christ to everyone as a friend and comforter in all human misery, and as the transcendent Lord of history.

I accompany you with my prayer. Walk with trust towards the new millennium: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever!” (He 13,8).

You say you are adults, but you behave like young people. It is a good sign!




Saturday, 5 September 1998

Exactly one year ago, on the evening of 5 September, Mother Teresa died in Calcutta. Her memory lives on in the hearts of us all, throughout the Church and the world. What marvellous work this little woman from a humble family was able to accomplish with the strength of her faith in God and her love of neighbour!

In truth, Mother Teresa was God's gift to the poorest of the poor; at the same time, precisely through her extraordinary love for the lowliest, she was and remains an exceptional gift for the Church and the world. Her total self-giving to God, reconfirmed each day in prayer, was translated into total self-giving to her neighhbour.

In Mother Teresa's smile, words and deeds, Jesus again walked the streets of the world as the Good Samaritan, and he continues to do so in the Missionaries of Charity, who form the great family she founded. Let us thank the daughters and sons of Mother Teresa for their radical Gospel commitment and let us pray for them all, that they will always be faithful to the charism that the Holy Spirit instilled in their foundress.

Let us not forget the great example left by Mother Teresa, and let us not commemorate it in words alone! Let us always have the courage to give priority to the human person and his fundamental rights. To the heads of nations, whether rich or poor, I say: do not trust in the power of weapons! Continue resolutely and honestly on the way of disarmament, in order to devote the necessary resources to the true, great objectives of civilization, in order to join forces in fighting hunger and disease, so that every individual can live and die as a human being. This is God's will and he has reminded us of it through the witness of Mother Teresa.

May she help us and accompany us from heaven!





Monday, 7 September 1998

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am particularly pleased to meet you on the occasion of your ad limina visit, which gives us the welcome opportunity to renew our bonds of affection and communion precisely on the day we celebrate the memorial of the Martyrs of Košice, whom I had the joy, three years ago, to enrol among the saints of your country.

I warmly greet your President, Bishop Rudolf Baláž of Banská Bystrica, whom I thank for his sentiments of devotion and attachment to the Successor of Peter expressed on behalf of all those present. I also greet our dear and venerable Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec, who, during the spiritual exercises held this year at the Vatican, enabled us to hear the voice of the tradition of Cyril and Methodius so clearly. And with great affection I also greet each one of you, Pastors of the beloved peoples of Slovakia, among whom I had the joy of staying during my unforgettable visit three years ago.

“The Church, in Christ, is in the nature of a sacrament — a sign and instrument, that is, of intimate union with with God and of the unity of all mankind” (Lumen gentium LG 1). The Second Vatican Council presents the mystery of the Church in these words, stressing their specific reference to the mystery of Christ and the kingdom of God of which she “is on earth the seed and the beginning” (ibid., n. 5). To properly carry out her mission to be “a universal sacrament of salvation” (ibid., n. 48), the Church must be able appropriately to express, both locally and universally, the twofold dimension, human and divine, impressed upon her by her Founder, who was fully involved in the affairs of the world but without becoming part of it (cf. Jn Jn 17,15-16).

2. The Church in Slovakia is also called to be a “universal sacrament of salvation” by lovingly sharing in the joys, sufferings and needs of the Slovak people, aware that she is “on earth, the seed and the beginning of God’s kingdom” and an instrument of Christ’s grace. Awareness of her own mission will lead her to engage in respectful and attentive dialogue with society and to work for fraternal and supportive harmony, inspired by the values of authentic Christian tradition.

In a situation in which the effects of the harsh communist persecution are still being felt and which risks seeing the destructive divisions of the past rekindled, the Church knows she must be salt and leaven within Slovak society, contributing to the good of all without becoming involved in conflicts between special interests.

The profound changes which have affected Slovakia in recent years, with disturbing results for families and the world of youth, oblige Pastors and faithful to defend the values of their cultural and Christian tradition. This presupposes a profound, clear philosophical and theological analysis of the various intellectual trends, to show their ambiguous features and to correct them, using them as a starting point for a fruitful study of their own doctrinal heritage.

During the time of the former communist regime, the Christian community in Slovakia, often anticipating the Second Vatican Council’s conclusions, was able with Gospel fidelity to offer effective and prophetic answers to the challenges of an atheistic society. In the same way, it is called today to respond to the new challenges, committing itself to diligent meditation on the Scriptures, to the careful analysis of social phenomena, to the planning of suitable pastoral initiatives so as to offer, in the light of past experiences, appropriate and incisive responses to the problems posed by the different situations of the present time.

3. In particular, if the Church as “sacrament” is to yield more abundant good fruits, it would be useful for her to be more involved in the areas which belong more directly to her mission.

It will be necessary first of all to promote the faith formation of adult believers, encouraging them to carry out their specific tasks to the full. As I emphasized during my Pastoral Visit to your beloved country, “suitably trained lay Catholics have the mission of carrying the Gospel message to all sectors of society, including the political sector” (Address to the Slovak Bishops, n. 6; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 12 July 1995, p. 9). Therefore it is not so much a matter of supporting those whose role is to substitute for the priest in his absence, as to help the faithful discover authentic “lay” spirituality as a way to sanctify themselves and the world, starting from the fundamental consecration conferred in Baptism. In this commitment to the formation of lay adults in every field, the service offered by Catholic universities assumes a particular importance. Their specific goal is precisely to give cultural and spiritual formation to people who can bring the values of faith and the Catholic tradition to the civil and political realm.

Secondly, it is necessary to pay special attention to the formation of the clergy. Candidates for the priesthood must be well-trained culturally as well as spiritually, so that they can proclaim the Gospel effectively to their contemporaries, drawing from the Church’s Magisterium appropriate answers to the various questions. It is also clear that sound doctrine is far more useful than academic qualifications. In addition, they must be helped to preserve themselves from the ever-present danger of activism, by means of a formation which stresses the pre-eminence of the mission to evangelize and “sanctify”. Abandoning or giving insufficient attention to these essential dimensions of the priestly mission inevitably leads to losing the sense and effectiveness of the other aspects of the pastoral mnistry. The greatest good a priest can offer his people is to give them every possible encouragement for reconciliation with with God and their brethren.

To respond to the serious challenges of our time, it is the young man’s duty, once he has been ordained a priest, to care for his own continuing formation, in addition to study and personal prayer, by taking part in official meetings and informal gatherings with other priests and their own Bishop, in order to seek together appropriate solutions to problems and to find support in their apostolic efforts. It is precisely in view of their advanced formation that you have the Pontifical Slovak College and the Pontifical Slovak Institute of Sts Cyril and Methodius for Slovak priests in Rome. The time they spend working in the centre of Christianity will enable your priests to complete their intellectual and spiritual formation, so that they can be your effective collaborators in the new evangelization.

4. I congratulate you, Venerable Brothers, on the fact that in recent years it has been possible to provide religious education in the schools. However, I would also like to emphasize on this occasion that this form of evangelization does not replace parish catechesis for children, young people and adults. School is certainly an effective aid, but the parish remains the catechetical centre and it must have adequate structures for conducting normal pastoral and formational activities.

It is particularly necessary for the thorough, systematic proclamation of God’s word to reach adults, so that they make the Gospel the inspirational centre of their lives and thus courageously bear witness to Christ in the workplace, in culture and in sociopolitical activities. Special courses and other suitable formational activities will contribute to this.

It is above all the twin realities of family and youth which must be your Churches’ top priority. The negative influences which come from all sides must find effective and appropriate antidotes in the Christian community. To this end it will help to organize a complete youth and family apostolate, aimed at meeting the formational needs of young people and new families. Fittingly in this regard, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been translated and published in the Slovak language. It is an extraordinary tool for evangelizatiton, and it is now the task of the Church and particularly the Bishops to “translate” its content into the daily life of the faithful.

In the framework of formational efforts for the new generations, you should emphasize the need for a vocations apostolate aimed at presenting to young people the greatness of a vocation to the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life, as a generous service to the cause of the kingdom.

5. In communion with the whole Catholic world, the Church in Slovakia is also involved now in preparing for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, which is rapidly approaching. This is why she is not only fostering an atmosphere of expectation for that historical event, but is rightly seeking to live intensely the immediate years of preparation, accordng to the ecclesial itinerary I proposed in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente. The review Vel’lké jubileum, laudably edited by the Slovak Bishops’ Conference, will provide effective help in this regard to the various diocesan and parish communities.

In this context it is natural to mention the means of social communication. How can we fail to stress their great influence on public opinion and their extraordinary impact on the way the faithful think and act? In view of the negative influence they sometimes exert it is not enough to criticize, but it is essential to educate the faithful in the mature use of the mass media, helping them to grow towards greater freedom. It is also necessary to make every effort to direct the unique potential of these instruments to the service of truth and goodness.

6. The Church offers man the salvation achieved by Christ, according to the Father’s plan, in the paschal mystery. She reaches out to man and accepts him as he is, with all his intellectual and moral failings, with all his family and social problems. Nevertheless, the Church is aware that she does not have a ready-made solution to every new question raised by changing circumstances. Rather, she stands beside each person to encourage his own responsibility and to invite him to seek a suitable response in the light of Christian wisdom, accumulated in the documents of the Magisterium (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 43).

The relationshp between Church and State should be considered in this context. As the Second Vatican Council emphasizes: “The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields” (ibid., n. 76). However, this dis- tinction does not exclude, but calls for mutual collaboration. As I recalled on the occasion of an audience to a group of Slovak pilgrims: “Catholics must not remain on the fringes of social and political life. Indeed, they can and must make a significant contribution, inspired by the Church’s social teaching and without ever taking refuge in preconceived or one-sided positions which are often sterile if not harmful” (Address to Slovak Pilgrims, 9 November 1996, n. 3; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 20 November 1996, p. 6).

In the special collaboration of Church and State in promoting the good of the individual and the country, the fact that the Church by her very nature has been sent to all, both near and far, can never be considered secondary.

Venerable and dear Brothers, these are the thoughts and exhortations I felt the need to express to you on the occasion of your welcome ad limina visit. I thank you for your enthusiasm and dedication in working for the true good of the communities entrusted to your pastoral care. Always foster a deep sense of affective and effective communion among yourselves and with the universal Church, and in particular with the Successor of Peter.

As I entrust you, together with your communities, to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Sorrows, patroness of Slovakia, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the Slovak people.





Monday, 7 September 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. I welcome you with great pleasure at the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Slovenia to the Holy See.

Please express my cordial gratitude to Mr Milan Kučan, the distinguished President of the Republic, for the courteous sentiments of respect and good wishes which you have conveyed to me on his behalf. I reciprocate with my best wishes for the fulfilment of his high mandate of service to your compatriots.

In thanking you for your noble expressions of gratitude for the independence process in the Republic of Slovenia, I would like to assure you that the Holy See will continue to offer its particular support to the beloved nation you represent, as it does to every nation striving peacefully to assert its own legitimate aspirations to freedom.

2. I still have vivid memories of the visit I had the joy of making to Slovenia in May 1996, which included Ljubljana, Postojna and Maribor. I am confident that those moments will endure in the people’s historical memory as a constant incentive to nurture their own spiritual roots, drawing from them the necessary energy to grow united and well-motivated within the great family of nations.

Especially in historical periods marked by rapid changes and, so to speak, by sudden accelerations in the political, economic and cutural processes, it is more necessary than ever to preserve and strengthen the neverchanging values which characterize the human person and civil society. This is absolutely indispensable, especially from an educational point of view, for the new generations who have not personally experienced the toil of fighting for certain ideals and who risk losing their meaning and their requirements. Indeed, a society is vital to the extent that it can transmit the great human values and a passion for their concrete realization in history.

3. Doubtless, the Ecclesial Community’s presence, active and as widespread as possible, plays a very valuable role in achieving this goal. According to the eloquent Gospel image of leaven, it fos- ters the development of the whole social structure in the direction of justice, freedom, peace and respect for human rights. Slovenia knows all this very well, not as hearsay but because of her age-old historical experience: the annals of Slovenian history document the positive contribution made by the Catholic religion to the country’s life and to the quality of its moral and cultural growth.

As Your Excellency knows, the Holy See is the central organ of the Catholic Church, which for centuries has also been firmly rooted in the Republic of Slovenia. It is the task of the Apostolic See, in union with the local Bishops, to promote relations with the State authorities and to regulate relations between the Church and the State. Unfortunately, under the past regime this was not possible. With the restoration of democracy, the Catholic Church has obtained new opportunities to carry out her work of evangelization and human advancement.

4. I have noted with satisfaction what you stated about finding solutions to some matters of great importance for mutual relations. I hope that with sincere and honest dialogue Church and State representatives will face other still unresolved matters, which have been the subject of discussion for years. A just solution to these problems will benefit not only the Catholic Church but the whole of Slovenian society, which the Church intends to serve and to whose well-being she wishes to contribute.

I hope that the fulfilment of the noble task entrusted to you, Mr Ambassador, will serve to promote and deepen our mutual relations, not only for the benefit of Slovenian Catholics, but for all the citizens of the beloved nation you represent.

I wish you a happy stay in Rome, Mr Ambassador. I can assure you that those who work with me will always offer you a warm welcome and attentive support. I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings on you, on the Slovenian people and on all those who govern them on this eve of the third millennium.






Friday, 11 September 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on this occasion for the presentation of the Letters by which the Presidency of Bosnia and Hercegovina accredits you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous words you have just addressed to me and for your observations on the progress made, the future projects and the understandable difficulties your country is experiencing.

I would first like to convey, through your kindness, my respectful and cordial greeting to the Collegial Presidency and the Council of Ministers. Through them I would then like to renew my sentiments of affection and closeness to all the peoples who live in the country: they have a special place in my heart and in my prayers.

I still have a vivid picture of the scenes during the memorable visit Providence allowed me to make to Sarajevo on 12-13 April last year. It is the city that symbolizes our century, because the events which happened there had an effect on the whole of Europe. I regarded that meeting as an encouragement to all people of goodwill not to let themselves be discouraged in their efforts to build up the peace so recently achieved; as an invitation to all nations to look at the Balkans with new eyes; as an exhortation to continue tirelessly on the arduous but fruitful path of sincere dialogue.

2. From its independence until today, the Holy See’s concern for Bosnia and Hercegovina has been constant. This is evident by what has already been done. While the war was raging, the Holy See was committed to promoting peace, pointing to dialogue as the most suitable way to guarantee respect for the fundamental and inalienable rights of every person in accordance with his own nationality. It also strove to alleviate the sufferings of the defenceless peoples throughout the region devastated by the war.

Since the first signs of conflict, the Holy See has done all it could to prevent suffering and death, and to promote a sincere and constructive dialogue between the parties. Now that the weapons are silent at last after the bloody trial of a devastating conflict, the Holy See continues to pursue the goal of encouraging the consolidation of peace with real equality for the peoples who constitute Bosnia and Hercegovina, exhorting them to mutual respect and honest, constant dialogue, in a climate of true freedom.

I firmly hope that the suffering of the recent painful experience will contribute to active collaboration among the nations in the Balkan area and to promotion of the effective recognition of human rights and the rights of the peoples in the area of South-Eastern Europe, a necessity which is all the more compelling as new centres of conflict flare up.

3. Peace in Bosnia and Hercegovina is being consolidated day by day, thanks to the commitment of the local authorities and the efforts of the international community, committed to implementing the Washington and Dayton peace accords in the region.

The urgent task of the country’s moral and material reconstruction now remains. This is a demanding but necessary duty, to which the future of all Bosnia and Hercegovina is linked. In rebuilding the country stricken by the recent war, it is of course necessary to invest in infrastructures, which are so vital to the recovery of civilian life and to economic growth; but it is first necessary to enable the citizen to enjoy the rights and dignity which are his due. In fact, the individual is the most valuable good in any civil society. In this context the problem of refugees and exiles who rightly ask to return to their homes cannot be avoided. I earnestly invite all the parties involved not to be discouraged by the difficulties and to work for a just solution to this tragedy.

I hope that conditions can be created as soon as possible for the peaceful and safe return of those who fled from the threatening horrors of the war or who were violently expelled from their land. Everyone must be guaranteed the real possibility of returning home, to resume normal life in serenity and peace. This presupposes the elimination of every threat of violence and the establishment of an environment of mutual trust in a social context marked by safety and lawfulness.

This path requires the involvement of the many sound forces which form society as a whole. The Church, in her own capacity, has not failed and will not fail to make her convinced and concrete contribution so that the hearts of all may advance on the path of dialogue and sincere co-operation. However, the political and institutional forces have a great responsibility in guaranteeing the identity, development and prosperity of all the peoples who constitute Bosnia and Hercegovina. This is a task that requires patience, time and tenacity, and cannot be imposed. The possibility of unforeseen events must not discourage anyone, but only engage the wisdom of all in correcting and improving the plans already made.

4. Mr Ambassador, despite the promising prospects opened by a peace at last restored, it cannot be denied that there are also shadows that must be dispelled. There is still deep anxiety about various attacks in recent months, which sow terror and rob local communities of their tranquillity. These acts represent a serious obstacle to the peace, reconciliation and forgiveness which are so necessary for the future of the whole region. Nothing is built on violence! Bosnia and Hercegovina is a country in which three peoples live together and where various religious groups are active. Each must be provided with the same economic, social and cultural opportunities; each must be given the possibility to express his own identity, while fully respecting the others.

A multiethnic and multireligious society like Bosnia and Hercegovina must be based on respect for differences, on mutual esteem, real equality, active collaboration, constructive solidarity, constant and honest dialogue. Only in this way will the communities concerned be able to transform the country into a true “region of peace”. Each must therefore resist the temptation to dominate the others out of a desire for control and out of personal or group selfishness. On the contrary, it will be indispensable to foster a truly democratic life, joined with authentic religious and cultural freedom aimed at the constant advancement of the individual and the common good.

Suitable legislative provisions must therefore guarantee the real equality of all members of civil society, and State institutions should promote this equality, using every legitimate means to protect it.

5. I cannot fail to mention, Mr Ambassador, the Catholic Church’s current situation in your country. She seeks no privileges for herself; she only wants to fulfil the mandate received from her divine Founder, freely accomplishing her activity at the service of all. This is the reason why she would like to see the restoration of the property confiscated in the communist period or during the recent conflict. This is a proof of justice and a sign of the democratic nature of the institutions of the country you are called to represent. Obviously, what the Catholic Church asks for herself she also asks for the country’s other religious communities.

As I close these words of greeting and best wishes, I would like to entrust to the heavenly protection of the Most Holy Mother of God the efforts for building peace and for material and spiritual reconstruction which Bosnia and Hercegovina, with the help of the international community, is carrying out. May the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary shower an abundance of God’s blessings upon all the peoples of this country, which is particularly dear to my heart. I accompany these desires with warm wishes for your fruitful mission to the Holy See.

Speeches 1998 - 4 September 1998