Speeches 1998 - Friday, 18 September 1998




(SEPTEMBER 18-20, 1998)




Saturday, 19 September 1998

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Brescia,

1. Here I am for the second time in the heart of your city, in this historic square which you have wished to dedicate to my venerable Predecessor and your illustrious fellow citizen, the Servant of God Paul VI.

Here, these prestigious buildings — the cathedral, with the ancient Romanesque cathedral next to it and the Broletto — recall your noble and history laden past, but above all they attest to the dedicated collaboration between civil and religious society, and point to the encounter with God and to moral and social engagement as the secret of the path to civilization and well-being taken by the city.

Thank you for your affectionate welcome, which reaffirms the Brescian people’s ancient tradition of fidelity to the Pope. I particularly thank Minister Beniamino Andreatta for his courteous words on behalf of the Italian Government. I also extend my gratitude to the Mayor, who has expressed the heartfelt sentiments and joyful welcome of all the citizens.

I greet the revered Pastor of the Diocese, Archbishop Bruno Foresti, and his Auxiliary, and I extend a respectful greeting to the President of the Lombard Region, as well as to the authorities who honour this meeting with their presence.

2. “Brixia Fidelis Fidei et Iustitiae”.

This ancient motto epitomizes Brescia’s identity, as is also evidenced by her famous monuments. They form the visible sign of the values handed down by past generations and still present in the hearts and culture of its inhabitants, and they attest to the wonderful synthesis of faith and ordered coexistence, love of their own land and solidarity with every human being. These values inspired Brescians in the past and must continue to serve as a standard for citizens today, to ensure their city a future of genuine progress.

My thoughts turn to the missionaries, men and women of great heart who learned here to love God and neighbour and, strengthened by this experience, brought the joyous message of the Gospel to various parts of the world, sowing new hope and promoting living conditions more worthy of man. I am thinking of the founders of religious institutes and of the many priests, who were zealous witnesses to Christ and true teachers of life in your land. I would also like to recall with great admiration all the parents who have found in their deep and active faith, in their love for their families and in honest work, the secret to building your land’s authentic progress. Nor would I like to forget the contribution of genuine intellectuals and the sponsors of the many cultural and charitable institutions which have flourished in the Brescian region, as well as the artisans of the economic development that marks your city and your province.

It is precisely in this regard that I said to you during my first visit: “Brescia possesses a precious spiritual, cultural and social heritage, which must be jealously guarded and vigorously increased, inasmuch as also today, just as in the past, it constitutes the indispensable basis for a wise civil organization and for the authentic development of mankind” (Address to the Civil Authorities of Brescia, 26 September 1982, n. 3; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 8 November 1982, p. 9).

As the above-mentioned inscription carved on the pediment of the Loggia stresses, building a future of civilization and progress requires a twofold, inseparable commitment of fidelity: to the Gospel, the precious and vital root of your civil society, and to humanity, concrete and alive, that is, to the individual “who thinks, loves and works, who is always expecting something” (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, II [1964], 729). This involves a commitment to embody in both private and community life the religious, anthropological and ethical principles which stem from faith in Jesus Christ, to be ever attentive to the rapid changes and new challenges of the present time, and to have the courage to express this evangelical inspiration in works, programmes and institutions that can meet the authentic needs of the human person and of society.

3. In this arduous but exalting task, your teacher is my venerable Predecessor Paul VI, to whom I have come to pay homage at the end of the celebrations for the centenary of his birth in this city, to which he always felt honoured to belong “by birth and never-failing affection”, as he said once (Address to the Mayor and Council of Brescia, 10 December 1977; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 January 1978, p. 3).

He was the sturdy helmsman of Peter’s barque in difficult times for the Church and for humanity, and was always motivated by a strong, deep love for Christ and a burning desire to proclaim him to his contemporaries, who were often bewildered by the new and pressing doctrines and events. The memory of his personality as a man of God, of dialogue and of peace, a person firmly anchored to the Church’s faith and always attentive to the hopes and tragedies of his brethren, becomes ever more vivid with the passing of time and also offers valuable encouragement to believers today.

The elements that join a person’s greatness and exceptional qualities to his roots and to a people’s talent are mysterious, but it seems evident that Brescia made a decisive contribution to his human and religious formation with its faith, its culture, its history, its sufferings and its achievements. In this community, of which he always cherished a grateful memory and sweet nostalgia in his heart, the young Montini found a fervent atmosphere teeming with new ferment, as well as capable teachers who were able to instil in him an interest in learning, attention to the signs of the times, and above all, the search for the wisdom which is born of faith, a precious quality for undertaking the serious tasks to which Providence had called him.

4. Giuseppe Tovini, an exceptional witness to the religious, cultural and social context which had such an influence on the formation of the future Paul VI, is the servant of God whom I will have the joy of beatifying tomorrow, here in Brescia, where he worked and bore witness by an admirable life to the unforeseeable opportunities for doing good which a man is capable of if he lets himself be seized by Christ.

This layman, the loving father of a family, a rigorous and conscientious professional, died the year that Giovanni Battista Montini was born. He urged Catholics to assert the values of the Gospel in society, by creating educational and social works, cultural clubs, working committees and exceptional endeavours.

At a time when some sought to confine the faith within the walls of sacred buildings, Giuseppe Tovini showed that adherence to Christ and obedience to the Church, far from estranging the believer from history, spur him to be the leaven of authentic civilization and social progress. He was an apostle of Christian education and an outstanding leader of that Catholic movement which made a deep impression on all Italian society at the end of the 19th century.

5. Dear Brescians, the luminous figures of Paul VI and Giuseppe Tovini, the boast of your land, are a precious heritage, which I exhort you to accept with renewed love, in order to make Christian values the driving force of an original cultural, human and civil project worthy of your land’s vocation. Walk courageously on the ways of truth and justice. Always be confident and daring in seeking and building what is good. May Christ, the Redeemer of man, be your hope!

And you, Brescia, “Fidelis Fidei et Iustitiae”, rediscover this rich heritage of ideals which constitutes your truest wealth so that you can be a living centre radiating the new civilization, the civilization of love desired by your great son, Paul VI!

As I invoke the protection of Our Lady of Grace, venerated in the city shrine so dear to Pope Paul VI and to the citizens of Brescia, I cordially impart my Blessing to you all.




(SEPTEMBER 18-20, 1998)



20 September 1998

To Dr Giuseppe Camadini
President of the Paul VI Institute of Brescia

On the occasion of my visit to Brescia for the conclusion of the centenary celebrations of the birth of the Venerable Servant of God Pope Paul VI, I would like to express a special word of gratitude for the work that the Brescian institute named after him has carried out in its 20 years of intense activity.

With its many scholarly and popular endeavours, the Paul VI Institute has contributed in a significant way to making the value and greatness of Paul VI known in Italy and throughout the world: it has explained his true thinking, his deep love of the Church and mankind, his passion for the proclamation of Christ to contemporary man, his contribution to the Second Vatican Council and its implementation, and his marked sensitivity to culture and art as privileged paths to the truth.

A further example of your efforts is the symposium on Paul VI and ecumenism planned for next week, for which I offer my best wishes.

As I implore the assistance of the Holy Spirit for all the present and future activities of the institute, I gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to all who offer their collaboration.




(SEPTEMBER 18-20, 1998)





Sunday, 20 September 1998

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Directors and Leaders of the Family and School Apostolates,

1. During my brief visit to your Church, my meeting with you is particularly significant and gives me great joy today as Brescia commemorates the centenary year of Paul VI's birth and rejoices in the beatification of Giuseppe Tovini, both distinguished sons of your land. They both offer a message precisely about the matters in which you are particularly involved, promotion of the family and education of the young.

The new blessed speaks to us by the example of his life. Indeed, he was an exemplary husband, the father of 10 children, who was able to make his family a true “domestic church”, rich in prayer and communion. Then, in his civil role, he distinguished himself as a tireless leader of educational initatives to imbue schools with Christian truth.

2. In a different role, Paul VI also deserves praise for these two noble causes. In his magisterium, both as Archbishop of Milan and as Pastor of the universal Church, he devoted a special place to the family. His concern for this matter was rooted in his own experience of a family marked by great sensitivity to relationships and deep spirituality.

The Church in Brescia could not but be influenced by these two figures. Therefore, she does well today to recall them with legitimate pride and to let them infuse new zeal into her pastoral activity, especially in the areas of school and the family.

Starting with the family, how can we not stress that we are dealing with a matter of fundamental and decisive importance? This awareness requires great responsibility, especially if we consider that today, due to the rapid changes in mores and widespread ethical relativism, the family has become the object of destructive pressures which undermine its very foundations.

In this situation, the Church feels obliged to remind people of the cornerstones of family and marital ethics. She does so, not to impose a discipline “of her own”, but in the conviction that she is to remind consciences of a truth that everyone can discern within himself.

Let us reflect briefly again on this truth, which Bl. Tovini lived in such an exemplary way and the Servant of God Paul VI authoritatively explained, so that we can bear witness to it ever more zealously in our words and deeds.

3. Today it is more necessary than ever to regain the sense of marriage as a covenant of love, by which a man and woman publicly and permanently bind themselves to one another, for their mutual fulfilment and the responsible service to life. As such, it has been inscribed in God’s plan from the very beginning. Jesus appeals precisely to this its primordial nature, in reaction to the permissiveness that had prevailed in the Law of Moses itself. In fact, when questioned about the legitimacy of divorce, he gave this solemn answer: “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’. So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mc 10,6-9).

These words of the Lord are certainly very demanding. But how can we deny that they best express the deep meaning of authentic conjugal love? In so far as it is authentic, such love cannot be reduced to a “temporary” decision left to changing circumstances or, worse still, moods. As conjugal, it therefore involves the couples’ whole life, by respecting and integrating their specific masculinity and femininity.

Jesus' words prove to be demanding but true, and, if we take the viewpoint of children whose rights only his words can fully protect, by fostering their psycho-physical growth in a harmonious and serene atmosphere.

It is therefore important to educate the young generations to live love in an authentically human way. In its sexual dimension as well, it then becomes an element of that “spiritual worship” (Rm 12,1) to which St Paul refers in the passage just proclaimed. We must rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of marriage lived according to God’s plan, and we must work so that the value of this institution, which is fundamental and indispensable for human society, is reaffirmed in consciences, in culture and in the law itself.

4. It is equally urgent to help married couples understand the connection between their mutual
self-giving and the service to life: a connection that belongs to the profound logic of love in its twofold dimension, unitive and fruitful, which is inscribed in the very biological and psychological structure of man and woman. Today, in remembering Paul VI, how could we fail to recall on this delicate and controversial subject the enlightening teaching he gave 30 years ago in the Encyclical Humanae vitae? There his primary objective was not to “forbid” something, but to extol the sublime mission which makes spouses God’s co-workers in giving life to new beings. Giving life is a lofty task that should be performed generously and, as the Encyclical stresses, with that sense of responsibility which permits and can at times require the spacing of births, in accordance with criteria that take into careful consideration the good of the couple, the family and the children themselves. However, while this responsible choice does not make couple's relations in their naturally infertile periods illicit, it does not justify the artificial separation of the unitive meaning from the procreative, since they are both, according to specific biological laws, inherent in the conjugal act. Man’s control of his own body and, in particular, of his generative faculties as such — Paul VI forcefully reminds us — is not unlimited!

5. This teaching awaits capable heralds who can present all its anthropological richness to the men and women of today. Pastors should not be afraid to follow Paul VI’s shining example and to imitate his courage in swimming against the tide. Lay people, in turn, should look to the many models of holiness that can inspire them. Today's beatification of Giuseppe Tovini is an encouragement especially for you Brescians to an even greater commitment and is, after all, in line with your entire tradition. In fact, you have clearly understood that God’s plan for marriage cannot be merely proclaimed, but must be communicated through a concrete educational programme for young people, engaged couples, husbands and wives, and families. Therefore, use and develop the best experiences of your pastoral tradition! It was a keen insight which led to the foundation of the Pro-Family Institute, to provide substantial formation from adolescents to mature families.

The Teams of Our Lady and the New Families Movement have also proved to be effective and fruitful. Praise should also be given to the services offered by counselors of Christian inspiration and by the diocesan counseling centre for couples and families, as well as to the role played by the parents’ associations involved in education and the school, and the willingness of various religious institutes to take responsibility for difficult family situations. The Provincial Forum of Family Associations, formed to foster and express the social and political role of the family itself, is very promising. And how can we forget the active solidarity shown by many associations to those families dealing with problems such as serious illness, handicaps or social hardships?

6. The Church and society in Brescia have so many resources! This commitment to the family will be more effective if it can take advantage of the close co-operation between all the educational agencies inspired by authentic human and Christian values. There is not enough time here to speak specifically about the role of the school. Leaving it to your own sensitivity, already so alert and active in this area, I will merely recall the importance of school-family co-operation at a time when the fragmentation of culture and the variety of messages spread by the mass media increasingly isolate the family and make it unequal to its educational task.

This issue concerns every type of school, starting with the State school, to the extent that it continues to be securely anchored to the moral values inscribed in the heart of every person, many of which are recalled in the Constitution which governs the life of the Italian people. At the same time, it is precisely the urgent need for school-family co-operation which presupposes a concrete recognition of the family’s right, with appropriate assistance, to have the possibility of choosing the educational orientation and type of school most beneficial to the growth of its own children. The concerted effort made by Bl. Giuseppe Tovini to promote Christianity in State schools and to strengthen Catholic schools is a witness which has lost none of its timeliness. One need only mention his foundation of the review Scuola italiana moderna, which in over a century of existence — through the praiseworthy work of the “Editrice La Scuola” — has helped and continues to help a great many elementary school teachers in their educational duties.

7. So take courage, Church in Brescia! Take courage, dear family and school workers! Today your task has become more difficult, but it is still exalting and necessary. You are called to help build healthy, motivated personalities, deeply reflective and capable of communion. Families in difficulty have a right to trust in your intervention and must be shown the affectionate and active concern of the whole ecclesial community. With your help, a great many men and women, young people and families will be able to discover the gift of faith and, with it, the joy of life.

May Our Lady of Grace, so dear to the spirituality of Brescians, obtain for you the divine help necessary for this work. May the memory of Paul VI and the example of Bl. Giuseppe Tovini fill your intentions with zeal.

I bless you all with affection.




Thursday, 24 September 1998

1. I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your 33rd General Chapter, whose central theme was evangelization of the poor on the threshold of the third millennium. I congratulate Fr Wilhelm Steckling, the new Superior General, and his Council, who together are called to lead the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate into this new phase, in order to strengthen their unity, to develop constantly their pastoral character and take part ever more effectively in the Church’s mission.

With you all, I give thanks to the Lord for the work accomplished by the Oblates. Your presence on every continent, and particularly in distant lands, brings you into contact with men and women of different cultures and traditions; this is the sign of the Church’s universality and of her concern for all peoples. To stay close to people, particularly the poor whose numbers continue to increase, you have wished to reorganize your presence in the various Provinces by sending new communities to Asia, Latin America, Africa, as well as to the great Canadian North. You are also concerned with the new areas of mission, especially the communications media and confident dialogue with the people of today, in order to establish an ever more fraternal society and an era of justice and peace. You are making courageous efforts to meet new, urgent pastoral, apostolic and missionary needs, and to undertake the necessary inculturation, a patient process which, while requiring you to listen to people, “must in no way compromise the distinctiveness and integrity of the Christian faith” (Redemptoris missio RMi 52). The Church appreciates your willingness and concern to answer the Lord’s call wherever you are sent and to put yourselves at the service of the local Churches, despite your limited means and the decreasing number of those belonging to your institute. I am sure that the missionary zeal of your General Assembly will bear many fruits and give new strength to your institute.

2. As you know, proclaiming the Gospel requires you to draw strength, courage and hope from a life of prayer, especially from mental prayer by which God communicates many spiritual graces, from the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer which gives each person a share in the praise of the universal Church and thus in her mission, as well as from mediation on Scripture and from the Eucharist in which Christ teaches his disciples and gives himself as food for their apostolic journey. Daily discipline, the offering of oneself to God, and community life are authentic proofs of intense love and are the first way to proclaim the Gospel. This is how to imitate Christ, enabling you to say: “Come and see” (Jn 1,39) and to open people’s hearts to receiving the word of God. Indeed, the Lord’s faithful will be recognized by their contemporaries by their love for one another and will reveal the face of the risen One (1Jn 4,11). In today's world more than ever, priests and religious must live in close union with their Teacher, striving to become saints as your Rule requires, so that you will be docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and respond better to the world's appeal. The life of prayer does not turn people away: on the contrary, it helps them to perceive more deeply their essential needs which only Christ can reveal to us, he who be- came man to reunite his brethren and to save all humanity.

3. Like many institutes, you wish to involve lay people in your activities and your spirituality. This generous collaboration is very valuable to the mission and gives each person the opportunity to develop his spiritual life according to the original intention of Eugène de Mazenod, who was “marked by a heroic degree of faith, hope and apostolic charity”, as I recalled at his canonization. Continue to rely on his spirituality and missionary zeal to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth!

4. You are asking yourselves about your institute’s decreasing numbers. This is a source of suffering and a trial which must in no way weaken the missionary zeal of the Oblates. On the contrary, may it be an opportunity to redouble your efforts to offer your ideal to young people on every continent, many of whom are generous and long to serve Christ and his Church!

As I entrust you to the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin and St Eugène de Mazenod, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to all the members of your institute and to all who support you.




Friday, 25 September 1998

Dear Abbesses of the Cistercian Order,

1. I am particularly pleased to address you today on the occasion of your second assembly which concludes an essential stage in the process undertaken by the Cistercian Order to enable the feminine branch to share fully in the Order's structures of responsibility and communion.

In a letter sent to the Abbot General, Dom Mauro Esteva, during the last General Chapter, I expressed the wish that your deliberations would take advantage of the nuns' contribution to carrying out the Cistercian mission in the Church and in the world (cf. Address to Capitulars of the Cistercian Order, 8 September 1995; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 4 October 1995, p. 3). I am pleased to see that this objective has been successfully achieved.

It has been a careful process, preceded by deep reflection and supported by what I wrote in the Apostolic Letter on the dignity and vocation of women, published for the Marian Year of 1988. In fact, I noted in the document that “the dignity and the vocation of women — a subject of constant human and Christian reflection — have gained exceptional prominence in recent years” (Mulieris dignitatem MD 1).

2. For some time now your order has undertaken a journey aimed at better defining its characteristic features and juridical identity, with the participation of the nuns as well in its structures of responsibility and communion.

This process has also included the delicate question of the nuns’ co-operation in exercising the power of governance within the order itself. This process was fundamentally motivated by the “accomodata renovatio” of religious life desired by the Second Vatican Council in the Decree Perfectae caritatis (cf. n. 1). While considering the renewal and adaptation of structures as two inseparable aspects of the same reality, the Cistercian Order assigned a pre-eminence to renewal, giving it an inspirational and directional role in the process of adaptation, making sure, however, that it was motivated by true spiritual renewal.

The commitment to return to the sources, called for by the Second Vatican Council (cf. Perfectae caritatis PC 2), supported your order in studying its own identity, spurring it to a sincere conversion of heart and mind. This examination then enabled you to find new solutions for more adequately expressing the nuns’ presence in your order and their more direct participation in its life and affairs.

3. The progress achieved follows this pattern, finding its basis in the Declaration of the order’s General Chapter held in 1968-69 on the principal elements of Cistercian life today. The fraternal meeting stated at the time that “Cistercians nuns do not constitute a ‘second order’ alongside the ‘first’, that of the monks, but are an integral part of the same Cistercian Order Thus there is no doubt that the nuns’ participation in decisions concerning not only their own life but that of their congregation or the entire order must be promoted, however cau- tiously, but constantly and effectively” (n. 78).

This same basic document of your family clearly expresses what the sources of your life are: the Gospel and the Church’s Magisterium, the monastic tradition, the Rule of St Benedict, the Cistercian traditions, active participation in the life of the Church and of society, the action and inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. nn. 3-10).

Your order has moved “cautiously but constantly”, in accordance with those deliberations. Thanks also to the collaboration of the Commissio pro monialibus and the discreet but effective service of the General Curia, the Cistercians, over a span of 30 years, have “effectively” promoted the participation of the feminine branch in the structures of responsibility and communion.

4. Today, with the nuns’ participation in the Abbot General’s Council, in the order’s Synod, in a single General Chapter and in other forms of collaboration and service within your family, the dignity of women and expressions of the “feminine genius” can be acknowledged, appreciated and made fruitful in the Cistercian Order for the glory of God and the common benefit of the Church and of humanity, especially in today’s circumstances.

It is certainly right to apply to you, dear cloistered sisters, what the Second Vatican Council said in addressing women: “The hour is coming, in fact it has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with the spirit of the Gospel can do much to aid mankind in not falling” (Message to Women).

As the Cistercian Order is preparing with the Church to cross the threshold of the third millennium, the opportunities acknowledged and entrusted to you, dear sisters, really open a new era in which you can play a leading role in the life and history of your religious family, which this year is celebrating the ninth centenary of the foundation of the monastery of Cîteaux, from which it arose.

Like your fathers, the founders of the Novum Monasterium of which you, too, are disciples and heirs, dear sisters, do not be afraid to undertake this journey of commitment and collaboration to fully live your vocation. Continue to seek constantly and solely the will of God, who has called you and placed you in the school of his service, the school of love.

Draw from the sources of your own religious community, always letting yourselves be guided by the Spirit of God as you participate in the order’s structures of responsibility and communion.

5. As I offer you my fervent wishes that the progress made in appreciating the value of women’s dignity and the “feminine genius” may continue according to the Spirit of Christ, I turn my thoughts to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Woman par excellence, called by the Father to take part in his saving plan, co-operating in a completely unique way in the work of Redemption.

To her, tenderly venerated by St Bernard, I entrust those of you present here, your sisters and the entire Cistercian Order, which has been hers since the beginning. With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.




Friday, 25 September 1998

Dear Scalabrinian Capitulars,

1. On the occasion of your General Chapter, I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to each of you who have wished by this visit to reaffirm your fidelity to the Successor of Peter and to his Magisterium as Pastor of the universal Church. I particularly greet Fr Luigi Favero, who has just been reconfirmed in office as your congregation’s Superior General. As I congratulate him on the renewed trust of his confrères and on his generous and competent service, I invoke the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit, so that with the help of the new Council he will effectively lead the Congregation of the Missionaries of St Charles into the third Christian millennium.

Speeches 1998 - Friday, 18 September 1998