Speeches 1998 - Friday, 25 September 1998

2. I still vividly recall the beatification of your founder, Bishop John Baptist Scalabrini whom, on 9 November last year, I wished to hold up to the Christian community as a splendid example of a contemporary apostle, the heavenly protector of millions of immigrants and refugees. As a zealous Bishop and loving father, he opened his heart with constant concern to the spiritual and material needs of the poor, embracing in his tireless apostolic activity all whom Providence entrusted to him. He left to his spiritual sons a precious legacy of boundless love for all who are uprooted from their culture and land by the search for work, by natural disasters or by adverse sociopolitical conditions.

Drawing his vision of the universal destination of goods and of the essential unity of the human family from the Word of God, he saw immigration first of all as a law of nature which renews “at every moment the miracle of creation” and which “makes the world man's homeland”. But, at the same time, he did not fail to denounce the sufferings and tragedies caused by emigration, urging appropriate measures and concrete remedies for them.

Today you would like to relive his spirit, his same enthusiasm, as you ask yourselves how to renew, on the threshold of the third millennium, his desire to serve the poorest and his ardour as an evangelist without borders. With a new outbreak of the most painful aspects of the migratory phenomenon such as undocumented migrations and those of refugees from wars, ethnic hatred and underdevelopment, ever broader horizons are opening up to your charity and your missionary zeal.

Therefore, in defining the “Scalabrinian Missionary Project on the Threshold of the Year 2000”, your General Chapter has very fittingly wished to respond to these needs by examining those areas in the world of migrants where signs of sorrow and suffering, rejection of those who are different, fear of others, exploitation and loneliness are most serious.

3. This is a arduous and complex apostolic task, which first requires of every Scalabrinian religious an increasingly convinced and transparent devotion to the poor, chaste and obedient Christ, a deep itimacy with him nourished by prayer, so that the divine Redeemer may become more and more the centre and motivation of his life and apostolate. After the founder’s example, dear brethren, you live the primacy of prayer in a convinced and practical way, especially fostering devotion to the Eucharist and to Our Lady: thus you will find the inner motivation and constant strength to follow the Lord on the way of the Cross; you will find in particular ever new energy for serving migrants, since fixing your “gaze on the Lord’s countenance does not diminish [your] commitment on behalf of humanity; on the contrary, it strengthens this commitment, enabling it to have an impact on history, in order to free history from all that disfigures it” (Vita consecrata VC 75). You will let yourselves be guided by the divine Spirit in order to share the expectations and hopes of men and women on the move; you will also be able to enlighten those who regard immigration as a threat to their own national identity, to their own safety and privileges, by helping them to see the presence of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures as a potential treasure for the host countries.

The Church asks you, dear friends, to keep alive in every receiving community the values of brotherhood and solidarity, to reduce the areas of exclusion and to spread the culture of love. This arduous task requires on your part a complete renewal of fraternal life and the constant and convinced effort to make religious communities “places” of communion and living, transparent images of the Church, the seed and beginning of God’s kingdom in the world (cf. Lumen gentium LG 5). In a divided and unjust world, may your Scalabrinian family, which is present today in many different ways from the ethnic and cultural standpoint, serve not only as a sign and witness of a permanent invitation to dialogue but also as an open home for those who seek opportunities to meet and share their differences.

4. The presence of your religious in different geographical areas and traditions and the special character of your pastoral commitment in a world of human mobility, often reflecting the needs and afflictions of the contemporary world, calls on you once again to live the charism of your institute in a new and incisive way. If the spirit of the congregation is to be transmitted and lived authentically by the new generations in a variety of cultures and latitudes, it is necessary, as you yourselves observe, to formulate your congregation’s ratio institutionis as soon as possible, identifying clearly and dynamically the best way for the full assimilation of the institute’s spirituality. Indeed, “the ratio responds to a pressing need today. On the one hand, it shows how to pass on the institute’s spirit so that it will be lived in its integrity by future generations, in different cultures and geographical regions; on the other, it explains to consecrated persons how to live that spirit in the different stages of life on the way to full maturity of faith in Christ” (Vita consecrata VC 68). After the ratio istitutionis, a plan for continuing formation should be drafted, to provide every Scalabrinian with a programme that encompasses his whole life (cf. ibid., n. 69).

By helping you adhere to Christ with a renewed and constant love, these formation paths will lead you to discern wisely God’s signs in history and, by the witness of your charism, to make their presence somehow perceptible in the diverse and difficult world of migration. The realm of human mobility, where you carry out your work of evangelization and human advancement, is particularly open to lay charisms and professionalism. Foster the collaboration of the lay faithful in making your presence more effective among migrants and by offering them a more diversified image of the Church. This obviously requires of you, as religious, a special commitment to form lay people with a mature faith, to initiate them into the life of the Christian community and to lead them to share the Scalabrinian charism.

5. Dear brothers, on the threshold of a new millennium, as the Church is preparing to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the Incarnation of the Son of God, I would like to entrust your apostolic intentions, the decisions of your Chapter and your good hopes to the Mother of the Lord, whom Bl. John Baptist Scalabrini chose as the model of his spirituality and apostolic work. May Mary, the Woman who was free because she was full of grace and who left her land and home in haste to help her cousin Elizabeth, give you the joy of being docile and generous instruments for the proclamation of the Gospel to the poor of our time, and make you witnesses of hope.

With these wishes, as I invoke the protection of your blessed founder, I affectionately impart a special Apostolic Blessing to the entire Scalabrinian family.





26 September 1998

Dear Father General,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

“I give thanks to God for you because of the grace of God you have received in Christ Jesus, enriching you with all speech and knowledge. . . so that you lack no spiritual gift” (1Co 1,4-7). Echoing the Apostle, I welcome you, the sons of Antonio Rosmini, who abounded so wonderfully in the spiritual gifts which God continues to give the Church through the Institute of Charity. The General Chapter must signify for all Rosminians a time of profound personal and community renewal in the charism bequeathed to you by your Founder.

Antonio Rosmini lived through a time of turbulence which was not just political, but intellectual and religious as well. It was a time when the cry for liberation rang out and when the question of freedom dominated all others. Often enough, this was understood as a rejection of the Church and an abandonment of Christian faith, implying a liberation from Jesus Christ himself. In the midst of this turmoil, Antonio Rosmini saw that there could be no liberation from Christ but only liberation by Christ and for Christ; and this insight inspired his whole life and work, and lies at the heart of his extensive writings, which are at one and the same time scientific and religious, philosophical and mystical.

Your Founder stands firmly in that great intellectual tradition of Christianity which knows that there is no opposition between faith and reason, but that one demands the other. His was a time when the long process of the separation of faith and reason had reached full term, and the two came to seem mortal enemies. Rosmini, however, insisted with Saint Augustine that “believers are also thinkers: in believing they think and in thinking, they believe... If faith does not think, it is nothing” (De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 2, 5). He knew that faith without reason withers into myth and superstition; and therefore he set about applying his immense gifts of mind not only to theology and spirituality, but to fields as diverse as philosophy, politics, law, education, science, psychology and art, seeing in them no threat to faith but necessary allies. Rosmini seems at times a man of contradiction. Yet we find in him a deep and mysterious convergence; and it was this convergence which ensured that, although very much a man of the nineteenth century, Rosmini transcended his own time and place to become a universal witness, whose teaching is still today both relevant and timely.

Although his intellectual energy was astonishing, Rosmini set at the heart of his Christian life what he called “the principle of passivity”. This meant that he consciously and consistently renounced all self-will in the search for the one thing which mattered – the will of God. For a man so active by nature, this required a costly and never ending kenosis. His “principle of passivity” was firmly based on faith in the workings of God’s Providence, so that the “passivity” in question appears more as a constant watchfulness for signs of God’s will and an absolute readiness to act upon such signs when they appear. What was true of his own life was to be true of the Institute which he founded. His trust in the goodness of Providence led him to write in your Constitutions: “This Institute is grounded upon one sole foundation, the Providence of God the Father Almighty; and whoever wants to replace it with another seeks to destroy the Institute” (Constitutions, 462). Even in times of great suffering, your Founder never lost faith in God’s love and therefore never lost his peace of soul or his sure grasp of what Saint Paul means when he urges constant rejoicing (cf. Phil Ph 4,4).

It was this paradoxical experience of both suffering and joy which led Rosmini to revere more and more deeply the mystery of the Cross, since in the figure of the Crucified Christ he found the One who knew both the absolute joy of the beatific vision and the full measure of human suffering. The Cross had been central to Rosmini from his earliest days; and it was not by chance that the Institute of Charity was founded on Monte Calvario in Domodossola. Indeed, it is only in the mystery of the Cross that all the seeming contradictions of Rosmini come to a point of grand convergence and we sense the full force of what he meant by “charity”. For him, it was the Cross which warned reason against a proud self-sufficiency, just as it warned faith against the decay which lay in wait once reason was abandoned. It was the Cross which taught the truth of God’s Providence and what it means to be “passive” before its workings. It was the Cross which turned charity into a blazing fire of compassion and self-sacrifice. This is why he wrote of the Institute of Charity that “the Cross of Jesus is our treasure, our knowledge, our everything” (Letters).

As the Church prepares to enter the Third Christian Millennium, the evangelization of culture is a crucial part of what I have called “the new evangelization”, and it is at this point that the Church looks eagerly to the sons of Antonio Rosmini. Today’s dominant culture worships freedom and autonomy, while often following false paths which lead to new forms of slavery. Our culture sways between rationalism and fideism in many guises, seemingly unable to find a harmony between faith and reason. Christians are sometimes tempted to miss the point of the kenosis of the Cross of Jesus Christ, preferring instead the ways of pride, power and dominion. In such a context, the Institute of Charity has a specific mission to teach the path of freedom, wisdom and truth, which is always the way of charity and the way of the Cross. This is your religious and cultural vocation, no less than it was the vocation of your far-seeing Founder.

Rosmini’s mysticism of the Cross led him to a deep devotion to the woman who stands at the foot of the Cross, Maria Addolorata. In Mary, he found one who was wounded by sorrow but wounded also by love, one who could both weep and rejoice with her Son, and who would teach the Church to do the same. From Mary, Rosmini learnt the meaning of the mysterious words which he spoke on his death-bed: “Adore, keep silence, rejoice”. May she who is the Mother of Sorrows and Mother of all our joys lead the sons and daughters of Antonio Rosmini now and always into the silence of adoration, where the peace of Easter reigns and the mind and heart find rest. Invoking upon the Chapter members and all the members of the Institute of Charity the grace of the Risen Lord, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Saturday, 26 September 1998

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I joyfully welcome you on your ad limina visit. You who have received from Christ the responsibility of guiding the People of God in Madagascar have come to make your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles; on this occasion you have fruitful exchanges with the Successor of Peter and his collaborators, which enable you to strengthen the communion between the Church in your country and the Apostolic See. Thus, I hope that on your return to the people entrusted to you, your pastoral zeal and the missionary dynamism of your communities will be further strengthened so that the Gospel may be proclaimed to all.

In his kind words, the President of your Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Armand Gaétan Razafindratandra, Archbishop of Antananarivo, has given us an accurate overview of the Church’s life on the Great Island and of the circumstances in which she carries out her mission. I warmly thank him.

On this happy occasion, I affectionately greet the priests, religious, catechists and all the faithful of your diocesan communities. Please also convey my cordial greetings to the Malagasy people, whose qualities of hospitality, solidarity and courage in facing the many problems of daily life are known to me.

2. Following in the Apostles’ footsteps, the Bishops have received the mission boldly to proclaim the mystery of salvation in its entirety. “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2Tm 4,2). This difficult task requires each Bishop to draw his energy from the grace of Christ received in abundance through the gift of the Spirit on the day of Episcopal ordination and constantly renewed in prayer. The Church needs pastors to organize and administer with care the various diocesan institutions, and to guide the People of God. To carry out this service they should be inspired by human and, more especially, by spiritual considerations, as well as by a wish to live a holy life so as to conform themselves totally to Christ who sends them. To love Christ and live in intimacy with him also means loving the Church and, like the Lord Jesus, giving oneself to her in order to bear witness to God’s infinite love for mankind.

The Second Vatican Council highlighted the need for Bishops to co-operate more and more closely, to fulfil their office fruitfully (cf. Christus Dominus CD 37). I therefore warmly encourage you to continue to deepen the bonds of collegial union and collaboration with each other, especially within your Episcopal Conference, in living communion with the See of Peter.

A few weeks ago, the pastoral solidarity of the Dioceses of your country was particularly evident at the celebration of a National Synod on the theme: The Church, Family of God Gathered by the Eucharist, which you organized as a continuation of the recent Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. I hope that this important event in the life of the Church in Madagascar, which is part of the preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, will be an opportunity for each of your communities to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ, and will awaken in the faithful “a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer and of solidarity with one’s neighbour, especially the most needy” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 42).

3. Turning now to your diocesan priests who are your principal co-workers in the apostolic ministry, I would like to assure them of the Church’s gratitude for the generosity they show in their priesthood at the service of God’s People. I invite them to persevere with joy and enthusiasm in their vocation, while leading a life worthy of the greatness of the gift given to them. “The priest, by virtue of the consecration which he receives in the sacrament of Orders, is sent forth by the Father through the mediatorship of Jesus Christ, to whom he is configured in a special way as head and shepherd of his people, in order to live and work by the power of the Holy Spirit in service of the Church and for the salvation of the world” (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 12). Docile to the action of the Spirit, may they always keep their eyes fixed on Christ’s face, to advance courageously on the paths of holiness, without being influenced by the ways of the world. They are called to unify their spiritual life, their ministry and their daily activities, by regularly celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours and the sacraments, and by meditating on God's Word. Faithful to celibacy, accepted in a free and loving decision and lived with constantly renewed courage, they will recognize it “as a priceless gift from God, as ‘an incentive to pastoral charity’, as a singular sharing in God’s fatherhood and in the fruitfulness of the Church, and as a witness to the world of the eschatological kingdom” (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 29). When your priests encounter difficulties, be attentive, available Pastors who, by word and example, restore their hope and help them set out once again! I warmly encourage you to support them so that they will live in fidelity to their priestly commitments, while providing the spiritual and material conditions that enable them to meet the just demands of the ministry.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, be close to each of your priests; maintain relations with them that are based on trust and dialogue; may they truly be your sons and friends! Be responsible first of all for their sanctification and continuing formation; may you offer them ways to continue developing throughout their lives the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral dimensions of their priestly formation, so that their being and acting may conform ever more closely to Christ the Good Shepherd.

Lastly, I hope that in the presbyterate, the diocesan and religious priests will accept one another fraternally, with the legitimate diversity of their charisms and choices. In common prayer and sharing, they will find support and encouragement for their ministry and their personal life.

4. Among your constant concerns are the birth and growth of vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The many young people who respond to Christ’s call and willingly follow him are a sign of the dynamism of your local Churches and an encouragement for the future. However, great prudence and careful discernment are essential to strengthening their vocation and to enabling each one to make a free and conscious response to Christ’s call. A life of following the Lord is demanding and thus the choice of candidates requires that they be well-balanced and have human, spiritual, emotional, psychological and intellectual ablities as well as a firm will. I would like here to reaffirm the request made by the Fathers of the African Synod “‘that religious institutes that do not have houses in Africa’ do not feel authorized ‘to come seeking new vocations without prior dialogue with the local Ordinary’” (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). Indeed, young people who are uprooted will have great difficulty in developing the call they have received and will be tempted by the many attractions of a society unfamiliar to them. The hope of seeing new African missionary vocations grow and develop, in order to proclaim the Gospel throughout the continent and even beyond it, also depends on wise discernment.

It is incumbent on you who are Christ’s first representatives in priestly formation (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 65) to carefully watch over the quality of life and formation in the seminaries. I invite you to set up joint educational communities, which give seminarians a concrete example of an irreproachable Christian and priestly life. How can young people prepare themselves properly for the priesthood if they do not see the example of authentic teachers and witnesses? I know how difficult it is for you to choose priests who are experienced in the spiritual life, qualified in theology and philosophy, and capable of directing young people. I earnestly hope that you will be able to train competent formation personnel for this mission, even if sacrifices must be made in other areas of pastoral life. This is one of the most important ministries today for the life of the Church, especially in your country.

I offer special encouragement to those who are responsible for preparing young people to consecrate themselves totally in the priesthood or the religious life. May those who have been strengthened in their search for God show the beauty of their vocation to those whom the Lord is inviting to follow him, and help them discern God’s plans for their life! May their encounter with Christ make them as radiant as the disciples after the Transfiguration!

May your seminarians have an ever more vivid awareness of the greatness and dignity of the call they have received! During their period of formation, they need to acquire sufficient emotional maturity and to be deeply convinced that celibacy and chastity are inseparable for the priest. Teaching the meaning and the place of consecration to Christ in the priesthood must be at the centre of their formation so that they can freely and generously commit their whole selves to following Christ and sharing in his mission.

5. Institutes of consecrated life make an important and valued contribution to many areas of the Church’s life in your country. The commitment of consecrated people to the work of evangelization must show in a particular way that “the more one lives in Christ, the better one can serve him in others, going even to the furthest missionary outposts and facing the greatest dangers” (Vita consecrata VC 76). May the members of religious communities fully live their offering to Christ by bearing witness to him throughout their lives, putting the riches of their own charism at the service of the Church! By letting themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, may they walk resolutely on the paths of holiness and may they show in everyone's sight their joy at having given themselves totally to God for the service of their brothers and sisters!

To consecrated persons I express the Church’s gratitude and hope for the apostolate they carry out, as a consequence of their love for Christ and the gift of themselves, by serving the sick, the most wounded and the very poor in society. By their presence in the world of education, they help young people to grow in humanity, while acquiring a human, cultural and religious formation that prepares them to take their place in the Church and in society.

To enable the institutes of consecrated life to express their own charisms in ever greater communion with the diocesan Churches, as I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, I invite “the leaders of the local Churches and of the institutes of consecrated life and the societies of apostolic life to foster dialogue among themselves, in order to create, in the spirit of the Church as Family, mixed groups for consultation which would serve as a witness to fraternity and as a sign of unity in the service of a common mission” (n. 94).

6. By virtue of their Baptism, all the faithful are called to participate fully in the Church’s mission. I rejoice in the exemplary contribution made by many lay people to the ecclesial life of your country. I acknowledge in particular the work of the catechists who, in often difficult conditions, strive to proclaim the Gospel to their brothers and sisters and, in communion with their Bishops and priests, to provide leadership for their communities and to care for them. Their role is of the utmost importance for the Church’s establishment and vitality. They also show their children what it means to serve Christ. I invite them to maintain a lively awareness of being “members of the Church of Jesus Christ, participants in her mystery of communion and in her dynamism in mission and the apostolate” (Christifideles laici CL 64).

I also hope that lay people acquire a sound formation in order to take up their Christian responsibilities in social life. In fact, it is their task to work with selflessness and tenacity in building the earthly city, with respect for the dignity of the human person and in search of the common good. As for the injustices that destroy peace between individuals and groups, and everything that perverts the mind, may they foster ever greater solidarity, the true fihavanana, which seeks to open human beings to the divine plan of salvation!

Special care must be given to the family, that first and vital cell of society. The formation of consciences, especially to remind people of respect for all human life and to teach children basic values, is an essential task for the Church and her Pastors. As for the difficulties encountered by so many young couples, I encourage you to continue your efforts to help them better understand the genuine nature of human love, conjugal chastity and Christian marriage based on fidelity and indissolubility.

To the young people of Madagascar, I would also like to make a vigorous appeal for trust and hope. I know of their great anxieties, but I also know the riches that God has given them to face the future with courage and clear-sightedness. May they be able to assume their responsibilities in the life of the Church and of society with a vivid awareness of their vocation as human beings and Christians, which commits them to being sowers of peace and love! Christ awaits them and shows them the path of life.

7. Bearing witness to Christ’s love for the sick and the poor is one of the characteristics of Christian life. Through her social institutions, the Church works for the integral development of the person and of society. I am grateful to all, who, through their humble service in imitation of Christ, show the Church’s love for those who are suffering or in distress. Poverty cannot be accepted as inevitable. It is necessary to help the poor grow in humanity and to ensure that their dignity as children of God is recognized. Despite the difficulties, your land is rich in promise. I therefore strongly encourage you to develop initiatives of solidarity and service for people who are often in distressing social and economic situations, notably by giving a proper place to works of education and human development, which will enable each individual to express the gifts God has given him by creating him in his image. Indeed, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio, “a people’s development does not derive primarily from money, material assistance or technological means, but from the formation of consciences and the gradual maturing of ways of thinking and patterns of behaviour. Man is the principal agent of development, not money or technology” (n. 58).

The fraternal relations that exist between the different Christian denominations in Madagascar are evidence of your commitment to respond generously and perceptively to the Lord’s prayer: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17,21). These ties take concrete form in the efforts of the Council of Christian Churches of Madagascar, which has frequently acted to promote justice and integral human development in national life. It is very important to continue the quest for Christian unity in a collaboration inspired by the Gospel, which would be a true common witness to Christ and a way of proclaiming the Good News to everyone. On the long path that leads to total communion between brethren, you must turn together to Christ. Prayer should thus have a privileged role in obtaining from the Lord conversion of heart and the unity of Christ’s disciples. To respond better to the requirements of honest collaboration, it is indispensable that the faithful be prepared to meet their brothers and sisters in a spirit of truth, without hiding the differences that still separate us from full communion (cf. Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms of Ecumenism, 1993). On the other hand, it is desirable that couples who live in a mixed marriage be supported by pastoral care adapted to their needs, in a spirit of ecumenical openness. Despite the difficulties that can arise, they will be authentic artisans of unity through the quality of the love shown to their spouse and children.

9. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, as we near the end of this fraternal meeting, I would like to encourage you to proceed with confidence. In this year dedicated to the Holy Spirit and to his sanctifying presence in the community of Christ’s disciples, I invite the Catholics of Madagascar to deepen the signs of hope present in their life and in that of the world. May they renew “their hope in the definitive coming of the kingdom of God, preparing for it daily in their hearts, in the Christian community to which they belong, in their particular social context, and in world history itself” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46)! I entrust you, the members of your Dioceses and all the Malagasy people to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary and of Bl. Victoire Rasoamanarivo, an admirable witness to the spiritual quality of the laity in your country, as I cordially grant my Apostolic Blessing to everyone.




Monday, 28 September 1998

Venerable Brother in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests and Religious,
Dear Faithful,

1. You are gathered here from a land that for centuries has been joined by bonds of faith to the Successor of Peter, and in recent years has further enriched this relationship with notes of friendship and familiarity: was not your Diocese the birthplace of my venerable Predecessor, the unforgettable Pope John Paul I? I too, then, was able to spend restful days in a house situated in the enchanting territory of the Diocese, in contact with the beauty of those places and the cordial hospitality of the people.

I already had occasion to greet you and thank you last summer when, in Lorenzago di Cadore, I met a significant representation of your Diocese, led by your Bishop, Pietro Brollo, who is also with you today. To him I extend my fraternal greetings and my sincere gratitude for the warm words expressing your sentiments.

2. Today, as I welcome you with affection, my thoughts turn immediately to the wonderful scenery of your mountains and valleys, but also to the history of the men and women who have lived and continue to live their human and Christian lives there: a history that must be increasingly open to the action of God's Spirit, because we cannot be fascinated by the beauty of creation without also being committed to the transformation of our hearts and minds.

In his wise and harmonious plan, God placed you in that environment, so that you could become its careful guardians and diligent stewards (cf. Gn Gn 2,8). There, in your daily lives, God calls you to communion with his Son Jesus. He calls you to make the Church of Christ a reality: “a city set on a hill” (Mt 5,14). This plan of life is constantly guided by the strength and sweetness of his Spirit, so that your community may be a sign and a concrete opportunity for dialogue, for leadership and for renewal of the surrounding human environment.

3. The Church of God in Belluno-Feltre is sent to fulful her mission according to the various charisms and ministries instilled in her by the Holy Spirit. Thus, the work of the Bishop and priests, who in their person sacramentally represent Christ the head and teacher, will be primarily dedicated to the pastoral care of the Christian community. The commitment of the deacons and of the other ordained ministers will be a permanent sign of Christ who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mc 10,45). The presence of men and women religious will be a constant invitation to lift our eyes “beyond the ring of the mountains”, beyond the earthly horizon, in dynamic expectation of the future and definitive reality.

In view, then, of the world's transformation, the role of the laity with their gifts and their tasks can be seen in a specific way. In today's world, “in this great moment in history” (Christifideles laici CL 3), to you, dear sensitive and generous lay people, I repeat the call that echoes the Gospel parable: “It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle” (ibid.). In a society so tragically marked by indifference to God and contempt for the human person and his dignity, yet so needful of God and so anxious for justice and peace (cf. ibid. nn. 4-6), “it is not permissible for anyone to remain idle”!

Speeches 1998 - Friday, 25 September 1998