Speeches 1999

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to you all and to thank you for this visit you have wished to make on the happy occasion of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of La Civiltà Cattolica. I would like to join in your thanksgiving to the "Father of lights", from whom "every perfect gift" (Jc 1,17) descends, for the good achieved in this century and a half of service to the Catholic faith and the Holy See.

La Civiltà Cattolica, which today is the oldest journal published in Italy, was desired by my Predecessor, Pope Pius IX of venerable memory, who with the Brief Gravissimum supremi of 12 February 1866 provided it with a special statute. He determined that the periodical, meant to defend "the Catholic religion, its doctrine and its rights with every effort and unceasingly", should be edited by a special College of Writers which, appointed by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, would live and work together in their own house. After Pius IX, the work accomplished by the journal continued to be appreciated and acknowledged by the Roman Pontiffs, who wished once again to approve its statute. Looking back over the long journey it has made, we can indeed say, as I recalled at the audience granted to your College on 5 April 1982, that La Civiltà Cattolica "as an institution has always been placed at the service of the Pope and the Apostolic See"; "while the men, the events and the historical situations have changed, your periodical has always remained faithful" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 6 September 1982, p. 11).

2. Reviewing the past 150 years of your journal, we note a great variety of positions due to changing historical circumstances and to the personalities of the individual writers. However, in the broad, complex panorama of religious, social and political events that from 1850 to today have involved the Church and Italy, one constant can always be seen in the volumes of La Civiltà Cattolica: the total loyalty, even if sometimes difficult, to the teachings and directives of the Holy See and love and veneration for the person of the Pope. I am certain that, like your predecessors, you too will continue to make this characteristic a point of honour and the reason for your journal's existence. I am also convinced that the Apostolic See can always find in you skilled and faithful collaborators, especially in the difficult moments which are never absent from the Church's life.

Among the merits of this journal I would like to recall its readiness to welcome the ecclesial renewal begun by the Second Vatican Council, and the commitment to making its history, the questions discussed and its documents known to the general public. Also worthy of note is its effort in subsequent years to study the Council documents in depth so that the doctrine they contain might be better received and Christian life might be renewed, as it desired.

3. In view of the challenges of the present time as well as the new millennium, I would like to urge you today to become spokesmen of the need for a revival of the spirit and the teachings of the Council, particularly themes such as Christology, ecclesiology and the Magisterium of the Church, the role of the laity and the distinctiveness of Christianity in interreligious dialogue, religious freedom, the relationship between cultures and ecumenism, the media of mass communications and their problematic impact on the mentality and behaviour of people today.

This is a vast field of action that calls on you to persevere in your commitment to "contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jud 3). The great changes taking place in the contemporary world urgently require a courageous commitment to teach a convinced and adult faith, capable of giving meaning to life, in order to resist the attacks of an often secularized culture and to give convincing answers to those who, while not believing, are searching for God.

This task, which belongs to the entire Church, demands of each of you, members of the Society of Jesus, "established with the principal aim of being especially concerned to defend and propagate the faith" (Julius III, Apostolic Letter Exposcit debitum of 21 July 1550, n. 1), an ever more total and courageous commitment "to the teaching of Christian truth" (ibid.), in complete fidelity and communion with the Magisterium.

Today the Christian faith is called to confront non-Christian cultures, scientific progress, philosophies characterized by immanentism and agnosticism, by the rejection of metaphysics and by scepticism about the capacity of human reason to attain truth. In the Encyclical Fides et ratio I wished to show how this lack of confidence in human reason makes the acceptance of faith very difficult and deprives reason itself of the contribution of Revelation to a deeper knowledge of the mystery of man, of his origins, his spiritual nature and his destiny. In this context, La Civiltà Cattolica is called to overcome the separation of faith and modern culture, of faith and moral behaviour, with special attention to the problems raised in the Encyclicals Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae, which constitute essential aspects for gauging the fidelity of believers to the teaching of Jesus, preserved in the authentic Tradition of the Church.

4. How could we not recall that your journal has always followed the social doctrine of the Church with special care, supporting the Magisterium's efforts to disseminate, study and renew that fundamental means of evangelization? In today's context it is all too clear that social, financial and economic problems are not unrelated to evangelization and the dignity of the human person. Social injustices, the power of money, a global economy without controls can wound the personal dignity of entire peoples and continents and make it ever more harder for the Gospel message to be accepted. I therefore encourage you to continue your praiseworthy commitment to studying and disseminating the Church's social doctrine, which the changes taking place in society and in the world of work make ever more timely and urgent. The Church's role, which you are called to broaden and spread, is to proclaim the "Gospel of love and peace" by promoting justice, the spirit of brotherhood and the knowledge of man's common destiny, essential conditions for building genuine peace among peoples.

5. Dear Father Writers, while treasuring the long and praiseworthy history of La Civiltà Cattolica, continue your valuable ecclesial service, in particular and sincere harmony with the Holy See and the Pope, to whom, as members of the Society of Jesus, you are bound by a special vow.

I entrust your daily work to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Church and patroness of the Society. May Mary obtain from her Son a profound spirit of faith for each of you. May she enable you to search the events of human history with Gospel wisdom and discern in that history the "signs of the times". May she help you to commit yourselves generously to the task that the Church has entrusted to you through the Roman Pontiffs.

With these wishes and as a pledge of my constant affection, I sincerely impart to the Father Editor, to each of you and to your staff a special Apostolic Blessing.


Thursday, 22 April 1999

Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to welcome this distinguished assembly of Nobel Peace Prize laureates as you gather in Rome for important days of reflection on the political challenges of the coming century. I greet in particular His Excellency Mr Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Foundation for Social, Economic and Political Research, which has organized this international colloquium. I am most appreciative of the cordial greeting which he has addressed to me in your name.

2. The question of peace is at the very heart of political life. For this reason, your meeting is taking place at an especially tragic moment for Europe. How can we fail to renew a vigorous appeal for an end to the ethnic conflicts in the Balkans and the clash of arms, for a return to dialogue and respect for the dignity of all persons and all communities, in the name of fundamental human rights! Nor can we forget the human tragedies occurring in so many other areas of the world, especially in Africa and Asia. The important work which you have carried out in the service of peace and reconciliation has given you continued responsibility in the struggle for the recognition of the inestimable value of each human being, the formation of consciences and the growth of fraternal and peaceful coexistence between individuals and peoples. Coming together as you do from different cultures and nations, your meeting is a sign that peace can only come about when we move beyond visions of man and society based on race, religion, nationalism or, more generally, based on the exclusion of others. The search for peace requires an openness to the experience of our brothers and sisters, and an effective commitment to respect their dignity and freedom.

3. As we prepare to enter a new millennium, humanity needs to be encouraged to advance decisively along the paths of real and lasting peace, and to build a civilization based on the desire for a coexistence which respects the diversity of peoples, their histories, their cultures and their spiritual traditions. Rather than feeding new antagonisms, globalization must lead to a rejection of armed conflict, narrow nationalism and all forms of violence.

This is the condition for the growth of an authentic solidarity, one which enables everyone to realize that peace requires the acceptance of diversity, the rejection of all aggressive behaviour towards others, and the desire to build an ever more just and fraternal society through dialogue and cooperation. Peace is not a vague idea or a dream; it is a reality which must be painstakingly constructed day after day through the efforts of all. To seek peace is one of the most noble goals for which an individual can strive within his or her nation and within the international community. Those who seek to be peacemakers should be strongly supported, since their efforts are aimed at creating a better life for everyone, a society in which each person has his or her place and in which all can live in peace and harmony, developing the gifts received from the Creator for their own personal growth and for the common good.

4. For Christians, the basis of human dignity is found in God's love for each person, without exception; and true peace is a gift constantly offered and constantly received. Despite the violence and the many threats to life which our world is experiencing, during this year which Catholics have dedicated to God the Father of mercies, the Church wishes to proclaim a message of hope in the future of mankind. She urgently invites all people of good will to join fearlessly in building the "civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty" (cf. Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 52), and never to lose heart in the face of obstacles or setbacks.

May God bless you and your families, and may he guide your efforts in the service of peace, reconciliation and fraternity between peoples!



Thursday, 22 April 1999

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. On the occasion of your ad limina visit, a custom that links Catholic communities throughout the world to the 2,000-year-old tradition of the Church and expresses your communion with the Pope and his co-workers, I am delighted to welcome you today, Pastors of the Catholic Church in the Apostolic Region of Québec. I cordially greet Bishop Pierre Morissette, your President, and each of you, especially the two new Auxiliary Bishops of Montréal and the Maronite and Melkite Ordinaries. Our meeting enables me to be close in thought to the priests and deacons who work zealously with you, the consecrated persons involved in the apostolate and those with a special mission of prayer, as well as the lay faithful who are staunchly devoted to serving the Church and society in their country.

In your quinquennial reports, you speak of your joy at seeing so many people taking part in the Church's mission, each according to his own specific activity. I give thanks with you for the renewed dynamism of your local communities. Please convey the affectionate encouragement of Peter's Successor to your closest co-workers, the ordained ministers, who faithfully bear the burden of the day, and tell the religious and lay people of your Dioceses of my trust and esteem for all they accomplish by letting the Lord guide them.

2. Yours is the first Apostolic Region of Canada to make its quinquennial visit this year. With the various groups of Bishops from your country who will come one after another in the weeks ahead, I hope to address important topics for the Church today, as I give you some points to reflect on in the spirit of what the Lord asked of Peter: "Strengthen your brothers" (Lc 22,31). In your reports, you mention the question of young people and the pastoral care you wish to develop with them. I will therefore devote more time today to certain aspects of this specific mission, but without attempting to give a complete picture of the local situations and the expectations of young people, which you know.

3. The Church in Québec has a rich tradition of commitment to young people, who are the hope of the future (cf. Ecclesia in America ). I am delighted with the attention that is paid to young people in families, parishes, schools and movements. I salute your efforts, as well as those of the many adults, priests, religious, parents and teachers, to offer the young a renewed and organized presentation of the faith, and I invite all the local communities to mobilize themselves in this task, especially in view of the Great Jubilee and the forthcoming World Youth Day, which will take place in Rome. The Jubilee Year is an incomparable opportunity for giving a new impetus to youth ministry.

4. Awakening faith within the framework of the family is crucial; it enables children to advance in their interior search for God, the Father of all life, and to discover the profound truth of the Christian mystery. Family prayer is also a great blessing, for it gives each person the possibility to learn the words of a filial relationship with the Lord. As the child develops his interior life and becomes capax Dei, as the Fathers of the Church said, the family has a specific and irreplaceable role in his human and spiritual formation. Early childhood is an important time for the discovery of human, moral and spiritual values. As you yourselves recognize, it is often an occasion for parents to question themselves about their own faith, their attachment to Christ and the conformity of their life with the Gospel. Indeed, how can parents respond to the demanding requests of their little ones and give an account of the hope that is in them if they do not take the time to deepen their own Christian journey, to encounter Christ in prayer, in reading the Scriptures and in ecclesial life? The Church must help and support couples and families so that they can become aware of their mission as teachers of faith and fulfil it.

5. You told me of the problems you encounter in the pastoral care of adolescents and young people. However you stress that adults are committed to accompanying them zealously, using all their qualities as pastoral leaders and their ecclesial sense. I encourage them not to despair if they do not immediately see the results of their efforts. May they always remember that they are instruments which the Holy Spirit uses in his own mysterious way! In contemporary society, which does not offer any meaning for their life, young people carry within themselves questions and sufferings which are expressed in forms of personal and social behaviour which can be disconcerting to those who are close to them, especially the phenomena of violence and drugs, as well as thoughts of suicide. "Youth is a time of an especially intense discovery of one's 'self' and one's 'choice of life'. It is a time for growth which ought to progress 'in wisdom, age and grace before God and people' (Lc 2,52)" (Christifideles laici CL 46). Education requires endless patience and loving closeness. This helps young people to love one another and to discover that they are loved by adults and, through them, by God who has confidence in them. I invite you to develop and strengthen the pastoral care of youth, particularly by sending on mission to them young people who have had special spiritual, but also human and psychological formation: priests, deacons, religious and lay persons.

Young people need competent educators and spiritual advisers to guide them wisely and sensitively, concerned to let them mature gradually, to sow the seed of God in their hearts and to be of service in their "encounter with the living Jesus Christ", which "is the path to conversion, communion and solidarity" (cf. Ecclesia in America ). In this area it is important that priests also offer young people a solid sacramental life, especially the sacrament of forgiveness. In the personal encounter with Christ's minister and through the personal confession of his sins, the young person will become aware of the Lord's love and the response he must make; he will unburden himself to the Lord; he will learn to live in truth; he will be guided on his way and will find the means to struggle against sin.

6. In addition, I cannot too strongly recommend that priests, consecrated persons and lay people who are skilled in this area should offer spiritual direction to young people so that they can review the different stages of their life under God's eyes, discern his presence and do his will, the source of profound freedom. Guidance by an adult whom the young person trusts will help him overcome the most difficult inner struggles, analyze his own conduct, make decisions according to a scale of values and enter into an ever closer relationship with Christ. Likewise, in drawing close to young people, adults are someone they can talk to and the witnesses they need in order to have a calm vision of their future as human beings and Christians. Thus young people will be able to listen with trust to Christ's call to put out into the deep (cf. Lk Lc 5,4); they will dare to reveal their Christian identity and will be missionaries among their friends in a society where, as you say, faith tends to be privatized and hence the Church has difficulty in making herself known.

For the young to grow in faith, you should also provide them a place and give them their share of responsibility, not only in their own age groups but also in the local communities, so that they will feel they are an active part of the whole Church, praying, gathering for Sunday Mass, finding strength in sacramental life and living charity. In this way young people will realize that society and the Church need them and that they are called to serve their brothers and sisters in order to build the civilization of love.

In your Dioceses, large gatherings or small group meetings are regularly organized to help young people reflect on their emotional life and the vocation to marriage, thereby communicating to them the meaning and value of human sexuality. I salute all the adults who are involved in this educational process and invite them to pursue their mission, so that young people may be offered the teaching of the Church, which will be constructive for their human and spiritual formation. In a world where the family cell is fragile and many wounds are deeply affecting young people, particularly those who experience the separation of parents and the creation of new families, it is the Church's duty to educate them in an emotional life that is built on sound human and moral values, so that tomorrow they can commit themselves to married life, conscious of their responsibilities and the mission it represents for their spouse and children.

7. Throughout childhood and adolescence, Christian communities and educators should be attentive to developing a well-structured catechesis, so that young people can know the chief elements of the Christian mystery. In this spirit, it is important to provide a follow- up to the sacraments of Christian initiation, so that children can have a deep spiritual and ecclesial life that will help them throughout their lives. I invite the faithful to make continual efforts to pass their faith and values on to children. Their formation cannot consist only of scientific and technical training. It must incorporate the anthropological, moral and spiritual dimensions in order to build the young person's personality. I ask all teachers and administrators in religious educational institutions to see that their specific Catholic identity, which is a treasure, is neither lost nor put under a bushel.

8. One of the most essential dimensions of the Bishop's ministry is the pastoral care of priestly vocations, which should be constantly organized and developed with the help of priests as well as solid and dynamic lay people, while taking care to entrust an active part of this work to some young priests who can be models and examples and who are the closest in age and mentality to the next generation. They will show that the priestly ministry is a source of joy and stability. The pastoral care of vocations also requires the involvement of all the local Church leaders. It is a question of sowing the word of God in young boys' hearts, awakening in them a desire to follow Christ and generously transmitting the Lord's call to them, setting forth "explicitly and forcefully the priestly vocation as a real possibility for those young people who demonstrate the necessary gifts and talents" (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 39). You should also help them to discover the radical commitment which this implies through the gift of self to Christ in celibacy for the service of their brethren. Possible confusions which would downplay the connection between the priesthood and celibacy can only be harmful to the healthy searching of young people and their future priestly commitment. I am delighted that in certain Dioceses there are some minor seminaries where young men can really explore a priestly vocation, while pursuing classical studies. These are a seedbed of vocations and must not be neglected. I also invite all priests to be attentive to young men, to awaken vocations and not to be afraid to suggest the path of the priesthood to them.

9. Jesus also calls certain young men and women to follow him more exclusively and to consecrate themselves totally to him in religious life, to offer the world a witness which "in the first place ... should entail the affirmation of the primacy of God and of eternal life, as evidenced in the following and imitation of the chaste, poor and obedient Christ, who was completely consecrated to the glory of God and to the love of his brethren" (Vita consecrata VC 85). Christ's call to consecrated life is an eloquent witness for today's world, by calling to mind that true happiness comes from Christ and that the human person's freedom can neither be separated from the truth nor from God (cf. ibid., nn. 87-91). I urge men and women religious to show young people that a life totally given in radical love for Christ and his Church brings happiness.

10. I encourage you to continue to vitalize the living forces of the Church in Québec so that everyone in families, parishes, schools or movements will share in the mission of walking with young people, guiding them in their growth, offering them the faith as they search, so that they will joyfully discover the goodness of the Father, live the Good News of Jesus Christ and be led by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way they can open themselves to the Lord's call to take part in the work of Creation and Redemption in brotherhood and solidarity, thus discovering that life has meaning, that it is worthwhile to commit themselves to the priesthood, the consecrated life or marriage, to work in promoting the common good in the world and to participate wholeheartedly in the communion and mission of the Church.

11. At the end of our meeting, I encourage you to persevere in your episcopal mission, while inviting you to continue your fraternal collaboration and to support one another in your ministry: thus your diocesan Churches will be more united and will help one another confront the challenges you face by being communities centred on Jesus Christ, in dialogue with the world.

Please convey the greetings of Peter's Successor to all your co-workers and to the People of God entrusted to your care, and in a special way to young people. As I invoke the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your diocesans.



Friday, 23 April 1999

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. With great joy I welcome all of you who are taking part in the inauguration of the exhibition "Paul VI, a light for art", which opened in the Cathedral Museum of Milan and is now being hosted by the Vatican Museums in this Charlemagne Wing. In particular, I thank Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka for his cordial words expressing the sentiments of everyone here.

This beautiful initiative, which begins today thanks to the generous efforts of many people, will make it possible for a few weeks to admire various works of art recalling my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, a little over 100 years since his birth and on the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the collection of modern religious art which he desired. These two events were recently commemorated with the exhibition Papst Paul VI und die Sammlung religioser Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, which opened in Würzburg in January 1998, continued in Paderborn and ended in Regensburg the following July.

This exhibition is meant to illustrate the unforgettable Pontiff's great love of art and the importance of art itself in his Petrine ministry. We need only think of the above-mentioned collection of modern religious art which opened on 23 June 1973. The arduous task of arranging over 700 works donated by artists and collectors in a few rooms of the Vatican Palace was resolved at the time by remodeling several areas which had previously served as storerooms or living quarters. The 55 rooms used for this purpose follow an itinerary laid out in the nucleus of the old residences of the Popes, from Nicholas III to Sixtus V. This itinerary extends from the Raphael Rooms in the Borgia Apartments, the residence of Alexander VI, decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio and his school from 1492 to 1495, to the Sistine Chapel. As a result, historical splendour is combined with the fascination of art.

2. It is helpful here to recall that the opening of such an interesting collection sealed an initiative which began on 7 May 1964 when Paul VI wanted to meet a group of artists. On that occasion the reasons and causes, as he liked to say, of a "turbulent friendship" between the Church and artists were careful considered and summed up. He used very explicit words: "We must leave to your voices the free and powerful song of which you are capable" (Paul VI, Address to the Artists of Rome, 7 May 1964: AAS 56 [1964], 439-442).

Many artists, collectors, private and public organizations supported his request for a better understanding between the Church and art. Committees were set up in various countries, wisely coordinated by Mons. Pasquale Macchi, then his private secretary.

3. I thank the Lord for offering me the opportunity today to add my voice to my venerable Predecessor's testimony of respect, esteem and trust for the artists of the whole world. In fact, I have dedicated a special Letter to them, which is being published today. With it "I intend to follow the path of the fruitful dialogue between the Church and artists which has gone on unbroken through 2,000 years of history, and which still, at the threshold of the third millennium, offers rich promise for the future" (Letter to Artists, n. 1). This is a dialogue which does not simply respond to historical circumstances or functional needs, but finds its roots in the very essence of religious experience and artistic creation.

To all who "are passionately dedicated to the search for new 'epiphanies' of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world", I would like to renew the invitation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: "Do not close your spirit to the breath of the divine Spirit!". The invitation becomes even more timely in the liturgical season we are celebrating. In fact, the imminence of Pentecost spurs us to open our hearts to the life-giving action of the Creator Spirit.

While it is true that the artist's genius can create outstanding works even without faith, it is still a fact that, if natural talent is combined with an interior, deeply lived communion with God, the message springing from it will be richer and more profound. This was true for the wonderful flourishing of medieval cathedrals; it was true for the works of Giotto, Fra Angelico, Michelangelo, for Dante's poetry and Manzoni's prose, for the musical compositions of Pierluigi da Palestrina and Johann Sebastian Bach, to mention a few.

4. In approaching artistic masterpieces from whatever era, the mind is prompted to open itself to the mysterious fascination of the Transcendent, because a mysterious and unexpected spark of the Divine is present in every genuine artistic expression.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, every human being thirsts for the infinite, and art is one of the ways that lead him to it. My firm hope is that "your many different paths all lead to that infinite Ocean of beauty where wonder becomes awe, exhilaration, unspeakable joy" (Letter to Artists, n. 16).

May this exhibition achieve a twofold objective: to help people to understand better the value of art in the context of the new evangelization, and to highlight Pope Paul VI's important role in promoting artistic effort as a valuable contribution to spreading the Gospel.

With these sentiments, I cordially bless all of you here and everyone who helped organize such an interesting exhibition.




Saturday, 24 April 1999

I cordially greet all of you who are taking part in this traditional "Spring Marathon" organized by the Catholic Schools Association of Rome. I extend a respectful greeting to the Mayor of Rome and to the authorities present. I congratulate the organizers and those who this year too have promoted Catholic Schools Day as a time of joy and brotherhood.

I especially greet you boys and girls, who are the real champions of the "Spring Marathon". The word "spring" suggests the reawakening of nature and the desire to live; the word "marathon" recalls the dynamism of change and growth. These are the characteristic features of youth. May this happy event, which brings a message of trust and brotherhood through the city's streets, help to create a world where violence is banned and solidarity and peace prevail.

Your programme also reminds me of the many problems Catholic schools must face. I follow their educational work with constant attention and I hope that those in positions of responsibility will listen attentively to their just expectations and give them a favourable response for the good of the whole civil and ecclesial community.

Have a great marathon!

My Blessing to all.

Speeches 1999