Speeches 1999



Friday, 7 may 1999

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate of Romania!
Te Deum laudamus, Te Dominum confitemur,
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur!

1. I would like to open our meeting at the beginning of my Pastoral Visit to Romania with the words of this ancient hymn, perhaps by St Ambrose but also attributed to St Nicetas, an apostle of this land when it was still Roman Dacia. I have come here to thank with you the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort (2Co 1,3), who after years of suffering has allowed this noble nation to sing the praises of God in freedom. I ask him to make this visit abundantly fruitful for the Catholic Church in your country, for the Churches and the Christian communities as a whole, and for all the Romanian people.

I am grateful for your warm welcome. I also thank Archbishop Lucian Muresan, President of your Conference, for his address, in which he emphasized your profound communion with the Successor of Peter. I extend a special greeting to Cardinal Alexandru Todea, Archbishop emeritus of Fagaras and Alba Iulia, whom I hope to be able to meet. I would like to tell him of my appreciation of his great witness of Christian fidelity and unfailing unity with the see of Peter in the time of persecution.

Through you I would like to greet the priests, all the religious and the deacons, whose enthusiasm and dedication to the cause of God's kingdom are well known to me.

2. In this final year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, the entire Church is reflecting on the person  of God the Father. It is a golden opportunity for everyone to rediscover the fatherly face of God, as Jesus revealed it to us. Calling God by the familiar name of “Abba” (cf. Mk Mc 14,36), he revealed the intimate and consubstantial relationship which binds him to the heavenly Father in the unfathomable depths of the Trinitarian mystery. At the same time, by sacrificing himself for us and giving us his Spirit, he enabled us to share in his filial experience and to call God by the sweet name of Father (cf. Rom Rm 8,15 Ga 4,6). This is the message of grace that you are called to bear as apostles of Christ. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3,16): may this joyful news echo in your words, shine on your faces and be demonstrated by your works. May it be said of each of you what was said of St Nicetas on the point of returning to Dacia as a herald of the Gospel: “O nimis terra et populi beati, / quos modo a nobis remeans adibis, / quos tuo accedens pede visitabit / Christus et ore” (St Paulinus of Nola, Carmen XVII, 13-16).

3. Yes, be the image of Christ for your faithful. Be so especially as builders of communion. In this year of God the Father, we must feel Christ's longing for unity more deeply: “Father ...  that they may be one even as we are one” (Jn 17,22). The Bishop is the guarantor of communion and his fatherly role must help the community to grow as a family, by reflecting in some way the very fatherhood of God (cf. St Ignatius of Antioch, To the Trallians, III, 1).

Many are the forms and requirements of the communion that Bishops are called to foster. The communion that joins them to other Bishops and in particular to the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, is fundamental. This communion should be lived more concretely with the Brother Bishops of  their own country, so that it becomes a source of mutual enrichment. This is particularly true when, as is the case with Romania, the Church's tradition is expressed in different rites, each of which contributes its own history, culture and holiness.

Your Conference includes the Bishops of the Latin and  Greek-Catholic Churches, while one of you is also the Ordinary for the Armenian Church. It offers you a place for brotherly contact and mutual support, as well as an opportunity to coordinate activities concerning joint issues of evangelization and human advancement. In the light of recent experience, we must acknowledge that this institution has proven its usefulness. It is meant to be a sign of unity for your entire society by showing that legitimate diversity, far from being a factor of division, can contribute to a deeper union because it is enriched by the gifts of each one.

4. It is important to know and appreciate one another, and to bear one another's burdens (cf. Gal Ga 6,2). The People of God, and especially future priests, must be taught this attitude of sharing. To this end, the common formation of seminarians is an important instrument, so that they can learn  in practice the meaning of respect and the acceptance of others, in esteem renewed each day for the precious deposit of the same faith entrusted to them. May they truly be the apple of your eye.

Communion must mark the relations of the faithful among themselves, with the priests and with the Bishop. It must be promoted in every way by listening to one another and by making good use of the structures of participation. For this witness of unity and for the very vitality of the Church's mission, the commitment of priests is vital as the indispensable co-workers of the episcopal order. If it is the duty of priests to regard their Bishop as a father and to obey him with respect, the Bishop on his part, as the Council recalls, “should treat the priests, his helpers, as his sons and friends” (Lumen gentium, LG 28).

Dear friends, be close to your priests. Support them in moments of trial. Be concerned for their continuing formation, planning with them opportunities for prayer, reflection, and pastoral renewal.

5. Men and women religious should benefit from similar concern. With respect for their charisms and the characteristics of each institute, it is the Bishop's task to harmonize their activities for the common good of the whole Church.

We must thank the Lord for the many male and female vocations that he continues to inspire in Romania. However those who are called to the priesthood and the consecrated life must be given a sound and complete education, doctrinally, pastorally and spiritually. This should preferably take place in your own country, for which professors, teachers and, in particular, spiritual directors should receive good formation. I know that much has been done, but it is necessary to continue in this direction, given the complex and growing needs of our time.

6. Special care should be given to the advancement of the laity, which is an urgent need for the whole Church, but particularly for the countries which have emerged from the experience of communism. It is a question of helping them to become aware of their specific vocation, which is “to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will” (Lumen gentium, LG 31). Obviously, ample room for service is open to them within the Christian community, but it is the irreplaceable task of the laity to make the Gospel present in those areas of social, economic and political life where the clergy do not usually work. For their important mission they need the support of the entire community, just as lay associations, approved by the Bishops and working in a climate of mutual respect and cooperation with the Pastors, are also called to play a significant role.

7. Following the events of 1989, the democratic system was established in your country too: building it up requires time, patience and perseverance. The Catholic Church, for her part, has  been able to reorganize herself and freely undertake her pastoral activity. Despite the problems, we must confidently look to the future and, with the Lord's help, dedicate ourselves with enthusiasm to the work of the new evangelization.

A fundamental challenge is presenting the faith to the new generation. Statistically speaking, Romania is a relatively “young” country. Unfortunately, young people today are encountering new problems which hinder and undermine their educational growth. It is important for the Church to support the role of parents, the first teachers of their children, and to make her own specific contribution, especially that of catechesis and religious instruction.

Before the Second World War, the Catholic Church had many schools in Romania with a well-developed system for supporting them. With the confiscation of property, this important ecclesial work was discontinued. While acknowledging that it would be difficult to return to the pre-existing situation, it is a duty in justice to return the schools and confiscated property, thereby enabling the Church to carry out her mission also in the area of education. Without doubt this would be a great benefit to society as a whole.

8. The restitution of property is an issue that frequently resurfaces, especially for the Catholic Church of the Byzantine-Romanian rite, which is still deprived of many worship sites she had at her disposal before her suppression. Obviously, justice demands that what was taken should be returned as far as possible. I know that the Hierarchs are not requesting the simultaneous restitution of all the property confiscated, but would like to have those which are most needed for liturgical functions: the cathedrals, the deanery churches, etc.

In this regard, I have followed with great interest the work of the Joint Commission of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Greek-Catholic Church on the above-mentioned questions. Despite the difficulties this Commission has certainly played a positive role. I express my heartfelt wish that both sides will commit themselves to continue addressing this question through sincere and respectful dialogue, and I hope that my visit can make a further contribution to this process of fraternal dialogue in truth and charity.

Moreover, this dialogue is situated in the broader horizon of the ecumenical commitment to which the whole Church is called. We must all do what we can with an open heart and perseverance, in both theological and practical dialogue with the other Churches and Christian communities, seeing as our goal the unity of all Christ's disciples. In this regard let us not forget the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which stressed that conversion of heart, holiness of life and prayer are the soul of the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis redintegratio, UR 8). I hope that in Romania too, with our Orthodox brothers and sisters and with the other Christian communities, ecumenical initiatives can be organized during the Jubilee Year to implore the Lord together that “unity among all Christians of the various confessions will increase until they reach full communion” (Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 16).

9. Along with intra-ecclesial and ecumenical concerns, the Catholic Church's efforts in Romania must respond to precise expectations in the social field. There are so many problems which call for a Christian witness. I would like to point to the special attention that  the family deserves as the fundamental unit of society. Families must be offered the guidance and support they need in order to base their growth and educational role on authentic moral and spiritual values. It is particularly necessary to stress respect for the life of every person, from the moment of conception until natural death.

The Church must foster  concrete and generous concern for the poorest and the most marginalized. This is an immense task whose fulfilment requires that the Church's efforts be coordinated with the commitment which must be guaranteed in this area by governmental and non-governmental institutions as well as by all people of good will.

10. Dear friends, the more deeply rooted the reconstruction of Romanian society is in your best traditions, the more solid it will be. Above all, you must rediscover the power of faith of those who preferred to die rather than deny God or the Church.

Every Church and religious community in your country has had its martyrs, even in the 20th century. Today I wish to pay homage to them all. For her part, the Catholic Church is invited to remember all her martyrs, to follow their witness of fidelity and dedication to the Lord.

How could we forget, for example, the late Cardinal Iuliu Hossu (1885-1970), Bishop of Cluj-Gherla? My Predecessor, Paul VI, revealed that one of the Cardinals “in pectore” at the Consistory of 20 April 1969 was in fact Bishop Hossu, and he described him as “a distinguished servant of the Church, highly commendable for his fidelity and for his prolonged sufferings and the deprivations it caused; he himself was a symbol and representative of the fidelity of many Bishops, priests, religious and faithful of the Byzantine-rite Church” (AAS LXV, 165).

The Latin-rite Catholic Church was also the object of persecution, as evidenced by the person of the fearless servant of God Bishop Aaron Marton of Alba Iulia (1896-1980), who was first imprisoned and then forced to live under house arrest. With deep emotion I also remember the heroic Bishop Anton Durcovici of Iasi (1888-1951), who died in prison.

These are only a few of the many il-lustrious disciples of Christ, victims of a regime which, hostile to God because of its atheism, also trampled on human beings made in the image of God.

11. Now, dear Brothers, a new page has been turned in your history. It is both a gift and a task. Vigorously lead  the communities entrusted to you, so that all your people can advance towards a future that conforms every more closely to God's plan. Put your trust in the One who, on sending his Apostles into the world, assured them: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28,20).

I entrust the commitment of your Churches to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin. May she who was your “morning star”,  whom you looked to during the night of persecution,  now be the “star of the new evangelization” and show all Romanian society the way to her Son Jesus Christ, the “way” that leads to the Father's house.

I cordially impart my Blessing to you, to your priests, religious, deacons and all the faithful of this beloved land of Romania.



Friday, 7 may 1999

Mr President,

Presidents of the Senate and the Assembly of Deputies,
Members of the Government and the Constituent Bodies,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Representatives of the different Religious Communities,

1. In accepting your invitation to visit Romania, I am delighted, Mr President, to stand on the soil of your country for the first time. I warmly thank you for your welcome and the courteous words you have just spoken to me in your own name and in the name of the nation’s authorities. I greet the members of the Constituent Bodies and  the representatives of the Romanian people, as well as the members of the Religious Communities and the Diplomatic Corps: in addition, I extend my most cordial greetings to those responsible for public life, to the people who helped organize my visit and to all Romanians.

2. I come to your land as a pilgrim of peace, brotherhood and understanding within nations, between peoples and among the disciples of Christ. During different stages of my journey, I will meet the various ecclesial communities as well as the people of Romania. I very cordially thank His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of Romania, for his words of welcome this morning. Our meeting and the moments of prayer we will share are an eloquent testimony of Gospel brotherhood. After the last Council and in view of the Great Jubilee, these gestures make an important mark on the path of unity among Christians.  I hope that the pastors and faithful will commit themselves in turn to concrete dialogue and mutual acceptance, which will show that fraternal charity in Christ is not an empty phrase, but an essential element of the Church and of Christian life.

3. I also wish to greet the Catholic Bishops of Romania, as well as all the members of their Latin, Greek-Catholic and Armenian communities. I assure them of my fatherly and fraternal affection. In again expressing to them my admiration for the work they accomplished in their trials with fidelity and courage, I am delighted with their pastoral activity in communion with the Successor of Peter, a sign of the unity of Christ’s Body and of their involvement in Romanian society.

4. I am pleased to meet the members of the Diplomatic Corps; their presence shows the attention of the neighbouring States, of Europe and of the whole world to Romania, its internal development and its foreign relations. I hope that the international community will  strengthen its aid to nations which, emerging from the yoke of communism, have to reorganize their economic and social life; these countries will thus become artisans of peace and prosperity for their inhabitants and even more responsible partners in international life.

5. The presence of representatives from the various Religious Communities invites me to stress the essential role of the Churches. It is their task to be artisans of peace, solidarity and fraternity, so that they will not act as antagonists, but as collaborators in the common good, rejecting everything that can exacerbate the conflicts, passions and ideologies which in past decades tried to prevail over individuals, local human communities and the principles of freedom and truth. While respecting the autonomy of temporal affairs, their spiritual mission invites them to be sentinels in the world, in order to call attention to the values which are the basis of social life and to identify from  a human and spiritual standpoint any failure to show due respect to every person, to his dignity and to his basic freedoms, especially religious freedom and freedom of conscience.

6. Romania is going through a period of transition which is crucial for its future, for its more active involvement in the construction of Europe and  for its presence on the international scene. My thoughts turn to those who are undergoing trials, especially those who are seriously affected by the economic crisis and those in situations of poverty or illness, as well as the families who are finding it difficult to provide for their needs. I invite all Romanians to show their solidarity, thus offering concrete proof that living in the same region creates strong ties of brotherhood. No one should feel excluded or use the slowness of the changes as a pretext for despairing or for dissociating themselves from the common path. Each person is responsible for his brothers and sisters and for the country’s future.

7. Forty years of atheistic communism have left after-effects and scars on your people’s flesh and memory, and have created a climate of distrust; none of this can disappear without a real effort of conversion by citizens in their personal lives and in their relations with the national community as a whole. Each must reach out to his brothers and sisters, so that growth and development benefit everyone, particularly those who have suffered the negative effects of the different crises of the past. Your people are rich in undreamed-of resources, in self-confidence and in solidarity. In the strength of these values, they are called to develop an art of living together which is an infusion of soul and humanity. Solidarity and trust require of all social leaders a concerted effort and respect for the different levels of intervention, as well as persevering commitment and an attitude of honesty on the part of all who must deal with social matters. A common destiny can truly be established on this basis. I encourage the people of Romania to work on building a society at the service of all and to let Christ’s message touch them, as their ancestors have done since apostolic times, showing how Christian, spiritual, moral and human values hold  an important place in the life of a country.

8. The disruptions that followed the events of 1989 have increased the differences between citizens. The difficulties in the democratic transition sometimes lead to discouragement. The path of democratic life comes above all  through a civic education of all citizens so that they can take an active and responsible part in public life in their local communities and at all levels of society. Formed in a civic spirit, people will become aware that development is not only a matter of structures but also involves mental attitudes. It is advisable, especially for the young, to regain trust in their country and not to be tempted to emigrate. Moreover, it is important that a State concerned about harmony and peace be attentive to all the individuals who live in the national territory, without exclusion. In fact, a nation has the duty to do everything possible to strengthen national unity based on the equality of all its inhabitants, regardless of their origin or religion, and to develop their sense of openness to foreigners.

Of course, the territorial  changes which have led to the unification of peoples with different ethnic and religious backgrounds have created a complex socioreligious mosaic, especially in Transylvania. It is with patience and above all the desire to succeed in the art of living together that, thanks to national and religious harmony, it will be possible to overcome conflicts and fears. “It is necessary to pass from antagonism and conflict to a situation where each party recognizes the other as a partner” (Ut unum sint, UUS 29). If history cannot be forgotten, it is by adhering to respect for the rights of minorities and to dialogue, with the desire for forgiveness and reconciliation, that citizens can meet again today as partners, and even more, as brothers and sisters.

9. I would now like to mention the welcome Romania so generously gave my compatriots and the Polish Government during the Second World War. I would also like to pay homage to the outpouring of generosity that many people were capable of at the time of the events of 1989. Today these are signs, among many others, that can prompt courageous and persevering attitudes which create a society where everyone can live well.

10. I am grateful to you, Mr President, for inviting me to share your country’s history for a few hours, and for allowing me to meet the Catholic communities and to take an important step on the path of Christian unity in my contacts with the Romanian Orthodox Church. I invoke an abundance of divine blessings upon you, your family and everyone here, as well as on all the people of Romania. Thank you.




8 May 1999

Your Beatitude,

Venerable Metropolitans and Bishops
of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Romania,
Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

1. I often thought of a Gospel scene as I was preparing for this much desired meeting: that of the Apostle Andrew, your first evangelizer, who comes full of enthusiasm to his brother Peter to tell him the tremendous news: “We have found the Messiah (which means Christ)” (Jn 1,41). This discovery changed the lives of both brothers: leaving their nets, they became “fishers of men” (Mt 4,19) and, after having been inwardly transformed by the Spirit of Pentecost, they set out on the paths of the world to bring everyone the news of salvation. With them, other disciples continued the Gospel work they had undertaken, inviting the nations to salvation and “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19).

Your Beatitude, venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, we are the children of this evangelization. We too have received this message; we too have been redeemed in Christ. If we are meeting today, it is through the loving plan of the Most Holy Trinity, who, on the eve of the Great Jubilee, has granted us, the successors of these Apostles, to commemorate their meeting. The Church has grown and spread throughout the world; the Gospel has enriched cultures. Here in Romania too, the treasures of holiness, of Christian fidelity, sometimes purchased with one's life, have embellished this spiritual temple which is the Church. Today we thank God for this together.

2. The deep feeling prompted by Your Beatitude's visit to the city of Sts Peter and Paul, the Coryphaei of the Apostles, is still vivid in my mind. I have a touching memory of this meeting which took place in difficult times for your Church. It is now my turn, as a pilgrim of love, to pay homage to this land steeped in the blood of ancient and recent martyrs, who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Ap 7,14). I come to meet a people who welcomed the Gospel, assimilated it, defended it against repeated attacks and now considers it an integral part of their cultural heritage.

It is a culture inherited from ancient Rome, which has been patiently built up in a tradition of holiness beginning in the countless cells of monks and nuns who devoted their time to singing God's praises and, like Moses, to holding up their arms in prayer so that the peaceful battle of faith might be won for the benefit of the peoples of this land. The Gospel message thus reached the worktable of intellectuals, many of whom contributed through their charism to fostering its assimilation by the new generations of Romanians, starting out to build their future.

Your Beatitude, I have come here as a pilgrim to express the whole Catholic Church's affectionate closeness to you in the efforts of the Bishops, clergy and faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church as one millennium ends and another emerges on the horizon. I am close to you and support you with esteem and admiration in the programme of ecclesial renewal which the Holy Synod has undertaken in such essential areas as theological and catechetical formation, to make the Christian soul, which is one with your history, flourish anew. In this work of renewal blessed by God, know, Your Beatitude, that Catholics are at the side of their Orthodox brethren in prayer and in their willingness to help in any useful way. The one Gospel is waiting to be proclaimed by everyone together, in love and in mutual esteem. How many fields are opening before us in a task which involves us all, with mutual respect and in the shared desire to be useful to mankind for whom the Son of God gave his life! Common witness is a powerful means of evangelization. Division, on the other hand, shows the victory of darkness over light.

3. Your Beatitude, both of us in our personal histories have seen chains and experienced the oppression of an ideology that wanted to eradicate faith in Christ the Lord from the souls of our people. But the gates of hell did not prevail against the Church, Bride of the Lamb. It is he, the Lamb, sacrificed and glorious, who sustained us in distress and who now allows us to sing the song of regained freedom. It is he whom one of your contemporary theologians called “the restorer of man”, the one who heals the sick and raises them up after their long subjection to the heavy burden of slavery. After so many years of violence and the repression of freedom, the Church can pour the balm of grace on man's wounds and heal him in Christ's name, saying, as Peter said to the man lame from birth: “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Ac 3,6). The Church does not tire of urging and imploring the men and women of our time to stand up, to set out again towards the Father, to be reconciled with God. This is the first act of charity humanity expects of us: the proclamation of the Gospel and rebirth in the sacraments, which are then prolonged in serving our brothers and sisters.

Your Beatitude, I have come to contemplate the Face of Christ etched in your Church; I have come to venerate this suffering Face, the pledge to you of new hope. Your Church, aware of having “found the Messiah”, is trying to lead her children and all who are seeking God with a sincere heart to meet him; she does so by solemnly celebrating the Divine Liturgy and by her daily pastoral work. This commitment accords with your tradition, so rich in figures who were able to combine a deep life in Christ with generous service to the needy; an impassioned commitment to study, with tireless pastoral concern. Here I will mention just one: the holy monk and Bishop Callinicus of Cernica, so close to the heart of the faithful of Bucharest.

4. Your Beatitude, dear Brother Bishops, our meeting is taking place on the day when the Byzantine liturgy celebrates the feast of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian. Who better than he, who was intensely loved by the Master, can communicate to us this living experience of love? This is what seems in his letters to be the synthesis of his life, the word which, in old age, when what is superfluous disappears, stayed with him to mark his personal experience: “God is Love”. This is what he contemplated as he lay his head on Jesus' heart and raised his eyes to his pierced side, from which flowed the water of Baptism and the Blood of the Eucharist. This experience of God's love not only invites us, but I would say gently obliges us to love, the true and only synthesis of the Christian faith.

“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Co 13,4-7). These are the words of the Apostle Paul to a community tormented by conflicts and tensions; these words are valid for all times. We know well that today these words are addressed first of all to us. They do not serve to reproach the other for his error but to unmask our own, the error of each one of us. We have known conflict, recrimination, inner reticence and closure to one another. Yet, we are both witnesses that despite these divisions, at the moment of great trial when our Churches seemed shaken to their very foundations, here too, in this land of Romania, the martyrs and confessors knew how to glorify God's name with one heart and one soul. It is precisely by reflecting on the marvellous work of the Spirit, incomprehensible to human logic, that our weakness finds its strength and our hearts gain new courage and confidence amid the difficulties of the present situation.

5. I am pleased that, in practical terms, it has been possible to begin a fraternal dialogue here in Romania on the problems which still divide us. The Greek-Catholic Church of Romania suffered violent repression in recent decades, and her rights were scorned and violated. Her children suffered greatly, some even bearing the supreme witness of bloodshed. The end of persecution brought freedom, but the problem of ecclesial structures still awaits a definitive solution. May dialogue be the way to heal the wounds that are still open and to resolve the difficulties which still exist! The victory of love will not only be an example for the Churches but for all society. I pray God, the Father of mercies and source of peace, that love, accepted and given, will be the sign by which Christians are recognized as faithful to their Lord.

The Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church have come a long way on the road to reconciliation: I would like to offer God my deep and heartfelt gratitude for all that has been achieved, and I want to thank you, venerable Brothers in Christ, for the efforts you have made on this path. Has the time not come to resume theological research with determination, supported by prayer and by the sympathy of all the Orthodox and Catholic faithful?

God knows how much our world and also our Europe, which we hoped had been freed from fratricidal conflicts, need a witness of fraternal love which overcomes hatred and quarreling and opens hearts to reconciliation! Where are our Churches when dialogue falls silent and weapons roar their language of death? How can we teach our faithful the logic of the Beatitudes, so different from the reasoning of the powerful of this world?

Your Beatitude, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, let us restore visible unity to the Church or this world will be deprived of a witness that only the disciples of God’s Son, who died and rose out of love, can offer it so that it may be prompted to open itself to faith (cf. Jn Jn 17,2). And what can encourage the people of today to believe in him, if we continue to tear the seamless garment of the Church, if we do not succeed in receiving the miracle of unity from God by working to remove the obstacles which prevent its full manifestation? Who will forgive us for this lack of witness? I have sought unity with all my strength, and I will continue to do all I can until the end to make it one of the priority concerns of the Churches and of those who govern them in the apostolic ministry.

6. Your land is strewn with monasteries. From St Nicodemus of Tismana, buried in the mountains and forests, beats the heart of ceaseless prayer, of the invocation of the holy name of Jesus. Thanks to Paissy Velitchkovsky and his disciples, Moldavia has become the centre of a monastic renewal which spread to neighbouring countries at the end of the 18th century and later. Monastic life, which has always been present even during the time of persecution, has produced and still produces individuals of great spiritual stature, around whom many promising vocations have blossomed in recent years.

The convents, the churches covered with frescoes, the icons, liturgical ornaments and manuscripts are not only the jewels of your culture but are also a moving testimony of Christian faith, of a lived Christian faith. This artistic heritage, born of the prayer of monks and nuns, of artisans and peasants inspired by the beauty of the Byzantine liturgy, is a particularly significant contribution to the dialogue between East and West, as well as to the rebirth of brotherhood which the Holy Spirit is enkindling in us on the threshold of the new millennium. Your land of Romania, between Latinitas and Byzantium, can become the land of encounter and communion. It is crossed by the majestic Danube, which bathes the regions of the East and West: may Romania, like this river, know how to build relations of understanding and communion between different peoples, thus helping to strengthen the civilization of love in Europe and the world!

7. Your Beatitude, dear Fathers of the Holy Synod, not many days lie between us and the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian era. People have their eyes fixed on us in expectation. They strain their ears to hear from us, from our life more than from our words, the ancient announcement: “We have found the Messiah”. They want to see whether we too are capable of leaving the nets of our pride and our fears to “announce a year of favour from the Lord”.

We will cross this threshold with our martyrs, with all who have given their lives for the faith: Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants. The blood of martyrs has always been a seed which gives birth to new Christian faithful. But to do this, we must die to ourselves; we must bury the old man in the waters of rebirth and rise as new creatures. We cannot disregard Christ's call and disappoint the world's expectations, nor fail to join our voices so that the eternal word of Christ may ring out ever more clearly for the new generations.

Thank you for wanting to be the first Orthodox Church to invite the Pope of Rome to her country; thank you for giving me the joy of this fraternal meeting; thank you for the gift of this pilgrimage, which has allowed me to strengthen my faith through contact with the faith of fervent brothers and sisters in Christ!

“Come, let us walk together in the light of the Lord!”. To him be glory for ever and ever! Amen.

Thank you. An unforgettable visit, Romania. Here we have crossed the threshold of hope. Thank you. God bless us all.

Speeches 1999