Speeches 1999 - 8 May 1999




While we are gathered together in brotherhood and charity, whose source lies in the risen Christ, "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (cf. Jn Jn 14,6) for all humanity, our affectionate thoughts turn to our brothers and sisters in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, who are overwhelmed by so much hardship and suffering.

Fathers and Servants of our communities, united with all those whose mission is to proclaim to today's world the One who "has called us to live in peace" (1Co 7,15), and especially united with the Pastors of our Churches in the Balkans, we wish:

- to express our human and spiritual solidarity with all those who, driven from their homes and land and separated from their loved ones, are undergoing the cruel reality of emigration, as well as with the victims of the deadly bombings and all people prevented from living in tranquillity and peace;

- to appeal in God's name to all those who in one way or another are responsible for the current tragedy, that they will have the courage to return to dialogue and find the right conditions for achieving a just and lasting peace that will permit the displaced persons to return to their homes; to end the sufferings of all who live in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbs, Albanians and people of other nationalities, and to lay the foundations for a new social harmony among all the peoples of the Federation;

- to encourage the international community and its institutions to use all their legal resources to help the parties in conflict resolve their differences in accordance with the conventions in force, especially those regarding respect for the basic rights of the person and cooperation between sovereign States;

- to support all humanitarian organizations, especially those of Christian inspiration, which are involved in relieving the suffering of the present time, while insisting that nothing be allowed to hinder their efforts to help all who are suffering great hardships, regardless of nationality, language or religion;

- lastly, to appeal to Christians of all denominations to be concretely committed and united in a unanimous and ceaseless prayer for peace and understanding between peoples, entrusting these intentions to the Blessed Virgin so that she will intercede with her Son "who is our peace" (Ep 2,14).

In the name of God, Father of all mankind, we insistently ask the parties involved in the conflict to lay down their arms once and for all, and we vigourously urge them to make prophetic gestures so that a new art of living in the Balkans, marked by respect for all, by brotherhood and by social harmony can grow in this beloved land. This will be a powerful sign in the world's eyes and will show that the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, together with all Europe, can become a place of peace, freedom and harmony for everyone who lives there.

Bucharest, 8 May 1999.





Sunday, 9 may 1999

1. As I leave this beloved land of Romania, I first of all offer to you, Mr President, my greeting and my thanks for the welcome you have given me. Through you I extend these sentiments to all the beloved Romanian people whose warmth and enthusiasm I have felt as they gathered around me these past few days.

I extend a particular greeting to His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist, to the Metropolitans, the Bishops and all the people of the venerable Orthodox Church of Romania. I fraternally embrace the Bishops and Catholic communities of the Byzantine and Latin rites, all of whom have a place in my heart. I also extend my greetings to the other Christian denominations and to the members of other religions in the country.

2. These have been days of deep emotion, which I have intensely felt and which will be cherished in my heart. Let us accept the events we shared together as a gift from God's hand, confident that they will bear fruits of grace for Christians and for all the people of Romania. Your country has a unique ecumenical vocation stemming from its very roots. Because of its geographical location and long history, its culture and tradition, Romania in a way is a house where East and West meet in natural dialogue.

The Church too breathes here with her two lungs in a particularly visible way, as we have seen in these days. Side by side, as were Peter, Andrew and the other Apostles gathered in prayer with the Mother of God in the first Upper Room, we have experienced a new spiritual Pentecost. The wind of the Holy Spirit has blown powerfully over this land and has spurred us to be firmer in communion and bolder in proclaiming the Gospel. We have practised the new language given to us, the language of fraternal communion, and have tasted its sweetness and beauty, its power and effectiveness.

3. While the door to the third millennium is about to open, we are asked to transcend our usual confines to make the wind of Pentecost more forcefully felt in the countries of the old continent and to the furthest ends of the earth. Unfortunately, the threatening crash of arms seems to be prevailing over the persuasive voice of love, and the outbreak of violence is reopening wounds which people were struggling patiently to heal.

I renew my wish that weapons will at last be laid down so that we can once again meet one another and engage in new and more effective dialogues of communion and peace! Christians have an important role in this regard, whatever their denomination. Today they are called to live and express their brotherhood with greater boldness, so that peoples can be encouraged, indeed, spurred to rediscover and to strenthen what they have in common. The spiritual event we have celebrated, blessed by St Demetrius and the holy martyrs of recent decades, is an experience to preserve and pass on, in the hope that the new millennium opening before us will be a time of renewed communion between the Christian Churches and the discovery of brotherhood among peoples. This is the dream I take with me as I leave this land so dear to me.

4. I would like to entrust this dream to you all. In particular, I would like to entrust it to the young. Yes, to you, dear young people of Romania! I would have liked to meet you personally; unfortunately it was not possible. This evening I make my own the words in which Peter announced the fulfilment of God's promise to those listening to him as the day of Pentecost was drawing to a close: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Ac 2,17). In these days the Spirit is entrusting God's “dream” to you, young people: may all men and women belong to his family; may all Christians be one. Enter the new millennium with this dream!

You who have been freed from the nightmare of communist dictatorship, do not let yourselves be deceived by the false and dangerous dreams of consumerism. They also destroy the future. Jesus enables you to dream of a new Romania, a land where East and West can meet in brotherhood. This Romania is entrusted to your hands. Boldly build it together. The Lord is entrusting it to you. Entrust yourselves to him, knowing that “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Ps 126 [127]:1).

May the Lord bless Romania; may he bless its people and may he bless Europe!




To Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela
Archbishop of Madrid
President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference

1. The Pastors and faithful of the Ecclesial Communities of Spain, with their gaze fixed on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God which will be commemorated during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, have chosen to gather in Santiago de Compostela at the Apostle's tomb, to proclaim and celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, present in the Eucharist. In this way, the Statio Ecclesiarum Hispaniae, which concludes the National Eucharistic Congress of Santiago, is preparing and announcing the Statio Orbis of the 47th International Eucharistic Congress which will be held in Rome next year. With this great event I wanted to emphasize that the Jubilee Year must be an "intensely Eucharistic" year (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 55), in order to celebrate Jesus Christ the only Saviour of the world, the Bread of new life, "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (He 13,8). In fact, Christ in the Eucharist enables us to feel his presence and company. He invites us to look at the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 not merely as the memory of a past event, but as the commemoration of God's definitive entrance into the world through the Incarnation of the Word, to remain always with us until the end of time.

This is why, in a spirit of prayer and adoration, I join all of you, Pastors and faithful, who have gathered in Santiago to celebrate this ecclesial event whose centre is the Eucharist, "a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 47).

2. The solemn celebration of this Congress is an important moment in the three years of preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, which had such significant stages as the Congress on the Pastoral Ministry of Evangelization held in Madrid in 1997 with the theme: "Jesus Christ, the Good News", and the Mariological and Marian Congresses of Zaragoza in 1998, on the theme: "Mary, the Gospel Lived".

The city of Santiago de Compostela, the place where this great Eucharistic Congress will be held, certainly has special significance. The memory of this Apostle reminds us that he witnessed the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, as well as Christ's glory in the Transfiguration and his agony in the Garden of Olives. James, "the first Apostle to drink from the cup of ... our Lord" (Preface for the Mass of St ) not only passed on to the Church, like the other Apostles, the memorial of the Lord's Supper and faith in the Eucharistic mystery, but by his own martyrdom celebrated the deepest meaning of the Eucharist by offering his body and shedding his blood.

3. The Church of Compostela preserves the memory of this Apostle, James, friend of Christ and of Christians. Over the centuries the "Campo de la Estrella", which, according to tradition welcomed and preserves the Apostle's relics, has been the goal of numerous pilgrimages and journeys made by the faithful from so many parts of the world.

This pilgrimage along the traditional road to Santiago yielded abundant fruits of truth and life; it was marked by penance and conversion and nourished by meditation on the Word lived in exemplary charity, without boundaries of nationality or race, by those who performed works of mercy and who gave and received assistance at inns, hospitals and monasteries. The pilgrimage was made to receive the "great pardon" and full reconciliation with God, through Jesus Christ and the Apostle's intercession.

The motto of the congress is an allusion to the community pilgrimage made by the Church with the strength of the Eucharist, "cibus viatorum", the nourishment of pilgrims and wayfarers. Christians throughout the world live in this way, with their gaze fixed on the ultimate goal, when all humanity will be an acceptable offering to God the Father. A beautiful text of the Second Vatican Council reminds us of it: "Christ left to his followers a pledge of this hope and food for the journey in the sacrament of faith, in which natural elements, the fruits of man's cultivation, are changed into his glorified Body and Blood, as a supper of brotherly fellowship and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet" (Gaudium et spes GS 38).

4. The Eucharist is also "panis filiorum", the bread of God's children. This expression of the Church's Eucharistic piety reminds us of another fundamental aspect which has special resonance in this year of grace, when with all the holy people we will turn our gaze to God the Father who is in heaven (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 49).

The Eucharist is the food of God's children, the living Bread of God come down from heaven which gives life to the world. "My Father gives you the true bread from heaven" (Jn 6,32), Jesus says. For this reason the Church celebrates the Eucharist with her eyes and heart turned to the holy and merciful Father, source of all holiness, who nourishes us every day with the gift of the Body and the Blood of his beloved Son.

The Eucharistic prayer overflows with gratitude to the Father for giving us the Victim of our reconciliation, and in it we remember that Christ is the Bread of the children of God who grants us a share in his divine life: "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me" (Jn 6,57). Everything in the Eucharist comes from the Father and everything returns to him, through Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

To participate worthily in the Eucharistic banquet, the true banquet of God's children, we must be wearing our "wedding garment" (Mt 22,11). This is why the Church offers us the sacrament of Reconciliation. In it we receive forgiveness through the merciful embrace with which God welcomes us (cf. Lk Lc 15,20). This is the source of true peace and inner joy, which enables us to feel like children and brethren, reconciled around the table of the Eucharist.

5. In "the breaking of bread" the pilgrim people relive the grace and duty of new life, like the early community in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 2:42ff.). Communion between individuals and peoples is strengthened over and above cultural differences, within the Church's catholicity. Thus, the Eucharist has always been a factor of communion in diversity, of sharing the same bread of life which also increases the gift of brotherhood. So it is expressed in a text of the ancient Hispanic tradition that precedes the Lord's Prayer in the Eucharistic liturgy: "So that with the desire for humility and the profession of love, through the nourishment and blood of the Lord, the whole brotherhood of his body will be united and we can confidently say on earth, 'Our Father'" (PL, 96, 759-760).

The Church which believes in the Eucharist and celebrates it is a prayerful community that contemplates and adores the mystery of the real and permanent presence of Christ in the sacrament, and learns to pray with the same sentiments as the Eucharistic prayer.

6. The celebration of this National Eucharistic Congress is a forceful call to unity and communion for the whole Spanish Church, to a return to the roots of the Christian faith that have made your communities fruitful. Many other Sister Churches throughout the world recognize it. It is attested by your martyrs, the rich spirituality of your saints and the enterprising zeal of your missionaries who brought the Gospel message from the "finis terrae" of Compostela to other places in the world.

Today the Eucharist is still a forceful call to live the Christian faith in the light of the expressive and sacramental sign of "Dies Domini", the Lord's day and our weekly Easter, when the family of God's children gather round the table of the Bread of the Word and the Eucharistic Bread, as a witness of faith in the risen Lord's presence in this world.

The Eucharist, as a sign of unity and fount of love, is also an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and spurs us to foster brotherhood in a divided world by bearing witness to God's loving fatherhood to everyone.

How can we forget that it was the Eucharist, celebrated, adored and received, that was the secret of the Church's vitality in your country on this historical pilgrimage of past centuries which has left so many monuments of authentic piety? With this same certainty I urge you to have confidence in the future, so that Christ present in the Eucharist will strengthen your resolve and renew in everyone, especially in the young, the commitment to evangelization and the yearning to bear a public and social witness of Christian life at the end of this century and this millennium.

7. May faith in the Eucharist increase your hope, foster brotherhood and spur you to charity, and may St James accompany you with his friendly presence, a witness of the Cross and of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, who encourages pilgrims by his example and helps them with his intercession.

We cannot speak of the Eucharist without remembering the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, pilgrim of faith, sign of hope and consolation for the pilgrim people, who has given us Christ, the true Bread. In communion with her and with the hope of enjoying her company in glory, let us celebrate the Eucharist which is the sacrament of our faith, proclaiming the"presence of Christ, Son of the Virgin Mary: 'Ave, verum Corpus, natum de Maria Virgine'...".

As I join you in these days of grace, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, Pastors and faithful of the Church in Spain.

From the Vatican, 13 May, Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, 1999.




Friday, 14 February 1999

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear National Directors,
Collaborators of the Pontifical Mission Societies!

1. I joyfully extend my cordial greetings to each of you, starting with Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, whom I thank for his words expressing your sentiments. I greet Archbishop Charles A. Schleck, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation and President of the Pontifical Mission Societies; the General Secretaries of the Societies and especially you, dear National Directors who personally bear the burden of missionary education and cooperation in your countries. I extend my affectionate greetings to all your collaborators, who, spurred by Gospel zeal, are devoted to proclaiming the heavenly Father's love to every person in every walk of life.

2. In welcoming you, I would like to embrace all who work, pray and suffer for the Church's evangelizing mission. They are many: from the apostolic personnel who have dedicated their whole lives to this mission and continue to be the greatest example of devotion to the Gospel cause, to people who are committed in their various living situations, perhaps in silence and anonymity, to mission promotion and cooperation.

Convey my grateful greetings to them and encourage them always to support the mission "ad gentes", which is essential for proclaiming the Gospel to those who still do not know Christ, the only Saviour of the human race. I am thinking especially of people who, amid difficulties of every sort, persevere faithfully wherever the Spirit has led them, sometimes even to the sacrifice of their own lives. Let us thank God for their generous witness, knowing that "sanguis martyrum, semen christianorum". In offering their lives without reserve, these brothers and sisters manifest God the Father's boundless and eternal love to a world that is frequently sceptical about authentic values.

3. Our meeting is taking place shortly before the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a celebration of the salvation which the Father has offered all mankind. This prompts us spontaneously to recall once again how "the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion. As the second millennium after Christ's coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service" (Redemptoris missio RMi 1), in conformity with the will of the Father who desires "all men to be saved" (1Tm 2,4).

Your meeting, whose theme this year is: "Missionary cooperation in the Year 2000: promotion, vocations, personnel, spiritual and material aid", was prepared by holding appropriate Pastoral Days. During these days you have studied the Instruction on missionary cooperation Cooperatio missionalis, published last 1 October. This document, reaffirming the permanent validity of the mission ad gentes, offers some practical norms for giving better direction to the initiatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies and of other agencies, coordinated by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

4. The whole Church has "received the mandate to carry on the universal plan of salvation which springs, from all eternity, from the 'source of love', that is, from the charity of God the Father" (Cooperatio missionalis, n. 1). The Apostle Paul says that he worships God in his spirit, proclaiming "the Gospel of his Son" (Rm 1,9). In fact, the proclamation of the unconditional love of God for all people is a task that springs from the knowledge of its absolute salvific value. It is only by acknowledging this love and entrusting himself to it that man can live according to truth (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 19,1). This explains why "missionary evangelization ... is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity" (Redemptoris missio RMi 2). This love of the Father, revealed by and in the Son made man, spurs the Church to mission: to cooperate with her Christians receive the Holy Spirit, "the principal agent of the whole of the Church's mission ... whose action is pre-eminent in the mission 'ad gentes'" (ibid., n. 21).

5. Members of the Superior Council of the Pontifical Mission Societies, you and your collaborators have a primary responsibility for missionary promotion and formation among the People of God. This is why I encourage you to continue this task with renewed commitment, as you have been doing with great generosity. This is shown by, among other things, the continuous increase in your central solidarity fund, consisting mostly of small contributions from many people - the "poor widows" of the Gospel - who offer what they themselves need. This enables the Churches which lack material resources or sufficient apostolic personnel to carry out their pastoral work.

Your task, as directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, and your dedication are therefore indispensable. The goals asked of you consist in "informing and forming the People of God to share in the Church's universal mission, promoting vocations ad gentes and encouraging cooperation in the work of evangelization" (Redemptoris missio RMi 83), with a truly universal spirit, aware that the Pontifical Mission Societies have the whole world as their horizon. Their universality is the most important and characteristic quality of the Societies, which in this way share in the Pope's concern for all the Churches (cf. 2Co 11,28).

I entrust you and your service to the loving assistance of Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of evangelization. I assure you of a constant remembrance in my prayer and cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you, gladly extending it to all your collaborators in the work of missionary promotion.


Saturday, 15 May 1999

Dear Little Missionary Sisters of Charity,

At the end of your Ninth General Chapter, you have wished to meet the Successor of Peter to confirm the fidelity to the Church of each of you and of your entire religious family, according to the spirit of your founder, Bl. Luigi Orione.

Thank you for this visit and for the meaning that it is intended to express. I extend my sincere congratulations to Sr Maria Ortensia Turati, confirmed for the next six years as the head of your institute. I wish her, as well as the new General Council, fruitful apostolic service in leading the congregation to ever deeper and greater initiatives of charity.

During your Chapter meeting, which ends today, you paused to reflect on the theme: "Rooted in Christ towards a new unity of life, for a more missionary institute". I am aware that these days of intense prayer, careful reflection and fraternal dialogue have allowed you to look ahead, beyond the threshold of the third millennium, to emphasize the expectations and needs that call for generous and prophetic answers following the example of charity left by Don Orione.

In order for your work, which has now spread to many countries in the world, to advance according to its own charism, you must first of all remain firmly "rooted" in Christ. How can we not look to Don Orione and his example of unceasing union with Jesus, adored in the Eucharist, loved in the mystery of his Cross and served with tireless devotion in the poorest of the poor? Be faithful to Christ in the footsteps of Don Orione! May Christ be the centre of your heart and of all your noble projects. You will thus be missionaries of his Gospel of charity wherever you work, and will share with those around you the salutary balm of divine mercy.

Your charism calls you to be Missionaries of Charity, that is, apostles of God who is Love. In order to fulfil this challenging mission, let yourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit to an ever deeper unity with God and one another: this is an essential condition for carrying out an apostolate that is always courageous and faithful. By constant prayer and contemplation you draw light and strength to be authentic "Little Missionary Sisters of Charity". Poor, little and humble, as Don Orione wished, so that you can indeed share the condition of those who are on the fringes of society. You are prepared, however, and well formed so that you can respond effectively to the spiritual and social challenges of our times.

Constant cooperation with the Sons of Divine Providence in the name of your common founder, openness to the laity, which you rightly intend to intensify in order to extend your range of activity, a formation attentive to the changing needs of our age, a permanent and organic involvement in the local Churches, will truly make your institute "more missionary" with works of preferential love for the poor, in the desire of leading them to meet Christ.

Dear sisters, I assure you of my prayer to the Lord and I entrust every decision and action taken at the General Chapter to Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel. May she guide your steps and support you in your efforts. From heaven may Don Orione watch over you and all the institutions of your praiseworthy congregation.

With these wishes, I cordially bless you, your sisters, especially those who are ill and suffering, the aspirants and novices, your families and all who are the object of your care.


Thursday, 20 May 1999

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. "Peace to all of you that are in Christ" (1P 5,14). I would like to greet you with these words of the Apostle Peter at our meeting which, as usual, is taking place during your plenary assembly, but this year is particularly significant because it comes at the end of the visits ad limina Apostolorum you have been making these past months in groups from the various Regional Episcopal Conferences.

I am pleased now to see you together and to make an overall assessment of what I have been able to hear at these meetings about the hopes and concerns we have shared informally. I greet and thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini, your President, for his words together with the other Italian Cardinals. I greet the Vice-Presidents, the General Secretary and each of you, beloved and venerable Brothers in the Episcopate. May the Lord reward you for your generosity and perseverance in caring for the Churches entrusted to you and for the concern you show for the whole ecclesial body.

2. The impression I received from our talks during the ad limina visits has been very positive, as are my experiences whenever I visit your Dioceses. Let us thank God, dear Brothers, for the spiritual and pastoral vitality of the Church in Italy and for the fidelity with which her members, from priests to religious and lay people, try to live their own specific vocation.

Certainly, there are difficulties and dangers. In Italy, too, there is a tendency to reject God and Jesus Christ or to bracket them, as it were, in culture as well as in social life and personal conduct. On the moral level, likewise, there is a growing subjectivism, which often amounts in practice to a lack of any genuine ethical principle or criterion. As a result, selfishness, consumeristic fashions and a destructive climate of eroticism prevail.

But, precisely in view of these difficulties, the Church in Italy is becoming ever more clearly aware of the mission and new evangelization to which she is called. Indeed, especially in recent years great and engaging missionary programmes have been started, including the City Mission, which involved the Diocese of Rome with great fruits. Moreover, the National Mission Convention, held last September in Bellaria, with its participation and enthusiasm confirmed how deeply rooted the mission ad gentes is in the hearts and tradition of the Italian ecclesial community.

It is now a question of continuing this double evangelizing commitment and making it more widespread and pervasive: so that the Christian and Catholic character of this beloved country will not be lost, but renewed and strengthened; so that in the regions of the world where the Gospel is just starting to be proclaimed the forthcoming millennium will be marked by a renewed offer of the salvation that comes from Christ.

3. The central theme of your assembly is vocations to the ordained ministry and the consecrated life: I am delighted with this choice, which corresponds well to the concerns many of you expressed to me during your ad limina visits. It deals with a fundamental element in the life and mission of the Church. Genuinely Christian families and fervent parish and youth communities are today still the natural setting where authentic vocations best arise and develop. The example of priests and consecrated persons who are happy with their own choice of life and are capable of serious formation work is the most effective stimulus to helping the interior call to grow and to become clear and conscious. In this area, the role of spiritual direction remains very important.

It is more and more more necessary to have an organized diocesan vocations ministry, which harmoniously takes responsibility for the various vocations and provides persons, occasions and places that are likely to encourage and support vocational development. However, the legitimate concern to cope with the decreasing number of priests and consecrated persons should not let us forget, though, that what is most important are the authenticity of the vocations, the enthusiasm for following Christ and the ability to fulfil the tasks of the ministry.

4. Dear Italian Bishops, we are all apprehensive about the very sad situation of war and ethnic oppression which has been going on for some time in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As I thank you for the unaminous prayers your Churches are offering in response to the appeal I made at the beginning of this May, I would like to express my deep appreciation of the great number of examples and initiatives of concrete solidarity being given by religious institutes, Caritas and volunteer organizations especially in the places where the refugees are arriving and in so many other parts of Italy.

With you I renew the appeal I made in Bucharest with Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist: "In the name of God, Father of all mankind, we insistently ask the parties involved in the conflict to lay down their arms once and for all, and we vigorously urge them to make prophetic gestures so that a new art of living in the Balkans, marked by respect for all, by brotherhood and by social harmony" will be possible. May the Lord, who alone converts hearts, make these words effective.

5. My gaze now looks on the beloved Italian nation, for which I share your concern as I always have, dear Brothers in the Episcopate. Indeed, it is part of our specific ministry to contribute the wisdom of the Gospel and the Church's social teaching to solving the often new and complex problems that today's societies are called to face. The different social and political classes and groups must be encouraged to pursue the common good and to find the most authentic motives for joint action that will reinvigorate the citizens' sense of belonging and their desire for participation.

In particular, it is the duty of the ecclesial communities, conscious of their specific responsibilities in the social, economic and political fields, to give priority attention to work and employment, which are the necessary way to restore security to families and courage and trust to the young in many regions of Italy. In the light of the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, much can be done in this field by working for new economic growth and production within the framework of sincere collaboration at the national and international levels.

6. The Church in Italy is committed with prophetic courage to the importance of life and the family, above all by promoting a family apostolate that continues to broaden its horizons and, as far as possible, reaches family units in situations of difficulty or which are less involved in ecclesial life.

But rightly so, you also encourage families and their associations to assume social responsibility so that laws, social policies and administrative norms and decisions will safeguard the rights of the family based on marriage, in harmony with the Constitution (cf. art. 29), without confusing it with other forms of cohabitation, and so that suitable provisions will be made for supporting the family itself in its essential tasks, beginning with the procreation and education of children.

And what should we say about the praiseworthy efforts of those who, on the most sensitive issues of bioethics, are battling for legislation to protect the legitimate family and the human embryo? Everyone can see that there are choices here at stake which could seriously jeopardize the humanistic character of our civilization.

7. The formation of the young generation, to whom you particularly dedicated your assembly last November, and schools also have a privileged place in your concern as Pastors.

How can we not feel sad and worried in noting that, while an effort is being made to update and redesign the overall structure of Italian schools, no successful way to achieve real parity for all schools has been found? Is this not the most necessary and important provision for putting the Italian school system on a par with European schools? The great national assembly on Catholic schools that is being prepared and will take place in Rome at the end of October is all the more important for this reason too: I would like to assure you at this point of my participation.

In relation to all these topics of social and cultural significance, and more generally in relation to the fundamental task of evangelization, I warmly encourage you again to continue the cultural project begun by the Church in Italy in recent years. I likewise urge you not to neglect the pressing need to enhance the Christian presence in the realm of social communications.

8. Dear Italian Bishops, the Great Jubilee is now very close at hand. I am delighted with the way your Dioceses are preparing for this providential event in which we will thank the heavenly Father together for the supreme gift of his Son, who became flesh for our salvation in the Virgin Mary's womb. Let us intensify our prayers that this special Holy Year will bring an increase of Christian faith, hope and love. May the Jubilee, through everyone's efforts, lead Christians to take further steps on the path of full union and spread in the world a new awareness of the need and possibility of peace.

The events that await us in the Year 2000, from the International Eucharistic Congress to the World Youth Day and to many other events of great significance, will be a new opportunity to experience together the joy of our communion.

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, in a few days we will celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. In these hours may the invocation of the Holy Spirit arise more frequently from our lips and our hearts so that he will fill us and the whole Christian community with an abundance of his gifts.

Let us turn our humble and trusting plea to Mary, Queen of Peace, for an end to war and violence in the Balkans, on the African continent and in every part of the world.

May God's blessing be upon you and the people whom divine Providence has entrusted to your pastoral care.

May God protect Italy and keep it faithful to its great Christian heritage!

Speeches 1999 - 8 May 1999