Speeches 1999 - Thursday, 11 February 1999



Friday, 12 February 1999

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brother Bishops,

1. It is a joy once again for me to welcome you at the end of the convention, now an annual tradition, which brings you, Cardinals and Bishops who are friends of the Focolare Movement from the various continents, to the Mariapolis Centre in Castel Gandolfo.

I thank Cardinal Miloslav Vlk for his respectful address to me on behalf of everyone, in which he presented the full programme for these days of shared living, prayer and reflection in the context of the spirituality of the Opus Mariae. I greet and embrace each one of you, as I extend my cordial thoughts to Chiara Lubich and to the other representatives of the movement who are close to us in prayer.

This year's meeting, which is being held during the journey of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, now close at hand, was inspired by the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, and by the meeting held afterwards last Pentecost in St Peter's Square. The theme of your reflections has been the one God and Father, whose love is transmitted to us by the living presence of Christ among his people and by the continual action of the Holy Spirit, source of sanctification for believers, who constantly spurs them to build the one human family.

In this context, you have appropriately stressed the vital importance of prayer and Christian meditation as an experience of the love that lifts up the soul and unites it to God. "Abba, Father" is the invocation that rises spontaneously from the heart of believers enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

2. In our daily lives it is important that our intimate dialogue with the heavenly Father never be interrupted. Everything must take its meaning and value from this communion of life, so our being and action may express the merciful love of God, source of unity and communion. If this applies to every baptized person, it is even more necessary for those who are called by Providence to be a bright reflection of the divine fatherhood among the Christian people entrusted to their apostolic care.

The Movement is wholly inspired by love: God's love for us, which we are called to reciprocate; love for our brethren, whom we should enable to experience Christ's caring heart. The longing for divine love becomes the basis of effective action for believers in building the one human family. It also becomes a service to the poor and needy.

In this light, the programmes organized by the Focolare Movement, not only in the ecumenical context but also in its contacts with the Jewish and Muslim communities, become particularly significant. The development of the project for an "economy of communion", under way in Brazil and in other nations, is also important. We should particularly mention the experience of Focolare communities in the area of conjugal communion built on the firm rock of Christian values. A correct understanding of the family institution in accordance with the Creator's original plan leads to attitudes of acceptance and respect for human life, in addition to mutual support, which represents a genuine model for contemporary society afflicted by so many problems.

3. All this highlights the vitality of the Focolare communities and is a source of encouragement to them as they continue on the way they have chosen. May you Pastors be able to discern, welcome and promote the charism which the Spirit inspires in the Movement, so that the desire for unity and communion, which is the most distinctive element of the Opus Mariae, may be fulfilled.

Be unflagging in your concern to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel of love. This requires a deep spirituality that can draw constant vitality from the Eucharisic mystery, in full harmony with the Magisterium of the Church and the needs of the ecclesial community. I entrust you and your responsibilities, which the approach of the Jubilee makes even more impelling, to the heavenly Father, who is rich in grace and mercy. As I call on the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin, Mater Ecclesiae, I cordially bless you all.



Saturday, 13 February 1999

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial greeting to you all, members of the Alcide De Gasperi Foundation for International Peace and Cooperation, and I thank you for this visit, by which you mean to reaffirm your staunch loyalty to the Church's Magisterium and to confirm your commitment to promoting harmony among the peoples of the world. I extend a special greeting to Sen. Angelo Bernassola and express my sincere gratitude to him for the noble words he addressed to me on behalf of those present.

Taking its inspiration from the thoughts and work of the great Italian statesman Alcide De Gasperi, for over a quarter of a century your Foundation has been involved in promoting peace and cooperation among peoples through its study of the problems of international society and through relations with similar institutions in Europe and the world.

Among your praiseworthy initiatives, you have chosen as a fundamental reference- point the perennial values of the Christian faith, making an effort to combine them with the clear awareness that the road to peace comes through a strong, constant cultural commitment, jointly made with those who share your noble objectives.

Building peace is not the fruit of compromise, but stems from a deep and systematic knowledge of the remote and proximate causes of conflict, from sensitizing national leaders to the profound needs of the poor and from forming the younger generation in an authentic culture of peace. It is also fostered by the support offered to those who are tempted by the difficult situations that mankind has to face in our day to abandon the hard work of dialogue and of respect for the fundamental rights of each and every one.

2. In my recent Message for the World Day of Peace I said that "no human right is safe if we fail to commit ourselves to safeguarding all of them.... It is therefore essential that there should be a global approach to the subject of human rights and a serious commitment to defend them. Only when a culture of human rights which respects different traditions becomes an integral part of humanity's moral patrimony shall we be able to look to the future with serene confidence.... Complete observance of human rights is the surest road to establishing solid relations between States. The culture of human rights cannot fail to be a culture of peace" (n. 12).

These are important suggestions for making your commitment as politicians and men of culture more and more forceful, so that you can be ever more effective "peacemakers" in today's society.

I hope that your Foundation, in the context of today's search for security and collaboration between peoples, may become a renewed instrument for promoting global action in support of peace, without allowing itself to be hindered by the inevitable obstacles that are met along this difficult but necessary path.

With these sentiments, as I entrust you and your daily efforts to the One whom we Christians invoke as Queen of Peace, I am pleased to impart my Blessing to you, to your co-workers and to your families.



Saturday, 13 February 1999

1. Welcome to the Pope's home! You are here representing the students, teachers and administrators of Rome's schools. Thank you for your visit!

I especially thank the Cardinal Vicar, the Superintendent and the young student for the words of greeting and good wishes which they addressed to me on behalf of you all.

"Open the door to Christ your Saviour": the invitation of the City Mission, which in recent years has resounded in various ways throughout Rome, is now being extended in this last year of preparation for the Great Jubilee to the areas where people work, study, suffer and live.

Even you, dear students, teachers and administrators of Rome's schools, have studied, in a special interdisciplinary course, the theme of the Holy Year, starting with its meaning and central message: the Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is "God with us", the only Saviour of the world, in whom every man and woman can find an answer to the deepest questions of the heart. These are questions about the meaning of life in relation to God, man and his destiny, and about the ways to live to the full one's personal, family and social life.

It is the school's task to develop in the students an appropriate knowledge of the world, of cultures and of languages, and at the same time to help them search for the truth with an open mind, in order to form a free and responsible personality. In this journey which nourishes the mind, acceptance of the "mystery" of man cannot be lacking: it appeals to God and makes us discover his action in the world.

2. We are preparing for the Great Jubilee, which is a forceful call to conversion of heart through a change in our lives, to acknowledge and welcome the presence of "God with us", who frees man from sin, the primary source of every moral and social disorder. The Holy Year involves a strong sense of commitment to justice and solidarity and therefore encourages concrete efforts to enable all men and women, children and the elderly, the suffering and the marginalized to find their place in the common house of mankind, to be recognized and welcomed as a brother or sister, and to be helped in achieving a quality of life that is worthy of the children of God.

In this field, the school and education in general have a decisive and irreplaceable task as ways of authentic human liberation from the slavery of ignorance. The most precious investments on the part of families, the first persons responsible for education, of State institutions and of other free members of society are without doubt the resources devoted to the school and culture of young people. The future of humanity and the social development of a nation depend to a great extent on the quality of its schools and their commitment to presenting themselves as an educational community for all their members.

3. Turning our gaze to the school situation and to the changes taking place there which the Superintendent mentioned, I hope that it plans its future with creativity and courage, drawing from Rome's heritage of tradition and culture the incentive for the renewal it has undertaken.

It is necessary to promote educational and cultural projects suited to the full development of the person, who remains the central focus of the school and to whom programmes, interventions and initiatives must be directed. In this way the school becomes a community that teaches one to search for the truth and to understand one's own personal dignity; that transmits culture and values for life; that trains one for a profession in the service of society; that opens one to encounter and to interpersonal and community dialogue; that responds to the demands for the human and spiritual, cultural and social growth of children and young people.

In particular, all the members of the civil and ecclesial community of Rome must concern themselves with school problems and promote appropriate measures for supporting the complete formation of all children and young people, with special care being given to those who are suffering hardship or neglect, which means supporting their expectations, hopes and projects so that they can find their place in society and the world of work.

I am thinking here particularly of the growing presence in Rome's schools of children and young people from immigrant families. It is the school's task to teach them mutual dialogue and respect, so that differences are appreciated as a wealth that makes it possible to work together for the civil progress of society.

4. In order to deal with these situations productively, the close collaboration of State schools with private schools, families, parishes, and the social and cultural sectors is necessary.

First of all parents, the primary and principal teachers of their children, also exercise their role in the choice of a school whose educational and cultural approach conforms to their expectations and demands. They actively participate in school life, in close dialogue with the teachers and in respect for their distinct and complementary responsibilities.

The role that teachers and school administrators have in the formation and guidance of children and young people is crucial. Society as a whole is called to acknowledge their role by according them not only esteem and appreciation but also by adequately supporting their need for formation and continuing education. May teachers and administrators, for their part, attend to their constant spiritual and moral development, which enables them to be a referencepoint to their students, not only through an accurate communication of knowledge, but also by being effective and credible witnesses of the values they live.

Is education not a vital communication which creates a deep relationship between the teacher and student, making them both share in that truth and love which are the final goal to which every human being is called?

5. I am pleased on this occasion to present to you, teachers and administrators of Rome's schools, the Letter I wrote for the City Mission: I ask you to make it a subject of reflection and dialogue.

I address a special word to you, dear students: take the lead in your intellectual and spiritual development, be involved in your studies, love your school and bring to it the joy and generosity of your hearts.

May the Holy Year find you attentive and ready to discover in this event, which will mark the life of the city, a suitable occasion for knowing Christ better, welcoming his Gospel and faithfully following him.

The crucifix, present in your classrooms, is a concrete sign of the gift of Jesus' love for every person: may it be an invitation for each of you to give yourself generously to build a new world that is more united and just.

Prepare to welcome many of your peers who, during the Jubilee and especially on World Youth Day, will come from all over the world for the Holy Year. Open the doors of your hearts and your homes to them.

Lastly, I would like to wish the entire school community of our city ever more productive and effective work. I invoke upon you all the protection of Mary, "Seat of Wisdom" and "Salvation of the Roman People".

With affection I assure you of my prayer and my Blessing.



Saturday, 13 February 1999

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Seminarians,
Brothers and Sisters,

1. It is a great joy for me to be with you here again at the Roman Major Seminary for the feast of Our Lady of Trust. I greet you all affectionately, starting with the rector, Mons. Pierino Fragnelli, the superiors, all of you dear seminarians, the sisters and the staff, your families and the young people of the "school of prayer".

We are grateful to Mons. Marco Frisina, the musicians and choir members who have performed an oratorio dedicated to the Apostle Peter. This beautiful piece had us meditate on the priestly vocation as a call to become "fishers of men", according to the divine Master's invitation to the first disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (cf. Mk Mc 1,16). The Lord wished to entrust the net of the "kingdom of heaven" (cf. Mt Mt 13,47) to the hands of the Apostles and of their successors and co-workers, the Bishops and priests.

The fisherman's task is a hard one. It requires constant effort and patience. Above all, it calls for faith in God's power. The priest is a man of trust, who repeats with the Apostle Peter: "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets" (Lc 5,5). He knows well we fish for men with the power of God's Word, which has its own intrinsic dynamism. Therefore he is not overcome with haste, but waits and watches attentively to understand God's timing.

2. In the seminary, thanks to the diligent and careful work of our teachers, we learn the secret of Gospel fishing in the school of Christ, under the action of the Holy Spirit. Blessed Mary is an expert guide: She is the Mother of Trust for all Christians and in a special way for the Apostles. We can imagine her words of comfort and support during the days she spent with the early community waiting for Pentecost. Let us allow her to speak to us as well. When the fatigue of the apostolate makes itself felt and failures lead to discouragement, it is then that the best part of the "fishing" begins, the fishing which relies only "on his word". This is what Mary says again to us, reminding us of the "yes" she gave at the Annunciation: "Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum".

"Sicut Maria, ita et Ecclesia": Ivo of Chartres' saying is the motto you have chosen for this year's celebration. The Church is the teacher of trust for every Christian, and particularly for the apostle and the apostle's co-worker. At this Roman Major Seminary, which is so dear to me, you learn how to fish especially from Mary, Our Lady of Trust, who teaches every seminarian the secret of Gospel fishing. Mary is also a teacher for you young men who are attending the seminary and find here a valuable place for your apostolic formation. May she help you carry out responsibly the important decisions you are making for your future. Be generous; trust in her; trust in Jesus.

3. Dear friends, thank you for giving me this new opportunity to meditate with you on this consoling truth. I also thank you for transforming it into a prayer not only for yourselves, but also for all the priests of the Diocese of Rome. I willingly join you in prayer and, as I ask God to grant each of you persevering fidelity, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all.

At the end of his visit the Holy Father said extemporaneously:

What the Pope is going to say is also connected with the seminary, with the last seminary: that last seminary, of only a few days' duration, was the Conclave. At the end, when everything had become clear, Cardinal Wyszynski approached me and said: "It would be desirable if you could take the name John Paul". I answered him: "Yes, I was thinking of doing so". That was the last seminary for me. From the Roman Seminary, or from the underground seminary where I studied, to the seminary of the Conclave. The vocation: you must call yourself Peter; you must call yourself John Paul.

I hope that all will go well for you at this Roman Seminary. And then we will see.



Monday, 15 February 1999

Your Eminences,
Dear Friends,

In the love of the Most Holy Trinity, I welcome you with the words of the Apostle Paul: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2Co 13,13). I greet especially His Eminence Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, and His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos of Krinis, Greek Orthodox Bishop in Chicago in the United States of America.

You are making a pilgrimage of faith - first to Constantinople, sacred to the memory of the Apostle Andrew, and now to Rome, the city sacred to the memory of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Since the Second Vatican Council, Catholics and Orthodox have come to appreciate more fully the unity of faith which is ours in Christ Jesus. We have come to see how "the Lord is enabling us to discover ourselves as "Sister Churches" once more" (cf. Ut unum sint UUS 57). The regular exchanges between our two Churches and the work of the theological dialogue have been important in this process; and joint initiatives such as your pilgrimage help in another way to strengthen the bonds of koinonia.

As we prepare to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit's call to communion becomes more pressing. Overcoming the misunderstandings of the past, we look in hope to a future when love will be perfect among us and the world will therefore know that we are Christ's disciples (cf. Jn Jn 13,35). Upon all of you I invoke the protection of the Mother of God and of the great host of saints, the citizens of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, "which has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light and its lamp is the Lamb" (Ap 21,23). God bless you all!


Thursday, 18 February 1999

1. Dear priests of Rome, parish priests, parochial vicars, priests involved in other forms of ministry, and you, permanent deacons or those preparing for the priesthood, welcome! I am happy to meet you as I usually do at the beginning of Lent, and I extend my affectionate greetings to one and all.

In the Cardinal Vicar's introduction and then in your remarks, we heard about the progress of the City Mission and the concrete experiences you have had. I will also reflect on this central point in the pastoral care of the Diocese, which represents Rome's specific preparation for the Great Jubilee and so has rightly been the constant theme of our meetings in recent years.

In fact, the City Mission is now in its final phase and is especially dedicated to the various places where people live and work. We started it by giving crucifixes to the missionaries on the First Sunday of Advent, the same day I promulgated the Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee, while the event that concludes our journey has been set for next Pentecost.

2. The decision not to limit the Mission to families who live in the parish territory but to reach out also to the many places in this vast city where people work, study and spend their free time, or even suffer and are cared for, was undoubtedly a courageous and demanding one. We made it because we were convinced of the Mission's importance, or rather, of its necessity, if we really want Christ's Gospel to be proclaimed and made known to every person and in all the circumstances and situations of life (cf. 1Co 9,16-23). May that special abundance of grace associated with the Great Jubilee, which we are rapidly approaching, sustain us and give us strength.

Moreover, in taking the Mission to these situations, we are only putting into practice that pastoral principle repeatedly recalled during the diocesan Synod: the principle that each parish and the entire ecclesial community must seek and find themselves outside themselves, that is, precisely where the People of God actually live.

It is clear that the practical fulfilment of this task is primarily entrusted to the lay faithful who actually live and work in these various milieus. Indeed, the more effective the Mission is in each individual situation, the more will those who live and work in these places each day be able to apply it and put it into practice. Therefore last 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the third anniversary of the first announcement of the City Mission, I wrote a Letter to all my fellow believers who live and work in Rome, inviting them to be courageous and consistent missionaries of the Gospel.

3. What I have already recalled to you priests in years past also applies to the Mission in these places, taken as a whole and in each of its implications. Dear friends, since you are the Bishops' closest co-workers, it is to you that the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel to all is principally entrusted. Mission, the Church's vocation and fundamental task, is not primarily the work of individual believers but of the entire community, hence first and foremost, of the community's leaders.

In many important situations, you priests are directly present because of your specific ministry. Thus you are in many schools as religion teachers, in clinics and prisons as chaplains; in Rome some chaplains are bearing great fruit in the workplace. I cannot fail to mention all those who are involved on the "frontiers" of charity, at the side of the disadvantaged, minors in difficulty, young people with chemical dependency problems, immigrants and the homeless. In each of these areas, at the side of all these brothers and sisters, you are called to be a living sign of God's love, of the salvation Christ has brought us, of the Church's motherly concern. You are and must be missionaries and evangelizers always and everywhere.

Dear permanent deacons, at your own level you participate in the sacred ministry and yet, with regard to work and the family, you share the same state as our lay brothers and sisters; thus you are in a particularly favourable situation to bear witness and to evangelize in the places where you are involved. The Mission in these situations is a special call for you and a valuable opportunity to develop your specific ministry.

4. However, our task as ordained ministers in relation to this type of Mission is not limited to what we can do directly by working within each individual situation. Each of us, in fact, although he may not be entrusted with an apostolate in one of these places, has an essential formative role in which he can and must prepare and support the lay faithful who are called to bear witness to Christ in every situation of life.

Here we touch on a most important subject that concerns the way we conceive and exercise our ministry as pastors. The horizon of the Church's task must not be limited to the smooth functioning of the parish or of any other institution directly entrusted to our care. Rather we must embrace in spirit the entire Church in her essential missionary dimension, which places her at the service of the integral salvation of man.

In this light, our formative work should not only be concerned with developing a laity that can take on responsibilities in the parish or Church community. We must be even more concerned to form authentic Christian consciences, so that each lay person or priest can integrate their own lives and bear credible and joyous witness to the Gospel in every situation and context. Likewise, we should try to make the lay faithful more clearly aware that the Church's evangelizing mission involves them and is entrusted to them. This normally occurs through their actions and the witness of their lives, as well as through their ability and readiness to give an account for the hope which, as believers in Christ, they have received and bear (cf. 1P 3,15).

This same missionary zeal must also characterize the basic elements of spiritual formation and growth: prayer, which puts us in God's presence; catechesis, which nourishes faith and helps people look at every reality with the eyes of faith; repentance and conversion of heart, increasing our openness to the love of God and of our brothers and sisters. Only in this way can the growth of the witness and missionary become one with that of the Christian.

5. This is how the Christian presence in our beloved city of Rome can become more effective and persuasive in the new millennium which is about to begin. In some cases the workplace is where secularization appears more advanced, and to speak about God and Jesus Christ can seem difficult and almost out of place. But in reality, God is never a stranger; Christ is never a stranger. The eternal Son of God "worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved" (Gaudium et spes GS 22): he is and remains, wherever our humanity is at stake, the only Redeemer of man. I remember that 20 years ago, precisely in this season of Lent, I promulgated the Encyclical Redemptor hominis.

Therefore, in confidently beginning the Mission in these places, may everyone be very aware that it is a long-term project. It is an integral and indispensable part of the new evangelization, which must be ever more firmly rooted and developed in the pastoral care of the diocesan community.

6. Dear priests, the missionary impulse arises from that flame of love which the Lord has kindled in our hearts by the gift of his Holy Spirit, and is first of all expressed in the concrete language of love. Thus the City Mission, in this final year of preparation for the Jubilee, which is dedicated to God the Father and aimed at stressing the theological virtue of charity (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 51), should pay special attention to "evangelizing the poor" (Mt 11,5), by making their living conditions less dreary and precarious.

In your pastoral ministry, you have first-hand experience of how unemployment and poverty are increasing. Thus it becomes more and more necessary to identify new opportunities and ways so that Rome, on the basis of its spiritual and civil mission and by making the most of the human, cultural and religious heritage which has developed over the centuries, can further its civil and economic development, also for the benefit of the whole Italian nation and the world (cf. Letter to those who live and work in Rome, n. 8). The charity of Christ urges us, then, to be present and involved in every context where our city's future is being concretely prepared.

Dear priests and deacons, I know of your daily efforts, labours and the difficulties you must often face. I would like to assure you that I am always close with my affection and prayer. May the Virgin Mary, the perfect example of love for God and neighbour, support each of us on our way and obtain for everyone that total responsiveness to the Lord's call which she expressed at the moment of the Annunciation and then at the foot of the Cross (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 54).

With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Blessing to you all, which I willingly extend to your parishes and to those you meet in the course of the City Mission.

Among these parishes, the last one I visited was St Fulgentius and the next will be St Raymond Nonnatus. The liturgical memorial of St Raymond Nonnatus is celebrated at the end of August; now all that is left is for me to visit the parish dedicated to him in Rome.


February 19, 1999

Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

I warmly welcome you this morning, the members of the Organizing Committee of the International Forum “Bethlehem 2000". I greet especially Ambassador Ibra Degučne Ka, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations and Chairman of the Committee, and Sir Kieran Prendergast, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The city of Bethlehem stirs memories reaching far back in the history of ancient Israel to the figure of King David (cf. 1S 16,13). Yet it is the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, which gives Bethlehem its unique place in the mind and heart of the world. The Gospel of Saint Luke reports that at the birth of Jesus angels sang of peace on earth to all people of good will (cf. Lk Lc 2,14). And although Bethlehem’s history since then has often been marked by violence, the city still stands as a promise of peace and an assurance that the human hope for peace is not vain.

The Great Jubilee which will celebrate the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem invites us to look forward in hope to a world in which peace will be secure. We must all work for a future in which there will be no threat to peace from among the worshippers of the one God, from any who bear the name of Christian or Jew or Muslim. In particular, we must be confident that it is possible to build peace in the Middle East. The promise of peace made at Bethlehem will become a reality when the dignity and the rights of human beings made in the image of God (cf. Gen Gn 1,26) are acknowledged and respected.

May the work of your Committee help to ensure that the birthplace of the One “who shepherds God’s people” (cf. Mt Mt 2,6) will remind people everywhere that peace is God’s gift from above. May the Lord’s blessings assist you in this noble endeavour!

Speeches 1999 - Thursday, 11 February 1999