Speeches 1999 - Thursday, 25 March 1999



Thursday, 25 March 1999

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I cordially welcome you all on the occasion of your first visit ad limina Apostolorum as Pastors of the Latin-rite Catholic community of Ukraine, and I greet you with the words of the Apostle: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,2). At the end of a century that has seen the Dioceses entrusted to you beset by painful events, Providence has at last let the dew of a consoling rebirth fall on your communities. Blessed be God, who in his goodness has allowed you to see the fundamental value of freedom return to your beloved land before the end of the millennium, enabling you to devote all your energies to the service of a promising harvest.

In the history of your Episcopal Conference, this is the first formal meeting with the Successor of Peter and the Roman Curia in the context of the traditional contact of the ad limina visit. I thank Archbishop Marian Jaworski, President of the Episcopal Conference, for his words of faith and communion on behalf of you all. I assure each of you of my constant prayer for the intense ministry you carry out at the service of the Churches entrusted to your pastoral care.

Looking at the difficult legacy of the recent past, how can we not admire the wonders the Lord has wrought in the past eight years through the sacrifice, dedication and pastoral zeal of you Bishops, and of the priests, religious and numerous lay people who, at your side and under your guidance, have supported the rebirth of your Dioceses? The witness of so many heroes of faith who suffered persecution, and the courage of the many parents who tenaciously conveyed their love of the Gospel to their children, have not been in vain. This is proven by the providential revival of your communities.

2. In a relatively short time, thanks of course to the solidarity of your Sister Dioceses, you have been able to rebuild a Church which had been reduced to ruins. Realizing what the conditions once were and looking at today's reality, our hearts feel the spontaneous need to give glory to God for what he has done. At the same time, we must give credit to the many priests, religious and lay people who made themselves valuable instruments in the plan of salvation.

Continue on this path, following the example of Olha, Volodymyr and Iziaslav- Dmytro, who received Baptism on the banks of the Dnipro. Always be motivated by deep apostolic and missionary zeal. May your communities be alive and fervent, united with their Pastors and committed to evangelization. In this way, you will be able to look to the future with trust, to fulfil your mission with increasing effectiveness in the beloved land of Ukraine. The areas of pastoral activity are broad, and you have already begun useful initiatives for an enrichment of the faith and for a more incisive Gospel witness in society.

3. In overcoming many difficulties, your main concern in these years has been to provide your communities with operative structures and indispensable sacred buildings for gatherings of the faithful and for liturgical celebrations. Many parish churches and chapels have been reopened for worship, while three seminaries are currently functioning along with a catechetical institute.

Now you have turned your attention to the demands of the new evangelization, in order to support the faithful in deepening their faith and to offer the life-giving word of the Gospel to the younger generation. To this end, catechesis adapted to the needs of our time is indispensable. Continuing what the Second Vatican Concil began, I encourage you to begin that sound renewal of methods which, while leaving the substance of Christ's message unchanged, will adapt its presentation to the sensitivities of the new times. For this reason, the recently published Catechism of the Catholic Church will be a great help to you.

Every baptized person, and truly every person of goodwill, has the right to receive from the Church an education and formation that will enable him to attain real knowledge of Christ. By giving catechesis priority over other perhaps more spectacular projects, the Ecclesial Community will find an authentic way to strengthen its own internal life for an effective approach to the outside world (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae CTR 15). A thorough catechetical programme is a proper response to the challenges of our times, including the troubling phenomenon of the proliferation of sects.

The gradual increase in the number of local diocesan and religious clergy, theologically and pastorally trained by teachers formed in the various sacred disciplines, will enable you to improve the organization of pastoral ministry and to develop evangelization and catechesis, especially for young people and families. Moreover, how can we not see how vitally important to this process is the contribution of consecrated and lay persons who are willing and well-trained in knowledge of the Christian message?

4. This introduces the subject of the need to reinforce the pastoral care of vocations, especially vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. Seminaries, and in general the various formation structures for sacred ministry or consecrated life, are the "apple of the Bishop's eye". He must give these institutions the best of the community's resources, since the vocational dimension is connatural and essential to the Church's life.

Every vocation is a gift of God, who "chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,4-5). The Church herself, by her very constitution, is a "vocation", and generates and educates vocations meant to foster the growth of God's kingdom in the world (cf. Apostolicam actuositatem AA 3). From here arises the natural need to sensitize Christians, so that they will generously devote all spiritual and material means to the service of vocations. Holy priests and consecrated persons are essential for the vast field of evangelization.

Next, the families' role is indispensable. Indeed, the more that Christian families and ecclesial communities are grounded in Gospel values, the more diligent in prayer and sacramental life, the more open to the Lord's call and the stronger in sacrifice and in giving of themselves unconditionally, the better they will sense the urgent need to offer concrete support to those whom God invites to have a special bond with him and a particular service in the Church (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis PDV 41).

5. As time passes, this natural growth process will reveal ever more clearly the "catholic" identity of your Churches at the service of all, while respecting the religious and national identity of the various ethnic groups in your country, but without losing their own distinctive features!

In your land you show the wealth of the Catholic Church in the variety of her ritual expressions: the Byzantine and Latin traditions, with the contribution, although numerically small, of the Armenians, blend in the one hymn of praise which the pilgrim Bride on earth sings to her heavenly Bridegroom. Moreover, this plurality in unity is the Church's boast: while it is a particular feature of the Christian community, it is also an ideal reference-point for human society, which too is called to build communion while respecting and attending to all its various cultural elements. If respect for each one's identity is required by justice, it is even more a demand of love, which is the supreme law for the Christian.

May the particular religious situation in your country, which is far from easy, not discourage you from constantly seeking ways of dialogue, mutual understanding and, whenever possible and appropriate, sound forms of collaboration. You will be helped by an attentive and courageous missionary zeal that seeks to pull down the barriers created by the distressing oppression of 70 years of militant atheism. How many of your fellow citizens hunger and thirst for God! You must help them rediscover their Christian roots by approaching them as true apostles, so that no one will deceive them with empty philosophies or vain pretenses (cf. Col Col 2,8).

6. Take special care of the younger generation. May the search for dialogue guide your every step. Every effort must be made, at all levels and in all the tasks of ecclesial life, to show by action how diversity is called to blend in the harmony of unity. Nor can there be any genuine ecumenical witness except by showing in practice how the Catholic Church knows how to find within herself the strength and consistency of a united commitment. For this to happen, your primary commitment must be to mutual knowledge and harmony, by making the most of every practical opportunity to meet, so that Pastors may be a model of openness and good will for all their flock.

Only the Lord knows the pace and times of this journey. But it is up to us to pray fervently and to have a firm desire to meet. In fact, the Spirit is profoundly challenging the Catholic faithful and, while he urges them to enter into what might be called a "dialogue of conversion", he opens them to "fraternal relations which will be something more than mere cordial understanding or external sociabililty. The bonds of fraternal koinonia must be forged before God and in Christ Jesus" (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 82).

7. Venerable Brothers, "ecumenism is not only an internal question of the Christian communities. It is a matter of the love which God has in Jesus Christ for all humanity; to stand in the way of this love is an offence against him and against his plan to gather all people in Christ" (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 99).

This is a dimension of ecumenism which appears particularly timely if we are aware of how necessary the preaching and witness of Christ's followers is in the context of Ukrainian society! It is needed by families, whose unity and respect for life are so fragile; it is needed by the weakest, especially children who are often abandoned; it is required of society, which strives to pursue a common good that will shun the privileges of the few and the marginalization of the weakest; it is sought by young people who want new hopes and concrete ideals to which they can commit their lives. How can we not see your pastoral work as an essential contribution to the construction and growth of all Ukrainian society? As for the Catholic Church, ecumenical commitment is one of the priorities she cannot and will not abandon.

In this task, your diocesan communities should not feel alone or unequal to facing the challenges before them. May the spirit of communion that closely unites the particular Churches throughout the world allow you to feel the effective comfort of fraternal love. I urge the ecclesial communities of the West not to fail in their duty of sharing service programmes with you wherever possible, thereby helping you to achieve all that your Dioceses are undertaking for their people. Moreover, I am sure that your brothers and sisters in the West will not adopt attitudes, in areas of joint presence, which could appear disrespectful of the exhausting efforts you are making, efforts which are all the more to your credit, given the precariousness of the resources you have available (cf. Apost. Let. Orientale lumen, n. 23)

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, as I offer with you a hymn of praise to God who chose us before the world's creation to be holy and blameless in love before him (cf. Eph Ep 1,4), I express my heartfelt wish that the celebration of the forthcoming Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, to which we are all journeying, will be an occasion of renewed enthusiasm for conversion and commitment for every Christian who lives in your country. May it also be the source of a deep and generous commitment to fraternal cooperation among all the Churches in Ukraine, so that the day will soon come when the disciples of the divine Teacher can bear witness in full communion to the One who was, who is and who is to come.

With these wishes, as I call upon the prayerful Lady of Volodymyr, who "continually accompanied the pilgrimage of faith of the peoples of ancient Rus" (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater, n. 33), so that your Churches may obtain a new outpouring of grace, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, your priests, the consecrated persons and all the faithful entrusted to your care.



Saturday, 27 March 1999

Your Excellency,

I welcome you to the Vatican and am pleased to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Korea to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind greetings which you bring from President Kim Dae-jung, and I ask you to convey to him the assurance of my prayers for your country and its people.

Your presence here today draws attention to the close bonds of friendship which exist between your country and the Holy See. You have reminded me of my first visit to Korea in 1984, when the Catholic Church celebrated the Bicentennial of its presence in your land. My memories of your country are inseparable from the experience of meeting so many of your fellow-citizens, whose friendliness, hospitality and vitality left a lasting impression on me. During that first visit, I also shared the sufferings and hopes of all the people of the Peninsula, and I continue to pray that they will one day be re-united as one family. In this regard, I encourage your Government’s efforts to resolve present difficulties through mutual trust, practical assistance and open dialogue. To work for peace requires patient and persevering effort, for true peace is not a matter of power and strength, but calls for genuine reconciliation between peoples.

The resolution of the many conflicts between countries and ethnic groups represents one of the major challenges facing the international community as we prepare to enter a new Millennium. My thoughts go to all those throughout the world who continue to suffer violence, discrimination, destruction of property and loss of livelihood. In my Message for the Celebration of the 1999 World Day of Peace, I wrote that “when human rights are ignored or scorned, and when the pursuit of individual interests unjustly prevails over the common good, then the seeds of instability, rebellion and violence are inevitably sown” (No. 1). To ensure a peace built on solid and lasting foundations, a concerted international effort is needed to promote and guarantee a culture of human rights, and I am pleased that your Government shares this opinion. In this task, the promotion of the dignity of the person must be the guiding principle, and the search for the common good must be the overriding commitment.

Last year, the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights focused attention on this same need to ensure that rights are everywhere recognized, respected and protected. The Declaration draws attention to a number of essential features of human rights, which are sometimes overlooked or underplayed. It emphasizes that the recognition of the innate dignity of all members of the human family, as well as the equality and inalienability of their rights, is the foundation of liberty, justice and peace (cf. Preamble). Human rights, therefore, are not conferred by external authority but stem from the inherent dignity and worth of the human person; they are simply a consequence of being human and are common to all. Furthermore, they apply to every stage of life, and to every political, social, economic and cultural situation. “Together they form a single whole, directed unambiguously towards the promotion of the good of both the person and society” (Message for the Celebration of the 1999 World Day of Peace, No. 3). If peace between nations and groups is to be set on a firm foundation, and if individuals, peoples and nations are to develop, it is essential to defend the universality and indivisibility of human rights.

The challenge is to build a new structure of relations at every level based on guaranteed respect for human rights and human freedom. The Holy See, by virtue of its unique spiritual mission, seeks to be a positive and helpful partner in this immense and crucial task. The Church defends human rights and contributes to the political, social, economic and cultural order because she teaches the transcendent dignity of every human person. She affirms that religious freedom constitutes the very heart of human rights, since religion “expresses the deepest aspirations of the human person, shapes people’s vision of the world and affects their relations with others” (Message for the Celebration of the 1999 World Day of Peace, No. 5).

Your country’s culture, Mr. Ambassador, has been profoundly shaped by the religious traditions of Buddhism and Confucianism. In more recent times, Christianity has contributed in no small way to the good of the nation. Korea’s respect for religion is undoubtedly influenced by the conviction that at the heart of every culture lies man’s attitude to the greatest mystery, that of God. “Different cultures are basically different ways of facing the question of the meaning of personal existence. When this question is eliminated, the culture and moral life of nations are corrupted.” (Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 24). Authentic democratic society and just relations between nations depend on the attitude taken to the religious dimension of human existence and to the question of transcendent and objective truth. The good of nations and peoples requires the exercise of freedom in obedience to that truth. As the measure of man’s dignity and greatness, freedom has an interior “logic” which distinguishes it and ennobles it: “freedom is ordered to the truth and is fulfilled in man’s quest for truth and in man’s living in the truth. … Far from being a limitation upon freedom or a threat to it, reference to the truth abut the human person – a truth universally knowable through the moral law written on the heart of all – is, in fact, the guarantor of freedom’s future.” (Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, October 5, 1995, No. 12).

Mr. Ambassador, it is my prayer and hope that the new Millennium will witness a new flourishing of the human spirit. By developing an authentic culture of freedom, based on human rights and recognition of the truth, men and women, groups and nations will learn to conquer anxiety and fear, and face the future with confidence. This is my hope for the Korean people, that working wisely to overcome the difficulties left by this often tragic century, they will experience a new era of peace, harmony and development.

I am confident that, as you carry out the tasks of your lofty mission, the bonds of friendship between the Republic of Korea and the Holy See will be further strengthened. I offer you my good wishes and assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the discharge of your duties. Upon Your Excellency and your fellow-citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Saturday, 27 March 1999

Mr President,
Distinguished Members of the World Federation of Scientists,

1. Welcome! I am pleased to offer my most sincere and warmest greetings to you who are involved in various forms of study and research. I thank Prof. Antonino Zichichi for his words expressing your common sentiments, illustrating at the same time the objectives and projects of your praiseworthy Federation.

Today's meeting, which reminds me of the one held 20 years ago during the first months of my Pontificate, is an excellent occasion to look at the future, analyzing all that has been achieved by science in our century, which has seen scientific progress unprecedented in the entire span of history. It is your intention to sketch out a partial but significant assessment of this progress.

First of all, a distinct and diversified cultural component can be noted, which consists mainly in a new vision of science characterized by the end of the "myth of progress", which claimed that science would soon find a solution to every human problem.

Another factor that concerns your scientific activity is the economic aspect, connected both with research and with the technological application of your discoveries. Huge financial resources are allocated and spent for this purpose, with legitimate concern over their use and the validity of the projects.

Next the political dimension of science appears to be of capital importance because of its implications for building peace. In this regard, your Federation intends to encourage a concrete exchange and generous sharing between scholars from different countries and cultural contexts.

2. Nor should we underestimate the growing closeness between scientific experimentation and the religious conception of reality, to which I sought to make a contribution in my recent Encyclical Fides et ratio. Although I denounced the serious risk of an exclusively scientistic interpretation of phenomenal data (cf. Fides et ratio FR 88), I wished to express admiration and encouragement for the work of scientists as tireless seekers of truth (cf. ibid., n. 106). In fact, it is more necessary than ever that faith and science, having cleared the field of the mistakes and misunderstandings which have unfortunately occurred over the ages, should be open to ever deeper mutual understanding at the service of human life and dignity.

It is here that our gaze extends to a future rich in challenges and critical needs. Mr President, as you have just pointed out, planet Earth presents some which can no longer be postponed, since the health of one and all, as well as the very survival of peoples, is subject to widespread threats. Consequently, appropriate initiatives are required which, involving scientific vounteers and the responsible cooperation of cultural, economic and political agents, will help design projects aimed at safeguarding creation and aiding authentic human development.

3. In a few days' time, during the Easter Vigil the liturgy will have us listen once again to the ancient biblical narrative of creation in the Book of Genesis. God, Creator of the universe, entrusts the world to man so that he will preserve and cultivate it. In taking on this task, the human being must realize his full responsibility for so demanding a mission. Distinguished scientists, with the initiatives promoted by the World Federation of Scientists, you intend to make a specific contribution to carrying this out. It is a question of pilot projects in the area of global emergencies, which with courage and farsightedness you never tire of studying and proposing, thus creating a significant "scientific volunteer service" at the service of the common good.

I warmly encourage you to continue on this path and I accompany you with my prayers so that your work will bear abundant fruit.

As I invoke the motherly protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, upon each of you, I bless you, your families and your daily work.



Monday, 29 March 1999

Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to welcome the members of the Office of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the members of the various Parliamentary Committees: for Political Affairs, for Legal Affairs and Human Rights, for Migration, Refugees and Demography. In particular, I greet your President, Lord Russel Johnston, and thank him for his kind words. I also extend my greetings to the Clerk of the Assembly, Mr Bruno Haller.

This year you are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Council of Europe. The work accomplished in half a century has been an eminent service to the peoples of Europe. Even if the difficulties encountered on the path of democracy and human rights were and are considerable, you have maintained the goal set from the start by the Statutes of the Council of Europe: to unite the peoples of Europe more closely on the basis of the heritage of their common values.

2. During these 50 years, moral and spiritual values have proven their fruitfulness and their ability to transform society, as the events which occurred almost 10 years ago in Europe have shown. Today they must remain the basis for continuing to build the European project.

We should first of all remember that there is no just political, economic or social process without respect for the dignity of each person, with all the consequences to be drawn concerning human rights, freedom, democracy, solidarity and freedom.

These values are deeply rooted in the European conscience; they represent the strongest aspirations of European citizens. They must inspire every project which has the noble aim of uniting the peoples of this continent. Your efforts to express these values and aspirations in terms of law, respect for freedoms and democratic progress are essential; by tirelessly putting the human person and his inalienable dignity at the heart of your concerns and decisions, you will make a lasting contribution to the construction of Europe and will serve the human person and all humanity.

3. Here I would like to mention the war being waged at our doorstep, in Kosovo, which is wounding Europe as a whole. I urgently ask that everything be done so that peace can be established in the region and that the civilian populations can live in fraternity on their land. In response to violence, further violence is never a promising way to exit from a crisis. It is thus fitting to silence arms and acts of vengeance in order to engage in negotiations that oblige the parties, with their desire to reach as soon as possible an agreement that will respect the different peoples and diverse cultures, which are called to build a common society respectful of basic liberties. Such a development can then be recorded in history as a new element promoting the construction of Europe.

4. Moreover, I join my voice to the Council of Europe's in asking that the most basic right, the right to life, be recognized throughout Europe and that the death penalty be abolished. This first and inalienable right to live does not only imply that every human being should be able to survive, but that he should be able to live in just and worthy conditions. In particular, how long do we still have to wait until the right to peace is recognized as a fundamental right throughout Europe and is put into practice by all public leaders? Many people are forced to live in fear and insecurity. I appreciate the efforts made by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and by the other European organizations to implement this right to peace and to alleviate the sufferings of peoples tried by war and violence. Human rights must also be extended in social life. On this subject, we appreciate the fact that, since the Second Strasbourg Summit (1997), the Council of Europe has wanted to give new vitality to society.

5. In the same spirit, it is important not to neglect the creation of a serious family policy which guarantees the rights of married couples and children; this is particularly necessary for social cohesion and stability. I invite the national parliaments to redouble their efforts to support the basic cell of society, which is the family, and to give it its proper place; it is the essential place for socialization, as well as a resource of security and confidence for the new European generations. I am also delighted to see a new solidarity growing among the peoples of Europe, since the continent represents a unity rich in great cultural and human diversity, despite the artificial ideological barriers built with the passing of time.

6. Your Assembly recently declared that "democracy and religion are not incompatible, on the contrary.... Religion, through its moral and ethical commitment, the values it defends, its critical sense and its cultural expression, can be a worthwhile partner of democratic society" (Recommendation 1396 (1999), n. 5). The Holy See appreciates this Recommendation, since it gives the spiritual life and the involvement of religions in social life and in the service of the human person their rightful place. This reminds us that religions have a particular contribution to make to the construction of Europe, and that they are a leaven for achieving a closer union among peoples.

At the end of our meeting, I encourage you to pursue your mission so that the Europe of tomorrow will first be a Europe of citizens and peoples who together build a more just and fraternal society, from which violence and the rejection of every human being's fundamental dignity will be banned. As I entrust you to the intercession of Sts Benedict, Cyril and Methodius, patrons of Europe, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families and to all your loved ones.



Monday, 29 March 1999

Dear members of the "Circolo San Pietro"!

1. I am once again delighted to be with you at our now traditional meeting, which this year also gives me the welcome opportunity to express my pleasure and gratitude for your devotion to the poor and your diligent service to the Church and the Pope.

As I cordially welcome each of you, I affectionately greet your spiritual director, Archbishop Ettore Cunial, tireless and zealous guide of the association, and your President, Marquis Marcello Sacchetti, whom I thank for his courteous words on behalf of you all. In his address he wished to describe the interesting and praiseworthy initiatives of your worthy sodality, which is celebrating its 130th anniversary this year.

2. One of the many activities that distinguish your institution is the "Peter's Pence" collection in the churches of Rome, which today you have come here to offer: may the Lord reward you for this act of practical concern for the Apostolic See!

In this third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the year dedicated to God the Father, several times I have had the occasion to invite Christians to speak on behalf of the world's poor and to stress more forcefully the Church's preferential option for the marginalized (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 51).

I hope that every baptized person will feel prompted by a generous sense of charity, in the likeness of the extraordinary love with which the Father gave his Only-begotten Son for the world's salvation. It means welcoming this wonderful divine example as a gift of grace, remembering Jesus' words: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac 20,35).

Through your commitment to solidarity, recently enriched by the inauguration of the Hospitality Centre for giving free care to the terminally ill who are particularly poor, and through your service to the Apostolic See, you are called to be instruments of God's tender love for every person.

Dear friends, see that your activity is always enlivened by constant reference to Jesus' example: as he cured bodily illnesses, to which poverty can certainly be likened at times, he revealed in his delicate and loving attitude the Father's merciful face.

3. John the Evangelist says: "No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" (1Jn 4,12). The Word of God reminds us that this is our mission: to share the divine love with others through our fraternal and helpful love. Whenever a gesture, a word, a smile, a helping hand, an attentive presence express genuine love, they can easily become effective and fruitful occasions to enkindle or strengthen the flame of faith for their beneficiaries. So much good can be done even with simple and humble acts!

May the Lord help you in your daily work. May the heavenly Father fill you with an abundant outpouring of graces, so that, in carrying out your work, you can radiate serenity and confidence and make a tangible contribution to the work of the new evangelization, to which all believers are called in a special way on the threshold of the third Christian millennium.

With these sentiments, as I again express my gratitude for your visit today and for your ecclesial service, I invoke upon you the heavenly protection of Mary, "Salus Populi Romani", and of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, as I cordially impart a special Blessing to each of you and to your families.

Speeches 1999 - Thursday, 25 March 1999