Speeches 1999 - Monday, 13 December 1999

4. Dear brothers and sisters, as I thank the Lord for the commendable and praiseworthy work Bambino Gesł Hospital has accomplished since its beginning, I would also like to express my satisfaction with the generous, daily commitment of its health-care workers to sick children and their families. I encourage everyone to continue this very precious and necessary service with constant dedication.

I fervently hope that your skilled work will help you achieve ever more promising goals in the fields of paediatric medicine and surgery. I therefore pray that your generosity will constantly bear witness to the tenderness of the God of life and give hope to all who must face the mystery of innocent suffering.

I entrust these wishes to the One invoked by Christians as "Health of the Sick", whom the Evangelist Luke presents as ready to help newborn life. With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to the Board of Directors, to the distinguished doctors, staff and friends of Bambino Gesł Hospital, and especially to its young patients and their families.




Thursday, 16 December 1999

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am pleased to extend a cordial greeting to you all. This meeting gives me the opportunity to express my appreciation to you for having accepted the invitation to take part in the seventh "Christmas in the Vatican" Concert, which will be held the day after tomorrow in the Paul VI Auditorium.

My gratitude extends once again to all who have made this event possible: the artists, the musical groups, orchestra members, choral singers and the conductors who will direct them; to the presenters and organizers of the evening. I hope that this year too such an interesting concert will be a moment of joy and carefree relaxation for everyone.

The "Christmas in the Vatican" Concert, as everyone knows, is a cultural event that seeks to sensitize public opinion to the need for more places of worship and catechesis in the Diocese of Rome. Your contribution to the success of this event thus expresses your generous concern for a problem that the Bishop of Rome has at heart: parish communities must have pastoral structures of their own, especially in the suburbs where there are none. This project is part of the wider programme of the new evangelization to which the entire Church is committed and of which the Great Jubilee is an important event.

The goal of building 50 sacred buildings by the Year 2000, thanks be to God, has almost been reached. It will thus be necessary to continue this effort. The city of Rome, which is preparing to play a leading role in the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, will be able to count on the opening of places for worship, meeting and catechesis and structures for social, cultural and athletic activities, especially where new housing has been built in recent years. In the meantime, I thank you for your great contribution! Through me, the entire Church of Rome would like to express its heartfelt thanks not only to you but to everyone who has shared our apostolic concern.

I hope that this evening will be a great success, and, as I take this opportunity to extend my cordial wishes for a happy Christmas to each of you and to your families, I give you all a special Apostolic Blessing.





Thursday, 16 December 1999

Your Excellencies,

1. I am pleased to welcome you and to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your countries: Denmark, Burundi, Singapore, Rwanda and Pakistan. I thank you for the messages you have conveyed to me on behalf of your Heads of State. I would be grateful if, in return, you would express my warmest greetings to them for their lofty mission at the service of their compatriots. Through you I extend a cordial greeting to the authorities of your nations and to your fellow-citizens, especially the peoples of Africa, whom I assure of my support.

The approach of the new millennium is an invitation for all men and women to pay ever greater attention to their brothers and sisters in humanity, especially those who are called to exercise important political economic or social responsibilities, tasks that are primarily a service to the entire human community. It is on this condition that our contemporaries will continue to hope for a better future and will resolutely commit themselves on behalf of their brothers and sisters.

2. Globalization should not lead to an increased impoverishment of the most disadvantaged peoples, who are often forced to comply with the economic regulations of wealthy countries. The economy must also be governed by social policies at the national and international level, and not depend solely on financial factors, which leads to tragic situations for numerous peoples whose debts make all development impossible. Nations with a long history of democracy and technology and long-standing economic and social vitality, have acquired knowledge and know-how. They can put these at the service of countries that have difficulty in managing their infrastructures and the organizations that are indispensable for economic growth, health needs and basic personal necessities. By so doing, they will not seek their own advantage but will be concerned to support the building of a nation and will strive to encourage a just freedom for the good of all society. It is also important to develop aid to countries committed to fighting poverty and injustice, sources of many flashpoints of violence and violations of human rights. In these areas the time has come more than ever for all peoples to show concrete and tangible solidarity, for a better distribution of the world's wealth and goods.

3. This year, in which we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we should mobilize ourselves to give the young what they need for their growth and do the utmost to prevent them from being subjected to violence and to work that prevents them from attending school, so that they can lead a normal life for their age. It is the task of civil authorities to see that young people find their place in social and economic networks, and to give them some responsibilities in the city so that they can play an active role in social life. This attention will help to reduce the marginalization of an increasing number of them and will prevent the development, especially in cities and suburbs, of exacerbated forms of violence, drugs and crime, which weaken social relationships and relations between the generations. It is intolerable that children and young people should be the object of a corrupt commerce, whether for the satisfaction of amoral adults or to supply illegal networks of adoption or organ donation. How can society be described as human if it does not guarantee future generations their dignity and their most elementary rights? I salute the work being done for young people by individuals and associations who, by taking an active part in the protection and education of youth, give them the love they need and teach them the values of moral and social life, thus instilling in them confidence and hope for the future.

4. I am certain that as diplomats you are particularly sensitive to the different aspects of social life that I have just described. As you begin your mission, I offer you my best wishes and invoke an abundance of God's blessings on you and your families, your staffs and your respective nations.



Thursday 16 December 1999

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador of Denmark to the Holy See. I thank you for your gracious words and for the greetings which you bring from Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, and I ask you to convey to Her Majesty, to the Government and to the people of Denmark my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation. Though now ten years ago, my visit to your land remains vivid in my memory. I was privileged then to see for myself the richness of Danish culture, the strength of Danish liberties and the generosity of Danish hearts. These are among the reasons why your country, though comparatively small in area and population, has played such a substantial role in the forging of European civilization. Denmark is a bridge between mainland Europe and the lands of the north: this has not always been an easy role for the Danish people to play, but it has been vital. And today, Denmark can play a no less significant role in this delicate time of increasing political and social union through which Europe is passing.

There is much that is positive in the pursuit of the "common European household", but events such as the appalling outbreaks of war in very recent times remind us that what has been achieved with such dedicated work on the part of so many is still exposed to serious threats of all kinds. In Europe today, the nature of conflict has changed, with wars no longer being waged between sovereign states. But conflict itself has by no means disappeared, with wars now occurring within states rather than between them. The question therefore imposes itself: what is required for there to be a genuinely stable security in Europe? There is no quick and simple answer to this complex question, but one thing is becoming increasingly clear: it is impossible to build stable security without a strong moral foundation. Three elements of such a foundation deserve careful thought on the part of all those responsible for public policy in Europe.

A first element is the recognition of a natural law, by which is meant a set of moral principles and values governing all human behaviour and relationships, anterior to any positive law which a particular state might pass. Beyond the distinctiveness of time, place, culture, personality and situation, there is a universal moral law engraved in the human heart and accessible to human reason, directing us to do good and to avoid evil. For if there is no ultimate truth to guide personal decision, then the individual is adrift in a subjective and relativist world; and if there is no ultimate truth to guide political action, then ideas are too easily manipulated to serve the ends of the powerful. A democracy without transcendent values easily slides into some form of totalitarianism, as our own century shows so grimly. As the embodiment of these values, the natural law is a "grammar" common to all who bear responsibility for the destiny of nations.

A second element of this strong foundation is the recognition of the inalienable rights of individuals and peoples. It is the quintessence of totalitarianism to claim for government the right to concede or deny these rights. Yet in fact they have their source not in any political power but in the mystery of the human person created in the image of God. Within this perspective, it is the task of government to do what is required to protect the rights of individuals and groups and to ensure the conditions for their exercise. On a broader scale, it is the task of international organizations and agencies to safeguard the rights of the world's peoples, and it is the weakest nations who have first claim on this protection, especially at a time when the gap between rich and poor countries is increasing. Clearly, any attempt to build security in Europe without a concerted attention to human rights throughout the continent would be doomed to failure, and we must rejoice that there is an ever more clear awareness of this fact throughout public opinion.

A third element is respect for minorities, whether they be minorities deriving from different ethnic identities or different religious beliefs. In the face of the repeated and continuing attempts to suppress minorities in Europe through this century, it must be stated unequivocally that such groups have a right to maintain and develop their own culture, and that Europe will only be strong and secure to the extent that this is so.

A new phenomenon in Europe is the influx of immigrants from less developed and less prosperous lands who come to Europe in search of a better life, with Denmark one of the prime destinations. Large numbers of these immigrants can present particular challenges to a society such as yours, but people must have a right to immigrate legally in search of freedom, safety or a better life, as so many Europeans have done in the past. Nor can immigrant groups be denied the right to maintain and develop their own culture in their new land, even though they will also have to adapt to the new culture which has welcomed them. In this context, it remains pertinent in Europe to reaffirm the principle of religious freedom, a freedom which must be a fixed point of European civilization, since the whole edifice of human rights is shaken if the right to religious freedom is denied.

Mr Ambassador, Denmark is rightly proud of the level of freedom it now enjoys, a freedom which can never be taken for granted, for it is always more fragile than it seems. Danish freedom is in large part the flower of the Christian roots of Danish culture; and that is why it is right that the Dannebrog, marked with the sign of Christ's Cross, still flies indomitably as the emblem of your land and your people. It is an emblem which evokes the great Christian past of Denmark, in which luminous figures such as Saint Ansgar and the martyred King Canute stand as beacons for all time. Christianity brought to birth a free and humane society, and it must also play its part in protecting that heritage now by ensuring that freedom is tied inseparably to truth, since freedom sundered from truth quickly gives rise to new forms of slavery.

Relations between Denmark and the Holy See have at times been close, at times more distant under the pressure of religious controversy. It is my hope that in their different ways our diplomatic relations and the recent Agreement between Catholics and Lutherans may help to consolidate a new season of cooperation between us for the good of Europe and of the entire human family.

Mr Ambassador, as you enter the community of diplomats accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the ready collaboration of the various offices of the Roman Curia. May your mission serve to strengthen the bond of friendship between us. Upon you and your family and the people of Denmark I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Thursday 16 December 1999

Mr Ambassador,

It is a pleasure for me today to welcome you to the Vatican, and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Holy See. I wish to express my gratitude for the message of greeting which you bring from President Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, and from the Government and people of Pakistan. I ask you to convey to them my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the prosperity, harmony and well-being of your country.

Mr Ambassador, I thank you for your kind words of esteem for the Holy See's efforts within the international community to promote peace and human development throughout the world. The Holy See sees this work as part of its service to the human family, motivated by an abiding concern for the well-being of all peoples. Cooperation among peoples, nations and governments is an essential condition for ensuring a better future for all, for building solid foundations of peace and fostering development through responsible use of the world's resources. The international community faces many formidable challenges in its efforts in this regard, among which are the serious problems which you mention: situations of poverty and economic deprivation, ethnic and religious rivalries, and the denial of the right of peoples to determine their own destiny.

At the root of many of these difficulties is a refusal to recognize the inherent and inalienable dignity of the human person. In my Message for the World Day of Peace 1999, I stated that the dignity of the human person is "a transcendent value, always recognized as such by those who sincerely search for the truth" (No. 2) Failure to respect this dignity leads to the various and often tragic forms of discrimination, exploitation, social unrest and national and international conflict with which we are unfortunately so familiar in recent times. Only when the dignity of the person is upheld and guaranteed can there be a solid basis for peace and genuine development that embraces everyone.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Fiftieth Anniversary of which we celebrated last year, was arrived at as a result of the sad experience and terrible sufferings of the Second World War. It was motivated by a strong desire to ensure that every human person was recognized as the subject of the same universal and indivisible rights. The spirit of the Declaration is captured in its preamble, which affirms that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". The construction of a peaceful society and its genuine progress is dependent on the promotion of a culture which respects and protects the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person, the most basic of which are the right to life, the right to freedom (including freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and the right to participate fully in society. From these basic rights flow the various civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights which are essential to the well-being of individuals and societies.

The significance which religious and cultural traditions have in the lives of people is a clear indication of how mistaken it is to think that human development can be reduced to the purely economic.

Development has deep human, social and political aspects. Genuine progress cannot be identified with the accumulation of goods; instead it must lead to the genuine and overall betterment of man seen in his totality. It therefore necessarily possesses a moral dimension, made up of rights and duties. As a result, it is wrong to attach to financial and technological assistance conditions which operate against the ethical and religious traditions and convictions of a people. In fact, when individuals and communities do not see a rigorous respect for their moral, cultural and spiritual character, then all the rest - availability of goods, abundance of technical resources applied to daily life, a certain level of material well-being - will prove unsatisfying and in the end contemptible (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, SRS 33). Development programmes, both within individual countries and at the international level, must be planned and carried out within a framework of solidarity and freedom which is respectful of the truth of the human person.

Religious freedom constitutes the very heart of human rights (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace 1999, 5). Violation of this right is a source of immense suffering for believers, and it is therefore essential that, when a State grants special status to one religion, this must not be to the detriment of the others. At a time when various parts of the world are torn by conflict in the name of religious belief, efforts are necessary to ensure that a spirit of mutual tolerance and respect prevails. Recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a perversion of the very teachings of the major religions. Instead, dialogue must be promoted among the religions present in a territory so that all will see that authentic religious belief inspires peace, encourages solidarity, promotes justice and upholds liberty (cf. Address on the occasion of the Closing Celebration of the Interreligious Assembly, 28 October 1999, No. 3). As the world moves into a new millennium, there must be an increased awareness of the universal brotherhood of all people in the one human family, and greater cooperation among the followers of the world's religions in fostering the spiritual values which humanity today needs more than ever.

The Catholic community in Pakistan is small in relation to the whole population, but its members are proud to consider themselves Pakistani citizens. They remain committed to playing a full part in their country's political, social and cultural development, not least through educational and health care activities and assistance to the needy. In fulfilling her task, the Church seeks no special privileges but merely wishes to exercise her rights freely and to have these rights respected. In this way the Church will be able to pursue her spiritual and humanitarian mission, and contribute to building a society of justice, mutual trust and cooperation.

Mr Ambassador, your country is facing various difficulties and challenges at the present time. I pray that Almighty God will guide the leaders of Pakistan in charting a course which will effectively lead to the well-being of the nation and the good of society, and will lay the bases for lasting peace throughout the region. As you begin your mission, I offer you wholehearted good wishes, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Roman Curia to assist you. Upon yourself and the people of Pakistan I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday 16 December 1999

Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Singapore to the Holy See. I ask you to convey my cordial greetings to President S. R. Nathan and the Government, and to assure them of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the people of Singapore.

As we prepare to enter a new millennium, the international community faces many challenges. You have mentioned the need for a deep commitment to peace, particularly in the face of conflicts which arise on account of differences of race or religion. In this regard, your country has a significant role to play in your region, given its long experience of the harmonious coexistence of a variety of cultures and religious traditions, a feature which impressed me deeply during my brief visit in 1986.

The good relations between religious believers in your country testifies to the truth that mutual respect and esteem is an essential condition for promoting and consolidating social harmony. During my visit to Singapore, I gave voice to this conviction in the National Stadium: "True peace begins in the mind and heart, in the will and soul of the human person, for it proceeds from genuine love of others. Indeed it is true to say that peace is the product of love, when people consciously decide to improve their relationship with others, to make every effort to overcome divisions and misunderstandings, and if possible even to become friends" (Homily, 20 November 1986, No. 8). What a difference it would make to relationships between nations and groups in society if everyone committed themselves to peace in this way!

A welcome feature of international relations in recent times has been the growing concern to ensure the development of poorer societies through financial and technical assistance, and other programmes aimed at fostering a spirit of economic initiative at the local level. In this regard, the Holy See has sought many times to draw attention to the burden of external debt, which compromises the economies of whole peoples and hinders their social and political progress. While international financial institutions have made serious attempts to secure a coordinated reduction of debt, continued cooperation between richer and poorer nations is required so that the most fragile societies can develop their full potential.

Your country's well-developed economy places it in a position to be of great assistance to the other nations of South-East Asia, through various forms of cooperation and assistance. This assistance is a concrete expression of the growing sense of interdependence among nations, and of the need to promote greater solidarity at the international level. It is my hope that joint initiatives between Singapore and the Holy See will continue to grow and expand, and I ask you to convey my gratitude to your Government for what it has already helped to accomplish through this cooperation. Singapore's commitment to these programmes is an investment in the long-term progress of the societies and cultures of South-East Asia, and is based on awareness that authentic development is not simply economic but must be rooted in recognition of the inalienable dignity and rights of the human person. Respect for the essential moral dimension and ethical imperatives of development is the key to authentic human progress, constituting the only viable foundation for a world truly worthy of the human family.

The Church works for the development of peoples not because she has particular technical solutions to offer, but because she has a responsibility to expand her religious mission to the various fields in which men and women strive to attain the always relative happiness which is possible in this world, in line with their dignity as persons (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41). Although the Catholic community in Singapore is small in number, its members play their part in cooperation with their fellow citizens in promoting the good of society. In this regard, I thank you for your kind words of esteem for the Church's work of education and training in your country. Catholic education has a long tradition of pedagogical wisdom, attention to the needs of children and young people, and ability to anticipate the new needs and problems which arise with changing times. This tradition enables Catholic schools to make an effective contribution to the personal development of the young and to the progress of the nation. Apart from imparting knowledge and technical skills, Catholic educators are committed to giving their students a sense of their own dignity as human persons and an understanding of their transcendent vocation. Authentic education ought always to take account of the human person's transcendent nature and final end, and serve the good of the social community to which the person belongs; it should be a training in the exercise of the rights and duties in which the young person will, as an adult, have a share.

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my good wishes as you begin your mission, and I am confident that through your efforts the bonds of friendship between Singapore and the Holy See will be further strengthened. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Singapore I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 16 December 1999

Mr Ambassador,

1. The presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the Holy See gives me the opportunity to receive and welcome you at the Vatican.

I was touched by the greetings you addressed to me on behalf of H.E. Mr Pasteur Bizimungu, President of the Republic. In return, please convey my respectful wishes for his person and for the accomplishment of his high office at the service of all his compatriots. I would also like to offer the Rwandan people my cordial greeting. I hope, after the trials they have endured, that each person and each family will experience a time of reconciliation and renewed commitment to the building of a prosperous society ever worthier of man and of his spiritual vocation.

2. In your speech, Mr Ambassador, you told me that your country's leaders wish to do all they can so that Rwandans can live together in peace, justice and respect for human rights. Indeed, after the tragedy that wounded Rwandans so deeply, the search for an increasingly harmonious coexistence among all the nation's members must be a priority. That is why it is each person's duty, especially of those with responsibilities for national life, to begin creating the conditions that will make true reconciliation possible.

3. The quality of the relations between the Catholic Church and the Rwandan State is certainly one element that can enable society to advance on the paths of new hope for its future. While respecting each side's specific role, I hope that trusting cooperation, will develop between the Catholic community and the country's leaders in a climate of serenity and truth that will help establish genuine harmony and peaceful social relations among all the nation's children. On the other hand, it should be remembered that "where lies and falsehood are sown, there suspicion and division flourish" (Message for the World Day of Peace 1997, n. 5).

As I have often had occasion to say, justice is an indispensable prerequisite for forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the essential right of every person to have his dignity respected and the right of every community to be treated justly. In this regard, I strongly encourage your country to make every possible effort to provide prisoners with more decent living conditions and the possibility of being judged in all fairness according to the principles of law and in conformity with fundamental moral norms. I also hope that the duration and severity of the punishments imposed will be carefully assessed and determined, and that there will be no need to take the extreme measure of the death sentence.

4. For the Catholic Church, the Great Jubilee she is preparing to celebrate is a "year of grace", and most particularly a year of reconciliation between enemies. She therefore feels called vigorously to promote everything that can contribute to unity and brotherhood between individuals and communities. She intends to look to the future with the power of hope, which "offers solid and profound reasons for a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God's plan" (Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 46). With all people of good will, her hope is to help create a new culture of solidarity and cooperation so that all forms of violence causing some to dominate others will come to an end.

5. Permit me through you, Mr Ambassador, to extend my warmest greetings to the Bishops and to the entire Catholic community of Rwanda. In the delicate period that the Church is still going through, I encourage all her members to remain steadfast in faith, to put their hope in Christ, who is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life", and, united with their Pastors, to bear ardent witness to God's love among their brothers and sisters. I also invite them to seek the paths of forgiveness and brotherhood with renewed zeal and in sincere collaboration with all their compatriots.

6. As you begin your mission to the Apostolic See, I offer you my best wishes for its success. Be assured that you will always receive the attentive and understanding welcome you may need from those who work with me.

I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine blessings upon Your Excellency, as well as upon all the Rwandan people and their leaders.

Speeches 1999 - Monday, 13 December 1999