Speeches 1999 - Thursday, 27 May 1999

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican again this year. I thank Cardinal Maida for keeping me informed of the continued progress of the Center, and I express my gratitude to all who have supported its mission of advancing dialogue and mutual enrichment between the worlds of faith and culture.

The planning of the Center was inspired by the Church’s firm conviction that only the mystery of Jesus Christ sheds full light on the mystery of man and can therefore provide a sure foundation for the authentic progress of the human family in justice, peace and solidarity. Twenty years ago, at the beginning of my Pontificate, I traced the lines which the Church in our time is called to follow, in fidelity to the Second Vatican Council, in carrying out her mission in the world. “The Church wishes to serve this single end: that Christ may walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption, and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth” (Redemptor Hominis RH 13). Today, as the Church approaches the Third Millennium of the Incarnation, I pray that the Center, with its intellectual, artistic and cultural activity, will help to bring the Church’s rich tradition and experience to bear on the great human and ethical issues which are shaping the future of your society.

Dear friends, may your pilgrimage to this City, where the Apostles Peter and Paul bore their ultimate witness to the Risen Christ, lead you to deeper union with the Lord and his Church. May the loving Mother of the Redeemer guide us all on our pilgrim way to the Great Jubilee and to the fullness of life in God’s Kingdom. To you and your families I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 29 May 1999

Distinguished Academic Authorities and Teachers,
Dear Technical and Administrative Staff,
Dear Students,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Athenaeum of the Holy Cross, which received the title of Pontifical University last 15 July. Thank you for your visit! I cordially greet each of you, dear professors, young university students and administrative and technical staff. In particular I thank the Grand Chancellor, Archbishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, for his kind words on everyone's behalf.

The purpose of your university, born of the apostolic zeal of Bl. Josemaría Escrivá, is to seek and promote the truth with intellectual honesty and respect for Revelation. As such, it knows it is at the service of the Church, called in our time to a more courageous missionary effort in view of the third millennium.

2. I note with appreciation that in response to a particular need of the contemporary world, that of using one's professional competence and ecclesial sense to bring the world of public opinion and the modern mass media to an ever better understanding of the riches that flow from the Church's life, your university has planned for a Faculty of Institutional Social Communications with the task of providing specific training for people who will be able to collaborate with the Bishops, the Episcopal Conferences and other ecclesial institutions in transmitting correct information about the Church through the media of social communication. This initiative takes into account the current needs of communications. I ardently hope that your efforts will encourage the spread and inculturation of the Gospel, the Good News of authentic liberation, at every level of social and civil life.

I would also like to recall that the Higher Institute of Religious Studies at the Apollinare, created years ago with great foresight by Cardinal Pietro Palazzini, has become part of your university. With its special extension courses, your structure offers the opportunity for academic and ecclesial formation to those who are responsible for teaching religion in schools, for catechesis in parishes and for other forms of apostolate.

3. Your university's coat of arms uses a design of Bl. Josemaría Escrivá and recalls the meaning of your work. Its central element is a Greek cross whose arms end in arrowheads. It looks as if the Cross is extended in every direction, reaching out to embrace humanity and the whole universe. Next to the Cross we read the words Iesus Christus, Deus Homo. What a meaningful synthesis of the orientation of your teaching and research! The Cross is the supreme revelation of the mystery of the incarnate Word, perfectus Deus, perfectus homo (cf. Creed Quicumque). In his ineffable love, the crucified Christ reveals in a striking way the Father's infinite mercy for human beings in all ages.

The wisdom of the Cross is a light that illumines the meaning of human life. St Augustine rightly speaks of the Cross as the chair of the divine Teacher: "Lignum illud ubi erant fixa membra morientis, etiam cathedra fuit magistri docentis" (In Ioann . Ev. EV 119,2, CCL 36, 658). It is from this chair that we receive the sublime lesson of God's love for us. The limits of knowledge are paradoxically overcome by faith in the God-Man nailed to the Cross and raised by the Father. It is our duty not to forsake this chair. Only in this way will we find, as Bl. Josemaría Escrivá loved to repeat, "Lux in Cruce, gaudium in Cruce, requies in Cruce": the light, joy and peace which flow from the plan of salvation. Only by letting itself be immersed by the Holy Spirit in Christ's mystery, will theological thought be enlightened with wisdom and fully understand the meaning of the Cross, the path of human salvation, of the purification of heart and mind.

4. In these times when we are witnessing the fragmentation of knowledge and widespread distrust in reason's capacity for attaining truth, I thought it appropriate to publish the recent Encyclical Fides et ratio, a text to be studied particularly by those who work on faculties of the ecclesiastical disciplines. Like Veritatis splendor, with which it is logically connected, it offers fertile guidance for the work of those who are dedicated to the study of theology, the sacred sciences and philosophy. It is in Christ, God and Man, that the perfect harmony between nature and grace shines brightly. This marvellous balance has borne countless fruits of knowledge down the ages. The various branches of knowledge still need the light of theology, accompanied by a sapiential philosophy of genuinely metaphysical range.

Contemplation of the union of the human and the divine in Christ, particularly in the crucified Christ, will not fail to help you integrate the various fields of knowledge, to foster interdisciplinary study and to open you to the whole truth. In this task you will also find sound guidance in St Thomas Aquinas, in whose thinking "the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason" (Fides et ratio FR 78).

5. Dear friends, I encourage you to pursue the commitment you have made to deepening your knowledge of doctrine, a commitment enlivened by a constant yearning for holiness. May everyone who attends your university be helped to meet the challenges posed to faith by today's culture and society; may they be helped to be apostles of the new evangelization, docile to the Holy Spirit and faithful to the Church's Magisterium.

May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, protect you always and be the safe haven of all who devote their lives to the search for truth.

With these sentiments, I bless you wholeheartedly.

At the end of his address the Holy Father added extemporaneously:

Today, on the eve of the Holy Trinity, let us adore this mystery of our faith




St Cyriacus Cathedral

Sunday, 30 May 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I greet you with great affection in this very beautiful Cathedral of St Cyriacus, the image and centre of your Archdiocese. The celebration of its millennium calls to mind the mysterious and gracious presence of God in the history of this land and all the good achieved by those who, by listening attentively and generously to the Gospel, supported the work of grace. I am thinking of the priests and deacons ordained in this church, the consecrated virgins and the many committed Christians who sought the strength here to become well-hewn stones in the spiritual edifice of the Church and providential instruments of salvation history.

This meeting is a continuation of this morning's Eucharistic celebration. There, gathered around the Successor of Peter and the Archbishop, your archdiocesan community showed itself in all its fullness. Here it is presenting its support structures: the priests, deacons, men and women religious, pastoral workers and representatives of the lay ecclesial associations. The lead at this morning's meeting was taken by the "leavened dough", ready to become good bread; now centre stage is taken by all those who, by administrating the sacraments and serving the Word, imbue the history of this people with the dynamic new life of the Gospel. Thank you for your presence; thank you for all the good you do by responding with constant devotion and faithful love to the call of the Lord, who sends you out to sow and water the Church, his mystical field.

I extend a cordial greeting to your beloved Pastor, Archbishop Franco Festorazzi, who experiences more than anyone else the labour and joy of proclaiming the Gospel in this ancient and noble Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo. I am particularly grateful to him for his cordial words on behalf of you all.

2. As I approached your cathedral, whose commanding position and imposing architecture make it a powerful sign of God's presence among you, I thought of the words of the Psalmist who, at the sight of the temple in Jerusalem, exclaimed: "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" (Ps 122,1). The view of "beautiful St Cyriacus", as one of your folksongs describes it, leads us to an admiring contemplation of God the Creator, the supreme Artist, who created the universe in all its beauty and harmony (cf. Gn Gn 1,31).

He entrusts to man, made in his own image and likeness, the task of continuing his work and calls artists in particular to be prophets of beauty, thus associating them with the mystery of creation. The fruitful relationship between art, the Gospel and the Church has made beauty an extraordinary way to encounter God, as is shown by the important exhibition "Books of Stone", opened on the occasion of the millennium celebrations.

These celebrations are a hymn of praise to the Lord who, by allowing the artists who built and decorated this temple to have "a momentary glimpse of the abyss of light" whose original wellspring is in him, has opened to them "a path to the inmost reality of man and of the world" and a possible way to salvation (cf. Letter to Artists, n. 6).

3. For 1,000 years, your cathedral has told a story of faith. A church of stone that has defied the passing of time, it is also the Mother Church which welcomes the entire community made of "living stones ... built into a spiritual house" (1P 2,5) and "built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone" (Ep 2,20).

The biblical images which use the visible reality of the temple to refer to the Church's mystery, constitute an obligation for you, the archdiocesan community gathered in it, to fulfil what the stone edifice represents. The millenary celebrations thus call you to be more and more a living Church which resists the winds, storms and dangerous infiltrations of the spirit of the world and each day shows God's love for mankind, revealed in Jesus Christ. A house of God set upon a mountain, your cathedral commits you to being a model community to which everyone can look as a reference-point for drawing inspiration in their approach to interpersonal relations in civil society.

Dear brothers and sisters, what an extraordinary mission the Father is entrusting to you! In the footsteps of the martyrs and saints who have made your history great, you are called to be involved in the spiritual construction of your Church with the love and fervour of the artists who have made this cathedral resplendent. Your task is greater than theirs: to make the face of God's Church in Ancona-Osimo even more splendid on the threshold of a new Christian millennium.

4. At this moment of deep faith and hope, I would like to show you some ways to achieve this exalting task, which is not free of difficulty, but is sustained by the fidelity of the One who continuously says to his Apostles: "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20).

First of all, I urge you to be ever more deeply united with your Bishop. This communion of thoughts, sentiments and projects is the Lord's greatest gift to his Church, the substance of the Christian community's life and the goal of their whole mission. It requires of the Christian a continuous response of love, acceptance, generosity and joy, which constitute the true identity of the Lord's disciple (cf. Jn Jn 13,35).

In the local Church, communion has its visible source and foundation (Lumen gentium LG 23) in the Bishop, the "vicar and legate of Christ" (ibid., n. 27), to whom every member of the faithful is bound to obey as he does the Lord. St Ignatius of Antioch recalls with enlightening words the profound reasons for this characteristic feature of Christ's true Church: "You must be one with the Bishop's mind, as you already are. In fact, your presbyteral college, worthy of its name and worthy of God, is united to the Bishop like the strings to the zither; and a hymn to Jesus Christ rises from your unity, from your concordant love. But you lay people must also form a single choir, all taking your key from God, united in the closest harmony, to sing praises with one voice to the Father through Jesus Christ: he will listen to you and recognize by your deeds that you are the hymn of his Son" (Epistle to the Ep 3-6).

My heartfelt wish is that your commitment to communion will instil in the community of Ancona an ever new harmony which can glorify the Lord and draw souls to Christ.

5. I also invite you to respond with joy to the particular call God has given each of you. With the variety of your ministries and charisms, you are signs of the unforeseeable love of God "who, according to ... the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church" (Lumen gentium LG 7). The Lord calls each of you, in the diversity of members and functions, to build up Christ's body.

"Lead a life worthy of the calling you have received" (Ep 4,1) and of the particular call addressed to you by the Lord Jesus. The Apostle Paul's exhortation obliges everyone to respond generously, creatively and responsibly to the vocation he has received, to be an effective instrument of communion and to offer a joyful witness of faith to non-believers, with ever new zeal in proclaiming the Gospel to those near and far. To this end, serious formation is necessary to evangelize contemporary society and culture, which are sometimes aloof or indifferent to the Gospel proclamation.

You have just celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Regional Seminary of the Marches, where countless pastors of your Church were prepared for the priesthood. In thanking the Lord for the persevering and intelligent work done by past and present educators, I urge you to make every effort to see that this worthy institution does not lack your constant spiritual and material support. At the same time I urge the seminarians to respond generously to the Lord's call and to the expectations of God's People by preparing themselves for the great mission that awaits them with sound spiritual, theological, cultural and human formation.

6. Another way to build and increase the unity of the archdiocesan community is interparochial collaboration. The parish is always like "a cell" of the Diocese and is its basic structure, which must be supported in every way, as suggested by the pastoral plans drawn up in recent years. It "offers an outstanding example of community apostolate, for it gathers into a unity all the human diversities that are found there and inserts them into the universality of the Church" (Apostolicam actuositatem AA 10); it should be conceived as a very effective instrument to achieve the unity of the local Church. Generous and organized collaboration between parishes, in addition to fostering ecclesial communion, is a strong growth factor for the life of the parish community itself. Indeed, by being open to the problems of a wider territory, the parish discovers the richness of the Lord's gifts, fosters the missionary dimension and teaches the faithful a sense of the local and universal Church.

May it be your concern, dear pastoral workers, to make every effort to carry out all possible forms of parish and interparish collaboration, in order better to share and bear witness to the Gospel.

7. Dear priests, religious, and committed lay people, at the end of my visit to your community I hope that the celebration of the cathedral's millennium will be a moment of special grace for your Archdiocese and for each of you, on the eve of the Great Jubilee. May it prepare you to lead your Archdiocese into a new millennium of faith and hope.

May Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of All Saints, increase your love for your Church and make you a Gospel leaven which causes the dough to rise.

With these hopes, as I invoke Sts Cyriacus and Leopardus, patrons of your Archdiocese, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to your Pastor, to each of you and to the beloved Church in Ancona-Osimo.

At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father said to the many faithful waiting outside the cathedral:

Almost 20 years ago I visited Ancona from below. Today I can see the sea from Ancona and I find myself above it. Thank you for this meeting. The Lord bless you! To return here I had to wait almost 20 years. Praised be Jesus Christ!



Regional Hospital of Ancona

Sunday, 30 May 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I am very pleased that I can extend an affectionate greeting to you. Especially to you, dear sick people! Every day in my prayers I especially remember the sick and I know that many of you do the same for the Pope and for the Church. Suffering, lived with faith and love, becomes a source of deep spiritual union, and this enriches everyone.

I cordially greet the doctors and paramedics, as well as the religious and lay people who serve with dedication each day in this health-care structure.

I have come to Ancona for the millennium of the Cathedral of St Cyriacus. The stone church has given me the opportunity to visit the Church made of men and women, the community of living stones. And among these living stones are you, who in facing the trial of illness with faith and love, help to build the spiritual temple, the Church of Christ.

2. Dear sick people, I feel spiritually close to each of you, who have a special place in the heart and mission of the Church. You are undergoing a time of trial which can sometimes be hard for our feeble human strength to endure. It is especially then that Christ calls you to be united with him, to share in his sufferings and to know the power of his Resurrection. This is what the Apostle Paul says (cf. Phil Ph 3,10), adding: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Ph 4,13).

Yes, dear friends, Jesus is our strength! He is so especially when our cross becomes too heavy and, as happened to him, we feel anxiety and fear (cf. Mk Mc 14,33). Let us remember then his words to the disciples: "Watch and pray" (Mc 14,38). By watching and praying with him we enter into his paschal mystery: he lets us drink from his cup, which is the cup of his Passion, but above all, a cup of love. The love of God can transform evil into good, darkness into light, death into life.

3. Dear friends, if we are enlightened by faith, the hospital, a place of suffering, can become a temple of mercy for everyone: for those who are hospitalized, for those who work there, for those who come to visit the sick and for the entire Christian community. A hospital can become a centre of mercy releasing vital energy, the fruit of a common commitment to serve life, to fight evil with good.

At this moment, how can we forget those who are at the mercy of war and have need of treatment? Even hospitals have not been spared the consequences of the conflict! This is the most serious evil: man?s hatred and violence towards his own brothers and sisters, fratricidal hatred; this is the first disease of the spirit that we must combat! The only therapy for this evil is conversion, forgiveness and reconciliation. From this hospital, where you are confined to bed sometimes for days on end, you can be close to all our brothers and sisters who are suffering in various areas of the world, where the right to life and health is violated daily. Your illness can become a bridge of human and Christian solidarity: the Cross of Christ is a source of peace.

4. Who can help us in this task, which is certainly not easy? Who else but she who stands at the foot of the Cross, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother? I entrust each of you to her whom we call upon as "Health of the Sick", so that you will soon recover and in the meantime bear your sufferings with that serenity which is the great witness of the sick.

For my part, I will remember you in my heart and assure you of my prayers, as I thank you again for the spiritual support which you all offer me. I now cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, extending it to your relatives and to everyone who works each day in this great health-care structure.


Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens

Monday, 31 May 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With this inspiring celebration in the Vatican Gardens, we end the month of May, which this year was especially dedicated to praying for peace. In this regard, today's feast of the Visitation offers us a very significant point for meditation: it presents the Blessed Virgin who, bearing within her the Word made flesh, goes to help her elderly cousin who is about to give birth. In Mary we recognize the model of the Church which, through her works of mercy and charity, brings Christ the Saviour's peace to the world.

How many of the Church's children over the last 2,000 years have borne witness to the love of the heavenly Father on the many frontiers of solidarity! This in a way is a great "visitation", which is extended to the whole world, radiant with the mystery of God who makes himself close to man and cares for his physical and moral wounds.

By so doing, the Church becomes each day a peacemaker with the humble courage of Blessed Mary, the handmaid of the God of peace.

Let us look to her, dear brothers and sisters, as we pray before this grotto, which reminds us of Lourdes and the other places where a special "visitation" of Our Lady occurred in history. In Mary's Visitation we see the fatherly concern of God, who never abandons his people; indeed, he cares for the least ones and those excluded. In his great mercy, God has visited and redeemed his people! This is the reason for every Jubilee, and especially for the forthcoming 2,000th anniversary of the Incarnation. This evening let us entrust our every project and prayer to Mary, Virgin of the Visitation and Queen of Peace. Amen.

June 1999



Tuesday, 1 June 1999

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am particularly pleased to welcome you, Bishops of the Catholic Church in Cameroon, on your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles, which always reinforces the ties that unite you with the universal Church. Thus you receive the joy and courage to carry out your episcopal ministry in a renewed way. The ad limina visit is also a time when you come to meet the Successor of Peter and his co-workers, to find in them the necessary support for your pastoral mission.

I cordially thank the President of your Episcopal Conference, Bishop André Wouking of Bafoussam, for his kind words on your behalf. They give a general outline of the concerns and hopes of the Church in Cameroon today.

Through you, I turn to the priests, religious, catechists and all the faithful of your Dioceses. Bring them the Pope's affectionate remembrance and the assurance of his prayers that their faith in Christ and their love of neighbour will increase. Please also convey my warm greetings to all the people of Cameroon, whose spirit of welcome and generosity I appreciated during my two visits to their country.

2. In recent years the Catholic Church in your country has shown great apostolic vitality, which has found particular expression in the creation of several Dioceses and a new Ecclesiastical Province. I would especially like to greet the Bishops who have come for their first ad limina visit. May you all be authentic servants of Christ and his Church among the people entrusted to you! Remembering my visit to Yaoundé for the closing of the African Synod, I fervently hope that the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa will be for each of you the charter of your pastoral and missionary commitment.

Today, Christian communities need Pastors who are humble and courageous men of faith, capable of discerning, in an attitude of acceptance and dialogue with you, the signs of the comanding of God's kingdom and of working to extend it. In human situations that are often difficult, marked particularly by the economic crisis and the poverty of many groups of people, they must be sowers of hope. Through their clear, true words, without hesitation of any kind, they will know how to be reliable guides in the search for truth not only for Catholics but also for people of good will.

As the Second Vatican Council states, the task of teaching is essential to the episcopal mission. The Bishops, in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are "authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people assigned to them, the faith which is destined to inform their thinking and direct their conduct, and under the light of the Holy Spirit they make that faith shine forth, drawing from the storehouse of Revelation new things and old; they make it bear fruit and with watchfulness they ward off whatever errors threaten their flock" (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium LG 25). As true teachers of Christ's faithful, you enable them to deepen their faith, especially by helping them not to separate it from their life and by inculcating in them a deep sense of Christian prayer. Teach them to listen faithfully to the Gospel in order to give it pride of place in their lives! Then they will learn to perceive better and to reject practices which are still in contradiction with the Christian faith and which prevent them from fully living the grace of their Baptism.

3. Your priests have a special place in the mission of bringing God's People to birth and forming them. I warmly greet them and encourage them to be always and everywhere credible and generous ministers of Christ and his Church, concerned to grow in continual communion with you. In contemporary society there are many obstacles to fidelity to the commitments made on their day of ordination; numerous obstacles also prevent them from considering the priesthood as a service to God, the Church and the world. May your priests not be disheartened! May they find in you brothers attentive to their problems, ready to accept them, to trust them, to help them in Gospel discernment and to support them vigorously in their efforts for a greater holiness of life, which is the most eminent form of witness among the faithful!

I firmly remind each of your priests that they urgently need to progress in a solid spiritual life, deeply marked by missionary dynamism, which will enable them to grow in their configuration to Christ and to share in his pastoral charity. May they remember that "the essential content of pastoral charity is the gift of self, the total gift of self to the Church, following the example of Christ" (Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis PDV 23).

Priests must express this total gift of self most especially in celibacy, a grace of the Lord which they should all strive to live. In fact, the practice of perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom "is at once a sign of pastoral charity and an incentive to it, as well as being in a special way a source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world" (Decree Presbyterorum ordinis PO 16). In the sight of others, celibacy is also a witness of the priest's undivided consecration to the mission entrusted to him and a living sign of the world to come, already present through faith and charity (ibid.).

I invite each of your priests to give due priority to continuing formation in his priestly life. This is a basic requirement at any age and in any condition of life, if he is to continue living and acting in the spirit of Christ the Good Shepherd. By encompassing the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral dimensions of life, it is a precious help for acquiring and sustaining the interior unity of priests. I also encourage them to cooperate with one another and, when the need arises, to find forms of common life and sharing by which they can deepen their priestly brotherhood, which is an expression of the unity of the presbyterate around the Bishop.

I know of the care you give to priestly vocations and the initial formation of the future pastors of your Dioceses. In seminaries, the human, intellectual and pastoral formation of candidates for the priesthood is an important and necessary foundation of their preparation for ministry. However it is essential to foster a spiritual formation which brings them into deep communion with Christ; it is through an attitude of filial trust in the Father and submission to the Spirit that they will remain firmly attached to the Church and faithful to their ministry. May those responsible for their formation, whom I thank for their generous service, always be concerned to train pastors who are humanly and spiritually sound!

4. In your country, the participation of men and women religious is considerable. With you, I thank the Lord for these generations of men and women from other continents who have brought Christ's Gospel to your land and have worked for over a century to establish a native Church with selfless courage and at the price of great sacrifices. Today, their presence is a visible sign of the Church's universality and a call to the mutual sharing of human and spiritual resources between local Churches. I encourage them in their pastoral service to your communities and in their concern for all the people, particularly by providing health care and social assistance, as well as through education and human advancement, which are signs of God's love for the most destitute. I also hope that the institutes of consecrated life founded in your regions can fully develop and in turn engage in missionary work beyond their countries' borders.

Moreover, to show that the Gospel has taken root, we hope that contemplative life, already present in some of your Dioceses, can spread even further, offering a unique witness of the Church's love for the Lord and contributing with mysterious apostolic fruitfulness to the growth of God's People (Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata VC 8).

5. So that the Church may be implanted and grow, catechists have a crucial role in the Christian community. I am deeply grateful to them for their missionary commitment, often made in difficult conditions. A thorough doctrinal and pedagogical formation, constant spiritual and apostolic renewal, and the need to provide decent living conditions for them are requirements that must be one of the priority concerns of the Bishops and priests who guide them (cf. Encyclical Redemptoris missio RMi 73). In their communities they have the responsibility of being authentic Gospel witnesses by leading an exemplary personal and family life, which will give greater force to their teaching. I hope that each of them will acquire an ever greater awareness of the demands of their vocation and of the Church's confidence in them, for the good of the Christian community.

6. The laity's involvement in the life of the Church and of society is an essential dimension of their baptismal calling. The mystery of communion that unites Christians with one another and with their Lord commits them to building united communities where everyone has a place, without distinction of background or social status, open and generous communities which willingly share with everyone the graces they have received. In fact, "the dignity as a Christian, the source of equality for all members of the Church, guarantees and fosters the spirit of communion and fellowship, and, at the same time, becomes the hidden dynamic force in the lay faithful's apostolate and mission" (Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici CL 17). Thus the Church will grow as God's Family.

Furthermore, the vocation of the laity is to express their Christian life in society and community service. By their influence and commitments they help transform mentalities and structures to be more faithful to God's plan for the human family. To do this, they must receive a formation that will help them lead a harmonious Christian life and live the social implications of the Gospel. A serious initiation into the Church's social teaching will enable them to make an effective contribution to the joint development of the nation, in which everyone can participate and be actively involved. The pursuit of the common good also entails the duty to fight courageously all forms of corruption, waste or misappropriation of what belongs to the community to the advantage of a few.

7. The education of young people should be a primary concern of everyone. In fact, as the Second Vatican Concil noted, "a true education aims at the formation of human persons with respect both to their final end and to the good of the society of which they are members and for which they will share responsibility as adults" (Gravissimum educationis GE 1). As part of her mission, the Church must make moral and religious education available to all who desire it. Catholic schools, therefore, have a special role to play. Despite the difficulties which they face in your country today, they are called to carry out this mission in a spirit of openness to all, regardless of origin, social status or religion. Another important consideration is the human, cultural and religious formation of educators: for it is this formation which will ensure that values are handed on. The witness of one's life is in itself an essential element of the truth which Catholic schools impart.

8. In contemporary society, marriage and the family are the object of threats which tend to destroy or at least to distort them, thus putting the very balance of society at risk. It is therefore urgently necessary to strengthen a catechesis that will shed light on the greatness and dignity of conjugal love in God's plan, as well as on the requirements that flow from it. The faithful must have a renewed awareness of the fact that in the sacrament of marriage they receive a particular grace meant to perfect their love and to strengthen their unity and indissolubility as a couple. Through this grace, whose source is Christ, they help one another to attain holiness in their married life and in welcoming and educating their children (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1641).

I am delighted with the witness of fidelity and dynamism given by many happy Christian homes, who thus become living examples of united families, open to others and showing solidarity with their problems. I therefore encourage you, with your priests and the leaders of the family apostolate in your Dioceses, vigorously to continue the efforts you have made to help Christians, particularly the young, to accept the values of married and family life as well as to guide them in their preparation for Christian marriage and later in their lives as married couples and parents. Moreover, the whole ecclesial community is responsible for promoting the evangelization of the family, which is called to grow as a community of life and love, "a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church his bride" (Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio FC 17).

9. Your Dioceses have already made important efforts to inculturate the Christian faith, especially in the liturgy and in catechesis. The way of living the faith is always permeated by the culture of one's surroundings. Thus we can say that "the challenge of inculturation in Africa consists in ensuring that the followers of Christ will ever more fully assimilate the Gospel message, while remaining faithful to all authentic African values" (Ecclesia in Africa ). This task is a daily duty to be carried out with perseverance so that everyone can receive the Gospel in the depths of his being and make it bear abundant fruit.

Cameroon is a land of encounter, rich in its different cultures. The proclamation of the Gospel in each of them thus demands that Christians be ready to bring them the truth revealed by God in his Son, who came to share our human nature. This does not prevent cultures from keeping an identity of their own and does not create divisions within them, for the Christian faith fosters in them everything that is open to the acceptance of the full truth. It also invites respect for their diversity, seeing in it a sign of the abundance of gifts that God gives to every people.

From this perspective, it is crucial for the proclamation of the Gospel in society to adopt an authentical pastoral approach to the world of culture. In an age which often experiences the loss of a sense of moral values and an apprehension about the future, the Church's role is to show the fruitfulness of faith in the development of cultures. In particular, be concerned to make the Gospel present in the heart of the cultural, university and intellectual milieus of your country, so that it can be a source of renewal and spiritual growth for everyone's good.

10. In the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, I expressed my hope that the third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, dedicated to God the Father, would lead to more intense interreligious dialogue, according to the guidelines of the Council's Declaration Nostra aetate (n. 53). In your country, relations with the other religious traditions are generally peaceful. You should make the most of this favourable time, then, to increase among Catholics and those who do not share their faith, especially believers in Islam, a truly fraternal and respectful spirit which will enable them to work together for integral development and justice. May this same harmonious spirit also inspire your relations with members of the African Traditional Religion. In fact, "the light of Christ brings fresh life and opens people's hearts to others. Animated by the love which comes from God, Christians treat all their brothers and sisters with genuine friendship and esteem" (Address in Yaoundé, 15 September 1995). In this spirit, it becomes clearer that the effective recognition by all of the right to religious freedom, which is at the root of the human person's other rights, can only encourage the building of a united and fraternal nation and help to maintain peace and understanding among all its communities.

11. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of this meeting I would very much like to invite Cameroon's young people not to be discouraged as they face the future, repeating the appeal I have frequently made to African young people: take in hand the development of your country, love the culture of your people and work for its renewal with fidelity to your cultural heritage, through a sharpening of your scientific and technical expertise, and above all through the witness of your Christian faith (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa )! And you adults, help them take their place in the life of the nation and the Church!

As the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 approaches, I engage all the faithful of Cameroon, united with their Bishops in faith and charity, to make this time of grace a time of intense spiritual renewal and vigorous missionary commitment, so that the love of God the Father, revealed in his Son Jesus, in communion with the Holy Spirit, will be proclaimed to all humanity.

I entrust each of your Dioceses and your whole nation to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of mankind, that she may guide you on the paths that lead to her divine Son. I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and extend it to the priests, religious, catechists and all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.

Speeches 1999 - Thursday, 27 May 1999