Monday, 4 October 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Yesterday's solemn celebration is in a certain sense continued in our meeting today, at which we would like to renew our song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for the new blesseds, whom the Church holds up to us as examples to imitate. With great affection I greet each of you who have come in such numbers to pay homage to these faithful witnesses of the Gospel.

In contemplating Fr Ferdinand Mary Baccilieri, a humble and zealous priest, I extend a cordial greeting to the Sisters Servants of Mary of Galeazza, who venerate him as their founder and feel committed to keep his spirit alive and active in their Institute's work.

May the spiritual daughters of this new Blessed and all who invoke him as their protector welcome his invitation to reflect constantly on the Christian message and to foster a tender devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows. It is important to understand that following Christ necessarily involves that serious revision of one's life to which he exhorted everyone, especially on the occasion of the parish missions. May the desire to offer each one the clear teaching of the Gospel grow in those who, in following his example, continue his apostolic action to reach families and individual faithful.

2. I cordially greet the brothers and sisters who have come for the beatification of Fr Edward Poppe, especially those from Belgium. The Church is happy to consider him a new blessed. I encourage you to take him, a witness of faith and charity, as your model and guide. In prayer and in the Eucharist he found the strength for his daily life and for his pastoral mission. By loving Christ totally, he dedicated himself to imitating him in all things, in doing the will of our heavenly Father and in welcoming all people. In his intimate relationship with the Lord of the harvest, Fr Poppe offered the world to God so that he could offer God to the world.

Fr Poppe made his own the motto and desire for poverty and humility of Bl. Antoine Chevrier: "My life is Jesus Christ". This, in fact, is the ideal of every priest and of every Christian, because a life lived with love for the Lord and, in his love, is a life that finds its true and complete fulfilment. I invite families, in particular, to help young people to listen for God's call to follow him in the priesthood with generosity. Indeed, it is in the family that vocations can be born, through the transmission of faith and moral values.

3. "Do we want to go to heaven? Courage: prayer is the ladder to reach it". With Bl. Arcangelo Tadini's very timely exhortation I wish to greet the Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth, together with the pilgrims from the Diocese of Brescia and all who today rejoice in the beatification of this generous and fearless shepherd of the People of God.

He felt deeply responsible for the persons entrusted to him and left nothing untried to protect them from every sort of danger. Bl. Tadini knew how to combine daring pastoral initiatives with intense and constant prayer and effective popular preaching. From his resourceful mind emerged innovative ecclesial and social projects to respond to the "signs of the times": the spinning factory to provide work for the young women of the parish, the hostel for local working girls, as well as the Congregation of the Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth, who continue his rich and fruitful apostolate. I sincerely hope that the message of this blessed, so timely because it concerns the dignity of work and the vocation of women in the Church and in society, is faithfully lived and passed on by the Worker Sisters and by all who refer to his spirituality.

4. I now turn to you, dear religious of the Order of Friars Minor, and to you, dear Brothers and Sisters who share in the joy of the beatification of these two illustrious Franciscans: Mariano of Roccacasale and Diego Oddi.

From the time of his youth, Bl. Mariano lived the spirit of poverty, so dear to the Franciscan tradition. Having lived in difficult times due to the persecution and suppression of so many religious institutions, he found in the hermitage of Bellegra the place for rediscovering the silence of nature and of the heart, to follow the poor and crucified Christ with greater radicalism.

His simple life, made up of contemplation, of taking in the poor and sharing in their suffering, of union with God and of solidarity with his brothers, is for all the faithful a shining example of Gospel faithfulness.

Fr Diego Oddi, for 40 years an angel of peace and goodness in the Subiaco area, carries with him the scent of the Fioretti of the Poverello of Assisi. His faith and his life, devoted to the search for the essential, form a significant fulfilment of the great tradition of Franciscan spirituality which directs all things to the search for God, desired and perceived as the "Supreme Good".

How useful it is for all of us to know and imitate the spiritual experience of these two humble Franciscans, who wisely united prayer and work, silence and witness, patience and charity. By their intercession, may they help us live today too the spirit of genuine conversion and acceptance of the Gospel that distinguished them.

5. I now affectionately greet the Capuchin religious and those, especially from Sardinia, who came to Rome for the beatification of Nicholas of Gesturi. He was a humble mendicant on the streets of Cagliari, who by his life of silence, became an eloquent message of the merciful love of God.
From being a religious "mendicant" to meet the needs of the friary, he became a brother "sought" by many. He closely followed the example of St Francis, who loved to invite everyone on the path of good with his example rather than with his words (cf. Vita Seconda di Tommaso da Celano CLVII, in Fonti Francescane 796) and wished his friars to do likewise (cf. ibid., 1674; 1738).

May those devoted to him and those who belong to his religious family treasure the teaching that he transmitted to us with the testimony of his life.

Dear brothers and sisters, together let us give thanks to the Lord for the precious gift of these new blesseds. Returning to your native countries and homes, you will take with you the commitment to follow their example. May you be sustained now and for ever by the maternal protection of Mary, Queen of all Saints. May you also be comforted by the certainty of the intercession of the new blesseds and may you be accompanied by my Blessing, which I cordially impart to those present, to your communities and to your families.




To Mr Joseph Pirson

President of the Conference of Catholic International Organizations

1. "We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Th 1,2-3). In repeating the Apostle Paul's words to the Thessalonians, I am pleased to greet you, as well as the participants in the 33rd General Assembly of the Conference of Catholic International Organizations and, through them, the members of the many Catholic international organizations throughout the world.

This gathering marks an important stage in the course of your preparation for the Great Jubilee. I hope that it will be an opportunity for each of your organizations to reaffirm their commitment to evangelization, and that it will be a favourable time for their members to strengthen their faith and witness.

You have decided to hold your meeting in Lebanon. This is a good idea because you will be able to receive the witness of the Christians of this land, who are called to respond courageously to St Paul's exhortation: "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints, practise hospitality" (Rm 12,12-13). By discovering the life and commitments of Lebanese Christian communities, I hope that you will also come to understand their millenary tradition and, on this basis, retrace the steps of salvation history.

2. The area where you are meeting clearly sheds light on the theme you have chosen: "The eradication of poverty: our practices and perspectives". In a world all too often marked by greed, violence and deceit, which leave their mark in various forms of alienation and exploitation, it is urgently necessary to encourage a new effort of solidarity. It is equally desirable to mobilize consciences and ethical resources in order boldly to seek more humane solutions to the problems of so many peoples left on the margins of the globalization process, and whose weakest members are excluded from the benefits of development.

The issues connected with the poverty of individuals and peoples, which in our day dominate the international scene, are of critical importance. They cannot be resolved by facile slogans or ineffective statements. As Catholic international organizations, you have a long experience and great competence in the area of international life. You know the difficulties encountered and the efforts of the community of nations to face the impoverishment of an ever growing portion of humanity. I encourage you energetically to promote a culture of solidarity and cooperation among peoples, in which everyone accepts his responsibilities to eradicate extreme poverty, a source of violence, bitterness and scandal (cf. Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee Incarnationis mysterium, n. 12); you will thus have a share in proclaiming the Gospel; you will help men and women discover the face of God, Father of all mercies, and will help build a world where justice and peace reign. Therefore, a radical change in mentalities and international practices, based on genuine conversion of heart, is urgently needed.

3. With Christians who in different ways participate in international life and cooperate with all who truly seek man's good, you can make a special contribution to the work of the human community.

To carry out this commitment more fully, I encourage you to turn constantly to the sources of your Catholic identity and to be inspired by the heritage of the Church's social teaching. It is this heritage, in fact, which makes your distinctive presence constructive and hopeful. The Church needs you and relies on you. I pray that the grace of the Great Jubilee will help you enter the third millennium inspired by a concern to discover new and more effective ways to be present and active in the world. I encourage you to pursue this renewal with determination, constantly strengthening your membership in the Church, with the support of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the dicastery of the Roman Curia with which you maintain a trusting and profound dialogue, as well as with the Secretariat of State.

I entrust the work of your assembly to Christ, the Lord of history, and cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to those taking part in this meeting, to all who work in Catholic international organizations and to their families.

From the Vatican, 30 September 1999.



To my Venerable Brother

Bishop Lino Garavaglia, O.F.M.Cap.
of Cesena-Sarsina, Italy

Two hundred years ago, Cesena experienced an extraordinary moment in her history: the Supreme Pontiff Pius VI, Giovanni Angelo Braschi who came from Cesena, died in fact on 29 August 1799 in Valence, and on 14 March 1800 Luigi Barnaba Chiaramonti, also from Cesena and who took the name of Pius VII, was elected to succeed him.

If we consider that Pius VI's Pontificate began almost 25 years earlier and that Pius VII's lasted more than 23, we can see that for almost 50 years there was a son of this illustrious city in the See of Peter.

It is therefore very timely and gives me great pleasure, Venerable Brother, that this special anniversary should be remembered in Cesena with two important events: a convention promoted by the Dioceses on the Pontificates of Pius VI and Pius VII; and an exhibition, desired by the Malatestiana Library Institution and including an academic publication on the documents concerning the two Popes which are preserved in the Malatestiana and Piancastelli Institutions.

For these celebrations I would like to express my cordial affection to you and to the beloved Christian community of Cesena, as I assure you of my spiritual closeness, as it were to attest, two centuries later, to the perennial gratitude of the universal Church for these two great natives of Cesena.

Everyone recognizes, in fact, that during the very turbulent historical period in which Providence called them to exercise their Petrine ministry - the revolutionary and Napoleonic era - Pius VI and Pius VII contributed resolutely to safeguarding God's People and to guaranteeing the stability of ecclesiastical institutions. With their personal suffering in times of exile which both endured, they honoured Christ and the pontifical dignity more than ever, working effectively for the genuine building of the Church through a courageous Gospel witness, illumined by the victorious power of the Cross.

I am pleased to take this present opportunity to express the hope that the Diocese of Cesena-Sarsina will draw abundant fruit from the grace of the Great Jubilee, now close at hand, to enter the third millennium renewed within. Thus it will be able to offer the Church and society mature men and women in the faith, ready to take an active part in the work of the new evangelization. This is the best way to honour the memory of all who worked in the Lord's vineyard before us. It is likewise the way to ensure that the precious heritage bequeathed by my venerable Predecessors Pius VI and Pius VII will continue to bear fruit in their native land, in Italy and the whole world.

As I express my best wishes for the convention and the exhibition, I extend my good wishes to everyone who will be taking part in the anniversary celebrations and cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to the diocesan community.

From the Vatican, 30 September 1999.




Thursday 14 October 1999

Dear Sisters,

1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the Fourth General Chapter of your congregation.
I extend my cordial greeting to each of you and my fraternal affection to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, who wished to accompany you as a token of his deep bond with the Benedictine Sisters of Reparation of the Holy Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This bond goes back to the one he had with your founder, the Servant of God Abbot Ildebrando Gregori, of venerable memory.

I also extend a special greeting of good wishes to Mother Maria Maurizia Biancucci, whom the confidence of her fellow sisters has reconfirmed as Superior General.

2. Dear Sisters, your religious family, born almost 50 years ago, is characterized by its devotion to the Holy Face of Christ in a spirit of "reparation". You adore the Face of the Lord in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the tabernacle; you contemplate it, in imitation of the Virgin of Nazareth, by meditating in the prayerful silence of your hearts on the mysteries of salvation; you honour it in your neediest brethren, the sick and poor who are your apostolate in Italy, India, Romania, Poland and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; you see it in that of the sisters with whom you share your fraternal community life, and that of the priests to whom you offer valuable assistance.

Your generous dedication has been rewarded with an abundant flourishing of vocations. This requires a strong commitment to formation, which will be all the more solid if it is deeply rooted in the Gospel values that define your charism.

3. Two years ago, together with Cardinal Angelini, your congregation founded the International Institute for Research on the Face of Christ, whose initiatives received a wide reception. Dear sisters, may the Face of Jesus, which you strive to make known and to be recognized in those who suffer in body and soul, be the constant reference-point of your spiritual life and apostolate so that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, your religious family will continue to produce ever more abundant fruit in the Church.

With these wishes, accompanied by a remembrance of you in my prayer, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to the entire congregation and to all who benefit from your daily service.



Thursday 14 October 1999

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am very pleased to welcome you and to receive you in this solemn occasion for the presentation of the Letters of Credence appointing you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ecuador to the Holy See. I am very grateful to you for your kind words to me, and for the cordial and respectful greeting from President Jamil Mahuad, to whom I ask you to convey my best wishes for peace and well-being, as well as for the prosperity and overall progress of the beloved Ecuadorean nation.

2. In your words you referred to the Peace Agreement signed a little over a year ago between your country and the sister Republic of Peru, in whose negotiations you had an important role. I was pleased to see that my appeals for respectful dialogue and for honest and fitting negotiations between the two parties were welcomed, thus paving the way to a new phase between these two Latin American countries, which have many values in common. The ability to solve an age-old problem should enable Ecuadoreans to deepen their roots in the peaceful tradition of that region, just as they should feel directly involved in the fight against drug trafficking and corruption, social scourges which especially affect the young and which endanger social peace and stability. In this regard, it is hoped that Ecuador will find in the international community all the support and financial help necessary to deal with them.

3. On the other hand, I know that your country's serious economic situation, due to heavy external and internal debt, is being seriously addressed by all the political, economic and social leaders. On different occasions I have referred to this grave situation, which on a world scale presents many problems and prevents many countries from emerging from underdevelopment and reaching desirable levels of prosperity. In this regard, I wish to reaffirm what I stated in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (cf. n. 51), with the hope that it will encourage proper development for everyone.

It is also important that Ecuadorean society become aware of this, and with an attitude of true solidarity be willing to make the necessary sacrifices, which must in no way worsen the impoverished state of the lower classes. It is to be hoped that Ecuador, some of whose territories have been seriously affected by recent natural disasters, will be able to benefit from special consideration by the international organizations. At present, I am following the news about the activity of the Pichincha volcano, with the hope that it causes no further damage.

4. I am pleased to see that your country's Constitution considers the importance of education and ratifies the recognition of the rights of parents in their children's education. This is an important step compared to the State-controlled regime typical of past times, which has been given prominence in the law granting parents the freedom to request a religious education for their children according to their own belief. This freedom to be open to the transcendent is not the privilege of any social class, but an indispensable condition for children and young people to receive complete formation that will enable them to forge a more human, decent and united world.

This law certainly also allows the Dioceses to collaborate in appropriate ways in the State schools. It is also to be hoped that, at the university level, the principle of religious freedom should prevail in the corresponding legislation so that the special organization of Catholic universities is respected and thus serves as a model for recognizing the legitimate autonomy which the university must have.

5. Mr Ambassador, you also referred to Church-State relations in Ecuador, which have been marked by mutual respect and cordiality. Respect, so as not to interfere in what is proper to each institution, but which leads to mutual support and collaboration, in order to achieve the greatest well-being for the national community. For this reason, and through constructive dialogue, it is possible to promote fundamental values for the ordering and development of society. In this regard, although the Church's mission is spiritual and not political, the fostering of warm relations between Church and State certainly contributes to the harmony, progress and well-being of all, without any distinction.

6. As you begin the high office to which you have been appointed, I would like to offer you my best wishes for the happy and successful accomplishment of your mission to this Apostolic See. As I ask you kindly to convey these sentiments to your President, your Government, the authorities and the beloved Ecuadorean people, I assure you of my prayers to the Almighty, that with his gifts he will always help you, your distinguished family, your staff, the leaders and the citizens of your noble country, whom I always remember with special affection.




15 October 1999

Dear Sisters,

1. It gives me great joy to be able to share this meeting with you, the Sisters Adorers, Servants of the Blessed Sacrament and Charity, who in these days are holding your 27th General Chapter on the theme: "Community of consecrated women, rooted in Christ the Eucharist, called to a liberating mission, facing the challenges of the new millennium". With this statement you have summed up the essence of the integral charism of St Marķa Micaela of the Blessed Sacrament and expressed your intention to live it faithfully as you meet the demands of the years to come, which, as I wrote in my Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, must be a "new springtime of Christian life" (n. 18).

I greet Mother Emilia Orta, your Superior General, and all of you; through you I would like to greet each of your sisters who is carrying out the institute's mission in various countries of Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

2. To answer the call to devote herself to serving socially maladjusted youth, your foundress knew how necessary is the strength that comes from above, from Jesus Christ present in the Eucharist, and this is why she wished to join charitable work with Eucharistic adoration. This, as you know well from experience, strengthens the Christian life, especially the consecrated life, since comfort, firm hope and encouragement for charity can be found in it, flowing from the Lord's mysterious and hidden but real presence. He, who promised to be with us always until the end of the world (cf. Mt Mt 28,20), makes himself present in this wondrous sacrament in the very reality of his risen body, which the angels and saints contemplate in heavenly glory.

3. I therefore encourage you, in fidelity to your Eucharistic spirituality, to continue the apostolic work to which you are committed by helping the many young women who are needy in body or mind and subject to various forms of oppression, proclaiming the truth to them and offering them the new life that Christ brings us, while at the same time fostering their human and Christian advancement in your formation centres.

May you be encouraged in this effort by my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly impart to you and am pleased to extend to all the religious of the congregation, to your benefactors and to everyone you help.





To my Venerable Brother

Archbishop Enzio d'Antonio of Lanciano-Ortona

1. I learned with great joy that the Abruzzi-Molise Episcopal Conference has arranged for the celebration of a Regional Eucharistic Congress to be held in the city of Lanciano from 17 to 24 October. This congress anticipates and prepares for the great event of the Year 2000, one of whose most important moments will be the World Eucharistic Congress. Indeed, "in the sacrament of the Eucharist the Saviour, who took flesh in Mary's womb 20 centuries ago, continues to offer himself to humanity as the source of divine life" (Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 55). During the short period that remains until the opening of the Great Jubilee, the significant ecclesial event being prepared intends to offer an appropriate reflection on the Eucharist as a deep bond of charity.

In greeting you, Venerable Brother, whose Diocese is hosting the work, I would also like to address the esteemed Prelates of the Church of this ecclesiastical region, the beloved priests, consecrated men and women, lay faithful and everyone who in various capacities will be taking part with their reflections and prayers in this intense ecclesial experience. Everyone is aware of the happy coincidence of the congress being held in the same city where, in the eighth century, in the Church of St Legontianus, the first Eucharistic miracle took place, accounts of which are preserved today in an artistic basilica.

2. Christ's promise to be with his disciples until the end of the world (cf. Mt Mt 28,20) is uniquely fulfilled in the Church when the community gathers to "remember" the paschal sacrifice. It is at the time of the Eucharist, when the risen Christ is truly present among his followers, that the very identity of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, made up of "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Ap 5,9) is expressed.

Christ, raised on the altar of the Cross, continues to draw all who turn their gaze to him as he offers himself until the end of the world for everyone's salvation. The Victim sacrificed on the altar of love forms an inseparable bond with his disciples, in the image of the bond which unites the Holy Trinity. He leaves them an ever valid instruction: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15,5).

The assembly gathered round the altar and presided over by the priest who acts in persona Christi perpetuates in time the image of the first Christian community closely gathered round the Apostles. The newly baptized, according to St Luke, devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (cf. Acts Ac 2,42).

Thus an intense experience of welcome emanates from the Eucharistic community. Just as the Father lovingly welcomes his children who, without distincition and moved by the Holy Spirit, turn to him in the name of the Son, so everyone must be willing to welcome his brothers and sisters as a gift of God, to commemorate together the saving events of Easter, until the day the Lord comes. Thus, each person's concern for the other is expressed in God's family, gathered together to be nourished by the Bread of the Eucharist, since all are one in Christ (cf. Gal Ga 3,28).

3. This experience of unity lived in the Eucharist is extended in responsible attitudes of brotherhood, since "the renewal in the Eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and man draws the faithful and sets them aflame with Christ's insistent love" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 10). Consequently, all those who receive the Bread of Life know that they are not only indebted to God, but also to one another, for a sincere and effective love which is expressed in acts of fraternal support and fruitful dialogue for their mutual edification. From this flows the joy of witnessing to God's merciful love of the world. Selfishness cannot prevail in those who live in the Eucharist, because Christ dwells within them (cf. Gal Ga 2,20).

This interior renewal gives rise to the desire to be open to one's brethren in order to build together the kingdom of God with an attitude of mutual spiritual exchange. Thus it happens that every member of the Church evangelizes the other in charity, urging them to become, in turn, convinced Gospel witnesses. Formed by the Eucharist, the community of believers see themselves as a family of brothers and sisters who are indebted to one another for love and forgiveness. Each one rejoices in the presence of the other and values his contribution to their common edification.

4. In addition, the Eucharist is the sacred banquet whose united brotherhood spurs the believer to bring the balm of charity to those in need of it. The liturgical assembly, gathered round the altar, authentically expresses its catholicity when the communion that binds it to God becomes concrete care for every person, especially those in difficulty who are hoping for moral and material help.

In this regard, I observed in the Letter Dies Domini that "the Sunday Eucharist, therefore, not only does not absolve the faithful from the duties of charity, but on the contrary commits them even more to all the works of charity, of mercy, of apostolic outreach, by means of which it is seen that the faithful of Christ are not of this world and yet are the light of the world, giving glory to the Father in the presence of men" (n. 69). All Christian tradition testifies that there is no genuine worship of God without effective love of neighbour. The Eucharist, when it is celebrated truly and sincerely, encourages acts of acceptance and reconciliation among the community's members and with regard to all humanity.

Believers who gather for the Eucharistic liturgy know that they cannot be happy alone, since the gifts received from on high are for the good of all. Through the Holy Spirit's action the sacred Banquet becomes a school of charity, justice and peace from which stem initiatives to alleviate the hunger of those without food, to offer a respectful and cordial welcome to immigrants and foreigners who have been forced to leave their own country, to comfort those who are living in loneliness or are afflicted by illness, to support the work of missionaries involved on the frontiers of evangelization and human advancement.

5. Yes, the Eucharist is a bond of charity, as you have appropriately chosen to stress in the theme of your Regional Eucharistic Congress, which will bring together at Lanciano from 17 to 24 October representatives of every parish for an important experience of faith. I am sure that it will be a favourable opportunity to renew the souls of believers, making them more docile to God's saving will.

For the Church of Abruzzi and Molise, the Eucharistic Congress, suitably prepared at the local level, is an effective incentive to rediscovering the Eucharist as a gift that shapes the life of believers and of ecclesial communities and spurs each one to an ever new witness of communion and solidarity. In a world which needs an ever more profound experience of God's love for humanity, the Eucharistic agape must be a strong moment of interior renewal for your communities, through which they can fully experience the care of the heavenly Father, who bends down lovingly to each of his children.

May the holy Virgin who, at the foot of the Cross, lived the sacrifice of the Redemption in communion with her Son, accompany the work of your Regional Eucharistic Congress. With her, the faithful of the communities of Abruzzi and Molise offer the Blessed Trinity a perfect tribute in the Eucharist, singing of the mercy of God which "is on those who fear him from generation to generation" (Lc 1,50).

I accompany these sentiments with my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly impart to you, to the prelates of the Episcopal Conference and to all who will be taking part in the Eucharistic Congress, as I remember in particular the children and young people, the elderly and the sick.

From Castel Gandolfo, 6 August 1999, the Transfiguration of the Lord.