Speeches 1999 - Saturday, 30 October 1999

November 1999




To My Venerable Brother
Cardinal Achille Silvestrini
Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches

I am pleased to send greetings through you to those taking part in the meeting of Bishops and Religious Superiors of the Eastern Catholic Churches in America and Oceania with the Congregation for the Oriental Churches which will take place in Boston on 7 - 12 November 1999. I send a special word of thanks to Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, whose generous hospitality has made this meeting possible.

Following the similar gathering of those responsible for the Eastern Catholic Churches in Europe, held in July 1997, and encouraged by the many fruits born of that meeting, your Congregation saw the usefulness of promoting this new opportunity for joint study and assessment. The purpose of this meeting is to bring the different Eastern Churches together for reflection and common prayer in order that, together with the Congregation, they may recognize the unique characteristics of their presence in America and Oceania and identify paths of commitment for the future.

This is a particularly valuable opportunity for the Congregation, since it is in coming together with the leaders of the Churches which it serves and in listening to their needs that your Dicastery is best able to fulfil its role of assisting the Successor of Peter in his own ministry of service. But it is a most precious moment also and above all for the Eastern Churches themselves, because it is through an exchange of experiences and reflections that they will be able to discern the voice of the Spirit who guides the Church on her journey through time.

Attentive to the Spirit, the Bishops will be able to identify certain common lines of action in responding to the needs and expectations of their own communities and of the men and women of today. A common strategy is necessary not only if the proclamation of the Gospel is to have greater force and relevance, but also if it is to be a visible sign of the communion of the entire Church in the rich variety of her theological, spiritual, liturgical and canonical patrimony, a patrimony of which all her members partake to their mutual benefit.

As you engage in the work of these next few days, the Bishop of Rome — the Church which presides in charity — accompanies you with his prayers. I ask the Lord to grant that the Eastern Catholic Churches, in fidelity to their historical roots and with careful discernment of the social realities in which they live and minister, will have the courage to walk the prophetic path which the Spirit is indicating to the followers of Jesus Christ at the approach of the Third Christian Millennium.

Here I would like to recall certain criteria, entrusting them to your joint reflection, which came out of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, held in the Vatican from 16 November to 12 December 1997. Although addressing the specific situation in America, these observations apply equally to the Church in Oceania.

In my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, I wrote: “Immigration is an almost constant feature of America’s history from the beginning of evangelization to our own day. As part of this complex phenomenon, we see that in recent times different parts of America have welcomed many members of Eastern Churches who, for various reasons, have left their native lands. A first wave of immigration came especially from Western Ukraine; and then it involved the nations of the Middle East” (No. 17). This immigration came to involve all the Eastern Churches, including those of other regions, for example India. Thus it was made “pastorally necessary to establish an Eastern Catholic hierarchy for these Catholic immigrants and their descendants” (ibid.). This context allows us to address an issue which is really the primary object of this meeting: the “diaspora”. I encourage all of you to study this question in depth.

The fundamental principle which your reflections must always bear in mind can also be found in that same Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation: “The Synod Fathers recalled the norms given by the Second Vatican Council, which recognize that the Eastern Churches 'have the right and the duty to govern themselves according to their own particular discipline', given the mission they have of bearing witness to an ancient doctrinal, liturgical and monastic tradition. Moreover, these Churches have a duty to maintain their own disciplines, since these 'correspond better to the customs of their faithful and are judged to be better suited to provide for the good of souls'” (ibid.). The Eastern Catholic Churches are thus called to maintain a twofold fidelity. First is fidelity to the traditions which have been handed down to them, so that they may in turn hand them on faithfully; useful in this regard are the bonds which unite them to their own Mother Churches. Second is fidelity to the men and women of today with their joys and hopes, their sorrows and pain, their desires and expectations, as they thirst for the truth and the fullness of life that finds its source only in God; this is faithfulness to the continuing search, especially in consumer-oriented societies, for the deeper meaning of life. This twofold fidelity is fidelity to God and to his revelation — shining brightly in the many different traditions which come from the Apostles through the Fathers (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches Orientalium Ecclesiarum, OE 1) — and fidelity to man and to his need of God, in the various ways in which this is expressed.

In the course of your work together you should not fail to reflect upon the situation created by the presence of Eastern Catholics in territories where the majority of Catholics are of the Latin tradition. As I also noted in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America: “The universal Church needs a synergy between the particular Churches of East and West so that she may breathe with her two lungs, in the hope of one day doing so in perfect communion between the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches. Therefore, we cannot but rejoice that the Eastern Churches have in recent times taken root in America alongside the Latin Churches present there from the beginning, thus making the catholicity of the Lord’s Church appear more clearly” (No. 17). I therefore remind you of the need to establish and foster an ever deeper relationship of fraternal communion between the Eastern Catholic Churches and the Latin Church. In fact, there can be no doubt, as I emphasized in Ecclesia in America, that “this fraternal cooperation, while offering valuable help to the Eastern Churches of recent foundation in America, will certainly also enrich the particular Churches of the Latin rite with the spiritual heritage of the Eastern Christian tradition” (No. 38). I express the hope that all the leaders of the Eastern Catholic Churches will feel the call to be a concrete sign for the men and women of their own countries and cultures of the love that is the distinguishing mark of Christ’s disciples. I ask you to convey to them my invitation to work together in bringing about that unity which is born of the richness and harmony of variety, so that they may show forth the overflowing richness of God’s revelation and come to identify — along the lines of what is suggested in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America (cf. No. 38) — practical ways of making possible the experience of communion. In this way, all will be able to rejoice in the fruits so far produced and, in genuine concern for others and with enthusiasm, will be able to continue along the path that stretches out before us.

This work must find its inspiration in the central mystery of our faith: the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is Jesus Christ, true God and true man, who is the highest expression of fidelity to God and to man. It must be the incarnate Christ — the subject of our contemplation on our pilgrim way to the Holy Year, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 — who guides our steps and enlightens our hearts. Your coming together and the joint celebration of the Divine Liturgy must be an occasion of true encounter with Christ the cornerstone, the foundation of all our projects and plans.

Imploring the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who humbly welcomed Christ into her womb and generously gave him to the whole world, I ask the Father to pour out the gift of his Spirit upon all those taking part in this meeting and upon their respective Churches, so that they may shine brightly as a sacrament of the Risen Christ, bringing the younger generations in America and Oceania “to know Jesus Christ, so that they may follow him and find in him their peace and joy” (cf. Ecclesia in America, ).

With these sentiments I cordially impart to you and to all the participants in this meeting my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 1 November 1999, Solemnity of All Saints




Dear Brothers and Sisters of Rome!

1. We are now nearing the beginning of the Great Jubilee! After a period of intense preparation, we are getting ready to cross the threshold of this time of grace and pardon, in which we wish to celebrate with joy and gratitude the 2,000 years since the Incarnation of the Word.

This event, which involves the whole Church, places Rome at the centre of Christianity and in a special way makes it "a city set on a hill" (cf. Mt Mt 5,14), to which all nations look. This is the see of Peter and his Successors; here is the heart of the community of believers; here the centre for spreading the Gospel. Pilgrims will come here from every corner of the earth to visit the basilicas and churches linked to the memory of the Apostles and martyrs, as well as to the perennial testimony of a faith rich in holiness and civilization.

Belonging to Christ, as heirs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the Christians of the city of Rome form a holy edifice, which gives a contemporary and engaging value to the glorious signs of the past. I therefore urge each of you to live this grace that the Lord bestows on our city with ready and open generosity.

The story of Zacchaeus, recounted by the Evangelist Luke (cf 19: 1-10), recalls the wonders that Christ's coming worked in the life of a man who freely opened the doors of his home to him, enabling him to be converted and to walk the path of justice and love for others.

The joy felt by Zacchaeus is the same as that felt by those who encounter Christ and follow his footsteps with renewed spiritual enthusiasm. This is the experience of the Jubilee: an exceptional passage of Jesus through our city.

2. You have been preparing for this extraordinary event for some time. In particular, the City Mission, which has just ended, opened the homes, various milieus and above all the hearts of so many residents to the message of Christ, the only Saviour of the world. It is now necessary to consolidate the results obtained from the Mission, by preparing our hearts to celebrate the Holy Year with ardent faith and evangelical love.

For believers the Jubilee is a favourable time to abandon a routine way of living the faith to rediscover true friendship with the Lord. It is an appropriate time to give conversion the meaning of a clean break with sin, by experiencing the joy of pardon received and given. It is a most advantageous time for rediscovering communion and brotherhood in the parishes, movements and various communities, by removing the obstacles of indifference, uninvolvement, rejection of others, and achieving an authentic reconciliation with everyone.

Now and always there is time for making the powerful message echo in every heart and place: "God loves you and sent Jesus Christ his Son to save you".

3. When speaking to his fellow citizens in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus linked the year of favour from the Lord, which his presence inaugurated, with preaching the good news to the poor, with the release of captives, with giving sight to the blind and liberty to the oppressed (cf. Lk Lc 4,18-20). In this way he indicated that to celebrate the Jubilee also means to open our hearts to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are the poorest and most suffering.

Faithful to the teaching of the divine Master and the Apostles, the Church of Rome has, down the centuries, written bright pages of welcome, especially during Jubilees, with concrete and lasting signs of love for neighbour. Once again, in the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Rome is called to offer Gospel hospitality to the pilgrims who will come in great numbers from every part of the earth.
To this end, throughout the Holy Year there will be solemn Jubilee celebrations in common and appropriate moments for encounter and prayer in the parishes. Those who will come from other local Churches will return comforted, if they have experienced how the one faith in Christ makes them full members of the same ecclesial communion.

It is therefore important that our brothers and sisters should find on their arrival not only a city that is ready to receive them and to show them memorable places of history and faith, but especially a community that incarnates the Gospel and gives concrete signs of the supreme command of Christ's love.

4. In this perspective, I turn to you, children of this Church whose beginnings were bathed in the blood of the Apostles, and say: "Christian Rome, do not hesitate to open the doors of your homes to pilgrims. Joyously offer fraternal hospitality, especially during the events of greatest significance and scope, like World Youth Day, scheduled for 15 to 20 August 2000. May every structure in the parishes, institutes, schools and every other hospitality centre be available to them. In this way you will become the city of hospitality like the friendly home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany, where Jesus liked to rest with his disciples, finding physical and spiritual refreshment!".

This invitation is for Christian families, so that they will experience the same joy as those who welcomed Jesus in Galilee, Samaria and Judea; for the parishes and the numerous religious communities in the Diocese, so that they will offer full and cordial hospitality to poor pilgrims; for the institutions and the many volunteers, so that they will be prepared to meet the needs of pilgrims and to make the stay in Rome of the elderly, the sick and the disabled as comfortable as possible.

5. Brothers and sisters of Rome, this Letter is for each of you! As I thank you for your generosity, I wish with all my heart to entrust you to the heavenly Mother of God, so that the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will be a profound spiritual experience for you and an incentive to grow in fraternal solidarity.

May Mary, who was the first to welcome the Word of the Father, and with loving faith offered him to the whole world, may she who, moved by the Spirit, opened her heart to the Word and gave her "yes" to the Father's will, help the inhabitants of Rome to open their doors to Christ, our Redeemer, with a docile spirit. With her Mother's heart may she speak to those who are indifferent or who have faith without works or enthusiasm, to those who are far and sometimes even opposed to the Gospel. Through her intercession, may this city of ours become a leader of authentic faith and a builder of the civilization of love.

The numerous Marian images that adorn the churches and streets of the city testify to the unceasing devotion of Romans to Mary. Together with you I say to her: "Virgin Mother of God, bless Rome and all who live here; protect the children and the young, the families and parishes, the sick and the suffering, the lonely and those without hope. Show everyone Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb, so that he may transform every man and every woman of this city into a credible witness of hope and peace".

With these wishes, I gladly send each of you my Blessing, dear brothers and sisters, so that the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, "Salus populi Romani", of the Apostles Peter and Paul and of all the saints, will bring to completion the work he has begun in you.

From the Vatican, 1 November 1999, the Solemnity of All Saints.





Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

1. It has always been my pleasure to receive the Members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with certain of their Consultors, on the occasion of their Plenary Assembly. This year however its coincidence with my Apostolic Visit to India prevents me from doing so. Nevertheless, your President, Archbishop Francis-Xavier Van Thuân, has informed me of the programme of your Assembly, and with this Message I wish to greet you and invoke God’s blessing on your work.

In its now long history, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has played an important role in promoting the social teaching of the Church. Founded at the request of the Second Vatican Council, it is called to bring to the whole of God’s People a fuller knowledge of their part in furthering the progress of the human family, especially of its poorer members, through the pursuit of social justice among peoples and nations (cf. Motu Proprio, 6 January 1967). Its scope has always been, and remains more than ever, global. On the eve of the Great Jubilee, you continue to show your determination to remain faithful to this mission.

2. The recent efforts of the Pontifical Council to spread an awareness of the social teaching of the Church have been directed to making leaders, both ecclesiastical and civil, ever more mindful of their obligation to promote the dignity of each human person by addressing such questions as the elimination of extreme poverty and the promotion of an effective approach to human rights. You have successfully brought these concerns directly to different parts of the world by seeking the help of the local Churches in organizing seminars on the Church’s social teaching, within very specific contexts. By doing this in Africa, Asia and Latin America, you are giving full expression to the spirit of the Great Jubilee, which is meant to be a time of liberation, and of the restoration of equity and peace among peoples (cf. Lev Lv 25). You have done so in an evangelical spirit, because true freedom, justice and peace are gifts of a loving God who seeks the collaboration of those whom he created in love. I encourage you in your efforts to make the practice of the social teaching of the Church an ever more deeply felt commitment among the faithful.

In the same spirit, you have both supported and promoted efforts in regional and international forums to help the poorest countries free themselves from the burden of debt and underdevelopment, and you have supported efforts to bring an end to internal conflicts.

3. Last year, I entrusted the Pontifical Council with the task of producing “a compendium or approved synthesis of Church social doctrine” which would show the connection between it and the new evangelization (Ecclesia in America, ). Such a document will help the Church’s members to understand better the importance of this teaching. The Jubilee offers an excellent occasion for such a publication. The very concept of the Jubilee commemorating the birth of Jesus includes proclaiming the Good News to the poor, freeing the oppressed and giving sight to the blind (cf. Mt Mt 11,4-5 Lc 7,22), releasing people from their debts, and restoring land (Lv 25,8-28), questions which the Pontifical Council has been effectively addressing during the years of preparation for this great event.

4. At this Plenary Assembly you will be considering the current environmental crisis in the light of the social teaching of the Church. The question of the environment is closely related to other important social issues, insofar as the environment embraces all that surrounds us and all upon which human life depends. Hence the importance of a correct approach to the question. In this regard, reflection on the biblical foundations of care for the created world can clarify the obligation to promote a sound and healthy environment.

The use of the earth’s resources is another crucial aspect of the environmental question. A study of this complex problem goes to the very heart of the organization of modern society. Reflecting on the environment in the light of Sacred Scripture and the social teaching of the Church, we cannot but raise the question of the very style of life promoted by modern society, and in particular the question of the uneven way in which the benefits of progress are distributed. The Pontifical Council will render a valuable service to the Church, and through the Church to all of humanity, in promoting a deeper understanding of the obligation to work for greater justice and equity in the way people are enabled to share in the resources of God’s creation.

5. On the occasion of your meeting, I gladly invoke divine blessings on each of the Council’s Members and Consultors. I thank you all for the considerable help that you give to the Holy See on the basis of your specific skills and your rich and varied experience in many parts of the world. May the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and the members of your families. With my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 4 November 1999



Meeting with representatives of other Religions and other Christian Confessions

Sunday, 7 November 1999

New Delhi — Vigyan Bawan

Distinguished Religious Leaders,
Dear Friends,

1. It is a great joy for me to visit once again the beloved land of India and to have this opportunity in particular to greet you, the representatives of different religious traditions, which embody not only great achievements of the past but also the hope of a better future for the human family. I thank the Government and the people of India for the welcome I have received. I come among you as a pilgrim of peace and as a fellow-traveller on the road that leads to the complete fulfilment of the deepest human longings. On the occasion of Diwali, the festival of lights, which symbolizes the victory of life over death, good over evil, I express the hope that this meeting will speak to the world of the things which unite us all: our common human origin and destiny, our shared responsibility for people’s well-being and progress, our need of the light and strength that we seek in our religious convictions. Down the ages and in so many ways, India has taught that truth which the great Christian teachers also propose, that men and women “by inward instinct” are deeply oriented towards God and seek him from the depths of their being (cf. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 60, art. 5, 3). On this basis, I am convinced that together we can successfully take the path of understanding and dialogue.

2. My presence here among you is meant as a further sign that the Catholic Church wants to enter ever more deeply into dialogue with the religions of the world. She sees this dialogue as an act of love which has its roots in God himself. “God is love”, proclaims the New Testament, “and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. . . Let us love, then, because he has loved us first. . . no-one who fails to love the brother whom he sees can love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn 4,16).

It is a sign of hope that the religions of the world are becoming more aware of their shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family. This is a crucial part of the globalization of solidarity which must come if the future of the world is to be secure. This sense of shared responsibility increases as we discover more of what we have in common as religious men and women.

Which of us does not grapple with the mystery of suffering and death? Which of us does not hold life, truth, peace, freedom and justice to be supremely important values? Which of us is not convinced that moral goodness is soundly rooted in the individual’s and society’s openness to the transcendent world of the Divinity? Which of us does not believe that the way to God requires prayer, silence, asceticism, sacrifice and humility? Which of us is not concerned that scientific and technical progress should be accompanied by spiritual and moral awareness? And which of us does not believe that the challenges now facing society can only be met by building a civilization of love founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty? And how can we do this, except through encounter, mutual understanding and cooperation?

3. The path before us is demanding, and there is always the temptation to choose instead the path of isolation and division, which leads to conflict. This in turn unleashes the forces which make religion an excuse for violence, as we see too often around the world. Recently I was happy to welcome to the Vatican representatives of the world religions who had gathered to build upon the achievements of the Assisi Meeting in 1986. I repeat here what I said to that distinguished Assembly: “Religion is not, and must not become a pretext for conflict, particularly when religious, cultural and ethnic identity coincide. Religion and peace go together: to wage war in the name of religion is a blatant contradiction”. Religious leaders in particular have the duty to do everything possible to ensure that religion is what God intends it to be – a source of goodness, respect, harmony and peace! This is the only way to honour God in truth and justice!

Our encounter requires that we strive to discern and welcome whatever is good and holy in one another, so that together we can acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral truths which alone guarantee the world’s future (cf. Nostra Aetate, NAE 2). In this sense dialogue is never an attempt to impose our own views upon others, since such dialogue would become a form of spiritual and cultural domination. This does not mean that we abandon our own convictions. What it means is that, holding firmly to what we believe, we listen respectfully to others, seeking to discern all that is good and holy, all that favours peace and cooperation.

4. It is vital to recognize that there is a close and unbreakable bond between peace and freedom. Freedom is the most noble prerogative of the human person, and one of the principal demands of freedom is the free exercise of religion in society (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, DH 3). No State, no group has the right to control either directly or indirectly a person’s religious convictions, nor can it justifiably claim the right to impose or impede the public profession and practice of religion, or the respectful appeal of a particular religion to people’s free conscience. Recalling this year the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I wrote that “religious freedom constitutes the very heart of human rights. Its inviolability is such that individuals must be recognized as having the right even to change their religion, if their conscience so demands. People are obliged to follow their conscience in all circumstances and cannot be forced to act against it (cf. Article 18)” (Message for the 1999 World Day of Peace, 5).

5. In India the way of dialogue and tolerance was the path followed by the great Emperors Ashoka, Akbar and Chatrapati Shivaji; by wise men like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda; and by luminous figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Gurudeva Tagore and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who understood profoundly that to serve peace and harmony is a holy task. These are people who, in India and beyond, have made a significant contribution to the increased awareness of our universal brotherhood, and they point us to a future where our deep longing to pass through the door of freedom will find its fulfilment because we will pass through that door together. To choose tolerance, dialogue and cooperation as the path into the future is to preserve what is most precious in the great religious heritage of mankind. It is also to ensure that in the centuries to come the world will not be without that hope which is the life-blood of the human heart. May the Lord of heaven and earth grant this now and for ever.


Address at Arrival Ceremony

Tbilisi, Monday, 8 November 1999

Mr President,
Your Holiness,
Distinguished Guests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. For years I have longed to come to this beloved land, especially since the visits to the Vatican by Your Holiness and by you, Mr President. Since then, – to use the words of the Apostle Paul – I “have sought all the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face” (1Th 2,17) on your own soil; and God has heard my prayer. To him who alone is “holy and strong and immortal” (cf. Trisagion) I give thanks and praise.

I am grateful to you, Mr President, for your invitation to come to Georgia, for all that you have done personally to make this visit possible, and for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of the Government and the entire Georgian people.

I thank Your Holiness the Catholicos-Patriarch, since without your fraternal support I would not be here now to visit the Church over which Your Holiness presides, to greet you and the Holy Synod in the peace of Christ, and to honour the great Christian witness given by your Church through the centuries. I also come in the conviction that, on the eve of the third millennium of the Christian era, we must seek to build new bridges, so that with one heart and mind Christians may together proclaim the Gospel to the world.

“With brotherly affection” (Rm 12,10), I greet Monsignor Giuseppe Pasotto and the Catholic priests, religious and laity of the Latin, Armenian and Syro-Chaldean rites. I look forward to praying with my Catholic brothers and sisters in order to give thanks to God for their past perseverance and their present hope.

2. Standing for the first time on Georgian soil, I am deeply moved by the long and glorious history of Christianity in this land, stretching back to the preaching of Saint Nino in the early fourth century and the reign of King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the late fifth century. From that time onwards, Christianity became the seed of successive flowerings of Georgian culture, especially in the monasteries; and the Church became the guardian of the nation’s identity which was so often threatened. Time and again, Georgia was invaded and broken up, yet its identity and unity have survived to this day. This testifies not only to the great tenacity of the Georgian people, but also to the inexhaustible vitality of the Gospel in this land, since in the most turbulent times Georgia’s true anchor has been its faith in Jesus Christ.

Set between East and West, the Church in Georgia has always been open to contacts with other Christian peoples. At times, the bonds between the Georgian Church and the See of Rome have been deep and strong; and, though at other times there have been tensions, the awareness of our common Christian vocation has never faded completely. My presence among you now is a sign of how deeply the Catholic Church desires to foster communion with the Georgian Church, in response to Christ’s prayer on the night before he died for the unity of all his disciples (cf. Jn Jn 17,23).

3. Christianity has contributed much to Georgia’s past, and it must contribute no less to its future. Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall – the result of extraordinary circumstances in which you, Mr President, personally played a substantial part – an event which symbolically opened a new era in the life of many countries. An atheistic ideology had sought in vain to weaken or even eliminate from this land the religious faith of its people. The followers of all religions suffered serious opposition. Today we must admire and give thanks for the witness of your perseverance. The recovery of Georgia’s independence in 1991 was a great step forward. The task now is to stabilize peace throughout this region, to promote harmony and cooperation, and to ensure that freedom leads to a new flowering of culture, drawing on the strengths of your Christian past and producing a society worthy of this noble nation.

Certain clouds still linger as Georgia struggles to rebuild, materially and spiritually. But the biblical words apply: “the winter is past and the rain is over and gone” (Ct 2,11). It is now time to sow the new seed. At the dawn of the new millennium, leaving behind all the sorrows of the past, may Georgia say in the words of the Song of Songs: “flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come and the voice of the dove is heard in our land” (Ct 2,12).

Or, in the words of the great Georgian poet, Shota Rustavéli: “May good things be shared, like snowflakes in winter; may orphans, widows and the poor be enriched and comforted . . . may harmony reign; may the goat and the wolf feed side by side”.

Mr President, Your Holiness, may the One “who can do more than we can ask or imagine”(Ep 3,20) grant Georgia such a future.

God bless this land with harmony, peace and prosperity!

Speeches 1999 - Saturday, 30 October 1999