Speeches 1999 - Tbilisi, Monday, 8 November 1999




Tbilisi — Patriarchal Palace

Monday, 8 November 1999

Your Holiness,
Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies, beloved Brother Bishops,

1. I am profoundly grateful to Divine Providence for this meeting, which is taking place almost twenty years after the historic first visit of the Catholicos-Patriarch of the ancient Apostolic Church of Georgia to the Apostolic See of Rome. At that time we exchanged the holy kiss of peace and promised that we would pray for one another. Today, thanks to your kind invitation, I have the joy of returning your fraternal visit. Personally, I consider it a great gift of God to have the opportunity to express once more my veneration and esteem for the Church entrusted to your care. From the first preaching of the Gospel in these lands, the Church in Georgia has borne noble witness to Christ and inspired a culture rich in evangelical values; today, in a new climate of freedom, the Apostolic Church of Georgia is turned to the future with confident trust in the power of God’s grace to bring about a new springtime of faith in this blessed land.

In the peace of Christ therefore I greet Your Holiness and the Archbishops and Bishops of the Holy Synod. It is significant that this first visit of a Bishop of Rome to the Orthodox Church of Georgia is taking place on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Son of God, sent by the Father for the redemption of the world. The Great Jubilee is an invitation to all believers to join in a hymn of thanksgiving for the gift of our salvation in Christ, and to work together for the triumph of his Kingdom of holiness, justice and peace. At the same time the Jubilee challenges us to acknowledge, in a spirit of sorrow and repentance, the divisions which have arisen between us during this millennium, in open contradiction to the will of the Lord who prayed that all his disciples might be one (Jn 17,21). May this encounter and the kiss of peace which we will exchange be a grace-filled step towards a renewed fraternity between us, and towards a more truly shared witness to Jesus Christ and to the Gospel of eternal life!

2. I wish to assure you of the Catholic Church’s veneration and admiration for the Church of Georgia. Having its roots in the original Jerusalem community, the Church of Georgia is one of the earliest Christian communities. Linked to the preaching of the Apostle Andrew, it owes the actual conversion of the king and the nation to Saint Nino. A Western author, Rufinus, in his “Ecclesiastical History”, offers us a very ancient description of the life of the Saint, who preached the Gospel of the Lord from her prison by word and prayer, penance and miracles. The “living pillar” which her prayer succeeded in raising to support the temple being built, after no human instrument or effort could raise it, is a beautiful image of herself, the true pillar of the Georgian people’s faith. Holy and learned monks gave this land, which according to tradition was the custodian of the Lord’s tunic, many of its lasting monuments of culture and civilization. Even the alphabet was devised as an instrument for the preaching of the word of God in the language of the people. Hosts of martyrs shed their blood for the Gospel when it was an offence punishable by death to profess the Christian faith: from the nine child martyrs of Kola to Saint Shushanik, Saint Eustachius of Mtskheta, Abo of Tbilisi, to Queen Ketevan. For this Christian history and culture, Georgia merits the recognition of the universal Church.

The century which is about to end has likewise seen in this land a host of confessors and martyrs. Thus your country has been made holy once more by the blood of the witnesses to the Lamb offered for our salvation. I implore their intercession before God for our Churches, that we may walk together on the path of the peace which only the Risen Lord can give.

3. Here, at this providential moment, I cannot fail to thank God for the results of the contacts which have taken place between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church in recent years, beginning with the historic meeting between the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI. Through their openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and their deep personal commitment, those two great leaders set our Churches on a path which, by God’s grace, has seen the growth of a dialogue inspired by charity and fully theological. Ever since the establishment of the Joint International Commission, I have closely followed the progress of the dialogue, which is of the utmost importance for the cause of Christian unity. Basing its study on what Catholics and Orthodox have in common, the Commission has made notable progress. From its establishment within Orthodoxy by a unanimous decision of all the Orthodox Churches, the Commission has dealt with themes of primary importance, such as the Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in the light of the mystery of the Holy Trinity; Faith, Sacraments and the Unity of the Church; the Sacrament of Order in the Sacramental Structure of the Church, and the importance of Apostolic Succession for the sanctification and the unity of the People of God. The Commission continues to deal with questions which pose not a few difficulties in the journey which our Churches have undertaken together. I am confident that the documents of the dialogue can serve as a basis for clarifying our relationship and for avoiding misunderstandings where Catholics and Orthodox live side by side. The work must continue, and whatever obstacles appear along the way can be patiently resolved in a spirit of brotherhood and sincere love of the truth.

In this context, I recall with pleasure the fruitful contacts between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Georgia which began at the time of the Second Vatican Council, to which your Church sent observers. Your Holiness’ visit to Rome marked another intense moment of brotherhood and communion. Here I would mention also that in 1991 the late Archbishop David of Sukhumi and Abkhazia, together with other fraternal delegates, took part in the first Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, which reflected on the need for a new evangelization, the most urgent challenge facing our Churches after the changes of the last decade. As Christian Europe prepares to cross the threshold of the new millennium, how necessary is the contribution of Georgia, this ancient crossroads of culture and tradition, to the building of a new culture of the spirit, a civilization of love inspired and sustained by the liberating message of the Gospel!

4. In recent years, as a result of your country’s newfound freedom, the relations between our Churches have become more direct. The Catholic Church, for her part, has been able to provide for the pastoral care of her faithful. It is my ardent hope and daily prayer that cooperation between our Churches will increase at every level, as an eloquent and necessary expression of the witness to the Gospel which Orthodox and Catholics are called to give. I assure you that my Representative in Georgia will make every effort to foster this relationship of cooperation and understanding in a spirit of true Christian charity, free from misunderstanding and distrust, and marked by complete respect. He knows how much this means to the Bishop of Rome. No matter how difficult the path of reconciliation, we must implore the Holy Spirit to bring to completion what we, in obedience to the Lord, seek to make possible.

Your Holiness, dear Archbishops and Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, I thank you once more for having me here as a guest. Faithful to the commitment which we made many years ago, I assure you of my continued prayers that the Lord will grant the venerable Church of Georgia ever increasing strength and vitality to carry out its apostolic mission. Upon you, dear Brother, and upon all the Bishops who share with you the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the land of Georgia, I invoke the light and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. “To God who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than we can ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ep 3,20-21).




Tbilisi — Svetitskhoveli Patriarchal Cathedral

November 8, 1999

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (Ep 1,3).

Your Holiness and Beatitude,

1. For me this is indeed a moment of true blessing from Almighty God, source of our consolation and hope, who gives me this opportunity to greet the Catholicos-Patriarch and the Holy Synod of the Apostolic Church of Georgia, here in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli. This historic building symbolizes the Georgian Church, and down the centuries it has been a haven of spiritual strength for the nation in every circumstance, joyful as well as sad.

The significance of the material building lies in the fact that it speaks to us of that superior reality which is “God’s building” (1Co 3,9) “made of living stones” (cf. 1P 2,5). Here the holy liturgy is celebrated, in which the pilgrim Church on earth expresses the spiritual bond which unites her with the Church in heaven through the communion of saints. The very stones and the holy icons of this Patriarchal Cathedral speak to us of the Saints and Martyrs of this land who are in the company of Mary, the Great Mother of God, and of all the holy men and women in paradise!

Indeed, according to the constant faith of the Church, the union between those who are still making their pilgrim way on earth with those who sleep in the peace of Christ is constantly reinforced by an exchange of spiritual gifts. Through the fraternal concern of the Saints in Heaven we are helped in our weakness (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 49).

Your Holiness,

2. The words of the Letter to the Hebrews come to mind: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (He 12,1). We cannot doubt that the course which lies before the Church at the dawn of the Third Millennium is that of proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Saviour, to the men and women of today, with no less fervour and conviction than had the great evangelizers of the past. We give thanks to God that the Church in Georgia has continued down the centuries to preach the Good News with steadfast faith and proven fidelity.

The Lord guides human history, and he teaches us to interpret that history. Today, new horizons open up before Christians everywhere, and in particular the Holy Spirit inspires us to hear the plea of Christ himself: “that they may all be one. . . so that the world may believe that the Father has sent him” (cf. Jn Jn 17,21). Such a future will never be the result of our work alone; it will be a great gift and grace from God.

3. Therefore, to the glorious Ever-Virgin Mary, to her spouse Saint Joseph, to Saint Andrew and all the holy Apostles, to all the martyrs and saints I prayerfully entrust the future of our respective Churches.

May the candles we have lighted this evening be a symbol and pledge of our common commitment to let Christ shed his light on the path ahead, dispelling every trace of darkness and gloom and showing the way to a brighter future.

May the Holy Mother of God, the guardian of Georgia, the one who, through the work of the Holy Spirit, gave the Author of Life to the world, gather in her mantle of love the Church of Georgia. May she guide Your Holiness and your brother Bishops in shepherding the people entrusted to your care, so that they may respond with renewed fidelity to God, who calls us to be holy as he himself is holy (cf. Lv Lv 19,2 Mt 5,48).

To the Father of all consolation I entrust this beautiful land, that through a renewed discovery of its Christian heritage Georgia may grow in harmony and prosperity, for the happiness of its people and for greater stability, cooperation and peace throughout the whole region.




His Holiness Pope John Paul II and the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, having come together in Tbilisi in a brotherly encounter and having before their eyes Christ, the Prince of Peace, wish to address an urgent appeal for peace to governments, international organizations, religious leaders and all people of good will.

We are speaking from Georgia in the Caucasus, a region of particular geopolitical and historical importance, linking together Europe and Asia, and providing a meeting place for Eastern and Western culture. Today this region, as many other parts of the world, is facing a grave situation. Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the North Caucasus constitute a threat to world peace and call for decisive action on the part of humanity.

Peace is a supreme gift, without which it is impossible to give full meaning to life and promote development. The human heart longs for this highest good and people aspire to live in harmony. The world today is like a global village. There is a serious danger that conflict in one area spreads beyond those boundaries to involve other nations and create new wars. At an important time such as this, the world must mobilize all its spiritual, intellectual and physical strength in order to avoid a global catastrophe. Terrorism has become a new and real threat to world peace. It is important, therefore, that the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of countries be assured by international organizations.

We therefore appeal to all who hear our message to show wisdom and strong determination to save this planet that is entrusted to our care from the danger of war, and thus create the conditions necessary so that in the third millennium there may be true "peace on earth and goodwill among men".

Tbilisi, 8 November 1999.

His Holiness

Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia

Pope John Paul II

Ilia II



Tuesday, 9 November 1999

Tbilisi, State Residence

Mr President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I have greatly looked forward to this meeting with the men and women of culture, science and the arts of Georgia, for you are in a real way the representatives and the guardians of Georgia’s unique cultural heritage. Georgia is well known as a country of poets and artists, and the proud heir of an ancient tradition, enriched down the centuries by elements drawn from contacts with other nations and peoples. Now, with the collapse of walls which for so long symbolized the separation between East and West, Georgia has entered upon a new and challenging chapter in its history, and is fully committed to rebuilding its social fabric and creating a future of hope and prosperity for its people. As representatives of the world of culture, you have an irreplaceable role in this process. It is up to you to forge a new cultural vision that will draw upon the heritage of the past in order to inspire and shape the future. This noble task becomes a sacred trust at the time when Georgia is about to celebrate its three thousandth anniversary as a nation.

I am particularly grateful to President Shevardnadze for presiding at this meeting, and I thank him for his warm welcome and kind words of introduction. To all of you, distinguished guests, I express the hope that my visit will serve to highlight Georgia’s special vocation as a builder of peace throughout this region and as a bridge between the countries of the Caucasus and the rest of Europe.

2. In addressing you today, I cannot but recall the contribution of Christianity to Georgian culture. It is a significant fact that for many centuries your national literature was almost exclusively religious in inspiration. This reflects something which holds true for all human culture. Culture in fact is a reality born of self-transcendence; it takes shape from an impulse by which human individuality seeks to rise above its limitations in an interior drive to communicate and share. In this sense, we may say that culture has its ultimate roots in man’s “naturally religious soul”. For the inner force which man experiences, and which impels him to seek the fulfilment of his being in his relations with others, remains unsatisfied until it attains the Other who is Absolute.

It is precisely in this movement of self-transcendence, of recognition of the other, of the need to communicate with the other, that culture is created. But this drive towards the other is possible only through love. Ultimately, it is love alone which succeeds in uprooting the tragic selfishness that lies deep within the human heart. It is love which helps us to place others and the Other at the centre of our lives. Christians have always sought to create a culture which is fundamentally open to the eternal and transcendent, while at the same time attentive to the temporal, the concrete, the human. Generations of Christians have striven to build and to pass on a culture, the goal of which is an ever more profound and universal fraternal communion of persons. Yet this universality is not one of oppressive uniformity. Genuine culture respects the mystery of the human person, and must therefore involve a dynamic exchange between the particular and the universal. It must seek a synthesis of unity and diversity. Love alone is capable of holding this tension in a creative and fruitful balance.

3. These thoughts come spontaneously to mind in considering the ancient Christian culture of Georgia. The preaching of the Gospel not only made known the word of salvation but also prompted the birth of the Georgian alphabet and the subsequent growth of your national identity. The Christian faith inspired a love for the written word which has had a profound effect on your language, your literature and your whole cultural life.

The tradition according to which Georgians present at the Crucifixion of Christ brought back from Jerusalem the seamless tunic of the Lord symbolizes as it were the nation’s resolute aspiration to unity. So too, the traditions according to which the Gospel was preached in your country by the Apostles Andrew and Simon, as well as by Saint Clement of Rome, exiled to the mines of the Chersonese. While they emphasize the venerable antiquity of the Church in Georgia, such traditions are also an indication of a profound consciousness of the bonds of communion which the Church in this land maintained within the one Church of Christ. A sign of the importance attached to this communion are the many translations which are part of Georgian religious literature; these represent a genuine treasure which you have shared with the whole Christian world, preserving as well texts which otherwise would have been lost. Another testimony of this openness and exchange are the Georgian monasteries and monks present in different parts of the Christian world; we need only think of the Monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos. This openness of your culture, so evident in the past, is equally important today. We all know how essential it is, especially in this part of the world, to promote a culture of solidarity and cooperation, a culture capable of combining all the richness of your own identity with the wealth found in the encounter with other peoples and societies.

4. We now see a process of globalization which tends to underestimate distinctiveness and variety, and which is marked by the rise of new forms of ethno- centrism and exaggerated nationalism. In such a situation, the challenge is to promote and pass on a living culture, a culture capable of fostering communication and brotherhood between different groups and peoples, and between the different fields of human creativity. Today’s world is challenging us, in other words, to know and respect one another in and through the diversity of our cultures. If we respond, the human family will enjoy unity and peace, while individual cultures will be enriched and renewed, purified of all that poses an obstacle to mutual encounter and dialogue.

One of the most difficult challenges of our time is the encounter between tradition and modernity. This dialogue between old and new will in great part determine the future of the younger generation, and therefore the future of the nation. It is a dialogue which calls for much thought and reflection, and demands a wise equilibrium, for much is at stake. On the one hand, there can be the temptation to take refuge in forms of nostalgia closed to what is positive in the contemporary world. On the other hand there is a strong tendency today to adopt uncritically the syncretism and existential aimlessness which are typical of a certain modernity. In meeting the cultural challenges of the present, Georgia’s spiritual heritage is a resource of inestimable value, for it preserves the great treasure of a unified and comprehensive notion of man and his destiny. This heritage and the traditions which spring from it are a precious birthright of all Georgians, which even the stones proclaim — we need only think of that remarkable jewel which is the church of Jvari, a beacon of spiritual light for your land.

5. Today there is an urgent need to recover the vision of an organic unity embracing man and all of human history. Christians are convinced that at the heart of this unity is the mystery of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, who reveals man to himself and discloses his sublime vocation (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22). Do not be afraid of Christ! Faith in him opens before us a spiritual world that has inspired and continues to inspire humanity’s intellectual and artistic energies. Christ sets us free for authentic creativity precisely because he makes us capable of entering into the mystery of Love, the love of God and the love of man, and in doing so he makes it possible for us to appreciate and at the same time to transcend particularity.

May men and women committed to the arts, science, politics and culture use their creativity for the promotion of life in all its truth and beauty and goodness. This can only be done by striving for an integral vision of man. Where such a vision is weak, human dignity is diminished, and the goods of creation, meant for the benefit and progress of humanity, sooner or later turn against man and against life. The century now drawing to a close, with its painful experiences of war, violence, torture and various forms of ideological oppression, testifies all too eloquently to this. At the same time, it stands as a witness to the enduring power of the human spirit to triumph over all that seeks to suffocate the irrepressible quest for truth and freedom.

Dear friends, I offer my cordial good wishes for your work and I pray that the Jubilee of Christ which we are preparing to celebrate will be an invitation to all people of good will to work together to build a future of hope, a true civilization of love. Upon all of you I invoke the light and joy which are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life.



Tbilisi, Church of Saints Peter and Paul

Tuesday, 9 November 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. With great affection I greet you, the members of the Catholic community of Georgia and the Caucasus: in a special way, I greet Monsignor Giuseppe Pasotto, the Apostolic Administrator, and you his “fellow workers for the Kingdom of God” (cf. Col Col 4,11) in this beloved land. Our meeting is taking place in the venerable Church of Saints Peter and Paul. This building, the only Catholic church to remain open in Tbilisi during the period of persecution, is an eloquent symbol of persevering fidelity to Christ and unbroken communion with the See of Peter. Let us thank Almighty God for the faith and courage which sustained the Catholic community during those difficult times and prepared the way for its present rebirth. May the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, who were united in the proclamation of the Gospel and in their martyrdom, watch over this portion of the Lord’s flock and strengthen you as you face the challenges of a new chapter in Georgia’s history!

2. A particular greeting goes to you, my brother priests, faithful servants of the Lord. Like the seed which falls to the ground and dies, only to produce much fruit (cf. Jn Jn 12,24), your priestly ministry, carried on in hiddenness and humility, quietly enriches the soil from which, by God’s grace, new and abundant spiritual fruit is now emerging. Through Holy Orders, you have been sacramentally configured to Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church. I urge you “to put on the mind of Christ” (cf. Phil Ph 2,5) and to grow each day in that pastoral charity which has its origin in his Sacred Heart and reaches out to embrace all humanity. Under your leadership may the Catholic community in Georgia, in the richness of its expression in the Latin, Armenian and Chaldean traditions, be a sign to the nation of the unity and peace which are the Lord’s gifts to those who trust in his promises.

You too, dear men and women religious, have a special place in the Pope’s heart. Consecrated to the Lord, your commitment to the pursuit of perfect charity leads you to generous service of those in need, and those who, often without knowing it, are seeking the Kingdom of God amid the false promises of a world confused about right values. Your works of education and charity point to the Lord’s presence and the healing power of his grace. I am especially grateful for the witness of charity given by all associated with the Redemptor Hominis Clinic, and for the outstanding work of Caritas Georgia.

3. I give my encouragement and support to the lay faithful of this blessed land of Georgia. In your families, your parishes and your associations, celebrate your faith in Christ, and be a leaven of the Gospel in society around you! You too have been consecrated, by your Baptism. You too have been sent forth, as members of God’s priestly, royal and prophetic people as witnesses to the Gospel. Let the light of Christ scatter whatever shadows and darkness you may find in your own hearts and in the world around you. Do not be afraid to open yourselves to Christ and the purifying power of his love.

4. Dear friends, at the threshold of the Third Christian Millennium, may the Church in Georgia, freed from the restrictions of the past, look to the future with immense hope and work for a new springtime of the Gospel. May each one be a witness to Christ’s peace, ever concerned to promote understanding and dialogue, especially with our Orthodox brothers and sisters. Commending the Catholic community of the Caucasus to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I invoke abundant divine blessings upon you and your families.



"Behold, I make all things new" (Ap 21,5).

1. Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, dear Brothers and Sisters, these are the words of Sacred Scripture which I suggested to the Italian Church four years ago at the Ecclesial Convention in Palermo in order to instil new hope in the Christian community and in all civil society. At that time the desire to revive in believers "the Gospel of love for a new society in Italy" gave rise to the intention to walk "through history with the gift of love". Today, responding to the wishes of the Italian Episcopal Conference, I am pleased to address you, participants in the 43rd Social Week of Italian Catholics, with this Message, which draws strength from another passage in the Book of Revelation: "The city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light" (Ap 21,23). This statement directly refers to the heavenly Jerusalem. The believer, however, knows that the "earthly city" will also be able to carry out its true renewal to the extent that it receives light from the "city of God".

On the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I would like to impart great trust in Christ, the Lord of history, to you and to everyone who is called to plan and to foster society's progress. It is in him that we can "fully understand man, the world and Italy today" (Address to the Third Ecclesial Convention of the Church in Italy, Palermo, 23 November 1995, n. 1). "This nation, which has a famous and, in a certain sense, unique legacy of faith, has for some time been swept by cultural trends that undermine the very foundations of this Christian heritage.... However, perceiving the depths of the challenge does not mean allowing oneself to be dominated by fear" (ibid., n. 2).

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council encouraged society's leaders, instilling in them all the daring of the Spirit: "The Church praises and esteems those who devote themselves to the public good for the service of men and take upon themselves the burdens of public office" (Gaudium et spes, GS 75).

2. First of all, I express my appreciation of the decision made by the Episcopal Conference and the Scientific Organization Committee to hold this Social Week in the city of Naples, an eloquent "symbol" of southern Italy. In this regard I remember what I said four years ago in Palermo: the people of the South will take charge of their own recovery if they are supported by the solidarity of the whole nation.

Referring again to that Ecclesial Convention, I would also like to repeat that "there is no renewal, even social, which does not start with contemplation. The meeting with God in prayer imbues the course of history with a mysterious force which touches hearts and leads them to conversion and renewal, and precisely in this regard it becomes a powerful historical force in the transformation of social structures" (Address to the Third Ecclesial Convention of the Church in Italy, Palermo, n. 11). Italy's European vocation, precisely because of its Christian inspiration, "can make a fundamental contribution to the building of a Europe of the spirit", which "can transform a political and economic aggregate into a real common home for all Europeans, by helping to form an exemplary family of nations" (Address to the Ambassador of Italy, 13 September 1999).

The priority of the evangelization of culture, a privileged area where faith meets human life and history, is connected with the pre-eminence of the spiritual dimension. That is why I encourage you to continue confidently implementing the systematic cultural project that the Italian Church has undertaken.

3. After a demanding period of discernment, which involved leading Italian experts, the theme of this event was expressed in a question: "What kind of civil society should Italy have in the future?". This is a stimulating and urgent theme, already foreseen in some way at the Ecclesial Convention of Loreto: "Christians repropose a participation which is service and is born of love and concern for civil society ... with the willingness to share in human history" (Nota CEI dopo Loreto, n. 3: Enchiridion CEI, 3, 1506).

Wherever the State recognizes the existence of all cultural and organizational resources as distinct from the political and economic sphere, whose original planning capacity aims at encouraging harmonious coexistence, the way is opened to an effective pursuit of the common good. Similarly, wherever there is a systematic appreciation of those associations of citizens who freely mobilize themselves in initiatives of mutual support and cooperation, the foundations for harmonious and fruitful coexistence are laid. The acceptance of the ethical principles which are at the root of civil coexistence and, in particular, a sincere respect for the principle of subsidiarity are the conditions for all citizens to develop a new public spirit and civic conscience.

It is comforting to note how in civil society a deep leaven is present which stems from the work of many family associations concerned to make the decisive importance of the family felt in social and political choices. The efforts of many groups and movements, which in various ways are committed to promoting the rights and duties of citizens, also contribute to this leaven.

Also worthy of praise are those initiatives concerned with safeguarding creation, with improving the quality of life, with volunteer work in every form of service, with cultural and business formation and with the progress of democratic participation in the region. These are grass-roots movements which support the growing dynamism of the "social economy" (also called the "third sector"), constituting a vast and varied array of voluntary social associations.

These phenomena can easily be described as a type of "treasure" of civil society, because they constitute the privileged place for fostering values and revitalizing them.

4. The "key" which should open the door of political society to civil society is the principle of subsidiarity. My predecessor, Pius XI, far-sightedly defined it as "a very important principle of social philosophy", showing that "just as it is unlawful to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own efforts and initiative, in order to entrust it to the community, it is likewise wrong to entrust to a greater and higher society what lesser or subordinate communities can accomplish"; in fact, "the natural objective of any intervention by society itself is that of helping in a supplementary way the members of the social body, and not to destroy and absorb them" (Encyclical Quadragesimo anno, n. 80). If the supreme authority of the State respects and fully utilizes the activity of lesser institutions, "it will be able more freely, powerfully and effectively to accomplish the roles that belong to it alone, because only it can accomplish them" (ibid., n. 81).

The validity of the principle of subsidiarity has always been confirmed by the papal Magisterium.

The Second Vatican Council hoped that all citizens would have "effective opportunities to play an active part in the establishment of the juridical foundations of the political community, in the administration of public affairs, in determining the aims and the terms of reference of public bodies" (Gaudium et spes, GS 75). For this reason, "the rights of all individuals, families and organizations and their practical implementation must be acknowledged, protected and fostered, together with the public duties binding on all citizens" (ibid.). The Council's admonition is explicit: "Governments should take care not to put obstacles in the way of family, cultural or social groups, or of organizations and intermediate institutions, nor to hinder their lawful and constructive activity; rather, they should eagerly seek to promote such orderly activity" (ibid.).

On various occasions I too have recalled these principles, especially in the Encyclical Centesimus annus, emphasizing that the State must create favourable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity and that a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need, and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good (cf. nn. 15; 48).

5. The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is a strong incentive for the Social Week to reflect on the contribution to be made to the expectations of the Italian people and to the Church's own mission of evangelizing the poor. Indeed, it is clear that "a commitment to justice and peace in a world like ours, marked by so many conflicts and intolerable social and economic inequalities, is a necessary condition for the preparation and celebration of the Jubilee" (Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 51). As an application of this, in the Bull of Indiction of the Holy Year Incarnationis mysterium I wrote that one of the Holy Year's goals is to help create "an economic model which serves everyone" (n. 12).

I have frequently addressed the theme of globalization, an important sign of our times. In the Encyclical Centesimus annus, I invited all leaders to promote "effective international agencies which will oversee and direct the economy to the common good" (n. 58). I recently called for the drafting of "ethical or professional codes" and "juridical instruments" for dealing with "critical situations", in order to eliminate the ancient tragedy in which always "the weakest are the first to pay" (Address to the "Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice" Foundation, 11 September 1999, n. 2).

By their vocation Christians are called to identify viable ways of fulfilling this duty of social justice, which can be shared by all who put the human person and the common good at the centre of every political project. In the financial and administrative sector it is also necessary "never to violate the dignity of man and, for this reason, to build structures and systems that will foster justice and solidarity for the good of all" (ibid., n. 3). Again, "globalization will have many positive effects if it can be sustained by a strong sense of the absoluteness and dignity of all human persons and of the principle that earthly goods are meant for everyone" (ibid., n. 4). Therefore, "it is very opportune to support and encourage those projects of "ethical finance', "microcredit' and "fair and equitable trade' which are within everyone' s reach and possess a positive and even pedagogical value for global co-responsibility" (ibid.).

6. The heart of society is the family. Based on marriage, it is a stable community, a sanctuary of love and life, the essential cell of the social body. The health of society depends on the family's "health". It is the task of all public leaders to work together for the good of the family. For the civil authorities this is a sacred duty, which entails safeguarding the lofty mission of parents.

Defence of human dignity from conception, a fundamental principle of natural law, "expects from the State's positive legislation that full recognition based on an awareness that there is an undisputed value in motherhood for the individual and for society as a whole" (Address to the Ambassador of Italy, 13 September 1999).

Society's future especially depends on young people. "It is in the education of the younger generation that the religious experience of the Italian nation can boast a creative originality of scholastic institutions, to a great extent aimed at the less well-off, which deserves respect and support through effective legal and financial parity between State and non-State schools.... In the name of my special concern for the young generation, I feel compelled to ask all the members of Italian society to make a joint effort to overcome these obstacles and delays in order to provide the new generation with that work which frees the personality and enriches civil society" (ibid.).

Unfortunately, the scourge of unemployment has reached a state of inhumanity in the world of youth and waits for recovery from an intelligent and tenacious act of justice.

The Church, from her origins and, in the contemporary era, through the Encyclical Rerum novarum, has proclaimed and practised a preferential option for the poor, considering it a "special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity" (Centesimus annus, CA 11 cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis, SRS 42). I follow with concern the data showing that the gap between rich and poor is also widening in Italy, and the state of poverty extending and diversifying. These facts suggest complex phenomena which are in part extraneous to this country. We cannot be resigned to this reality, but must respond with a renewed commitment to solidarity and justice, by searching for new ways to combine the demands of the economy with social needs.

7. Dear friends! Living faith spurs us to build the common good in society. The supernatural certainty that "nothing is impossible for God" becomes the human confidence that justice in the world is possible. The Eucharist is the inexhaustible source of energy for Christians in social and political service as well. The Bread of heaven is a gift from God for body and soul. The Gospel is a light that illumines human society with divine love.

"Blessed" today and always "are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Mt 5,6), even if their generous commitment brings them persecution (cf. Mt Mt 5,10). The Christian politician must constantly act in the light of this knowledge, seeking to revive in himself that spirit of service which, together with the necessary competence and efficiency, can make his activity transparent and consistent (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, CL 42). As he well knows, "a charity that loves and serves the person can never be separated from justice.... The lay faithful must bear witness to those human and Gospel values that are intimately connected with political activity itself, such as liberty and justice, solidarity, faithful and unselfish dedication for the good of all, a simple lifestyle, and a preferential love for the poor and the least" (ibid.).

In Italy, my "second homeland", I cannot but hope that civil society will always be inspired by Christian tradition and culture. Charity practised with justice can produce in the community the harmonious concord which St Augustine considers the highest response of Christ's Gospel to the aspirations of humanity: "What is a community of citizens if not a multitude of persons united by the bond of concord?... In a State, concord is what musicians call harmony: civic concord cannot exist without justice" (Epist. 138, 2, 10; cf. Civ. Dei, 2, 21 1).

This is my wish, united with prayer, for the beloved Italian nation, as I cordially send all of you who serve it in Christ's name a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 10 November 1999.

Speeches 1999 - Tbilisi, Monday, 8 November 1999