Speeches 1999 - Saturday 20 November 1999

We should not forget, of course, that the Church herself, as a "sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of all mankind", is a mystery. With good reason the first chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium is entitled "The Mystery of the Church". Therefore, the Church cannot be genuinely renewed, unless our starting-point is her nature as mystery. What the Council had expressly stated was called to mind once again by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops held 20 years after the close of that ecclesial assembly: "Inasmuch as she is communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Church is, in Christ, the "mystery' of the love of God present in human history" (Message, II). This truth should mark the teaching, ministry and pastoral activity of the whole Church. This conviction also forms the basis of all the post-conciliar documents of the papal Magisterium, which are meant to foster a renewal in keeping with contemporary needs.

3. It should be noted, moreover, that the same Extraordinary Synod of 1985 felt obliged to raise a warning: the assembled Bishops admitted that "a partial and selective reading of the Council, a one-sided presentation of the Church as a purely institutional structure devoid of her mystery", has led to serious deficiencies particularly in certain lay organizations which "critically consider the Church a mere institution" (Final Document, I, 4). As a result, many claim the right to organize the Church as if she were a multinational corporation and thus subject to a purely human form of authority. In reality, the Church as mystery is not "our" but "his" Church: the People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate! The Apostle Paul urges us: "Test everything; retain what is good" (1Th 5,21). The Bishop's task is to encourage priests and all those who share responsibility for pastoral care to work towards the spiritual renewal of parishes. Anyone who rushes from one event to another is soon out of breath. In order to prevent spiritual exhaustion, it is more and more necessary to catch one's breath in prayer. For the liveliest parish is not the one with the fullest schedule of events, but the community that concentrates everything it does on its call to live in communion with the Triune God by listening to the word of God and participating in the sacraments. This need has been stressed by many advocates of an ecclesiology of communio inspired by the Council's teaching, to which theologians from your country have also rendered great service.

4. We are at the end of the preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. This year is dedicated to the first person of the divine Trinity. Reflection on God the Father inevitably leads to the Church, as St Cyprian summarized in a splendid phrase: "No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother" (De ecclesiae catholicae unitate, 6).

This statement, which the Bishop of Carthage felt was necessary after the experiences of Decius' persecutions and the incidents regarding the lapsi, prompted the wish "that, if possible, none of the brothers [and sisters] would perish, and that the Mother would joyfully gather to her bosom the one body of a united people" (De ecclesiae catholicae unitate, 23). We all know the great difference between the message entrusted to the Church and the human frailty of those who preach the Gospel. However history may judge these weaknesses, we should not forget this deficiency. On the contrary, we must do our best to prevent it from harming the spread of the Gospel. For this "Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work, and she exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the Church" (Lumen gentium, LG 15).

5. While the Church shows motherly concern and solidarity for her sons and daughters, at the same time she stands before them. The Mater is also Magister; she has the authority to bring up and teach her children, and so lead them to salvation. Mother Church gives birth to her sons and daughters; she nurtures and educates them. She gathers her children together and sends them out, all the while assuring them that they are safe in her motherly bosom. At the same time she is saddened by those who have fallen away and holds the door open to reconciliation, which is her constant concern. You Pastors have a particular responsibility in this regard: as "fathers of your communities", you have the right and duty to exercise the Church's "maternal authority", as the Second Vatican Council put it so clearly: in their preaching, the Bishops should "proclaim the maternal solicitude of the Church for all people, whether they be Catholics or not, and should be especially solicitous for the poor and weaker brethren.... Since it is the mission of Church to maintain close relations with the society in which she lives, the Bishops should make it their special care to approach people and initiate and promote dialogue with them. These discussions on religious matters should be marked by charity of expression as well as by humility and courtesy, so that the truth may be combined with charity, and understanding with love. The discussions should likewise be characterized by due prudence allied, however, with sincerity, which by promoting friendship is conducive to union of minds" (Christus Dominus, CD 13).

6. The Church's sons and daughters must respond to her motherly affection with heartfelt obedience. At a time when maturity is spoken of so often not only in society but especially in the Church, there is an ever growing attitude that true freedom can be achieved by "cutting the umbilical cord to the Church". As Bishops, you are trying to correct such erroneous tendencies by clearly and unambiguously preaching and living what was always a rule of life for the great saints: even in personally difficult situations, they never left the bosom of Mother Church. I would like to return to Cyprian's analogy and complete it: only those who heed Mother Church obey God the Father. The Bishop of Carthage developed this idea by pointing out the serious consequences, which are still possible since his time: "Whatever forsakes its mother's womb can neither live nor breathe on its own, but loses the possibility of salvation" (De ecclesiae catholicae unitate, n. 23).

7. These thoughts are not unrealistic. As Shepherds of your flocks in Germany, you too must have experienced, especially in recent years, the great demands that the office of leadership makes on your strength and energy when particular groups try, through concerted action and continuous pressure, to bring about changes in the Church that do not correspond to the will of Jesus Christ. In view of this situation, the Bishop's task is to take the lead, to show the way, to clarify, calm and always try to bring people together - all this through dialogue. I ask you: do not be discouraged!

While listening and reaching out, do not allow any human power to loosen the indissoluble bonds between you and the Successor of Peter!

At this point I would like to address a word to the laity. I express my heartfelt appreciation of the countless men and women who faithfully fulfil their call as a chosen race and royal priesthood (cf. 1P 2,9). In the light of their actions, I likewise point out the attitude that the laity should have towards their Bishops and priests: "To their Pastors they should disclose their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ.... If the occasion arises, this should be done through the institutions established by the Church for that purpose and always with truth, courage and prudence and with reverence and charity towards those who, by reason of their office, represent the person of Christ" (Lumen gentium, LG 37).

Unity with the Bishop is the essential and indispensable attitude of the faithful Catholic, for one cannot claim to be on the Pope's side without also standing by the Bishops in communion with him.

Nor can one claim to be with the Bishops without standing by the Head of the College.

8. Venerable Brothers! I greatly appreciate that you are doing everything you can to give your faithful an example of communio within the Church. I am indeed aware that your primary concern is to put every pastoral initiative into a framework that is in full agreement with the world's Bishops gathered around the Successor of Peter.

Here I am thinking especially of the problem of the defence of life, in which it is essential for all the Bishops of the universal Church to bear unanimous and unambiguous witness. From the letters written by me or at my direction, you can gather how concerned I am about the counseling and aid given to pregnant women. I hope that this significant Church activity in your country will soon be definitively reorganized according to my instructions. I am convinced that Church counseling which is distinguished by its quality will be an eloquent sign for society and an effective way to help women in distress to accept the life they carry in their womb.

9. Speaking of the royal priesthood in connection with the relationship between ordained pastors and the laity, I would like to recall the common priesthood. Thanks be to God that the Second Vatican Council brought this profound truth back to light! In the New Covenant there is only one sacrifice and one priest: Jesus Christ. All the baptized, men and women, have a share in this sacrifice of Christ, for they should "present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rm 12,1). This participation involves not only the priestly, but also the prophetic and kingly mission of Christ. It expresses, moreover, the Church's organic union with Christ, which the Letter to the Ephesians describes with the image of bridegroom and bride (cf. Eph Ep 5,21-33).

Here we find ourselves at the heart of the paschal mystery, which reveals God's spousal love in all its depth. Christ is the bridegroom because he gave himself: he gave his body and shed his blood for us (cf. Lk Lc 22,19-20). The fact that Jesus "loved to the end" (Jn 13,1) emphasizes the nuptial meaning of love. Christ as Redeemer is the bridegroom of the Church. So we should rightly see the Eucharist, in which Christ builds up his Body, the Church, as the sacrament of the bridegroom and his bride.

As a consequence, there is a fundamental difference between the common priesthood of all the baptized and the priesthood of the ordained ministers (cf. Interdicasterial Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests). The Church needs ordained priests who in sacramental celebrations act "in persona Christi" and represent Christ the bridegroom in relation to the Church as bride. In other words: the ordained pastors, who are members of the one Body of the Church, represent its head, who is Christ. Therefore, any attempt to clericalize the laity or to laicize the clergy must be rejected. It does not correspond to the mysterious ordering of the Church as willed by her Founder. Nor are tendencies that eliminate the essential difference between clergy and laity of any use in attracting vocations. I ask you, dear Brothers, to keep alive in your parish communities a deep desire for ordained priests. Even a long period of waiting, due to the current shortage of priests, should not lead a community to accept an emergency situation as the rule. Priests and laity need each other. They cannot replace but only complement one another.

10. At this point another observation is particularly useful: in your land, there is growing discontent with the Church's attitude towards the role of women. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to be aware yet that all the statements made about the common priesthood of the baptized apply equally to men and women. Without doubt, the dignity of women is great and must be more and more appreciated! However, too little consideration is given to the difference between the human and civil rights of the person and his rights, duties and related functions in the Church. Precisely for this reason, some time ago, by virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren, I recalled "that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgement is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful" (Ordinatio sacerdotalis, n. 4).

As the authentic Pastors of your Dioceses, you have the duty to reject contrary opinions put forward by individuals or organizations and to encourage that open and clear dialogue in truth and love which Mother Church must foster regarding the future of her daughters. Do not hesitate, then, to emphasize that the Magisterium of the Church has taken this decision not as an act of her own power, but in the knowledge of her duty to obey the will of the Lord of the Church herself.

Therefore, the doctrine that the priesthood is reserved to men possesses, by virtue of the Church's ordinary and universal Magisterium, that character of infallibility which Lumen gentium speaks of and to which I gave juridical form in the Motu Proprio Ad tuendam fidem: When the individual Bishops, "even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving among themselves and with Peter's Successor the bond of communion, agree in their authoritative teaching on matters of faith and morals that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely, they infallibly proclaim the doctrine of Christ" (Lumen gentium, LG 25 cf. Ad tuendam fidem, LG 3).

Of course, we should help those who cannot understand or accept the Church's teaching to open their hearts and minds to the challenge that the faith poses to them. As authentic teachers of the Church who is mother and teacher, it must be one of our highest priorities to help and support the faith of our communities. Therefore, we should stop at nothing, if necessary, to dispel confusion and correct errors. So I invoke the gifts of the Holy Spirit on your efforts to give an authentic character based on Christian doctrine to the role of women - for the renewal of society and for the rediscovery of the Church's true face.

11. Dear Brothers! During this meeting we have considered the Church first and foremost as a mystery. A mystery ultimately escapes the grasp of human reason. Only with the eyes of faith can it be considered lovingly and be understood in depth. The images of the Church as mother and teacher, as bride and body, have always brought us back to Christ, the bridegroom and head of his Church. We feel under particular obligation to him in our pastoral ministry. So the words I have addressed to you at these meetings have been clear and unambiguous. I cannot hide the fact that in recent months I have often felt like the Apostle when he addressed those well-known words to the community in Corinth: "I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you" (2Co 2,4).

Tell your priests, deacons and religious that the Pope is close to them! Assure the men and women, the young and old, the sick and disabled that they can all find refuge in the bosom of Mother Church. With patience, trust and love endeavour to support the local Churches entrusted to each of you and lead them like a bride to the heavenly wedding feast.

I ask the Virgin Mary for her protection and call upon her to intercede for you and for everyone entrusted to your pastoral care. What childlike trust is expressed in the words of an old prayer that is widely known in your homeland: Blessed Virgin, God's Mother and mine, let me always be truly thine!

May the Apostolic Blessing I cordially give you accompany each and every one of you.



Saturday, 20 November 1999

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. I am pleased to meet all of you who in various ways represent the Luigi Bocconi Business College in Milan. I first of all thank Prof. Mario Monti for his courteous words expressing your sentiments. I extend a cordial greeting to the academic authorities, teachers, staff and students of this prestigious Milanese institution.

Your welcome visit today is particularly significant because it occurs close to the Jubilee Year and gives me the opportunity to stress that the Jubilee also has an important message for the social life of individual States, as well as for relations between the great world economic blocs.

Not only in your research, but also in your daily experience you can note how science and economic activity today must keep abreast of the European integration process, which is even more advanced since the introduction of the single currency, as well as the broad phenomenon of globalization.

These two closely connected realities call for correct interpretation, critical acceptance and adequate regulation. This is a challenge to all, but particularly for those who, like you, are expert students of the economy.

2. As it also became clear during the recent Second Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, the introduction of the single European currency has proved, on the one hand, to be a harbinger of great opportunities, giving Europe and its economic development greater stability and causing a qualitative leap in the internal life of the European continent; on the other hand, risks are involved because it might foster the hegemony of finance and a market mentality over the social and cultural dimensions.

Similar observations can be made about the complex phenomenon of globalization. No one can dispute the positive elements and opportunities, especially regarding efficiency and increased production, as well as the process of interdependence and unity among peoples. At the same time, however, the risks cannot be underestimated, since the phenomenon of globalization is often governed only or primarily by mercantilist considerations to the benefit and advantage of the powerful, and can thus be a harbinger of further inequality, injustice and exclusion.

3. It is therefore very important to be alert and to make every effort so that the inherent potential of these phenomena is developed and the associated risks are better controlled and neutralized as much as possible, despite their unfortunate tendency to gain the upper hand. In this demanding task, those who are dedicated to study and research have great responsibility; indeed, they can and must lay the scientific foundations for economic activity that will create lasting prospects of growth and employment.

For this whole project to become a reality, the economy must be studied and organized, and its value and limitations recognized. Indeed, since economic activity is an essential aspect and dimension of human activity, it is not only necessary but can be a source of brotherhood and a sign of Providence. It is from this standpoint that in the Encyclical Centesimus annus I affirmed the positive value of an "economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector" (n. 42).

4. It is necessary to harmonize the demands of the economy with those of ethics. At a deeper and more radical level, it is urgent and necessary to recognize, safeguard and promote the indisputable primacy of the human person. An economy truly worthy of the name must be planned and achieved with respect for all the values and requirements of each and every human person and with a view to solidarity. In this regard, as I have more than once recalled, it is becoming urgent to act so that the economy, while retaining its legitimate autonomy, can be coordinated with the demands of a public policy essentially ordered to the common good. This also implies the search for suitable juridical instruments for an effective supranational "management" of the economy: corresponding to an international economic community should be an international civil society capable of expressing forms of economic and political subjectivity inspired by solidarity and the quest for the common good, in an ever widening vision that embraces the whole world.

5. I deeply hope that your work, in keeping with the Church's social teaching, will make a substantial contribution to the common effort to build an ever more just and fraternal society, where goods and resources are put at the service of all.

In offering you my wish that you will observe the Holy Year now at hand with commmitment and joy, I entrust you to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, and affectionately bless you all.




Monday, 22 November 1999

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Religious,
Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today we meet again to renew our hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God the day after yesterday's solemn liturgy in the Vatican Basilica during which I had the joy of canonizing 12 new saints, steadfast witnesses to Christ, the King of the Universe. At the same time, let us reflect once again on their shining example of unconditional love for God and of generous devotion to the spiritual and material good of their brethren.

2. With great affection I greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who have come to Rome. On this occasion I extend a special greeting to the Brothers of the Christian Schools, accompanied by their students and alumni, the Passionist Fathers, as well as the members of the great Hospitaller family. These saints, beloved sons of the Church and faithful witnesses to the risen Lord, offer us the testimony of their rich spirituality, forged in daily faithfulness and unconditional self-giving to their vocation of service to neighbour.

3. The martyred Brothers of the Christian Schools canonized yesterday, followers of the charism of St John Baptist de La Salle, were totally dedicated to the complete education of children and young people. They belong to a long series of Christian educators who devoted their lives and energies to teaching in Catholic schools, committed to this indispensable service that the Church offers society. In our day the latter is sometimes individualistic and is tempted to secularism. The Holy Martyrs of Turón, who came from various places in Spain and one from Argentina, are an eloquent proof that fidelity to Christ is worth more than one's life.

May their example, together with that of Fr Inocencio de la Inmaculada, spur young people to embrace the lifestyle which the Gospel offers us, living it with courage and enthusiasm. May the educational work of these holy martyrs also be a model for Christian teachers on the threshold of the new millennium now close at hand.

With regard to the formation of the younger generation, I would like to recall the fundamental duty of parents, who have the primary responsibility for their children's education, which implies that they be given absolute freedom in choosing schools for their children. The public authorities, for their part, should ensure that families are given the necessary conditions, on the basis of respect for pluralism and religious freedom, so that in all schools, whether public or private, an education in conformity with their own moral and religious principles is imparted to their children. And this is even more necessary in a country like Spain, where most parents desire a religious education for ther children.

4. St Benedict Menni, an illustrious member of the Hospitaller Order of St John of God and founder of the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, lived his vocation as an apostle in the field of health care, sparing neither effort nor suffering, with a boldness and unlimited devotion in the care of the sick, especially children and the mentally ill.

The work carried out by his brothers in religion and the sisters of the institute he founded is most timely in today's world, where all too often the weak and suffering are marginalized. May the great Hospitaller family, faithful to the charism of the new saint, imitate the great love he had for the most disadvantaged, by devoting their whole lives to their service.

St Benedict Menni discovered his vocation precisely when he had almost ended his volunteer service in Milan. Many of you pilgrims who have come for his canonization are volunteer workers in various hospital centres and in other social assistance centres. This service enriches your life and increases your capacity for self-giving and solidarity towards your neighbour, especially the suffering. I encourage you to continue this work, inspired by the example of Fr Menni, by imitating and following him on the path of mercy he took.

5. I address you, dear religious of the Order of Friars Minor, and everyone who, with you, is rejoicing over the canonization of St Thomas of Cori. "I have come here to become holy": with these words the new saint presented himself at the hermitage of Bellegra, where for many years he continuously followed this demanding form of Gospel life.

He fully understood that every true reform begins with oneself, and, for this reason his humble person ranks among the great reformers of the Order of Friars Minor.

The intensity of his intimate relationship with God, especially from his deep devotion to the Eucharist, bore fruit in his pastoral work, which was so effective that he earned the title "apostle of the Subiaco region". A true son of the Poverello of Assisi, what was said of St Francis can also be said of him, namely, that he "was not so much a man who prayed as one who himself became a living prayer" (Thomas of Celano, Vita Secunda, 95: Fonti Francescane, 682).

6. Dear brothers and sisters, together with the whole Church, let us praise the Lord for the great works he has accomplished through these new saints.

In returning to your homes and your daily tasks, take with you the happy memory of this pilgrimage to Rome, and continue courageously in your commitment to bearing Christian witness, in order to prepare yourselves to live with intensity and fervour the Holy Year now close at hand.

With these hopes, I entrust you all to the heavenly protection of Our Lady and the new saints, and I cordially bless you, your families and your communities.




Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I am pleased to extend my cordial greeting to you on the occasion of the 35th Convention of the Rectors and Pastoral Workers of Shrines, promoted by the Italian National Shrines Liaison. I would particularly like to mention Archbishop Angelo Comastri, Prelate of Loreto, who follows and coordinates your activities with deep concern.

The dense network of shrines which are found in all nations and continents have an important purpose within that unique spiritual and historical organism which is the Church. On my apostolic journeys, I myself have often had the joy of going on pilgrimage to these sacred places, where God's presence is more intensely felt.

Because of my ministry, I have been especially able to visit them in Italy, and I have noted that they bear eloquent witness to the nation's religious history. You should be thanked, then, for preserving, enhancing and promoting this spiritual heritage in the best way possible.

2. With this Message and following my Predecessors' example, I would like first of all to recall the great value that shrines have for the People of God. While offering pilgrims and the faithful precious moments of meditation, reflection and necessary spiritual renewal, they represent a providential opportunity to encounter God and a strong reminder of the wellsprings of faith to the less committed, the troubled or the searching. Therefore, those who visit them should find a welcoming atmosphere and people who are ready to offer them appropriate spiritual assistance and systematic liturgical catechesis, so that the shrine's message does not stop at the emotional level, however important this may be, but becomes for everyone an experience of God, a fraternal encounter and an opportunity of to grow in faith.

3. With deep satisfaction we can see that in recent years the flow of pilgrims and tourists to holy places both great and small has increased, given the opportunities of transportation and communication now available. The evolution of society and the influence of a widespread consumerist mentality do not seem to have impeded this phenomenon. In fact, people have an ever greater need for silence, peace of mind and detachment from the frantic pace of daily life and the world of material concerns; they seek peace, harmony with themselves and nature, and, at a deeper level, with God, the ultimate foundation of life. The risk involved with trends of this sort, on which cultural and social factors have an impact, is sometimes one of superficiality. But this in no way detracts from the at least potential positiveness of the phenomenon, which is one aspect of the great challenge of evangelization in contemporary society.

4. In today's socio-religious context, the ever increasing role of shrines is to be essential places where people go to receive grace, even before they receive favours. The more widespread the secular culture, the more these places acquire a fundamental evangelizing value, in the original sense of a powerful call to conversion (cf. Letter for the Seventh Centenary of the Shrine of Loreto, 15 August 1993, n. 7; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 22 September 1993, p. 7).

Far from the confusion of daily concerns, man rediscovers the possibility of thinking, of reflecting, of allowing those inner questions to surface which, although they can be disturbing, are nonetheless beneficial for his soul. On this favourable soil, the shrine is called to scatter the good seed of God's Word, the only seed from which the knowledge of truth and the renewal of life can sprout. In brief, everything at the shrine should strive in such a way that the mutual seeking of God and man can become an encounter.

5. Prompted by this spiritual and social context, the beloved directors and workers at Italian shrines intend to increase their apostolic efforts and to support them by sharing experiences and coordinating pastoral objectives and initiatives. This in itself is good and beneficial, not only from an organizational standpoint, but first and foremost because it encourages a style of communion, the hallmark of the Church, icon of the Trinity.

In this way, dear brothers and sisters, you support one another so that shrines can enhance the proclamation of the Word, as well as the liturgical celebrations, spiritual retreats, conferences on religious themes and reflection on faith. I am delighted with the special attention you give to the sacrament of Reconciliation by encouraging the preparation of ministers: this is very appropriate, especially for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. May pilgrims, in this "year of the Lord's favour", abundantly draw from shrines the regenerating strength of divine mercy!

I accompany this wish with my prayer, entrusting it to the special assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Shrine of the New Covenant, while I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to all of you taking part in the convention and to all who are responsible for shrines and to their co-workers.

From the Vatican, 23 November 1999.

Speeches 1999 - Saturday 20 November 1999