Speeches 2000 - Saturday, 18 March 2000

May Mary, Mother of Hope, whom the preacher invited us last evening to see as a model of the Church, obtain for us the joy of hope so that, like the travelers on the road to Emmaus, Christ’s presence in our moments of trial will change our sadness into joy. “Tristitia vostra vertetur in gaudium”.

With these sentiments, I cordially bless you and ask all of you to continue to accompany me with your prayer, especially during the pilgrimage to the Holy Land which, please God, I will have the joy of making next week.



Saturday, 18 March 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I cordially greet each of you who have come to Rome from various parts of Italy and the world to celebrate the Holy Year. Many pilgrims from the Diocese of Vicenza, accompanied by dear Bishop Pietro Nonis, are here in the square. I offer you my affectionate greeting, which I extend to all the faithful of the Church of Vicenza, so lively and active, as her numerous saints attest. It is precisely in the saints that we are given an extraordinarily eloquent model of that fidelity to the Gospel in daily life which is the primary objective of the Great Jubilee. May you be spurred to emulate the example of these witnesses to the faith, of whom your Church is justly proud.

I know the problems you have to face: the considerable decrease in priestly and religious vocations, the growing fragility of many marital bonds, secularization that undermines the religious dimension of life, decreased attendance at Sunday Mass when families and communities gather round the Eucharist. Your community has taken up these challenges and intends to face them by relying on divine help and on the collaboration of all its members.

Dear friends, I encourage you in this commitment and assure you of my constant support in prayer. Be firm and faithful to Christ and his Gospel; be generous and open to your brothers and sisters.

2. I also extend a cordial welcome to Archbishop Felice Cece and the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Sorrento-Castellammare di Stabia who have wanted to meet the Successor of Peter during the Jubilee celebration. Dear friends, the providential period of the Holy Year and the Lenten season we are observing invites everyone to make himself the docile instrument of the Lord's grace. He alone brings salvation and complete renewal to the humble in spirit and to those who are open to the truth. God takes the first step towards human beings; they are asked, however, to welcome him through a persevering commitment to conversion.

Dear friends, may you respond to the Lord's invitation. Renew your fidelity to Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. During this Jubilee pilgrimage you have been able to have a deeper encounter with him. Let his word enlighten you, his love transform you, and bring his joy and peace to everyone you meet on your return.

3. I now address you, dear members of the Italian Women's Centre! Today's event, which has brought you here, is one of the central moments of the national Jubilee which your association is celebrating in these days. Welcome!

The theme you have chosen for your meeting, "Starting from the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000: Women Rediscovering Faith", fits in well with the goals of the Holy Year. Indeed, your social and political commitment is motivated by the interior journey of faith, which enables you to look at reality with the penetrating eyes of Gospel wisdom. Live your vocation with courage like Mary of Nazareth, the New Woman and fruitful witness to God's goodness.

May you be encouraged by the example and intercession of the many holy women who throughout human history have made a decisive contribution to the Church's life and to building the civilization of love.

4. I would now like to express my goodwill and affection to those taking part in the Forum of Christian organizations for the pastoral care of circus and amusement park workers. I hope, dear friends, that you will bear witness everywhere to the virtues that characterize your lifestyle: patience, courage, calculated risk, close collaboration and mutual respect.

5. It is a great joy to greet the Pastors and faithful of the Syro-Malabar Church from India and other parts of the world who have come to Rome for their Jubilee celebration.

You are the spiritual heirs of the Apostle Thomas and this Holy Year offers you a unique opportunity to be strengthened and renewed in the apostolic witness on which your faith is founded.

Through prayer and repentance, devotion and conversion, may the manifold graces which God showers upon his Church during this "year of favour" (cf. Lk Lc 4,19) bear ever more abundant fruits of holiness in your lives.

Tomorrow, according to your liturgical calendar, is the Third Sunday of the Great Fast. The discipline of fasting is a familiar exercise to you and a practice much revered by the peoples and religions of India. I pray that the spiritual benefits of this period of fasting, and of this special season of preparation for the celebration of the Lord's Resurrection, will enrich your Church and strengthen you in the role which the Syro-Malabar community is called to play in the new evangelization.

Commending Your Grace, Major Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil, and all of you to the loving protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the powerful intercession of your own patrons, St Thomas the Apostle and the saints of your Church, I invoke upon you and your communities at home the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

6. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome His Beatitude the Patriarch and the faithful of the Chaldean Catholic Church who have come to Rome from various parts of the world, especially Iraq, to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

The richness of your spiritual tradition, which traces its origins to the preaching of the Apostles Thomas and Thaddeus, has strengthened many holy men and women as they shed their blood for Christ. Fidelity to this same heritage prompts your ecumenical outreach today to your brethren of the Assyrian Church of the East.

The sons and daughters of the Church in Iraq, and all the Iraqi people who are being so severely tried by the continuing international embargo, never cease to be present in my thoughts. I assure all those who are suffering, especially the women, children and elderly, of my prayerful support. May Jesus, true friend of the poor and the afflicted, ever accompany them in their difficulties and sustain them with his love.

Entrusting Your Beatitude Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid and all the faithful of the Chaldean Catholic Church to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cordially invoke upon you every grace and blessing in our Lord Jesus Christ.

7. I extend a warm welcome to the theology students of the Borromeo College in Münster, accompanied by Bishop Reinhard Lettmann. In this Holy Year you are making a pilgrimage to the Eternal City. As a young theologian, I too studied in Rome. During that stay I was formed not only by my studies but also by the holy places in this city: the tombs of the Princes of the Apostles, the ground soaked by the blood of martyrs, the seven basilicas in which faith became stone, and especially the See of Peter's Successor. During these days I ask you to study Rome! In this city learn what the universal Church is! Take this knowledge back to your homeland! May passing through the Holy Door strengthen your determination to dedicate your youth to Christ, who is the door to life. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.

8. I warmly greet the pilgrims from Poland at this audience: Bishops Ryszard Karpinski and Henryk Tomasik of Siedlce, the parish and school groups, and the choir from Bielsko-Biala. In a special way I greet the craftsmen from all of Poland and the representatives of the Solidarity trade union from various regions.

You have come to Rome to celebrate your feast on St Joseph's day during the Great Julibee of the Redemption. Following St Joseph's example, try to make your daily workplace a place for meeting Christ. May the Carpenter of Nazareth go with you and protect you in your work, so that you and your families can enjoy its abundant fruits.

God bless you!

9. I cordially bless everyone here, particularly the sick, the disabled, people in difficulty and the elderly. I assure you all of a remembrance in my prayer.



TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



International Airport

"Queen Alia" in Amman

March 20, 2000

Your Majesties,

Members of the Government,

1. In a spirit of profound respect and friendship, I offer greetings to all who live in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: the members of the Catholic Church and the other Christian Churches, the Muslim people whom we followers of Jesus Christ hold in high esteem, and all men and women of good will.

My visit to your country and the entire journey which I am beginning today is part of the religious Jubilee Pilgrimage which I am making to commemorate the Two Thousandth Anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ. From the beginning of my ministry as Bishop of Rome, I have had a great desire to mark this event by praying in some of the places linked to salvation history – places that speak to us of that moment’s long preparation through biblical times, places where our Lord Jesus Christ actually lived, or which are connected with his work of redemption. I have already been to Egypt and Mount Sinai, where God revealed his name to Moses and entrusted to him the tablets of the Law of the Covenant.

2. Today I am in Jordan, a land familiar to me from the Holy Scriptures: a land sanctified by the presence of Jesus himself, by the presence of Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist, and of saints and martyrs of the early Church. Yours is a land noted for its hospitality and openness to all. These are qualities of the Jordanian people which I have experienced many times in conversations with the late King Hussein, and which were confirmed anew in my meeting with Your Majesty at the Vatican in September last year.

Your Majesty, I know how deeply concerned you are for peace in your own land and in the entire region, and how important it is to you that all Jordanians – Muslims and Christians – should consider themselves as one people and one family. In this area of the world there are grave and urgent issues of justice, of the rights of peoples and nations, which have to be resolved for the good of all concerned and as a condition for lasting peace. No matter how difficult, no matter how long, the process of seeking peace must continue. Without peace, there can be no authentic development for this region, no better life for its peoples, no brighter future for its children. That is why Jordan’s proven commitment to securing the conditions necessary for peace is so important and praiseworthy.

Building a future of peace requires an ever more mature understanding and ever more practical cooperation among the peoples who acknowledge the one true, indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. The three historical monotheistic religions count peace, goodness and respect for the human person among their highest values. I earnestly hope that my visit will strengthen the already fruitful Christian-Muslim dialogue which is being conducted in Jordan, particularly through the Royal Interfaith Institute.

3. The Catholic Church, without forgetting that her primary mission is a spiritual one, is always eager to cooperate with individual nations and people of goodwill in promoting and advancing the dignity of the human person. She does this particularly in her schools and education programmes, and through her charitable and social institutions. Your noble tradition of respect for all religions guarantees the religious freedom which makes this possible, and which is in fact a fundamental human right. When this is so, all citizens feel themselves equal, and each one, inspired by his own spiritual convictions, can contribute to the building up of society as the shared home of all.

4. The warm invitation which Your Majesties, the Government and the people of Jordan have extended to me is an expression of our common hope for a new era of peace and development in this region. I am truly grateful, and with deep appreciation of your kindness I assure you of my prayers for you, for all the Jordanian people, for the displaced people in your midst, and for the young people who make up such a large part of the population.

May Almighty God grant Your Majesties happiness and long life!

May he bless Jordan with prosperity and peace!



TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



Monday, 20 March 2000

Father Minister General,
Dear Friends,

Here on the heights of Mount Nebo I begin this stage of my Jubilee Pilgrimage. I think of the great figure of Moses and the new Covenant which God made with him on Mount Sinai. I give thanks to God for the ineffable gift of Jesus Christ, who sealed the Covenant with his blood and brought the Law to fulfilment. To him who is "he Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Ap 22,13), to him I dedicate every step of this journey which I make through the Land which was his.

On this first day, I am especially happy to greet you, Father Minister General, and to pay tribute to the magnificent witness given in this Land by the sons of Saint Francis through the Custody’s faithful service in the holy places down the centuries.

I am also pleased to greet the Governor of Madaba and the Mayor of the city. May the blessings of the Almighty be upon the people of the area! And may the peace of heaven fill the hearts of all who join me on my pilgrim path!



TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



Tuesday, 21 March 2000

I want to greet all of you for having gathered for this brief prayer. In particular, I pray for His Majesty the King and I thank him again for the welcome I have received in Jordan.

In the Gospel of Saint Luke we read that “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (3:2-3). Here, at the River Jordan, where both banks are visited by hosts of pilgrims honouring the Baptism of the Lord, I too lift up my heart in prayer:

Glory to you, O Father, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!

You sent your servants the Prophets
to speak your word of faithful love
and call your people to repentance.

On the banks of the River Jordan,
you raised up John the Baptist,
a voice crying in the wilderness,
sent through all the region of the Jordan
to prepare the way of the Lord,
to herald the coming of Jesus.

Glory to you, O Christ, Son of God!
To the waters of the Jordan you came
to be baptized by the hand of John.

Upon you the Spirit descended as a dove.

Above you the heavens opened,
and the voice of the Father was heard:
“This is my Son, the Beloved!”

From the river blessed by your presence
you went forth to baptize not only with water
but with fire and the Holy Spirit.

Glory to you, O Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of life!

By your power, the Church is baptized,
going down with Christ into death
and rising with him to new life.

By your power, we are set free from sin
to become the children of God,
the glorious Body of Christ.

By your power, all fear is vanquished,
and the Gospel of love is preached
in every corner of the earth,
to the glory of God,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
to whom be all praise in this Jubilee year
and in every age to come. Amen.

I wish to thank everyone who has taken part and all who helped in the organization.

A special word of thanks goes to the Patriarchs and Bishops, the priests, the Sisters. It has been a moving experience to celebrate with the Catholic Community of Jordan.

And I cordially greet the representatives of other communities who have come from many other parts of the Middle East. I am grateful to you all.

I feel especially close to the children and young people. Know that the Church and the Pope put great trust in you!

Special greetings to His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed.

I will keep all the people of Jordan - Christians and Muslims - in my prayers, especially the sick and the elderly.

With gratitude I invoke abundant blessings upon His Highness the King and upon the whole nation.

God bless you all! God bless Jordan!

May Saint John Baptist protect Islam and all the people of Jordan, and all who partecipated in this celebration, a memorable celebration. I’m very grateful to all of you.

Thank you very much.



TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



Israel – Tel Aviv Airport

Tuesday, 21 March 2000

Dear President and Madame Weizman,
Dear Prime Minister and Madame Barak,
Dear Israeli Friends,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Yesterday, from the heights of Mount Nebo I looked across the Jordan Valley to this blessed land. Today, it is with profound emotion that I set foot in the Land where God chose to “pitch his tent” (Jn 1,14 cf. Ex Ex 40,34-35 1R 8,10-13), and made it possible for man to encounter him more directly.

In this year of the two thousandth anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ, it has been my strong personal desire to come here and to pray in the most important places which, from ancient times, have seen God’s interventions, the wonders he has done. “You are the God who works wonders. You showed your power among the peoples” (Ps 77,15).

Mr President, I thank you for your warm welcome, and in your person I greet all the people of the State of Israel.

2. My visit is both a personal pilgrimage and the spiritual journey of the Bishop of Rome to the origins of our faith in “the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob” (Ex 3,15). It is part of a larger pilgrimage of prayer and thanksgiving which led me first to Sinai, the Mountain of the Covenant, the place of the decisive revelation which shaped the subsequent history of salvation. Now I shall have the privilege of visiting some of the places more closely connected with the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Along every step of the way I am moved by a vivid sense of God who has gone before us and leads us on, who wants us to honour him in spirit and in truth, to acknowledge the differences between us, but also to recognize in every human being the image and likeness of the One Creator of heaven and earth.

3. Mr President, you are known as a man of peace and a peacemaker. We all know how urgent is the need for peace and justice, not for Israel alone but for the entire region. Many things have changed in relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel since my predecessor Pope Paul VI came here in 1964. The establishment of diplomatic relations between us in 1994 set a seal on efforts to open an era of dialogue on questions of common interest concerning religious freedom, relations between Church and State and, more generally, relations between Christians and Jews. On another level, world opinion follows with close attention the peace process which finds all the peoples of the region involved in the difficult search for a lasting peace with justice for all. With new-found openness towards one another, Christians and Jews together must make courageous efforts to remove all forms of prejudice. We must strive always and everywhere to present the true face of the Jews and of Judaism, as likewise of Christians and of Christianity, and this at every level of attitude, teaching and communication (cf. Address to the Jewish Community of Rome, 13 April 1986, 5).

4. My journey therefore is a pilgrimage, in a spirit of humble gratitude and hope, to the origins of our religious history. It is a tribute to the three religious traditions which co-exist in this land. For a long time I have looked forward to meeting the faithful of the Catholic communities in their rich variety, and the members of the various Christian Churches and Communities present in the Holy Land. I pray that my visit will serve to encourage an increase of interreligious dialogue that will lead Jews, Christians and Muslims to seek in their respective beliefs, and in the universal brotherhood that unites all the members of the human family, the motivation and the perseverance to work for the peace and justice which the peoples of the Holy Land do not yet have, and for which they yearn so deeply. The Psalmist reminds us that peace is God’s gift: “I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends, and those who turn to him in their hearts” (Ps 85,8). May peace be God’s gift to the Land he chose as his own!




TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



Wednesday, 22 March 2000

Your Excellency,
Dear Friends,

I am grateful for this chance to visit a place so steeped in history. For many thousands of years, this area around Jericho has been a human habitat. It is near here that we find the remains of the oldest city yet discovered. But its memory becomes still richer when we turn to Holy Scripture, which shows Jericho as a place which bears the footprint not only of man but of God himself.

In my mind I see Jesus coming to the waters of the River Jordan not far from here to be baptized by John the Baptist (cf. Mt Mt 3,13); I see Jesus passing on his way to the Holy City where he would die and rise again; I see him opening the eyes of the blind man as he passes by (cf. Lk Lc 18,35-43).

Today Jericho has become a flourishing oasis in the desert. May the city which is so rich in memory also be rich in promise. May its progress announce the hope of the more peaceful future which the inhabitants of this place and all the peoples of this Land have desired for so long.

God bless you all!



TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



Palestinian Territories – Bethlehem Heliport

Wednesday, 22 March 2000

Dear Chairman Arafat,

Your Excellencies,
Dear Palestinian Friends,

1. “Here Christ was born of the Virgin Mary”: these words, inscribed over the place where, according to tradition, Jesus was born, are the reason for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. They are the reason for my coming to Bethlehem today. They are the source of the joy, the hope, the goodwill, which, for two millennia, have filled countless human hearts at the very sound of the name “Bethlehem”.

People everywhere turn to this unique corner of the earth with a hope that transcends all conflicts and difficulties. Bethlehem – where the choir of Angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men” (Lc 2,14) – stands out, in every place and in every age, as the promise of God’s gift of peace. The message of Bethlehem is the Good News of reconciliation among men, of peace at every level of relations between individuals and nations. Bethlehem is a universal crossroads where all peoples can meet to build together a world worthy of our human dignity and destiny. The recently inaugurated Museum of the Nativity shows how the celebration of Christ’s Birth has become a part of the culture and art of peoples in all parts of the world.

2. Mr Arafat, as I thank you for the warm welcome you have given me in the name of the Palestinian Authority and People, I express all my happiness at being here today. How can I fail to pray that the divine gift of peace will become more and more a reality for all who live in this land, uniquely marked by God’s interventions? Peace for the Palestinian people! Peace for all the peoples of the region! No one can ignore how much the Palestinian people have had to suffer in recent decades. Your torment is before the eyes of the world. And it has gone on too long.

The Holy See has always recognized that the Palestinian people have the natural right to a homeland, and the right to be able to live in peace and tranquillity with the other peoples of this area (cf. Apostolic Letter Redemptionis Anno, 20 April 1984). In the international forum, my predecessors and I have repeatedly proclaimed that there would be no end to the sad conflict in the Holy Land without stable guarantees for the rights of all the peoples involved, on the basis of international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions and declarations.

We must all continue to work and pray for the success of every genuine effort to bring peace to this Land. Only with a just and lasting peace – not imposed but secured through negotiation – will legitimate Palestinian aspirations be fulfilled. Only then will the Holy Land see the possibility of a bright new future, no longer dissipated by rivalry and conflict, but firmly based on understanding and cooperation for the good of all. The outcome depends greatly on the courageous readiness of those responsible for the destiny of this part of the world to move to new attitudes of compromise and compliance with the demands of justice.

3. Dear Friends, I am fully aware of the great challenges facing the Palestinian Authority and People in every field of economic and cultural development. In a particular way my prayers are with those Palestinians - Muslim and Christian - who are still without a home of their own, their proper place in society and the possibility of a normal working life. My hope is that my visit today to the Dheisheh Refugee Camp will serve to remind the international community that decisive action is needed to improve the situation of the Palestinian people. I was particularly pleased at the unanimous acceptance by the United Nations of the Resolution on Bethlehem 2000, which commits the international community to help in developing this area and in improving conditions of peace and reconciliation in one of the most cherished and significant places on earth.

The promise of peace made at Bethlehem will become a reality for the world only when the dignity and rights of all human beings made in the image of God (cf. Gen Gn 1,26) are acknowledged and respected.

Today and always the Palestinian people are in my prayers to the One who holds the destiny of the world in his hands. May the Most High God enlighten, sustain and guide in the path of peace the whole Palestinian people!



TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



Palestinian Territories – Dheisheh Refugee Camp

Wednesday, 22 March 2000

Mr President,

Dear Palestinian people,

1. It is important to me that my pilgrimage to the birthplace of Jesus Christ, on this the two thousandth anniversary of that extraordinary event, includes this visit to Dheisheh. It is deeply significant that here, close to Bethlehem, I am meeting you, refugees and displaced persons, and representatives of the organizations and agencies involved in a true mission of mercy. Throughout my pontificate I have felt close to the Palestinian people in their sufferings.

I greet each one of you, and I hope and pray that my visit will bring some comfort in your difficult situation. Please God it will help to draw attention to your continuing plight. You have been deprived of many things which represent basic needs of the human person: proper housing, health care, education and work. Above all you bear the sad memory of what you were forced to leave behind, not just material possessions, but your freedom, the closeness of relatives, and the familiar surroundings and cultural traditions which nourished your personal and family life. It is true that much is being done here in Dheisheh and in other camps to respond to your needs, especially through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. I am particularly pleased at the effectiveness of the presence of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and many other Catholic organizations. But there is still much to be done.

2. The degrading conditions in which refugees often have to live; the continuation over long periods of situations that are barely tolerable in emergencies or for a brief time of transit; the fact that displaced persons are obliged to remain for years in settlement camps: these are the measure of the urgent need for a just solution to the underlying causes of the problem. Only a resolute effort on the part of leaders in the Middle East and in the international community as a whole – inspired by a higher vision of politics as service of the common good – can remove the causes of your present situation. My appeal is for greater international solidarity and the political will to meet this challenge. I plead with all who are sincerely working for justice and peace not to lose heart. I appeal to political leaders to implement agreements already arrived at, and to go forward towards the peace for which all reasonable men and women yearn, to the justice to which they have an inalienable right.

3. Dear young people, continue to strive through education to take your rightful place in society, despite the difficulties and handicaps that you have to face because of your refugee status. The Catholic Church is particularly happy to serve the noble cause of education through the extremely valuable work of Bethlehem University, founded as a sequel to the visit of my predecessor Pope Paul VI in 1964.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear refugees, do not think that your present condition makes you any less important in God’s eyes! Never forget your dignity as his children! Here at Bethlehem the Divine Child was laid in a manger in a stable; shepherds from the nearby fields were the first to receive the heavenly message of peace and hope for the world. God’s design was fulfilled in the midst of humility and poverty. Probably the pastors and shepherds of Bethlehem were your predecessors, your ancestors

Dear aid workers and volunteers, believe in the task that you are fulfilling! Genuine and practical solidarity with those in need is not a favour conceded, it is a demand of our shared humanity and a recognition of the dignity of every human being.

Let us all turn with confidence to the Lord, asking him to inspire those in a position of responsibility to promote justice, security and peace, without delay and in an eminently practical way.

The Church, through her social and charitable organizations, will continue to be at your side and will continue to plead your cause before the world.

God bless you all!



TO THE HOLY LAND (MARCH 20-26, 2000)



Wednesday, 22 March 2000

Your Excellency,

I am happy to have this opportunity to thank you again, and to return the visits which you have made to me in the Vatican. I thank you for your warm welcome. This is an important moment in the search for peace in this region. Much has been achieved, but there is still much to be done if all the peoples of the region are to live in harmony based upon respect for the rights and dignity of all.

Speeches 2000 - Saturday, 18 March 2000