Speeches 2000 - Saturday, 26 August 2000

Parish, families, young people: these are primary contexts calling for special attention, generous dedication and constant missionary zeal on everyone's part.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary support you in your efforts and may St Eusebius, your patron and a fearless defender of the orthodoxy of the faith in the Church of his time, intercede for you.

3. My thoughts now turn to you, dear faithful of Cremona and, with special affection, to the members of the Italian Sports Centre who have come here by bicycle or on foot. Your second Jubilee pilgrimage is taking place in the atmosphere of and in spiritual continuity with the 15th World Youth Day and the Jubilee of Young People, which included a thousand young people from Cremona.

In the light of the Gospel, I applied to that moving event, filled with deep spiritual intensity, the definition "school of faith". Today I would like to apply the same image to this meeting of ours. May it encourage you to strengthen your faith and Christian witness, which this morning, after passing through the Holy Door, you professed with great fervour at the tomb of the Apostle Peter: faith in Christ, the Son of God, and in his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. May this Roman experience sustain your witness to the Gospel and be your guide in the new pastoral year which the Diocese is about to begin with the theme: "Rediscovering the Lord's Day so that the Holy Year will never end".

I am pleased to know that all your Jubilee churches are dedicated to Mary. Among them I remember your splendid cathedral and the Marian shrine of Our Lady of the Fountain at Caravaggio, which I visited in 1992 and where I left some of my heart. With particular affection I therefore entrust to Mary the journey of the Church in Cremona at the turn of the century and the millennium, which has already been marked by abundant graces.

4. With the same sentiments of affection, I would now like to address the faithful from the parishes of St Laurence in Manerbio (Brescia), St Joseph the Worker in Turin, St Frances Cabrini in Codogno (Lodi), and the other individual pilgrims and families who have wished to join our meeting.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this intense spiritual moment, which you are certainly having the grace to experience on the occasion of your Jubilee, be an incentive to you to be strong in faith, joyful in hope and persevering in charity. May you always be witnesses to Gospel joy and fraternal solidarity.

Dear friends, may God fill you with his merciful love. I accompany you with my prayer, while I cordially impart a special Blessing to you, to your loved ones and to your respective communities.



Sunday, 27 August 2000

1. I am pleased to welcome you at this special audience, dear brothers and sisters of the Diocese of Albano. My affectionate greetings to you all, authorities, priests, seminarians, permanent deacons, religious and lay people!

I thank Bishop Agostino Vallini for his warm address to me. With him, I thank your two representatives who have expressed your sentiments well. I would like to extend a special greeting to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, as well as to Auxiliary Bishop Paolo Gillet. I also cordially greet our dear guest, Bishop George Biguzzi of Sierra Leone.

I am grateful to you all, people of the ancient Suburbicarian Church of Albano, who have come in such large numbers to this meeting. I have very often experienced your devotion and affection, especially during my stay in Castel Gandolfo. These sentiments have ancient roots: the Appian Way, which crosses your territory, was taken by the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and the faith they preached was professed in blood by your martyrs and patrons, Sts Pancras, Senator and Companions. The vital sap of these apostolic roots and the blood of the martyrs nurtured the genuine Christian faith which has come down to the present generations in such shining testimonies as the martyrdom of St Maria Goretti.

2. May I be permitted to recall the meeting I had with you in 1985, in preparation for the Diocesan Synod. On that occasion you presented to me the pastoral programme your ecclesial community was preparing in order to adapt its apostolic action to the changed requirements of the times. I remember that at the time I invited you "to walk together". The Synod took those words as its motto. This commitment remains very timely today.

The Church is a community of brothers and sisters who live by the life-giving power of the Spirit of the risen Christ. They express not only the unity of their hearts in spiritual communion, but also pastoral co-responsibility. Building up the Church means walking together on the ways of holiness and apostolic service, appearing as a community hierarchically structured around its Pastor.

However, without taking anything from the riches and variety of individual pastoral experiences, "walking together" means not yielding to the temptation of fragmentation and lack of focus, the result of an uncontrolled apostolic will.

May you in particular, dear priests who form one presbyterate, be witnesses of unity among your people. Being faithful to Christ - always remember - means being faithful to the Church. I therefore urge you to foster priestly communion around the Bishop, whose task is to authenticate the Church's journey and pastoral practice.

3. The celebration of your Diocesan Synod resulted in a pastoral programme focused on certain precise objectives, including the new evangelization, the pastoral care of families and attention to and care of youth. What a vast field of missionary action lies before you, dear priests, religious and lay people!

Evangelization, above all! It must become your constant priority commitment. The challenges of secularism and dechristianization require you to take courageous action, accompanied by innovation, clear analysis and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. At the Ecclesial Convention in Palermo, I previously noted: "Our age is not a time for merely preserving what exists, but for mission. It is a time to offer something new, and first and foremost Jesus Christ, the heart of the Gospel" (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, vol. XVIII/2, 1995, p. 1196). Your Diocesan Synod has taken a very appropriate decision in seeing that no one lacks the nourishment of evangelization.

As for the family institution, we are well aware that in our time it has undergone profound and rapid changes caused by society and culture. Marriage and the family are one of humanity's most precious goods. Your Synod has therefore rightly devoted ample reflection to this subject and committed itself to a family ministry project. In its fulfilment of this commitment, I would like to encourage the diocesan community, in the hope that every Christian family will become involved in an active and fruitful apostolate.

4. The Synod then turned its attention to the world of youth. There are certainly many urgent pastoral needs, but that of young people is the most obvious and pressing, because in young people the future advances and the face of the Church and of society in the new millennium is presaged.

The world of youth certainly has problems, but it also holds an immense potential for good.

World Youth Day, which we celebrated several days ago, was a splendid confirmation of how right it is to trust in the new generation and to offer them positive opportunities so that they can meet Christ and follow him generously. Therefore dedicate effective pastoral energy to young people and organize meeting places where, after receiving their first Christian initiation, they can develop the authentic values of human and Christian life in a joyful community atmosphere.

Be concerned as well for the many young people who are not part of the ecclesial community and who gather on the streets and in the squares, exposed to risks and dangers. The Church cannot overlook or underestimate this growing youth phenomenon! They should be approached by specially trained pastoral workers who open horizons to them that rouse their interest and natural generosity, and gradually lead them to accept the person of Jesus Christ.

5. In your Diocese, too, one problem has become particularly acute: priestly and religious vocations. It is primarily the task of priests, particularly parish priests, to proclaim the Gospel of the call with passion, discerning and nurturing the seeds of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life by their words and witness of life. Their action must be coordinated and supported at the diocesan level with timely initiatives and, above all, be accompanied by the insistent prayer of the faithful.

Lastly, I would like to express my deep satisfaction with the sensitivity and dedication which the Diocese of Albano shows in the field of hospitality to our many brothers and sisters, especially immigrants, who are experiencing privations and hardships of every kind, far from their native land and the affection of their loved ones. I encourage you to persevere in this work of mercy, mindful of the Saviour's words: "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Mt 25,35).

As you see, there are still many things to be done. I entrust your good intentions to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, to whom I know you have a very deep devotion. May Mary grant her protection to your "walking together" with your new Pastor.

With this wish I impart my affectionate Blessing to him - who celebrates his name day tomorrow, St Augustine - and to you all.



Monday, 28 August 2000

Dear Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers!
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I gladly take the opportunity of this annual meeting to express my gratitude to you, dear members of the 31st Wing of the Italian Air Force, who generously and skilfully escort me wherever my pastoral ministry brings me. I greet you with great joy. Your presence reminds me of my many journeys by helicopter, which are possible thanks to your kind availability. I recall one of the most recent, to Tor Vergata, which enabled me to admire from the air the unforgettable sight of the young people taking part in the conclusion of the 15th World Youth Day.

I am also well aware of the responsibility and generosity which motivate the service that you carry out with a high degree of technical and professional training. I fervently hope that human and Christian values will continue to be the source of inspiration for all your work, and I pray the Lord that you will never lack solidarity and the aspiration to ever more noble objectives.

For all this, following a well-established tradition, I am pleased on this occasion to confer special papal honours and awards on some of you. This is a tangible way of expressing my constant gratitude and that of the Holy See for your exemplary and willing cooperation with the apostolic ministry of Peter's Successor. It is also a sign of affectionate appreciation for the whole 31st Wing.

2. The Christian community, filled with the grace of the Holy Year, is called fervently to live the extraordinary Jubilee gift, in order to help strengthen the new civilization of love. It should keep its gaze fixed on Christ in order to meet him personally, aware that it must commit itself to acts of forgiveness and fraternal love every day.

This invitation is for everyone, and I hope that each of you will be able to accept it with conviction in his personal life, in your family and at work.

May Our Lady of Loreto, patroness of the Air Force, watch over your difficult work and accompany you in the sky and on the ground; may she look after your intentions and help you continue every day to be impassioned servants of the common good.

With these sentiments, as I invoke God's protection on you and on your families, I affectionately give you a special Apostolic Blessing.



Monday, 28 August 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of your congress; the Jubilee celebration currently taking place gives it an orientation and a special encouragement. I greet you all with deep cordiality, extending a particular greeting to Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who has warmly expressed your sentiments.

In the Year of the Great Jubilee, the Church invites all the laity, but especially the members of secular institutes, to engage in spreading knowledge of the Gospel and in bearing a Christian witness in secular realities. As I said at our meeting for the 50th anniversary of Provida Mater Ecclesia, by your vocation and mission you are at the crossroads between God's initiative and the longing of creation: God's initiative, which you bring to the world through love and intimate union with Christ; the longing of creation, which you share in the everyday and secular condition of your fellow men and women (cf. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, vol. XX/1, 1997, n. 5, p. 232). Consequently, as consecrated lay people you must live contemporary realities with active awareness, because the following of Christ, which gives meaning to your lives, seriously involves you in that world which you are called to transform according to God's plan.

2. Your world congress focuses attention on the theme of the formation of the members of secular institutes. They must always be able to discern in the complexity and variability of the signs of the times God's will and the paths of the new evangelization in every "today" of history.

In my Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, I amply covered the theme of the formation of Christians with their historical and secular responsibilities as well as their direct collaboration in building the Christian community; and I indicated the indispensable sources of this formation: "a receptive listening to the Word of God and the Church, fervent and constant prayer, recourse to a wise and loving spiritual guide, and a faithful discernment of the gifts and talents given by God, as well as the diverse social and historic situations in which one lives" (n. 58).

Thus formation embraces the whole life of the consecrated person. It is also nourished by the analyses and reflections of experts in sociology and the other human sciences, but cannot disregard, as its vital centre and criterion for the Christian evaluation of historical phenomena, the spiritual, theological and sapiential dimension of the life of faith, which provides the ultimate, crucial keys to the interpretation of the human condition today and to the choice of the priorities and styles of an authentic witness.

The gaze we turn to the realities of the contemporary world, which we would like always to be filled with the compassion and mercy that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, does not pause to identify errors and dangers. Of course, it cannot ignore the negative and problematic aspects but is immediately directed to identifying ways of hope and pointing out prospects of fervent commitment for the person's integral advancement, liberation and full happiness.

3. In the heart of a changing world in which unheard-of injustices and sufferings persist and are worsening, you are called to give a Christian interpretation to events and to historical and cultural phenomena. In particular, you must be harbingers of light and hope in contemporary society. Do not let yourselves be deceived by ingenuous optimism, but remain faithful witnesses of a God who certainly loves this humanity and offers it the necessary grace to work effectively building a better world, more just and more respectful of the dignity of every human being. The challenge to the faith of contemporary culture seems precisely this: to give up the facile tendency to paint dark and negative scenes, in order to mark out possible paths that are not deceptive, of redemption, liberation and hope.

Your experience as consecrated people in secular conditions demonstrates that one must not expect a better world to come about only from the choices of higher responsiblities and from the top of great institutions. The Lord's grace, which can also save and redeem this historical epoch, is born and grows in believers' hearts. They accept, support and encourage God's initiative in history and make it grow from below and from within simple human lives, which thus become true messengers of change and of salvation. It is enough to think in this regard of the action of countless throngs of saints, even those who have not been officially declared as such by the Church, who made a deep mark on the time in which they lived, contributing to it values and energies of goodness whose importance escapes the instruments of social analysis, but is clearly visible to God's eyes and to the thoughtful reflection of believers.

4. Formation in discernment cannot ignore the basis of every human project which is and remains Jesus Christ. The mission of secular institutes is to "make present in society the newness and power of Christ's kingdom, striving to transfigure the world from within by the power of the Beatitudes" (Vita consecrata VC 10). The faith of disciples thus becomes the spirit of the world, according to the well-chosen image of the letter "To Diognetus", and gives rise to a cultural and social renewal which should be made available to humanity. The more distant and alien to the Gospel humanity is, the stronger and more convincing the proclamation of the truth about Christ and man redeemed through him must be.

Of course, attention must always be paid to the methods of this proclamation so that humanity does not feel it is an intrusion and imposition on the part of believers. On the contrary, it will be our task to see that it is ever clearer that the Church, which carries out Christ's mission, cares lovingly for human beings. She does not do so for humanity in the abstract, but for this real, historical human being, in the conviction that "this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission ... the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption" (Redemptoris hominis, n. 14; cf. Centesimus annus CA 53).

5. Your initial and continuous formation, dear superiors and members of secular institutes, should be nourished by these certainties. It will yield abundant fruit to the extent that it continues to draw from the inexhaustible riches of revelation, interpreted and proclaimed by the Church with wisdom and love.

I entrust your journey on the routes of the world to Mary, Star of evangelization, who is an image of the Church beyond compare. May she be close to you, and may her intercession make the work of your congress fruitful and give enthusiasm and renewed apostolic dynamism to the institutions which you represent here, so that the Jubilee will mark the beginning of a new Pentecost and a profound interior renewal.

With these wishes I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, as a pledge of constant affection.



Tuesday 29 August 2000

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am happy to greet all of you at this International Congress, which has brought you together for a reflection on the complex and delicate theme of transplants. I thank Professor Raffaello Cortesini and Professor Oscar Salvatierra for their kind words, and I extend a special greeting to the Italian Authorities present.

To all of you I express my gratitude for your kind invitation to take part in this meeting and I very much appreciate the serious consideration you are giving to the moral teaching of the Church. With respect for science and being attentive above all to the law of God, the Church has no other aim but the integral good of the human person.

Transplants are a great step forward in science's service of man, and not a few people today owe their lives to an organ transplant. Increasingly, the technique of transplants has proven to be a valid means of attaining the primary goal of all medicine - the service of human life. That is why in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae I suggested that one way of nurturing a genuine culture of life "is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope" (No. 86).

2.As with all human advancement, this particular field of medical science, for all the hope of health and life it offers to many, also presents certain critical issues that need to be examined in the light of a discerning anthropological and ethical reflection.

In this area of medical science too the fundamental criterion must be the defence and promotion of the integral good of the human person, in keeping with that unique dignity which is ours by virtue of our humanity. Consequently, it is evident that every medical procedure performed on the human person is subject to limits: not just the limits of what it is technically possible, but also limits determined by respect for human nature itself, understood in its fullness: "what is technically possible is not for that reason alone morally admissible" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae, 4).

3. It must first be emphasized, as I observed on another occasion, that every organ transplant has its source in a decision of great ethical value: "the decision to offer without reward a part of one's own body for the health and well-being of another person" (Address to the Participants in a Congress on Organ Transplants, 20 June 1991, No. 3). Here precisely lies the nobility of the gesture, a gesture which is a genuine act of love. It is not just a matter of giving away something that belongs to us but of giving something of ourselves, for "by virtue of its substantial union with a spiritual soul, the human body cannot be considered as a mere complex of tissues, organs and functions . . . rather it is a constitutive part of the person who manifests and expresses himself through it" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae, 3).

Accordingly, any procedure which tends to commercialize human organs or to consider them as items of exchange or trade must be considered morally unacceptable, because to use the body as an "object" is to violate the dignity of the human person.

This first point has an immediate consequence of great ethical import: the need for informed consent. The human "authenticity" of such a decisive gesture requires that individuals be properly informed about the processes involved, in order to be in a position to consent or decline in a free and conscientious manner. The consent of relatives has its own ethical validity in the absence of a decision on the part of the donor. Naturally, an analogous consent should be given by the recipients of donated organs.

4. Acknowledgement of the unique dignity of the human person has a further underlying consequence: vital organs which occur singly in the body can be removed only after death, that is from the body of someone who is certainly dead. This requirement is self-evident, since to act otherwise would mean intentionally to cause the death of the donor in disposing of his organs. This gives rise to one of the most debated issues in contemporary bioethics, as well as to serious concerns in the minds of ordinary people. I refer to the problem of ascertaining the fact of death. When can a person be considered dead with complete certainty?

In this regard, it is helpful to recall that the death of the person is a single event, consisting in the total disintegration of that unitary and integrated whole that is the personal self. It results from the separation of the life-principle (or soul) from the corporal reality of the person. The death of the person, understood in this primary sense, is an event which no scientific technique or empirical method can identify directly.

Yet human experience shows that once death occurs certain biological signs inevitably follow, which medicine has learnt to recognize with increasing precision. In this sense, the "criteria" for ascertaining death used by medicine today should not be understood as the technical-scientific determination of the exact moment of a person's death, but as a scientifically secure means of identifying the biological signs that a person has indeed died.

5. It is a well-known fact that for some time certain scientific approaches to ascertaining death have shifted the emphasis from the traditional cardio-respiratory signs to the so-called "neurological" criterion. Specifically, this consists in establishing, according to clearly determined parameters commonly held by the international scientific community, the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity (in the cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem). This is then considered the sign that the individual organism has lost its integrative capacity.

With regard to the parameters used today for ascertaining death - whether the "encephalic" signs or the more traditional cardio-respiratory signs - the Church does not make technical decisions. She limits herself to the Gospel duty of comparing the data offered by medical science with the Christian understanding of the unity of the person, bringing out the similarities and the possible conflicts capable of endangering respect for human dignity.

Here it can be said that the criterion adopted in more recent times for ascertaining the fact of death, namely the complete and irreversible cessation of all brain activity, if rigorously applied, does not seem to conflict with the essential elements of a sound anthropology. Therefore a health-worker professionally responsible for ascertaining death can use these criteria in each individual case as the basis for arriving at that degree of assurance in ethical judgement which moral teaching describes as "moral certainty". This moral certainty is considered the necessary and sufficient basis for an ethically correct course of action. Only where such certainty exists, and where informed consent has already been given by the donor or the donor's legitimate representatives, is it morally right to initiate the technical procedures required for the removal of organs for transplant.

6. Another question of great ethical significance is that of the allocation of donated organs through waiting-lists and the assignment of priorities. Despite efforts to promote the practice of organ-donation, the resources available in many countries are currently insufficient to meet medical needs. Hence there is a need to compile waiting-lists for transplants on the basis of clear and properly reasoned criteria.

From the moral standpoint, an obvious principle of justice requires that the criteria for assigning donated organs should in no way be "discriminatory" (i.e. based on age, sex, race, religion, social standing, etc.) or "utilitarian" (i.e. based on work capacity, social usefulness, etc.). Instead, in determining who should have precedence in receiving an organ, judgements should be made on the basis of immunological and clinical factors.Any other criterion would prove wholly arbitrary and subjective, and would fail to recognize the intrinsic value of each human person as such, a value that is independent of any external circumstances.

7. A final issue concerns a possible alternative solution to the problem of finding human organs for transplantion, something still very much in the experimental stage, namely xenotransplants, that is, organ transplants from other animal species.

It is not my intention to explore in detail the problems connected with this form of intervention. I would merely recall that already in 1956 Pope Pius XII raised the question of their legitimacy. He did so when commenting on the scientific possibility, then being presaged, of transplanting animal corneas to humans. His response is still enlightening for us today: in principle, he stated, for a xenotransplant to be licit, the transplanted organ must not impair the integrity of the psychological or genetic identity of the person receiving it; and there must also be a proven biological possibility that the transplant will be successful and will not expose the recipient to inordinate risk (cf. Address to the Italian Association of Cornea Donors and to Clinical Oculists and Legal Medical Practitioners, 14 May 1956).

8. In concluding, I express the hope that, thanks to the work of so many generous and highly-trained people, scientific and technological research in the field of transplants will continue to progress, and extend to experimentation with new therapies which can replace organ transplants, as some recent developments in prosthetics seem to promise. In any event, methods that fail to respect the dignity and value of the person must always be avoided. I am thinking in particular of attempts at human cloning with a view to obtaining organs for transplants: these techniques, insofar as they involve the manipulation and destruction of human embryos, are not morally acceptable, even when their proposed goal is good in itself. Science itself points to other forms of therapeutic intervention which would not involve cloning or the use of embryonic cells, but rather would make use of stem cells taken from adults. This is the direction that research must follow if it wishes to respect the dignity of each and every human being, even at the embryonic stage.

In addressing these varied issues, the contribution of philosophers and theologians is important. Their careful and competent reflection on the ethical problems associated with transplant therapy can help to clarify the criteria for assessing what kinds of transplants are morally acceptable and under what conditions, especially with regard to the protection of each individual's personal identity.

I am confident that social, political and educational leaders will renew their commitment to fostering a genuine culture of generosity and solidarity. There is a need to instil in people's hearts, especially in the hearts of the young, a genuine and deep appreciation of the need for brotherly love, a love that can find expression in the decision to become an organ donor.

May the Lord sustain each one of you in your work, and guide you in the service of authentic human progress. I accompany this wish with my Blessing.



Friday, 1 September 2000

Mr Mayor,
Members of the Municipal Board and Council!

Thank you for today's visit! The time has come for me to take my leave of Castel Gandolfo, and I am pleased to meet you before returning to the Vatican. I gladly extend my grateful and cordial greeting to each of you and, through you, to those whom you represent.

I am especially grateful to you, Mr Mayor, for your courtesy, for your kind words and for the sentiments you have expressed also on behalf of the Administration and the entire population of Castel Gandolfo, so dear to me. Each time I go back to the town, I appreciate the warmth of the people who express their spiritual closeness to me in so many ways and with many signs.

This summer too, I was able to experience the welcoming hospitality of your lovely little town to me and to those who work with me, as well as to my visitors. I would particularly like to thank you for all you did for the multitudes of young people who also came to Castel Gandolfo for the World Youth Day. I am sure that for you too, as well as for the entire ecclesial community, this important youth event will remain engraved on minds as a sign of hope and a powerful incentive to a courageous spiritual and moral renewal.

This evening I am returning to Rome, leaving you my cordial "farewell till next time". I carry you with me in prayer, commending your work and service to the town to the Lord. May God protect each of you and may Mary, Mother of Hope, support your projects of good with her motherly intercession. I also bless you cordially, as well as all your relatives and all the citizens and holidaymakers of Castel Gandolfo.

Speeches 2000 - Saturday, 26 August 2000