Speeches 2001 - Monday, 29 January 2001

The Chapter's fundamental objective, therefore, is to offer members a more conscious interiorization of the Constitutions, in order to live an authentic community spirituality which can be a prophetic witness to the values of the kingdom. As a secularized mentality becomes more widespread, the faithful observance of the Rule for you, dear sisters, will effectively help to strengthen you in striving for the Absolute by not conforming to the spirit of this world, but by growing each day in your conformity to Christ.

The Chapter assembly offers you the opportunity to return, with humility and courage, to the origins of your institute, drawing from them more intense energy to meet the challenges that now present themselves to your apostolic initiative. It is by looking at the remarkable experience of Cardinal Marcantonio Barbarigo and the young Lucy Filippini that you will be able to achieve the desired renewal of your structures and methods, while firmly maintaining the reference to the Rule and the Constitutions, which provide a map for the whole journey of Christian discipleship, in accordance with your specific educational, pedagogical and charitable charism. Through a greater fidelity to him, the cornerstone, who "is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (He 13,8), the Holy Spirit's gift to your founders can continue to inspire your daily experience.

3. How could we fail to recall on this occasion the time when, towards the end of the 1600s, Cardinal Marcantonio Barbarigo, assisted by the young Lucy Filippini, began an extensive work of human and spiritual support for the young, dedicating themselves also to the improvement of women's status and the moral and cultural reform of the clergy and people? It was precisely to this end that around 1692 the "Schools of Christian Doctrine" for girls were established with a view to the renewal of the family and society. Thus a capable and stable corps of teachers was created, which was able to carry out, with fidelity and creativity, the educational project that Barbarigo and the young Lucy Filippini had conceived.

Your General Chapter, which is taking place at the dawn of the third millennium, is like a short break for considering the journey made up to now and for evaluating the more promising than ever start of a new season of ecclesial service in Italy, Europe and the mission territories where you work. The Church, dear sisters, expects much from you: from your example and from your generous apostolic dedication.

You are called to exercise a special educational ministry, which is expressed in constant signs of love, especially towards the poor, and which, through schools, fosters not only the solid cultural growth of your pupils, but also their conscious introduction to the perennial truths of the Gospel.
4. So that you can fruitfully continue your apostolate, your priority should be to cultivate a personal and community spirituality that can harmoniously combine the safeguarding of the interior life and the generous commitment to your multiple apostolic and charitable initiatives.

To achieve this objective, during the work of your Chapter you have appropriately identified formation to the consecrated life, the spirit of prayer, fraternal communion and mission in the Church and in the world as the privileged ways to continue to be a significant presence in our time, following the example of your founders. Faced with rampant religious indifferentism, you are called to carry out your specific mission particularly in schools, while bearing in mind the difficulties connected with the various cultural and local contexts. Be courageous and enthusiastic, without letting yourselves be influenced by the many kinds of obstacles you may encounter.

Rekindle the burning sentiment of Paul, who exclaimed: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1Co 9,16). Learn from your founders to place your apostolate under the protection of Mary the Mother of God, whom the Church venerates "with filial affection and devotion as a most beloved mother" (Lumen gentium, LG 53). I am certain that in this way you will stir in the souls of numerous young people a desire to meet Christ and to serve him with an "undivided heart" in their weak and defenceless brethren.

With these sentiments, I gladly impart to you, dear sisters, a special Blessing, which I cordially extend to everyone, especially young people, to whom the apostolic task of your religious family commits you.




Tuesday, 30 January 2001

Your Eminence,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate!

1. May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each and every one of you! I am pleased to be able to receive you on the occasion of your ad limina visit. The pilgrimage to the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles is a significant moment in every Pastor's life: it offers him the opportunity to express his communion with the Successor of Peter and to share with him the concerns and hopes connected with the episcopal ministry.

Your visit is framed by two great events: the recent closing of the Holy Door of the Great Jubilee and, in your homeland, the celebrations under way for the 1,000 years since your nation became Christian. These events have already given me the opportunity to greet you, both through my Cardinal Secretary of State, who represented me on the occasion of the feast of St Stephen, and personally a few months ago, when you came to St Peter's tomb with your country's national pilgrimage.

2. Those who would like to face the future successfully must return to their roots. The Jubilee celebrations here in Rome, as in your country, concentrated on the historical event which gave rise to Christianity. The Great Jubilee has invited us to turn our gaze to the moment when the Word of God took our human nature and was born in time, he who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb He 13,8). It is my deep desire that our gaze remains set on the one Redeemer of man, as I pointed out in my recent Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte. In this document I offered a demanding programme for the future, presenting certain guidelines which I consider important, if we are not to lose sight of the Saviour's face and to put the Gospel message into practice.

The first task of the Church's Pastors is to proclaim the truths of the faith, which culminate in the Incarnation and in the Paschal Mystery. Our message draws its strength from contemplation of the face of Christ, the God-Man, who died and rose for us. Only because the Son of God truly became man can we men and women, in him and through him, truly become children of God. Your emphasis on the contemplation of Christ will be a clear sign of your desire to give your mission a spiritual and pastoral mark that will not fail to influence the lifestyle of those entrusted to you.

3. In this context I express my appreciation of your efforts to encourage in the clergy, religious and lay faithful of your local Churches a genuine spirituality that will enable them to face their various pastoral challenges with new enthusiasm prompted by their Jubilee experiences. In this regard, I would like once again to recall the programme I outlined in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte: in it I mentioned certain demanding Gospel imperatives. Having our gaze set on Christ, who came so that we might have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn Jn 10,10), requires us to accept every aspect of his gift, starting with the physical. On the threshold of the third millennium, we are more aware than ever of the need to defend and nurture life. A real "culture of life" must be fostered in our world.

I know how energetically committed you are to defending life. Despite your tireless dedication, however, the worrying data indicating the spread of a more and more disturbing culture of death in many countries of the old continent can also be noted in your homeland. The statistics published on abortion in your country in recent decades are alarming. They must spur you to defend human life fearlessly and clearly at every phase of its existence from conception to natural death. Do everything possible to encourage expectant mothers to carry their pregnancy to term.

In these critical times the Church has an important role. Christians must become more and more what they are called to be: the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt Mt 5,13-14). This noble vocation especially obliges Pastors who, as we read in the Second Letter to Timothy, must be ready to preach the word on every occasion, in season and out of season (cf. 2Tm 4,2). Be involved wherever you think you should defend God and man! Do not be of the world, but do not separate yourselves from the world (cf. Jn Jn 15,19). A secular society in which there is less and less talk of God needs your voice. To give society a soul, it may be helpful to ally yourselves with the Pastors and Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. The ecumenism of witness, in fact, opens a broad area for cooperation.

4. The current conditions of the Church in Hungary must not be identified merely as an agnostic context of religious indifference. God is present, even if he is excluded or never mentioned. Of course, many live as though God did not exist. But the desire for him is always alive in hearts. For man is not satisfied only with what is human, but seeks a truth that transcends him because he senses, if confusedly, that in this truth lies the meaning of his life. The answer to the question of life's meaning is a great opportunity for the Church. Let us open our doors, then, to all who are sincerely searching for God! Those who ask the Church for truth have the right to expect that she will offer them the written or transmitted word of God authentically and integrally (cf. Dei Verbum, DV 10).

The search for truth is thus protected from the risks of a vague, irrational or syncretistic piety, and God's living Church is revealed for what she is: "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1Tm 3,15).

5. The Church in your country has endured various kinds of persecution: violent, and other more sophisticated and subtle forms. In the past 10 years, the Church has experienced a different reality: the "turning-point" has led not only to new freedom, but also to "consumer shock". Material goods are emphasized with such insistence that any desire for religious and moral values is often stifled. But as time passes, if the soul is not nourished and only hands are filled, man experiences emptiness: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Mt 4,4 cf. Dt Dt 8,3).

In this connection I would like to express my concern about the significance of Sunday, which is in ever greater risk of losing all meaning. In the Apostolic Letter Dies Domini I described Sunday as the Lord's day and man's day. I would like to repeat a thought which is close to my heart: man, as a person, must not be overwhelmed by economic interests. This is a real risk, because "the consumer society", where God is often considered dead, has created an abundance of idols, prominent among which is the idol of profit at any cost. During the Great Jubilee a different side of these societies was also revealed: many people have rediscovered the reserves of Christianity, the Church's reserves, that is, the faith witnessed to and lived by many believers. Despite appearances that might give the opposite impression, Christian faith is deeply rooted in your people's hearts. It is up to you to reawaken God's voice in human consciences.

6. The truth of faith must be matched with consistency of life. The Church in Hungary, poor in material possessions, has priceless spiritual treasures, represented by the examples of faith and holiness of so many of her members. I am thinking in particular of Christian families, true "domestic churches". To face the challenges of modern society, we need to renew our pastoral ministry to families. I previously entrusted this wish to you in the Message I sent you for the feast of St Stephen in the unforgettable Year 2000. "Be conscious of the centrality of the family for a well-ordered, flourishing society" (n. 4). I am pleased that you gave the family a privileged place in the hierarchy of pastoral priorities by writing a joint Pastoral Letter on the Family. I appreciate this concerted action and hope that others will follow.

The work of evangelization in your country is in fact so immense that it requires all your forces and energies. There are the traditional "pulpits" such as preaching, catechesis, spiritual retreats and pastoral letters. But at the same time important new "aeropagi" await you: radio, television and new technologies. It is difficult to use and to "evangelize" these new means, but with imagination and courage it can be done! I congratulate you on your efforts to establish a Catholic radio station. Such an institution, if it is used and managed well, can become a kind of pulpit from which you Pastors will be able to reach even the people who have left the Church.

7. Dear Brothers, if all Christians are called to be conformed to Christ, even more so are Bishops, who must be a model for their flocks. May Christ always be at the centre of your life. I am pleased with the motto you have chosen for your Hungarian millennium: "Our past is our hope - Christ is our future". Christ will be your future if you continue to contemplate his face; if you seek to live the Church more and more as communion; if you commit yourselves to an authentic and exciting vocations apostolate to deal with the shortage of priests and religious; if you help the lay faithful to discover and live ever more deeply their own vocation, on which the Second Vatican Council was so insistent.

The pupil of your pastoral eye must be young people. In this regard, you have taken an important step forward in the past five years by refounding many Catholic schools and establishing a Catholic university. These institutions are a sort of "workshop" in which students have the opportunity to prepare themselves for a Christian life worthy of human freedom and based on truth. Those who follow the voice of conscience need an authentic conscience in conformity with the truths taught by the Magisterium.

8. I wanted to encourage you with these thoughts, dear Brothers, in the pastoral tasks entrusted to you at the service of the Church in your homeland. Aware of your great dedication in carrying out your episcopal ministry, I would like to express to you my fraternal and grateful appreciation. In every situation may you be strengthened by the thought that Jesus Christ did not take you into his service as mere "managers", but consecrated you as stewards of his Mysteries, calling you to share in his friendship (cf. Jn Jn 15,14-15).

Lastly, I entrust your life and your mission as Pastors of your flocks to the intercession of Mary, Magna Domina Hungarorum. May an abundance of heavenly graces come upon you and on the priests, deacons, religious and lay people of your Dioceses, in pledge of which I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

                                                       February 2001



Thursday, 1 February 2001

1. The opening of the new judicial year of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota offers me an appropriate occasion to meet you once again. In greeting all present with affection, I am particularly pleased to express to you, dear Prelate Auditors, officials and advocates, my heartfelt appreciation of the prudent and strenuous work you devote to the administration of justice in the service of this Apostolic See. With professional skill you endeavour to safeguard the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage and, in short, the sacred rights of the human person in accordance with the age-old tradition of the Rotal Tribunal.

I thank His Excellency the Dean for voicing and expressing your sentiments and fidelity. His words fittingly allowed us to relive the Great Jubilee which has just ended.

2. Families, in fact, were among those who played a leading role during the Jubilee days, as I pointed out in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte (cf. n. 10). There I recalled the risks to which the family institution is exposed, stressing that "this fundamental institution is experiencing a radical and widespread crisis" (n. 47). Among the most difficult challenges facing the Church today is that of a pervasive culture of individualism, which tends, as His Excellency the Dean put it so well, to limit and restrict marriage and the family to the private sphere. Therefore, I think it appropriate this morning to revisit several themes that I dwelt on in our previous meetings (cf. Addresses to the Rota, 28 January 1991: AAS, 83, PP 947-953 and 21 January 1999: AAS, 91, PP 622-627), to reaffirm the traditional teaching about the natural dimension of marriage and the family.

The Church's Magisterium and canonical legislation abound with references to the natural character of marriage. In Gaudium et spes the Second Vatican Council, after first stating that "God himself is the author of marriage and has endowed it with various benefits and ends" (n. 48), addresses several problems of conjugal morality by referring to "objective criteria drawn from the nature of the human person and of his acts" (n. 51). For their part, both of the Codes I promulgated affirm in their definition of marriage that the "consortium totius vitae" is "by its very nature ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children" (CIC 1055 CCEO, can. 776, 1).

This truth, in the climate created by an ever more marked secularization and a thoroughly privatistic approach to marriage and the family, is not only disregarded but openly challenged.

3. Many misunderstandings have beset the very idea of "nature". The metaphysical concept, referred to by the Church documents cited above, has been particularly neglected. There is a tendency to reduce what is specifically human to the cultural sphere, claiming a completely autonomous creativity and efficacy for the person at both the individual and social levels. From this viewpoint, the natural is merely a physical, biological and sociological datum to be technologically manipulated according to one's own interests.

This opposition between culture and nature deprives culture of any objective foundation, leaving it at the mercy of will and power. This can be seen very clearly in the current attempts to present de facto unions, including those of homosexuals, as comparable to marriage, whose natural character is precisely denied.

This merely empirical conception of nature makes it radically impossible to understand that the human body is not something extrinsic to the person, but constitutes, along with the spiritual and immortal soul, an intrinsic principle of that unitary being which is the human person. This is what I explained in the Encyclical Veritatis splendor (cf. nn. 46-50: AAS, 85 [1993], pp. 1169-1174), where I stressed the moral relevance of this doctrine, so important for marriage and the family. In fact, one can easily search in false spiritualities for an alleged confirmation of what is contrary to the spiritual reality of the marital bond.

4. When the Church teaches that marriage is a natural reality, she is proposing a truth evinced by reason for the good of the couple and of society, and confirmed by the revelation of Our Lord, who closely and explicitly relates the marital union to the "beginning" (Mt 19,4-8) spoken of in the Book of Genesis: "male and female he created them" (Gn 1,27), and "the two shall become one flesh" (Gn 2,24).

The fact, however, that the natural datum is authoritatively confirmed and raised by Our Lord to a sacrament in no way justifies the tendency, unfortunately widespread today, to ideologize the idea of marriage - nature, essential properties and ends - by claiming a different valid conception for a believer or a non-believer, for a Catholic or a non-Catholic, as though the sacrament were a subsequent and extrinsic reality to the natural datum and not the natural datum itself evinced by reason, taken up and raised by Christ to a sign and means of salvation.

Marriage is not just any union between human persons that can be formed according to a variety of cultural models. Man and woman experience in themselves the natural inclination to be joined in marriage. But marriage, as St Thomas states so clearly, is natural not because "it results by necessity from natural principles", but because it is a reality "to which one is inclined by nature, although it comes about through free will" (Summa Theol., Suppl., q. 41, a. 1, in c.). Any opposition, therefore, between nature and freedom or between nature and culture is extremely misleading.

In examining the historical and contemporary reality of the family, there is frequently a tendency to emphasize the differences in order to relativize the very existence of a natural plan for the union of man and woman. The more realistic observation, however, is that, along with the difficulties, limitations and deviations, man and woman have always had a profound inclination in their being which is not the result of their own creativity and which, in its basic features, fully transcends historical and cultural differences.

The only way, in fact, that the authentic richness and variety of all that is essentially human can come to light is through fidelity to the requirements of one's nature. In marriage too, the desirable harmony between the diversity of expressions and the essential unity is not only conjectural, but is guaranteed by living in fidelity to the natural requirements of the person. Christians, moreover, know that for this task they can count on the strength of grace, which is capable of healing nature wounded by sin.

5. The "consortium totius vitae" requires the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (CIC 1057,2 CCEO, can. 817, 1). But this personal self-giving needs a principle to specify it and a permanent foundation. The natural consideration of marriage shows us that husband and wife are joined precisely as sexually different persons with all the wealth, including spiritual wealth, that this difference has at the human level. Husband and wife are united as a man-person and a woman-person. The reference to the natural dimension of their masculinity and femininity is crucial for understanding the essence of marriage. The personal bond of marriage is established precisely at the natural level of the male or female mode of being a human person.

The scope of action for the couple and, therefore, of their matrimonial rights and duties follows from that of their being and has its true foundation in the latter. In this way, therefore, man and woman, by virtue of that most unique act of will which is marital consent (CIC 1057,2 CCEO, can. 817, 1), freely establish between themselves a bond prefigured by their nature, which now represents for both of them a true vocational path on which to live their own personhood as a response to God's plan.

The ordering to the natural ends of marriage - the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring - is intrinsically present in masculinity and femininity. This teleological characteristic is crucial for understanding the natural dimension of the union. In this sense, the natural character of marriage is better understood when it is not separated from the family.

Marriage and the family are inseparable, because the masculinity and femininity of the married couple are constitutively open to the gift of children. Without this openness there could not even be a good of the spouses worthy of the name.

The essential properties, unity and indissolubility, are also inscribed in the very being of marriage, since in no way are they laws extrinsic to it. Only if marriage is seen as a union involving the person in the realization of his natural relational structure, which remains essentially the same throughout his personal life, can it withstand the changes of life, the efforts and even the crises through which human freedom often passes in living its commitments. But if the marital union is thought to be based only on personal qualities, interests or attractions, it obviously is no longer seen as a natural reality but as a situation dependent on the current perseverance of the will in relation to the continuance of contingent facts and feelings. Certainly, the bond is caused by consent, that is, by an act of the man's and the woman's will, but this consent actualizes a power already existing in the nature of man and woman. Thus, the indissoluble force of the bond itself is based on the natural reality of the union freely established between man and woman.

6. These ontological premises have many consequences. I will limit myself to pointing out those that are particularly important and relevant to the canon law of marriage. Thus, in the light of marriage as a natural reality we can easily grasp the natural character of the capacity to marry: "All who are not prohibited by law can contract marriage" (CIC 1058 CCEO, can. 778). No interpretation of the norms on the incapacity for consent (cf. CIC, CIC 1095 CCEO, can. 818) would be correct if it were to make that principle useless in practice: "The science of law", Cicero said, "must be drawn from man's inmost nature" (Cicero, De Legibus, II).

The norm of canon 1058 cited above becomes even clearer if we keep in mind that by its nature the marital union involves the masculinity and femininity itself of the married couple; therefore it is not a union that essentially requires unusual characteristics in the contracting parties. If that were the case, matrimony would be reduced to a factual integration of persons and their characteristics, and its duration would also depend only on the existence of a no better determined interpersonal affection.

To a certain widespread mentality today this view may seem to conflict with the demands of personal fulfilment. What is difficult for this mentality to understand is the very possibility of a true marriage that has not succeeded. The explanation is found in the framework of an integral human and Christian vision of life. This is certainly not the moment to dwell on the truths that shed light on this question: in particular, the truths about human freedom in the present condition of fallen but redeemed nature, about sin, forgiveness and grace.

It will be enough to recall that even marriage does not escape the logic of Christ's Cross, which indeed requires effort and sacrifice and involves pain and suffering, but does not prevent, in the acceptance of God's will, complete and authentic personal fulfilment in peace and serenity of spirit.

7. The very act of marital consent is best understood in relation to the natural dimension of the union. For the latter is the objective reference-point by which the individual lives his natural inclination. Hence the normality and simplicity of true consent. To present consent as the following of a cultural model or one of positive law is not realistic and risks needlessly complicating the investigation of matrimonial validity. It is a question of seeing whether the persons, in addition to identifying each other's person, have truly grasped the essential natural dimension of their married state, which implies, as an intrinsic requirement, fidelity, indissolubility and potential fatherhood/motherhood as goods that integrate a relationship of justice.

"Even the most profound or subtle science of law", Pope Pius XII of venerable memory warned, "could not identify another criterion for distinguishing between just and unjust laws, between the mere legal right and the true right, than the criterion which can already be perceived by the light of reason alone from the nature of things and of man himself, the criterion of the law written by the Creator in the human heart and expressly confirmed by Revelation. If law and juridical science do not wish to renounce the only guide that can keep them on the right path, they must recognize "ethical obligations' as valid objective norms for the juridical order too" (Address to the Rota, 13 November 1949: AAS, 41, p. 607).

8. In drawing to a close, I would like to dwell briefly on the relationship between the natural character of marriage and its sacramentality, seeing that there have been frequent attempts since Vatican II to revitalize the supernatural aspect of marriage which include theological, pastoral and canonical proposals that are foreign to tradition, such as the attempt to require faith as a prerequisite for marriage.

Shortly after the start of my Pontificate, following the Synod of Bishops on the family which discussed this topic, I addressed it in Familiaris consortio, writing in 1980: "The sacrament of Matrimony has this specific element that distinguishes it from all the other sacraments: it is the sacrament of something that was part of the very economy of creation; it is the very conjugal covenant instituted by the Creator" (n. 68: AAS, 73, p. 163). Consequently, the only way to identify the reality that was linked from the beginning with the economy of salvation and that in the fullness of time is one of the seven sacraments of the New Covenant in the proper sense is to refer to the natural reality presented to us by Scripture in Genesis (1: 27; 2: 18-25). This is what Jesus did in speaking about the indissolubility of the marital bond (cf. Mt Mt 19,3-12 Mc 10,1-2), and what St Paul did in explaining the nature of the "great mystery" which marriage has "in reference to Christ and the Church" (Ep 5,32).

Matrimony, moreover, while being a "sign signifying and conferring grace", is the only one of the seven sacraments that is not related to an activity specifically ordered to the attainment of directly supernatural ends. For the ends of marriage are not only predominantly but properly "by its very nature" the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring (CIC 1055).

A different viewpoint would consider the sacramental sign to consist in the couple's response of faith and Christian life; thus it would lack an objective consistency allowing it to be numbered among the true Christian sacraments. To obscure the natural dimension of marriage, therefore, with its reduction to a mere subjective experience, also entails the implicit denial of its sacramentality. On the contrary, it is precisely the correct understanding of this sacramentality in the Christian life which spurs us to a new estimation of its natural dimension.

On the other hand, to introduce requirements of intention or faith for the sacrament that go beyond that of marrying according to God's plan from the "beginning" - in addition to the grave risks that I mentioned in Familiaris consortio (n. 68, loc. cit. , pp. PP 164-165): unfounded and discriminatory judgements, doubts about the validity of marriages already celebrated, particularly by baptized non-Catholics - would inevitably mean separating the marriage of Christians from that of other people. This would be deeply contrary to the true meaning of God's plan, in which it is precisely the created reality that is a "great mystery" in reference to Christ and the Church.

9. Dear Prelate Auditors, officials and advocates, these are some of the reflections I wanted to share with you to guide and support your valuable service to the People of God.

Upon each of you and your daily work I invoke the special protection of Mary Most Holy, Mirror of Justice, and cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your relatives and to the students of the Studio Rotale.

Speeches 2001 - Monday, 29 January 2001