Speeches 2001



Monday 18 June 2001

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I warmly welcome your visit on the occasion of the International Congress of Catholic Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, at which you are reflecting upon your future in the light of the fundamental right to medical training and practice according to conscience. Through you, I greet all those health workers who, as servants and guardians of life, bear unceasing witness throughout the world to the presence of Christ’s Church in this vital field, especially when human life is threatened by the burgeoning culture of death. In particular, I thank professor Gian Luigi Gigli for his kind words on your behalf, and I greet Professor Robert Walley, co-organizer of your Meeting.

2. Christian obstetricians, gynaecologists and obstetric nurses are always called to be servants and guardians of life, for "the Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as ‘good news’ to the people of every age and culture" (Evangelium Vitae, EV 1). But your profession has become still more important and your responsibility still greater "in today’s cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, [and] health-care professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death" (ibid., 89).

Until quite recently, medical ethics in general and Catholic morality were rarely in disagreement. Without problems of conscience, Catholic doctors could generally offer patients all that medical science afforded. But this has now changed profoundly. The availability of contraceptive and abortive drugs, new threats to life in the laws of some countries, some of the uses of prenatal diagnosis, the spread of in vitro fertilization techniques, the consequent production of embryos to deal with sterility, but also their destination to scientific research, the use of embryonic stem cells for the development of tissue for transplants to cure degenerative diseases, and projects of full or partial cloning, already done with animals: all of these have changed the situation radically.

Moreover, conception, pregnancy and childbirth are no longer understood as ways of cooperating with the Creator in the marvelous task of giving life to a new human being. Instead they are often perceived as a burden and even as an ailment to be cured, rather than being seen as a gift from God.

3. Inevitably Catholic obstetricians and gynaecologists and nurses are caught up in these tensions and changes. They are exposed to a social ideology which asks them to be agents of a concept of "reproductive health" based on new reproductive technologies. Yet despite the pressure upon their conscience, many still recognize their responsibility as medical specialists to care for the tiniest and weakest of human beings, and to defend those who have no economic or social power, or public voice of their own.

The conflict between social pressure and the demands of right conscience can lead to the dilemma either of abandoning the medical profession or of compromising one’s convictions. Faced with that tension, we must remember that there is a middle path which opens up before Catholic health workers who are faithful to their conscience. It is the path of conscientious objection, which ought to be respected by all, especially legislators.

4. In striving to serve life, we must work to ensure that the right to professional training and practice that is respectful of conscience in law and in practice is guaranteed. It is clear, as I noted in my Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, that "Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil" (No. 74). Wherever the right to train for and practice medicine with respect for one’s moral convictions is violated, Catholics must earnestly work for redress.

In particular, Catholic universities and hospitals are called to follow the directives of the Church’s Magisterium in every aspect of obstetric and gynaecological practice, including research involving embryos. They should also offer a qualified and internationally recognized teaching network, in order to help doctors who are subject to discrimination or unacceptable pressure on their moral convictions to specialize in obstetrics and gynaecology.

5. It is my fervent hope that at the beginning of this new millennium, all Catholic medical and health care personnel, whether in research or practice, will commit themselves whole-heartedly to the service of human life. I trust that the local Churches will give due attention to the medical profession, promoting the ideal of unambiguous service to the great miracle of life, supporting obstetricians, gynaecologists and health workers who respect the right to life by helping to bring them together for mutual support and the exchange of ideas and experiences.

Entrusting you and your mission as guardians and servants of life to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all who work with you in bearing witness to the Gospel of life.




To the Most Reverend Fr Luis Picazo
Superior General of the Sons of the Holy Family

1. Knowing that you are celebrating the centenary of the Papal approval of your religious institute, I am happy to send a cordial greeting to all the Sons of the Holy Family. Having received the the seed of their Founder, Bl. José Manyanet y Vives, they want to follow his footsteps today in religious consecration and in the particular mission to serve the Church, primarily through family ministry.

This celebration is a good occasion to reaffirm that original inspiration to "make a Nazareth of every family", making it fruitful "at a time in history like the present ... particularly when this fundamental institution is experiencing a radical and widespread crisis" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 47). So I invite you to be leaders of a coordinated and incisive action to bring to every sector of society the evangelical message that sanctifies married life, giving cohesion to the family nucleus which welcomes life, assures education and transmits faith. To this end you can count on more than 100 years of tradition, during which you have developed a particular sensibility to perceive the problems and bring to every home the needed help, material and spiritual, so that it realizes its call to be the first cell of society and a domestic church.

2. The centenary that you now celebrate makes us look at the close link between your apostolic action with the doctrine and Magisterium of the Church, which should inspire your action. You well know the importance your founder gave to the support of the new institute by ecclesiastical authorities and the immense joy that pervaded him when he obtained the canonical approval of Pope Leo XIII, with the decree Attenta salutarium of 22 June 1901.

Bl. Manyanet's concern is that of a faithful son of the Church. It is also the result of a profound spirituality forged in contemplation of the mystery of the family of Nazareth, where cohesion and fidelity go far beyond institutional needs, to become a clear reflection of Trinitarian communion. In proposing the Holy Family as an ideal of Christian life, every means must be used so that in the great family of God that is the Church the most complete harmony and communion reign. In your charism you have a specific root and further reason to be faithful to the needs of an "allegiance of mind and heart" to the Magisterium, that must characterize the attitude and action of all consecrated persons (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 46).

3. In solemnly celebrating the moment when your Founder, filled with love for the Church and loyalty to her Pastors, saw his project for consecrated life recognized by the Holy Father, I encourage you to follow him and renew your fidelity to the charism recieved. In this way you will continue his work, every day enriching the great spiritual heritage that he has transmitted to you, in order to offer it as an invaluable service to the people of today.

While I ask the Holy Family of Nazareth to make your apostolic efforts fruitful and to share in that singular spiritual experience intensely lived in the home by Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I cordially impart to you the implored Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all who collaborate with you in the mission of making every family, as Bl. Manyanet said, "a Holy Family".

From the Vatican, 16 June.




Kyiv International Airport

Saturday, 23 June 2001

Mr President,
Distinguished Civil Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Venerable Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I have long awaited this visit and have prayed fervently that it might take place. Finally, with deep joy, I have been able to kiss the beloved soil of Ukraine. I thank God for the gift which today he has given me.

History has recorded the names of two Roman Pontiffs who, in the distant past, came this far: Saint Clement I at the end of the first century and Saint Martin I in the mid-seventh. They were deported to the Crimea, where they died as martyrs. Their present successor, however, comes to you in an atmosphere of festive welcome. He is eager to make this pilgrimage to the renowned churches of Kyiv, the cradle of the Christian culture of the whole of Eastern Europe.

I come among you, dear citizens of Ukraine, as a friend of your noble Nation. I come as a brother in the faith to embrace all the Christians who, amid the severest of tribulations, have persevered in their fidelity to Christ.

I come in love, to express to all the sons and daughters of this Nation, to Ukrainians of every cultural and religious background, my esteem and my cordial friendship.

2. I greet you, Ukraine, brave and determined witness of adherence to the values of faith. How much you suffered in order to vindicate, in difficult times, the freedom to profess this faith!

I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Saint Andrew, who according to tradition said that he saw the glory of God shining brightly on the hills of Kyiv. And this is what happened, centuries later, with the Baptism of Prince Vladimir and his people.

But the Apostle’s vision does not concern only your past; its light shines also on the future of your country. With the eyes of my heart, in fact, I seem to see a new radiance spreading over this blessed land: the radiance that will spring from the renewed confirmation of the choice made in the distant year 988, when Christ was accepted by the Ukrainian Nation as "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14,6).

3. If today I have the joy of being here among you, I owe it to the invitation made to me by you, President Leonid Kuchma, and by all of you, my venerable Brother Bishops of the two traditions, Eastern and Western. I am most grateful to you for this kind gesture, which has enabled me to set foot for the first time as the Successor of the Apostle Peter on the soil of this land.

My gratitude goes first of all to you, Mr President, for your warm welcome and for the courteous words which you have just addressed to me also in the name of all your fellow citizens. Through you I wish to greet the whole Ukrainian people. I congratulate them on their re-won independence and give thanks to God for the fact that this took place without bloodshed.A wish for the future rises up in my heart: that the Ukrainian Nation may continue on this road of peace, thanks to the harmonious contribution of the different ethnic, cultural and religious groups! Without peace, no shared and lasting prosperity is possible.

4. My thanks go now to you, my venerable Brother Bishops of the Greek Catholic Church and of the Latin Catholic Church. I have kept in my heart your repeated invitations to visit Ukraine, and I am happy that I am now able finally to do so. I am filled with joy and anticipation at the thought of the various opportunities which we shall have in the coming days to be united in prayer to Christ, our Lord. To the faithful of your communities go my affectionate greetings.

What an immense burden of suffering you have had to endure in years past! But now you are responding enthusiastically and re-organizing yourselves, seeking light and comfort from your glorious past. Your intention is to continue courageously in your resolve to spread the Gospel, the light of truth and love for every human being. Do not lose heart! This is an undertaking that honours you, and the Lord will certainly not fail to grant you the grace to bring it to completion.

5. As a pilgrim of peace and brotherhood, I am sure that I shall be welcomed with friendship also by those who, although they are not Catholics, have hearts open to dialogue and cooperation. I wish to assure them that I have not come here with the intention of proselytizing, but to bear witness to Christ together with all Christians of every Church and Ecclesial Community, and to invite all the sons and daughters of this noble Land to turn their eyes to him who gave his life for the salvation of the world.

In this spirit I extend a cordial greeting to the dear Brother Bishops, the monks and priests, and all the faithful of the Orthodox Church, who form the majority of the citizens in this Country. I recall with pleasure that down the course of history relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Kyiv have known periods of light: as we remember these, we feel encouraged to hope for a future of ever greater understanding on the road to full communion.

Unfortunately, there have also been sad times, when the image of Christ’s love has been obscured: bowing before our one Lord, let us recognize our faults. As we ask forgiveness for the errors committed in both the distant and recent past, let us in turn offer forgiveness for the wrongs endured. The most fervent wish that rises from my heart is that the errors of times past will not be repeated in the future. May their memory not be a hindrance on the way to mutual knowledge, the source of brotherhood and cooperation.

The world is rapidly changing: what was unthinkable yesterday is within our reach today. Christ exhorts us all to renew in our hearts feelings of brotherly love. If we rely on love, it is possible — with God’s help — to transform the world.

6. Finally, my greetings extend to all the other citizens of Ukraine. Notwithstanding the diversity of your religious and cultural backgrounds, beloved people of Ukraine, there is one element that unites you: you share the same history, and the hopes and disappointments which it has brought.

Down the centuries, the Ukrainian people has known harsh and exhausting trials. How can we fail to recall, remaining in the context of the century just ended, the scourge of the two World Wars, the recurring famines, the disastrous natural calamities — extremely sad events that in their wake left millions dead? In particular, under the oppression of totalitarian regimes such as Communism and Nazism, the people risked losing its national, cultural and religious identity; it saw the destruction of the intellectual elite, the custodians of the Nation’s civil and religious heritage. Most recently, there was the radioactive accident at Chernobyl, with its tragic and pitiless consequences for the environment and the lives of so many human beings. But it was precisely at that moment that the definitive change for the better began. That apocalyptic event, which led your country to repudiate nuclear weapons, also brought your citizens to a vigorous re-awakening, inspiring them to set out on the road to a brave renewal.

It is difficult to explain as the result of merely human dynamics the epoch-making changes of the last two decades. But whatever the interpretation given, it is certain that from these experiences a new hope has been born. It is important not to disappoint the expectations which now fill the hearts of so many, especially among the young. With the contribution of everyone it is now urgently necessary to promote in the cities and villages of Ukraine the blossoming of a new, authentic humanism. This is the dream that your great poet Taras Shevchenko expressed in the famous verse: ". . . enemies will be no more, but there will be the child, there will be the mother, there will be people on the earth!".

7. I embrace you all, beloved Ukrainians, from Donetsk to Lviv, from Kharkiv to Odessa and to Simferopol! In the very name Ukraine there is a reminder of the greatness of your Country which, with its history, bears witness to its unique vocation as the frontier and gate between East and West. Down the centuries this country has been the privileged crossroads of different cultures, the meeting place of the spiritual treasures of East and West.

Ukraine has a clearly European vocation, emphasized also by the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots will strengthen your national unity, bringing the life-blood of authentic and shared values to the reforms now under way. May this land continue in its noble mission, with the pride expressed by the poet just quoted when he wrote: "Nowhere in the world is there another Ukraine, nowhere is there another Dnieper". You who live in this Land, do not forget this!

These are the thoughts that fill my heart as I take my first steps on this visit, eagerly awaited and today happily begun. God bless you, dear people of Ukraine, and may he always protect your beloved Homeland!




Saturday, 23 June 2001

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Zarvaniza,

I thank you for the gift of my visit to the Kyivan Rus’

from where the light of the Gospel spread through this whole region.

Here before your miraculous icon,

kept in this church of Saint Nicholas,

I entrust to you, Mother of God and Mother of the Church,

my apostolic journey to Ukraine.

Holy Mother of God,

spread your maternal mantle over all Christians

and over all people of good will

who live in this great nation.

Lead them to your Son, Jesus,

who is for everyone the way, the truth and the life.




Saturday, 23 June 2001

Kyiv (Presidential Palace)

Mr President,

Honourable Representatives of the Government and Parliament,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I offer respectful and cordial greetings to one and all. With great pleasure I accepted your invitation, Mr President, to visit this noble country, a cradle of Christian civilization and a homeland where people of different nationalities and religions live together in peace. I rejoice that I am now standing on Ukrainian soil. I consider it a great honour to meet at last the people of a nation which, in these difficult years of transition, has succeeded in ensuring conditions of peace and tranquillity for its inhabitants. I thank you most cordially for your kind reception and your courteous words of welcome.

With great esteem I greet the Deputies and the Members of the Government, the Authorities of every rank, the Representatives of the people, the Diplomatic Corps, the men and women of culture, of the sciences, and all the vital forces which contribute to the welfare of the Nation. I embrace in sincere friendship the Ukrainian people, the majority of whom are Christian, as is evident from your culture, your native traditions, the numerous churches dotting the landscape, as well as the countless works of art found everywhere in your country. I greet a land which has known suffering and oppression, while preserving a love of freedom which no one has ever managed to repress.

2. I have come among you as a pilgrim of peace, impelled solely by the desire to testify that Christ is "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14,6). I have come to pay homage to the shrines of your history and to join you in imploring God’s protection upon your future.

With joy I greet you, splendid city of Kyiv, lying midway along the river Dnieper, cradle of the ancient Slavs and of Ukrainian culture, so deeply imbued with Christian values. On the soil of your land, a crossroads between Western and Eastern Europe, the two great Christian traditions, Eastern and Latin, met and were given a favourable welcome. Over the centuries, there have been tensions between them, resulting in conflicts harmful to both sides. But today there is a growing openness to mutual forgiveness. There is a need to overcome barriers and mistrust, in order to join in building a country of harmony and peace, drawing, as in the past, from the wellsprings of your shared Christian faith.

3. Yes, dear Ukrainians! It is Christianity that has inspired the greatest figures of your culture and art, and richly nourished the moral, spiritual and social roots of your country. I gladly recall here the words of your fellow countryman, the philosopher Hrigorij Skovoroda: "Everything passes away, but love remains after all else is gone. Everything passes away, save God and love". Only someone profoundly imbued with the Christian spirit was capable of such an insight. In his words we hear an echo of the First Letter of John: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (4:16).

Throughout Europe the word of the Gospel took deep root and in the course of the centuries brought forth wonderful fruits of civilization, learning and holiness. Tragically, the choices made by the peoples of the Continent have not always been consistent with the values of their respective Christian traditions, and history has thus been marked by painful episodes of oppression, destruction and sorrow.

The older among you remember the terrible years of the Soviet dictatorship and the dreadful famine of the beginning of the 1930s, when Ukraine, "the granary of Europe", was no longer able to feed its own children, who died by the millions. And how can we forget the host of your fellow citizens who perished during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 against the Nazi invasion? Unfortunately, liberation from Nazism marked the return of a regime which continued to trample on the most elementary human rights, deporting defenceless citizens, imprisoning dissidents, persecuting believers, and even attempting to erase the very idea of freedom and independence from the consciousness of the Ukrainian people. Happily, the great turning-point of 1989 finally permitted Ukraine to regain her freedom and full sovereignty.

4. Your people attained that greatly-desired goal peacefully and without bloodshed, and they are now firmly committed to a courageous programme of social and spiritual reconstruction. The international community cannot fail to admire the success which you have had in consolidating peace and in resolving regional tensions with due consideration for local differences.

I too encourage you to persevere in your efforts to overcome whatever difficulties remain and to guarantee full respect for the rights of national and religious minorities. A policy of wise tolerance will surely win respect and goodwill for the Ukrainian people and ensure you a particular place in the family of European peoples.

As Shepherd of the Catholic Church, I sincerely appreciate the fact that the Preamble to the Constitution of Ukraine reminds citizens of their "responsibility before God". Surely this was the viewpoint of your own Hrigorij Skovoroda, when he encouraged his contemporaries always to make every effort to "understand man", seeking paths which would enable humanity to emerge definitively from the dead end of intransigence and hatred.

The values of the Gospel, which are part of your national identity, will help you to build a modern, tolerant, open and fraternal society, in which individuals can make their own specific contribution to the common good, while at the same time finding the support they need to develop as fully as possible their own talents.

Here I appeal especially to the young people: as they follow in the steps of those who sacrificed their lives for lofty human, civic and religious ideals, may they preserve unchanged this heritage of civilization.

5. "Do not allow the powerful to destroy mankind", wrote Volodymyr Monomakh (+ 1125) in his book Instruction to My Children. These words remain as valid today as when they were first written.

In the twentieth century, the totalitarian regimes destroyed whole generations, by undermining three pillars of any authentically human civilization: recognition of God’s authority, from which come binding moral rules of life (cf. Ex Ex 20,1-18); respect for the dignity of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn Gn 1,26-27), and the duty to exercise power as a means of serving every member of society without exception, beginning with the weakest and the most vulnerable.

Denial of God did not make man any more free. Rather, it exposed him to various forms of slavery and debased the vocation of political power to the level of brutal and oppressive force.

6. Men and women of politics! Do not forget this earnest lesson of history! Your task is to serve the people and to ensure peace and equal rights for all. Resist the temptation to exploit power for personal or group interests. Always be concerned for the needs of the poor and work in all legitimate ways to ensure that every individual is guaranteed access to a just degree of prosperity.

Men and women of culture! You are heirs to a great history. I am thinking in particular of the Orthodox Archbishop of Kyiv, Metropolitan Peter Mohyla, who in the seventeenth century founded the Academy of Kyiv which is still remembered as a beacon of humanistic and Christian culture. It is your responsibility to apply a critical and creative intelligence in every sphere of knowledge, by linking the cultural heritage of the past to the challenges posed by modernity, in such a way as to contribute to authentic human progress under the banner of the civilization of love.

And in a special way for you, men and women engaged in scientific research, may the fearful social, economic and ecological catastrophe of Chernobyl serve as a permanent warning! The potential of technology must be wedded to unchanging ethical values, if the respect due to man and his inalienable dignity is to be guaranteed.

Men and women of business and finance in the new Ukraine! The future of your Nation depends also on you. Your courageous contribution, inspired always by the values of competence and honesty, will help to relaunch the national economy. This in turn will restore confidence to all those who are tempted to leave the country in order to seek employment elsewhere.

7. Distinguished Authorities, Ladies and Gentlemen! Humanity has entered the third millennium and new prospects are appearing on the horizon. A global process of development is taking place, marked by rapid and radical changes. Everyone is called to make their own contribution in a spirit of courage and confidence. The Catholic Church stands at the side of all people of good will and supports their efforts in the service of the common good.

For my part, I will continue to accompany you with my prayers, asking God to watch over you and your families, your undertakings and the aspirations of the whole Ukrainian people. Upon all of you I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Apostolic Nunciature, Kyiv

Sunday, 24 June 2001

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I greet you and I embrace you all in the Lord! It is a great joy for me to meet you in your beloved land, to listen to you and to reflect with you upon the journey of communion and upon the promising work of evangelization being done in your communities. In the ten years since your country regained independence after the end of the Communist regime, your communities have organized themselves anew for the sake of more effective pastoral action, and they now look with hope to the future. I invoke upon them a new outpouring of grace from him who is – as the Servant of God Pope Paul VI said so tellingly – "the one who enlivens and sanctifies the Church, her divine breath, the wind in her sails, her principle of unity, her inner wellspring of light and strength, her support and consolation, the source of her gifts and songs, her peace and her joy, her pledge and prelude of blessed and eternal life" (General Audience, 29 November 1972, Insegnamenti X, PP 1210-1211).

2. The joy of today’s meeting will grow still stronger in the days to come, when together we shall take part in the solemn beatification of some of your brother Bishops, who exercised their episcopal ministry in the most dangerous of circumstances. We will pay them the homage of our gratitude for having preserved intact, by their sacrifice, the heritage of Christian faith among the members of their Churches. In raising them to the honours of the altar, I wish to recall with gratitude other Pastors too who also paid dearly for their faithfulness to Christ and for their decision to remain in union with the Successor of Peter.

How can we fail to recall, among them, the Servant of God Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky? My revered predecessor, Pope Pius XII, declared that his noble life was cut short "not so much by his advanced age, but by the sufferings of his soul as Pastor, struck down with his flock" (AAS XLIV [1955], p. 877). Together with him, I recall Cardinal Joseph Slipyj, first Rector of the Greek Catholic Theological Academy of Lviv, happily reopened in recent times. This heroic confessor of the faith suffered the hardship of imprisonment for eighteen long years.

Among you there are still priests and Bishops who were imprisoned and persecuted. In embracing you with deep emotion, dear Brothers, I give praise to God for your faithful witness. It encourages me to accomplish my own service to the universal Church with ever more courageous dedication. I make my own the words which you say when you celebrate the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom: "We give ourselves, each of us, and our entire life to Christ, our God". This is what the martyrs and the confessors of the faith teach us. It is a lesson which we too must learn and live as Pastors of the flock which God has entrusted to us.

3. It is true that it is the task of the whole Church to preserve and pass on the heritage of faith. But it is the solemn duty of Pastors to be trustworthy guides, enlightened teachers and exemplary witnesses for the Christian people. This special responsibility of ours is referred to in the theme to be addressed by the Synod of Bishops of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church this year: "The person and responsibility of the Bishop". On this point, allow me in a spirit of fraternal service to offer you some personal reflections in today’s meeting, which brings together both Eastern and Latin Bishops.

First of all, in union with you, who have prime responsibility for your Churches, I wish to give thanks to God for the witness given by Catholics in this land, where the Church shows forth her divine and human reality, embellished by the genius of Ukrainian culture. Here the Church breathes with the two lungs of the Eastern and Western traditions. Here there is a fraternal meeting between those who draw from the sources of Byzantine spirituality and those who are nourished by Latin spirituality. Here the deep sense of mystery which suffuses the holy liturgy of the Eastern Churches and the mystical succinctness of the Latin Rite come face to face and mutually enrich each other.

Speeches 2001