Speeches 2001 - Saturday 15 September 2001


Saturday 15 September 2001

Dear Oblates of the Sacred Heart,

1. It gives me great joy to meet with you in the context of the solemn celebrations for the centenary of the birth of your Founder, the Servant of God Don Francesco Mottola. A generous and enlightened priest of your dear Diocese, he left a lasting impression on the ecclesial life and on the cultural and social context in which he lived spreading the influence of his apostolic action beyond the confines of Calabria.

I greet Bishop Domenico Cortese of Mileto-Nicotera-Tropea and I thank him for his kind words which conveyed the sentiments of all, recalling well the figure and the spiritual message of Don Mottola. I extend this affectionate thought to you, brothers and sisters, members of the great Oblate Family. To those of you who are present, as well as to all the spiritual sons and daughters of the Servant of God, I wish to extend my greeting, with a great appreciation for your generous evangelical witness, especially with the poor and needy.

2. As your Bishop rightly highlighted, the key word of the life, spirituality and pastoral and charitable action of Don Mottola is "oblation".Gifted with a vivacious and sensitive personality, he took up a demanding ascesis from the first years of priestly formation, nourished by daily prayer, to dominate his exuberant character and identify himself ever more with Christ. In his rule of life he wrote: "The pivotal centre of my spiritual life will be complete and absolute abandonment in the Heart of Jesus". This total entrustment to Christ finds its centre and its essence in the Eucharist and is lived as an "oblation" without reserve to God and for the brethren.

In his experience Don Mottola draws from this premise a harmonious balance between contemplation and action, which are inseparable, according to the known principle: "Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere". The Virgin Mary is the model of this spiritual journey. Your Founder turned to her with filial confidence, imitating her in "contemplation" and in "service", and proposing this perfect integration to his Oblates as a true "social holiness", an effective type of apostolate for our times. This high spirituality, which does not renounce the primacy of contemplation, spurs you to live the evangelical counsels in the world. It welcomes the needs of the brethren, and is sure to be full of initiatives and activities on behalf of the poor and needy. I sincerely hope that the centenary celebrations will be a strong stimulus for all of you to deepen and share the treasure of spirituality and apostolate that this beloved Servant of God passed on to you.

3. I particulary want to address you, dear Priests of the Sacred Heart, who live your identity as diocesan priests in the spirit and with the ideals of Don Mottola. Spread the great values entrusted to you by your founder with your personal testimony and apostolate. Know yourselves to be, to use his lively image, the "cenobites" of the street. He loved to repeat: "The apostolate - for which we have refused the [monastic] cell and have remained travellers in the world - is born of the fullness of contemplation: just as from the snowy peaks the rivers flow down, which though they return to the sea, long for the blue sky, in order to be drawn up to the sun".

I address a word of affection and encouragement also to you, dear Oblates of the Sacred Heart. Following the teachings of Don Mottola, you express your total self-giving to God and to your suffering brothers and sisters. You do not do so in the solitude of the cloister but in the often hectic life of the world, harmonizing prayer and action, the search for God and the witness of charity.

Love and preserve jealously your charism for the good of the Church and of society. Your founder reminds you that you must "tend towards spiritual perfection through contemplative prayer and the apostolate: to remain in the world to be more ready to recognize the voice of sorrow and solitude".

You too, dear Lay Oblates, know that you are witnesses of that contemplation to which every Christian, young person or adult, celibate or married, is called according to the duties of his state.

Strong in this spirituality, you will be able to renew your surroundings through timely initiatives of prayer, as for example the "Venerdě di Corello" (Friday's of Corello), and the civil and social commitment, as you are already doing to support many unemployed youth.

My thoughts go, finally, to the Consecrated of the Sacred Heart. I exhort you to live the Oblate charism in your gift to the Lord and to the brethren, generously collaborating in the life and activity of the parish community and accompanying families, to favour "the return of Christ to families".

4. Dear brothers and sisters, your spiritual family, although formed by particular groups, lives in a constant communion of ideals and fosters shared initiatives. Go forward with generosity and farsightedness in this truly evangelical and ecclesial path!

May the example of your founder encourage you. He was always ready to follow Christ, even when he had to face long years of sickness, a real calvary that perfected his conformity to Christ Crucified. "Usque ad sanguinem!" (Even to the shedding of your blood), he used to say. The physical immobility did not stop him, but made the rays of his influence more intense and effective, deeply touching consciences and leaving a spiritual heritage that today is still bearing fruit.

I entrust you to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Romania, the special Patron of Tropea, loved and venerated by Don Mottola with filial affection, and I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you present here, to all the Oblates of the Sacred Heart and to all those you will meet in your daily service.




Monday, 17 September 2001

Mr Ambassador,

1. I welcome Your Excellency with pleasure on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Holy See, and I thank you for your kind words. I would be grateful if you would kindly convey my thanks to H.E. Mr Nzarbaiev, President of the Republic, for the cordial greetings he addressed to me.

2. I am delighted that in a few days I shall be visiting your country and will thus be establishing a more direct contact with the authorities and inhabitants in their rich diversity. As you emphasized, different races coexist in the territory of Kazakhstan, with different cultures, languages and religions. This pluralist society is both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge, as I said in my Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2001, since "in the past, cultural differences have often been a source of misunderstanding between peoples and the cause of conflicts and wars" (n. 8). It is therefore fitting that each specific group be obliged to show attentive respect for the others, while doing its best to know each other better, to overcome possible tensions.

To form together a national community which is enriched by individual differences is also an opportunity. It presupposes learning to live side by side, which "never implies a dull uniformity or enforced homogenization or assimilation; rather it expresses the convergence of a multiform variety and is therefore a sign of richness and a promise of growth" (ibid., n. 10). May your country, which is celebrating 10 years of independence, continue its peaceful progress towards this goal, with ever greater concern for dialogue among its cultures, for the development of collaboration with the neighbouring countries and for integration into the international community!

3. Your country's cultural diversity is accompanied by a wide range of different religions and denominations and, Mr Ambassador, you stressed the importance your Government attaches to this religious pluralism and to dialogue between the different religions, as well as to the spiritual dimension of human life which they express. In this regard, I am pleased with the good relations that exist between the Holy See and your country and with the agreements that guarantee the rights and duties of the Catholic community resident in Kazakhstan, as well as the State's obligations to it.

Indeed, in a state built on a regard for rights, religious freedom is a precious good, an expression of the fundamental dignity of the human person who freely chooses, according to his conscience, the religion to which he belongs. There is no doubt that this freedom invites people and religious communities to contribute together to the common good, with respect for one another and within the framework of the country's laws. I hope that in this rich diversity Kazakhstan will find a solid basis for its human and spiritual development.

4. Through you, I am happy to greet the Catholic community, its pastors and its faithful, whom I will shortly have many opportunities to meet. I urge them to create living and fraternal communities, that witness to the riches of the Gospel and are concerned to be in dialogue with all their brothers and sisters. I know that they are already taking an active part with all their fellow citizens in the life of the nation and in its material and spiritual development. Through you, I would like to address all those, both civil and religious authorities, who have been generously at work in preparing my journey. May they be warmly thanked!

5. Mr Ambassador, today you are beginning the noble mission of representing your country to the Holy See. Please accept my very best wishes for its success, and be assured that you will always find among those who work with me the necessary understanding and support! I very willingly invoke an abundance of divine blessings upon you, upon your family, upon all who work with you and upon on all your compatriots.


Monday 17 September 2001

To the Men and Women
Religious of the Institutes of the Marist Family

1. It is with joy that I greet all the representatives of the Marist Family on this happy occasion of the General Chapters of your four institutes taking place at the same time, which also allows your joint visit to the Successor of Peter. May we be permitted to see this as a sign of the Spirit and a call to you to let yourselves be led on ways of even greater communion and closer collaboration! I thank Fr Joaquin Fernández, Superior General of the Society of Mary for his cordial words that reflect the spirit in which you are living your chapters, your deep rootedness in Mary and your concern for the missions.

2. You have chosen consecrated life in the Church, following Mary in fidelity both to your founders' intuitions and to the charism of your institutes. Those who have gone before you dedicated themselves to evangelization in parishes, to the education of youth and in promoting the cause of women. They then generously engaged the whole Marist Family in proclaiming the Gospel to the peoples of Western Oceania, marking this ministry with their imprint: education to Christian fervour and care for local vocations. Today the Church welcomes with gratitude the missionary work that has been accomplished and the gifts of God's grace manifested in the life of your institutes. The Church has acknowledged these gifts in a special way as the fruits of holiness in St Peter Chanel and St Marcellin Champagnat.

3. Today yours is the call to make the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary visible in the life of the Church and in the life of men and women in an original and specific way and, for this, to develop a Marian attitude. Such an attitude is distinguished by a joyful availability to the calls of the Holy Spirit, by an unshakeable confidence in the Word of the Lord; by spiritual growth in relation to the various mysteries of Christ's life and by a motherly attentiveness to the needs and sufferings of people, especially of those who are the least. "A filial relation with Mary constitutes the privileged way of faithfulness to the call received and a very effective help to grow in one's response and to live fully one's vocation" (Vita Consecrata VC 28). It is, thus, in turning to Mary with fidelity and boldness and in letting her guide you to "do whatever he tells you" (cf. Jn Jn 2,5) that you will find new ways of evangelizing in our times.

4. As she set out in haste toward the hill country of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth, does Mary not teach us spiritual freedom! How important it is, actually, not to let yourselves be caught up in dealing solely with the heritage of the past, but to discern what is appropriate to let go in a spirit of poverty, and especially with this Gospel freedom that makes us available to the calls of the Spirit.

When facing a multitude of requests, in effect, one needs true freedom to discern which ones are urgent. "Put out into the deep!". This invitation of Jesus to Peter He extends to us "to go forward in hope" along the byways of the world, sure that "the Blessed Virgin Mary accompanies us on this path" (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 58).

5. Mary gave herself totally to the Lord, placing all her trust in the word of God. How she would like to teach you to dwell in the power of this Word and to choose, like the other Mary, the better part (cf. Lk Lc 10,42). In today's world the disciples of Christ can easily be dispersed, because the abundance of material goods can tear them away from what is essential and because pastoral needs are many. As I recently wrote to the whole Church, we need to contemplate the face of Christ (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte, II), to pursue ever more deeply the mystery of his person since he is the true font from which we draw the love we would like to give. Do not let this essential bond of consecration to Christ come undone! Choose rather to follow the Lord humbly, in Mary's discreet way! Work with her to bring your lives into union with the Spirit since, as St Francis de Sales reminds us, "one of the necessary conditions for receiving the Holy Spirit will be to be with Mary" (Sermon I for Pentecost), and allow him to configure you ever more to Christ! Then your life and your mission will find their deep meaning and will bear fruit for the men and women of today!

6. Keep the missionary tradition of your family alive! Do this with Mary, for she leads you to be particularly attentive to the distress of the people of our times, of those who in our modern societies are deprived of dignity, recognition and love.

The Church has special need of you in an area essential for the Marist Family: the education of children and young people. This missionary priority is rooted in the spirit of Mary, mother and teacher of Jesus at Nazareth, and later in the first Christian community. The world of education is difficult and demanding, ceaselessly needing educators to be adaptable to the young and to their new expectations. Do not let yourselves become discouraged by the difficulties of the moment, such as a person's age which seemingly creates a distance between you and the young, or the lack of means or availability of labourers to go and work in the vineyard! Look at the young, instead, with the eyes of the Good Shepherd, as he looked upon the crowds that seemed like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mt Mt 9,36), and also as a field growing ripe for the harvest and which will bear fruit at the desired time! (cf. Jn Jn 4,35-38). Likewise form lay people to work with you so that they will live that charism which gives you life. By your existence, furthermore, you are called to bring young people to discover the joy there is in following Christ in the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to invite young people in search of truth to this way of life!

7. The general chapters you are living confirm the value of fidelity to your founding spirit as well as its necessary renewal, conserving and enriching the institutes' spiritual legacy. May these chapters help you to find new signs of communion among your four institutes, to strengthen a collaboration which will bring forth fruit for the faithful accomplishment of your mission! May the Blessed Virgin Mary guide you on these paths of encountering one another!

8. It is with these sentiments that I am happy to greet you and to greet, through you, the members of the great Marist Family spread out around the world in various apostolates. I greet especially, and with gratitude, your four superiors general: Fr Joaquin Fernández, Bro. Benito Arbués, Sr Gail Reneker and Sr Patricia Stowers, who have exercised in the course of these past years the difficult service of authority in your institutes. I also extend my best wishes to their successors who will be elected soon so that, following Mary's example, they can lead the Marist Family with daring and with fidelity along the paths of the new millennium!

Entrusting you to Our Lady of Fourvičre, who presided over the birth of your institutes, I am happy to grant you, and the whole Marist Family, a special Apostolic Blessing



Friday, 21 September 2001

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. At this last meeting of your visit ad limina Apostolorum, I have the joy of sharing with you the same faith in the risen Christ that accompanies us on our way through life and is living and present in the communities entrusted to your pastoral care. I also extend my affectionate greeting to the diocesan Churches over which you preside with such dedication and generosity.

I would like to express my gratitude to Cardinal Miguel Obando Bravo, Archbishop of Managua and President of the Bishops' Conference, for his kind words to me on your behalf. At the same time, I share in your concerns and desires, and ask God who is rich in mercy to grant that this visit to Rome may be a source of blessings for all the priests, men and women religious and pastoral workers who collaborate so unselfishly with you in your apostolic work among our beloved Nicaraguan people.

Today's meeting makes me recall my second pastoral visit to Nicaragua in February 1996, to which I had so looked forward, when I arrived in your country as an apostle of the Gospel and a pilgrim of hope. It was a freer and more pleasant opportunity for Nicaraguan Catholics to meet with the Pope.

2. I am happy to learn of the pastoral programme for the Diocesan Synods of Managua and Estelí, and also to know that other dioceses are preparing similar initiatives. Celebrating these assemblies helps each particular Church realize that she is in a constant state of mission and must promote the new evangelization by improving the Christian formation of all her members and social and political development. Indeed, undertaking a renewed, effective catechesis that will illumine the faith one professes as well as encouraging a more widely attended liturgy to help the faithful put their whole heart into living and celebrating it, are unavoidable challenges, if all believers are to progress towards holiness and one is to bring close to the Gospel those who have fallen away from or show indifference to the saving message of the Gospel.

The Church feels constantly challenged by Jesus' mandate to proclaim the Gospel to every creature (cf. Mk Mc 16,15), and she has to commit the living forces of every particular Church in bringing the Good News to every sector of human life. The message must therefore be clear and precise: an explicit and prophetic proclamation of the risen Lord, delivered with apostolic "parrhesia" [freedom] (cf. Heb He 5,28-29 Redemptoris missio, RMi 45), so that the word of life becomes a personal commitment to Jesus, Saviour of mankind and of the world. "It is urgent to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out" (Veritatis splendor, VS 88).

3. The goal of your pastoral ministry must be to ensure that the truth about Christ and the truth about man penetrate more deeply every sector of Nicaraguan society and transform them, since "there is no true evangelization, if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed" (Evangelii nuntiandi, EN 22). This is the only way to ensure an evangelization "in depth and going to their very roots" (ibid., n. 20).

You carry out this difficult task among a people with noble hearts and a spirit that is open and receptive to the Good News of the Beatitudes. In Nicaragua, it is certain that the symptoms of a process of secularization are being felt in which for many people God is neither the origin or goal nor the ultimate meaning of life. Basically however, as you well know, this people has a profoundly Christian soul. Proof of this are the living and active ecclesial communities in which, despite the scarcity of priests, many people, families and groups, strive to live and bear witness to their faith. In this regard it is worth mentioning the tireless work of the Delegates of the Word and the catechists who have kept the people's faith alive. They need guidance and continuing theological and pastoral formation. This promising situation gives rise to the hope that new apostles will emerge and respond "with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time" (Redemptoris missio, RMi 92).

4. The new evangelization with methods and forms of expression takes the family as its primary objective. The Final Statement of the Santo Domingo Conference says that "the Church proclaims with joy and conviction the Good News about the family in which humanity's future is forged" (n. 210). The family is the "domestic church", especially when it is the fruit of living Christian communities, which produce young people who have a true vocation to the sacrament of marriage.

Families do not stand alone before the great challenges they must face; the ecclesial community supports them, encourages them in their faith and safeguards their perseverance in a Christian plan of life that is often subject to many upsets and dangers.

The Church helps the family to be an environment where the person is born, grows and is educated for life, and where the parents, with tender love for their children, prepare them for healthy personal relationships that will embody moral and human values in society, affected by hedonism and religious indifference.

At the same time, the ecclesial community, in collaboration with the public agencies of the Nation, should take care to preserve the stability of families and to encourage their spiritual and material progress in order to form their children to make their contribution to society. It is desirable that the authorities of your beloved country fulfil better and better their serious obligations to families. This is what I emphasized in my Message for World Day of Peace in 1994: "the family has the right to the full support of the State in order to carry out fully its particular mission" (n. 5) (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 22-29 Dec 1993, p. 2).

I cannot ignore the difficulties that the institution of the family has to face in Nicaragua, especially with regard to the tragedies of divorce and abortion, as well as the existence of unions that are not in keeping with the Creator's plan for marriage. The reality is a challenge that must stimulate the apostolic zeal of pastors and all who collaborate with them in this area.

5. Priestly vocations are one of your chief concerns, since the number of priests is insufficient to meet the needs of each diocese. As I pointed out at the opening of the Fourth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, "an indispensable condition of the new evangelization is the ability to count on many and qualified evangelists. Therefore, the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life ... must be a priority for the bishops and a commitment involving the whole People of God" (Address at the inauguration of the Fourth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops [CELAM], n. 26, Santo Domingo, 12 October 1992).

I fervently implore the Lord of the harvest to grant that you will have in your seminaries, which must be the very heart of the diocese (Optatam totius, OT 5), more and more candidates for the priesthood who will one day be able to serve their brethren as "servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries" (1Co 4,1). As well as offering seminarians an integral formation, a careful evaluation of their human and Christian suitability is essential, to ensure, as far as possible, that they will carry out worthily their future ministry. Please convey my affectionate greetings to them. Tell them that the Pope expects a great deal of them and trusts in their generosity and fidelity to the call of the Lord.

The scarcity of people committed to the apostolate is making it necessary to reinforce more deeply the bonds of charity between the Bishop and his priests, since "the presbyterate thus appears as a true family" (Pastores dabo vobis, PDV 74). Everything possible should be done to organize the presbyterate as a "sacramental brotherhood", (Presbyterorum ordinis, PO 8), which reflects the life of the Apostles with Jesus, both in fulfilling the Gospel and their mission. If young people see that priests, around their bishop, are living a real spirituality of communion, witnessing among one another to union and love, evangelical generosity and missionary availability, they will feel more attracted to the priestly vocation. So it is extremely important that the bishop pay special attention to his chief collaborators, especially priests, that he always treat them fairly, be in touch with their personal and pastoral needs, act as a father to them in difficulties and constantly encourage them in their zeal and activities.

6. In your episcopal ministry, many of these pastoral challenges are closely connected with the evangelization of culture. It is important to foster a favourable cultural environment that facilitates the promotion of all the human and Gospel values in their full integrity. It is therefore also a matter of "affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgement, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation" (Evangelii nuntiandi, EN 19).

The cultural context is one of the "modern areopagi" in which the full impact of the Gospel must be brought to bear (cf. Redemptoris missio, RMi 37) and for this reason the media must not be overlooked. The radio, television productions, videos and computer networks can be of great help in spreading everywhere Gospel values.

With regard to your schools and the Catholic university, these institutions must maintain a clearly defined identity, because they largely ensure that the Gospel values imbue your nation's culture. It is also to be hoped that institutions of Christian inspiration truly promote the civilization of love, that they become factors of reconciliation and foster solidarity and development, obviously revealing the primacy of beauty, goodness and truth.

7. It is the distinctive task of lay people to "take on themselves this renewal of the temporal order. Guided by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church [and] prompted by Christian love" (Apostolicam actuositatem, AA 7). They must therefore be given an adequate religious formation that will equip them to face the many challenges of contemporary society. It is up to them to promote human and Christian values so that they will enlighten the country's political, economic and cultural reality in order to establish a more just and equitable social order, following the Church's social teaching. At the same time, consistent with ethical and moral norms, they must set an example of honesty and transparency in the conduct of their public activities to offset the corruption, an insidious and widespread blight, which takes hold of the sectors of political and financial power as well as other sectors of public and social life.

Lay people, individually or legitimately associated, must be the leaven in society, in public life acting so as to bring the light of Gospel values to the secular realms in which a people's identity is forged. In their daily activities, it is up to them "to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response - consciously perceived and stated by all in varying degrees - to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society" (Christifideles laici, CL 34). Their condition as citizens of human society and followers of Christ must not cause them to lead "two parallel lives in their existence: on the one hand, the so-called "spiritual' life, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called "secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social relationships, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture" (ibid., n. 59). On the contrary, they must strive to make the coherence of their life and their faith an eloquent witness to the truth of the Christian message.

This is particularly important in view of the impending general elections in your country. As the pastors of your ecclesial communities you have therefore published the Exhortation "Para la Libertad nos liberó Christo Jesús" (Ga 5,1) (Jesus Christ freed us for Liberty), in which you invite the entire people to exercise the right and duty to vote without absenteeism, thinking of the good of the nation. Likewise, you are certainly directing them to choose democratic options that will guarantee the "Christian conception of man and society", that "inescapably implies the fundamental rights of the person" in all their aspects (n. 8), as opposed to any kind of "visible or concealed totalitarianism" (n. 15). I certainly hope that the coming elections will be held in a climate of mutual respect, order and peace, and following the ethical principles of a healthy coexistence among citizens.

8. I would like to entrust you with these suggestions and desires to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the title by which you honour your Mother and Patroness of the Nation, so that she may continue to guide your pastoral work. Relying on her intercession I assure you of my prayers, and I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing which I extend to your particular Churches, to your priests, to your religious communities and consecrated persons, as well as to Nicaragua's Catholic faithful.





Dear Brothers,

1. I am delighted to greet you on the occasion of the first International Congress of the University Rectors and Directors of Franciscan research Centres, organized by your religious family's General Secretariate for Formation and Studies. First of all, I want to greet Fr Giacomo Bini, Minister General of the Order, and those of you who are in charge of the various academic institutions. I then extend my affectionate greeting to the entire Order of Friars Minor.

In meeting you I call to mind the simple and luminous faith of Francis, which prompted him to promise "obedience and reverence to Pope Honorius and to his canonically elected successors and to the Roman Church" (St Francis, Regula Bullata, I, 3), as well as to the "poor priests of this world, in the parishes in which they live" (St Francis, Testament, 9).

After the Most High God revealed to him that he was to live according to the holy Gospel (cf. ibid., n. 17), Francis felt the need to pay a visit to the Successor of Peter to be confirmed in his decision. You too, wishing to deepen and actualize your cultural, philosophical and theological heritage, would like to receive a word of encouragement today from the one whom divine Providence has placed at the helm of Christ's Church.

I am pleased to repeat what I said on the occasion of the General Chapter of your Order in 1991, when I drew your attention especially to the formation of the intellect which, as one cannot fail to see, is a fundamental prerequisite of evangelization. The ancient motto "fides quaerens intellectum, intellectus quaerens fidem" is always timely. An authentic faith seeks knowledge of the mysteries, just as a healthy use of the intelligence benefits substantially from the light of faith. In fact, only an intelligent faith, aware of itself and its reasons, can maintain the decision to live according to the Gospel. Only study illumined by faith, the quest to know God more deeply, can lead to union with Christ, give a solid basis to personal vocation and prepare for the mission. Study, as is said in the Ratio studiorum, is therefore "fundamental to the life and to the formation, both continuing and initial, of every Friar Minor" (n. 3).

2. Since the earliest times of your history, faith that lovingly seeks knowledge of the divine mysteries has occupied the mind and lives of eminent theologians, such as St Bonaventure and Bl. John Duns Scotus, while great popular preachers, such as St Anthony of Padua and St Bernardino of Siena, drew constant nourishment from the sources of theology, the ecclesial science par excellence.

Even though St Francis out of humility agreed to be described as "a simpleton and an idiot" (cf. Of True and Perfect Joy) in his In Praise of Virtue he says: "Hail Queen Wisdom, may the Lord save you with your sister, holy pure simplicity" (n. 1). To Friar Anthony of Padua he did not hesitate to answer: "I am pleased that you are teaching sacred theology to the friars, as long as in this occupation you do not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion, as is written in the Rule" (Letter to Friar Anthony, 2).

Those who reject or lose interest in the "true Wisdom of the Father" which is the incarnate Word (cf. St Francis, Letter to all the faithful, X), do not possess that "pure and holy simplicity" loved and hailed by Francis; it belongs instead to those who, with a prayerful heart, explore the paths of wisdom revealed and devote themselves to expressing it in life, rejecting the wisdom of the world that "wishes and cares much for words, but little for work" (St Francis, Regula Non Bullata XVII, 11-12).

3. The study of theology and the other disciplines, as your recent Ratio studiorum says, constitutes an "itinerary, a way to be enlightened by God in mind and heart, hence to be witnesses, preachers and servants of Truth and Goodness" (n. 13).

Is not the recent establishment of the Faculties of Biblical Sciences and of Archaeology in your Biblical Institute in Jerusalem a significant invitation to renew with Francis the commitment to observe, and later to spread everywhere "the fragrant words of the Lord Jesus Christ" that are "spirit and life"? (St Francis, Letter to all the faithful, XI).

As a guiding password for your convention you have chosen "Francis, go and repair my house". It is only by listening to the Word become alive in our lives that we give grateful praise to God and offer the real Gospel witness that believers must strive to live every day. From the great deposit of theology and Franciscan wisdom, satisfactory answers can be found, even to humanity's dramatic questions at the beginning of the third Christian millennium.

Francis sang of a divine and fraternal creation where all sister creatures "sing the glory of God" and serve one another, following a plan that man is called to discover, respect and promote, overcoming the ancient temptation "to be like God". The man of Assisi proclaims the value of poverty, in a world where the sin of human greed continues to bar the poor from banquet laid out by "our Sister Mother Earth" for all God's children. He reminds us that the Word of the Father "willed, with His most Blessed Mother, to choose poverty" (Letter to all the faithful, I), and living in poverty, dependent on the aid of others, he has taught us that "alms is an inheritance and a right which is due to the poor; which Our Lord Jesus Christ purchased for us" (Regula Non Bullata, IX, 10). The poor are entitled to partake of the banquet which the "great Almoner" wants to be open "to all, worthy and unworthy" (cf. Celano, Vita seconda, 77).

4. Dear Friars Minor! May this important congress be a favourable opportunity for you to commemorate the past and look with foresight to the future. From the great spiritual heritage of the "Franciscan school" draw concrete and practical guidelines for the intellectual formation and promotion of studies in the Order, so as to respond to the demands of your vocation today. It is the duty of your universities and research centres to bring about a fruitful encounter between the Gospel and the various cultural expressions of our time, to reach out towards our contemporaries who are thirsting for answers rooted in the Gospel values. As you follow the example of St Francis and the great cultural tradition of the Franciscan Order, make it your care to place the Gospel at the heart of culture and of contemporary history.

In this itinerary, which is at once cultural and spiritual, may you be supported by Our "Lady, most holy Queen, Mother of God, Mary" (St Francis, Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1), and assisted by the saints of the Franciscan family. I suport you with prayer, as I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to all who are entrusted to your pastoral care.

From Castel Gandolfo, 19 September 2001.

Speeches 2001 - Saturday 15 September 2001