Speeches 2001



Friday 23 November 2001

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies, Monsignors and Fathers,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

1. With great joy I welcome you, on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy. I cordially greet Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation, and I thank him for his kind words addressed to me in the name of all present. I greet the Cardinals, Bishops and the participants in your Plenary Assembly, which has focused on an important topic for the life of the Church: the Priest, Pastor and Guide of the Parish Community. Stressing the function of the priest in the parish community, one brings to the fore the centrality of Christ who should always be prominent in the mission of the Church.

Christ is present to his Church in the most sublime way in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. In the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council teaches that the priest acting in persona Christi celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass and administers the Sacraments (cf. n. 10). As my venerable predecessor Paul VI so aptly observed in his Encyclical Letter Mysterium fidei, which followed the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7, Christ is also present through preaching and the guidance of the faithful, tasks to which the priest is personally called (cf. AAS 57 [1965] 762).

2. The presence of Christ, which thus takes place in a daily and ordinary way, makes the parish an authentic community of the faithful. It is therefore of fundamental importance for the parish to have a priest as its pastor and the title of pastor is specifically reserved to the priest. The sacred Order of the presbyterate represents the indispensable and irreplaceable condition for him to be appointed pastor validly (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 521, 1). Certainly, other faithful can actively collaborate with him, even full-time, but because they have not received the ministerial priesthood, they cannot replace him as pastor.

What determines this singular ecclesial centrality of the priest is the fundamental relation he has with Christ, Head and Pastor, as his sacramental re-presentation. In the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, I noted that "the priest's relation to the Church is inscribed in the relation which the priest has to Christ, such that the "sacramental representation' to Christ serves as the basis and inspiration for the relation of the priest to the Church" (n. 16). The ecclesial dimension belongs to the substance of the ordained priesthood. It is totally at the service of the Church, so that the ecclesial community has an absolute need for the ministerial priesthood to have Christ the Head and Shepherd present in her. If the common priesthood results from the fact that the Christian People are chosen by God as a bridge with humanity and that every believer belongs to this people, the ministerial priesthood is the fruit of an election, of a specific vocation: "he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve" (Lc 6,13-16). Thanks to the ministerial priesthood, the faithful are made aware of their common priesthood and they live it (cf. Eph Ep 4,11-12); the priest reminds them that they are the People of God and makes them able to "offer spiritual sacrifices" (cf. 1P 2,5), through which Christ himself makes us an eternal gift to the Father (cf. 1P 3,18). Without the presence of Christ represented by the priest, the sacramental guide of the community, this would not be an ecclesial community in its fullness.

3. As I said before, Christ is present in the Church in an eminent way in the Eucharist, the source and summit of ecclesial life. He is really present in the celebration of the holy Sacrifice, and when the consecrated bread is kept in the tabernacle "as the spiritual heart of the religious and parish community" (Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Mysterium fidei, AAS 57 [1965], 772).

For this reason, the Second Vatican Council recommends that "parish priests ensure that the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the centre and culmination of the entire life of the Christian community" (Decr. Christus Dominus, n. 30). Without Eucharistic worship as its beating heart, the parish dries up. Here it is helpful to recall what I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Dies Domini: "Among the many activities of a parish, none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist" (n. 35). Nothing will ever be able to replace it. The Liturgy of the Word by itself, when it is really impossible to ensure the Sunday presence of a priest, is praiseworthy to keep the faith alive, but it must always keep the regular celebration of the Eucharist as the goal to be achieved.

Where a priest is lacking one must ask the Lord with faith and insistence, to raise up numerous and holy labourers for his harvest. In Pastores dabo vobis I repeated that "today the prayerful expectation of new vocations should become an ever more continual and widespread habit within the entire Christian community and in every one of its parts" (n. 38). The splendour of the priestly identity, the integral exercise of the pastoral ministry united to the efforts of the whole community in prayer and personal penance, are the irreplaceable elements for an urgent pastoral activity to recruit vocations. It would be a fatal mistake to be resigned to present difficulties, and act as if we should prepare ourselves for a Church of tomorrow that some imagine as being almost without priests. In this way, the measures adopted to remedy the present scarcity, in spite of all good will, would be seriously harmful for the Ecclesial Community.

4. Moreover, the parish is a privileged place to announce the Word of God. It includes a variety of forms and each of the faithful is called to take an active part, especially with the witness of a Christian life and the explicit proclamation of the Gospel to non-believers to lead them to the faith, or to believers to instruct them, confirm them and encourage them to a more fervent life. As for the priest, he "proclaims the word in his capacity as "minister', as sharer in the prophetic authority of Christ and the Church" (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 26). To fulfil this ministry faithfully, corresponding to the gift received, he "ought first of all to develop a great personal familiarity with the Word of God" (ibid.). Even though he may be surpassed in the ability to speak by non-ordained members of the faithful, this would not reduce his being the sacramental representation of Christ the Head and Shepherd, and the effectiveness of his preaching derives from his identity. The parish community needs this kind of effectiveness, especially at the most characteristic moment of the proclamation of the Word by ordained ministers: for this reason the liturgical proclamation of the Gospel and the homily that follows it are both reserved to the priest.

5. Also the function of guiding the community as shepherd, the proper function of the parish priest, stems from his unique relation to Christ the Head and Shepherd. It is a function having a sacramental character. It is not entrusted to the priest by the community, but, through the Bishop, it comes to him from the Lord. To reaffirm this clearly and exercise this function with humble authority is an indispensable service to truth and to ecclesial communion. The collaboration of others, who have not received this sacramental configuration to Christ, is hoped for and often necessary.

However, these cannot in any way substitute the task of the pastor proper to the parish priest. The extreme cases of shortage of priests, that advise a more intense and extended collaboration of the faithful not honoured with priestly ministry, in the pastoral care of a parish, do not constitute an exception to this essential criterion for the care of souls, as is indisputably established by canonical norm (cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 517,2). In this controversial sector, the interdicasterial Exhortation Ecclesiae de mysterio, that I approved in a specific way, is a sure guide to follow.

In fulfilling his duty as guide, which is his personal responsibility, the pastor will surely obtain help from the consultative bodies foreseen by canon law (cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 536-537); but these must remain faithful to their reality as consultative bodies. Therefore it will be necessary to guard oneself from any form that tends de facto to weaken the leadership of the parish priest, because the very structure of the parish community would be distorted.

6. I now turn my affectionate and grateful thoughts to pastors throughout the world, especially to those who work in the outposts of evangelization. I encourage them to continue in the mission of evangelization that is strenuous but precious for the whole Church. I recommend to each one to turn, in the daily exercise of pastoral care, to the maternal help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, seeking to live in profound communion with Her. In the ministerial priesthood, as I wrote in the Letter to Priests, on the occasion of Holy Thursday 1979, "there is the wonderful and penetrating dimension of nearness to the Mother of Christ" (n. 11). When we celebrate Holy Mass, dear Brother priests, the Mother of the Redeemer is beside us. She introduces us into the mystery of the redemptive offering of her divine Son. "Ad Jesum per Mariam": may this be our daily programme of spiritual and pastoral life!

With these sentiments, while I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I impart to each one a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to all the priests of the world.



Friday, 23 November 2001

1. I am pleased to address you, venerable Brothers, as you take part in the Symposium held by the Congregation for the Eastern Churches on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the taking effect of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. I greet each one of you, and especially, the Prefect of the Congregation, His Beatitude Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, and I thank him for his kind words on behalf of those who are present.

I wish to extend a special word of appreciation to all those who collaborated in this initiative to further scientific study, organizing and pursuing the programme of the observance. In particular, I thank the members of the scientific committee and the speakers, whose expertise has made a precious contribution to the Symposium. Nor can I fail to express my grateful recognition to all who, with their hidden but important cooperation, have assured its successful completion.

2. Yesterday I asked the Cardinal Secretary of State to convey my greetings and to treat some important points of the present canonical discipline. This morning I wish to reflect with you on the historical moment in which this observance is taking place. We are still feeling the benfits of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, in which East and West felt more closely united in celebrating the defining event of the birth of Christ. In those months, the whole Church turned with deeper faith and love towards the East. Interpreting the general sentiment of Christians worldwide, I made my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. In the most profound sense,it was a pilgrimage "ad Orientem", that is to Christ, in the place where He became incarnate "rising ... above us", as the Redeemer of man and the hope of the world: "orientale Lumen"! (cf. Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, n. 1).

In the prophetic light of the jubilee events, at the beginning of the third millennium, we look with hope to the future journey towards the full unity of Christians. As you know, for this reason I regard the contribution of the Eastern Churches as essential "and I pray for a full return to that exchange of gifts which enriched the Church of the first millennium" (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 48).

3. Fortunately, your Symposium has kept in mind the need to intensify fraternal relations with other Christians and, particularly, with the Orthodox Churches. In this regard I am happy to see that a representative of these Churches is taking part in the Symposium: I greet him with affection.

Thanks to the Second Vatican Council and to the continued dedication of many in these years, (that I have often willed to support and encourage), the Eastern Churches' "great liturgical and spiritual tradition, the specific nature of their historical development, the disciplines coming from the earliest times and approved by the Holy Fathers and Ecumenical Councils, and their own particular way of expressing doctrine" was acknowledged. "The Council made this acknowledgment in the conviction that legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church's unity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission" (Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 50). I firmly hope that the journey of reconciliation between East and West will be your constant and primary concern, as it is for the Bishop of Rome.

In this perspective, Providence has allowed me to make a few major moves during the recent apostolic journeys to Greece, Syria, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Armenia. The liturgical celebrations and the fraternal meetings, that I was able to participate in during those visits give me continual consolation. During the visits I saw realized the expectations of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, that considers the ecclesial and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches as belonging to the whole Church (cf. Decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum OE 5).

In order to protect and make known the special values of this patrimony on 18 October 1990 I promulgated the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, which took effect on 1 October of the following year.

4. In the Apostolic Constitution Sacri canones, I expressed the hope that, thanks to this juridical instrument, that "tranquillity of order", that I already invoked on the occasion of the promulgation of the new Latin Code, might flourish in the Oriental Churches. The order aimed at by the Code, I explained, "assigns the primacy to love, grace and charism, and at the same time facilitates their organic development in the life of ecclesial society and of the individuals who belong to it" (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 5 November 1990 p.1, n. 3).

I remember repeating the same wish a few days later during the Eighth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, highlighting the fact that the various bodies of laws regulating ecclesiastical discipline, though recorded in canons and sections, are nothing more than a concrete expression of the precept of love that Jesus, Our Lord, left us at the Last Supper, and that the Church, together with the Apostle Paul (cf. Gal Ga 5,14), has always considered as the precept that sums up every other precept (cf. n. 5: AAS 83 [1991], 488-489).

Hence, I was delighted to learn that the present Symposium has for its theme the motto "Ius Ecclesiarum - vehiculum caritatis" (the law of the Churches is an Instrument of Charity). This motto expresses the profound intention of the ecclesiastical Legislator in the promulgation of the juridical regulations. I am grateful that it has been understood, and even highlighted in the "poster" of the Symposium, through a meaningful image, inspired by a mosaic of St Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, a city linked to the Byzantine tradition. In the poster three ships are depicted, symbols of the particular Churches, that with their sails filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the guarantor of hierarchical communion with the Church of Rome, lead souls through the often rough sea of life to the sure port of eternal salvation.

5. Venerable Brothers, at the end of my brief reflection, I want to let you know how happy I am to note that in your Symposium there is a section dedicated to the theme "Theotokos and Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium". As you well know, I entrusted to the Mother of the whole Church the preparation of this Code and its promulgation. Concluding the promulgative Constitution, I addressed a special prayer to her. I renew this prayer today with the same fervour: "Through her maternal intercession may she obtain from her Son that this Code become an instrument of the charity which, according to the extraordinary witness of the holy Apostle John, was abundantly revealed by the Heart of Christ pierced by a lance on the cross, and must be deeply rooted in the soul of every human being" (AAS [1990] 1043).

My Blessing upon all!





To Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo
President of the Pontifical Council for the Family

1. I cordially greet the participants at the Congress on the theme "Familiaris Consortio in the 20th Year, the Anthropological and Pastoral Dimensions" promoted by this Pontifical Council for the 20th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation.

I greet you, Venerable Cardinal, who preside over the activities of the Pontifical Council; I greet the Secretary and the Undersecretary and the officials and staff, the organizers of this meeting that commemorates an especially important event in the Church's life and touches on one of the subjects closest to my heart: the family. Your intent is to examine the immense panorama of the family, its identity and mission as the family that is willed by God to "guard, reveal and communicate love" (Familiaris Consortio FC 17). In the past 20 years, we have witnessed the development of a new awareness and sensitivity with regard to the family. The Pontifical Council for the Family, to which I entrusted the task of studying and bringing out every aspect of the riches contained in the Propositiones of the Synod (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 2) also celebrated its 20 years. I thank God for all the work your office has performed in the defence and service of the Gospel of the Family.

No man has the power to change God's original structure of marriage and family for love and life
2. In this period, in which there have been many threats to the family institution, perhaps some of the most dangerous it has ever known, one notes that some common convictions have taken shape. For example, today the integral cause of the family and of life have been rediscovered and encouraged in many sectors as a value and a right that belong to the common patrimony of humanity. The Magisterium of the Church has provided significant guidance for this renewal, with numerous and important interventions and teachings. Already at the time of the Second Vatican Council, the family was considered as one of the themes on which it was necessary to enlighten the consciences of Christians and all humanity. Many steps have been taken in this direction. The appeal: "Family, become what you are", contained in the Post-Synodal Exhortation quoted above (n. 17), has widely resounded in public opinion.

"Family, become what you are" I repeat again today!

As a natural institution, the family community was willed by God in the "beginning", with the creation of man and woman, for the good of humanity. Christ refers to this "beginning" when the Pharisees attempt to distort its structure (Mt 19,3-12). Man is not empowered to change the Creator's original design.

The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio examined in considerable detail the specific tasks of the family, already taught in the conciliar Constitution Gaudium et spes.

Every family must be a true communion of persons "communio personarum", with respect to the dignity of the members who compose it. The "service to life" fits into this context of mutual understanding in accord with the two complementary meanings of human sexuality, the unitive and procreative, as my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, taught in the Encyclical Humanae vitae.

3. In recent years numerous events, that showed a growing participation of families, have contributed to the gradual consolidation of the awareness of families of their specific mission in the Church and in society. I am thinking, for example, of the World Meetings in Rome for the International Year of the Family in 1994, the Rio de Janeiro Meeting in 1997 and the Meeting for the Jubilee of Families in 2000. I thank the Lord for the heightened awareness that the family has of itself and its mission.

However, beside the comforting goals achieved, it is only right to record the violent attacks (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 46) on the institution of the family and its social role in some sectors of modern society. Certain pieces of legislation that do not correspond with the true good of the family based on monogamous marriage, and with the protection of the inviolability of human life, have been passed allowing the dangerous shadow of the "culture of death" to creep into the home.

The proliferation of international forums on misleading concepts concerning sexuality and the dignity and mission of the woman that underlie specific ideologies on "gender" are also a cause of concern.
What can be said of the crisis of so many broken families, of lonely persons and of the situation of the so-called "de facto" unions? Among the dangerous designs to undo the family, there is also the attempt to deny human dignity to the embryo before it has become implanted in the mother's womb, and attacks on its existence with a variety of methods.

When we speak of the family, it is impossible not to mention the children, who most of the time are innocent victims of dysfunctional family communities.

4. In the panorama sketched above, the need for the mission of Christian families becomes more necessary than ever. Their example of joy and self-giving, of hard work and the capacity for sacrifice in the footsteps of the Holy Family can be crucial in encouraging other families to respond to the grace of their vocation. Indeed, how attractive the model of a Christian family can be! In its humility and simplicity, its witness of domestic life can become a most effective vehicle of evangelization. It is therefore right that the various institutions of the Church should give it attention and care. Likewise, they should not stop providing the necessary support in those difficult family situations that require greater pastoral assistance, such as, for example, that of divorced persons who have remarried. It can be said that after the publication of Familiaris Consortio, the Church's interest in the family increased, and the pastoral care of families has become the priority in countless dioceses and parishes. Pro-family and pro-life associations and movements are spreading. With their generous efforts, people of good will are helping to develop a new "pro-life" culture. I recall here with deep appreciation the meetings promoted by your Pontifical Council during the last two decades. In the first place, the gathering of the Bishops in charge of the family and pro-life ministry throughout the Church, which turned out to be a useful opportunity for examining problematic approaches to the family.

Dialogue with politicians and legislators on the truth of the family founded on monogamous marriage and on the dignity of human life from the very moment of its conception is especially important. In this regard, the continental and national meetings sponsored by your Pontifical Council have prepared promising ways to a dialogue that can inculcate a Christian spirit in the parliamentary debates and public legislation that govern the life of peoples. The Charter of the Rights of the Family, published in 1983, had already been requested at the Ordinary Synod of 1980.

5. "Family, believe in what you are; believe in your vocation to be a luminous sign of God's love". Today I repeat to you these words that I spoke during the Meeting with Families on 20 October 2001.

Family, be for the people of our time a "sanctuary of life". Christian family, be a "domestic church", faithful to your evangelical vocation. Precisely because she knows that "marriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values, the Church wishes to speak and offer her help to those who are already aware of the value of marriage and the family and seek to live it faithfully, to those who are uncertain and anxious and searching for the truth, and to those who are unjustly impeded from living freely their family lives" (Familiaris Consortio FC 1).

The family that lives the requirements of love and forgiveness to the full becomes the main bulwark of the civilization of love and the hope for the future of humanity.

Strong in this knowledge, may your Council work ever more courageously at the service of the Gospel of the Family.

As I hope that your congress will be a great success, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and, invoking the special protection of Mary, Queen of the Family, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to all.

From the Vatican, 22 November 2001.





To Mr Michel Camdessus
President of the Social Weeks of France

1. "Biology, Medicine and Society, What Will We Do With Man?" is the theme you chose for the meeting of the Social Weeks of France this year, held in Paris from 23 to 25 November.

Today it is quite appropriate to approach the complex questions of bioethics in a new way by turning to specialists in the different branches of knowledge: scientific, technological, philosophical and theological. Indeed, it is good for our contemporaries, who are often troubled and bewildered by scientific progress and its ethical implications, to be informed about the possibilities offered by science and to have the means to form their consciences, with a view to making decisions that are in accord with the basic moral values that protect man's place at the centre of creation.

2. The Catholic Church appreciates and encourages biomedical research when it aims at the cure and prevention of illness, the alleviation of suffering and the welfare of human beings. She knows that "research ... provided it is carried out in a truly scientific way and does not override the moral laws, can never conflict with the faith..." (Gaudium et spes GS 36). What's more, research enables us to discover the laws that regulate the workings of matter and of living beings, to observe the order inscribed in creation and to appreciate the marvels of the human person in his intelligence and in his body, to penetrate the mystery of the human person more deeply, for he reflects the light of the Word: "all things were made by Him" (Jn 1,3). In her desire to make us share in the meaning of the human person which she receives from our Saviour, the Church wants to contribute her part to the reflection of those who hold responsibility for the common good and who have to make serious decisions in this sector. Indeed, it does matter that science not reduce the human being to being an object but really serve the good of the person. Further, the Church is aware of the tragic complexity of the painful situations of those who suffer and she is aware of the pressures exerted by powerful economic interests. The faithful of the Catholic Church and all people of good will are called to take part in the debate to defend human dignity. I therefore encourage you to persevere in your work with concern for the truth, thus presenting to our contemporaries clear elements for their reflection and decision-making.

3. By placing the human person and his inalienable dignity at the heart of your interdisciplinary process, you show the urgent need to marshal all the resources of wisdom and experience, of reason and science, to serve him better. The discoveries and changes that have marked the biomedical disciplines have shown that behind the striking progress that deals with the mystery of life itself, science is at times stunned by its own power and is tempted to manipulate man as if he were merely an object or matter. On account of this situation and because of the possibilities offered by science and technology, I express the wish that your conversations may contribute to a lucid analysis of what is at stake and of the consequences of the progress, opportunities and challenges for the human being and for humanity in general. Because of his intrinsic dignity, which includes his biological dimension, the human person can never be subordinate, as a means or instrument, to the species, to society or to the will of others even if they are his/her parents for human persons have an intrinsic value. This natural law truth is reinforced with the light of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word who, as the "new Adam ... fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear" (Gaudium et spes GS 22). Reason and faith enable Christians throughout history to defend the person, especially the weak, the vulnerable, the marginalized and unborn children. "There is no person, no human authority, no science, no medical, eugenic, social, economic or moral "indication' that can exhibit or entitle anyone with a valid juridical capacity to dispose directly and deliberately of an innocent human life, that is, to dispose of it with a view to its destruction envisaged as a goal, or even as a means to attain an objective that may not in itself be at all illegitimate" (Pius XII, Address to participants at the Congress of the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives, 29 October 1951, n. 12).

4. Today the dignity of the human person is threatened, above all, at the critical phases of life, conception and natural death. A new temptation of taking over the right to define the minimum of humanity that makes a living creature a human being has arisen. As I recalled in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, how can we forget that "from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother, it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth; it would never become human if it were not human already" (n. 60)? Modern genetics shows that from the very first instant "there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic features already well determined" (ibid.). This demands absolute respect for the human being who can never be considered an object or matter for experimentation from the stage of his being an embryo to the end of his life. Likewise, it is fitting to treat human germ cells with respect on account of the human patrimony which they bear.

5. Biomedical experimentation that does not have as its purpose the good of the subject entails inadmissible and discriminatory methods of selection. Indeed, the aim of any therapeutic initiative or research process must be the good of the being on whom it is carried out. Hypothetical benefits for humanity and for progress in research can in no way constitute a decisive criterion of moral goodness. Certainly such a criterion helps to weaken moral convictions about the human being and fosters the practice of discarding the persons affected by congenital handicaps who were subjected to a pre-implantation examination and an abusive use of prenatal screening. Many countries are committed to a selection of unborn children, that is tacitly encouraged and begin to practice a genuine eugenics and a deadening of conscience, that seriously discriminates against people with congenital disabilities and those who welcome them. Such a widespread attitude also leads to the emergence of a certain number of conjugal and family pathologies. Furthermore, such behaviour can only dissuade people from making the necessary efforts to discover new treatments and from accepting and integrating into society disabled persons since it reinforces in the disabled a strong feeling of abnormality and exclusion. I am grateful for the efforts of parents who accept a disabled child, showing their attachment to human life. One can only hope that society, which has the duty of fostering solidarity, will support and help the disabled. To develop a discriminatory practice with the help of prenatal screening, as well as to use and produce human embryos for experimentation and to obtain stem cells with the goal of destroying them, all constitute a serious attack on the absolute respect due to human life and to the infinite value of the human person, that is not tied to one's external features or on the ability to relate to other members of society. I am grateful to the Permanent Council of the Bishops' Conference of France for alerting public opinion and for helping to form consciences by publishing the document "Essor de la génétique et dignité humaine" (Scope of Genetics and Human Dignity).

6. The technological possibilities emerging in the field of bio-medecine call for political authority and legislators to get involved since this is an issue that goes beyond the scientific sector. It is the duty of the public authority "to act in such a way that civil law is regulated according to the fundamental norms of the moral law in matters concerning human rights, human life and the institution of the family" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of procreation, Donum vitae, III, 3 March 2001). The legislator has to propose legislation that will protect people from arbitrary solutions that deny the dignity of the person and his basic rights. Legislative and political choices have to be oriented toward the good of persons and of society as a whole, and must not depend solely on the bidding of science, which in itself does not have the ability to draw up or establish a set of moral norms. The future of the human person and of humanity depends on the human capacity to subject debated bioethical questions to rigorous ethical examination without being afraid to challenge current scientific techniques.

7. The multiplication of interdisciplinary exchanges along with philosophical and theological reflection will foster the work of truth and respect for the mystery of the human being. They will expose temptations to base behaviour solely on scientific factors, on special circumstances, on the pressure of public opinion, or the pressures of financial markets and special interests. Your ongoing dialogue with a spectrum of social partners can make it possible to re-establish the harmony between the goals of research and human values. One must build a society where each person has the place he is entitled to as a member of the human race and that does not depend on his work nor on his usefulness. It is especially in the periods when illness and suffering weaken and enfeeble human beings that it is fitting to perceive the value and meaning of each human life. Those who care for the sick in so many ways and who bring that indispensable attention and sensitive tenderness that assures them that, in the midst of a medical world increasingly governed by technology, they are full human persons are dedicated to this task in a wonderful way. The Church offers her esteem and gratitude to the medical and paramedical staff, to the chaplaincy teams and hospital visitors, to everyone who is committed to palliative care and support of the suffering, to researchers, philosophers and political leaders and to all those involved in this daily work at the service of the dignity of the individual. Their commitment and convictions are a most valuable source of hope.

8. May the work of the Social Weeks encourage everyone to reaffirm the greatness and value of each human life; for social life is not possible without it and true human progress is endangered! May it be a place to propose a better future, and may they help provide for everyone a contemplative vision that is brought forth by faith in the God of life, "it is the outlook of those who see life in its deeper meaning, who grasp its utter gratuitousness, its beauty and its invitation to freedom and responsibility. It is the outlook of those who do not presume to take possession of reality but instead accept it as a gift, discovering in all things the reflection of the Creator and seeing in every person his living image" (Evangelium vitae EV 83).

As I invoke Christ the King of the universe, to bring about the expansion of the civilization of love in the world, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to the organizers, speakers and participants of the Social Weeks of France.

From the Vatican, 15 November 2001

Speeches 2001