Speeches 2002


January 2002



Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Tuesday, 1 January 2002

Together with a well-deserved applause, I warmly greet you all, choir master and members of the "Iubileum" choir of Moscow. I am very grateful for the gift of choral song that you have generously offered to me during this Christmas season at the beginning of the New Year.

Your wonderful music, dear young people, harmonized eloquently with the figures and colours of this Redemptoris Mater Chapel, decorated in an ecumenical spirit following the Eastern tradition. I greatly appreciate Russian liturgical music and I feel very close to your culture, especially in its religious aspects. Russian culture, art, literature, and music are all realities filled with a strong spirituality which elevates the mind and heart to God and fills us with goodness and compassion towards our neighbour.

I thank the Director of the Choir, Maestro Alexander Nevzorov, who trains you to bring out the full beauty of your choral singing.

I was delighted to learn that you have come from Moscow with the blessing of the Patriarch Alexei II. I take this occasion to send him my brotherly greetings through you, and wish him every grace of this season of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you, dear friends, and I hope that you will always consider this place to be your home. I warmly embrace you, thanking you once again, and wishing every blessing upon your artistic activity. To you and to your loved ones I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 5 January 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am happy to offer a cordial welcome to each one of you, for having wanted to pay me a visit on the occasion of the National Congress of your Association.

I greet your President and thank him for his courteous words of respect. Through you, I would like to show my support for all the Catholic teachers in Italy, who put their skills and passion for teaching at the service of their students and their families.

Dear brothers and sisters, with you I thank God for the activity the Association of Catholic Teachers has carried on for more than 50 years for the good of Italian schools and of the new generations. As an ecclesial association, your society rightly considers itself a "portion of the Church", part of the ongoing life of the Church, that witnesses to the Gospel values of gratuity and service, in the exercise of their profession and in relations with all who share the same common ideals.

2. For your Congress, you chose the theme: "Dialogue with uncertainty, shaping life", to stress the two dimensions that distinguish this period in your Association; the awareness of the complicated age we live in and your will to carry on your educational planning in the climate of uncertainty that affects daily life.

In view of the necessary stages of the reform of the school, your Association desires to promote the perennial human values that derive from the Gospel vision of life, to bring about a school that reaches your students and is attentive to those most in need. In this way, you help the scholastic institution and those involved in the process of formation to devote themselves to the service of the person, and to become an educational community in a dialogue that is open and also critical of the surrounding reality.

In the light of Christ's teaching, may each one of you be ready in your relationships and in your collaboration with your colleagues to make the most of the opportunities to share expertise and to renew your common motivation so that the school may become a privileged place that promotes culture and so can recover social esteem and credibility. Aware that you are privileged witnesses of Christ's love for his little ones, you seek to hand on the content of the Catholic religion with competence, working out educational programmes that recognize the formational needs of the students and respect the nature and goals of the school.

3. Dear brothers and sisters, your Association has always considered the spiritual and professional formation of teachers as one of its chief aims. Indeed, through a solid and continuous formation, the teacher is better able to respond to his mission and to contribute to the construction of a peaceful and just human society, founded on dialogue among the cultures and on the acceptance and appreciation of differences. At the same time, your effort will encourage a renewed allegiance to the main characteristics of the Association; professionalism, understood as the ability to anticipate educational needs and to work out adequate responses; democracy, seen as the constant exercise of co-responsibility and participation in building a more human society; and belonging to the Church, considered as a basic element of your service to the school.

I invite you, dear friends, to look to God, the "Educator" par excellence, who in the mystery of Christmas shows his graciousness to human beings, in order that appreciating divine goodness, they may continuously find their true dignity and salvation.

May this extraordinary divine pedagogy, that you contemplate in study and prayer, impress on each of you renewed enthusiasm, so that you can move beyond the daily fatigue, and find greater energy and motivation to fulfill your educational responsibilities.

4. I now greet the group of disabled boys and girls connected with the Centre for Volunteers of Suffering of the Diocese of Bergamo (Centro per i Volontari della Sofferenza della diocesi di Bergamo).

Dear young people, you have come to see me together with your parents and assistants. Thank you for this visit and for the affection that you wanted to show me by coming. May the birth of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas bring each one of you great joy and give you the strength to face with serenity every problem and difficulty. May it also help you to realize that you are privileged witnesses of his love for life, especially among your peers, who are often bewildered and incapable of appreciating this great gift of the Lord.

I also greet you warmly, dear parents, assistants and members of the Diocesan Centre of Volunteers of Suffering (Centro Diocesano dei Volontari della Sofferenza), who carry out an exemplary and loving service for so many persons in difficulty. I encourage you to persevere in this wonderful work, and I invoke upon you abundant heavenly gifts and the consolation promised by Jesus to those who generously serve their brothers and sisters.

5. To everyone present with us today, I entrust you to the heavenly protection of Mary, whom we venerate at the beginning of the year as Mother of God and our Mother. May the Blessed Virgin accompany you with her providential care during the year that has just begun.

With this wish, I warmly impart to each one a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your loved ones.


Saturday, 12 January 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to meet you at the end of the Conference held on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of the Blessed Founder of Opus Dei. I greet the Prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarría, and I cordially thank him for his words that sum up the sentiments of devotion of all those gathered here. His words highlighted the nature and importance of your congress. More than a celebration of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, you tried to penetrate more deeply into the most current aspects of his message. In a special way you have studied the grandeur of daily life as a path to holiness. I greet Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne and the cardinals, bishops and priests present. I greet each one of you, who have come to Rome to take part in this important celebration.

2. From the beginning of his priestly ministry, Bl. Josemaría Escrivá put at the very heart of his preaching the truth that all the baptized are called to the fullness of charity and that the most direct way to attain this goal is to be found in the midst of normal daily life. The Lord wants to enter into a loving communion with each one of his children, right in the heart of daily occupations, in the context of everyday life.

In the light of these considerations, one's every day activities came to be seen as a valuable means for achieving union with Christ. They become the place and the matter of holiness, the playing field for exercising the virtues, and a dialogue of love that is expressed in deeds. One's work is transfigured by the spirit of prayer. Each person discovers the capacity of remaining in a contemplative relation with God even while carrying out the most diverse tasks. For every baptized person who desires to follow Christ faithfully, the factory, the office, the library, the laboratory, the workshop, the home, can be transformed into places for an encounter with the Lord, who chose to live in obscurity for thirty years. Who can doubt that the time Jesus spent in Nazareth was an integral part of his saving mission? The same holds true for us. Daily activities, even in their seeming dullness in the monotony of actions that seem to be repeated and always the same, can also acquire a supernatural dimension and become in a certain way transfigured.

3. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I recalled specifically that the ideal of Christian perfection "must not be misunderstood as if it involved some kind of extraordinary existence, possible only for a few "uncommon heroes' of holiness" Furthermore I added, "The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living" (n. 31). The Lord gives to every baptized person the grace necessary to reach the summit of divine charity. The small events of each day hold, locked with them, an unsuspected greatness. Those actions, undertaken with the love of God and neighbour, can overcome at their very roots every division between faith and daily life. The Second Vatican Council denounced such a division as "one of the gravest errors of our time" (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 43).

Moreover, by sanctifying one's work in accord with the norms of objective morality, the lay faithful contribute in an effective way to building up a society that is more worthy of man. They set free creation that groans and suffers waiting for the revelation of the sons of God (cf. Rom Rm 8,19-22).

Thus the lay faithful cooperate in fashioning a truly human society that is attentive to the needs of the person and of the common good.

4. Dear brothers and sisters! Continue on with your mission enthusiastically and faithfully, following in the footsteps of your Founder. Show with your daily efforts that the love of Christ can indeed inform the whole gamut of human existence. In this way you will attain the ideal of the unity of life which I insisted on in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, as fundamental to the evangelization of contemporary society (cf. n. 17).

Prayer, work and the apostolate, as you learned from Bl. Josemaría, converge and fuse together when they are lived in this spirit. He always encouraged you to "love the world passionately".

And he added one important clarification: "Be men and women of the world but do not be worldly men and women" (The Way, 939). In this way you will avoid the danger of falling into a worldly mentality that views the spiritual life as something confined to the private sphere and irrelevant to the public forum. If men do not welcome the grace of God into their hearts, if they do not pray, if they do not frequent the sacraments, if they do not strive for personal holiness, they lose the very meaning of their earthly pilgrimage. The earth, your Blessed Founder reminds us, is a pathway to heaven, and the life of every believer, even with his or her burdens and limitations, can become a true temple in which dwells the Son of God made man.

5. Along this challenging spiritual and apostolic journey, may you always encounter the example and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her husband St Joseph. I entrust all of your families to their intercession. To them I entrust all of your activities, so that they may always be at the service of the Gospel. May you always work in fraternal communion and solidarity with all the other members of the Christian people and with all the other ecclesial institutions. May Bl. Josemaría continue to watch over you from Heaven, so that in every circumstance you may be faithful disciples of Christ. I assure you of the support of my prayer for reaching that goal, and I affectionately bless you, together with all of your families and all the members of your Prelature.




Sunday, 13 January 2002

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to meet you at our now traditional meeting at the end of the Christmas festivities. I thank you for your cordial welcome and I greet you all, together with your families. I extend a respectful greeting to the authorities present, especially the Mayor, whom I thank for his kind words. I also thank the person who made the crib, who has expressed your sentiments of respect.

I am always glad to pay you a visit, for our meeting allows me to express my grateful appreciation to the President, to the directors and to all of you, members of AMA, for the important service you render, day and night, for our city and its citizens.

This occasion also gives me the chance to extend to each one of you, and to those who worked together to set up this meaningful Nativity scene my cordial good wishes at the beginning of the new year: may it be a year of serenity and peace for you and your relatives. Referring to my Message for the recent World Day of Peace, I would like to repeat that "The pillars of true peace are justice and that form of love which is forgiveness" (n. 2). In his own world, each one must become a peacemaker. May believers and all people of good will accept the announcement of peace, proclaimed by the angels at the Grotto of Bethlehem (cf. Lk Lc 2,14).

We too can hear the echo of that announcement as we pause in front of the crib, that for 30 years has been set up with a deep spirit of faith. May the Lord, Prince of Peace, be your daily support: turn to him with confidence. His love will give new meaning to your every activity and aspiration.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the incarnate Word and "Salus Populi Romani" (Salvation of the Roman People) protect you, your families, your activities and your plans. With these sentiments, I warmly impart to all of you my Blessing.


Friday, 18 January 2002

Your Eminences, Colleagues in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am happy to welcome you at the end of the Plenary Session of your Congregation. In cordially greeting each one of you, in particular, I would like to thank your prefect, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, for expressing your sentiments of respect and devotion.

I have listened to what the Cardinal has said about your work during these intense days of reflection. In this regard, allow me to offer you some of my own reflections and convictions about this meeting. The Church needs and lives on continuing fraternal debates, on their give and take, for it is the only way she can find more efficient and effective ways of collaboration among the offices of the Roman Curia, with the Episcopal Conferences and with the Superiors General of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. However, without an ability to work together, that a common love for the Church makes happen, the Church cannot be her true self: the community of those who are brought together by the closest of bonds, born of the communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

To seek unity and collaboration and to be faithful to the convictions that must guide our common witness as Christians at this moment of history is our first obligation of fidelity to the Lord, a fidelity that gives meaning to our lives. An ever more intense communication and collaboration among the congregations, councils, episcopal conferences and superiors general, is therefore the first fruits that we must together envision in our meeting today.

2. With regard to the subjects explained to me by the Cardinal Prefect, I consider it appropriate to take first of all the problem of the reception of doctrinal documents, that your Congregation, valuable organism at the service of my ministry as universal Pastor, is gradually publishing.

The principal problem you face is the assimilation of their content and collaboration in the dissemination and application of their practical consequences. The same is true of all the offices of the Roman Curia, precisely, united by the same faith and the same desire to announce it and witness to it. Indeed, it is the aim of the whole Church to proclaim Jesus Christ Our Saviour.

However, you then have the problem of transmitting to all the faithful, indeed to men and women everywhere, and to theologians and men and women of the world of culture, the fundamental truths that these documents recall. Here the matter becomes more complicated and needs attention and thought. How much can you blame the difficulties of reception on the dynamic of the mass media? How much does it derive from current historical situations? Or, simply, how much can it be blamed on the difficulty of accepting the demands of the Gospel that can be severe yet have the power to set free? Your plenary assembly has certainly reflected on these ideas for they obviously need time and study.

For my part, I only wish to recall how listening to one another is extremely helpful, so that you can take into account and reflect on the suggestions that may enable the message to reach the greatest possible number of people in its full integrity. Also there is an obvious need for greater involvement of the Episcopal Conferences, of the individual bishops and, through them, of all the preachers of the Gospel, in the work of knowing how to present the more difficult topics of the faith today.

Lastly, there is a problem of life style, of coherent life style that creates an obstacle. The resistance is also a challenge and an invitation to witness with your holiness of life, to the centrality of Christ's love in our lives, to counter other short-lived themes that reduce its persuasive power.

3. Coming now to the theme of the Eucharist and Church, I want to stress the centrality of the Eucharist for the life of the world to which the Lord has sent us as the seed of renewal. If the Church returns to her Eucharistic source, she will recover her authentic nature and strength, and that will relativize the urgent debates over organizational issues while it will highlight consecration to God and fraternal sharing that will enable her to overcome fragmentation and division. Moreover, the powerful presence of the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist keeps the Mass from being reduced to a gathering for a convivial meal. The Sacrifice stands for ever as a sign of contradiction, and is the place where we can verify the degree of our conformity to the radical message of Christ, in our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters.

Taking a look at the other subject, the study of how we lost sight of the relevance of the natural law, I want to recall, what I said in my Encyclical Letters Veritatis splendor, Evangelium vitae, and Fides et ratio, that with the natural law we are in the presence of a doctrine that belongs to the great patrimony of human wisdom, purified and brought to its fullness by the light of Revelation.

Natural law is the rational creature's participation in the eternal law of God. On the one hand, we depend on the new law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus in order to grasp it, on the other hand, the natural law itself offers a basis for dialogue with persons who come from another cultural orientation or formation in the search for the common good. In a time of great world-wide threat to the welfare of many nations, communities and peoples, especially the weakest, I can only rejoice in the work you have undertaken to rediscover the value of this doctrine that will even be helpful for Christian legislators in the challenges they face as they uphold human dignity and human rights.

4. Finally, I thank you for undertaking as a Congregation, to collaborate in dealing with several serious moral problems, that demand your special competence and knowledge. In facing these problems, over and above indispensable therapeutic procedures, you will need to propose satisfactory methods of education including spiritual and other forms of direction that will result in better formation.

""Duc in altum!' - Put out into the deep!": Jesus said to Peter and his companions on the shore of Galilee. By taking up such subjects, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the dawn of the new millennium, is "putting out into the deep", namely, setting out on a deep reflection that will enable the whole Church to have a greater impact on the hearts and minds of all the members of the human family, to lead them all back to our single origin, the Father who so loved us that he gave his beloved Only Son, to redeem the world.


Saturday, 19 January 2002

Dear Friends in Christ,

Once again I have the pleasure of welcoming an Ecumenical Delegation from Finland on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Henrik, the Apostle and Patron of your country. It is a happy coincidence that your visit falls during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

It is vital that Christians should pray incessantly for unity, which will come not as the fruit of human effort, but as a grace given at a time and in a way which we do not know. Our prayer however must be joined by a determination to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ with one heart and voice, "so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).

Such a task will call for sacrifice and commitment, as it did in the life of Saint Henrik. It is the Cross of Christ that we preach, and it is in the power of the Cross that we have put our faith. From the side of the Crucified Lord there flows the life-giving stream which will heal the wounds of division. Finland too needs Christ. The depths of the Finnish soul can be read in the saints of your history and in buildings such as Turku Cathedral. And who but Christ can satisfy the desires rising from those depths?

We have already travelled far on the ecumenical journey, and there can be no turning back. Certainly the Catholic Church remains "committed irrevocably to following the path of the ecumenical venture" (Ut Unum Sint UUS 3). In this we are sustained by "the hope that comes from being led by the Risen One and the inexhaustible power of his Spirit, always capable of new surprises" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 12). The Spirit must lead us, step by step, to discover the things that we can do together to hasten the full and visible communion of all Christians. May he who can "do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine" (Ep 3,20) help us in this task. Amen.



Saturday, 19 January 2002

Your Eminence,
Dear Superiors and Students of the Capranica College,

1. I am delighted to speak to you at our traditional annual appointment, before the liturgical memorial of St Agnes, your special Patroness, and I cordially welcome you. First of all, I want to greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President of the Episcopal Commission appointed to conduct the college, and I thank him for his courteous words expressing your common sentiments. I greet the Rector, Mons. Michele Pennisi, the superiors, and you, students of the Capranica community. Your college, witness to a centuries long bond with the Apostolic See and with the Successor of Peter, is one of the most ancient and distinguished institutions for the formation of candidates to the priesthood, who not only come from the Diocese of Rome, but also from other dioceses in Italy and other countries of the world.

2. Dear students, it is to you that I want to speak in a special way. You are called to become witnesses and "examples to the flock" (1P 5,3) that will be entrusted to you. And to be such, you must acquire the inner dispositions and virtuous behaviour that are the basis of priestly spirituality. Christ himself is the model of this important spiritual and intellectual growth. Indeed, "through that sacrament [Orders] priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ" (Presbyterorum ordinis PO 2). Precisely because they are required to follow the Teacher more closely, they must "unceasingly contemplate his face" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 16). Therefore, conscious of your future mission, tend to holiness and strive to spread Christ's love everywhere. Be faithful to the Church and within her always work in communion with your Bishops. Indeed, the priest is not a man of isolated and independent initiatives; he is a minister of the Gospel in the name of the Church. All his apostolic activity starts from the Church and returns to the Church.

If at times this mission can seem difficult to you, do not be afraid! Learn from these years of training to put out into the deep, your sails open to the breath of the Holy Spirit. In this way you will be happy with all the Lord will do through you and, even in the midst of trials and problems, you will experience the greatness and joy of your mission.

3. May your college community remain in a permanent attitude of listening to the Word of God. May it deepen those bonds of communion that help each one of you to go out in your evangelizing mission to the world. May you live intensely your experience of community. It will become the supporting structure of your whole life. Indeed, you are called to live and be with others and for others.

Jesus laid down clear conditions for those who intend to follow him: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his Cross daily and follow me" (Lc 9,23). Jesus was not a Messiah of triumph and power. As a true Servant of the Lord, he carried out his messianic mission in solidarity, in service, in the humiliation of death. Walk courageously behind him and continue confidently, renewing your fidelity to Christ every day, and your openness to the needs of your brothers and sisters.

May the example and intercession of the saints and martyrs who were ever faithful to the Lord sustain you in this effort. May the saints of our Church of Rome protect you in particular, especially the young girl so dear to you, St Agnes, who, with her witness of virginity and martyrdom, invites you to follow the Lamb who gave himself for the salvation of the world. May Mary, Mother of the Church be with you, and obtain for each one of you a year rich in spiritual and cultural fruit.

With these sentiments, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, students present here, to your superiors and masters of formation and to the entire family of the Capranica.



Tuesday, 22 January 2002

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

1. I welcome you with joy, Bishops of Vietnam, for you have come a long way for your visit ad limina Apostolorum in Rome. By setting out on this pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, you intend to affirm your faith and your ministry, to pray for your diocesan Churches and to reinforce the bonds of communion in which you are joined with the Successor of Peter. I hope that the different meetings you have will encourage you to continue courageously your mission of love and service to Jesus Our Saviour, and that they will renew you in your ministry for the building up of the Body of Christ.

I thank Bishop Paul Nguyên Van Hòa of Nha Trang, the new President of your Bishops' Conference, for his words of respect on your behalf; he has helped me to share in the signs of hope and pastoral concerns of your diocesan Churches. I also offer warm good wishes to those among you who have recently received episcopal ordination. During this ad limina visit, it gives me great joy to be able to meet all the bishops of the Bishops' Conference. I am delighted that together we can all spend this time of intense spiritual and fraternal communion. When you return to your noble country, tell your priests, religious, catechists and lay faithful, especially the young, that the Pope is praying for them and encourages them to take up the challenges posed by the Gospel, following the example of the saints and martyrs who went before them on the path of faith, and whose blood poured out remains a seed of new life for the whole country.

2. Since your last ad limina visit, the Church in Asia has been strongly invited to teach the joyful message of redemption in greater depth by addressing the fundamental question of the explicit announcement of salvation to the multitudes in Asia who have not yet heard of Christ. Exactly as the other particular Churches in Asia, the Catholic community of Vietnam has carried on its theological, spiritual and pastoral reflections living the great ecclesial events, like the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops, the rich experience of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, in which some of you had the joy to take part. Christ's love impels the Church to evangelize and incites bishops to promote evangelization, the pre-eminent task and responsibility of their ministry.

3. The Church in Vietnam is called to put out into the deep: thus I would like to encourage you to have the greatest concern for evangelization and mission in your pastoral programmes. I know of your zeal and of the difficult conditions in which you have to fulfil your mission. May the grace of the Holy Spirit make your apostolic projects fruitful, renewing your zeal in preaching, catechesis, the formation of priests and religious, the prayer of the faithful, and the apostolate among young people and families! In your dioceses and in the Bishops' Conference, you have at heart the need to propose pastoral guidelines adapted to the situation and needs of your own particular Church, mindful of the human terrain in which you live, a terrain that is easily shaped by the multiple cultures and numerous religious traditions that make up your country's spiritual background. In this spirit, organization of the Bishops' Conference that you have set up, and the creation of specialized commissions, is an instrument at the service of this new missionary dynamism, of which your communities have need.

The urgency of the mission must always inspire courageous decisions you have to make, guided by the Holy Spirit, the principal agent of evangelization, with whose help you will be able to respond effectively to the demands of the announcement of the Gospel.

Your quinquennial reports mentioned several times the need to develop initial catechetical formation, as well as ongoing formation for priests, men and women religious and the lay faithful. Long years of war, the spread of Christian communities and an uneven level of the instruction of the faithful have made it difficult to present and organize this formation. I encourage you to promote and support all the initiatives that enable pastors and faithful, by means of an appropriate formation, to structure their faith and live by it, in order the better to witness to it. It is particularly important to offer them sound teaching on the social doctrine of the Church.

4. To perpetuate her mission of love and service, the Catholic Church is thus invited to share her hope by constantly offering the path of dialogue, whose origin and fruitfulness are found in the Father's saving dialogue of love with humanity, through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only a confident and constructive dialogue with all the members of civil society will make it possible to give new hope to the people of Vietnam. For Christians this dialogue, prompted by charity and rooted in the desire for genuine contact with Christ the Saviour, nourishes a living relationship with our neighbour, whoever he may be, in his inalienable dignity as child of God, and especially when he experiences poverty and exclusion. Urge your communities to contemplate Christ in the face of those with whom he choses to be identified, inviting them to discern in this commitment the Church's fidelity to her mission!

5. As the Second Vatican Council recalls, "the Church, by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system.... The political community and the Church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields".

Nevertheless, both are called to fulfil their specific mission for the benefit of human beings. However, this service will be all the more effective if "both institutions practise better cooperation" (Gaudium et spes GS 76).

In the name of this "better cooperation", the Church invites all her members to be committed loyally to the growth of all, and to the building of a just and equitable society in the spirit of solidarity. She does not intend to usurp the place of national leaders or take over the activities of persons, individuals or groups: she only wishes to carry out her specific mission. But through her members, in a spirit of dialogue and fraternal collaboration, she desires to play her proper role in the life of the nation, at the service of the entire people and the unity of society. By taking an active part in the place that is hers and in keeping with her vocation, for the human and spiritual development of the human person, not only does she "communicate divine life to men but in a certain sense she casts the reflected light of that divine life, notably in the way she heals and elevates the dignity of the human person, in the way she consolidates society, and endows the daily activity of men with a deeper sense and meaning" (ibid, n. 40).

To achieve this "better cooperation", the Church expects of the political community total respect for her independence and autonomy. The very precious good of religious freedom, described by the Second Vatican Council in its Declarations and International Agreements, concerns both individuals and religious communities. To the human person, religious freedom guarantees the right to profess and to practise his religion without constraint, to receive an education inspired by the principles of the faith, to follow a religious vocation and to perform private and public acts that manifest the interior relationship that binds him to God and to his brethren. To religious communities, religious freedom guarantees such fundamental rights as the right to autonomous government; to worship in public without restrictions; to teach and bear witness publicly to their faith by the spoken or written word; to help their members practise their religion; to choose, educate, appoint and transfer their own ministers; to manifest the special force of the social doctrine; to promote initiatives in the educational, cultural, charitable and social domains (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis humanae DH 4). I fervently hope that all the members of the nation will join forces to promote a civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, justice, solidarity and freedom.

6. We have to give thanks for the vitality and courage of the lay people of your dioceses, called to live and to celebrate their faith in conditions that are often difficult! By their credible and enthusiastic witness they are the worthy heirs of those who went before them on the path of the Gospel. I invite them to take their vocation as baptized people ever more seriously and to "assume their proper role in the life and mission of the People of God, as witnesses to Christ, wherever they may find themselves" (Ecclesia in Asia ). Means must be made available to provide them with a formation that will make them witnesses in social, political and economic life.

I warmly greet the priests, your valuable collaborators, who proclaim the Gospel of Christ in the country with conviction and courage. I know how generously and passionately they work to build fraternal communities that bear the witness to a welcoming, missionary Church. They are aware that the task of evangelization concerns the whole People of God and requires new zeal, new methods, and new language. It is up to you to stay close to them, so as to support them in their pastoral plans, to be attentive to their daily life and to accompany them when they are going through the trials connected with their ministry. It is also necessary to put at their disposal a spiritual and intellectual formation adapted to the missionary challenges they have to face.

I rejoice in the willingness that leads many young men in your dioceses to leave everything to respond generously to Christ's call in the priesthood, and thus to become faithful stewards of his mysteries. This is an eloquent sign of ecclesial vitality shown by young men, thirsting for spiritual values that they desire to share with all their brothers and sisters. It is your task to be careful about the conditions for their formation and sound discernment, taking care to select for their formation and education those who have acquired human and priestly maturity.

The flourishing of vocations to consecrated life, especially to female religious life, is certainly a magnificent gift of the Lord to the Church in Vietnam, a gift for which you must give thanks and a gift that the Church cannot do without. I encourage all consecrated persons to be firm in their missionary commitment and to commit themselves with renewed zeal to announce Christ and to serve mankind. After the daring witness borne by religious institutes during past centuries, may consecrated persons never cease to let themselves be transformed by God's grace in giving themselves generously to the Gospel!

7. Dear Brothers in the episcopate, I wish to thank you once again for your generosity and exemplary dedication. I give thanks for your perseverance and for your courageous witness. May Christian hope make your apostolic zeal fruitful and give you new strength to annnounce Christ, the Saviour, who came "so that men may have life, and have it abundantly" ( Jn Jn 10,10)!

I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady of La Vang, whom you celebrated in a special way last year, on the occasion of the centenary of the important Marian Congress of 15 August. I know the filial trust you put in the Mother of Christ. May she light your way! To each one of you, to the priests, to the men and women religious and to all the lay faithful of Vietnam, I willingly impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2002