Speeches 2002 - Saturday, 9 February 2002

5. I now address you, dear young men, who come as you do every year to spend an intense day of spirituality with the seminary community! May the figures we have just recalled and the example of their virtues also inspire you to be saints. Holiness is the precious heritage they have bequeathed to us; holiness is the principal point of every missionary programme, as I took the chance to recall in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio ineunte, (cf. nn. 30-31).

Move without pause towards this challenging and majestic peak, treasuring the grace dispensed to you every day and seeking to express it in zeal for good resolutions and courageous actions. This is the mission of every ecclesial community; it must be the main concern of every believer. May Christ be at the centre of it all: to be known, loved and served generously with an open and generous heart.

Holiness is a gift, but also a conquest: it is the gift that God offers his children, sharing his own life with them and calling them to deep communion with him. At the same time, it is a response to this gift, and a laborious conquest to be realized all the time.

6. Thank you so much for this Oratorio. It made me recall even moments of my life, especially the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council in which Providence allowed me to participate personally. It evoked the person of the Pope: Pope John who opened the solemn Conciliar assembly and who died a few months later. All of this came back as I followed the voices of the Oratorio, the music of the orchestra and the singing of the chorale. Thank you, Marco, thank you very much for such a great gift.

At the end of his visit the Holy Father said.

Thank you for the invitation to this delightful evening in the Roman Seminary, that we in passed front of Our Lady of Confidence. We heard how Our Lady of Confidence guided the steps of Pope John XXIII on a path that brought him from this Seminary to the Second Vatican Council, which was also a great seminary, the seminary of the bishops of the world. Let us thank Our Lady of Confidence for all that she did to assist Pope John in the preparation for and in the adventure of the Second Vatican Council. I wish all of you the grace to find her guidance in your lives: from the image of Our Lady of Confidence to the goals that Providence foresees for you and even asks of you to be accomplished through you. Once again, thank you for this wonderful evening. Many thanks.


Monday, 11 February 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I address a heartfelt welcome to all of you gathered here, in St Peter's Basilica, at this now traditional date that brings together many pilgrims of the Roman Organization "Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi" and UNITALSI, and makes us relive the intense spiritual atmosphere of Lourdes.
Every year we dedicate 11 February to prayer for the sick, for their physical and spiritual healing
I greet Cardinal Ruini, Vicar of Rome, who presided at the Eucharistic concelebration and the bishops and priests who are with him. I greet the directors of UNITALSI and of the "Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi", that promoted and organized this moving event. I greet you especially, dear sick people present here, and those wanting to be here who have been prevented from joining us this evening. I greet you, health-care and volunteer workers, priests, religious and lay people who carry out an unselfish service in this most important field that is the health-care apostolate.

We meet with joy today, when the Church is celebrating the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. Associated with this feast for ten years is the celebration of the World Day of the Sick, whose "heart" this year is in the Shrine of "Our Lady of Good Health" in Vailankanny, India, known as "the Lourdes of the East". I send a cordial greeting to all those who are assembled there with my Envoy, Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

2. The theme of the Tenth World Day of the Sick is taken from Jesus' words: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10). They are an invitation to adopt a clear pro-life stance and a sincere dedication to the defence of life from its conception to its natural end. Human life is a gift of God and should be lived as such, even in the most critical situations. In this regard, how effective is the witness of many persons, some of whom are present this evening, who despite being nailed to their beds by illness for years, are full of serenity because they know how precious their contribution of suffering and prayer is for the Church. I pray to God that today's celebration may be an occasion that brings every sick person extraordinary physical and spiritual relief, and I ask the Lord that it may offer to all, those who are well and those who are sick, the chance to understand much more the saving value of suffering.

3. It is right to fight sickness because health is a gift of God. At the same time, it is also important to be able to interpret God's plan when suffering knocks at our door. For us believers, the key to the interpretation of this mystery is the Cross of Christ. The Incarnate Word himself met our weakness by taking it fully upon himself on Golgotha. Since that moment, suffering has acquired a meaning that makes it extremely valuable. Since that day, pain, in all its manifestations, has acquired a new and special meaning because it becomes participation in the saving work of the Redeemer (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1521). Only if they are united to his sufferings, do our own acquire full meaning and value. By the light of faith, they become sources of hope and salvation.

4. World Day of the Sick reminds us then, that beside every suffering person there must be a brother or sister motivated by charity. Like the Good Samaritan, of which Jesus speaks in the well-known Gospel parable, every believer is called to offer love to all who are suffering. Never "pass by"! On the contrary, he should stop to bend over the person who is crushed, suffering, and alleviate his burden and difficulties. This is how the Gospel of consolation and charity is proclaimed; this is the witness that the people of our time expect from all Christians.

In this regard, I am pleased with the "Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi" and UNITALSI for promoting an important pilgrimage to the Holy Land for "the physically challenged" and "peacemakers", to the places that witnessed the human events of the Redeemer and are now unfortunately disturbed by so much violence and bathed in blood. The pilgrimage that will bring Italian disabled people to meet the disabled of Jerusalem and Bethlehem is an eloquent act of solidarity among people with handicaps, and at the same time, a message of hope for all.

I deeply hope that this beautiful initiative in the Holy Land, marred by so much hatred and war, may contribute to making sure solidarity and peace prevail. May the Immaculate Virgin, who, at Lourdes came to bring comfort to humanity, continue to watch lovingly over those who are wounded in body and spirit and intercede for all who care for them. May she obtain for the Holy Land, and for every other region of the world, the gift of harmony and peace.

With these sentiments, I gladly join you now, in the traditional candlelight procession that reminds us of Lourdes, and to all I impart a special Apostolic Blessing.



Tuesday, 12 February 2002

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to receive you, dear Bishops of the Argentine Republic who are making your ad limina visit, to strengthen the bonds of love and communion with the Successor of Peter and the Church of Rome, for "in union with this Church the faithful of the whole world have preserved the Apostolic Tradition" (St Irenaeus, Adv. Haeres, III, 3). I welcome you with the words of the Apostle Paul, wishing you "grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, the Lord" (1Tm 1,2). I would like to greet all the priests, religious and faithful of your dioceses, whom I embrace in spirit and to whom I renew my affection in the Lord.

I cordially thank Archbishop Eduardo Vicente Mirás of Rosario for his kind words, reaffirming your sentiments of loyalty to the Pope and for explaining to me the path you have taken, even among present difficulties, for the joyful announcement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I answer by thanking you for the tireless work you realize in every sector, and I encourage you to carry on in the midst of the present challenges with confidence and teaching confidence in God's loving Providence.

2. Since you are the successors of the Apostles, you are in the midst of your particular Churches as pastors who act in persona Christi Capitis, taking the place of Christ himself, Teacher, Shepherd and Priest (cf. Lumen gentium LG 21). You consecrate your life and activity to the apostolic service of transmitting the faith and fostering the life of charity among the People of God. As ministers of the Gospel, who make the Lord visibly and eminently present, you are called to be witnesses and servants of Gospel hope, exercising the threefold munus of sanctifying, teaching and governing (cf. ibid., n. 21). Therefore, I invite you, at this time of deep anxiety for the world and for the welfare of the beloved Argentine nation, to continue to fulfill for your faithful and for all people the timely service of keeping alive the true hope that is the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Your country is going through a severe social and economic crisis that impinges upon the whole society, and, in addition, threatens the democratic stability and the solidity of the public institutions, with consequences reaching far beyond your own borders. In many homes, even basic and indispensable necessities are lacking, exposing many people to a future full of risks and uncertainty.

The concerns of the present time must lead to a serious examination of conscience about the responsibilities of each one and the tragic consequences of a greedy self absorption, of the corruption reported by many, and of the thoughtless mismanagement of the national assets. In particular, you have offered to the faithful and persons of good will realistic documents that, from an evangelical point of view, warned about the future. During your last ad limina visit, in 1995, I already referred to this pointing out that: "corruption and its impunity run the risk of becoming widespread, with the regrettable result of social apathy and scepticism" (Address to the Bishops' Conference of Argentina, 11 November 1995, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 22 November 1995, p. 3). At the root of this distressing situation is a profound moral crisis, as you pointed out, and so the first step must be "the cultivation of moral values, especially, austerity, the sentiment of equity and justice, the value of work, respect for the law and for keeping one's word" (Message of the Permanent Commission of the Argentine Bishops' Conference, 8 January 2002).

At this time there is naturally a need for the proper technical means that will restore the economy and ensure that no Argentinians lack what they need to develop as persons and citizens. It is not up to the institutional Church to point out the best ways to do this, since it is the task of government leaders and experts in the various social sciences. However, although the Church's mission is of the purely religious order, this does not prevent her from offering her collaboration in fostering a national dialogue among all the leaders so that each one may cooperate actively to overcome the crisis. Dialogue excludes violence of all kinds such as killing and looting, and helps to build a more human future with the cooperation of all, thus avoiding a radical impoverishment of society. It is right to remember that the social situation is not improved merely by applying technical means, but also and above all, by promoting reforms that have a human and moral basis that are inspired by an ethical consideration of the person, the family and society.

Thus, only a new proposal of such basic moral values as honesty, austerity, responsibility for the common good, solidarity, the spirit of sacrifice, and the value of work, in a land like yours that Providence created so fertile and productive, can ensure a better development of all the members of the national community.

4. The situation in Argentina can also be the cause of division and foster hatred and resentment among those who are called to be the ongoing builders of the country. I therefore invite you to continue to guide your people as ministers of reconciliation, so that the flock entrusted to you, overcoming the difficulties of the present time, may advance on the paths of harmony and sincere love for all, without exception. You know well that the future of the country must be based on peace, the fruit of justice (cf. Jas Jc 3,18). Follow this way, help to build a society that encourages consensus, harmony and respect for each person and his fundamental rights! With your courageous and timely words, and always keeping in mind the requirements of the common good, you must encourage all, starting with those who have political, parliamentary, administrative and judicial responsibility for the nation, to promote more just conditions of life, work and housing.

Even though the extent of the phenomenon undoubtedly involves external ingredients for which it is necessary to seek help abroad, one must bear in mind that the Argentinians themselves, with the wonderful qualities that distinguish them, must take the leading role and be principal agents and architects of the reconstruction of their country, striving with all their might and hard work to overcome this complicated situation.

5. While waiting for the solutions adopted to give positive results, it is a great help to encourage charitable activities and social assistance, a duty the Church has always performed, to make more bearable the living conditions of the less fortunate. Dear Brothers, you are to be concerned with the situation of persons who suffer and lack the basic necessities. I am thinking particularly of older retired persons, the unemployed and those who have lost everything in financial reverses. In this regard, I am reassured by the various initiatives begun by each diocese to take adequate care of the needs of the poor. I mention as praiseworthy the initiatives of Caritas and of many parishes and religious institutes, as well as the collection that is now an annual event "Más por menos" (more for those who have less), and many other fine activities. They ask Christians to give up something necessary, and not just their superfluous, fostering an attitude of sharing with their neighbours.

This involvement is "part of the Church's evangelizing mission" (Sollecitudo rei socialis, n. 41), where an important place is reserved for human promotion. Therefore, pastors must guide the faithful in this field; all are called to collaborate actively in the service of charity, at this crucial moment in Argentina's history, fostering and spurring on suitable initiatives that are already in place to confront the situations of poverty and marginalization that bear upon many needy brethren.

Coordination with the different state institutions and NGO's will provide more effective assistance to your neighbour, helping him not to be carried away by the illusions of profit and consumerism, but to rely on the best traditions of sobriety, solidarity and generosity that abide in your people's hearts.

6. My review of your quinquennial reports and my personal conversation with each one of you highlights the vitality of the Church in Argentina, with her successes and progress, her projects and efforts, as well as the human limitations that must inevitably be taken into account within the framework of continuous and faithful fulfillment of the mission that Christ the Lord entrusted to his Church: to be an instrument of salvation for all, capable of inspiring an activity that will transform society.

In the exercise of your mission as pastors, it is always necessary to preserve affective and effective communion with the See of Peter and with one another. The will to preserve this spirit, evident in your assemblies and other gatherings, so as to offer mutual help and complementary views of the different pastoral issues, is a positive ecclesial experience. At the same time, you have to be a good example for priests, parishes and civil society itself, that has to face different viewpoints and conflicts of interest.

7. To be able to carry on the Church's task in Argentina, I invite you to realize the need to rely on a sufficient number of evangelizers in quantity and quality, priests, men and women religious and consecrated persons, who bring the Gospel to all nations.

This entails constant attention to the problem of vocations to lives of special consecration. In this regard, you need to depend on healthy, stable families, founded on true domestic values, in which the seeds of a vocation can spring up and grow in a suitable climate. You need parish or school organizations, and those associated with the new apostolic movements, as a favourable environment for the integration of young persons into a lifestyle that shows concern for others and gives an education based on faith. Experience teaches that vocations to the priesthood and to a life of special consecration are often born in these conditions, and at educational centres with a Christian orientation, where dedication to evangelization is combined with the objective of bringing about human and technical maturity.

Young persons, even mature and formed persons, must be received, feel loved, and be followed in seminaries and houses of formation by the use of a process that will help develop their vocation so that they can become servants of God, for the good of the faithful and their neighbour in need. To collaborate with this most important task, it is vital to be careful to choose the most capable persons with lives of great integrity, because on their work depends a promising future for the Church.

I am aware of the foresight of your Bishops' Conference that recently completed a study of vocational trends in Argentina. It is reassuring to note that in certain aspects there has been an increase, but the fact that they are decreasing in proportion to the increase in the population must spur you to redouble your efforts to prepare the ecclesial future of every diocese.

8. Dear Brothers, I conclude this meeting in the hope that you may take back with you the encouragment and support of the Pope, to continue in the self-sacrificing, and sometimes, joyful gift of yourselves to the Church and to the society in which you exercise your ministry. I know the difficulties that you and your co-workers face every day. Yet Jesus Christ, the perfect model of the Pastor, will give you the strength for a faithful service, and peace of mind in perseverance, "expectantes beatam spem et adventum Salvatoris nostri Jesu Christi" ("awaiting the blessed hopeand coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ": Ordinary of Mass, prayer after the Our Father).

I ask you to bring to your priests, men and women religious, seminarians, the members of ecclesial movements and laity involved in the Church's mission, and to all the faithful, the Pope's greeting and the assurance of his prayers that each one may persevere in faith, and be strengthened on the Christian journey through life, and in his resolution to live a responsible universal love.

To you, and to the entire beloved Argentine people, especially those who are suffering more in this painful trial, with great fondness, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.





To Rev. Mons. Luigi Giussani
Founder of the Movement "Communion and Liberation"

1. I join with intense participation in the joy of the Fraternity of "Communion and Liberation" on the 20th anniversary of its recognition by the Pontifical Council for the Laity as an association of the faithful of pontifical right. In 1954, dear Mons. Giussani, you founded the "Communion and Liberation" Movement in Milan, and it soon spread to other parts of Italy and later to other countries of the world. The Fraternity is the mature fruit of this movement.

On the happy occasion of this 20th anniversary, I am particularly pleased to review the important steps of the ecclesial journey of the Movement to thank God for all that he has accomplished through your initiative, Reverend Monsignor, and through the initiative of all who have joined you in the course of the years. It is a great comfort to recall together the events through which God's action became manifest and to recognize the greatness of his mercy.

2. In reviewing the life and actions of the Fraternity and of the Movement, the first impressive feature is the ability to listen to the needs of human beings today. The human person never stops seeking: he continues seeking when he is upset by the drama of violence, loneliness and profound doubt, just as when he lives in peace and joy. The only response that can satisfy him, that fulfills this search comes to him from the encounter with the One who is the source of his being and his action.

Therefore the Movement wanted and wants to point out not a way but the way to arrive at the solution of this existential drama. The way, as you have said so often, is Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life who reaches the person in his daily existence. The discovery of this way usually takes place through the mediation of other human beings. Identified through the gift of faith by the encounter with the Redeemer, believers are called to become an echo of the event of Christ, to become themselves an "event".

Thus, before being a collection of doctrines or a rule for salvation, Christianity is the "event" of an encounter. This is the intuition and experience that in these years you have communicated to so many people who have joined the Movement. "Communion and Liberation", rather than offering new things, aims at helping people rediscover the Tradition and history of the Church, to re-express it in eloquent ways that address and challenge the people of our time. In my Message to the Participants in the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities on 27 May 1998, I wrote that the originality of the charism of each movement "neither claims nor could claim to add anything to the richness of the depositum fidei, safeguarded by the Church with passionate fidelity" (n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, 10 June 1998, p. 2). This originality, however, "represents a powerful support, a moving and convincing reminder to live the Christian experience fully, with intelligence and creativity. Therein lies the basis for finding adequate responses to the challenges and needs of ever changing times and circumstances" (ibid.).

3. We need to turn to Christ, the Word of God who became flesh for humanity's salvation. Jesus of Nazareth, who lived the human experience as no one else could, himself becomes the goal of every human aspiration. Only in him can man fully arrive at knowing himself.

In this way faith appears as a genuine adventure of human knowing, since it is neither an abstract discourse nor a vague religious sentiment, but a personal encounter with Christ who gives new meaning to life. The educational work, that, in the rich array of your activities and communities, so many parents and teachers have tried to accomplish, consisted precisely in guiding brothers, sisters, children, friends to discover in their affections, their work, their different vocations, the voice that brings each one to the definitive encounter with the Word made flesh. Only in the Only-Begotten Son of the Father can man find a full, definitive response to his deep and basic longings.

This permanent dialogue with Christ, nourished by personal and liturgical prayer, is an incentive for an active social presence, as the history of the Movement and the Fraternity of "Communion and Liberation" testifies. Indeed, yours is also a history of works of culture, charity, and formation and, observing the distinction between the aims of civil society and of the Church, it is a history of involvement in the field of politics too, that by its very nature is full of conflicts, in which, faithfully serving the cause of the common good becomes burdensome.

4. In the past 20 years the Church has seen born and develop within her many other movements, communities and associations. The power of Christ's Spirit never ceases to overcome or to break down the fixed patterns and forms previously left in place by life, urging people onwards to unforeseen styles of expression. This urgency is the sign of the living mission of the Church, in which the face of Christ appears in the features of people of every time and place. How is it possible not to be filled with awe at these marvelous works of the Holy Spirit? He works wonders, and at the dawn of a new millennium impels believers to put out into the deep towards ever more advanced frontiers in building the Kingdom.

Years ago, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the foundation of "Communion and Liberation", I said to you: "Go out into the world and take with you the truth, the beauty and the peace that are found in Christ the Redeemer" (Rome, 29 September 1984, n. 4). At the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian age, I give you the same mandate, with vigor and with gratitude. I urge you to cooperate conscientiously in the mission of dioceses and parishes, courageously extending their missionary action to the very ends of the earth.

May the Lord go with you and make your work fruitful. May Mary, the faithful Virgin and Star of the new evangelization, be your support and guide you on the path of ever more daring fidelity to the Gospel.

With these sentiments, to you, Mons. Giussani, to those who work with you and to all the members of the Fraternity, and to all the members of the Movement, I gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 11 February 2002, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.






To my Venerable Brother Archbishop Francesco Marchisano
President of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology

1. One hundred and fifty years have passed since my Predecessor, Bl. Pius IX, authorized the first plan of operation worked out by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology that had been established a short time before to enlarge the collection of Christian antiquities, to gather them in suitable premises and to create a museum for them, subsequently called the (Pope) Pius Christian Museum (Museo Cristiano-Pio).

Bl. Pius IX entrusted to this commission the task to work with prudent discernment to ensure "that all the items which could ... edify the devout by reminding them of the simplicity of the catacombs and that are not in danger of being lost, as far as possible stay in place in the catacombs" (in Archivio della Societŕ Romana di Storia Patria, 91 [1968], 259). When he published the venerated Pontiff's mandate on 6 January 1852, Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, then Secretary of State, announced the definite membership of the commission that included such distinguished and farsighted scholars as Fr Giuseppe Marchi S.J. and Giovanni Battista De Rossi.

On this happy anniversary, I asked Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my Secretary of State, to greet warmly and encourage strongly the distinguished members of today's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology to continue conserving, studying and making known the precious heritage of the venerable memories of the Church, and particularly of the catacombs of Rome and Italy.

2. On this occasion, how can I fail to emphasize the great veneration with which the Roman Pontiffs have conserved the memories of the Christian community, disseminated throughout the city of Rome and throughout the Italian peninsula since its origins?

The decision of Pope Zephyrinus, for example, is worth mentioning. He was the first to create the catacombs on the Appian Way and he made the deacon Callistus responsible for them. This, the largest complex of catacombs, was later to take the name of Callistus who became Pope and succeeded Zephyrinus. Another Pope deeply committed to spreading appreciation for the catacombs was Pope Damasus, who during his Pontificate sought out the tombs of the martyrs and embellished them with splendid metric epigraphs in memory of the acts of these first witnesses to the faith.

In the last century, confirming and updating the provisions of his immediate Predecessors, Pope Pius XI, with his Moto proprio "I primitivi cemeteri", enlarged and strengthened the Commission of Sacred Archaeology, "so that the ancient monuments of the Church [might] be conserved in the best possible way for the study of the learned and for the veneration and fervent devotion of the faithful from every nation" (AAS 17 [1925], 621). The providential initiative of that great Pontiff was in keeping with the special nature of the Holy Year of 1925, in which crowds of pilgrims came to pay homage at the memories of the Church of Rome. Thus as always, it was a pre-eminently pastoral and spiritual goal that induced the Successors of the Apostle Peter to give new life to the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.

3. The catacombs have represented a cornerstone of piety and unity for believers in every age. In them, eloquent testimonies to the holiness of the Church are lovingly safeguarded and revered. They recall the communion that unites the living and the dead, earth and heaven, time and eternity. In those sacred places waiting for the glorious coming of Christ are those who were marked with the seal of Baptism, and often, many who witnessed to the Gospel with the supreme trial of bloodshed.
I would like to quote in full, from among many, the admirable epigraph that Pope St Damasus composed in honour of St Saturninus the Martyr, whom the liturgy commemorates today. The words can be applied to the many who gave their life for Christ and now sleep in peace, awaiting the day without end when the Lord will come again in glory. It is a tribute we would like to pay to our brothers and sisters in the faith:

Citizen now of Christ, formerly of Carthage,
The moment the sword pierced the Mother's holy breast,
through her blood he changed country, name and lineage,
the birth to the life of the saints made him a Roman citizen.
His faith was wonderful: as his heroic death would later show.

His enemy Gratianus trembled while he tore his holy members;
but though all his venomous rage exploded,
he could not induce you, O Saint, to deny Christ;
indeed through your prayers he even deserved to die a Christian.

This is the will of the suppliant Damasus: venerate this tomb!
[Here it is given to fulfil vows and to pour out chaste prayers,
because it is the tomb of the martyr St Saturninus]
To you, O Martyr Saturninus, I pay my prayerful homage.
(Epigrammata Damasiana, edited by A. Ferrua, Rome 1942, p. 188-189).

In the light of these inspired verses, how can one deny that the catacombs are one of the historical symbols of Christ's victory over evil and sin? They are still standing to prove that the storms unleashed against the Church can never destroy her, because she is founded on the Lord's promise "the powers of death shall not prevail against her" (Mt 16,18).

4. I am also pleased to recall that the commission of which you are the President is not only concerned to conserve "these vestiges of the People of God" properly, but also seeks to gather and spread the religious and cultural message they evoke. In fact, the contribution of those who work with you encompasses technical, scientific, epigraphical, anthropological, theological and liturgical expertise. This enables the Church to become better acquainted with the heritage left by the generations of early Christians. Thanks to the constant message that this patrimony silently proclaims, the Christian people are encouraged to remain faithful to the depositum fidei, received as a precious treasure to be safeguarded with care.

The distinguished interventions of the experts of the commission, in the course of the past 150 years are, and remain, important for their scientific, and especially, for their religious and ecclesial character. On this happy Jubilee I desire to express my deep gratitude for the immense and generous dedication with which each member contributes to enriching this historical and pastoral patrimony.

I also hope that the work of the Pontifical Commission will be better known, so as to satisfy the desire of those who want to become familiar with the testimonies of the ones who preceded them in the sign of the faith. The young generations coming into contact in turn with the steadfastness of faith of the early Christians will feel deeply moved by these monuments and memories to live the Gospel coherently, even at the cost of personal sacrifice.

With these sentiments I express to you, Venerable Brother, the Members of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, those who cooperate and all those who will take part in the scheduled programme, my wholehearted appreciation. I entrust each of you to Mary, Mother of the Church, and I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to every one as a pledge of abundant heavenly favours.

From the Vatican, 12 February 2002, Memorial of the Martyrs, Sts Saturninus and Companions.

Speeches 2002 - Saturday, 9 February 2002