Speeches 2002



Thursday, 21 March 2002

1. "You are the salt of the earth.... You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14).

Jesus' words echo in our hearts as we prepare for the celebration of the 17th World Youth Day that will take place in Toronto, Canada, in July. These words issue a strong challenge to us; they ask us to join our lives with the One who is the true light of the world and the salt that gives unending savour to the earth: Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.

I thank you, dear young people, for this meeting that you have organized, during which you wanted to ask one another: "What does it mean to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth"? Some of your friends have already helped you find an answer. Responding freely to God's call they live as engaged or married couples. Some are on their way to the priesthood, others are preparing for the religious or missionary life.

I thank them for their testimonies that are an incentive to you to ask yourselves sincerely, as they did: "Lord, what would you have me do?", what do you want me to do in order to live my Baptism to the full and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? Before them, Francis of Assisi asked the same question at the foot of the crucifix of San Damiano. God wants to reveal his plan of love to them as well as to you, in order to carry out the project of life that from eternity he has thought of for each one.

2. I want to thank the Cardinal Vicar for his warm words in your name. I also thank the president of the youth of the diocesan Catholic Action.

I greet the delegation of young people from the regions of Italy who tomorrow will set out for Toronto, where they will meet their peers to prepare for the impending World Youth Day. I also greet the group that is to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to bring a witness of solidarity to the young people in those places that have seen so much trouble. Lastly, I greet the delegation of young people from Toronto, who have come here to take part in this meeting and in the celebration of Palm Sunday.

I am grateful to the young men and women who have manifested to me their desire to respond to the call of the Lord, but at the same time have realized that it is not always easy to respond to him with an open and generous "yes".

Dear friends, I understand your difficulty. The numerous offers that you have to weigh in your mind that come from every side certainly do not make it any easier for you to discern the wonderful plan of life whose unifying centre and driving force are Christ. Isn't it true that some of your peers seem to live for the moment, choosing what appears to be the easiest course?

Listen to me! If you do not give time to prayer nor accept the counsel of a spiritual guide, the confusion of the world can even succeed in drowning God's voice. As some have quickly observed, by satisfying our own immediate needs we lose the capacity to love in the name of Christ and become incapable of giving our lives for others as he has taught us. What should we do then?

3. You asked me this question: "What must we do to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world?".

To respond, we must first remember that God created man in his image, calling him to his first and fundamental vocation: communion with him! It is this that gives human beings their highest dignity. "From the very circumstances of his origin, man is invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by God's love and constantly preserved by it. And he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to his Creator" (Gaudium et spes GS 19).

Yes, dear friends, we are created by God and for God, and our longing for him is engraved on our hearts! Since "the glory of God is living man", as St Irenaeus of Lyons observed, God never ceases to draw man to himself, so that in him man may find the truth, beauty and happiness that he seeks without pause. This attraction that God exercises on us is called "vocation".

4. Precisely because we are created in the image of God, we have also received from him that great gift which is freedom. However if it is not used well, freedom can distance us from God. It can cause us to lose the dignity with which he has clothed us. When it is not formed by the Gospel, freedom can be transformed into slavery: the slavery of sin and eternal death.

Dear young men and women of Rome! By straying far from God's will our first parents fell into sin, that is, the wrong use of freedom. Yet the heavenly Father did not forsake us; he sent his Son Jesus to heal our wounded freedom and to restore the disfigured image, making it even more beautiful. Victorious over sin and death, Jesus affirmed his lordship over the world and history. He is alive and invites us not to submit our personal freedom to any earthly power, but only to him and to his almighty Father.

Young people of the new millennium, do not misuse your freedom! Do not lose the great dignity that God has conferred on you as his sons and daughters! Submit only to Christ, who wants your good and your true joy (cf. Mt Mt 23,8-10); to him, who wants you to be men and women who are perfectly happy and fulfilled! In this way you will find that only by following God's will can we be the light of the world and the salt of the earth!

5. This sublime and demanding reality can only be grasped and lived in a spirit of constant prayer. This is the secret, if we are to enter into and dwell in God's will. Thus what are extremely helpful are the initiatives of prayer - especially Eucharistic adoration - that young people are spreading in the Diocese of Rome as a result of your work.

I would also like to say to each and every one: read the Gospel, personally and in community, meditate on it and live it. The Gospel is the living, active word of Jesus that initiates each one of us to the infinite love of God for us and for all humanity. The divine Master calls each one of you to be a labourer in his field; he is calling you to be his disciples, ready to communicate to your friends what he has communicated to you.

If you do this, you will be able to answer the question: "Lord, what would you have me do?". Indeed, the true answer can be found in the Gospel that, in spirit, I consign to you this evening. It is the missionary mandate of Jesus: "You are the salt of the earth.... You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14). I commend you to Mary, a shining example of fidelity to the vocation entrusted to her by the Lord.

I hope your preparations for Toronto go well! Take courage!



Friday, 22 March 2002

Your Eminences,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothersa and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to welcome you and greet you warmly. I want to welcome warmly Cardinal Jozef Tomko, President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, whom I thank for his words on your behalf.

In these days when you have gathered to plan the activity of the Committee whose members have recently been renewed, you have wished to meet with the Pope. I thank you for your visit, and offer my cordial welcome to each one of you, together with my wishes for the success of your work.

2. I willingly take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to your committee, that is dedicated to promoting throughout the Church devotion to the Eucharist. Eucharistic congresses are important experiences of faith and intense prayer, because they offer many believers the opportunity to contemplate the face of Christ, mysteriously veiled in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Through you, I would like to convey my most sincere gratitude to the National Delegates and to all those who cooperate in various ways for the success of these important manifestations of Christian devotion.

You are well aware of the importance of Eucharistic devotion for the life of the Church and the spread of the Gospel. Indeed, the Eucharist contains the most precious spiritual good of the Christian community: Christ, who gave himself up on the Cross for the salvation of mankind. Therefore continue with dedication and enthusiasm in your work, which is deeply appreciated.

As I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I cordially impart to you and to all your loved ones a special Apostolic Blessing.



Friday, 22 March 2002

Dear Brother Garvey,

Dear Brothers in Christ,

1. "Peace to all of you who are in Christ!" (1P 5,14): with the words of the Apostle Peter, I greet you on the occasion of the Twenty-ninth General Chapter of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers. I am especially happy to welcome you in this year when you are celebrating your Bicentenary, for it allows us to praise God for the charism which came through Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice and continues to this day in you who are his sons and brothers. It is an opportunity for me to thank you in the name of the Church for all that the Christian Brothers have done through the course of two centuries in educating the young.

2. The story of grace which you celebrate in this General Chapter began at a time of great social upheaval in Europe and deep distress in Edmund Rice’s native Ireland. Through your Founder’s earlier life, the Continent was shaken by the storms of revolution, which saw the collapse of an old order and the rise of a new, which emerged with such difficulty from the bloody wars which so troubled Europe at the dawn of the nineteenth century.

In Ireland itself, these were years of poverty and religious persecution, when the great traditions of Irish Catholic life were indeed imperilled. Instead, these traditions flourished in new and remarkable ways when God stirred people like Edmund Rice to take up the task of educating the young, otherwise condemned to a material, intellectual, moral and spiritual poverty which demeaned not only them but an entire society. In responding to God’s call, your Founder was not only obeying the deep impulses of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things (cf. Jn Jn 14,26). He was also upholding the way of the Catholic Church, which has always put education at the very heart of her mission to preach the Gospel. Moreover, Edmund showed himself faithful to the ancient tradition of the great monastic schools of Ireland which had forged a profound link between sanctity and learning, humanity and education, to the glory of Europe and the entire Christian world.

At the same time the crisis which Edmund faced was not just social or national; it was a grave personal crisis which released in his life the grace which brought your Congregation to birth. When his young wife died in 1789, he thought first of retiring to a life of contemplation. But this was not to be. Instead, it was a life of action rooted in contemplation to which Edmund knew himself to be called by God. His was a vocation to undertake "a new ‘creativity’ in charity" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 50), which was the true revolution in a revolutionary age, a revolution born not of violence but of quiet and patient listening to God.

3. Edmund’s contemplation of Christ the Teacher shaped him more and more in the image of the One who in the Gospels "is at once majestic and familiar, impressive and reassuring" (Catechesi Tradendae CTR 8). The One he followed knew "what was in man" (Jn 2,25), and was compassionate though unafraid to speak the truth, authoritative without ever being authoritarian, rooted in tradition yet imaginative in meeting the needs of his own time.

To these same heights, dear Brothers, you are called by Christ and your Founder as you set forth into your third century; and there, like Edmund, you will discover "a face of sorrow" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 26-27), the face of the Crucified Lord himself. Now more than ever it is upon him that you must fix your gaze: the Suffering Servant upon whom lies the punishment that brings us peace (cf. Is Is 53,2-9). To the one who was pierced for our faults you must bring your own wounds and sorrows; to the one who was bruised for our iniquities, you must bring your own failings. Who but the Lord of all mercy will heal our wounds; who but he will turn our sorrows to joy; who but he will turn even our sins to new life? I say this to you, dear Brothers, on the eve of Holy Week, when the whole Church celebrates the mystery of the Lord’s Cross, which is the key to all the mysteries of life and death.

It is Calvary that teaches the truth of your own history: from crisis, your Congregation was born, and it is from the crisis of these times that your future, God’s future for you, is being born even now. Therefore, with the Apostle I say to you, "Rejoice in the Lord always!" (Ph 4,4), because in the light of Easter we understand what Saint Paul means when he says, "When I am weak, then I am strong!" (2Co 12,10). With God’s help, there is no wound that cannot become a fountain of new life. This is the reason for our hope: this is the source of our joy!

4. From Waterford in 1802, your Congregation spread to every corner of Ireland, of the Irish diaspora and beyond. Now as your numbers diminish in some places, they increase elsewhere. And beyond the bounds of the Congregation itself, the Edmund Rice Movement is stirring new energies among lay men and women who share in your spirit and work. The flame of faith lit by your Founder burns brightly still, and it is now your task to ensure that this "fire on the earth" (Lc 12,49) is as creative now as it was in the past. At a time when many cultures are experiencing a crisis in communicating religious and moral values to the young, the educational mission entrusted to you is more important than ever.Yet it is also more challenging, for this is a time when, as Pope Paul VI observed, people "listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 41). You have always been excellent teachers; now you must be still more renowned for your courageous and joyful witness to Christ before the young, as the whole Church undertakes afresh "the great adventure of proclaiming the Gospel" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 58) in the work of the new evangelization.

As you listen to God through the days of this General Chapter – giving thanks for the past, seeking to understand the present and planning for the future – I ask the Lord to pour out his Spirit upon you in new and effective ways. Entrusting the Congregation of the Christian Brothers to the loving care of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and to the intercession of your Blessed Founder, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of endless mercy in Jesus Christ, who lives for ever in our hearts.


Saturday, 23 March 2002

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I warmly greet all of you who are taking part in this Congress that aims to sensitize public opinion about the prevention of cancer of the digestive tract and of the colon. I want to greet Prof. Alberto Montori, President of the European Federation for Diseases of the Digestive Tract, and those of you who come from many countries for this important international meeting.

I also wish to convey my deep gratitude to the organizers of the Congress, to the members of the Scientific Committee, the delegates, moderators, presenters, specialists, and all who are committed to the fight against the disease on whose cure you focus your attention.

One can only be glad to see the growing availability of technological and pharmacological resources that allow for the speedy diagnosis of the symptoms of cancer in a great many cases, as well as rapid and effective treatment. I urge you not to stop at the results you have achieved but to continue with confidence and tenacity, in both research and treatment, making use of the most advanced scientific resources. Young doctors should learn from your example and, with your help, learn how to continue in this direction that is so beneficial for everyone's health.

2. Certainly, we cannot forget that man is a limited and mortal being. It is necessary to approach the sick with a healthy realism that avoids giving to those who are suffering the illusion that medicine is omnipotent. There are limits that are not humanly possible to overcome; in these cases, the patient must know how to accept his human condition serenely, which the faithful know how to interpret in the light of the divine will. The divine will is manifested even in death, the natural end of human life on earth. Teaching people to accept death serenely belongs to your mission.

The complexity of the human being requires that, in providing him with the necessary treatment, the spirit as well as the body be taken into account. It would therefore be foolhardy to count on technology alone. From this point of view, an exasperated and overzealous treatment, even if done with the best of intentions, would definitely be shown to be, not just useless, but lacking in respect for the sick person who is already in a terminal condition.

The concept of health, that we find in Christian thought, is quite the opposite of the vision that reduces it to a purely psycho-physical balance. Such a vision of health disregards the spiritual dimensions of the human person and would end by harming his true good. For the believer, as I wrote in my Message for the Eighth World Day of the Sick, health "strives to achieve a fuller harmony and healthy balance on the physical, psychological, spiritual and social level" (ORE, 6 August 1999, n. 13). This is the teaching and witness of Jesus, who was so sensitive to human suffering. With his help, we too must endeavour to be close to people today, to treat them and, cure them, if possible, without forgetting the requirements of the spirit.

3. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, thanks to the cooperation of so many collaborators and volunteers, you are making a considerable effort to inform public opinion of the possibilities of enjoying better health by the rational regulation of daily habits and by submitting to preventive routine check-ups. I am delighted with your service and hope that your profession, by following the ethical norms that govern it, will always be inspired by the perennial ethical values that give it a firm foundation.

Informing citizens with respect and truth, especially when they suffer from a pathological condition, is a true mission for those who take care of public health. Your Congress intends to make its contribution in this area, and I wish it every success. I strongly hope that you will have a large-scale response to the message you plan to launch, and that you will involve the mass media in an effective and informative campaign.

I willingly support you with my prayer, and, as I commend your work to God, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and gladly extend it to your loved ones and to all who work with you in this noble humanitarian mission.


Monday, 25 March 2002

Dear Young People,

1. I am pleased to welcome you gathered here for UNIV's traditional Roman gathering. You will take part in the Holy Week rites and this will offer you a special religious experience. I thank the Lord who this year has given me an opportunity to meet your association full of young people from many nations who take part in the formation activities organized by the Prelature of Opus Dei.

Thank you for your visit, and welcome to this house; it is also yours!

2. During your Roman stay, you intend to intensify your Christian formation around your theme: Study, work, service. The term "service" is the key for interpreting the two terms that go before it. In fact, study and work imply a personal attitude of willingness to give oneself which we call, precisely, service. It is a personal dimension that must characterize the person's character. The Second Vatican Council says it when it asserts, that only through the sincere gift of self, can the human creature fully discover himself (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 24). Dear young people, with an openness to keep brothers and sisters, each one perfects the basic thrust of his or her mission, through studies and work, putting to good use the talents that God has generously entrusted to you.

In this regard, how useful you will find the teachings of Bl. Josemaría Escrivá, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate this year! Several times he wanted to stress that in the Gospel Jesus is known as a carpenter (cf. Mk Mc 6,3), indeed as the son of the carpenter (cf. Mt Mt 13,55). Trained in school of Joseph, the Son of God made manual work not only a necessary source of daily bread, but a "service" to humanity, and indeed made it an integral element of the saving plan. In this way it becomes an example for us so that each person, following his own vocation, may fully realize his own potential, putting it at the service of his neighbour.

3. In these days of Holy Week the reflection of the faithful is focused on the mystery of the Cross. In the light of this mystery, we can understand better the value of service, work and, for you now, study. The Cross is the symbol of a love that becomes a total and free gift. Does not the Cross witness to Christ's love for us? The Cross is a silent school of love, in which we learn how costly it is to love. In following Christ, the crucified King, believers learn that to "reign" is to serve the good of others and discover that the sincere gift of themselves expresses the true meaning of love. St Paul repeats to us that Christ loved us and gave himself for us (cf. Gal Ga 2,20).

Bl. Escriva wrote: "The dignity of work is based on Love". And he continued: "Man's great privilege is to be able to love and thus to transcend what is fleeting and ephemeral. Man can love other creatures, he can pronounce an "I' and a "you' that are full of meaning.... Work is born of love, manifests love, is directed towards love" (Christ Is Passing By, n. 48).

A person who is faithul to this spiritual journey, seriously applies himself to study and work, and he becomes the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt Mt 5,13-14). This is the invitation that you can take from the theme of the upcoming World Youth Day: be the salt of the earth and the light of the world in daily life.

It is not an easy path and it can be at odds with the mindset of your peers. It means going against the prevailing way of acting and today's fashion.

4. Dear young men and women! Do not be surprised at this: the mystery of the Cross teaches people to live and work in a way that is different from the spirit of this world.

The Apostle clearly alerts us to this: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rm 12,12).

Dear young members of UNIV, resist the temptation of mediocrity and conformism. Only in this way will you be able to make your life a gift and a service to humanity; only in this way will you help to alleviate the hurt and suffering of many poor and marginalized persons who are very much a part of our technologically advanced world. Let the Law of God guide you in your studies today and in your future professional activity. In this way you will "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5,16).

For all this to happen, prayer, intimate dialogue with the One who is calling you to be his disciples, must come first. Be generous in your active life, young people, and be deeply immersed in the contemplation of God's mystery. Make the Eucharist the heart of your day. In union with the sacrifice of the Cross which it re-presents, offer your studies and your work, so that you yourselves may be "spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God, through Jesus Christ" (1P 2,5).

Mary is always beside you just as she was beside Jesus. To her,the Handmaid of the Lord and Seat of Wisdom, I entrust your resolutions and desires. For my part, I assure you a constant remembrance in prayer, as I wish you a fruitful Easter Triduum and a Blessed Easter. With these sentiments, I cordially bless you.



Good Friday, 29 March 2002

1. Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine! – We adore your Cross, O Lord!

At the end of this eloquent evocation of Christ’s Passion, our gaze remains fixed upon the Cross. We contemplate in faith the mystery of salvation which it reveals to us. Jesus, as he died, removed the veil from before our eyes, and now the Cross towers over the world in all its splendour. The peace-bringing silence of the One whom human evil hung upon that Tree imparts peace and love. On the Cross the Son of Man has died, taking upon himself the burden of all human suffering and injustice. On Golgotha the One who by his death has redeemed the world dies for us.

2. "They shall look on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19,37).

Good Friday sees fulfilled the prophetic words which John the Evangelist, an eyewitness, relates with meditated precision. To God made man, who out of love accepted the most debasing punishment, multitudes of every race and culture now look. When their gaze is guided by the profound intuition of faith, they recognize in the Crucified One the unsurpassable "witness" of Love.

From the Cross Jesus gathers into one people Jews and Gentiles, manifesting the will of his heavenly Father to make all mankind a single family gathered in his name.

In the acute pain of the Suffering Servant we already hear the triumphant cry of the Risen Lord. Christ on the Cross is the King of the new people ransomed from the burden of sin and death. However twisted and confused the course of history may appear, we know that, by walking in the footsteps of the Crucified Nazarene, we shall attain the goal. Amid the conflicts of a world often dominated by selfishness and hatred, we, as believers, are called to proclaim the victory of Love. Today, Good Friday, we testify to the victory of Christ Crucified.

3. We adore your Cross, O Lord!

Yes, we adore you, Lord, lifted up upon the Cross between heaven and earth, the sole Mediator of our salvation. Your Cross is the banner of our victory!

We adore you, Son of the Most Holy Virgin who stands unbowed beside your Cross, courageously sharing in your redeeming sacrifice.

Through the Wood on which you were crucified joy has come to the whole world – propter Lignum venit gaudium in universo mundo. Today we are all the more aware of this, as our gaze is already lifted towards the ineffable wonder of your resurrection. "We adore your Cross, O Lord; we praise and glorify your holy resurrection!".

With these sentiments, dear Brothers and Sisters, I extend to you all a cordial Easter greeting, which I accompany with my Apostolic Blessing.

April 2002


Monday, 8 April 2002

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the Easter joy of the Lord’s victory over sin and death I am pleased to greet you, the members of the Papal Foundation, on your annual pilgrimage to Rome. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7).

These words of the Apostle Paul remind us that our world is filled with compelling evidence of just how desperately mankind stands in need of God’s grace and peace. The dire consequences of the tragic events of September 11 are still with us; the spiral of violence and armed hostility in the Holy Land — the land of our Lord’s birth, death and Resurrection; a land held sacred by the three great monotheistic religions — has increased to unimaginable and intolerable levels; throughout the world innocent men, women and children continue to suffer the ravages of war, poverty, injustice and exploitation of all kinds.

Indeed, we are currently experiencing a very difficult international situation. But the Lord’s victory and his promise to remain with us "until the end of the world" (Mt 28,20) are beacons of light beckoning us to meet the challenges before us with courage and trust. The Papal Foundation itself, through the generosity of many, enables needed works to be carried out in the name of Christ and his Church. For this I am most grateful to you: by means of your support the Easter message of joy, hope and peace is more widely proclaimed.

I assure you that your love and your dedication to the Church and to the Successor of Peter are very much appreciated. As we continue to walk together the path of light I encourage you to continue in your generous commitment, so that "people may see your good works and give glory to God" (cf. Mt Mt 5,16). Commending you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose children we have all become (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 58), I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your families as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Savior.



Thursday 11 April 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the Holy See. In accepting your Letters of Credence, I thank you for your gracious words, and I ask you to convey to the President, Dr Vojislav Koštunica, my heartfelt best wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the good of the nation at this important and complex time in its history.

2. The conflict which occurred in your country left in its wake, as you say, "material and moral damage", with an entire society in need of rebuilding. This is a long and difficult process which, I am pleased to note, is already under way in Serbia and Montenegro; but great determination and patience on the part of the people and continuing solidarity from beyond your borders are required if this process is to come to full term.

In the first place, there is a need for reconciliation within Yugoslavia itself, so that all may work together, with respect for one another's differences, to rebuild society and the common good. This is never easy, and it is made still more difficult in the case of Yugoslavia because of the instability and conflicts which followed the collapse of the former regime based on atheistic materialism.

As the process of reconciliation and, in a real sense, of authentic peace-making goes forward, there is a need to put aside ethnic and nationalistic introversion, and to further build a Nation whose democratic institutions, while sustaining unity, ensure that all its peoples, especially the minorities, are active and equal participants in the political and economic life of their communities.

3. Looking further afield, it is important to pursue the process of reconciliation within the Balkan region as a whole, and to reject definitively any resort to violence as a way of settling disputes. Your own country has known better than most through its history that violence begets more violence, and that dialogue alone can break that death-dealing spiral. The ethnic and religious differences in the region are real, and many of the antagonisms have deep historical roots, which at times make the prospect of true and lasting peace seem remote.

In my Message for the 2001 World Day of Peace, I noted that "in the past, cultural differences have often been a source of misunderstanding between peoples and the cause of conflicts and wars" (No. 8); yet I went on to insist that "dialogue between cultures [is] a privileged means for building the civilization of love" and that this dialogue "is based upon the recognition that there are values which are common to all cultures because they are rooted in the nature of the person" (ibid., 16). Among these universal values, I named solidarity, peace, life and education, and for the peoples of Yugoslavia these are the beacons lighting the path into the future. I would also echo my Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, which stresses forgiveness as an overarching value, for there is no peace without justice, and there is no justice without forgiveness; and there will only be true healing for those many "wounded souls" whom you have mentioned if there is forgiveness and reconciliation.

The need to build bridges extends beyond the Balkan region to the whole of Europe. The continent's efforts to build a new kind of unity require, as you have observed, "full integration of Southeastern Europe into a new political, economic and cultural structure". Europe needs the Balkan nations, and they need Europe. This is a fact which recent antagonisms may have obscured , but upon which history and culture insist.

4. The Catholic Church, faithful to the spiritual and ethical principles of her universal mission, seeks to promote not some narrow ideological or national interest but the full development of all peoples, with particular attention to and solidarity with those most in need. That is why, with her ethos of communion and long experience of negotiating differences, the Church is deeply committed, through her religious and cultural action, to cooperate with Yugoslavia as it develops a mature and forward-looking democracy based on respect for the dignity, freedom and rights of every human person.

It is important for all to recognize that in a situation such as the one you face, religion is not the root of the problem, but an essential part of its solution. At the recent Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, I stressed that "religions are at the service of peace" and that it is their duty "to foster in the people of our time a renewed sense of the urgency of building peace" (Address, 24 January 2002, No. 3). That is why I am pleased that religious education has been re-introduced in Serbian schools, for it provides a special opportunity to teach the young those universal values which are rooted in the nature of the person and ultimately in God. In this way citizens are trained in a genuine humanism and culture of peace. Religious education also opens the young to transcendence in a way that would make any relapse into the soul-destroying world of atheistic materialism more difficult.

5. Mr Ambassador, as you enter the community of diplomats accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the ready collaboration of the various Offices of the Roman Curia. May your mission serve to strengthen the bond of friendship and co-operation between your Government and the Holy See; and may that bond contribute richly to the well-being of your nation at this decisive time. Upon Your Excellency and the beloved peoples of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Speeches 2002