Speeches 2002 - Friday, 17 May 2002



Friday, 17 May 2002

Mr Ambassador,

It is a pleasure for me to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Holy See. I am especially grateful for the good wishes which you bring from His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and from the Government and people of your country. I gladly reciprocate with heartfelt prayers for the well-being and prosperity of the nation. Your presence recalls the long tradition of friendship, goodwill and cooperation between Thailand and the Holy See, made possible by the freedom-loving spirit of your people and their leaders since the Christian presence became established there in the seventeenth century. With esteem for that great tradition I welcome you today to the Vatican.

Thailand and the Holy See share many common views and objectives in the international forum; chief among which is love of peace, a desire to work for understanding and cooperation among the nations of the world, so that all peoples may be able to pursue in freedom and security their full human and spiritual development. Diplomacy has a fundamental role to play in reaching these goals. By helping to break down barriers of distrust and suspicion, by increasing mutual knowledge and by promoting the principle of respect for the dignity of every person, independently of ethnic, social or religious origin, diplomacy serves the cause of brotherhood and peace. This cause is not an easy one to serve. It is always exposed to danger, as witnessed to even recently by tensions and conflicts in various parts of the world. We must never give up the effort to sow the seeds of justice and solidarity, which are basic to constructive relations between countries and within each country.

Mr Ambassador, as the diplomatic representative of your country to the Holy See, you are aware that your mission is not defined by commercial, military or political interests. Rather, the Holy See's concerns are focused on the values which give meaning to people’s efforts to build a world in which our human and spiritual destiny can be achieved. In the service of this cause each people and nation has a duty and an opportunity to contribute its own special talent and cultural heritage. Thailand has a wealth of cultural and spiritual traditions to offer.

In this regard, the age-old Thai legacy of respect for religious freedom, which enshrines respect for the dignity of the human person in its most sacred dimension, is a value to be cherished and defended. This respect must survive and grow, so that Thailand may continue to represent a convincing voice raised in favour of harmony and peace in the international community. Because freedom of conscience and of religious belief and practice touch upon the innermost recesses of personality, they are the cornerstone of all other rights and freedoms.

Your Excellency has commented on the long-standing presence of the Catholic community in Thailand and noted the many contributions made by its members in various fields of service to the people. In this the Church is being true to her biblical vision of man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen Gn 1,28), and therefore endowed with an inalienable dignity, the promotion of which ought to be the object of society’s efforts. The Church wishes to be a partner with all people of good will, especially the public authorities, in upholding the values which constitute and enhance this unique dignity.

Mr Ambassador, I wish you every happiness and success as you assume your responsibilities as your country's Representative to the Holy See, and I assure you of the cooperation of the various Offices of the Roman Curia. I prayerfully invoke abundant divine blessings upon you and all your fellow-citizens.



Friday, 17 May 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. With joy, I welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Benin to the Holy See.

I thank you for your courteous words and for the good wishes you have conveyed to me from Mr Mathieu Kérékou, President of the Republic of Benin. I would be grateful in return if you would kindly express to him my cordial good wishes for him and for the accomplishment of his office at the service of the people of Benin. I also pray the Almighty to obtain that all your fellow citizens may lead a peaceful and dignified life in unity and concord.

2. Mr Ambassador, you emphasized the quality of the relations of collaboration that unite your country with the Holy See. The establishment and opening of the Apostolic Nunciature in Cotonou is a tangible sign which will help solidify these ties of cooperation and give them a new impetus. I am pleased with the efforts your country and its inhabitants have been making for more than 20 years; they open the way to the active participation in the public life of all; the pluralism and diversity of your country's political, cultural and religious members are a great contribution to the nation's dynamism. Conscious of the need to work together responsibly for the common good, may everyone strive to build a society that is ever more been on justice, equity and peace, inviting those responsible for the res publica to work to ensure that everyone has the means to meet his needs.

3. The consolidation of a state of rights and democracy guarantees the observance of the fundamental freedoms of all citizens. In every society, it is an indispensable basis for all to share in the overall development and lasting prosperity. The context of globalization makes more evident the need to work for the common good, fostering the political stability of countries and the economic expansion of a region or continent. In this spirit, when West Africa has even today numerous hotbeds of tension and it is tirelessly warring against the poverty that feeds this violence, your country is called to play an active part in maintaining the geo-political balance of the region. The exemplarity and probity of its institutions, and a constructive dialogue with all the leading agents of civil society, the leaders of the neighbouring countries and those of the international community, render a nation truly able to carry out its mission effectively.

4. The different religious traditions in your country are called to work together, with all the people of Benin, to promote the common good and to establish an atmosphere of peace that consists of reciprocal confidence and esteem. During the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi last 24 January, I had the opportunity to recall that it is indispensable for religious people and communities to commit themselves to building peace, and "in the clearest and most radical way to repudiate violence, all violence, starting with the violence that seeks to clothe itself in religion, appealing even to the most holy name of God in order to offend man" (Address to the Representatives of the World Religions, n. 4). For her part, the Catholic Church is willing to make a loyal and generous contribution to carrying out this noble plan. By her commitment in the sectors of health care, education or social promotion and in fidelity to her mission of service, she desires to support men and women in their integral development, and to spread the Good News of the Gospel that proclaims peace, love and freedom for all. She pays special attention to the poorest and to children, who are sometimes the innocent victims of an unacceptable trafficking. Likewise, she is concerned to pursue and intensify dialogue with the other religious communities that exist in the national territory, to unite the forces of all people of good will, for the growth of the country and greater social peace. The Catholic communities want to take part daily in the common effort to contribute to the material and spiritual advancement of all, to banish the causes of division and to build a society that is more and more united in solidarity, focusing on awakening consciences and hearts to mutual respect and the responsibility of all in the search for the common good.

5. Through you, Mr Ambassador, I would like to offer to the members of the Catholic community of Benin a cordial greeting. I am thinking of a noble son of your nation, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, who recently celebrated his 84th birthday. After carrying out his ministry as bishop at the service of the Archdiocese of Cotonou, he remains an important voice of Africa with the Successor of Peter, working tirelessly for his brethren and serving Christ and his Church without counting the cost.

6. At the time when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I offer you my best wishes. Be assured that you will always find here in my collaborators a generous welcome and cordial understanding.

7. Your Excellency, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, upon the people of Benin and upon their leaders.



Friday, 17 May 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Sudan to the Holy See.

I warmly thank you for your words, that show that your country's authorities are intent on developing relations of esteem and cooperation between the Sudan and the Apostolic See, for more fruitful diplomatic action. I would be happy if you would express in return to President Omar Hassan Al-Bachir, whose courteous greetings you have conveyed, my good wishes for his wellbeing and for the accomplishment of his high office at the service of the nation. Through you, I would also like to send my cordial greetings to all the citizens of the Sudan, with prayers to the Most High that he will grant them the energy they need to build in concord and in unity an ever more peaceful and fraternal society.

2. In recalling the on-going tragedy that continues to afflict the Holy Land, Mr Ambassador, you state that any nation wishing to embark on the road to progress and development must work tirelessly for the achievement of lasting peace, founded on justice and forgiveness. At the prayer meeting of Assisi last 24 January, in the presence of the leaders of the great world religions, I recalled that the commitment to justice and the ability to forgive are the indispensable "pillars" of a lasting peace. In fact, it is indeed essential that nations work for justice with respect for the dignity of persons and peoples; this presupposes that each member of the national community should be conscious of both his rights and his duties, and that those in charge of the common good should see to the equitable distribution of profits and tasks among individuals and local communities. This commitment must be joined to a real will to work for the reconciliation of the national communities and an opening to pardon, the only attitude that can heal hearts and restore in depth broken human relationships.

Today, when your country is seeking concrete and suitable solutions to a spiral of violence that is so harshly trying your civil populations and their goods, I express my strong desire that all your citizens may find the path of loyal and responsible collaboration, to help end once and for all the conflicts which have brought nothing but wretchedness to the country for so many years. The gradual modernization of the economy, institutions and way of life goes hand in hand with a constructive dialogue for peace and a serious commitment to laying down arms. These are the conditions that will pave the way to a reconciled and united society.

3. In this perspective, it is desirable increasingly to work for mutual understanding and respect for all, that necessarily lies in the respect for the right to life and to their own identity of the minorities present within the country. This is the clear sign of a society that knows how to integrate the cultural riches that belong to it as well as how to foster the participation of everyone in the country's political, economic and social life. At the same time, it is important for people to reject any discrimination based on ethnic, cultural or religious criteria. National unity is built by accepting diversity, finding out how to make it contribute to the common good and to the full development of all the members of the population.

4. Mr Ambassador, you emphasize that the Government of the Republic of the Sudan is concerned to strengthen religious freedom, particularly by including such freedoms in the new Constitution. As I recalled on the occasion of my Pastoral Visit to your country in 1993, "The freedom of individuals and communities to profess and practise their religion is an essential element for peaceful human coexistence. Freedom of conscience and freedom to seek the truth and to act according to one's personal religious beliefs are so fundamentally human that any effort to restrict them almost inevitably leads to bitter conflict" (Address to the President of Sudan, 10 February 1993, n. 5; ORE, 17 February 1993, p. 15). Freedom of this kind does not jeopardize the life of society, because every true religious life allows persons who profess a religion to discover that they are brothers and sisters in humanity with all their compatriots.

5. Allow me, Mr Ambassador, through you to greet the Pastors and faithful of the Catholic population of the Sudan, who are courageous in their trials and desire daily to witness to their Christian hope and to evangelical values. May they pursue in charity their important mission of serving Christ by serving their brethren, sustained by the prayers of St Josephine Bakhita! The Catholic Church will always be ready to place her skills and her institutions at the service of the human advancement of the Sudanese in such areas as education, health care and social assistance. She fulfils this mission in fidelity to her Lord and with the conscious desire, especially through loyal dialogue with her Muslim brothers and sisters, to open new paths to the justice and peace that the peoples so ardently await.

6. Mr Ambassador, as you begin your official mission with the Apostolic See, I offer you my cordial good wishes for the noble task that awaits you. Be assured that you will find in my collaborators the attention and understanding that you may need.

Your Excellency, I willingly invoke upon you, upon the leaders of your country and upon the people of Sudan, an abundance of divine Blessings.



Friday, 17 May 2002

Mr Ambassador,

With great pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican for the formal acceptance of the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iceland to the Holy See. With enduring memories of Iceland’s hospitality to me in 1989, I ask you to convey my cordial greetings to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the Government and your fellow citizens. I assure everyone of my prayers for the well-being and prosperity of the nation

The 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Iceland and the Holy See is a source of great satisfaction, and I rejoice with you at the many spiritual and cultural factors to which you have referred and which contribute to making ties between Iceland and the Holy See so friendly and mutually respectful. This occasion prompts me to reflect upon the context and purpose of diplomacy, especially in what you have called these "uncertain and complex times".

The shifting configuration of the international community in a globalizing world has a striking effect upon relations between countries and peoples. Perhaps it is not so much that the essential elements of the international community are changing. National governments, business and financial networks, international agencies and non-governmental organizations, Churches and civil associations of all kinds: these are the elements of society now as they have been for some time and will be in the foreseeable future. To these there should be added as an overarching and ever more influential factor the communications media – often with powerful political and commercial links – which are themselves passing through a time of rapid transition as a result of continuing technological advances. But the wider and more important point is that, if these elements are themselves more or less stable, their interaction and relationships are not: indeed they are changing very quickly under the pressures of globalization.

One of the chief effects of this is that we see in the world shifting sources of power, as political authority is dispersed in new ways. It is clear, for instance, that business and financial leaders now exercise some of the authority which once belonged exclusively to political leaders. The effects of globalization on both the nature and practice of democracy therefore need to be further examined. Questions arise which have become all the more pressing in the light of recent events: What possibility is there of global, not just national, policies? Who would be responsible for making and implementing such policies? What possibility is there of some genuine democratic oversight of the forces increasingly at work in the international forum? What of international tribunals? Who is to appoint the judges and decide the legal framework within which such tribunals will operate? Clearly these and similar questions demand attention.

Neither individuals nor nations can escape the effects of these changes in the international arena. Because of changes in the relationship between business and government, for instance, foreign relations and trade often merge. This is perhaps inevitable, but it brings the risk of reducing the exchanges between states and peoples to commercial transactions, so that all becomes subsumed into the economy, as is happening in societies in which a consumerist ideology holds sway. If this trend is not accompanied and enriched by other social and cultural concerns, diplomacy too will fail to serve the integral development of individuals and peoples and the common good of the entire human family, as it is intended to do. In order to be faithful to its proper vocation in a time of change such as this, diplomacy needs to make the human person the centre of its vision and the criterion of its engagement; it needs to be guided by a sound understanding of the human person and of human society.

The Catholic Church too is closely involved in the life of the international community, not in order to pursue national or ideological interests, but in order to serve the integral development of peoples as the Gospel commands. Iceland has Christian roots reaching back at least to the Middle Ages, and this spiritual heritage, this Christian soul, is the deepest source of your people’s character and traditions. It is also the resource from which your nation must draw as it plays its part in building the Europe of tomorrow. The Catholic community of Iceland, though small in number, eagerly contributes to this task, especially in the framework of the fruitful ecumenical relations of more recent times.

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your mission will help to consolidate still further the cordial relations which have developed between Iceland and the Holy See in these last twenty-five years. As you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my prayerful good wishes and assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon the dear people of Iceland, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Friday, 17 May 2002

Madam Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the Holy See.

I am deeply grateful, Madam Ambassador, for the cordial message and greetings you have addressed to me on behalf of His Majesty King Abdullah II. I am particularly pleased with his delicate attention to the Apostolic See and would be grateful if you would kindly pass on to him in turn my respectful good wishes for his person and for the Jordanian people, whom I had the joy to meet during my Jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I pray the Most High to watch over the efforts of all your fellow-citizens to build an increasingly fraternal and solidary society.

2. As you recalled, the Holy See does not cease to encourage political leaders to turn to dialogue and negotiation, in order to permit all people to live in peace on a land. The Catholic Church considers this duty to all as an integral part of her spiritual mission, in response to the commandment of brotherly love left to her by her Master and Lord (cf. Jn Jn 15,12 Jn Jn 15,17). With a deep awareness of this duty I summoned the leaders of the great religions to meet in Assisi last 24 January, to proclaim to the world, injured once again by the violence of terrorism, that man hungers and thirsts for justice and peace. On that day, the leaders present clearly expressed that their religions wished to serve the good of man and that in no way can anyone legitimate violence in the name of God. As I wrote in my Message for the World Day of Peace 2002, "In bearing common witness to the truth that the deliberate murder of the innocent is a grave evil always, everywhere, and without exception, the world's religious leaders will help to form the morally sound public opinion that is essential for building an international civil society capable of pursuing the tranquillity of order in justice and freedom" (n. 13).

3. How is it possible today to speak of the human aspiration to justice and peace without recalling the tragedy of the conflict in the Middle East? I have appealed several times to the international community to engage with determination urgently in discussions with the parties involved to convince them to abandon the recourse to the violence of force and to return to the negotiating table. I acknowledge your Government's efforts on this occasion to remain a dialogue partner open to all and anxious to work for a just and lasting peace in this region of the world that is so tried by tensions. I am happy to know that the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem has at last been restored to God and to believers, while I deplore the violence manifested for so many days towards this holy place. I appeal once again to the international community to take without delay the necessary measures to enforce respect for the special status of the Holy Places and to guarantee them effective protection.

4. May I once again recall, with deep gratitude to God, the pilgrimage he granted me to make to the Holy Land during the Jubilee Year. I am glad that my visit to Jordan on that occasion, as you mentioned, contributed to the interreligious dialogue taking place in your country in order to increase effective reciprocal confidence among the different communities, thanks to a better knowledge of each one, its traditions and spiritual riches. During this visit to the places that are important and meaningful to the Jewish people, to Christians and to Muslims, I meditated on the pages of human history that belong to the spiritual heritage of all humanity. Should not the Holy Land, where God manifested himself and spoke to man, become the place of all places where peace and justice flourish? How can we fail to hear its pressing call to strive with courage and determination in favour of dialogue and peace? At the dawn of the third millennium, it is still urgent to invite human beings to gather, not to destroy one another, to build a world open to human exchange, respectful of different cultures, attentive to justice and more equitable sharing among the nations, who must feel truly responsible for the common destiny of our humanity. The Holy See intends to measure up to this exalted mission and invites men and women of good will to join it.

5. Madam Ambassador, through you I want to greet the Catholic community of Jordan, its pastors and its faithful of different rites. Catholics in your country are few, but they live on good terms with everyone, first of all with their brethren of the Orthodox Church, and also with the faithful of Islam.

They form lively communities, doing their part in the country's life and development, concerned for the common good and attentive to solidarity with those who suffer injustice or poverty. I invite them to be unflagging witnesses to everyone of the charity of the Good Shepherd, and I assure them of my fatherly prayer.

6. Madam Ambassador, today you are beginning the noble mission of representing your country to the Holy See. Please accept my most cordial good wishes for its success, and be assured that you will always find the necessary support and understanding among those who assist me.

7. Your Excellency, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, your family, all your staff and all your compatriots.




Friday 17 May 2002

Your Excellencies,

1. I am pleased to receive you today and to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your countries; Belarus, Niger, Sweden, Thailand, Benin, Sudan, Iceland, Jordan. I would like to thank you for conveying to me the courteous messages of your respective Heads of State. I would be grateful if you would express in return my respectful greetings and cordial wishes, for them and for their high mission at the service of their compatriots. Through you, I would also like to greet the civil and religious authorities of your countries, and your citizens, assuring them of my esteem and friendship.

2. Our world today is confronting a certain number of serious crises and acts of violence, which the media bring to our attention every day. It is the duty of the international community and of all people of good will to be mobilized more intensely to bring about the changes to which the people aspire who suffer the most. Peace must be the first priority for all countries on all continents so that they bring to a halt the armed conflicts which only jeopardize the future of nations and peoples, some of whom are subject to degrading and shameful living conditions. No one can ignore the destiny of their brothers and sisters, nor act as if they knew nothing.

Undoubtedly, there are two essential elements on which it is right to exercise a joint influence: dialogue and negotiations between the peoples who are called to live together on the same land; and the phenomenon of globalization with the growing contrast between the rich and poor countries that create the inequalities that are becoming much more evident.

Long-term peace presumes that the least developed countries benefit from economic growth and appropriate aid. The first prospect must be to support the local economies and to form people who will take charge of the future of their national community to bring about the country's necessary autonomy. From everyone, this calls for much greater solidarity and coherent behaviour.

3. In this perspective, the mission of diplomats is of the greatest importance. They are called to create bonds with one another and to build bridges between their respective countries, thus making a significant contribution to friendship among the peoples, respecting persons and populations, and favouring negotiation and exchange. Your new mission admits you to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See which, thanks to its own diplomats and the local Catholic communities, is present throughout the world, working for the common good and for respect for the dignity of every human being. Here you will be able to grasp from within the Holy See its concerns and actions. You will also find the doors open to meeting personalities from around the world and to forging brotherly bonds. In addition, with the birth of the new modern States, new permanent diplomatic missions have been established which expand international relations and bring countries closer to one another, inviting them to cooperate much more for peace in the world.

4. The inequality between peoples challenges us constantly and must be for all the object of special attention. Countries whose soil and sub-soil contain a wealth of resources and many raw materials are subject to pressures that prevent entire sections of their people from drawing any benefit whatever from them. If changes are to take place at the international level, this implies that each one agree to change his lifestyle. I therefore warmly appeal for a beginning of solidarity and fraternal charity from all people of good will. Indeed, peace goes equally with the elimination of poverty and the suppression of inequalities among people.

Likewise, it implies education for everyone. The young generations, particularly sensitive to such tragic situations, need strong signs if their hopes are not to be in vain.

Through her active participation in the work of diplomacy and through the local communities, the Catholic Church in the various countries of the world is involved in teaching the respect for the dignity of the person and the recognition of peoples, striving with every peaceful means to establish peace, understanding and brotherhood among all the nations, to offer each one a land that is pleasant to live in, where he can lead a personal, family and social life and in his way take part in public life.

5. At the time when your mission to the Holy See is beginning, I offer you my cordial wishes. As I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, upon your families, upon those who work with you and upon the nations you represent, I ask the Most High to crown you with his gifts.




Friday, 17 May 2002

Reverend Father Abbot Gregor,

Father Dean,
Reverend Rectors of the Seminaries,
Dear Professors and Students,

1. With great joy I welcome you to the Apostolic Palace. You have chosen the season of the Novena of Pentecost to make this pilgrimage to Rome, to the tombs of the Apostles and the See of the Successor of Peter, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the Heiligenkreuz University Faculty of Theology and Philosophy. Your community pilgrimage, led by the Very Reverend Abbot, not only confirms the academic community of teachers and students, but also manifests the ultimate goal of your studies and your work: a deep and indestructible communion with the Triune God in his holy Church, here on earth and in the glory of heaven.

2. In these days of Pentecost, we pray: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium; et tui amoris in eis ignem accende!" ("Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love").

Your Jubilee pilgrimage is intended to be an important milestone on your journey as a community of theological studies: May the spirit of fidelity to the Magisterium and to the Tradition of the Church which Heiligenkreuz Abbey and your school have demonstrated since their foundation in 1802, through the work of the Holy Spirit, experience a vital renewal and give wings to your apostolate.

Your intimate desire, which was also that of the disciples gathered with Mary, to receive the "Spirit of truth" (Jn 16,13) opens you to the great mission that I eagerly entrust to you: to be enthusiastic and inspiring partners in the new evangelization of Europe.

3. Firmly rooted in the spiritual tradition of the Cistercian Order, your school takes up the challenge of a serious formation for the priests and religious of our time. For this I sincerely thank the Abbot and monks of Heiligenkreuz Monastery. I warmly hope that the Heiligenkreuz Faculty of Theology and Philosophy and all its members may grow in faith, hope and charity. For that purpose I entrust to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Magna Mater Austriae, St Bernard, and all the saints of the Cistercian Order, you, your dear ones and your confreres in the monastery, and to you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2002 - Friday, 17 May 2002