Speeches 2002





Baku International Airport

Wednesday, 22 May 2002

Mr President,
Civic and Religious Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. My respectful and cordial greetings to all of you. It was with sincere gratitude, Mr President, that I accepted your repeated invitation to visit this noble country, and now I wish to express my joy that God has granted me the gift of coming to the land of the Azeri and meeting its people.

I thank you for your kind words of welcome. This visit takes place on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and the Holy See. In these years, your experience of independence, attained after a long period of foreign domination, has involved not a little difficulty and suffering, but you have never lost the hope of building a better future in freedom. The nation has seen its contacts with other peoples grow and be strengthened. This has led to a mutual enrichment which will surely bring good results in the years to come.

2. I arrive in this ancient land, with my heart filled with admiration for the variety and richness of its culture. Enriched by the many specific features of the Caucasus, your culture embraces elements of various civilizations, especially the Persian and Turanian. Great religions have been present and active in this land: Zoroastrianism lived side by side with the Christianity of the Albanian Church, which was so significant in antiquity. Islam then played a growing role, and today is the religion of the majority of the Azeri people. Judaism too, present here from very ancient times, has made its own specific contribution, which is esteemed to this day.

Even after the initial splendour of the Church diminished, Christians have continued to live side by side with the followers of other religions. This has been possible thanks to a spirit of tolerance and mutual acceptance, which cannot fail to be a reason for pride for the country. I hope and pray to God that any remaining tensions will soon be overcome and that all will find peace in justice and truth.

3. Azerbaijan is a gateway between East and West: for this reason it not only enjoys considerable strategic importance, but also a symbol value of openness and exchange, which, if fostered by all parties, can ensure a particularly prominent role for the Azeri nation. It is time for the West to reawaken, along with full respect for the East, a more intense cultural and spiritual encounter with the values it embodies.

From this gateway of civilization which is Azerbaijan, I address today a heartfelt appeal to those lands experiencing the upheavals of conflict, which are bringing unspeakable suffering for their defenceless peoples. Everyone must be committed to peace. But it must be true peace, based on mutual respect, on the rejection of fundamentalism and every form of imperialism, on the pursuit of dialogue as the only effective means of resolving tensions, so that entire nations are saved from the cruelty of violence.

4. The religions which in this country are striving to work together in harmony should not be used as a tragic excuse for enmities which have their origin elsewhere. No one has the right to call upon God to justify their own selfish interests.

Here at the gateway to the East, not far from where armed conflict continues, cruelly and senselessly, to prevail, I wish to raise my voice, in the spirit of the Assisi meetings. I ask religious leaders to reject all violence as offensive to the name of God, and to be tireless promoters of peace and harmony, with respect for the rights of one and all.

My thoughts go also to the emigrants and refugees in this country and throughout the whole of the Caucasus. With the help of international solidarity, may their hopes be restored for a future of prosperity and peace in their own lands for themselves and for their dear ones.

5. To the Christians of this land, and particularly the Catholic community, I extend affectionate greetings. The Christians of the whole world look with sincere attachment to these brothers and sisters in the faith, certain that, although they are few, they can make a significant contribution to the progress and prosperity of their homeland, in a climate of freedom and mutual respect.

I am certain that the Lord will compensate for the tragic difficulties endured during the time of communism, also by the Catholic community, with the gift of lively faith, exemplary moral commitment and local vocations for pastoral and religious service.

At the beginning of my visit to Azerbaijan, I invoke God’s blessings upon its people and upon their commitment to securing a future of justice and freedom.

To Azerbaijan and its noble people go my best wishes of prosperity, progress and peace!






Baku, Presidential Palace

Wednesday, 22 May 2002

Mr President of the Republic,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very pleased to be with you today. I greet each one of you, with special thanks to the President of the Republic who, in your name, has given me such a warm welcome.

One of your great poets wrote: "The word, new and at the same time old . . . The word, which is like the spirit, is the treasurer of the riches of the invisible realm: it knows stories never heard, it reads books never written" (Nizami, The Seven Effigies). This image alludes to something that is dear to the three great religions present in this country: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. According to the teachings of each of them, the One God, shrouded in unapproachable mystery, has chosen to speak to man, inviting him to submit to his will.

2. Despite the differences between us, together we feel called to foster ties of mutual esteem and benevolence. I am aware of all that is being done by religious leaders in Azerbaijan to favour tolerance and mutual understanding. I am looking forward to the meeting tomorrow with the representatives of the three monotheistic religions, so that together we can affirm our conviction that religion must not serve to increase rivalry and hatred, but to promote love and peace.

From this country, which has held and still holds tolerance as a primary value of all wholesome life in society, we wish to proclaim to the world: enough of wars in the name of God! No more profanation of his holy name! I have come to Azerbaijan as an ambassador of peace. As long as I have breath within me I shall cry out: "Peace, in the name of God!" And when word joins word, a chorus is born, a symphony, which will spread to every soul, quench hatred, disarm hearts.

3. Praise to you, followers of Islam in Azerbaijan, for being open to hospitality, a cherished value of your religion and your people, and for having accepted the believers of other religions as brothers and sisters.

Praise to you, Jewish people, who, with courage and constancy, have kept your ancient traditions of good neighbourliness, enriching this land with a contribution of great value and depth.

Praise to you, Christians, who have given so much, especially through the ancient Church of the Albans, in shaping the identity of this land. Praise especially to you, Orthodox Church, witness to God’s friendship with man and a hymn extolling his beauty. When the fury of atheism was unleashed in this region, you welcomed the children of the Catholic Church who had lost their places of worship and their pastors, and put them into contact with Christ through the grace of the holy Sacraments.

Praised be God for this testimony of love, borne by the three great religions! May it grow and become ever stronger, extinguishing with the dew of affection and friendship any remaining source of contrast!

4. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in addition to the world of religion, you represent the world of culture, art and politics. What an extraordinary vocation you have received and what high responsibilities you bear! So many people today feel lost and are seeking an identity.

To you, representatives of culture and art, I say: beauty, as you know, is the light of the spirit. The soul, when it is calm and reconciled, when it lives in harmony with God and the universe, emits a light that is already a kind of beauty. Holiness is nothing other than fullness of beauty, as it reflects, according to its ability, the consummate beauty of the Creator. It is your poet Nizami once more who writes: "The intelligent people are those angels who have human names. Intelligence is something marvellous" (The Seven Effigies).

Dear friends, men and women of the world of culture and art, transmit a taste for beauty to all those you meet! As the ancients teach us, beauty, truth and goodness are united by an indissoluble bond.

5. In this land, none of those who have devoted themselves to culture and art can feel useless or unrecognized. This contribution is essential for the future of the Azerbaijani people. If culture is cast aside, if art is neglected and despised, the very survival of a civilization is imperiled, for that would hinder the handing on of the values that constitute the deepest identity of a people.

In the recent past, a materialistic and neo-pagan vision has often characterized the study of national cultures. Yours is the task, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, of rediscovering the entire heritage of your civilization as the source of ever relevant values. In this way you will be able to prepare suitable study-materials for young people wishing to know the genuine wealth of history of their country, in order to build their lives as citizens on a solid foundation.

6. I turn to you, the men and women of politics! Your specific activity is the service of the common good, the promotion of legality and justice, the guarantee of freedom and prosperity for all. But politics is also an area fraught with dangers.The selfish seeking of personal advantage can easily take over, to the detriment of faithful dedication to the common good. The great Nizami warns: "Do not eat in the presence of those who are starving, or, if you do, invite everyone to table" (The Seven Effigies).

Politics requires honesty and accountability. The people should be able to feel understood and protected. They should be able to see that their leaders are working to build a better future for them. Let it not happen that when people are faced with situations of increasing social inequality, they begin to feel dangerous nostalgia for the past.

Those who accept responsibility for administering public affairs cannot deceive themselves: people do not forget! Just as they remember with gratitude those who have laboured honestly in the service of the common good, so they pass on to their children and grandchildren bitter criticism of those who abused power to enrich themselves.

7. There is one thing in particular that I would like to say to you, men and women of the world of religion, culture, art and politics: look to your young people and spare no effort on their behalf! They are tomorrow’s potential. They must be assured the chance to study and work, according to their aptitudes and capacity. Above all, care must be taken to educate them in the important values which last and give meaning to life and its pursuits.

In this task, you especially who belong to the world of culture, art and politics should see religion as your ally. It stands with you to offer young people serious reasons for applying themselves. What ideal in fact is better able to motivate the quest for truth, beauty and goodness than belief in God, who reveals to the mind the limitless expanse of his supreme perfection?

And you, the men and women of religion, you should become ever more involved in proclaiming with sincerity and frankness the values in which you believe, without recourse to dishonest means that impoverish and betray the ideals you affirm. Take a hard look at the substance of these ideals, and avoid methods of persuasion that do not respect the dignity and freedom of the human person.

8. In one of his prayers to God, Nizami wrote: "If your servant . . . has shown boldness in the formulation of his prayer, his water still belongs for ever to your sea . . . If he spoke a hundred languages, in each tongue he would praise you; if he falls silent like those forsaken, you comprehend the language of him who has no words" (Leila and Majnun).

From this cosmopolitan land, may a hundred different languages raise their prayer to the living God, who listens above all to those who are poor and forgotten.

Upon all of you present here, upon your people, upon your future, may the blessings of Almighty God descend, bringing prosperity and peace to all!

The beauty of the hymn "Ave Maria" invites all of us to a better life and work. Again many thanks to all present here.





Sophia, St. Alexander Nevski Square

Thursday, 23 May 2002

Mr President,
Your Holiness,
Esteemed Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Authorities,
Representatives of Religious Denominations,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. It is with emotion and deep joy that I find myself today in Bulgaria, addressing my warm greetings to you. I thank Almighty God for allowing me to fulfil a desire that I have long held in my heart.

Every year, on the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles to the Slavs, it is customary for me to receive in the Vatican representatives of the Bulgarian Government and Church. In a way therefore today, I am here to repay those visits and to meet in their own country the beloved Bulgarian people. At this moment, my thoughts turn to my predecessor Pope Adrian II, who went personally to meet the Holy Brothers of Thessalonica when they came to Rome to bring the relics of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr (cf. Life of Constantine, XVII, 1), and to bear witness to the communion between the Church founded by them and the Church of Rome. Today it is the Bishop of Rome who comes to you, prompted by the same sentiments of communion in the love of Christ.

On this occasion, my thoughts turn also to another of my predecessors, Blessed Pope John XXIII, who was Apostolic Delegate in Bulgaria for ten years and remained always deeply attached to this land and its people. In memory of him, I greet everyone with affection and I say to all that I have never ceased to love the Bulgarian people, lifting them up always in my prayer to the Throne of the Most High: may my presence among you today be a clear sign of my sentiments of esteem and affection for this noble Nation and its children.

2. I cordially greet the Authorities of the Republic. I thank them for their invitation to me and for all that has been done to prepare my visit. To you, Mr President, I express heartfelt gratitude for the kind words with which you welcomed me to this historic Square. Through the distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, my thoughts go also to the peoples whom they so worthily represent.

With respect I greet His Holiness Patriarch Maxim and the Metropolitans and Bishops of the Holy Synod, together with all the faithful of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria. I fervently hope that my visit will serve to increase our knowledge of each other so that, with God’s help and on the day and in the way that pleases him, we shall finally live "united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1Co 1,10), mindful of the words of our one Lord: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35).

3. With particular affection I embrace my Brother Bishops Christo, Gheorghi, Petko and Metodi, together with all the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church, priests, religious and laity: I come to you with the greeting and good wishes of peace that the Risen Lord offers to his disciples (cf. Jn Jn 20,19), to confirm you in faith and encourage you on the path of Christian living.

I greet the Christians of the other Ecclesial Communities, the members of the Jewish Community with their President, and the followers of Islam led by the Grand Mufti. I reaffirm here, as I did at the meeting in Assisi, my conviction that every religion is called to promote justice and peace among peoples, forgiveness, life and love.

4. Bulgaria received the Gospel thanks to the preaching of Saints Cyril and Methodius, and down the centuries that seed planted in fertile soil has produced abundant fruits of Christian witness and holiness. Even during the long cold winter of the totalitarian system, which brought suffering to your country and to many other European nations, fidelity to the Gospel did not disappear, and numberless children of this people remained heroically faithful to Christ, in not a few cases to the point of sacrificing their lives.

I wish to honour here those courageous witnesses of faith, members of the various Christian denominations. May their sacrifice not be in vain, and may it serve as an example and make fruitful your ecumenical commitment with a view to the full unity of Christians. May those who work to build a society based on truth, justice and freedom look to them as well!

5. Wounds must be healed, and the future needs to be planned with optimism. This is certainly not an easy road, nor one without obstacles, but the united efforts of all sectors of the Nation will make it possible to achieve the desired goals. At the same time, there is a need to move forward with wisdom, in accordance with law and safeguarding democratic institutions, sparing no sacrifice, maintaining and promoting the values on which the greatness of the Nation is founded: moral and intellectual honesty, the defence of the family, care of the needy, respect for human life from conception until natural death.

I express my hope that the efforts to achieve social renewal, which Bulgaria is courageously undertaking, will be wisely received and generously supported by the European Union.

6. It was perhaps on this very spot, near the tombs of the martyrs, that the Bishops of East and West gathered in 342 or 343 for the important Council of Serdica, where the future of European Christianity was discussed. In the centuries following, there rose here the Basilica of Sophia, Divine Wisdom, which according to Christian thought indicates the foundations on which the city of man is to be built. The path to a people’s authentic progress cannot only be political and economic; it must also necessarily be open to the spiritual and moral dimension. Christianity is part of the roots of this country’s history and culture: therefore it cannot be ignored in any serious process of growth that looks towards the future.

The Catholic Church, with the daily commitment of her children and the ready availability of her structures, intends to contribute to maintaining and developing the heritage of spiritual and cultural values of which the country is so proud. She wishes to join her efforts with those of other Christians, to place at the service of all people those forces of civilization that the Gospel can offer also to the generations of the new millennium.

7. By reason of its geographical location, Bulgaria serves as a bridge between Western Europe and Southern Europe, like a kind of spiritual crossroads, a land of contacts and mutual understanding. Here the human and cultural wealth of the different regions of the Continent have come together: they have been welcomed and respected. I wish to pay a public tribute to the traditional hospitality of the Bulgarian people, remembering especially the noble efforts made to save thousands of Jews during the Second World War.

May the Mother of God, who is particularly loved and venerated here, keep Bulgaria under her mantle and intercede for her people, that they may grow in brotherhood and harmony! May Almighty God fill your noble country with his blessings, assuring it a future of prosperity and peace!






Patriarchal Palace, Sophia

Friday, 24 May 2002

Your Holiness,
Venerable Metropolitans and Bishops,
Dear Brothers in the Lord!

Christ is risen!

1. I am happy to meet with you today, 24 May, for this is a special day etched deep in my heart and memory. From the beginning of my service as Bishop of Rome, I have had the joy of welcoming Bulgarian delegations to the Vatican each year on this date, and these have been pleasant opportunities to meet not only the noble Bulgarian nation but also the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria and Your Holiness, in the person of the Bishops who have represented you.

Today the Lord enables us to meet personally and to exchange "the kiss of peace". I am grateful for the readiness with which Your Holiness and the Holy Synod permitted me to realize a deep desire which I have long nurtured in my heart. I come to you with a sense of esteem for the mission which the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria is undertaking, and I wish to express my respect and appreciation for your commitment to the good of the people of this land.

2. Down the centuries, despite the complex and at times hostile turn of historical events, the Church now led by Your Holiness has not failed in its steadfast proclamation of the Incarnation and Resurrection of the Only-Begotten Son of God. From generation to generation, your Church has passed on the Good News of salvation.Today too, at the beginning of the Third Millennium, your Church witnesses with renewed vigour to the salvation which the Lord offers to every person, and it holds out to all the hope which does not disappoint and of which our world has so great a need.

Your Holiness, this first time in history that a Bishop of Rome visits this land and meets you and the Holy Synod is rightly a moment of joy, because it is a sign of a gradual growth in ecclesial communion. Yet this cannot distract us from sincerely recognizing that Christ our Lord founded a single Church, while we today appear to the world divided, as if Christ himself were divided. "Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature" (Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1).

3. The fullness of communion between our Churches has suffered grievous wounds in the course of history, "for which, often enough, people of both sides were to blame" (ibid., 3). "These sins of the past unfortunately still burden us and remain ever present temptations. It is necessary to make amends for them, and earnestly to beseech Christ’s forgiveness" (Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 34).

One thing, however, consoles us: the estrangement between Catholics and Orthodox has never extinguished in them the desire to restore full ecclesial communion, so that the unity for which the Lord prayed to the Father might be manifested more clearly. Today we can give thanks to God that the bonds between us have been much strengthened.

In this regard, the Second Vatican Council stressed that the Orthodox Churches "possess true sacraments, above all – by apostolic succession – the Priesthood and the Eucharist" (Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio UR 15). Moreover, the Council recalled and recognized that "far from being an obstacle to the Church’s unity, ... diversity of customs and observances only adds to her beauty and contributes greatly to the accomplishment her mission" (ibid., 16). And it added: "The perfect observance of this traditional principle, which has not always been observed, is required for any restoration of union" (ibid.).

4. In broaching this theme, we cannot fail to look to the example of unity offered in the first millennium in very concrete ways by the holy brothers Cyril and Methodius, whose memory in your land is so vivid and legacy so profoundly felt. Their witness is relevant even to those who, in the field of politics, are working to bring about European unification. In searching for its own identity, the Continent cannot but return to its Christian roots. The whole of Europe, both West and East, expects Catholics and Orthodox to work together for the defence of peace and justice, human rights and the culture of life.

The example of Saints Cyril and Methodius is above all emblematic for the unity of Christians in the one Church of Christ. They were sent to Eastern Europe by the Patriarch of Constantinople in order to bring the true faith to the Slav peoples in their own tongue; and in the face of obstacles placed on that path by the neighbouring Western dioceses, which claimed that it was their responsibility to bring the Cross of Christ to the Slav countries, they came to the Pope in order to have their mission confirmed (cf. Encyclical Epistle, Slavorum Apostoli, 5). For us, therefore, they are as it were "the connecting links or spiritual bridge between the Eastern and Western traditions, which both come together in the one great Tradition of the universal Church. For us they are the champions and also the patrons of the ecumenical endeavour of the sister Churches of East and West, for the rediscovery through prayer and dialogue of visible unity in perfect and total communion, ‘the unity which...is neither absorption or fusion’, [but which] is a meeting in truth and love, granted to us by the Spirit" (ibid.,27).

5. As we meet today, I am glad to recall the many contacts between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, beginning with the Second Vatican Council, to which the latter sent observers. I am confident that these direct contacts, which happily have increased in recent years, will also have a positive impact on the theological dialogue in which Catholic and Orthodox are involved through the relevant Mixed International Commission.

Precisely with a view to increasing our knowledge of each other, our mutual charity and our fraternal cooperation, I am pleased to offer to the Bulgarian Orthodox community in Rome for their worship the use of the Church of Saints Vincent and Anastasius at the Trevi Fountain, according to the terms which our respective delegates will decide.

I have also been informed that last December the Fifth Council of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church re-established the Metropolitan See of Silistra, the ancient Dorostol. From that region came the young soldier Dasius, the 1700th anniversary of whose martyrdom occurs this year. Responding to the fervent appeals made to me, I have brought with me, with the generous agreement of the Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo, a famous relic of the saint as a gift to this Church.

6. Finally, Your Holiness, I would like to express to you and to all the Bishops of your Church my deepest thanks for the welcome which has been given to me. I am very touched by it.

In a spirit of brotherhood, I assure you of my constant prayer, that the Lord will grant the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria to accomplish with courage, together with the Catholic Church, the mission of evangelization which he has entrusted to your Church in this land.

May God bless the efforts of Your Holiness, the Metropolitans and Bishops, the clergy, the monks and nuns, and grant to the apostolic efforts of each of you an abundant spiritual harvest.

May the Virgin most holy, tenderly venerated by the faithful of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, watch over your Church and protect it today and always!

Christ is risen!



To Fr Pierre Schouver
Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost

1. I would like to greet you at the time when you are meeting in Rome with the members of the General Council of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost to prepare to celebrate the anniversaries that this year and next year will mark the life of your religious family. I rejoice over the spirit in which you desire to live these anniversaries and affirm your missionary charism and dedication.

2. Next year, you will be celebrating the third centenary of your Congregation's foundation on 27 May 1703 by a young 24-year-old deacon, Claude-François Poullart des Places. At first it was a seminary, consecrated to the Holy Spirit with the Virgin Mary as guide and open to poor students.

It was your founder's intention that they serve the most forsaken parishes in the Kingdom of France. It was not long before the young congregation discovered a missionary dimension, sending the first priest to Quebec and, soon afterwards, others to Cochin in China, Senegal and Guyana.

Almost a century later, in 1848, Fr François Libermann, born to a Jewish family in Alsace and the son of a rabbi, who became a Christian at the age of 24, became the second founder of the Congregation by merging it with the Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary which he had founded in 1841, and directed it to give priority to mission service on the African continent. This year you have celebrated the second centenary of his birth, as well as the 150th anniversary of his death.

3. Giving thanks to God for all the work your congregation has done for three centuries, especially in the evangelization of Africa, the Antilles and South America, I invite you to remain faithful to the double legacy of your founders: service to the poor, to all who are socially unprovided for and marginated, and to missionary service, that is, the proclamation of the Good News of Christ to all people, giving priority to those who have not yet accepted the Gospel Message. This double fidelity, that you reaffirmed in the orientations of your last enlarged General Council of Pittsburgh, has often led you to begin your missionary work by founding a school to instruct young people and allow them access to knowledge, but especially by giving a genuine education that endows each one with a sense of his dignity, his rights and his duties. How could I fail to mention in this context the work of the Institute of Orphan Apprentices at Auteuil, entrusted to your Congregation since 1923? After the vigorous impetus Bl. Daniel Brottier gave it, now under his protection, it continues to live your missionary charism among young people in great difficulty because of poverty, the breakup of the family, school failure and social marginalization. Continue to be attentive to the call of the Spirit to reach out to the poor today and proclaim to them the Good News that is intended for them: it is the sign of the coming of the Messianic times as Jesus himself taught in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Lk Lc 4,18).

4. Following your founders, you have recognized in the spirituality of consecration to the Holy Spirit a school of Gospel freedom and availability for the mission. "It is always the Spirit who is at work, both when he gives life to the Church and impels her to proclaim Christ, and when he implants and develops his gifts in all individuals and peoples, guiding the Church to discover these gifts, to foster them and receive them through dialogue.... He is the principal agent of mission!" (Redemptoris missio RMi 29,30). After coming down upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost to make them the first missionaries of the Gospel, the Spirit continues to give life to the Church and to send her to proclaim the Good News to the four corners of the earth. Stay attached to this devotion to the Holy Spirit that identifies your religious family.

The Spirit who unites the Church and gathers her members from all parts of the world to make them the people of the New Covenant, has called you to community life. May you be attentive to live this experience in daily life. Fraternal life in community is indeed a precious help on the sometimes difficult path of the evangelical counsels and missionary dedication. Besides, it is for our contemporaries a witness to the love of Christ: "This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also" (1Jn 4,21).

5. On the path of evangelization there is no shortage of difficult situations. In certain countries particularly, you are suffering from the lack of vocations that weakens your dynamism. This trial is not limited to you: today it takes place in many dioceses and religious families. But the crisis strikes you especially, since you have always given a great deal of attention to vocations in your missionary apostolate, creating small seminaries in the young Churches entrusted to your care. Your special concern has also led to your being put in charge of the Pontifical French Seminary of Rome. Take care to help prepare the seminarians for their ministry through a human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation that enables them to be integrated into the ecclesial life of their dioceses. This includes a familiarity with the history and life of the local Churches and a continuous dialogue with their Pastors. The decline in the number of seminarians and missionary vocations must not water down the quality of discernment nor the spiritual and moral formation needed for priestly ministry.

Indeed, the proclamation of the Gospel to the men and women of our time demands faithful witnesses, motivated by the Spirit of holiness, who are signs for their brothers and sisters by the power of their words, and, by the authenticity of their lives.

6. Dear Brothers in Christ, I have not forgotten your Congregation's full name: "Congregation of the Holy Ghost under the protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary". I ask Mary, Mother of the Lord and Queen of Missionaries, kindly to intercede for you and for the many members of your Congregation scattered around the world in the service of the Gospel. May the blessed Virgin Mary always be an example and a spiritual model for you! May her "yes" to the Lord be your rule of life! To you all, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 20 May 2002.

Speeches 2002