Speeches 2002



Kraków – Balice Airport

Monday, 19 August 2002

1. "Poland, my dear homeland, [...] God raises you up and treats you with special care, but you must show him gratitude" (Diary, 1038). With these words from Saint Faustina’s Diary I wish to bid you farewell, dear Brothers and Sisters, my Compatriots!

The time having come when I must return to the Vatican, I look out once more upon you all with great joy, and I thank God who has permitted me to visit my Homeland yet again. My thoughts turn to the different stages of this three-day pilgrimage: Lagiewniki, Blonie in Krakow, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. I shall not forget the crowds of the faithful gathered in prayer – living testimony of the faith of the Church in Poland and of your trust in the power of God’s mercy. Taking leave of Poland, I wish to bid you all farewell, dear Compatriots. Many have waited for my coming. Many have wished to meet me, although not all were able to do so. Maybe next time...

I pray that the families of Poland will find in prayer the light and the strength needed to fulfil their duties and to spread in their surroundings the message of love and mercy. May God, the source of life, bless you each day. I greet those whom I have met personally on this pilgrimage and those who, through the media, have participated in the events of this Apostolic Visit. In particular, I thank the sick and the elderly who have supported me by offering up their prayers and their sufferings. May their spiritual union with the merciful Christ be a source of relief in their physical and spiritual suffering.

In my spirit, I embrace the whole of my beloved Homeland. I rejoice in its successes, in its positive aspirations and in its courageous undertakings. With a certain preoccupation, I have spoken of the difficulties and the cost of the changes that weigh upon the neediest and the weakest, on the unemployed, the homeless and those who are forced to live in increasingly difficult conditions and with uncertainty concerning the future. As I take my leave, I wish to entrust all these difficult situations in our native land to God’s Providence and I encourage all those who exercise responsibility in the running of the State to be mindful of the good of the Republic and of its citizens. May the spirit of mercy, of fraternal solidarity, of concord in authentic concern for our homeland reign among you. While Polish society cultivates all these values, I hope that Poland, which has belonged to Europe for centuries, will find its proper place in the structures of the European community. Not only will it not lose its own identity, but it will enrich the continent and the world with its tradition.

2. The days of this brief pilgrimage have been an occasion to relive memories and to reflect intensely. I thank God for this opportunity to visit Krakow and Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. I thank him for the Church in Poland, which – in a spirit of fidelity to the Cross and to the Gospel – has for a thousand years shared in the fortunes of the Nation, serving it with zeal and supporting it in its positive intentions and aspirations. I thank God that the Church in Poland has remained faithful to this mission and I pray that she may always continue to do so.

I wish to express my gratitude to all who have contributed to making this pilgrimage possible. One more I thank the President of the Republic for his invitation and for the care taken in the preparation and carrying out of this visit. I am grateful for the cooperation between the civil authorities and the Church’s representatives. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for every gesture of goodwill.

I am grateful to the territorial, regional and city authorities – especially those of Krakow and Kalwaria – for their goodwill, their attention and all their efforts.

May God repay all who were involved in the Church services, those involved in the areas of television, radio and the press, journalists, those responsible for public order – the military, the police, firefighters, health service personnel – and all those who in any way have helped to make this pilgrimage a success. I do not want to omit anyone; and so, from the bottom of my heart, I say once more to everyone: May God reward you!

3. My special gratitude goes to all the People of God in Poland. I thank the Polish Episcopal Conference, and above all the Cardinal Primate, for the invitation to visit our homeland, for the spiritual preparation of the faithful and for all the organizational efforts made in view of this pilgrimage. I address a special word of thanks to the priests, seminarians and religious. Thank you for your preparation of the liturgies and for assisting the faithful at our meetings. I am grateful to the whole Church in Poland for its common perseverance in prayer, for its warm welcome and for all its demonstrations of goodwill. May the merciful Christ abundantly reward your generosity with his blessing.

As I express my gratitude, I cannot fail to add a special word addressed to the beloved Church in Krakow. My wholehearted gratitude goes in a special way to Cardinal Franciszek, Metropolitan of Krakow, for his hospitality and for having prepared the city so magnificently for the important events of the last few days. Profound thanks go to the Sisters of the Merciful Mother of God in Lagiewniki and to those who every day, before the image of the merciful Jesus, offer prayers for the intentions of my apostolic mission. I congratulate the Archdiocese of Krakow and all of Poland for the church which I had the opportunity to dedicate. I am convinced the Shrine of Lagiewniki will become a significant point of reference and a powerful centre of devotion to the Divine Mercy. May the rays of light coming down from the tower of the temple of Lagiewniki, reminiscent of the rays emanating from the image of the merciful Jesus, cast their spiritual reflection on the whole of Poland – from the Tatra Mountains to the Baltic Sea, from the Bug River to the Oder – and on the whole world!

4. "God, rich in mercy". These are the words that sum up this Visit. We have heard them as a call to the Church and to Poland in the new millennium. I pray that my Compatriots will welcome with open hearts this message of mercy and will succeed in carrying it to wherever men and women are in need of the light of hope.

I cherish in my heart every good thing that has happened and in which I have taken part during these days of my pilgrimage. Grateful for everything, and with the entire ecclesial community in Poland, I repeat before the merciful Jesus: "Jesus, in you I trust!" May these heartfelt words bring comfort to future generations in the new millennium. May God who is rich in mercy bless you!

What can I say in the end? I am sorry to leave.




The Holy Father cordially joins in the joy and thanksgiving of the pilgrims who since 1954 have come in great numbers to this shrine to express their loving devotion to the Mother of God and to entrust themselves to her motherly protection. He encourages them to pray fervently to the Lord that they may become genuine architects of peace based on justice and forgiveness and courageous missionaries of the Gospel. May this shrine dedicated to the Mother of God, Our Lady of Peace, be a reminder to all Christians to revive the gift they received in Baptism, so as to become every day living stones of the Church, the Family of God.

The Pope invites all those present to open their hearts stronger to the transforming action of the Holy Spirit, who banishes fears and makes possible constructive dialogue among peoples and individuals. In union with their Pastors, may all receive the life-giving grace of God, certain that the Lord can create openings for peace where there seem to be only obstacles and resistance, and that he can strengthen and expand solidarity among the members of the human family, in spite of endless episodes of division and conflict (cf. Message for World Day of Peace 2002, n. 14)!

With a cordial greeting for the civil, military and religious authorities present, the Holy Father entrusts to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary those who have gathered on this happy occasion. He gladly imparts his Apostolic Blessing, which he extends first of all to the beloved Cardinal Gantin, who is to preside at the celebration of the consecration of the shrine, to Bishop Antoine Ganyé of Dassa-Zoumé and to all the Bishops present, to the priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists and all the faithful who have come from Benin, from other African countries and from Europe to celebrate joyfully this ecclesial event.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano,
Secretary of State



Saturday, 31 August 2002

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I welcome you with great joy, Bishops of Brazil's Southern Region II, while you are gathered together in Rome for your ad limina Apostolorum visit. This visit is meant to express the bond of communion that unites each one of you and your local communities with the Successor of Peter, called to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith (cf. Lk Lc 22,32). I greet you with fraternal affection in the Apostle's words: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you (cf. Rm Rm 1,7). Through you, I address the same greeting to the priests, religious and lay faithful of the particular Churches of Paraná which you preside over in charity.

2. I thank Archbishop Lúcio Ignácio Baumgaertner of Cascavel for his kind words on behalf of your region, because they express the sentiments of fraternal union of all the Bishops with the Successor of Peter and with the Church gathered from the four cardinal points, which is united with this Apostolic See. Is this not the main idea of one of the conclusions that last year's Synod of Bishops wished to manifest?

"Only if a deep and convinced unity of the pastors with the Successor of Peter is clearly discernible", as I said on the occasion of the solemn Eucharistic concelebration closing the Synod, "and also the unity of the bishops with their priests, can we give a credible reply to the challenges that come from the present social and cultural world" (Homily, Mass for the closing of the Synod, 27 October 2001, n. 4; ORE, 31 October 2001, p. 2).

The Church in Paraná is certainly considering the prospects proposed by the General Directives for the Evangelizing Action of Brazil, as a result of Tertio millennio adveniente. In reading your quinquennial reports, I could observe evident progress in the organization of your dioceses and in the wide range of pastoral activities which every local Ordinary, with those involved in pastoral life, is handling with courage and determination to face what the new evangelization requires. I would certainly like to state that the premise will always be the ecclesiology of communion which the last Synod so much insisted on. At the beginning of the millennium, the universal Church wants to set out anew, in union with the Successor of Peter and with a united episcopate.

3. On various occasions during my Pontificate, I wished to mention the two great pillars supporting the condition of communion: "Communion requires that the deposit of faith be preserved in its purity and integrity", and "the unity of the College of Bishops under the authority of the Successor of Peter" (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America ), since the full exercise of the primacy of Peter is fundamental for the identity and vitality of the Church.

Furthermore, it is the specific task of the National Bishops' Conference of Brazil to show concern for the Church and her universal mission by means of communion and collaboration with the Apostolic See and by means of missionary activity, especially ad gentes. Thus every Bishop should encourage those who evangelize in his own diocese, and above all himself, to great fidelity to Catholic doctrine. He should also pay constant attention to ensuring the full conformity of the explanation of the Word to the Revelation entrusted by the divine Teacher to the Magisterium of the Church. Moreover, this identity supposes a clear disciplinary and doctrinal harmony with the bishops of the world, in order to maintain, with the world episcopate, the essential bond with the Pope.

Under the heading of the pastoral plans that in coming years will be drawn up as a result of our fraternal meeting and, considering the Plan of Evangelization of the Church in Brazil on the theme "Be Church in the New Millennium", approved by the Brazilian Bishops' Conference in 2000, I hope it will be possible to pursue this "common path of the whole Church" which is shared by the Brazilian episcopate.

4. "At the dawn of the third millennium the Church continues to rely on the ideal figure of the bishop, that of the Pastor who, configured to Christ in holiness of life, expends himself generously for the Church entrusted to him, at the same time carrying in his heart solicitude for the Churches spread over the face of the earth (cf. II Cor 11,28)". (Homily, Mass for the closing of the Synod, 27 October 2001, n. 3; ORE, 31 October 2001, p. 2).

From this affirmation the foundation and the hope comes that, by breaking down the barriers of a formula restricted to a single diocese or country, the Synod wanted to propose again to all the Bishops, Successors of the Apostles. Duc in altum, put out into the deep! Throw yourselves into courageous initiatives, dare to strive for great goals, certain that God does not lose battles! Indeed, aspire to the greater charisms. What greater charism is there than that of personal holiness?
Here we return to the image of the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn Jn 10,15). The Good Shepherd is not only one who guides his sheep effectively and methodically, even if these elements are necessary in every human work and especially in the guidance of souls.

Above all, he must be good.Every pastoral programme, catechesis at every level and the overall pastoral care of the souls of the faithful, that draw their holiness from the Supreme Pastor, Jesus, must find in the life and witness of the bishop and the clergy the immediate incentive and model. Otherwise, all the work will be in vain. Only God is good (cf. Mk Mc 10,18), says Our Lord; but for Him, with Him and in Him, we participate in the grace that is given to us, to make it fruitful, not as our own possession but as a gift to be dispensed. All goodness and every good gift come from the Most High, Giver of all good things (cf. Jas Jc 1,17).

The Bishop of Hippo rightly noted how insistently the Lord asked Peter: Do you love me? Feed my sheep, for it is a serious warning for all who are responsible for guiding a flock. What he means is, "If you love me, in feeding the flock do not think of yourself but of my sheep; guide them as mine, not as yours! Seek in them my glory not yours, my property and not yours, my interests and not yours! Do not be like those who, in time of danger, think only of themselves and of all that derives from this principle which is the root of all evil. Those who feed the sheep of Christ should not love themselves! Do not feed them as your own, but as Christ's!" (Treatise on the Gospel of St Jn 123,5 CCL Jn 36,166-168). Hence the great responsiblity of knowing how to administer the goods that will be entrusted to you.

Every five years the Bishops come to Rome, not just for routine administration, that is, to present a report on the state of their diocese. After all, they need to confront the condition of their souls, and, what is called for, their own personal holiness and that of their flock. No Bishop can avoid the divine requirement "redde rationem villicationis tuae" (give an account of your stewardship): give an account of your ministry and of the souls entrusted to you (cf. Lk Lc 16,2). Thus you must entrust your fidelity to your obligations, your resolutions and the experiences you have had at the Apostolic See to the Divine Consoler, so that in the future they may fortify the soul of the entire diocese bringing it ever closer to our heavenly home.

5. With these premises, I say to you once again: Duc in altum! The love of God exhorts us! "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).

In the course of the years, I have often repeated my summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially, in order to insist that we must rekindle apostolic zeal in all the sectors of society in Paraná and throughout Brazil, urging individuals and communities to a daily effort to be involved in the mission. As I have already had the opportunity to say, you should reach out "to adults, families, young people, children, without ever hiding the most radical demands of the Gospel message" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 40).

I know well this Region's strength in the service offered to all men and women, and especially to the poor and marginalized, its involvement in the dialogue with non-Catholic Christians, with the members of the different religions and cultures, and in the true proclamation which you must address to Catholics who are far off by witnessing to the ecclesial communion which those who share in the Church's life must live.

In your various plans for pastoral activity, I have observed the emphasis you give to young people, the family, catechesis, vocations and the media. I hope you will also continue your concern to offer adequate direction to the pastoral care of children.

Still, in the framework of the Southern Region II, you Bishops of Paraná have distinguished yourselves in the preparation and implementation of plans, in their good organization, dynamism, balance and collegial affection, expressed in the meetings, in group work, in your diocesan commemorations and in particular, in the promotion of vocations and seminaries. The Paraná region has numerous clergy and even contributes to sending new priests to regions located beyond the provincial boundaries, and for service to and exchange of priests within Japanese-Brazilian communities.

Along these lines, you must also continue in your commitment to catechesis at all levels, particularly, in your practical approach to the sacraments. I know that in certain dioceses the faithful prefer to practise forms of popular piety (processions, novenas, etc.) and have a certain difficulty when it comes to participating actively in the liturgy. Therefore, I renew my appeal to use every means to ensure that people can receive the sacraments, particularly Penance and the Eucharist, certainly with the necessary spiritual preparation. The presence of numerous and dynamic apostolic movements "that work in full harmony within both the universal Church and the particular Churches, and in obedience to the authoritative directives of the Pastors" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 46), is a great help for diocesan pastoral care. In many cases their action can be decisive for the permanent process of conversion, which belongs to evangelization and can thus foster a society that is more just and reconciled with God. Therefore, the apostolate of the laity is acquiring crucial importance in bringing a great many men and women closer to God, for it is in the family environment, in the world of work, in the home and in society in general that the role of the lay person becomes indispensable, and, often, irreplaceable.

It is also necessary to consider the phenomenon of immigration, which has been familiar to you for a few generations. Today it has taken on a growing momentum in the border regions, where Latin American peoples come to seek in your country a better living standard. I thank God for your constant concern to keep up regular contact with the Bishops' Conferences of the neighbouring countries in order gradually to coordinate your pastoral activities, and to welcome with generosity and dignity those in need. I also entrust to the activity of Pastors and priests the mission of being vigilant to the overall negative influence of the sects, on either side of your frontier. The kind and hospitable character of your people must not be drawn by a conformist and utilitarian tendency to fall back on short-term solutions. One can never say too often that "pastoral policies will have to be revised, so that each particular Church can offer the faithful more personalized religious care, strengthen the structures of communion and mission, make the most of the evangelizing possibilities of a purified popular religiosity, and thus give new life to the faith of all Catholics in Jesus Christ" (Ecclesia in America ).

Notable for the spirit of communion that must direct the pastoral life of every diocese, are many religious congregations who, especially in the field of education, make a fundamental contribution to the formation of youth and to the promotion of vocations.

I know well the dedication of religious in this area, and especially in the mission ad gentes. Without doubt Brazil will be able to be the source of generous missionary vocations for Africa and Asia. If, at times, the Lord permits those lands to be bathed in their blood, may the whole Church know that martyrdom, a special form of communion with Christ the Redeemer, is a source of extraordinary graces for the People of God.

6. Dear Brothers, these are the brief reflections which I share with you today, seeking to offer you encouragement in the Lord, and to motivate you in your ministry for his People.

All that you have done in these years is precious in the eyes of God. However, this meeting is a providential opportunity to offer an incentive to your pastoral commitment. I fervently pray for your success in this important pastoral task, so that the Church in Paraná will shine in her full glory as the Bride of Christ who chose her with infinite love. As I entrust your apostolic mission to the intercession of the Virgin Mary who in every age is the bright Star of Evangelization, to you and to all the priests, religious, and lay faithful of your dioceses, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Saturday, 31 August 2002

1. I welcome you with joy and affection, dear friends from Varese who are commemorating the 100th anniversary of St Victor's "Young People's Oratory" and the Sports Association "Robur et Fides". I greet Bishop Marco Ferrari and I thank him for his courteous words. I greet Archbishop Pasquale Macchi and Bishop Giovanni Giudici. I also greet your parish priest and the other priests, as well as the mayor of the city and the civil authorities, who, by being present, witness to how much the community of Varese cherishes the "Oratory".I am particularly pleased to greet the new recruits: children and young people. Welcome, dear friends! I also thank the choirs for their beautiful singing.

2. It is remarkable that such an important pilgrimage has been promoted for the centenary of a young peoples' recreation centre. Not only does this show the close ties of your community with the "Oratory" but also, and even more, it highlights the high esteem in which you hold it. I rejoice with you because you are carrying on an educational initiative: the "Oratory" is its vibrant centre, the "workshop" of faith that is just waiting to be combined with every aspect of the life and feelings of young people: a faith full of life for a life full of faith!

Pastoral service to youth along with the pastoral care of families are the priorities of the Church in Italy. The "Oratory" is the place where these two pastoral activities naturally converge: a place of education and co-education, which very appropriately backs up the educational task of parents. Children need an environment in which, with other persons and other dynamics, to reinforce the values they have learned at home. Sports activities make an effective contribution to this. Indeed, if well integrated into the formation, they help young people to be generous and mutually supportive. May Robur et Fides be distinguished always by its generous openness to solidarity.

3. The "Oratory" is a school of service, where they learn to work generously for the community, for little ones, and for the poor. Service, motivated by prayer, is a preferred route for the birth and growth of genuine vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated and missionary life, and of solid lay vocations, of married and unmarried people, shaped by dedication to serving others. Always keep this spirit alive in your "Oratory" and your sports association. Walk as one family in order to be "the salt of the earth and the light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14).

I entrust you to Our Blessed Mother and bless you warmly, together with your loved ones and your activities.

September 2002



Monday, 2 September 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you, Excellency, to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Holy See.

I thank you very much for conveying to me the courteous message of President Constantinos Stephanopoulos. With delight I recall his visit to me in the Vatican last January and I would be grateful if you would express my cordial best wishes for him, as well as for all of the Greek people.

2. Mr Ambassador, at the beginning of our exchange, I would like to recall the visit to your country that I made last year, during my Jubilee pilgrimage in the steps of St Paul. Grateful to God who granted me the grace to make this much desired journey, I cherish a vivid memory of the warm welcome of the President and the Greek authorities. I warmly recall my meeting with His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of All Greece. On the particularly evocative site of the Areopagus, we assessed the painful memories of the past, but especially, we asserted our common desire to do our best to advance on the path of Christian brotherhood and the recovery of unity. I hope that the meeting of Athens will be an important stage on the long road that lies ahead; the recent visit to Rome of a delegation of the Orthodox Church of Greece confirms me in this hope.

3. Your country is deeply attached to the Christian faith which is one of the constitutive elements of the nation. It knows this religious heritage is living at the heart of Europe, not just as a historical memory which is justifiably an important element of its culture, but also as a source that can bring dynamism and future prospects to the building of Europe. On various occasions I have expressed my concern in this regard and, especially, my regret at seeing that no explicit mention was made of the communities of religious believers among the partners who are to contribute to the reflection on the "Convention" established at the Laeken Summit with a view to a possible European Constitution. As I recalled to the Diplomatic Corps: "The marginalization of religions, which have contributed and continue to contribute to the culture and humanism of which Europe is legitimately proud, strikes me as both an injustice and an error of perspective. To recognize an indisputable historical fact in no way means to disregard the modern demand for States to have an appropriate non-confessional character, and therefore Europe as well!" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 10 January 2002, n. 2; ORE, 16 January 2002, p. 3).

I am sure, Mr Ambassador, that your country can play an important role within the institutions of the Community to ensure that they recognize and express in a satisfactory way the religious dimension to which the Holy See and the Hellenic Republic are equally attached.

4. For more than 20 years now Your country has been a member of the European Union that recognizes that Greece has made a special contribution to the continent since the time of the foundation of the first Athenian democracy, especially on the social, cultural and religious levels which are part of its long tradition. I am delighted with the attention that the Greek authorities have paid to the enlargement of Europe, in particular to the Balkan countries. It is obvious that this opening to the other European nations will make it possible to put a permanent end to any risk of confrontation in the region, so that the tragic conflicts which bathed the end of the 20th century in blood will never happen again. The gradual acceptance of all the countries will consolidate with their peoples a culture of peace and solidarity which is one of the strengths of the European project.

The Holy See, as you know, calls forcefully for the establishment of a solid and lasting peace among nations, and supports all that can enable different peoples to meet, to speak to one another and to put into practice common projects for the good of all the inhabitants.

In this persective, the forthcoming Olympic Games that will be held in Athens in 2004, will be an opportunity for a new experience of brotherhood, to overcome hatred and to bring together persons and peoples. On this occasion, I make a heartfelt appeal for a lasting truce from all violence, so that the peaceful spirit and healthy competition, which the founders of the Olympic Games had in mind, may spread to all areas of society and to all continents. In our troubled and sometimes uncertain world, I hope that this sports event may be a joyful witness to the fact that all belong to the same human, fraternal and supportive community, as recent sporting events have shown.

5. Through you, I would like to greet warmly the Catholic faithful who live in Greece. They are a small minority and often dispersed in small communities. They are still in a difficult position regarding the recognition of their rights within the nation and at the different levels of society. I therefore take this opportunity once again to draw your Government's attention to the need, through a constructive dialogue between the leaders concerned, to give the Catholic Church legal standing. Indeed, it would be right, as is the case in all the countries of the European Union, to ensure full respect for the effective religious freedom of Catholics, as well as for other believers, giving the dioceses and local communities the means they need for their mission. For their part, Catholics look forward to having a real dialogue with their Orthodox brothers and sisters, and their only concern is to share fully, in their proper capacity, in the economic, political and social life of the country in which they are already deeply involved. I encourage the Catholic community and its Pastors, bishops and priests, the men and women religious who are devoted to its service, and all the faithful who are members to persevere in this regard. May they all be assured of the support and fraternal prayer of the Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter.

I also cordially greet the pastors and faithful of the Orthodox Church of Greece, expressing to them once again my gratitude for their welcome during my visit, and I once again assure you of the Catholic Church's desire for dialogue, a dialogue which, as I have recently repeated, must take place not only at the level of fraternal charity, but above all in the theological sphere.

6. Mr Ambassador, at the time when you are beginning the noble mission of representing your country at the Holy See, please accept my best wishes for its success, and be sure that you will always find here with my collaborators the necessary understanding and support!

Upon your Excellency, upon your family, upon all those who work with you and upon all your compatriots, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.

Speeches 2002