Speeches 2002 - Thursday, 5 September 2002

One must react to every attempt to exclude from the building of the new Europe the contribution of Christianity because this would remove important energies from the process of establishing civil coexistence ethically and culturally on the continent.

3. The Catholic Church does not seek privileges but only to carry out her mission for the good of the entire Slovenian society. For this reason she is grateful to the civil authorities who maintain positive relations with the ecclesial community in a spirit of dialogue and with full respect for each one's specific areas of responsibility.

The Agreement between the Republic of Slovenia and the Holy See signed last 14 December is a significant example of mutual cooperation. I want to express the keen hope that it may now be approved by the legislative organs to which it has been submitted, in order to become operative without delay. It is an agreement that guarantees the basic right to religious freedom. As an instrument which regulates the relations between the Church and the State in a particular, but not exclusive way, it serves the good of the Catholic community and it is both a point of arrival and a starting point for further agreements.

4. Mr Ambassador, these are a few of the thoughts that I wish to share with you at the moment when you take up the important mission that your Government has entrusted to you. I assure you that you will always be able to count on the help of my collaborators for the fruitful realization of your mission.

Please convey to the President, the government authorities and the people whom you represent, my respectful greeting, along with my fervent good wishes for the prosperity and progress of Slovenia, in peace and justice. I confirm these sentiments with the assurance of my prayers, as I invoke the Blessings of Almighty God upon you and upon all your fellow-citizens.



Friday, 6 September 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay to the Holy See on this solemn occasion at which I would like to offer you a very cordial welcome.

I also want to express my deep gratitude to you for conveying the President's courteous greetings to me; at the same time, I ask you to express my special closeness to the Uruguayan people whom I commend to the Almighty so that in today's social and economic situation they may find the most suitable solutions to achieve ever higher goals of justice, solidarity and progress in accordance with the Christian spirit that has contributed so much to forging the national identity.

2. The mission your Government has entrusted to you begins at a time when a variety of circumstances are calling for attention, both in the concert of nations as well as in your country. At the beginning of this millennium, new and unexpected troubles seem to be upsetting the balance and progress thought to have been achieved after the turbulent events that marked the last century had been overcome.

In this context, the Church continues to proclaim forcefully the need for expansive and cordial relations between the different nations, thus guaranteeing the appropriate channels for a continuous dialogue which will effectively help solve conflicts and encourage people to join forces to promote concord and, with the collaboration of all, build the common good of society.

In inviting human beings to hope "against all hope" (cf. Rom Rm 4,18), the Christian message proclaims the Church's confidence in them and in their ability, with God's help, not to yield to difficulties; and at the same time to understand that the progress achieved at any period in history, despite its fascination, is transitory, leaves room for improvement and, in any case, needs to be constantly reaffirmed by individuals and by institutions, so as to guide the noblest aspirations of the human being.

For this reason "the Church knows full well that her message is in harmony with the most secret aspirations of the human heart, since it champions the dignity of man's calling, giving hope once more to those who already despair of their higher destiny" (Gaudium et spes GS 21). On this she bases her mission to contribute to the common good of peoples, collaborating with the civil authorities but within her own province and without wishing to encroach upon the competence of others. It is also her task to promote the values which constitute the soul of a nation and foster democracy, since "as history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (Centesimus annus CA 46).

3. Recently, there has been an unusually widespread social and economic crisis in Uruguay, which has seriously affected many homes. Although it may be due to complex factors, some of which have their origin outside the country, this situation must nonetheless lead to a calm, realistic reflection on the premises that have caused or favoured it.

In this regard, it is necessary to remember that the social situation is not improved by applying exclusively technical measures. As you pointed out, special care must be taken to foster the values and respect for the ethical dimension of the person, in the family and in society. The authentic progress of peoples requires honesty, austerity, responsibility for the common good, solidarity, a spirit of sacrifice and the culture of work. In this way, it will be easier to ensure an integral development for all the members of the national community so that no Uruguayan will lack the necessary means for fulfilment as a person and as a citizen; nor must it be forgotten that in times of difficulty and crisis, special care must be taken to prevent the plight of those who already suffer from the multiple forms of poverty from worsening.

4. In the field of social assistance for the least privileged the Church "has always been present and active among the needy, offering them material assistance in ways that neither humiliate nor reduce them to mere objects of assistance, but which help them to escape their precarious situation by promoting their dignity as persons" (ibid., n. 49). This is what she has done and continues to do in Uruguay, since her coordination and collaboration with the civil institutions in many areas that promote the citizens' good, such as education, attention to health care or assistance to the marginalized or the deprived, is a way to make an effective contribution to the common good of the entire national community.

At the same time, precisely because of her total respect for the dignity of all human beings, whatever their social status or situation, the Church always defends their inalienable rights, such as the right to life from its conception to its natural end, the right to be born and to grow up in a family, to found a stable home and openly to profess their religious faith, without obstacles, in public as in private. Indeed, of the person fundamental rights cannot be sacrificed for the sake of other objectives, erroneously considered beneficial since this would attack the true dignity of every human being.

5. Mr Ambassador, at the conclusion of this meeting, I once again offer you my best wishes for the fulfilment of the important mission entrusted to you, so that relations between Uruguay and the Holy See, as you emphasized, may be strengthened and developed, thus reflecting the deep appreciation for the Successor of Peter felt by the Uruguayan people who wanted to perpetuate the memory of the Pope's first visit to this country by cherishing as a national monument the Cross which was at the centre of the altar at which I celebrated the Eucharist.

Please convey my deep gratitude for all this as well as my special closeness and affection to all the dear sons and daughters of Uruguay, for whom I always invoke the motherly protection of Our Lady, the Virgin de los Treinta y Tres, as they advance towards a society that is more just, more peaceful and shows greater solidarity.



Saturday, 7 September 2002

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today as you present the Letters by which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has appointed you her Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. The greetings which you bring from Her Majesty are very much appreciated; as I recall the visit which she and Prince Philip paid to me two years ago I ask you kindly to convey to her my prayerful good wishes during this year of the Golden Jubilee of her Reign.

Your reference to the reprehensible terrorist attacks of 11 September last, and to the many preoccupying situations of injustice throughout the world, reminds us that the millennium just begun presents great challenges. It calls for a resolute and uncompromising commitment on the part of individuals, peoples and nations to defending the inalienable rights and dignity of every member of the human family. At the same time, it demands the building of a global culture of solidarity which will find expression not simply in terms of more effective economic or political organization but more importantly in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation in the service of the common good.

In recent years, your Government has made notable efforts to advance such a culture and to strengthen the foundations of international peace and human development. I think, for example, of the generosity shown in reducing or even cancelling the international debt of poorer countries; the leading role played by the British military in bringing security to the new government in Afghanistan; and the priority given to the African continent, seen especially in the appeals made at the recent G-8 meeting in Canada for the "Africa Action Plan". I likewise express my appreciation of the continuing efforts to bring peace and normality to Northern Ireland.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of last September, the international community has recognized the urgent need to combat the phenomenon of well-financed and highly-organized international terrorism, which represents a formidable and immediate threat to world peace. Spawned by hatred, isolation and distrust, terrorism adds violence to violence in a tragic spiral that embitters and poisons successive generations. Ultimately, "terrorism is built on contempt for human life. For this reason, not only does it commit intolerable crimes, but, because it resorts to terror as a political and military means, it is itself a true crime against humanity" (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, No. 4).

As an essential part of its fight against all forms of terrorism, the international community is called to undertake new and creative political, diplomatic and economic initiatives aimed at relieving the scandalous situations of gross injustice, oppression and marginalization which continue to oppress countless members of the human family. History in fact shows that the recruitment of terrorists is more easily achieved in areas where human rights are trampled upon and where injustice is a part of daily life. This is not to say that the inequalities and abuses existing in the world excuse acts of terrorism: there can never of course be any justification for violence and disregard for human life. However, the international community can no longer overlook the underlying causes that lead young people especially to despair of humanity, of life itself and of the future, and to fall prey to the temptations of violence, hatred and a desire for revenge at any cost.

It was out of concern for these more profound human issues that I invited the leaders and representatives of the world’s religions to join me in Assisi last January in order to bear clear and unambiguous witness to our shared convictions concerning the unity of the human family and the particular obligation of religious believers to cooperate, together with men and women of good will everywhere, in building a future of peace. In the end, it is in the conversion of hearts and the spiritual renewal of societies that the hope of a better tomorrow lies. The building of such a global culture of solidarity is perhaps the greatest moral task confronting humanity today. It presents a particular spiritual and cultural challenge to the developed countries of the West, where the principles and values of the Christian religion have long been woven into the very fabric of society but are now being called into question by alternative cultural models grounded in an exaggerated individualism which all too often leads to indifferentism, hedonism, consumerism and a practical materialism that can erode and even subvert the foundations of social life.

In the face of this cultural and spiritual challenge, I am confident that the Christian community in the United Kingdom will continue to make its voice heard in the great debates shaping the future of society, and will continue to offer credible testimony to their convictions through their programmes of educational, charitable and social outreach. The past decades have, by God’s grace, seen significant progress in the building of cordial ecumenical relations which are more genuinely expressive of our common spiritual roots (cf. Address to Her Majesty, 17 October 2000). The common witness of committed Christians can greatly contribute to the renewal of social life in a way which respects and builds upon the incomparable patrimony of political, cultural and spiritual ideals and achievements which has shaped your nation’s history and her contributions to the world.

In this regard my thoughts turn immediately to the need for an uncompromising defence of the rights of the family and the legal protection of the institution of marriage. The family plays a decisive role in fostering those values upon which any civilization worthy of the name is built. The whole of human society is deeply rooted in the family, and any weakening of this indispensable institution cannot but be a potential source of grave difficulties and problems for society as a whole.

Another area of concern in which Christians can offer a privileged witness is that of respect for life in the face of attempts to legitimize abortion, the production of human embryos for research and processes of genetic manipulation such as the cloning of human beings. Neither human life nor the human person can ever legitimately be treated as an object to be manipulated or as a disposable commodity; rather each human being – at every stage of existence, from conception to natural death – is endowed by the Creator with a sublime dignity that demands the greatest respect and vigilance on the part of individuals, communities, nations and international bodies.

Your Excellency, I offer you my prayerful good wishes as you take up your high responsibilities. I am confident that the fulfilment of your diplomatic duties will contribute to a further strengthening of the friendly relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See, and I assure you of the constant readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you. Upon you and upon all whom you serve I cordially invoke the blessings of Almighty God.



Sunday, 8 September 2002

1. At the end of this wonderful evening of music I am delighted to offer a cordial greeting to all of you, Ladies and Gentlemen, who have participated in the Concert promoted by the Foundation the "World of Art" of Moscow as part of the programme "A Thousand Cities of the World".

I greet Mr Dimitry Medvedev, deputy director for administration of the President of the Russian Federation and the other authorities who are here with him. I also greet Ambassador Vitaly Litvin, Representative of the Russian Federation to the Holy See and I thank him for the sentiments of respect that earlier he expressed in my regard. I greatly rejoice over the wonderful message sent by the Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia for this event, His Holiness Alexis II. May my respectful and cordial greeting reach him.

2. I also greet the President of the Foundation "World of Art", Mr Vladislav Teterin, and I express to him and to his colleagues my profound gratitude for this gift which I have deeply appreciated. I extend my best wishes so that your meritorious foundation may be able with its many activities to contribute to the spread of the human and spiritual values which constitute the indispensable foundation for all the genuine moral, civil and cultural progress of Europe and of the whole of humanity.

I also express my appreciation to the Symphony Orchestra of the Russian State, directed by Maestro Marc Gorenshtein, who have played with great and passionate skill and to the Choir of the Academy of Art and to the Junior UNESCO Choir, directed by Maestro Victor Popov, who with outstanding talent and finesse have interpreted exacting musical selections.

In the name of all those present, I renew cordial gratitude to the promoters of the evening, and to the talented orchestra and singers, especially to the soprano Angela Gheorghiu and the tenor Roberto Alagna. I hope that other similar initiatives may contribute to fostering understanding and dialogue among persons and peoples.

3. In whishing you all great success for the initiatives of the programme "A thousand Cities of the World", I implore on each of you present the Lord's Blessing.



Friday, 13 September 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am delighted to receive from your hands the Letters of Credence with which H.E. Dr Johannes Rau, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany accredits you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of his country to the Holy See. At the same time, I cordially welcome you to the Vatican and congratulate you on your new and honourable mission. I express the hope and confidence that during the time of your mandate the good relations between Germany and the Holy See will continue and become even better.

2. Since the historical reunification of Germany 12 years ago, the now popular phrase: "the reunification of what is destined to be united" not only in the Federal Republic but also throughout the rest of Europe has received a concrete meaning and, for many people of this continent, it has become very much a programmatic vision. From it they expect a just balance of interests, lasting peace and social well-being. From the beginning, the Holy See with its own means has promoted the process of European unification and has never doubted that the belief in a common spiritual and cultural identity of the peoples of Europe must be the basis for the political and institutional reunification of the European Union. Europe would not be what it is without the rich heritage of its peoples which, like the human genes, has forged and continues to shape the personality of the continent. To overlook or to abandon this "heritage" would be to risk its real identity or even to lose it. Before now, I have indicated that Europeans today must face the challenge of "building a culture and an ethic of unity, for in the absence of these any politics of unity is doomed sooner or later to failure" (Apostolic Letter Spes aedificandi, issued "Motu Proprio" proclaiming St Bridget of Sweden, St Catherine of Siena and St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Co-Patronesses of Europe, 1 October 1999, n. 10).

3. The Church founded by Jesus Christ is a feature that defines the identity of this continent: "There can be no doubt that, in Europe's complex history, Christianity has been a central and defining element, established on the firm foundation of the classical heritage and the multiple contributions of the various ethnic and cultural streams which have succeeded one another down the centuries. The Christian faith has shaped the culture of the continent and is so tightly bound up with its history that Europe's history could not be understood if we did not think of the facts of the first evangelization and then the long centuries when, despite the painful schism between East and West, Christianity came to be the religion of the European peoples" (cf. ibid., n. 1). In this situation certainly, a clear reference to God and the Christian faith in the drafting of the European Constitution means that people recognize a historical and cultural reality that is active today and helps to give Europeans their identity. Mr Ambassador, the Holy See is confident that the intellectual and political leaders of your beloved country, to whom the culture of this great continent owes so much, will contribute a great deal to creating a fresh consciousness of these facts in German and European public opinion.

4. Mr Ambassador, the Holy See is pleased to learn that after the reunification of Germany and the enormous financial and social cost which this involved, the Federal Republic has not avoided the challenge posed by European integration. Despite the great tasks of construction in her new Federal Länder, Germany has stayed faithful to her European vocation and to her well-known commitment to solidarity with the poorest peoples of the world. Besides having to face their own problems, the Germans have not forgotten the problems of others. Thus German policy highlights a primary feature of the process of the integration of the continent: European unity, which becomes ever stronger, does not take the form of a movement to change boundaries, but involves a crucial openness to the world. In fact, the European states are called to cooperate actively in the creation of a global order of justice and peace! In this perspective the Holy See pays homage to the constant work of the Federal Republic of Germany in promoting respect for human rights in all the regions of the globe, so that wherever German aid for development arrives, human beings can live in dignity and freedom. Furthermore, because of her great social tradition, Germany has a special vocation to amplify and to consolidate the principle of the common good. May the substantial means that every year the German people donate to support the development of poorer countries, likewise contribute to protecting and enforcing respect for fundamental human rights, of which I want to enumerate the chief: "The right to life, an integral part of which is the right of the child to develop in the mother's womb from the moment of conception; the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child's personality; the right to develop one's intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth; the right to share in the work which makes wise use of the earth's material resources, and to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one's dependents; and the right freely to establish a family, to have and to rear children through the responsible exercise of one's sexuality. In a certain sense, the source and synthesis of these rights is religious freedom, understood as the right to live in the truth of one's faith and in conformity with one's transcendent dignity as a person" (Centesimus annus CA 47).

5. Lastly, Mr Ambassador, through you, I desire to offer my respectful greetings to the President of the Federal Republic and convey to all the German people my heartfelt best wishes and blessing.

The good relationship of cooperation between Church and State in Germany is at the service of the good of the human person. It needs continually to be pursued and intensify on the basis of the principles of freedom and the determination of the tasks and responsibilities of both parties. Your Excellency, as I thank you for your cordial words, I assure you that my collaborators in the Secretariate of State and in the other offices of the Curia will be available to offer you any assistance which you might need in the exercise of your high office. To you, Mr Ambassador, to the members of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See and to your beloved family, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 14 September 2002

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. With great pleasure, I receive you today, Pastors of the Church in Brazil, representing the North 1 and North East Regions of the National Bishops' Conference of Brazil. The ad limina visit gives you an opportunity to meet the Successor of Peter and his collaborators and to receive from them the necessary support for your pastoral action.

I warmly thank Archbishop Luiz Soares Vieira of Manaus for his cordial words on your behalf, renewing the expression of your affection and esteem and sharing with me the anxieties and hopes of the Church you guide in those regions. Through you I also greet the priests, the women and men religious and the faithful of your dioceses. Take back to them the affectionate remembrance of the Pope who keeps them in his prayers, so that they may grow in faith in Christ and in charity to their neighbour.

2. The distinctive feature of your mission as Pastors of the people entrusted to your care is first and foremost to be promoters and models of communion. Just as the Church is one, so there is only one Episcopate and, as the Second Vatican Council declares, the Pope is "the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful" (Lumen gentium LG 23). For this reason the collegial union of the Episcopate is one of the constitutive elements of the unity of the Church.

This union among the bishops is particularly necessary in our day, since pastoral initiatives take many different forms and transcend the boundaries of an individual diocese. Communion must also become concrete in pastoral cooperation on combined programmes and common plans "in questions of greater importance, especially those affecting the poor" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America ). The Amazon region is certainly sensitive to developmental problems associated with the exploitation of the riches of its subsoil, and is also a known reserve of biodiversity. For this reason, there is a combination of factors linked with the human being and his habitat that demand due attention for the proper protection of a great many of the inhabitants, including those who live below the threshold of poverty.

On the other hand, the ecclesial communities need Pastors who are men of faith, united with one another, who can face the challenges of a society ever more inclined to secularization and consumerism. In fact, although a majority of the people have been baptized in the Catholic Church and practice various forms of popular piety, they are sometimes without a firm, enlightened faith. In this regard, the lack of an existential and ecclesial backbone for their faith and an indifference to the religious values and ethical principles are a powerful obstacle to evangelization. All this is further complicated by the presence of sects and of new groups of pseudo religions, which are even cropping up in traditionally Catholic areas. The phenomenon demands penetrating study "to discover the reasons why many Catholics leave the Church" (Ecclesia in America ).

As teachers of sound doctrine who are called to point out the sure way that leads to the Father, and as servants of the light that is Christ, "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1,15), as successors of the Apostles, do not cease to offer in a consistent way the teaching of the ecclesial Magisterium.

3. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1Co 10,16-17). This affirmation of the Apostle of the Gentiles, which he addressed to the whole People of God, acquires greater prominence when it is used to refer to the spirituality of communion among Bishops who are called by their special mission to live their collegiality (cf. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 44).

The Church is One as the Body of Christ is One. The unity of the Church is not only a "note" that must be recognized in the world, but it is "her very nature". In this way it is the beginning of her existence, her foundation and her goal, the original gift and mission to be lived and carried out. The faithful, "strengthened by the body of Christ in the Eucharistic communion ... manifest in a concrete way that unity of the People of God which this holy sacrament aptly signifies and admirably realizes" (Lumen gentium LG 11). It is not only the local community of the faithful who gather before the altar, but the Catholic Church, complete in her entirety, who is present in every celebration of the sacrament of unity.

By more closely uniting people with Christ, the Eucharist makes them one body, the Mystical Body of Christ that is the Church, to the point that they can call the Eucharist the sacrament of unity (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Suplementum, q. 71, a. 9). Accepting the biblical-patristic teaching, my Predecessor St Pius X vigorously asserted that "the Eucharist is the symbol, principle and root of Catholic unity, a factor of concord among spirits" (Constitutio Apostolica de SS. Eucharistia promiscuo sumenda: AAS 1912, 675). The Second Vatican Council also stressed, as we know, that the Eucharist is "a sign of unity, a bond of charity" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 47).

I wanted to remind you of these conclusions, which you certainly realize, thinking precisely of those immense regions with which you are familiar and which, through the action and grace of the Consoling Spirit, are entrusted to your pastoral zeal. You must not feel far from one another, despite the immense areas you often have to cross, not only to reach the most remote areas of the State, but also to maintain the necessary, indeed indispensable, contact in the exercise of your episcopal office. I would like to express here my deep appreciation of the great missionary efforts made by you and by numerous priests, men and women religious and lay people in these regions of Northern Brazil. May God reward you, with abundant fruits of joy and peace!

4. The Prophet Isaiah says: "Non est abbreviata manus Domini" (59,1), "the Lord's hand is not shortened". He is no less powerful today than he has been in past ages, and his love for human beings is just as genuine. Today too, his action is a reality that the faithful can recognize in the light of the signs of the times and seek to respond to with joy and gratitude.

Christ gave his Church the security of doctrine and ensured that there were people who with his light would direct, guide and constantly recall the way he set forth. We have an infinite treasury of wisdom at our disposal: the Word of God, safeguarded by the Church; the grace of Christ, entrusted to his Pastors, through the administration of the sacraments. How can we forget the witness and example of all those who live an upright life in our midst and have made their lives a way of fidelity to God?

This is the Church of Christ, venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, which has generated us and now accompanies us, forgiving our sins and animating us with new life, confident in the One who "has risen" from the dead (Mt 28,6).

To this Church we must show our love and veneration. It is the natural attitude of children to their own mother. In her Pastors we must find a powerful love, a dedication without limits, a self-sacrificing service; they must be able to give up any personal interest in order to live the same obedience with which Christ suffered on the Cross.

5. In addition to this dimension of affective ecclesial communion (koinonia), it is good to remember the effective dimension since, as we know, there is one Church which exists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, once again our transcendent Eucharistic theology is a source of light for our fraternal meeting when we must show that the unity of the Church is equally rooted in the unity of the Episcopate.

In approving the Letter addressed to the world Episcopate on this particular theme, I made my own the affirmation: "the unity of the Eucharist and the unity of the Episcopate with Peter and under Peter are not independent roots of the unity of the Church, since Christ instituted the Eucharist and the Episcopate as essentially interlinked realities. The Episcopate is one, just as the Eucharist is one: the one Sacrifice of the one Christ, dead and risen" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion, n. 14). The Letter then concludes: "Every valid celebration of the Eucharist expresses this universal communion with Peter and with the whole Church" (ibid.).

With obvious objectivity, St Cyprian alerted us: "We must make every effort to preserve and defend this unity, especially we bishops who have been placed at the head of the Church, in order to show that the Episcopate itself is one and indivisible" (De catholicae Ecclesiae unitate, [On the unity of the Catholic Church], 4-6). Therefore, your practice of coming to Rome, to go in the "obedience of faith" (Rm 1,5), to see Peter and in your ministry living under Peter, can only express that unity of spirit and action that will be converted into works that will build up more firmly the Kingdom of God in this world.

6. During my Pontificate the Lord has granted me, in the wake of my immediate Predecessors in the See of Peter, to assess more deeply those truths that have always been implicit in the ecclesial consciousness, such as the role of lay people in the Church, the sacramental origin of the bishops' power of jurisdiction, the need for the Christianization of temporal structures, for putting into practice the directives on human rights and the rights of the family, respect for life, the extraordinary importance of all sincere expressions of freedom, etc.

It might be said that this Apostolic See has published many documents and that, in view of the urgent need for pastoral activity, there is no time to give them as penetrating a consideration as might be hoped. As I have already had the opportunity to say, the Roman Pontiff carries out his universal mission with the help of the offices of the Roman Curia and in particular, in the area of the teaching on faith and morals, with the help of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (cf. Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus June 1988, nn. 48-55). It is then the Bishops' mission to explain authoritatively, directly or by means of their priests and catechists, the non-transferable mission of teaching the Truth of the Gospel.

This is a good chance for me to recall the importance of giving priority to the promotion of vocations, through the proper formation of candidates to the priesthood (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America ). At the same time, it is necessary to be dedicated to accompanying your priests in their ministerial function with an appropriate human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral continuing formation, as far as the possibilities of each diocese allow, or by means of regional or national initiatives.

Lastly, it is sometimes said that the Pope ignores either the local situations or the broader situation of the Latin American continent. Nevertheless, he tries to pay the greatest possible attention to what his brother Bishops tell him regularly during their ad limina visits. Furthermore, the many occasions on which, through God's grace, he has been able to visit Latin America and have direct contact with the peoples of that land so full of evangelical promise, witness once again to the confidence that the Successor of Peter has in your mission as Pastors. I therefore express the wish that the messages addressed to you may help guide the faithful on what is considered to be the Continent of Hope.

7. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, we are called to listen, as disciples, to what the Spirit says to the Churches (cf. Apoc Ap 2,7), in order to speak as teachers in Christ's name declaring joyfully, as did St John Damascene: "And you, noble summit of the most total purity, illustrious assembly of the Church who expect the help of God, you in whom God dwells, receive from our hands the doctrine of the faith that strengthens the Church, just as our fathers transmitted it to us" (Expositio fidei [Exposition of Faith], n. 1). I pray God that you may have success in this important pastoral mission so that the Church in Brazil, and especially in the Amazon region, may shine in her full glory as the Bride of Christ, whom he chose with infinite love. In entrusting your apostolic mission to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who in all ages is the radiant Star of Evangelization, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to the priests, to the religious, and to the lay people of your dioceses.

Speeches 2002 - Thursday, 5 September 2002