To Reverend Mother Sr M. Vincenza Minet
Superior General of the Handmaids of the Visitation
1. I am delighted to address my cordial greeting to you and to the sisters gathered in Villaggio San Francesco and Santa Croce in Acerno, Salerno (Italy), for your Fourth General Chapter. This is a special time of grace for the congregation which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Some of you have been members of the Institute since its foundation and, having lived through the events that marked the beginnings, you carry deep in your hearts the "magnificat" for all the Lord has done. May you share this canticle of praise with the younger sisters, so that the whole Congregation in its communities and activities may live and work with the deep spiritual exultation which marked the joyful mystery of Mary's visit to her elderly cousin, Elizabeth.
With great joy, I join in your common thanksgiving to the Lord for the benefits you have received. I likewise encourage you in your desire to look to the future with prophetic courage, the better to understand the challenges and expectations of the Church and of the world. This is what you intend to do at your Chapter Assembly on the theme: "Our charism in a changing world".
2. Your charism is rooted in the wonderful mystery of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to St Elizabeth. Each one of you has directed her attention to this episode of the Gospel that is so moving in its simplicity. You intend to be inspired by it constantly, both when you are working with abandoned children suffering from malnutrition and when serving the elderly and the sick, in parishes and in mission countries.
The spiritual riches that flow from this event of Luke's Gospel are truly inexhaustible. The example of the Virgin requires being constantly actualized and joined with the different historical, geographical and cultural needs. In a changing world, the charism does not change but, in order to operate effectively and bear abundant fruit, needs that "creativity in charity" that I spoke of in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte (cf. n. 50).
3. Being "Handmaids of the Visitation" means imitating every day the Blessed Virgin Mary: after receiving the Annunciation of the Angel she "arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah" to be close to Elizabeth, in need of her help, for she was expecting John the Precursor. Be neighbour to those in need: that is the commandment that Christ gave to every disciple, which you have adopted as your ideal and the purpose of your life and community action.
God reveals to Mary the miraculous pregnancy of her elderly relative as a sign that nothing is impossible for him. For you the Lord has not failed, nor will he fail, to show the persons to whom you should offer concrete solidarity, so that in you and in them may grow faith and gratitude to his infinite and almighty mercy.
Dear friends, continue to walk in this direction, conscious that in your neighbour in difficulty, it is Christ himself you honour and serve. May you also make it your concern daily to grow in the spirit of fraternal communion. A community in which Christ's love reigns works in joy and harmony, more easily overcoming obstacles and difficulties.
4. Dear Sisters, above all, may you be persons of faith and of untiring prayer. Close union with God, "wrought in us by the Holy Spirit ... opens us, through Christ and in Christ, to contemplation of the Father's face" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 32). What would your institute be without this soul? What would service to your brethren be without the invisible boost of constant prayer? It would all be reduced to mere social assistance or activity, and would lose the power of prophetic witness.
In the mystery of the Visitation, contemplation and action appear merged in a harmonious synthesis. In the ordinary, everyday quality of Mary's service to Elizabeth, we breathe the air of holiness, the daily fulfilment of the divine will in every circumstance.
I hope that each one of you will live and work in each community of the Institute with this lifestyle, which creates an atmosphere conducive to holiness. In Italy, in Poland, in Brazil, in the Philippines, in Kenya, in Madagascar, and wherever Providence wishes to call you, keep intact your charism. May Mary, the Virgin of the Visitation, guide and assist you: every day with her raise your "magnificat" to God who is rich in mercy. For my part, I will remember you in prayer, as I wholeheartedly bless you, the work of your Chapter and your entire religious family.
From the Vatican, 8 September 2002.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am happy to greet you cordially, the day after the canonization of the Bl. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. I thank Archbishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, for his expression of gratitude on your behalf. With affection I greet the many Cardinals, Bishops and priests who have wanted to take part in this celebration.
This festive gathering brings together a great variety of faithful from many countries who belong to very different social and cultural backgrounds: priests and lay people, men and women, young and old, intellectuals and blue collar workers. This is a sign of the apostolic zeal that burned in the soul of St Josemaría.
2. In the Founder of Opus Dei, there is an extraordinary love for the will of God. There exists a sure criterion of holiness: fidelity in accomplishing the divine will down to the last consequences. For each one of us the Lord has a plan, to each he entrusts a mission on earth. The saint could not even conceive of himself outside of God's plan. He lived only to achieve it.
St Josemaría was chosen by the Lord to announce the universal call to holiness and to point out that daily life and ordinary activities are a path to holiness. One could say that he was the saint of ordinary life. In fact, he was convinced that for those who live with a perspective of faith, everything is an opportunity to meet God, everything can be an incentive for prayer. Seen in this light, daily life reveals an unexpected greatness. Holiness is truly within everyone's reach.
3. Escrivá de Balaguer was a very human saint. All those who met him, whatever their culture or social status, felt he was a father, totally devoted to serving others, for he was convinced that every soul is a marvellous treasure; indeed, every person is worth all of Christ's Blood. This attitude of service is obvious in his dedication to his priestly ministry and in the magnanimity with which he launched so many works of evangelization and human advancement for the poorest persons.
The Lord gave him a profound understanding of the gift of our divine sonship. He taught him to contemplate the tender face of a Father in the God who speaks to us through the most varied events of life. A Father who loves us, who follows us step by step, who protects us, understands us and awaits from each of us a response of love. The consideration of this fatherly presence which accompanies the Christian everywhere gives him steadfast confidence; he must trust in the heavenly Father at every moment. He should never feel lonely or frightened. When the Cross is present, he should not see it as a punishment, but a mission entrusted by the Lord himself. The Christian is necessarily optimistic, because he knows he is a son of God in Christ.
4. St Josemaría was profoundly convinced that the Christian life entails a mission and an apostolate: we are in the world to save it with Christ. He loved the world passionately, with a "redemptive love" (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 604). Precisely for this reason his teachings have helped so many ordinary members of the faithful to discover the redemptive power of faith, its capacity to transform the earth.
This is a message that has abundant and fruitful implications for the evangelizing mission of the Church. It fosters the Christianization of the world "from within", showing that there can be no conflict between divine law and the demands of genuine human progress. This saintly priest taught that Christ must be the apex of all human activity (cf. Jn Jn 12,32).
His message impels the Christian to act in places where the future of society is being shaped. From the laity's active presence in all the professions and at the most advanced frontiers of development, there can only come a positive contribution to the strengthening of that harmony between faith and culture which is one of the greatest needs of our time.
5. St Josemaría Escrivá spent his life for the service of the Church. In his writings, priests and lay people, men and women religious who follow the most varied paths, find a stimulating source of inspiration. Dear brothers and sisters, in imitating him with openness of spirit and heart, with a readiness to serve the local Churches, you contribute to strengthening the "spirituality of communion" which my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte points out as one of the most important goals of our time (cf. nn. 42-45).
I welcome the chance to mention today's liturgical feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. St Josemaría wrote a beautiful small book called The Holy Rosary, which presents spiritual childhood, a real disposition of spirit of those who wish to attain total abandonment to the divine will. I heartily entrust all of you, with your families and your apostolate, to the motherly protection of Mary and I thank you for your presence.
6. I once again thank everyone present, especially those who have come from afar. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to take a visible witness of faith everywhere, in accord with the example and teaching of your holy Founder. I accompany you with my prayer and I warmly bless you, your families and your activities.
I have the joy of welcoming the Orthodox Patriarch of Romania, His Beatitude Teoctist, and the distinguished members of his delegation who have accompanied him to Rome for a visit that starts today. His Beatitude the Patriarch has just arrived and I wanted his visit to begin in the context of this General Audience, in the presence of so many of the faithful who have come from every part of the world.
Your Beatitude and dear Brother, you are making this visit motivated by my same sentiments and expectation! Meeting at the tomb of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, is a sign of our common will to overcome the obstacles that still prevent the re-establishment of full communion between us.
This visit is also an act purifying our memories of division, of our often heated confrontations, of actions and words, which led to painful separation. However, the future is not a dark and unknown tunnel. It is already enlightened by God's grace; on it the life-giving light of the Spirit is already shining with comforting rays in it. This certainty does not only prevail over every human discouragement, over the tiredness that at times slows our steps; it convinces us above all that nothing is impossible for God, and therefore, if we are worthy of it, he will also grant us the gift of full unity.
I entrust to your prayers, dear faithful who are present, the visit to Rome of His Beatitude Teoctist, and I warmly hope that he may find in all who receive him on my behalf the same sentiments as those with which I welcome him today. May these days foster our dialogue, nourish our hopes and make us more aware of what unites us, our common roots of faith, our liturgical patrimony and of the saints and witnesses whom we have in common. May the Lord grant us once again to experience how beautiful, how joyful it is to call on him together!
My dear Brothers in the Episcopate, dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. I am pleased to welcome you at the conclusion of the Fourth Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. I cordially greet each of you and thank you very much for the service which you carry out.
I especially thank Archbishop Francesco Marchisano, President of the Commission, for the sentiments he expressed to me on your behalf and for his helpful synthesis of the activity that has taken place. My thanks also go to the members, officials, and the various experts who generously offer their attentive and profitable collaboration. I want to confirm my appreciation to all of you for what this Commission is doing not only for the care of the rich artistic and cultural heritage which the Christian community has accumulated over the course of two millennia, but also for making better understood the spiritual source from which it flows.
The Church has always maintained that, in some way through all the expressions of art, the infinite beauty of God is reflected and the human mind is almost naturally drawn towards Him. Further, thanks to this contribution, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, "the knowledge of God can be better revealed. Also, the preaching of the Gospel will be rendered more intelligible to man's mind" (Gaudium et spes GS 62).
2. The Plenary Assembly which has just ended focused on the theme: "Cultural Heritage for territorial identity and for the artistic-cultural dialogue between peoples". In our time, a more marked sensibility for the conservation and the "enjoyability" of artistic and cultural resources characterizes the policies of public administration and the many initiatives of private institutions.
Our time is characterized, in fact, by the awareness that art, architecture, archives, libraries, museums, sacred music and theater not only constitute a storehouse of historical-artistic articles, but a collection of works which can be enjoyed by the entire community. With good reason, therefore, your Commission has progressively extended its work to a worldwide level, conscious that the ecclesiastical cultural heritage provides a favorable terrain for a fruitful intercultural dialogue. In this light, it is more important than ever that the juridical protection of that heritage be ensured through appropriate guidelines which take into account the religious, social, and cultural needs of the local populations.
3. With heartfelt gratitude, I take this opportunity to note the contribution of the instructions and guidelines provided at the conclusion of the regular Plenary Assemblies of your Commission. Time has shown how indispendable efective collaboration with administrations and civil institutions in order to create together, each according to his/her own competence, effective working synergies to defend and safeguard the universal artistic heritage. The pastoral enhancing of the presentation of her artistic treasure is very much at the heart of the Church. She well knows in fact that to communicate all of the aspects of the message entrusted to her by Christ the mediation of art is extremely helpful (cf. John Paul II, Letter to Artists, n.12).
The organic nature of the Church's cultural heritage does not allow the separation of its aesthetic appreciation from the religious aim of pastoral activity. A sacred edifice, for example, reaches its "aesthetic" perfection precisely during the celebration of the divine mysteries, since it is precisely in that moment that it shines forth in its truest significance. The elements of architecture, painting, sculpture, music, song, and light, form part of the unique combination which welcomes the community of the faithful to its liturgical celebrations, a community comprised of "living stones" who form a "spiritual house" (cf. 1P 2,5).
4. Dearest brothers and sisters, the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church has already given 12 years of precious service to the Church. I encourage you to continue in your commitment, increasingly involving those who work to give life to our historical-artistic heritage. Through your action, may a fruitful dialogue with the artists of our time increase, encouraging with every means the encounter and embrace between the Church and art. To this end, in my Letter to Artists, I recalled that "Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny" (n. 14).
The Church also wants to offer a seed of hope which overcomes pessimism and confusion through her cultural heritage, that can be the leaven of a new humanism on which effectively to build the new evangelization.
With these sentiments, and invoking the maternal intercession of Mary, the Tota pulchra, to you and to all your dear ones I impart my Blessing.
Thursday, 10 October 2002
1. I am delighted to welcome Your Excellency on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Gabon to the Holy See.
I thank you, Excellency, for your courteous words and for the greetings you have conveyed to me from President El Hadj Omar Bongo of the Gabonese Republic. For my part, I would appreciate your expressing my best wishes to him for happiness and prosperity for himself and for the whole Gabonese people, as I ask the Most High to grant that all may dwell in peace and cordial understanding.
2. You have just informed me, Mr Ambassador, of the desire of the leaders of your country to persevere in their efforts to set up political, economic and social structures that will make it possible to build a more fraternal and peaceful society. I am delighted with the measures your Government has taken to be ever more at the service of all the country's inhabitants, and with its desire to play an active role in maintaining harmony among the different nations that make up Africa. While the continent continues to suffer acutely from the various conflicts that wound it mortally, I launch a new and insistent appeal that all Africans may be mobilized to work hand in hand, as brothers and sisters, to make their lands livable places where each person may have his share of the national resources. It is important that those in charge of the destinies of African nations persevere in creating conditions for an integral development, marked by solidarity that will actively serve the cause of peace. In this perspective, every member of the national community should take part in civil life so that the state of law and democratic institutions may be consolidated that should foster concern for the service, the honest administration of the common good, respect for ethnic people and communities and the defense of the poorest persons and of families. All this contributes greatly to the political stability of a country and continent.
Many African countries continue to suffer situations of endemic poverty that disfigure people and make them incapable of providing for their needs and the needs of those for whom they are responsible, and jeopardizing in the long run the future of the national communities. I therefore invite the legitimate authorities of the country to pursue the fight against all forms of poverty, that ruin the hopes of individuals and peoples and breed violence and extremism of every kind. In this spirit, I also want to appeal for new vitality in international cooperation, which must be rethought in terms of a culture of solidarity to fight against the negative effects linked to globalization. As "an ethic of solidarity ... international cooperation ... cannot be conceived exclusively in terms of help and assistance ... but also and above all, we must recommit ourselves to that solidarity which enables others to live out, in the actual circumstances of their economic and political lives, the creativity which is a distinguishing mark of the human person and the true source of the wealth of nations in today's world" (John Paul II's Address to the United Nations, New York, 5 October 1995, n. 13; ORE, 11 October 1995, PP 9-10). To promote this ethic of solidarity and human advancement more effectively, I keenly hope that the international community, especially by rethinking the debt of the African countries, will pursue its efforts to support local initiatives that involve the population, by guiding the realization of projects by qualified persons who will help train the primary agents and can verify that the goals have really been achieved.
3. Over the years, the dialogue between the Holy See and the State of Gabon has been intensified. I am very glad to note that cooperation has already borne fruit, especially with the signing and ratification of the "Accord-Framework between the Holy See and the Gabonese Republic on the principles and on certain juridical measures concerning their relations and collaboration", that aims at putting the Church and her activities in your country on a legal footing. I welcome the work undertaken that enables the ecclesial community to be more involved in the life of the entire Gabonese people. She hopes to be involved entirely in the ongoing construction of a prosperous and fraternal nation, based on human and spiritual values, with respect for the Church's specific forms and perspective.
I would also like to stress the importance of the Accord recently signed between the Holy See and the Gabonese Republic on the Status of Catholic Education (ORE, 29 August 2001, p. 2). In offering an integral education for the new generations, the Church specifically wants to make an effective contribution to the human, spiritual, moral and civic formation of the young people who will be the leaders and decision-makers of the country in the future, by encouraging the complete fulfilment of individuals and the harmonious development of society, opening the hearts of young people to their brothers and sisters who surround them.
4. Mr Ambassador, please permit me, through you, to address my cordial greetings to the Bishops, the priests, the men and women religious, and the entire Catholic community of Gabon. I invite them in the name of the hope they have received from Christ to become peacemakers ever more dedicated to urban life and to work in a spirit of dialogue and brotherhood, to build a society that is more fraternal. May they remember that they must bear witness to the human and Gospel values and set an example for all in their personal and social life! Thus they will give glory to Christ, the Saviour of the human person.
5. At the end of our meeting, at the moment when you are beginning your mission, I offer you my very best wishes for the noble task that awaits you. I assure you that you will always find an attentive welcome and cordial understanding with my collaborators.
I cordially invoke upon Your Excellency, upon those who work with you, upon your family, upon the Gabonese people and their leaders an abundance of divine blessings.
Friday, 11 October 2002
1. I am particularly pleased to address this International Catechetical Congress, gathered to observe the 10th anniversary of the publication of the original edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the fifth anniversary of the promulgation of its Latin editio typica.
At the same time, at this important meeting, it is essential to recall other events of the past ten years that have had an impact on ecclesial catechesis: the 25th anniversary of the Fourth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of 1977 dedicated to catechesis, and the fifth anniversary of the publication in 1997 of the new edition of the General Catechetical Directory. Above all, I desire to stress that exactly 40 years ago Blessed John XXIII solemnly opened the Second Vatican Council.
The Catechism so often refers to it that it might well be called the Catechism of the Second Vatican Council. The conciliar texts constitute a sure "compass" for the believers of the third millennium.
2. I warmly thank Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for his words that introduced our gathering and presented your work, and I thank Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, who by mutual accord promoted and presided at this congress. I also address a cordial and grateful greeting to you, Brothers in the Episcopate, and to all of you, representatives of the various local Churches who are involved in different capacities but with the same enthusiasm and courage, in the various international and national organisms set up to promote catechesis.
3. In these days you have prayed, thought and held a dialogue about the perennial but ever new concern of the Catholic Church: how to proclaim the Good News that Christ has entrusted to us. The theme chosen for this congress expresses it extremely well: "Nourish us with the Word, to be "servants of the Word' in the work of evangelization: "euntes in mundum universum'" (going into the whole world).
During these intense days of work, you have tried to put into practice what I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte: "to open [your] hearts to the tide of grace and allow the word of Christ to pass through [you] in all its power: Duc in altum!" (n. 38). For us to welcome and to share with others the proclamation of Christ, who is "the same yesterday, today, and for ever" (He 13,8): this is the incentive that must shape the life of every Christian and of every ecclesial community.
4. For the third millennium which has just begun, the Lord has given us a special instrument for the proclamation of his Word, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 10 years ago.
It has the nature of a privileged gift, at the disposal of the whole Catholic Church and offered "to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1P 3,15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes", is what I wrote in the Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum for the publication of the original edition of the Catechism.
As a complete, integral exposition of the Catholic truth, of the doctrina tam de fide quam de moribus (the teaching on faith and morals) that is always valid for all peoples, in its essential and basic content, it enables people to know and to know more deeply in a positive and serene way what the Catholic Church believes, celebrates, lives and prays.
By presenting Catholic doctrine genuinely and systematically, though in a synthesis (non omnia sed totum: not everything but the whole), the Catechism leads the entire content of catechesis to its vital centre, the Person of Christ the Lord. The ample room given to the Bible, the Eastern and Western Tradition of the Church, to the Holy Fathers, to the Magisterium, to hagiography; the central place given to the rich content of the Christian faith; the interconnection of the four parts that are the framework of the text and highlight the close connection between the lex credendi, lex celebrandi, lex agendi, lex operandi (the law of belief, celebration, acting and behaving), are but a few of the merits of the Catechism which allow us once again to be filled with wonder at the beauty and richness of the message of Christ.
5. Nor should its nature as a collegial magisterial document be forgotten. In fact, suggested by the Synod of Bishops of 1985, drafted by bishops as a result of the consultation of the entire Episcopate, approved by me in its original version of 1992, and promulgated in the Latin editio typica of 1997, destined above all for the Bishops as the authoritative teachers of Catholic faith and those who have the first responsibility for catechesis and evangelization, the text was destined to become a sound and lawfully recognized tool at the service of ecclesial communion, with the hallmark of authority, authenticity and truthfulness that is proper to the ordinary pontifical Magisterium.
Moreover, the warm welcome and widespread distribution it has had in the past 10 years all over the world, even in non-Catholic circles, is a positive witness to its validity and continued timeliness.
All this should not allow us to lessen, but rather make us intensify, our zeal for a more widespread distribution, a more eager welcome and a greater use of it in the Church and in the world, as was generally hoped for and concretely advocated during the work of this congress.
6. The Catechism is called to play a special role with regard to the drafting of local catechisms. It is offered as a sure and authentic "reference text" for them in the sensitive work at the local level of mediating the unique and perennial deposit of faith. Indeed, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is necessary to bring together the marvellous unity of the Christian mystery and the manifold demands and situations of those who are to receive the proclamation.
To achieve this goal, the revised edition of the General Catechetical Directory has been available for five years. As a revision of the 1971 Directory that the Second Vatican Council called for, the new text is an important document to guide and encourage the catechetical renewal that is indispensable for the whole Church.
As is clearly indicated in the preface that sums up the content of the faith presented by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it particularly offers norms and criteria for its presentation, and basic principles for drafting catechisms for particular and local Churches. It formulates the essential lines and basic directions of a sound and rich pedagogy of the faith, inspired by the divine pedagogy and attentive to the multiple, complex situations of those who are the intended audience of the catechetical proclamation, who also live in a manifold cultural universe.
7. I cordially hope that your work will contribute to giving greater emphasis to the pastoral priority of a clear, motivated, integral, systematic and when necessary, also apologetic, catechesis. Such a catechesis will be impressed on the minds and hearts to nourish prayer, shape a Christian life-style and direct the conduct of the faithful.
On the participants of the Congress and upon your work, I invoke the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the perfect "Servant of the Word", who continues to walk ahead of us to show us the Way, to keep our eyes fixed on the Truth and obtain for us every grace of Life, which flows only from Jesus Christ, her Son and our Lord. With my Blessing.
Saturday, 12 October 2002
Your Beatitude and dear Brother,
1. With great joy I welcome you for this meeting which enables us to greet one another in a new way with the kiss of love (cf. 1P 5,14), prior to finding ourselves together before the Lord, tomorrow, during the Eucharistic Liturgy in St Peter's Basilica. Our meeting today offers us the opportunity for a more direct and personal exchange and gives concrete form to a promise: to continue together, as we have in the past few days, to tend the flock that God has entrusted to us by being examples to the flock (cf. ibid, n. 5,2-3), so that it will follow us with docility along the difficult path, but so full of joy, of unity and communion (cf. Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, n. 2).