Speeches 2003 - Thursday, 9 October 2003




Friday, 10 October 2003

Mr President,
Distinguished Parliamentarians!

1. I am grateful for the kind words that the Rt. Hon. Bruce George, President of your Parliamentary Assembly, has addressed to me at the end of the Conference on Freedom of Religion promoted by Mr Marcello Pacini, Head of the Italian Delegation. I cordially greet all present and at the same time I thank you for this courteous visit.

From the start of the Helsinki process, the participating States have recognized the international dimension of the right to religious freedom and its importance for the security and stability of the community of Nations. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe continues in its commitment to ensure that this basic human right, founded on the dignity of the human person, is adequately respected. In a certain sense, the defense of this right is the litmus test for the respect of all the other human rights.

2. Mindful of these efforts, I wish today to express my appreciation and at the same time to encourage you to continue generously in this undertaking. It is true that many young people today grow up without being aware of the spiritual heritage that is theirs. Despite this, the religious dimension does not cease to influence vast groups of citizens.

Therefore, it is important that, while respecting a healthy sense of the State’s secular nature, the positive role of believers in public life should be recognized. This corresponds, among other things, to the demands of a healthy pluralism and contributes to the building up of authentic democracy, to which the OSCE is truly committed.

When States are disciplined and balanced in the expression of their secular nature, dialogue between the different social sectors is fostered and, consequently, transparent and frequent cooperation between civil and religious society is promoted, which benefits the common good.

3. Just as damage is done to society when religion is relegated to the private sphere, so too are society and civil institutions impoverished when legislation — in violation of religious freedom — promotes religious indifference, relativism and religious syncretism, perhaps even justifying them by means of a mistaken understanding of tolerance.

On the contrary, benefit accrues to all citizens when there is appreciation of the religious traditions in which every people is rooted and with which populations generally identify themselves in a particular way. The promotion of religious freedom can also take place through provisions made for the different juridical disciplines of the various religions, provided that the identity and freedom of each religion is guaranteed.

4. Therefore, I can only invite you, dear Legislators, to embrace the commitment that your Countries have made within the OSCE in the area of religious freedom.

The OSCE is also to be commended for recognizing the institutional weight of this freedom: I am thinking in particular of paragraph 16 of the 1989 Final Document of Vienna. Such a high-profile defense of religious freedom is a strong deterrent to the violation of human rights on the part of communities that exploit religion for purposes that are foreign to it. On the other hand, the proper promotion of religion satisfies the aspirations of individuals and groups, transcending them and bringing them to a more perfect fulfilment.

The respect of every expression of religious freedom is therefore seen to be a most effective means for guaranteeing security and stability within the family of Peoples and Nations in the twenty-first century.

Offering you my best wishes, I invoke the blessing of Almighty God upon all of you and upon your work in the service of the human person and of peace.



Saturday, 11 October 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am delighted to offer you my cordial greeting on the occasion of your pilgrimage to the See of Peter during the second centenary of the creation of the Diocese of Ozieri, heir to the age-old history of the ancient ecclesiastical circumscriptions of Castrum and Bisarcium.

I would like first of all to greet your dear Pastor, Bishop Sebastiano Sanguinetti, whom I thank for his courteous words to me on behalf of those present. With him, I greet Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, who comes from your Diocese, too. I also express my greeting to the Mayors and the other civil Authorities, as well as to the priests, Religious and lay people who have spoken. My thoughts take in the whole of your diocesan community and I remember in particular the sick, the elderly, the lonely and all who are in difficulty.

2. I know that you have been preparing for the Jubilee you are celebrating with an intense programme of prayer and reflection over the last five years. I congratulate you! Among the many initiatives you have organized, the great Popular Mission stands out, during which God's word was proclaimed to young people, to families, to the world of work and to every milieu in the Diocese.

At the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, I pointed out to the entire People of God that holiness is the goal to strive for with fresh zeal. I renew this exhortation to you, dear brothers and sisters, as I invite you to look ahead with confidence and hope. Holiness is nourished by ceaseless prayer, listening to the Word, and an intense sacramental life (cf. nn. 30-41).

3. To face the challenges to the Christian community posed by this age of immense, rapid social and cultural changes, it is necessary to be true to the perennial values of the faith and to present them anew in a language suited to the contemporary world. Only a coherent proclamation of the Gospel can make an impact on the men and women of the third millennium who are growing weary of words and are often tempted to despair.

It is vital to start afresh from Christ, who died and rose for us. He is the source to draw from in order to respond to the problems and aspirations of youth, the worries of families, the sufferings of the sick and of so many lonely elderly people. From Christ comes the courage to fight the sad phenomena of illegal activities and violent homicide. With his help it is possible to build a society of solidarity with respect for the dignity of every person.

4. Jesus needs you too, dear Diocese of Ozieri, to make his Gospel better known and understood. Conscious of his mandate to the Apostles - "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15) - may your action be impressed with ever stronger missionary enthusiasm. Spare no effort, neglect no initiative, overlook no means, in order to bring the men and women of Sardinia to encounter the Lord.

I accompany you with prayer, as I express the hope that today too, as in the past, you will know how to interpret your evangelizing mission so as to be witnesses of God's presence among the people who live in Goceano and Logudoro.

With these sentiments, I invoke the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, and with affection I impart to you who are present here, your families and your communities, a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your loved ones and to all the faithful of the Diocese of Ozieri.





To my Venerable Brother Bishop Sergio Goretti of Assisi

1. I am pleased to address a cordial greeting to you and through you, Venerable Brother, to all the participants in the march for peace that is setting out from Perugia and will end in Assisi. In this city, in 1986, I invited the leaders of various religions to an important meeting. Today, as then, I have before my eyes the broad vision of the prophet: all the peoples converging from various points of the earth to gather round God as one great family (cf. Is Is 2,2-5). It was the dream of hope that inspired my Venerable Predecessor, Bl. John XXIII, to write Pacem in Terris, whose 40th anniversary we are celebrating this year, and which this peace march seeks to commemorate.

2. Perhaps it should be recognized that in recent years not much has been invested in defending peace; indeed, at times, preference is given to allocating huge sums for purchasing weapons. It was as if they were "throwing peace to the winds". Many hopes were dampened. The daily news bulletins remind us that wars are continuing to poison people's lives, especially in the poorest countries. For example, how can we forget the long drawn-out violence that is causing blood to flow in the Middle East and in the Holy Land in particular? How can we remain indifferent to the ever broader panorama of conflicts that are involving various parts of earth?

What can we do? Despite the difficulties, we must not lose heart. It is everyone's duty to continue to work for peace and to be peacemakers. Peace is a good for all. Every person is called to be a peacemaker in truth and in love.

3. This year the theme chosen for the march is: "Together let us build a Europe for peace". I congratulate the organizers and those taking part in this praiseworthy event for juxtaposing Europe and peace as two complemary dimensions. We could say that they provide mutual support: one recalls the other.

As a young man, I was able to see from personal experience the tragedy of a Europe without peace. This has driven me to work even more tirelessly to enable Europe to rediscover solidarity in peace and to become an artesan of peace for the other Continents, within and beyond its own frontiers. I am convinced that this mission's full strength and urgency needs to be rediscovered. The European Continent, drawing on its noble spiritual traditions, must generously expend its rich cultural patrimony that has matured in the light of Christ's Gospel for the benefit of all humanity. This is the hope I entrust to the motherly intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, and of St Francis, prophet of peace.

With these sentiments, I send to you and to all who are taking part in this genuine peace initiative my Blessing.

From the Vatican, 11 October 2003






(Kyev, 8-12 October 2003)

1. I extend my greetings of peace to all of you – Cardinals, Venerable Brother Bishops, beloved priests, men and women religious, and lay faithful – who have gathered in Kyiv from different Countries, and not without sacrifice, in order to take part in the Congress of Catholic Laity of Eastern Europe. You have come to this meeting inspired by the same hope that sustains your Churches: Churches of heroes and martyrs, which amidst tribulations, and often to the point of shedding blood, have persevered in faithfulness to Christ the one Lord, in fidelity to the Catholic Church, in affirming the values of truth.

A special word of greeting and thanks goes to Cardinals Lubomyr Husar and Marian Jaworski, without whose precious support this Congress could not have taken place. My gratitude goes also to the Church in the Ukraine — which the Lord allowed me to visit two years ago during the month of June, and of which the memories remain vividly etched in my mind — for agreeing to host such a significant event. I congratulate Cardinal James Stafford for this exciting initiative of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which is a cause of great satisfaction for me.

2. The harsh legacy of atheistic totalitarian regimes, which have left emptiness and deep scars on consciences, requires that the countries of Eastern Europe take up today the hard work of proceeding with religious, moral and civil reconstruction; of strengthening refound sovereignty, freedom and democracy; of mending the economy. On the difficult road that your Nations will have to set out upon in order to take renewed possession of their history and cultural dignity, you, the Christian lay faithful, have an irreplaceable role of fundamental importance. The Lord asks you who have been stalwart witnesses of faith in times of trial and persecution, and in the time that has now seen you regain religious freedom, to prepare the soil for a vigorous rebirth of the Church in your Countries. After long decades of painful separation, which has caused a kind of asphyxia among the Christian communities of the East, Europe can breathe once more with both its lungs, revealing great possibilities for the spread of the Gospel.

3. An old Europe, from West to East, is looking for a new identity. In this process, it must not forget its roots. Europe must remember that Christianity has been the lifeblood from which it has drawn the noblest inspirations of its spirit for two thousand years. As I wrote in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa: “European culture gives the impression of ‘silent apostasy’ on the part of people who have all that they need and live as if God does not exist” (No. 9). And yet there is no lack of encouraging signs of “a great springtime for Christianity” (Redemptoris Missio RMi 86), which can be seen also in the contexts of your Churches. The full blossoming of this springtime, however, will depend on the indispensable contribution of the lay faithful, who are called to make Christ’s Church present in the world by proclaiming and serving the Gospel of hope (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, 41).

The theme of your Congress — “Being witnesses of Christ today” — expresses well the meaning of this mission, which none of the Baptized can delegate to others or avoid. To you, gathered in this marvellous city of Kyiv that witnessed the Baptism of the ancient Rus’, is entrusted the responsibility of passing on to future generations the heritage of Christian faith. This will be possible to the extent that each of you is able to strengthen the awareness of your own Baptism. The sacrament of Baptism makes us children of God called to holiness, members of the Church — the Mystical Body of Christ — with a shared responsibility for building up the Christian community, participants in the Church’s mission of announcing to men and women the Good News of salvation.

The rediscovery of the baptismal dignity of the laity and of their responsibility in the Church’s mission is one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council. For this reason, to you who are gathered in Kyiv I repeat the words that I spoke to the faithful who had assembled in Rome in the year 2000 to celebrate the Jubilee of the Apostolate of the Laity: “We must return to the Council. We must once again take the documents of the Second Vatican Council in hand to rediscover the great wealth of its doctrinal and pastoral motives. In particular, you lay people must again take those documents in hand. To you the Council opened extraordinary perspectives of commitment and involvement in the Church’s mission” (Homily at the Mass for the Jubilee of the Apostolate of the Laity, St. Peter’s Square, 26 November 2000, 3). The Council has made this the hour of the laity in the Church!

Your vocation and mission will bear fruit provided that, in your actions, you are able always to make a return to Christ, to set out from Christ, to keep your gaze fixed firmly on Christ’s face. “You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world” (Mt 5,13): the Lord speaks these words to each of you. Let his light shine in your personal lives, in your families, in your workplaces, in the world of education, culture and politics, in every sector where people work for peace and for the building of a social order that is of a more human dimension and that respects the inalienable dignity of men and women.

4. For the laity, this is a time of hope and courage! The Church needs you and knows that she can entrust great responsibilities to you. I therefore thank your Bishops, priests and religious for the commitment that they have demonstrated up to the present in the formation of mature Christians rooted in the faith. Expressing my gratitude to them, I urge them to continue this work, aiming at a systematic catechesis formulated for different age groups and for different situations and conditions of life. I encourage them especially to invest energy and means in the human and Christian formation of the younger generations, the hope of the Church and the future of mankind. A precious contribution in this regard can be made by associations, church movements and new communities, the experience of which has given birth to fruitful pedagogical paths and a renewed apostolic enthusiasm.

Dear lay faithful, do not be discouraged as you face the challenges of our day! Draw strength from the example and intercession of the martyrs, whose witness is the “supreme incarnation of the Gospel of hope” (Ecclesia in Europa, 13). Make your families true domestic Churches and your parishes true schools of prayer and Christian life. You have regained freedom at the price of great suffering; do not let it ever devolve into the pursuit of false ideals suggested by the utilitarianism, individualistic hedonism or unrestrained consumerism that characterize so much of modern culture. Preserve your rich Christian traditions, resisting the insidious temptation to exclude God from your lives or to reduce faith to gestures and sporadic, superficial occurrences. You are “new” men and women. May your eyes, firmly set on reality, be illuminated by faith and by the teaching of the Church.

5. There should be due consideration in your Churches for the need to promote “a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed” (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43). This should be the case in your Dioceses, parishes, families and societies. Such a spirituality calls us in a special way to a renewed ecumenical commitment. The lay faithful, with a proper formation and always in respect of freedom, in brotherly love, in dialogue and in cooperation, can open new paths to Christian unity, which is a “walking together towards Christ”. Here too I would like to recall the example of the martyrs, whose witness has become the common heritage of the different Christian Churches and speaks louder than those things that bring division (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 37). You too are called to bear witness to Christ together with all our Christian brothers and sisters, wherever you may live and in whatever projects you may undertake in cooperation with them. The love of Christ heals wounds, overcomes prejudices, prepares the paths of unity. Pray unceasingly so that what seems impossible by the standards of human logic will be made possible by God, who offers his powerful assistance. Bing to fulfilment the commandment of his Son: “Ut unum sint” (Jn 17,21).

6. In my ministry as Successor of Peter, as a pilgrim in the world, God has allowed me to visit some of your Countries. Those extraordinary experiences of a joyful welcome and cordial hospitality, of faith and devotion are vividly etched in my mind. Providence alone knows whether I shall be able to continue my pastoral pilgrimages in your blessed lands. Today I embrace you and, together with you, all the peoples, Nations and Christian communities to which you belong. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of the Church and Help of Christians. We turn to her with special devotion in this year dedicated to the Rosary. May the Virgin intercede with her Son so that his grace will nourish and sustain the rebirth of your Churches and your Countries. Expressing the hope that the Congress of Catholic Laity of Eastern Europe will bear the abundant fruits of a renewed commitment to the cause of Christ, I cordially send my special blessing to all the participants and willingly extend it to your loved ones and to all whom you will meet on your path as disciples of Christ.

From the Vatican, 4 October 2003





Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am delighted to address an affectionate greeting to you today on the occasion of the Consultation of the meritorious Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. A special and grateful thought goes to Cardinal Carlo Furno, Grand Master of the Order, who follows your activities with great dedication.

Through you, dear members of the Grand Magisterium and Lieutenants, I express my appreciation to all the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre who work for the Christians in the Holy Land. I praise you all and I encourage you in the support which you never fail to offer to the institutions of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

2. "Grow to serve: serve to grow": this motto is dear to you. It serves as a goal to achieve for every individual member of your Sodality. The needs you must meet to further justice and peace in the region of the Middle East, marked by a persistent and serious social and economic crisis, are numerous, indeed, immense. The desired prospects of peace-making and rebuilding demand the responsible cooperation of all: governments and religious institutions, humanitarian organizations and every person of good will.

Your humanitarian and spiritual action fits into this context. It concerns a particularly vital sector: youth. Aid to the Christians of the Holy Land takes the concrete form of providing children and young people with an appropriate school education. In this regard I hope that it will be increasingly possible to assure a stable Christian education in the schools, in a climate of respect and collaboration between the various members of society.

Equally important is the Order's financial support to "help the charitable, cultural and social institutions of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, particularly those of and in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem" (Statutes, Art. 2).

3. Dear brothers and sisters, part of your mission consists in meeting the needs of the Church in the Holy Land; but it is even more necessary to offer a consistent witness of faith. May your first concern, therefore, be to strive for holiness, which is the universal vocation of all Christians.

Be builders of love and peace, inspired in your life and actions by the Gospel and especially by the mystery of the passion and Resurrection of Christ. May you take as your model Mary, Mother of Believers and ever-ready to adhere joyfully to God's will. Call upon her every day with the beautiful, traditional prayer of the Rosary that helps us to contemplate Christ with the gaze of his holy Mother. This will be a source of growth for you, as it was for your illustrious confrere, Bl. Bartolo Longo.

With these sentiments I cordially impart to each one of you a special Apostolic Blessing that I willingly extend to the members of the entire Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and to their respective families.

From the Vatican, 16 October 2003






Thursday, 16 October 2003

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. With deep joy I sign and present to the whole Church, and ideally to each one of her Bishops, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis. I compiled it from the various contributions offered by the Fathers of the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, whose theme was: "The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World".

I address my cordial and fraternal greeting to the Cardinals, with a special grateful thought for Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, General Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. I then greet the Patriarchs, the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and the Archbishops and Bishops present. Through you, Venerable Brothers, may my affection reach out to the entire Episcopal College, which reflects the universality and unity of the pilgrim People of God in the world (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 22). I extend my greeting to all the particular Churches and their members: priests, deacons, consecrated persons and lay faithful. I assure each one of my spiritual closeness.

2. The Synod Fathers recalled the great importance of episcopal service for the life of the People of God. They reflected at length on the collegial nature of the Episcopate; they stressed that the duties of teaching, sanctifying and governing must be exercised in hierarchical communion and in fraternal unity with the Head and with the other members of the Episcopal College.

The Gospel image of the Good Shepherd was the icon to which the Synod's work constantly referred. The Synodal Assembly has clearly defined what should be the spirit in which the Bishop is called to carry out his service in the Church: knowledge of his flock, love for everyone and attention to each person, compassion and striving to find the stray sheep. These are some of the features that characterize the Bishop's ministry. He is called to be a father, teacher, friend and brother to every person after the example of Christ. By faithfully following this path, he will be able to achieve holiness, a holiness that must not develop apart from his ministry but through the ministry itself.

3. As a herald of the divine Word, teacher and doctor of the faith, the Bishop has the task of teaching the Christian faith with apostolic honesty, representing it in an authentic way.

As "the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood" (Lumen Gentium LG 26), he will make sure that liturgical celebrations are an epiphany of the mystery. In other words, may they be an expression of the genuine nature of the Church, which actively worships God, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit.

As a guide of the Christian people with pastoral and ministerial power, the Bishop must be concerned to encourage the participation of all the faithful in the building up of the Church. He will carry out his specific task with that personal responsibility which derives from his mission at the service of the entire community.

Attentive to the needs of the Church and of the world, he will face the challenges of the present time. He will be a prophet of justice and peace, defender of the rights of the lowly and the marginalized. He will proclaim to all the Gospel of life, truth and love. He will look with special love upon the multitudes of the poor who populate the earth.

Mindful of Christ's desire "ut omnes unum sint" (that all may be one) (Jn 17,21), in the first place he will support the ecumenical process, so that the Church may shine among the peoples to rally them to unity and concord. In addition, in our multiethnic society at the beginning of this third millennium, he will champion interreligious dialogue.

4. Your Eminences, venerable Patriarchs and Brothers in the Episcopate, in presenting to you the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, I well know the multiple tasks that the Lord has entrusted to us. The office to which we are called is a difficult and serious one. Where will we find the strength to carry it out in accordance with Christ's wishes? Undoubtedly, in him alone.

Today, being Pastors of his flock is particularly fatiguing and demanding; nevertheless, we must have faith "contra spem in spem" (Rm 4,18). Christ walks with us and sustains us with his grace.
May Mary Most Holy, who together with the Apostles awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit in persevering prayer, revive hope in us. May she intercede with God so that the radiant face of Christ will always shine out in the Church.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the Pope shares in the concerns, anxieties, sufferings, hopes and joys of your ministry. He is spiritually close to each one of you, as he imparts his Blessing to you all



Friday, 17 October 2003

Dear Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I wish to express cordial thanks to the organizers of this evening's splendid concert, along with the members of the Symphonic Orchestra and the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk Choir, who, guided by the renowned director Howard Arman, carried out their performance with such skill.

My thought then goes to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whom I thank for the best wishes he extended to me in the name of all those present. I greet, in turn, the dear Cardinals, Bishops, Prelates of the Roman Curia, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Authorities and each one here present. The eager participation of many people makes this engagement even more special.

2. The ninth Symphony, the last of Ludwig van Beethoven, was an invitation to reflect on the rich and sometimes dramatic events of human existence. In the grand finale, the hymn of joy guided our thoughts beyond humanity as a whole to the new Europe, which is extending its boundaries to include other Countries. Drawing from the patrimony of the human and Christian values of its past, may the European Continent contribute to the building of a future rich in hope and peace for all of humanity.

A sincere thank you to everyone, from the depths of my heart!

I give you my Blessing.







Saturday, 18 October 2003

Your Eminence, Dean of the College of Cardinals,

Your Eminences and Beatitudes,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I listened with great attention to your message, read by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals. I am deeply grateful for his respectful greeting and cordial good wishes on behalf of everyone here.

I greet the Cardinals, the venerable Patriarchs, the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences and all who have taken part in the Symposium you organized, at which you reviewed some of the doctrinal and pastoral approaches that have inspired the activity of the Successor of Peter in the past 25 years.

I offer you in particular, dear Brothers of the College of Cardinals, my sincere gratitude for the affectionate closeness that you make me feel, not only on this occasion but always, as this meeting, moreover, eloquently demonstrates. In a certain way, the sense of unity and collegiality that must motivate the sacred Pastors in their common service to the People of God is rendered more visible today. Thank you for your witness!

2. Thinking back over the past 25 years, I remember how often you have helped me with your advice to understand better the important questions concerning the Church and humanity. How could I fail to see that the Lord has acted through you in supporting the service to believers and to all men and women that is demanded of Peter?

Contemporary man, as the Dean of the College of Cardinals has wished to stress, is floundering in his breathless search for values. And - according to the intuition of Augustine in former times - he will never find peace except in loving God to the point of being prepared to make the sacrifice of himself.

Speeches 2003 - Thursday, 9 October 2003