Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 18 October 2003

The profound changes that have taken place in the past 25 years call into question our ministry as Pastors, appointed by God as fearless witnesses of truth and hope. We must never lack the courage to proclaim the Gospel; indeed, it must be our prime commitment to the last breath and we must undertake it with ever renewed dedication.

3. The one Gospel proclaimed with one heart and one soul: this is Christ's commandment, and it is this that the Church of today and of all time demands of us, as individuals and as a College. This is what today's men and women expect of us.

It is thus imperative that we foster among one another deep unity, which is not limited to affective collegiality but rooted in full doctrinal sharing and practically expressed in harmonious understanding.

How could we be authentic teachers for humanity or credible apostles of the new evangelization if we were to allow the discord of division to enter our hearts? The people of our time need Christ and his words of salvation. Indeed, the Lord alone can give true answers to the anxieties and questions of our contemporaries. He has sent us out into the world as a single, undivided College that must witness with a unanimous voice to him, to his words, to his ministry. Our credibility depends on this!

Our work will be all the more effective the better able we are to make the face of the Church shine out, the Church which loves the poor, which is simple and which takes the part of the weakest. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom I will have the joy of adding to the Book of Saints tomorrow, is an emblematic example of this Gospel attitude.

4. Your Eminences, who have come from every continent and belong in a special way to the venerable Church of Rome, can give the Successor of Peter effective support in the fulfilment of his mission. With your ministry, with the wisdom you have acquired from your own culture, with the zeal of your consecration, you form a crown of honour that makes the face of Christ's Bride even more beautiful. This is another reason why you are asked to strive constantly for more complete fidelity to God and his Church. Indeed, holiness is the secret of evangelization and of any authentic pastoral renewal.

As I assure each one of you of my remembrance in prayer, I ask you to continue to pray for me that I may carry out my service to the Church faithfully for as long as the Lord desires. May Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany and protect us, and may Luke the Evangelist whose feast we are celebrating today, intercede for us.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart to you all a special Apostolic Blessing.

After singing the "Our Father", Pope John Paul II personally greeted the 59 Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and of the Pontifical Councils and presented the Prelates a Pectoral Cross designed by the Savi brothers.



Holy Father,

The College of Cardinals has gathered to thank the Lord and you for your 25 years of fruitful work as Successor of St Peter, as it is only right to remember at this time. In these years, the Barque of the Church has often had to sail against the wind and on rough seas. The sea of history is agitated by conflicts between the rich and the poor, between peoples and cultures; by the prospects opened by human ability and the risk that human beings run of self-destruction because of these same possibilities. At times the sky appears to be covered by heavy clouds that conceal God from the eyes of men and women and call the faith into question.

Today more than ever, we are experiencing that the history of the world - as Augustine saw it - is a struggle between two forms of love: love of self to the point of contempt for God, and love of God to the point of being prepared to sacrifice oneself for God and for one's neighbour. And although the signs of people's presumption and of distancing themselves from God are being felt and perceived more than the witness of love, thanks be to God we can see today that his light has never been extinguished in history; the great array of Saints and Blesseds whom you, Holy Father, have raised to the honour of the altars, is an eloquent sign: in them we recognize with delight God's presence in history and his love, mirrored on the faces of the men and women blessed by God.

In this span of time, Your Holiness, constantly comforted by the loving presence of the Mother of Jesus, you have guided us with the joy of faith, the undaunted courage of hope and the enthusiasm of love. You have enabled us to see God's light despite all the clouds, and made sure that the weakness of our faith, which all too easily prompts us to exclaim: "Save us, Lord; we are perishing" (Mt 8,25), does not prevail. Today we wholeheartedly thank you for this service.

As a pilgrim of the Gospel, like the Apostles you set out and crossed the continents bearing the proclamation of Christ, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the proclamation of forgiveness, of love and of peace. Unflaggingly, you have proclaimed the Gospel in season and out of season, and in its light you have reminded all people of the fundamental human values: respect for human dignity, the defence of life, the promotion of justice and peace. Above all, you have gone out to meet the young, communicating to them the fire of your faith, your love for Christ and your willingness to dedicate yourself to him, body and soul.

You have been concerned with the sick and the suffering and have launched a passionate appeal to the world to share the goods of the earth equitably and so that the poor may have justice and love.

You have interpreted the commandment of unity that the Lord gave to his disciples as a commandment addressed to you personally; this has led you to do your utmost to make believers in Christ one, so that the benevolent power of God himself may be recognized in the miracle of unity that human beings are powerless to create. You have gone out to meet people of other religions, to reawaken in all the desire for peace and the readiness to become instruments of peace.

Thus, over and above all the barriers and divisions, you have become for all humanity a great messenger of peace. You have never ceased to appeal to the consciences of the powerful or to comfort those who are victims of the lack of peace in this world. In this way, you have obeyed the Lord who bequeathed this promise to his followers: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" (Jn 14,27). Precisely in meeting the needs of others, you have never allowed anyone to doubt that Christ is the Love of God made flesh, the Only Son and Saviour of all. For you, to proclaim Christ is not to impose something foreign on anyone but to communicate to all what each one basically longs for: the eternal love that every human heart is secretly awaiting.

"The Redeemer of man is the centre of the universe and of history": these opening words of your first Encyclical were like a clarion call that invited us to a religious reawakening, centering all things once again in Christ.

Holy Father, the College of Cardinals, at the end of this Congress during which it has recalled only a few aspects of the 25 years of your Pontificate, desires unanimously to reaffirm its filial attachment to your person and its faithful, total loyalty to your lofty Magisterium as Pastor of the universal Church.

"The joy of the Lord is your strength", Ezra the priest said to the people of Israel at a difficult moment (Ne 8,10). You, Holy Father, have rekindled in us this joy of the Lord. We are grateful to you for this. May the Lord always fill you with his joy.




Saturday, 18 October 2003

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I cherish moving memories in my heart of the solemn celebration of the Eucharist last Thursday that made me relive the events of 25 years ago. I share this fraternal agape with you with joy and gratitude. In this way we are prolonging the intense communion experienced during the interesting Symposium organized by the College of Cardinals.

I warmly thank each one of you, venerable Brothers, for the affectionate closeness that you demonstrate on every occasion. I am particularly grateful to Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State, who expressed your common sentiments, and to the whole College of Cardinals for their generous gift. It will be used for the Christian communities in the Holy Land, so harshly tried.

2. We will continue to meet one another in the next few days, first for the Beatification of Mother Teresa and then for the Consistory. These days, full of meaning, highlight the unity and vitality of the Church.

I extend my grateful thoughts to the Director and personnel of this welcoming and efficient house that is offering us hospitality, as well as to those who have prepared our meal.

3. Once again thank you, thank you all for your presence and for your love for the Church. When you return home, please convey to your Ecclesial Communities and your faithful my greeting and assurance that the Pope loves them. Thank them especially for their prayers and for the spiritual closeness that they have shown to me in these days. I now impart my Blessing to you and to your Communities, with deep affection.



Monday, 20 October 2003

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Men and Women Missionaries of Charity,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I cordially greet you and joyfully join you in thanking God for the beatification of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I was bound to her by deep esteem and sincere affection. I am therefore particularly glad to be with you, her spiritual daughters and sons. I especially greet Sr Nirmala, recalling the day on which Mother Teresa came to Rome to introduce her to me in person. I extend my thoughts to all the members of the great spiritual family of this new Blessed.

2. A "Missionary of Charity: this is what Mother Teresa was in name and in fact". Today with deep feeling I repeat these words that I spoke the day after her death (Angelus, 7 September 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English Edition, 10 September, n. 1).

First and foremost a missionary: there is no doubt that the new Blessed was one of the greatest missionaries of the 20th century. The Lord made this simple woman who came from one of Europe's poorest regions a chosen instrument (cf. Acts Ac 9,15) to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world, not by preaching but by daily acts of love towards the poorest of the poor. A missionary with the most universal language: the language of love that knows no bounds or exclusion and has no preferences other than for the most forsaken.

A Missionary of Charity. A missionary of God who is love, who has a special preference for the least and the humble, who bends over the human being wounded in body and spirit and pours "the oil of consolation and the wine of hope" upon the wounds. God did this in the person of his Son made man, Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan of humanity. He continues to do this in the Church, especially through the saints of charity in whose ranks Mother Teresa shines in a special way.

3. Where did Mother Teresa find the strength to place herself completely at the service of others? She found it in prayer and in the silent contemplation of Jesus Christ, his Holy Face, his Sacred Heart. She herself said as much: "The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace". Peace, even at the side of the dying, even in nations at war, even in the face of attacks and hostile criticism. It was prayer that filled her heart with Christ's own peace and enabled her to radiate that peace to others.

4. A missionary of charity, a missionary of peace, a missionary of life. Mother Teresa was all these. She always spoke out in defence of human life, even when her message was unwelcome. Mother Teresa's whole existence was a hymn to life. Her daily encounters with death, leprosy, AIDS and every kind of human suffering made her a forceful witness to the Gospel of life. Her very smile was a "yes" to life, a joyful "yes", born of profound faith and love, a "yes" purified in the crucible of suffering. She renewed that "yes" each morning, in union with Mary, at the foot of Christ's Cross. The "thirst" of the crucified Jesus became Mother Teresa's own thirst and the inspiration of her path of holiness.

5. Teresa of Calcutta was truly a Mother. A mother to the poor and a mother to children. A mother to so many girls and young people who had her as their spiritual guide and shared in her mission. The Lord brought forth from a tiny seed, a great tree, laden with fruit (cf. Mt Mt 13,31-32). And precisely you, sons and daughters of Mother Teresa, are the most eloquent signs of this prophetic fruitfulness. Keep her charism unaltered and follow her example, and from Heaven she will not fail to sustain you in your daily journey.

However, today more than ever, Mother Teresa's message is an invitation addressed to us all. Her entire existence reminds us that being Christian means being witnesses of charity. This is what the new Blessed entrusts to us. Echoing her words, I urge each one to follow generously and courageously in the footsteps of this authentic disciple of Christ. On the path of charity, Mother Teresa walks at your side.

I cordially impart to you and to your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing.




Thursday, 23 October 2003

Venerable Brother Cardinals,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. After the solemn celebrations of last Tuesday and of yesterday, I am happy to meet with you today, too.

I greet first of all you, venerable Italian Cardinals. Together with you, I wish to greet your families, friends and those from your dioceses who have come for your installation. I am certain that they will continue to follow you with prayer and with their affectionate help.

I greet the new English-speaking Cardinals with the pilgrims who have accompanied them to Rome. May your time in the City of the Apostles confirm you in faith, hope and love. I cordially bless all of you.

2. Venerable and dear Brothers, in renewing to you my fraternal greeting and my fervent good wishes for the mission that has been entrusted to you for the service of the entire Church, I wish to commend you and your ministry to the heavenly protection of the Holy Virgin. May Sts Peter and Paul also intercede for you.

With these sentiments, I heartily renew my Blessing to you and to those who joyfully and affectionately accompany you, as well as to all those whom you will encounter in your pastoral ministry.



Thursday, 23 October 2003

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

1. “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (1Tm 1,2). With these words of greeting I cordially welcome you, the Bishops of England and Wales. I thank Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor for the good wishes and kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and I assure you of my prayers for yourselves and those entrusted to your pastoral care. In “coming to see Peter” (Ga 1,18) you strengthen in faith, hope and charity your bonds of communion with the Bishop of Rome. Your first visit ad Limina Apostolorum of this new millennium is an occasion to affirm your commitment to make the face of Christ increasingly more visible within the Church and society through consistent witness to the Gospel that is Jesus Christ himself (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, 6).

2. England and Wales, despite being steeped in a rich Christian heritage, today face the pervasive advance of secularism. At the root of this situation is the attempt to promote a vision of humanity apart from God and removed from Christ. It is a mentality which exaggerates individualism, sunders the essential link between freedom and truth, and consequently destroys the mutual bonds which define social living. This loss of a sense of God is often experienced as “the abandonment of man” (ibid.,9). Social disintegration, threats to family life, and the ugly spectres of racial intolerance and war, leave many men and women, and especially the young, feeling disoriented and at times even without hope. Consequently it is not just the Church which encounters the disturbing effects of secularism but civic life as well.

Jesus Christ, alive in his Church, enables us to overcome the bewilderment of our age. As Bishops we are called to remain vigilant in our duty to proclaim with clear and passionate certainty that Jesus Christ is the source of hope; a hope that does not disappoint (cf. Rom Rm 5,5). The faithful of England and Wales look to you with great expectation to preach and teach the Gospel which dispels the darkness and illuminates the way of life. Daily proclamation of the Gospel and a life of holiness is the vocation of the Church in every time and place. This mandate, which manifests the Church’s deepest identity, requires the utmost solicitude. The phenomena of secularism and widespread religious indifference, the decline in vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life, and the grave difficulties experienced by parents in their attempts to catechize their own children, all attest to the vital need for Bishops to embrace their fundamental mission to be authentic and authoritative heralds of the Word (cf. Pastores Gregis ). For this to be achieved Bishops, called by Christ to be teachers of the truth, “have the obligation of fostering and safeguarding the unity of faith and of upholding the discipline which is common to the whole Church” (Lumen Gentium LG 23). It is by fidelity to the ordinary Magisterium of the Church, by strict adherence to the discipline of the universal Church, and by positive statements which clearly instruct the faithful, that a Bishop preserves God’s people from deviations and defections and guarantees them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 890).

3. Dear Brothers, your reports clearly indicate that you have taken to heart my profound conviction that the new millennium demands a “new impetus in Christian living” (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 29). If the Church is to satisfy the thirst of men and women for truth and authentic values upon which to build their lives no effort can be spared in finding effective pastoral initiatives to make Jesus Christ known.

In the midst of recurring impulses to division, suspicion and opposition, the great challenge facing us is to make the Church the home and school of communion (cf. ibid., 43), recognizing that she is “a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Lumen Gentium LG 4). Thus it is of great importance that the catechetical and religious education programmes which you have introduced should continue to deepen the faithful’s understanding and love of Christ and his Church. Authentic pedagogy on prayer, persuasive catechesis on the meaning of liturgy and the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, and promotion of the frequent practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (cf. Congregation for the Clergy: Instruction The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community, 27) will do much to meet this pastoral goal and enkindle in the hearts of your people the joy and peace deriving from participation in the Church’s life and mission.

4. Integral to the success of your programmes of pastoral renewal is the role of priestly ministry. The Church needs humble and holy priests whose daily journey of conversion will inspire the entire People of God to the holiness to which it is called (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 9). Firmly grounded in a personal relationship of deep communion and friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd, the priest not only will find sanctification for himself but will become a model of holiness for the people he is called to serve. Assure your priests that the Christian faithful – indeed society at large – depend upon and are greatly appreciative of them. I am confident in this regard that you will show them your special affection by accompanying them as fathers and brothers along all the stages of their ministerial life (cf. Pastores Gregis ).

Similarly, Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters need to be encouraged as they too seek to enrich ecclesial communion by their cooperative presence and ministry in your Dioceses. As a gift to the Church, the consecrated life lies at her very heart, manifesting the deep beauty of the Christian vocation to selfless, sacrificial love. Your recent endeavours to promote a “culture of vocation” will certainly become a welcome sign of the treasure of the various states of ecclesial life which together exist “that the world may believe” (Jn 17,21).

As a priority in your response to the call for a new evangelization, I am heartened to learn of your resolute efforts to bring further energy to youth ministry. The growth of groups such as “Youth 2000” and the development of university chaplaincy programmes are evidence of the desire of many young people to share in the Church’s life. As ministers of hope, Bishops must build the future together with those to whom the future is entrusted (cf. Pastores Gregis ). Offer them an integral Christian formation and challenge them to follow Christ. You will find their enthusiasm and generosity exactly what is needed to promote a spirit of renewal not just among themselves but in the entire Christian community.

5. Evangelization of culture is a central aspect of the new evangelization, for “at the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God” (Centesimus Annus CA 24). As Bishops, you rightly seek to find ways for the truth of Christ to be given due consideration in the public arena. In this regard, I recognize the fine contribution of your pastoral letters and statements on matters of concern in your society. I urge you to continue to ensure that such statements give full and clear expression to the whole of the Church’s magisterial teaching. Of particular concern is the need to uphold the uniqueness of marriage as a lifelong union between a man and a woman in which as husband and wife they share in God’s loving work of creation. Equating marriage with other forms of cohabitation obscures the sacredness of marriage and violates its precious value in God’s plan for humanity (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 3).

Without doubt a primary factor in the shaping of today’s culture is the mass media. The fundamental moral requirement of all communication is that it should respect and serve the truth. Your efforts to assist those working in this field to exercise their responsibility are commendable.

Though these efforts may at times meet with resistance, I encourage you to endeavour to work together with the men and women of the media. Invite them to join you in breaking down barriers of mistrust and in striving to bring peoples together in understanding and respect.

6. Finally, within the context of the evangelization of culture, I wish to acknowledge the fine contribution of your Catholic schools both to enriching the faith of the Catholic community and to promoting excellence within civic life in general. Recognizing the profound changes that affect the world of education, I encourage teachers, lay and Religious, in their primary mission of ensuring that those who have been baptized “become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received” (Gravissimum Educationis GE 2). While religious education, the heart of any Catholic school, is today a challenging and taxing apostolate, there are also many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and to practise it with vigour. If this awakening in faith is to grow, we need teachers with a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. This must be articulated at every level if our young people and their families are to experience the harmony between faith, life and culture (cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Consecrated Persons and their Mission in Schools, 6). Here I would make a special appeal to your Religious not to abandon the school apostolate (cf. Pastores Gregis ) and indeed to renew their commitment to serve also in schools situated in poorer areas. In places where much exists to lure youth away from the path of truth and genuine freedom, the consecrated person’s witness to the evangelical counsels is an irreplaceable gift.

7. Dear Brothers, with fraternal affection I share these reflections with you and assure you of my prayers as you seek to make the face of Christ ever more recognizable in your communities. The message of hope which you proclaim will not fail to evoke fresh fervour and a renewed commitment to Christian life. United in our love of the Lord and inspired by the example of the newly beatified Mother Teresa of Calcutta, let us go forward in hope! With these sentiments I commend you to Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, that she may sustain you in pastoral wisdom, strengthen you in fortitude and enkindle in your hearts love and compassion. To you and to the priests, deacons, Religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Saturday, 25 October 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to offer my cordial welcome to you all, who have gathered in Rome on the occasion of the solemn celebrations for the fourth centenary of the birth of St Joseph of Cupertino. I greet first of all the dear Friars Minor Conventual, accompanied by their Minister General, Fr Joachim Giermek, whom I thank for his courteous words on behalf of all those present. A special thought goes to Cardinal Sergio Sebastiani and the Pastors of the ecclesial communities who are taking part in today's pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles. Lastly, I greet you, dear pilgrims who have come from Puglia, Umbria and the Marches, places linked to the passage on earth and to the memory of this "Flying Saint".

As I mentioned in my Message published last February, Joseph of Cupertino continues to be an extraordinarily up-to-date Saint, for he is "spiritually close to the people of our time", whom he taught "to pursue the path of daily holiness, that flows from the faithful fulfilment of daily duties" (Message to the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, n. 9).

2. Indeed, St Joseph was first and foremost a teacher of prayer. His day was centred on Holy Mass, followed by long hours of adoration before the tabernacle. The most genuine Franciscan tradition states that he felt drawn to and moved by the mysteries of the Incarnation and Passion of the Lord. St Joseph of Cupertino lived in intimate union with the Holy Spirit; he was entirely possessed by the Spirit, from whom he learned the things of God in order to then express them in simple language that all could understand. Those who encountered him were content to listen to what he said for, as we learn from his biographers, although he was not an orator and his handwriting was uneven, when he spoke of God he was transformed.

3. Secondly, the Saint of Cupertino continues to speak to young people, and in particular to students who venerate him as their patron. He urges them to fall in love with the Gospel, to "put out into the deep" in the vast oceans of the world and of history, while firmly anchored to contemplation of the Face of Christ.

My hope is that you, dear young people and students, as well as those of you who work in the sector of culture and education, may follow St Joseph's example, striving to combine the wisdom of the faith with the rigorous methods of science, so that human wisdom, ever open to transcendence, may move safely on towards fuller and fuller knowledge of the truth.

4. St Joseph of Cupertino shines out as an exemplary model of holiness for his confreres of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Conventual. His constant effort to belong only to Christ made him an icon of the Friar "Minor" who, at the school of the "Poverello" of Assisi, makes Christ the centre of his entire existence. Eloquent is his determined commitment to turn his heart constantly to God so that nothing would separate him from "his" Jesus, whom he loved above all things and all people.

May the witness of this great Saint that shines with a special brightness in his centenary be an encouraging message of evangelical life. To those who have embraced the ideals of a life of consecration, he makes a strong appeal to live totally consecrated to the Lord and to the indispensable service of charity to their brethren.

5. Like all the Saints, Joseph of Cupertino never goes out of fashion! Four centuries later, his witness continues to invite everyone to be holy. Even if he belonged to an age in some ways so very different from our own, he points to a path of spirituality that is valid in every age; he recalls the primacy of God, the need for prayer and contemplation, passionate, trusting adherence to Christ, commitment to the missionary proclamation, and love of the Cross.

As I express once again the hope that the centenary celebrations will help to make the "Flying Saint" better known, I invoke upon all the organizers and participants the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary.

With these sentiments and wishes, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here, to your communities and to all the supporters of the Saint of Cupertino in Italy and throughout the world.





To Reverend Mons. Walter Brandmüller

President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences

1. With a view to the 14th centenary of the death of my Predecessor, St Gregory the Great, the "Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei" [the Italian Academy] and the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences intend to commemorate together this eminent figure, a Successor of Peter to whom the title "the Great" has rightly been attributed. In recalling figures and events of the past that made a deep mark on their time, historiography renders a valid service to future generations because it brings into the limelight human models who transmitted values that are universal and, as such, valid for every epoch. This is the case of St Gregory the Great; I would like here to emphasize certain aspects of his personality that I consider particularly important.

2. Gregory was the son of an old Roman family which had long been Christian. The atmosphere of his home and the education he received enabled him to become familiar with the heritage of the different branches of knowledge and of classical literature.

As an attentive researcher of the truth, he realized that the patrimony of classical antiquity, in addition to that of the Christian heritage, was a valuable basis for subsequent scientific and human development. Still today, his insight has retained its full value for the future of humanity and, especially, of Europe. Indeed, it is impossible to build the future by ignoring the past. That is why, on various occasions, I have urged the competent Authorities to appreciate the rich classical and Christian "roots" of European civilization as they deserve, to pass on their sap to the new generations.

Another significant feature of St Gregory the Great was his commitment to shedding light on the primacy of the human person, considered not only in his physical, psychological and social dimensions but also in constant reference to his eternal destiny. This is a truth on which today's world should focus greater attention if it wishes to build a world with deeper respect for the multiple needs of every human being.

3. St Gregory the Great has often been called "the last of the Romans". Indeed, he had deep roots in the city of Rome, its people and its traditions. As Supreme Pontiff, he never lost sight of the Orbis Romanus. Not only did he take care of the part of the Roman Empire, Byzantium, that he knew well due to his long stay in Constantinople, but he extended his pastoral care to Spain, Gaul, Germany and Britain, all of which were then part of the Roman Empire.

Motivated by exemplary zeal to spread the Gospel, he encouraged an intense missionary activity which expressed a Roman spirit purified and inspired by the Gospel, no longer concerned with asserting political power but keen to bring the saving message of Christ to all peoples.

The great Pontiff's inner disposition is evident in the directions he carefully imparted to the Abbot Augustine, whom he sent to Britain: he explicitly asked him to respect the customs of those peoples, as long as they did not conflict with the Christian faith. Thus, Gregory the Great, in addition to fostering the missionary concern that was inherent in his ministry, made a crucial contribution to the harmonious integration of the various peoples of Western Christendom.

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 18 October 2003