Speeches 2003 - Friday, 31 October 2003




Venerable Brothers,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. The Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences has most appropriately wished to commemorate the centenary of the death of Pope Leo XIII, of venerable memory. In fact, my illustrious Predecessor did not limit himself to founding the Cardinals' Commission for the promotion of historical studies, which gave birth to today's Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, but he also gave an effective impetus to the historical sciences by opening the Vatican Secret Archives and the Vatican Apostolic Library.

I am therefore delighted at this initiative and I am pleased to greet each of you who in these days have come to honour the memory of such an enlightened Pontiff, emphasizing in particular his merits in the field of the historical sciences.

2. As is well known, Leo XIII's influence effectively extended to the various contexts of the Church's pastoral action and commitment to culture. I have had various opportunities to reflect on some of these on previous occasions. I am thinking, for example, of Pope Pecci's particular concern for the social problems arising in the second half of the 19th century, which he expressly addressed in the Encyclical Letter Rerum Novarum. I also dedicated an Encyclical, Centesimus Annus, to this theme of the Church's social doctrine, with ample references to that fundamental Document (cf. nn. 4-11).

Moreover, I recall the strong encouragement that Leo XIII gave to the renewal of philosophical and theological studies, in particular with the publication of the Encyclical Letter Aeterni Patris, through which he also contributed significantly to the development of Neothomism. It is to this particular aspect of his Magisterium that I referred in the Encyclical Fides et Ratio (cf. nn. 57-58).

Finally, his profound Marian devotion and his pastoral sensibility concerning the traditional forms of popular piety centred on the Blessed Virgin, and for the Rosary in particular, should not be forgotten. I highlighted this in my recent Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, in which I remembered his Encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio and his other numerous interventions on this prayer, which he recommended "as an effective spiritual tool in the face of the evils of society" (n. 2).

3. Keeping in mind this broad theological, cultural and pastoral context in which Pope Leo XIII's actions took place, the present Congress affords me the welcome opportunity of pondering on the influence of the great Pontiff in the context of historical studies.

Like Leo XIII, I too am personally convinced that it benefits the Church to bring to light, to the extent that this is possible through the instruments of the sciences, the full truth about the 2,000 years of her history.

Historians, of course, are asked not only to apply scrupulously all the tools of historical methodology, but also to pay careful attention to the scientific ethic that must always distinguish their research. In his well-known Document Saepenumero Considerantes, Leo XIII addressed to scholars of history Cicero's famous warning: "Primam esse historiae legem ne quid falsi dicere audeat, deinde ne quid veri non audeat; ne qua suspicio gratiae sit in scribendo, ne qua simultatis" (Leonis XIII Acta, III, 268).

These very wise words compel the historian neither to accuse nor to judge the past, but to strive patiently to understand everything with the maximum penetration and breadth in order to draw a historical picture as close as possible to the true facts.

4. On various occasions in the course of these years, I have stressed the need for the "healing of memories", the indispensable premise for an international order of peace (cf., for example, Message for the World Day of Peace 1997, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 18/25 December 1996, p. 3).

Those who investigate the roots of the current conflicts in various parts of the globe discover that the negative consequences of events in past centuries continue to be felt also in the present. All too often - and this makes the situation more complex - these "contaminating' memories have become integral elements of the national identity and, in some cases, even of the religious identity. This is why we must avoid any manipulation of the truth. The historians' love for their own peoples, for their own communities, even religious communities, must not interfere with the strict elaboration of scientific truth. The process of healing the memory begins here.

5. The invitation to honour historical truth obviously does not mean that the scholar should abdicate his own approach or deny his identity: all that is expected of him is a readiness to understand and to forego ever making a hasty or factitious judgment.

In fact, in the study of history it is impossible to apply automatically to the past criteria and values acquired only in the course of the centuries. Rather, it is important first of all to make the effort to return to the social-cultural context of the period, to understand what occurred on the basis of the motivations, circumstances and implications of the period under examination. Historical events are the result of a complex interaction between human freedom and personal and structural conditioning. All this should be borne in mind when a seeking "to heal the memory" is intended.

6. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is clear from these reflections that before any process of reconciliation can start with other people or communities, it is necessary first of all to be reconciled with the past. For both individuals and peoples, this effort to purify memory entails that actual errors be recognized, for which it is right to ask forgiveness: "One cannot remain a prisoner of the past", I cautioned, in the Message quoted above (ibid.). This sometimes demands great courage and self-denial. However, it is the only way that social groups and nations, freed from the dead weight of former resentment, can join forces with reciprocal brotherly loyalty to create a better future for all.
May this always happen! This is the wish that I reinforce with special remembrance in prayer. As I renew to each one of you my deep gratitude for your service to the Church, I offer you my best wishes in the Lord and cordially bless you all.

From the Vatican, 28 October 2003


                                                          November 2003





To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Walter Kasper
President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

1. I willingly address this Message to you in order to ask you to be kind enough to convey my greeting to the Members, Consultors and Officials of this Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on the occasion of its Plenary Assembly. Many of the participants in this important event are associated for the first time with the task entrusted to the Pontifical Council, and thus starting to share directly in the "passion" for the unity of all Christ's disciples.

That the disciples "may all be one" was Christ's prayer to the Father on the eve of his Passion (cf. Jn Jn 17,20-23). It is a prayer that demands our commitment since it constitutes an indispensable task for the Church, which feels called to spare no effort in hastening its fulfilment. In fact, "to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father's plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ's prayer: "ut unum sint'" (Encyclical Ut Unum Sint UUS 9).

2. I am certain that the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, as well as the experts in various disciplines gathered at the plenary meeting, are fully aware of the Church's urgent need to advance in the task of re-establishing full communion among Christians. Moreover, the commitment with which my Predecessors have worked and prayed for the achievement of this goal is visible to all. I myself have said several times that the movement directed at restoring unity among all Christians is one of the great pastoral concerns of my Pontificate. Today, 25 years after my election to the See of Peter, I thank the Lord because I can see that in the ecumenical process, despite the ups and downs, we have taken important and meaningful steps towards our goal.

3. Of course, the ecumenical route is not an easy one. As we gradually progress, we can more easily make out the obstacles and estimate their difficulty. The same goal declared in the various theological dialogues in which the Catholic Church is engaged with the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities seems even in certain cases to become more problematic. The prospect of full and visible communion can sometimes give rise to distressing phenomena and reactions in those who want to accelerate the process at all costs, or in those who become discouraged at the long journey ahead. We are learning at the school of ecumenism, however, to live this interim period with humble trust, aware that it is, in any case, a journey of no return.

Together let us overcome disagreements and difficulties, together let us recognize our non-compliance and procrastinations regarding unity, let us re-affirm our desire for reconciliation wherever it seems threatened by mistrust or suspicion. All this can only be done, in the Catholic Church herself and in her ecumenical action, by starting out with the conviction that there is no other option, for "the movement promoting Christian unity is not just some sort of "appendix' which is added to the Church's traditional activity. Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work" (ibid., n. 20).

4. Like a beacon to guide us between the shadows of the divisions inherited from so many centuries of sinning against unity, our steadfast hope endures that Christ's Spirit will sustain us on this crossing, healing our weaknesses and reticence and teaching us to live his commandment of love to the full: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35).

The force of love impels us towards one another and prepares us for listening, dialogue, conversion and renewal (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1). The main theme of this Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity - "Ecumenical spirituality" - fits most appropriately into this specific context.

5. In the course of the years, many initiatives have been started to encourage Christians to pray. I wrote in the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint: "Along the ecumenical path to unity, pride of place certainly belongs to common prayer, the prayerful union of those who gather together around Christ himself" (n. 22). Among these initiatives, the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity" deserves special encouragement. I myself have often urged people to make it a widespread practice that is supported everywhere, not a routine habit but a prayer that is constantly enlivened by the sincere desire for an ever broader commitment to restoring the unity of all the baptized. Indeed, I have also encouraged the faithful of the Catholic Church in many ways not to forget in their daily conversation with God to make their own the prayer for Christian unity. I am therefore deeply grateful to those who have supported my concern and have constantly prayed for Christian unity in their conversation with the Lord.

Forty years after the celebration of the Second Vatican Council, when many of the pioneers of ecumenism have already entered the Father's House, we can see in looking back over the ground covered that we have come a long way and have entered the very heart of the divisions, exactly where they hurt most. This has come about above all thanks to prayer. We must, therefore, take note of the "primacy" we should give to the commitment to pray. Only an intense ecumenical spirituality, lived in docility to Christ and fully open to the promptings of the Spirit, will help us live with the necessary dynamism this interim period in which we must sum up our progress and our defeats, with the lights and the shadows on our journey of reconciliation.

6. I hope, Your Eminence, that new insights will stem from the Plenary Assembly of this Pontifical Council that will broaden ecumenical spirituality and root it more deeply in the souls of all. This will be an effective antidote to any discouragement, doubt or hesitation. The most truly pleasing sacrifice to offer to God is peace and fraternal concord among Christians: the spectacle of a people gathered together by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (cf. St Cyprian, De Dominica Oratione, 23: PL 4, 536).

My Blessing to you all!

From the Vatican, 3 November 2003





Tuesday, 4 November 2003

I cordially welcome all of you here present and thank the dear Archbishops for their kind words. I greet the pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Danzig who, according to the tradition started some years ago, join me on the feast day of my Patron Saint, St Charles Borromeo. I also greet the pilgrims of the Dioceses of Gniezno and of Tarnów, together with their Bishops. Thank you very much for coming. My heartfelt appreciation goes to all of the artists who have prepared this fine programme.

In a particular way, I would like to greet the members and friends of the John Paul II Foundation who have organized this festive evening. I am grateful because this has become the occasion to meet a large group of my fellow countrymen: residents of Rome and those who have come from various parts of the world. It has been a long time since we have had a get-together of this sort. In a certain sense, this is inscribed in the purpose that was given to the Foundation 20 years ago. Indeed, the original Statutes state that the Foundation's religious, cultural, scientific, pastoral and charitable work is placed at the service of the Polish people who live in Poland and those who have emigrated, in order to facilitate the consolidation of the traditional ties that exist between Poland and the Holy See, and to help spread the patrimony of Polish Christian culture and in-depth study of Church doctrine.

Today the Foundation's scope and work have been extended and have taken on an international character. Nevertheless, we cannot forget the Polish roots; it is good that today they were remembered in this poetic way.

Friends of the Foundation in the United States and Indonesia are present today. I cordially greet them and express my gratitude to them for their willing and generous participation in this work. I thank you not only for your material support for the Foundation but also for your active initiatives of a religious and cultural nature, which become opportunities for evangelization and for spreading a culture permeated by the Christian spirit. God bless you!

Then I greet the Foundation's friends who have come from France. I know how much good is done thanks to your dedication, your witness of faith and affection for the Successor of Peter. I thank you for the help you give to the Foundation and to all those who benefit from your initiatives. I pray that God may sustain you with his grace and blessing.

I cordially greet the guests who have come from Rome and Italy. I gratefully affirm that in this country the Foundation is able to develop its activity in an atmosphere of benevolent support. I express my particular thanks to Cardinal Camillo Ruini and to the Italian Bishops' Conference for the material contribution to the work of educating the young people from the former Eastern Bloc countries who are studying in Lublin, Warsaw and Krakow. It is a meaningful expression of the solidarity of the Church in Italy with those Churches that continue to heal the wounds of the past. May the good Lord reward your kindness.

Today, together with you, I give thanks to God for every good that, in the span of 22 years, has been achieved through initiatives taken by the Foundation. Thanks to the generous effort of numerous persons, thousands of pilgrims who come to Rome from various parts of the world have been able to find spiritual assistance and much needed help of all sorts. I was personally able to encounter many of them, and their witnesses of faith and prayer always filled me with joy. The numerous proofs of spiritual union with the Successor of Peter were sources of encouragement and strength for me. I trust that the Foundation will continue to assist all those who come to the Eternal City to strengthen their faith in Christ and in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

The Foundation is committed to preserving the documents relating to this Pontificate and to spreading the teachings of the Church's Magisterium. It is necessary that this patrimony of good, born in this period of history by divine grace, remain for the future generations. In this last quarter of a century numerous and significant events have taken place in the Church and the world which highlight the fact that our human actions, although clumsy, are registered in the plans of divine good and come to fruition, thanks to God's grace. Such events cannot be forgotten. May their memory form the Christian identity of future generations and be a reason to give thanks to God for his goodness.

We cannot fail to mention the Foundation's success in disseminating Christian culture. Thanks to the efforts of men and women of science and the material assistance provided by the Foundation, many precious publications have appeared which help to bring the people of today closer to the secrets of history, and the development of philosophy and theology. The most valuable work, however, is that which leaves an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of youth. Thanks to the Foundation, hundreds of students from former Communist countries have been able to obtain scholarships and to complete their studies in the various disciplines in Poland. They return to their countries of origin to serve there, with their knowledge and witness of faith, those who for years were deprived of access to science and culture broadly understood, and to the message of the Gospel. I have sometimes had the opportunity to meet these young people and I always had the impression that they are a treasure of which we can be proud.

Twenty-two years have passed since 16 October 1981, the day on which I signed the Foundation's original Statutes. That document, which defined both the ends and means of the Foundation, has assured over the span of years the grounds on which to develop the numerous initiatives of a religious, cultural and pastoral nature, which have produced blessed fruits. The experience that has been acquired during these 20 years, however, has shown the need to adapt the Statutes of the Foundation to meet today's challenges. It is for this reason that the Council of the Foundation has presented a project to introduce some changes into the Statutes which I - confirming the validity of the foundational decree - have approved this past 16 October, precisely 22 years after the institution of the Foundation. On this solemn occasion I would like to consign the new Decree to the President of the Council, Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly, on the basis of which the renewed Statutes of the Foundation come into force today. May this be a more effective aid in achieving the goals which have guided the founders from the beginning of this Pontificate.

I thank you all once again for your good will. I ask you to pray and persevere in doing good. I cordially bless you all, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.




Thursday, 6 November 2003

Dear Cardinal Maida,
Distinguished Friends in Christ,

I am pleased to greet you, the Trustees of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, and I offer you a warm welcome.

It is with gratitude and encouragement that I note your efforts to promote contact, interaction and understanding between different peoples and cultures. In fact, it is just such mutual exchange that is so necessary today for building the culture of peace, the civilization of love that must ever be the guiding light for our world in this new millennium.

May your work in this area be crowned with success. Thank you for your commitment, and God bless you always!



Thursday, 6 November 2003

Madam President,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican on the occasion of your visit to Rome for the anniversary celebrations of the Pontifical Irish College. I take this occasion to express to you my deep affection for the Irish people and I ask you kindly to bring back to them the Pope’s warm greeting and the assurance of his prayers. Ireland, with its rich Christian history and its outstanding patrimony of spiritual and cultural values, has an essential role to play in the building of the new Europe and the affirmation of its deepest identity. It is my hope that the Gospel message will provide continued inspiration and encouragement to all who are committed to the advancement of Ireland in the path of justice and solidarity, and above all in the great work of national reconciliation. With my Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 7 November 2003

Mr President,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of this Seminar organized by the Robert Schuman Foundation. I offer a cordial greeting to all, and I express my special gratitude to Mr Jacques Santer who has voiced your sentiments of respect and esteem.

As Christians engaged in public life, you have come together to reflect on the prospects currently opening up before Europe. The “new” Europe now being built rightly wishes to become a solid and harmonious “edifice”. This means finding a proper balance between the role of the Union and that of the member States, and between the unavoidable challenges which globalization presents to the continent and the respect of its historical and cultural distinctiveness, the national and religious identities of its people, and the specific contributions which can come from each member country.

It also involves building an “edifice” which is welcoming to other countries, beginning with its closest neighbours, and a “house” open to forms of cooperation which are not only economic but also social and cultural.

2. For this to happen, it is necessary that Europe recognize and preserve its most cherished patrimony, made up of those values which have and continue to guarantee her a providential influence in the history of civilization. These values concern above all the dignity of the human person, the sacred character of human life, the central role of the family founded upon marriage, solidarity, subsidiarity, the rule of law and sound democracy.

Many cultural roots have helped to solidify these values, yet it is undeniable that Christianity has been the force able to promote, reconcile and consolidate them. For this reason it seems logical that the future European constitutional treaty, aimed at achieving “unity in diversity” (cf. Preamble, § 5), should make explicit mention of the Christian roots of the continent. A society forgetful of its past is exposed to the risk of not being able to deal with its present and – worse yet – of becoming the victim of its future!

In this regard, I am pleased to note that many of you come from countries preparing to enter the Union, countries for which Christianity often provided decisive assistance on the path towards freedom. From this standpoint you can also easily see how unjust it would be for today’s Europe to conceal the pivotal contribution made by Christians to the downfall of oppressive regimes of whatever stripe and to the building of authentic democracy.

3. In my recent Post-Syndodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa I could not fail to emphasize, with sorrow, how this continent seems tragically to be suffering from a profound crisis of values (cf. No. 108), which has ultimately led to a crisis of identity.

Here I gladly point out how much can be done, from this standpoint, by means of a responsible and generous participation in “political” life and consequently in the many and varied economic, social and cultural activities which can be undertaken for the promotion of the common good in an organic and institutional manner. You are familiar with the words of my predecessor, Pope Paul VI in this regard: “Politics are a demanding manner ... of living the Christian commitment to the service of others” (Octogesima Adveniens, 46).

The complaints often made against political activity do not justify an attitude of disengaged skepticism on the part of the Catholic, who instead has the duty of assuming responsibility for the well-being of society. It is not enough to call for the building of an just and fraternal society. There is also a need to work in a committed and competent way for the promotion of perennial human values in public life, in accordance with the correct methods proper to political activity.

4. The Christian must also ensure that the “salt” of his Christian commitment does not lose its “flavour” and that the “light” of his Gospel ideals does not become obscured by pragmatism or even worse by utilitarianism. For this reason he will need to deepen his knowledge of Christian social doctrine, striving to assimilate its principles and to apply it with wisdom where necessary.

This will assume a serious spiritual formation which is nourished by prayer. A superficial, spiritually lukewarm or indifferent person, or one excessively concerned with success and popularity, will never be able adequately to exercise his political responsibility.

Your Foundation can find in its namesake, Robert Schuman, a significant model for its inspiration. His political life was spent in the service of the fundamental values of freedom and solidarity, understood fully in the light of the Gospel.

5. Dear friends, in these days in which you are reflecting on Europe, it is natural to recall that among the principal promotors of the reunification of this continent were men inspired by profound Christian faith, like Adenauer, De Gaspari and Schuman. How can we underestimate, for example, the fact that, in 1951, before beginning the delicate negotiations which would lead to the adoption of the Treaty of Paris, they wished to meet in a Benedictine monastery on the Rhine for meditation and prayer?

You too have the responsibility not only of preserving and defending, but also of developing and reinforcing the spiritual and political heritage handed down by these great figures. In expressing this hope I cordially impart to you and your families my Apostolic Blessing.




To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Paul Poupard
President of the Council for Coordinating the Pontifical Academies

1. With deep joy I send this Message to the participants in the eighth Public Meeting of the Pontifical Academies. The meeting intends to promote the work of these important cultural institutions and at the same time to give recognition to those who are striving to foster a renewed Christian humanism.

I greet you cordially, Venerable Brother, and I thank you for the concern with which you are following this initiative. I then greet the Presidents of each Academy and their collaborators, as well as the Members of the Roman Curia who have spoken. I extend my greetings to the Authorities, to the Ambassadors and to all who have wished to honour this event with their presence.

2. The theme chosen for today's public session - The Martyrs and their monumental legacies, living stones in the construction of Europe - is intended to offer a key to the interpretation of the epochal turning point we in Europe are living. It is a matter of discovering the deep continuity that links the history of the past and the present, the Gospel witness courageously offered in the first centuries of the Christian age by so many men and women and the witness that, in our day too, many of those who believe in Christ are continuing to offer to the world, reasserting the primacy of the Gospel of Christ and of charity.

If we forget the Christians who sacrificed their lives to strengthen the faith, the present time with its projects and ideals would lose a precious element, since the great human and religious values would no longer be comforted by a concrete witness integrated into history.

3."Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house" (1P 2,4).

The Apostle Peter's words have inspired and sustained thousands of men and women as they faced persecution and martyrdom during the 2,000 years of Christianity. Fortunately, in Europe today - but this is not the case in other regions of the world - persecution is no longer a problem. Christians, however, must often face more or less open forms of hostility and this obliges them to give a clear and courageous witness. With all people of good will, they are called to build a true "common house", which is not merely a political, economic and financial structure, but a "home" full of memories, values and spiritual content. These values have found and continue to find in the Cross an eloquent symbol that sums them up and expresses them.

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, I stressed that the European Continent is living in a "time of bewilderment" and that the European Churches are often tempted by "a dimming of hope" (n. 7). Among the disturbing signs of this I pointed out the gradual loss of the Christian heritage, which consequently causes the European culture to slide into a sort of "silent apostasy" in which people live as though God did not exist (n. 9).

4. Disciples of Christ are called to contemplate and imitate the many witnesses of the Christian faith who lived in the last century in the East and in the West, who persevered in their loyalty to the Gospel in situations of hostility and persecution, often to the supreme sacrifice of shedding their blood. These witnesses are a convincing sign of hope that is held up first of all to the Churches of Europe. Indeed, they bring us a witness of the vitality and fruitfulness of the Gospel also in the contemporary world. They are truly a luminous beacon for the Church and for humanity, for they have made Christ's light shine in the darkness.

They strove to serve Christ and his "Gospel of hope" faithfully, and by their martyrdom expressed their faith and their love to a heroic degree, putting themselves generously at the service of their brethren. Thus, they showed that obedience to the law of the Gospel brings forth a moral life and social harmony that honour and promote every person's dignity and freedom.

It is therefore up to us to gather this rare and most precious heritage, this unique and exceptional patrimony, as did the first generations of Christians who built monumental memorials, basilicas and places of pilgrimage over the tombs of the Martyrs to remind everyone of their supreme sacrifice.

5. This solemn Public Session is thus intended as a commemoration and inner acceptance of the Martyrs' witness. Christians today should not forget the roots of their experience of faith and of their civil commitment.

I am therefore pleased to ask you, Your Eminence, to award the Pontifical Academies' Prize for the year 2003 to Dr Giuseppina Cipriano for her study entitled I Mausolei dell'Esodo e della Pace nella Necropoli di El-Bagawat. Riflessioni sulle origini del Cristianesimo in Egitto (The Mausoleums of the Exodus and of Peace in the Necropolis of El-Bagawat: Reflections on the origins of Christianity in Egypt). I likewise ask you to award the Medal of the Pontificate to Dr Sara Tamarri, for her work entitled L'Iconografia del Leone dal Tardoantico al Medioevo (The Lion in the Iconography of the Late Antiquity and in the Middle Ages).

At the same time, Venerable Brother, I express my pleasure to the winners for their respective studies that accentuate the value of the archaeological, liturgical and historical patrimony to which the Christian culture is so indebted, and from which it is still possible to draw elements of authentic humanism.

As I assure everyone of my special remembrance in prayer, I gladly impart my Blessing to you, Your Eminence, and to each one of those present.

From the Vatican, 3 November 2003

Speeches 2003 - Friday, 31 October 2003