Speeches 2003




To H.E. Mr Lennart Båge President of IFAD

1. I thank you for your gracious invitation to take part in the solemn ceremony to observe the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

I have asked Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, to convey to you my appreciation and my word for this major event, which has brought together in Rome representatives of many governments and international organizations.

On this occasion, I especially wish to greet Dr Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, President of the Italian Republic, Mr Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary General, and the heads of the other agencies of the "Roman branch" of the United Nations. This distinguished assembly bears witness to a shared commitment to determine the strategies to achieve the goal of freeing humanity from hunger and malnutrition.

In this endeavour, IFAD's contribution is really original due to the statutory criteria that define its structure, guide its action and give it the specific duty of allocating financial resources to the "poorest of the poor", for the agricultural development of countries which suffer from a lack of food (cf. IFAD Statute, art. 1). The establishment of IFAD among the agencies of the United Nations, in fact, reminds us that to tackle hunger and malnutrition, effective planning is required to ensure the distribution of agricultural techniques and of the available financial resources.

Certainly, the commitment to solidarity, promoted by IFAD until now, for combating rural poverty has identified a concrete means of guaranteeing food security, detaching it from the sole considerations related to the availability of foodstuffs for consumption, and pressing for the sharing of resources, beginning with rural workers and rural communities. In this view, food security can constitute the necessary guarantee for the respect of every person's right to be free from hunger.

It means taking a positive approach at a time when serious reason for concern exists in many parts of the world considered to be at risk in terms of levels of nutrition. The contradiction between the possibilities of intervention and the will to work concretely, seriously endangers the survival of millions of people within a worldwide reality that is, on the whole, living an unprecedented development and progress, and is conscious of the availability of resources at a global level.

2. In this observance, together with the applause for the objectives achieved, we must not ignore the motives that in 1974 induced the international community to establish the Fund as a concrete measure "to give to the members of the farming community responsibility in their production and progress" (ORE, 21 November 1974, p. 10), to quote the words of my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, who concretely encouraged the establishment of this Organization (Discourse to the World Food Conference, 9 November 1974, n. 8).

We think right away of the victims of conflicts and of serious violations of fundamental rights, of the reality of refugees and evacuees, and of those affected by sickness and epidemics. All these situations threaten the orderly coexistence of persons and communities, are a serious risk to human life, and have obvious repercussions on food security and, more generally, on the standard of living in rural areas.

These special situations and circumstances, together with the information submitted to be examined in this meeting, urge us to recognize the centrality of the human person and his basic needs as the foundation on which to build without delay international action.

In fact, if we turn our attention to the phenomena that define the present panorama of international life, in the first place there emerge the conflict of interests and desire to predominate which lead to giving up negotiation and withdrawing into isolation, thus hindering the activity of cooperation to respond effectively to needs. Nor should we forget the unfortunate resignation that seems to have snuffed out the will to live of entire populations, whom hunger and malnutrition have pushed to the margins of the Community of Nations, far from conditions of life that are truly respectful of human dignity.

Although the expectations placed in the action of IFAD focus on the sector of agriculture and food, they belong to a wider strategy in the fight against poverty and are accompanied by the conviction that this objective is a response to the millions of persons who wonder about their own hope for life.

3. Once more, my message wishes to show the attention of the Holy See for multilateral international action, a factor more and more crucial to that peace which is the deepest aspiration of peoples at the present time.

I encourage IFAD, especially, to exert every effort in the fight against poverty and hunger, inviting all to overcome those obstacles that are the fruit of special interests, barriers and every kind of selfish interest.

May the observance of the anniversary of the Fund be the occasion to re-inforce a direct commitment to be translated into concrete action, which may make each person feel responsible not for something, but for someone, for the human person who asks for his daily bread.

Upon IFAD, on yourselves and on your efforts to serve the cause of the human person, may Almighty God pour out his abundant blessings.

From the Vatican, 19 February 2003.




Thursday, 20 February 2003

Your Eminence,
Distinguished Friends,

With great pleasure I greet you, the members of the Inter-religious Delegation from Indonesia. Your presence here brings back vivid memories of my pastoral visit to Indonesia in 1989, an occasion filled with mutual affection and appreciation as I was able to experience personally the variety of your rich cultural and religious heritage.

At this time of great tension for the world, you have come to Rome, and I am grateful to have this occasion to speak to you. With the real possibility of war looming on the horizon, we must not permit politics to become a source of further division among the world’s religions. In fact, neither the threat of war nor war itself should be allowed to alienate Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and members of other religions. As religious leaders committed to peace, we should work together with our own people, with those of other religious beliefs and with all men and women of good will to ensure understanding, cooperation and solidarity. Earlier this year, I said: "War is always a defeat for humanity" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2003, 4); it is also a tragedy for religion.

My fervent prayer is that our efforts to promote mutual understanding and trust will bear abundant fruit and help the world to avoid conflict. For it is through commitment and continuing cooperation that cultures and religions "will be able to break through the barriers which divide them, to understand one another and to pardon those who have done them wrong" (Pacem in Terris, V). This is the way that leads to true peace on earth. Together, let us work and pray for this peace.

Upon you and the beloved people of Indonesia I invoke abundant divine blessings.




Dear Moderators of Italian Catholic Action!

1. I am happy to greet you on this occasion, that sees you gathered in Rome for your National Convention on the theme: Renewing the Catholic Action Movement in the Parish.In a special way I greet the General Moderator, Bishop Francesco Lambiasi, and the National President, Dr Paola Bignardi.

During these days, you will reflect on how the Catholic Action Movement can contribute to the beginning of the new millennium so as to recreate the face of the parish, the basic structure of the ecclesiastical body. Moreover, the two-thousand-year experience of the People of God, as the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canon Law authoritatively confirmed it, teaches that the Church cannot give up her parish structures, that are communities of believers rooted in the neighbourhood, bound to each other around the Bishop in the network of diocesan communion.

The parish is "the home of the Christian Community" to which one belongs through the grace of Baptism. It is the "school of sanctity" for all Christians, even for those who do not belong to an ecclesiastical movement or do not practice a special spirituality. It is the "laboratory of faith". It is the "training ground of formation" where they are formed in the faith and brought into the apostolic mission.

Keeping in mind the rapid changes that came with the beginning of this millennium, it is necessary for the parish to feel a more urgent need to live up to and bear witness to the Gospel by creating a profitable dialogue with the people in the neighbourhood where they live or spend a great deal of their time, while paying special attention to those who live materially or spiritually deprived and wait for a word that will accompany them in their search for God.

2. The bond between the parish and the Italian Catholic Action Movement has always been tight. In the parish communities, the Catholic Action Movement anticipated a great deal of the pastoral renewal of the Council with prophetic intuition; and over the year has accompanied its implementation. It has brought to the parish the sensitivity and the requests of those who, in the routine of every day life, feel the effects of that change that touches every person before it affects communities, and concerns the places where people are living before it influences the organization of the pastoral ministry. Much remains to be done. Now 40 years since the opening of the Council, Vatican II continues to be "a sure compass" to guide the course of Peter's barque (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 57) and the conciliar documents represent "the holy door" through which each parish community must pass in order to enter into the third millennium of the Christian era not just chronologically, but also spiritually.

I am certain that the Catholic Action Movement will contribute to the indispensable work of renewing the parish through the daily witness of communion. It will be ready to lend its service to forming lay people who will be mature in faith and bring into every situation apostolic zeal for the mission. The real contribution that the Italian Catholic Action Movement can offer the Christian community is a spirituality of communion lived with the Bishop and the local Church. I would like to recall what I wrote on this subject in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte: "Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed, wherever ministers of the altar, consecrated persons, and pastoral workers are trained, wherever families and communities are being built up. A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us" (n. 43).

3. Only a renewed Catholic Action Movement can contribute to renewing the parish. For this reason, dear Moderators, lead the Association on the path of renewal, which was clearly outlined and courageously undertaken by your last National Assembly. Support it with your priestly ministry so that the "courage for the future" and the "creativity of holiness", which the Spirit of the Lord will certainly not fail to grant to the leaders and members, may make the Association ever more faithful to its missionary mandate.

I exhort you to contribute with the fruitfulness of your priestly ministry to promoting the vast and broad work of education that can bring the freshness of the Gospel to many people who often feel dissatisfied and agitated. To do this, it is essential to ensure for the Association leaders, teachers and well formed directors, and to raise up lay people with a strong apostolic drive who can take the message of the Gospel everywhere. This will enable the Catholic Action Movement to express again its own charism as an Association chosen and promoted by the bishops, by means of a direct and organic collaboration with their ministry for the evangelization of the world, through the formation and sanctification of its members (cf., Art. 2 Statuto).

On the occasion of the 11th National Assembly of your Association, I took the opportunity to emphasize how an authentic renewal of the Catholic Action Movement is possible through the "humble boldness" of setting one's gaze on Jesus who makes all things new. Only by keeping our eyes turned toward Him, are we able to distinguish what is necessary from what is not. I ask you to be the first to assume this contemplative vision in order to give witness to the newness of life that comes from it at the level of the person and the community. The indispensable structural and organizational renewal will be the result of a unique "adventure of the Spirit", who brings about an interior and radical conversion of persons and associations at the various levels of the parish, dioecese and nation.

4. Beloved, put at the service of this formative and missionary endeavour your best energies, namely, the wisdom of spiritual discernment, the holiness of life, the variety of theological and pastoral responsibilities and the familiarity of simple and genuine relationships.

In the diocesan and parochial associations, be fathers and brothers who are able to encourage, to awaken the desire for an evangelical way of life, to support in the difficulties of life children, adolescents, young adults, families and the elderly. Take to heart the education of strong and free, wise and humble Christian personalities, who can promote a culture of life, justice, and the common good.

The Pope is close to you and encourages you not to lose heart, above all, when, combining the service of a Moderator with the other tasks in the Diocese, you start feeling the fatigue and complications of such a ministry. You may be sure: to be Moderators of Catholic Action, on account of the unique relationship of co-responsibility inherent in the experience of the Association, makes it a source of fruitfulness for your apostolic work and your holiness of life.

Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to invite all the priests "not to be afraid" to welcome into their parish the associative experience of Catholic Action. In fact, they will find in it not just valid and motivated support, but also a closeness and spiritual friendship, together with the richness that comes from sharing spiritual gifts with every member of the Community.

I entrust these hopes - like those which each of you carries in his heart to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Church, and, upon you and all the priests who together with you exercise the ministry of Moderator for Catholic Action in the Italian Church, I cordially bestow my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 19 February 2003





Friday, 21 February 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am pleased to welcome the Diocesan Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States of America on the occasion of your meeting in Rome. It is my great pleasure to join you today in inaugurating a new website which promises to open a fresh chapter in the efforts of your Societies to foster a universal missionary spirit among the whole People of God.

The growth of the Internet in recent years provides an unprecedented opportunity for expanding the Church’s missionary outreach, since it has become a primary source of information and communication for so many of our contemporaries, especially the young. It is my hope that the new Pontifical Mission Societies website will awaken in the Catholics of the United States a deeper appreciation of the Church’s universal missionary mandate and a greater awareness of the rich variety of cultures and peoples in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to take root in our time. I trust that the new site will draw many people to a deeper faith in Christ, lead to an increase of missionary vocations and call forth a greater commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel ad gentes and the new evangelization of traditionally Christian countries.

Dear friends, in the wake of the Great Jubilee, the Church is called to contemplate anew the face of Christ in order to carry out with greater enthusiasm his command to make disciples of all nations (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 58). May the work of your Societies be a true leaven of missionary zeal among the Catholics of the United States, and yield abundant fruit for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom in the new frontiers now opening up before us. Commending you and your important apostolate to the prayers of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.



Saturday, 22 February 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

1. I am happy to welcome you, pastors of the Church of Christ in the Region of North Africa who have come on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Archbishop Teissier of Algiers, President of your Bishops' Conference, who has just told me, on your behalf, of the hopes you nourish, the difficulties you encounter and the deep solidarity that binds you to your peoples. I hope this visit, which manifests your fraternal communion with the Bishop of Rome, will be a support and an opportunity for renewed enthusiasm for you, so that you may always fulfil with courage the office of the apostolic ministry in your dioceses. For all your faithful, may you also be witnesses of the Pope's concern for the Church in the countries of the Maghreb!

2. The world we live in is defined by a multiplication of contacts, a stronger interdependence and the ever-greater opening of frontiers. This is the phenomenon of globalization, with its positive and negative aspects, which nations must learn to manage constructively! The Catholic Church is fully conscious of the universal dimension that is constitutive of her identity. Since the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts Ac 2,8-11), she is conscious that all nations are called to hear the Good News of salvation, and that the people of God are present among all the peoples of the earth (cf. Lumen gentium LG 13). Your dioceses have always been sensitive to this dimension of catholicity and to the vital link that binds them to the universal Church, for your pastors and faithful come from different countries.

However, in recent years, this fact has been expanded with a new dimension in your region as you develop relations and contacts between the North and South of the Sahara. For many reasons, many men and women natives of the sub-Saharan Christian countries have come to settle or to reside for a time in the countries of the Maghreb. Your Bishops' Conference, the CERNA, along with the Bishops of the Southern Saharan regions, has recently organized a pastoral reflection on this subject. I congratulate you on the expert way in which you dealt with this issue, which I invite you to continue and intensify. I am convinced that this "exchange of gifts" is a grace that enriches and renews all the parties concerned.

3. Be deeply rooted in the mystery of the Church! It is the Church that Christ sends to men and women to bring the Good News of the love of God. As the Second Vatican Council rightly recalled, "that messianic people, although it does not actually include all men [and women], and at times may appear as a small flock, is, however, a most sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. Established by Christ as a communion of life, love and truth, it is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all; as the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Lumen gentium LG 9).

In this spirit I invite you to make the most of the wealth of different spiritual traditions which have nourished the Christian history of your country from ancient times to the great missionary movement of the last two centuries. They have focused on various facets of the treasure of the Gospel: a sense of community and the need of fraternal communion, the sign of poverty and availability for one's neighbour, attentive listening to others, a discreet and loving presence, the joy of proclaiming and sharing the Good News. These spiritual gifts, also lived with fidelity by the religious families that share in the life of your dioceses, can always bear fruit for the good of your communities. Do not be afraid to welcome the newness that brothers and sisters from other continents or cultures can bring, with their different forms of spirituality and sensibility! The Church can never rejoice enough in being, in the image of the first community of Jerusalem, a fraternal community in which each may find his/her place at the service of the common good (Ac 2,32).

4. In this regard, you also emphasize in your reports, the important and active presence in your dioceses of young people who come from the sub-Saharan countries for a period of study at the universities in your countries. To welcome them and help them share in the life of the Christian communities clearly shows that the Gospel is not restricted to a single culture. You have offered to these young people considerable pastoral attention to help them overcome their isolation, and you have offered them a solid Christian formation to enable them to grow in the faith.

5. Dear Brothers, you point out the good relations that exist between the Christians of your communities and the Muslim population and I wish to acknowledge the good will of the civil authorities toward the Church. All this is possible thanks to the reciprocal knowledge acquired in daily meetings and in contacts, notably with families. Continue to encourage these daily meetings as a priority on both sides, for they contribute to a mutual development of mentalities and help to move beyond the stereotypes of the Church that too often the media love to present. Accompanied by important and necessary official dialogues, your contacts build new bonds between religious cultures and, especially, between persons, and foster in everyone the esteem of religious freedom and mutual respect, that are the foundations of personal and social life. In revealing the values common to all cultures since they are rooted in the nature of the person, they reveal that "mutual openness between the followers of the various religions can greatly serve the cause of peace and the common good of the human family" (Message for World Day of Peace 2001, n. 6).

You report how much the tragedies suffered by members of the Christian community and mourned by the Muslim population have not only increased human solidarity, but have drawn attention to others and to their religious values. The spiritual experience of the Church who recognizes in the Cross of Our Lord the greatest expression of love has always considered the gift of the martyrs as an eloquent witness and fertile seed for Christian life. It is then legitimate to hope that from these tragic events will come the fruits of peace and holiness for all.

On the path of dialogue, attention to culture is a high priority: thanks to your openness and the high quality of the Study Centres and libraries which you operate, you are careful to offer access to the knowledge of religions and cultures, giving the inhabitants of the Maghreb countries the means to rediscover their past. In particular, I applaud the welcome initiative of the colloquium dedicated to St Augustine, which was organized by the Algerian authorities in partnership with the Church.

6. In every Christian community, even if it is small in numbers and fragile, the service of charity to the poorest remains a priority, for it is the expression of God's goodness for all human beings and of the sharing which we are all called to live without distinction of race, culture or creed. You live this service, especially with the sick and the disabled, whom you welcome and care for in the hospitals and clinics which the women religious staff as a service to the people. Continue also to care for the migrants who pass through your countries of the Maghreb hoping to reach Europe; offer them in their privation and precarious situation a period of rest and fraternal cordiality!

Through such charitable organizations as Caritas and cooperating with local associations, continue to witness to the love of Christ, who came to give rest to all who are heavily burdened (Mt 11,28).

7. I know that your priests are carrying out their ministry with great pastoral charity and courage and with great efforts to be close to the people. Through you I would like to tell them of my greet esteem for them, and urge them to put the Eucharist at the centre of their lives. It is the daily source where they nourish their personal relationship with Christ, and from it flows the charity that ceaselessly expands their prayer and their missionary spirit, as the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer says: "Remember ... those here present and all your people, and all who seek you with a sincere heart". In fact, it is through participation in the intercession and sacrifice of Christ that the people of God is built up. I invite the priests, once again, to be available for the call of the Church to face new issues. May they maintain the concern to cultivate fraternal relations with one another at the heart of the diocesan presbyterate, sharing their apostolic experiences, and their different pastoral approaches and spiritual discoveries!

I cordially greet the men and women religious who are often the permanent core of Christian presence in your communities. Their fidelity, rooted in prayer and, lived even in a tragic way, is an essential support for the ministry of priests and for the laity who wish to live their baptismal commitments. I therefore invite the institutes of consecrated life, despite the current difficulties, to maintain and renew their important presence in your dioceses.

I further encourage all the laity: some have stayed on in the country after it gained its independence, others have come for a specific period of service or study, yet others to participate, temporarily in the country's economic development and lastly, others are born there. I offer a very special greeting to them in particular, and I urge them to nurture their faith by rooting it in prayer and by an appropriate formation; thus they can discern the signs of Christ's presence more clearly, and respond generously to his call. I assure them of my prayers and of my fatherly affection.

8. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood, as you note in the document you published for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, The Churches of the Maghreb in the Year 2000, which Archbishop Teissier has given to me in your name, we have just entered the new millennium, and we already know that the path to peace is strewn with obstacles that we must overcome with courage and perseverance. Interreligious dialogue should be pursued with patience and determination, in order to overcome mutual distrust and to learn how to serve together the common good of humanity. The path to full Christian unity also calls for time and the commitment of firm determination. Far from being discouraged at these challenges and difficulties, let us make our own the confidence of the Apostle that: "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ ... may enlighten your hearts and [will] give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation.... May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places" (Ep 1,17-20).

Thus established in the love of Christ, who died and rose from the dead, be strongly determined to live the Gospel of peace (cf. Eph Ep 6,15) witnessing each day, by your presence and welcome of others, to God's unconditional love for everyone!

I ask the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Atlas, to watch over each of you and ever more to deepen your encounter with her divine Son. I cordially impart to you, as well as to your priests, the men and women religious and the laity of your dioceses, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 22 February 2003

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am delighted to welcome you at this special Audience which gives me the pleasant opportunity of meeting some qualified representatives of the Italian world of industry and business. I offer you all a cordial greeting, with a special thought for the President of the National Federation of the Knights of Industry, Mr Mario Federici, whom I thank for his courteous words on behalf of those present. Likewise, I greet Dr Biagio Agnes, President of the Commission for Communications and Images.

The Order of Merit for Industry is commonly recognized as one of the most prestigious decorations. It confers the title of "Knight of Industry" on people like you, distinguished for their business skills and above all for their impeccable moral standing in the various fields of production.

2. Thus, you represent not only a choice group of Italian businessmen, but also those who promote an integral and balanced growth of the national economy.

In this regard, allow me to suggest that you do your best to foster ethical and moral principles in your work.

In the Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, I recalled that "collaboration in the development of the whole person and of every human being is in fact a duty of all towards all" (n. 32). Precisely in your capacity as "Knights of Industry", you are the supporters and prime witnesses of this universal "duty". This has become a particularly urgent task because of the current evolution of society, marked by the process of globalization, within which must be safeguarded the value of solidarity, the guarantee of access to resources, and the fair redistribution of profits.

3. Often in contemporary society the rules that production and the market impose seem to penalize the family. Therefore, one of your endeavours should be to ensure effective support for the family so that it will be increasingly respected as an active subject, also in the sector of production and the economy.

Furthermore, your Federation has taken care to train young people for years. I am thinking, in this regard, of the Lamaro-Pozzani University Residence for students doing degree courses in Rome. Continue to invest in the young, helping them to bridge the existing gap between academic education and the actual demands of production firms. In this way, by being firmly anchored to the heritage of human and Christian values, you will enable new generations to help make the working world more and more worthy of the human being.

I repeat to you my cordial thanks for today's visit, and I wish each of you success in your respective professional fields. Upon you, upon your families and upon your loved ones, I invoke the intercession of St Benedict of Norcia, Patron of the Knights of Industry, as I cordially bless you all.

Speeches 2003