Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 22 February 2003



Monday, 24 February 2003

Dear Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life,

1. The celebration of your Assembly gives me the joyful opportunity to greet you and to offer my appreciation for the intense dedication which the Academy for Life shows for the study of new problems, particularly in the field of bioethics.

I would like to say a special "thank you" to your President, Prof. Juan de Dios Vial Correa, for his kind words of greeting and to your Vice-President, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, who is zealous and energetic in his dedication to the task entrusted to him. I warmly greet the members of the Board of Governors and the speakers for this significant meeting.

2. In the work of your Assembly, with a detailed programme offering complementary reflections, you have wished to address the topic of biomedical research from the perspective of reason illumined by faith. This perspective does not restrict the field of observation, but rather extends it, since the light of Revelation comes to the aid of reason to offer a fuller understanding of what is intrinsic to human dignity. Is it not the human being, as scientist, who promotes research? Often the human being is the subject on whom the experiments are carried out. In every case, the results of biomedical research are at the service of the human being.

It is a recognized fact that improvements in the medical treatment of disease primarily depend on progress in research. In this way above all, medicine has been able to make a decisive contribution in wiping out lethal epidemics and in treating serious illness successfully, notably improving in many parts of the developed world, the duration and quality of life.

We must all, believers and non-believers, acknowledge and express sincere support for these efforts in biomedical science that are not only designed to familiarize us with the marvels of the human body, but also to encourage worthy standards of health and life for the peoples of our planet.

3. Furthermore, the Catholic Church wishes to express gratitude to so many scientists who are dedicated to biomedical research. In fact, the Magisterium has frequently asked their help for solutions to sensitive moral and social problems and from them has received convincing and effective collaboration.

Here I especially wish to mention Pope Paul VI's invitation to researchers and scientists in his Encyclical Humanae vitae, to make a contribution "to the welfare of marriage and the family" by seeking "to explain more thoroughly the various conditions favouring a proper regulation of births" (n. 24). I make my own his invitation, stressing its permanent application, which is made even more timely by the pressing need to find "natural" solutions for the problems of conjugal infertility.

In the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, I myself appealed to Catholic intellectuals to be active in the leading centres where culture is formed so as to introduce into society, in a concrete way, a new culture of life (cf. n. 98). With this in mind, I founded your Academy for Life, "to study and to provide information and training about the principal problems of law and biomedicine pertaining to the promotion and protection of life, especially in the direct relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church's Magisterium" (Apostolic Letter given Motu proprio, Vitae mysterium, 11 February 1994, n. 4; ORE, 9 March 1994, p. 3).

In the area of biomedical research, the Academy for Life can therefore be a point of reference and enlightenment, not only for Catholic researchers, but also for all who desire to work in this sector of biomedicine for the true good of every human being.

4. I therefore renew my heartfelt appeal so that scientific and biomedical research, resist every temptation to human manipulation, dedicate itself firmly to exploring ways and means to sustain human life, to treat disease and to solve the new problems that arise in the biomedical domain. The Church respects and supports scientific research when it has a genuinely humanist orientation, avoiding any form of instrumentalization or destruction of the human being and keeping itself free from the slavery of political and economic interests. In presenting the moral orientations dictated by natural reason, the Church is convinced that she offers a precious service to scientific research, doing her utmost for the true good of the human person. In this perspective, she recalls that, not only the aims, but also the methods and means of research must always respect the dignity of every human being, at every stage of his development and in every phase of experimentation.

Today perhaps more than in other ages, given the enormous developments of the experimental biotechnologies that deal with the human being, scientists must be aware of the insuperable limits that the protection of the life, the integrity and dignity of every human being impose upon their research. I have often returned to this subject because I am convinced, with regard to certain results and claims of experimentation on human beings, that no one can remain silent, and especially not the Church, whose present silence would in the future be condemned by history and even by the devotees of science themselves.

5. I would like to address a special word of encouragement to Catholic scientists so that they may make a competent and professional contribution in the sectors where help is more urgently needed for the solution to problems that affect human life and health.

I especially direct my appeal to the institutes and universities endowed with the title of "Catholic", that they endeavour to measure up to the high standard of the spiritual values that presided over their beginnings. We need a true and just movement of thought, and a new culture of a high ethical character and of unexceptional scientific value to promote a genuinely human and effectively free progress in research.

6. One last observation is necessary: there is an increasingly urgent need to fill the very serious and unacceptable gap that separates the developing world from the developed in terms of the capacity to develop biomedical research for the benefit of health-care assistance and to assist peoples afflicted by chronic poverty and dire epidemics. I think especially of the tragedy of AIDS, which is very serious in many African countries.

It is essential to realize that to leave these peoples without the resources of science and culture means to condemn them to poverty, financial exploitation and the lack of health care structures, and also to commit an injustice and fuel a long term threat for the globalized world. To value endogenous human resources means to guarantee the balance of health care and, in short, to contribute to the peace of the whole world. Thus the relevant moral dimension of biomedical scientific research necessarily opens to the dimension of justice and international solidarity.

7. I hope that the Pontifical Academy for Life, that begins its 10th year, will take this message to heart and will ensure that it reaches all researchers, believers and non-believers, and contribute in this way to the mission of the Church in the new millennium.

To support this special service, that is dear to my heart and necessary for humanity today and tomorrow, I invoke upon you and upon your work the constant help of God and the protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom. As a pledge of heavenly light, I gladly impart to you, to your family members and colleagues, my Apostolic Blessing.


Friday, 28 February 2003

Dear Members of the "Circolo San Pietro",

1. I am pleased to welcome you this year and greet you with affection. I address a special thought to your beloved and venerable ecclesiastical assistant, Archbishop Ettore Cunial, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his episcopal ordination this year. I greet your General President, Dr Marcello Sacchetti, and I thank him for his courteous words on behalf of everyone present.

This is a fine opportunity for me to thank you for the service you offer with perseverance and devotion during the liturgical celebrations in the Vatican Basilica and on other occasions. I am also pleased with the apostolic zeal with which you cooperate in the work of the new evangelization in the Diocese of Rome and for your projects of solidarity for the poor, the sick and the needy with which you witness to the Gospel of charity.

2. You have one task to which you are especially attached: the collection of Peter's Pence in Rome. Today, in accord with the tradition, you have come to present it to me in person. Thank you, dear friends for your participation in the Pope's mission.

You are aware of the growing needs of the apostolate, the requirements of the ecclesial communities, especially in mission countries, and the requests for aid that come from peoples, individuals and families in precarious conditions. Many expect the Apostolic See to give them the support they often fail to find elsewhere.

In this perspective the Peter's Pence Collection is a true and proper participation in the work of evangelization, especially if one considers the meaning and importance of concretely sharing in the concerns of the universal Church. In this regard, Rome enjoys an unusual role because, with the presence of the Successor of Peter, it is the centre and, in a certain way, the heart of the entire People of God.

May the Lord reward you and grant you the joy of serving him faithfully, working for the growth and expansion of his Kingdom.

3. Dear brothers and sisters, to be faithful to one's dedication, every Christian must carefully foster and intensify his/her relationship with Christ. Strive to be authentic disciples of Christ. Be faithful to your threefold commitment of prayer, action and sacrifice. Offer to those you meet, especially people in difficulty and those on the fringe of society, the spiritual food of the Gospel message as well as material support.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, and the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, protect you and intercede for you. I assure you of my daily remembrance in prayer, while I warmly bless you together with your families and all your loved ones.




To my Venerable Brother
Bishop Luigi Moretti General Ecclesiastical Moderator of UNITALSI

1. I learned with joy that the National Italian Union for Transporting the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines (UNITALSI) holds its national convention at Rimini on the occasion of its centenary. On this happy occasion, I am pleased to greet you affectionately, Dr Antonio Diella, the national President, and all your volunteers. I thank the Lord for all the good he has done and continues to do, through this charitable organization, for so many brothers and sisters who are sick and in difficulty.

It is important to note that this Jubilee occurs in the Year of the Rosary, considering that the origins of UNITALSI are linked to a Marian Shrine: Lourdes. It was in that place, blessed by the presence of Mary, that your founder, Giovanni Battista Tornassi, found light and comfort. He had gone to the Grotto of Massabielle in the grip of exhausting physical and spiritual suffering, resolved to put an end to his life; but was deeply impressed by the loving and disinterested work of the volunteers. Simultaneously, he received the clear consciousness of his own vocation to serve the suffering, a vocation supported and encouraged by the secretary of the Bishop of Bergamo who was leading that pilgrimage, Fr Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, now raised to the glory of the altars.

2. So it was that an ecclesial association came into being that is still appreciated for all the good it does and for the Gospel spirit that permeates it.

The first protector of UNITALSI was my holy Predecessor, Pope Pius X, who, on several occasions, blessed it and encouraged its expansion. Later, venerable Cardinals and Bishops succeeded one another as the spiritual guides of the Association. Among them I can recall the late Cardinals Luigi Traglia and Ugo Poletti. I also wish to mention Archbishop Alessandro Plotti, who was Archbishop of Pisa and Vice-President of the Italian Bishops' Conference and whom, Venerable Brother, you succeeded as General Ecclesiastical Moderator. So many bishops and priests in Italian dioceses work generously, with the volunteers of UNITALSI, to enable the sick and disabled to experience the motherly closeness of the Church.

3. Dear brothers and sisters, thanks to you in the past 100 years a great many persons have been able to visit the Lourdes Grotto, to pour out their troubles to the motherly heart of our Lady and receive enlightenment and comfort from her.

In these happy circumstances, I am eager to express my warm appreciation of the service you continue to carry out generously in full communion with your Bishops. Persevere in the work that others before you have undertaken under Mary's motherly gaze. Continue it with generosity, impartiality and a spirit of service. Learn at the school of the Gospel to be artisans of peace, justice and mercy, wherever the Lord calls you. Respond to God's love, strong in the consciousness that he loved you first. In fact, we have received from him all that we have and are (cf. 1Co 4,7), and for this reason we must dedicate ourselves generously to others.

4. Firmly rooted in your history, look to the future with confidence and foresight. Charity impels you to open up ever new fields of action, to undertake new initiatives of human advancement and evangelization in favour of the sick, the little ones and the lowliest. This presupposes an intense spiritual life nourished by daily prayer, recourse to the sacraments, and serious personal ascetical effort. This is the soil in which you must sink the roots of your being and action.

As I urge you to persevere in your generous dedication, I assure you of my constant prayer to the Virgin of Nazareth, whom I would like to contemplate with you as, prompted by the Spirit, she pays a visit to her elderly cousin Elizabeth. May the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of the Visitation, sustain you so that you may witness to the love of God who is willing to embrace and heal the human being and asks nothing in return.

To you, Venerable Brother, to the President, the sick, the volunteers, the chaplains and the entire family of UNITALSI, I impart my Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge to you all of abundant heavenly favours.

From the Vatican, 26 February 2003.








I greet you in the name of the "one God and Father of us all", and of his Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ (cf. Eph Ep 4,5-6), and with sentiments of joy and cordial esteem I offer my prayerful best wishes on the occasion of your enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury.

The liturgy of your enthronement will be an occasion for you and for the Anglican Communion to celebrate the glory of God, contemplating Saint John's vision of a multitude crying out, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God" (Ap 19,1). You will ponder the mystery of God, who calls and sends forth those who, like Isaiah, do not consider themselves prepared (Is 6,5-8).

You begin your ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury at a painful and tense moment in history, a moment nonetheless marked by hope and promise. Marred by long-standing and seemingly relentless conflicts, the world stands on the brink of yet another war. The dignity of the human person is being threatened and undermined in various ways. Whole populations, especially the most vulnerable, are living amidst fear and danger. At times the ardent and legitimate human longing for freedom and security manifests itself through the wrong means, means which themselves are violent and destructive. It is precisely amidst these tensions and difficulties of our world that we are called to serve.

We can sincerely rejoice in the fact that, in recent decades, our predecessors have developed an increasingly close relationship, even bonds of affection, through constructive dialogue and close communication. They set the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion on a path that they hoped would lead to full communion. Despite disagreements and obstacles, we are still on that path, and irrevocably committed to it. Over the past decade, the various opportunities to meet Dr George Carey have been particularly helpful and encouraging, signs of progress on our ecumenical journey. The work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, and the more recently formed International Commission for Unity and Mission, continue to move us forward.

We are both aware that overcoming divisions is no easy task, and that full communion will come as a gift of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit prods and guides us even now to continue to seek a resolution to remaining areas of doctrinal disagreement, and to engage more profoundly in common witness and mission.

With renewed sentiments of fraternal regard, I invoke upon you the blessings of Almighty God as you take up your lofty responsibilities. Amidst whatever trials and tribulations you may encounter, may you ever know the glory of the Father, the steady guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the merciful face of our Lord Jesus Christ.

From the Vatican, 13 February 2003


March 2003



Saturday, 1 March 2003

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. Your ad limina visit gives me the pleasant occasion to converse with you, strengthening the bonds of communion that already exist between the Pastors of the beloved dioceses of Romania and the Successor of Peter. It is likewise a favourable occasion to reflect together on the pastoral activities and prospects of the Catholic community in your country.

I greet each of you fraternally. In particular I want to thank Archbishop Ioan Robu, President of the Bishops' Conference of Romania, for his kind words on your behalf. Welcome, dear and venerable Pastors of a noble country that, in its long history, has lived very difficult periods without ever succumbing.

Today's meeting evokes the deep emotion I experienced when, in May 1999, Providence led me to your homeland. Those were unforgettable days during which I could experience the Romanian people's deep affection for the Pope.

The Catholic Church in Romania, with its two rites, represents a very active minority in the spiritual and social fields. I know that your communities work side by side with the country's Orthodox majority, collaborating, wherever possible, in a spirit of fraternal dialogue and reciprocal respect. I am sure that this attitude, inspired by mutual trust, will enable you to overcome the difficulties that still exist. In this regard, the work of the Joint Commission for the Dialogue between the Greek-Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Romania will be vital. Its task is to find appropriate solutions to the questions that arise from time to time.

Priority of family life, formation of young people, dialogue and cooperation with the Orthodox
2. A particularly important area for your action today is the pastoral care of the family. I know that on this theme there have also been effective meetings even with your Orthodox brethren for a common discernment of the problems that the family is going through even in your country. One can say that in the vast majority of cases your families have stayed faithful to sound Christian traditions. However, it is essential to consider the danger that can arise in contemporary society.

The fragility of couples, the ongoing emigration of young families to Western countries, the handing over of the education of the children to their grandparents, the forced separation of spouses, especially when it is the mother who leaves in search of work, the widespread practice of abortion, birth control practiced with methods that are opposed to respect for the dignity of the human person, these are just some of the burning issues that you are concerned about and have to deal with in pastoral life. We can never emphasize enough the primacy of the family in the overall work of educating the new generations.

Can we ever forget, dear and venerable Pastors, that the crisis of the Christian vision of life is the sorry aftermath of the Communist dictatorship? It must be recognized how enormous is the mission of the Church. For this reason, it is necessary to promote dialogue and collaboration among those who have received the saving proclamation of Christ from the successors of the Apostles. In harmony with your brethren of the Romanian Orthodox Church and realizing your common responsibility before the Founder of the Church, it is necessary to develop formation centres where young people can learn their common gospel heritage, in order to bear witness to it in a decisive way in society.

3. I pray God to inspire in today's faithful the courage to follow Christ with the determination that was shown by the heroic witness of Romanian Catholics of both rites who bore unspeakable suffering under the Communist regime, never faltering in their fidelity to the Gospel. At this moment I think of the beloved Cardinal Alexandru Todea whom the Lord called to himself last year. And how can we forget the many martyrs of your communities - including seven Bishops, whose cause of canonization is under way - who watered your land with their blood?

Church of Romania, despite the problems that still exist, do not be afraid! God blesses your efforts, as one can see from the large number of candidates for the priesthood in the seminaries. Thus what Tertullian wrote of the early Church, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians" is once again proven true.

If it is true that the Romanian people in their inner conscience could resist militant atheistic materialism and keep intact the Christian proclamation, it is now necessary to make emerge from the hearts of the faithful this interior treasure encouraging each one to bear a coherent Gospel witness. Only in this way, will it be possible to oppose the dangerous advance of a materialistic vision of life.

4. The process of the integration of Romania into the broader context of the European Union and of the institutions of the continent is moving forward. This is certainly a positive event, despite the risk of certain ambiguities. Indeed, the impact on your fellow-citizens of a vision in some way conditioned by consumerism and selfish individualism may entail the danger that they may not know how to distinguish between the values and defects of Western society and may end by forgetting the Christian riches of their own tradition.

By becoming a part of the European structures, the Romanian people will do well to remember that they do not only have something to receive, but also that they have a rich spiritual, cultural and historical heritage to give for the benefit of the unity and vitality of the entire continent. Forged by harsh past and recent trials, your communities must know how to keep firm their fidelity to the 1,000-year-old patrimony of Christian values they received from their fathers in which they have been shaped.

This mission is also a call to rally the laity in their apostolic responsibilities. It will be necessary to form them properly so that they may know how to make their contribution to shaping society by a courageous Christian witness.

5. Truly demanding tasks lie before you! The urgent matters that emerge are such as to make you feel even more strongly the need to recover full unity among all disciples of Christ. It will be necessary to work with every possible means to hasten this goal. This is exactly what His Beatitude Teoctist, the Orthodox Patriarch of Romania, repeated during his extraordinary visit to Rome last October. On that occasion, it became clearer that the common witness of Christians is essential in order to communicate the Gospel more effectively to the contemporary world. This is the pressing vocation of all Christians, in docile obedience to the command of Christ who asks us to pray and work "that they may all be one" (Jn 17,21).

I pray the Lord that the blessed day will soon come in which Catholics and Orthodox can communicate at the same sacred table. In this regard a special mission has been entrusted to the venerable Greek-Catholic Church of Romania, by virtue of her deep familiarity with the Eastern tradition. It is necessary that the minds and hearts of all be turned with increasing confidence to the Lord to implore his help in this initial phase of the new millennium. There is certainly no lack of difficulties and we must reckon with heavy sacrifices. But the stakes are so high that they merit a generous effort on the part of all.

6. Venerable brothers, your country has had the providential opportunity to see flourishing side by side for centuries the two traditions, the Latin and the Byzantine, that beautify the face of the one Church. You work in something like a spiritual "laboratory", where the riches of undivided Christianity can demonstrate their full force and vitality.

Among you Pastors there must reign constant esteem and reciprocal fraternal consideration. In problems of common concern may you be able to help one another, for a better mutual knowledge of the spiritual heritage of each other. I think, for example, of teaching in the seminaries, of improving their facilities and of exchanging lecturers, especially to help the seminaries that suffer from a shortage of teachers. Likewise, I can think of the care of the linguistic minorities in your dioceses, of the help that your Churches can give to other communities that are short of clergy, and of your valuable contribution in terms of missionary commitment.

Similarly, the constant and cordial collaboration of consecrated men and women in the life of the Church is more necessary than ever. Of course, you must respect their legitimate autonomy, but at the same time it is right to invite these valuable apostolic energies to collaborate in the pastoral toils of you Pastors, and of the clergy who help you.

May you watch over all things with a fatherly spirit, avoiding making imprudent decisions, especially in the area of accepting priestly and religious vocations, and of their eventual pastoral destination.

7. Venerable and dear Brothers! These are a few thoughts that occurred spontaneously to me after meeting you individually and hearing about the fervent ecclesial life that motivates you - Pastors, clergy, consecrated persons and laity - to be able to respond more faithfully to Christ's call. I encourage you to continue in this direction and I hope that your work will always be sustained by God's consolations. To this end I invoke the motherly protection of Mary on your land called "the Garden of the Mother of God".

Finally, while I ask you to convey to your faithful my affectionate greeting and the assurance of my constant prayer to the Lord, I impart to you and to those entrusted to your pastoral care a special Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 1 March 2003

1. This year our traditional celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Confidence, which the whole spiritual family of the Roman Major Seminary feels and shares so deeply, takes place in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican. Dear brothers and sisters, I welcome each of you!

I first greet the Cardinal Vicar and Mons. Pietro Fragnelli, who have expressed your common sentiments. As I thank them for their kind words, I want to congratulate Mons. Fragnelli on his recent appointment as Bishop of Castellaneta, assuring him of a special remembrance in prayer for his new ecclesial mission. At the same time, I greet the new Rector, Mons. Giovanni Tani, and wish him a fruitful ministry in the seminary and at the service of vocations.

I also greet the alumni, the Bishops, the priests and you, young people of Rome who have wished to take part in this intense moment of reflection and fraternal sharing. With special affection I embrace you, dear seminarians, those who really celebrate the feast today. I am glad that along with the students of the Roman Seminary, students from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary, from the Seminary of Our Lady of Divine Love and some from the Capranica are also here this evening.

2. I have been moved as we followed the oratorio composed by the beloved maestro, Mons. Marco Frisina; it was inspired by the human life and message of Sr Faustina Kowalska, a privileged witness of Divine Mercy. The love of Christ heals the wounds of the human heart and, through grace, communicates to the human person the very life of God.

The title of the musical composition we have just been able to enjoy in the beautiful performance by the seminarians and the diocesan choir, presents the invocation that is famous throughout the world: Jezu, ufam tobie - Jesus, I trust in you!

This act of confidence and abandonment to God's love is simple but profound. It is a basic point of strength for the human being, because it can transform life. In the inevitable trials and difficulties of life, in moments of joy and enthusiasm, entrusting ourselves to the Lord fills the soul with peace, induces us to recognize the primacy of the divine initiative and opens our spirit to humility and truth.

Jesus, I trust in you! Jezu, ufam tobie! Thousands and thousands of devotees in every corner of the earth repeat this simple and eloquent invocation!

In the heart of Jesus whoever is in anguish on account of the crosses of life can find peace; those afflicted by suffering and illness obtain relief; those in the grip of uncertainty and anxiety experience joy, because in Christ's heart are depths of consolation and love for all who turn to Him with confidence.

3. I know that during your days of preparation for today's Feast of Our Lady of Confidence, you have many times been drawn to reflect on the need to trust in Jesus in every circumstance. Here is a fruitful journey of faith, which we are asked to make sustained by Mary, Mother of Divine Mercy.
In this regard, Mary's words to the servants at the wedding feast in Cana resound in our spirit: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5), words that encourage us to trust in Christ. It is precisely to Him that the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Confidence, guides us.

In my recent Apostolic Letter On the Holy Rosary, I wanted to reaffirm how important it is to let oneself be led by this extraordinary Teacher of the spiritual life who devoted herself with untiring contemplation of the face of Christ, her Son. Hers is a penetrating gaze, "one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn Jn 2,5)" (n. 10). With Jesus, Mary shared joys, apprehensions, expectations and sufferings even to the supreme sacrifice of the Cross; she then shared with Him in the joy of the Resurrection and, praying with the Apostles in the Upper Room, awaited the descent of the Holy Spirit.

4. Dear young people! Let yourselves be guided by Mary who, in the Roman Seminary, the heart of our diocese, is venerated with the beautiful title of "Our Lady of Confidence". At her school you will learn the sublime art of entrusting yourselves to God. If you follow Mary, as did St Faustina Kowalska, Sr Faustina, you will be able to do God's will and be ready to serve the cause of the Gospel generously. You will also be able to travel the road that leads to holiness, the vocation of every Christian. In this way you will be faithful disciples of Christ.

This is my wish for you, dear young friends, and this is what I pray for as I cordially bless you, your directors of formation, your families and those who support the activity of the Roman seminary and the pastoral care of vocations of the Diocese of Rome.

Before ending this address, I would like once again to return to my own seminary. It was a "clandestine" seminary. During the war, with the Nazi occupation of Poland and of Kraków, all the seminaries were closed. Cardinal Sapieha, my Bishop of Kraków, organized a "clandestine" seminary and I belonged to that "clandestine" seminary, one could say, "catacombal". Above all, my experience is connected with that seminary. Especially since today we remembered Sr Faustina. Sr Faustina lived and is now buried close to Kraków, in a place called Lagiewniki. Beside Lagiewniki was the chemical factory of Solvay where I was a worker during the four years of the war and Nazi occupation. At that time, I would never have imagined that one day, as Bishop of Rome, I would be speaking of that experience to the Roman seminarians.

That experience as a worker and a "clandestine" seminarian has stayed with me all my life. I used to take books with me to the factory during my eight-hour shift, during the day or at night. My workmates were rather surprised, but not scandalized. Indeed, they said, "We will help you, you can rest and in your place we will keep an eye [on the boilers] instead of you". So I was also able to do the exams with my professors. Everything was done clandestinely: philosophy, metaphysics.... I studied metaphysics personally and tried to understand its "categories". And I did understand. Even without the help of my professors, I understood. As well as passing the exam, I was able to realize that metaphysics and Christian philosophy gave me a new vision of the world, a deeper perception of reality. Up to then, I had only done humanistic studies linked to literature and letters. Through metaphysics and philosophy, I found a key, the key to an understanding and perception of the world. A much deeper, I might even say, ultimate perception.

There would be other things to recall, but unfortunately it is not possible to go on too long.

However, I wanted to say this. While the oratorio was being played this thought occurred to me: "You, who were a "clandestine' seminarian must tell the Roman seminarians about those days and about your experience". I thank the Lord who gave me that extraordinary experience and who has enabled me to speak of my experience as a "clandestine" seminarian, "catacombal", to the seminarians of Rome more than 50 years later. And I think that this is also a beautiful tribute to Our Lady of Confidence for we also lived through all those "clandestine" years, thanks to that confidence, confidence in God and in his Mother. I learned confidence in the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the Patroness of your seminary. I learned to have confidence above all during the terrible years of the war and in the clandestine life. Thank you.

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 22 February 2003