Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 15 March 2003




To the Most Reverend Father Joachim Giermek
Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual

1. I learned with joy that this Order intends to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the birth of St Joseph of Cupertino, on 17 June 1603, with a series of religious, pastoral and cultural events that all aim at recovering the depth and timeliness of the message of this faithful disciple of the Poverello of Assisi.

On this special occasion, I am delighted to address my most cordial greeting to you and willingly extend it to the Franciscan community of Osimo and the Friars Minor Conventual throughout the world. I also greet the devotees and the pilgrims who will take part in the solemn celebrations for the Jubilee.

2. This important occasion is a rare opportunity of grace, offered first of all to the Friars Minor Conventual. They must feel impelled by the saint's example to deepen their religious vocation in order to respond with renewed dedication, as he did in his day, to the great challenges that society creates for the followers of St Francis of Assisi at the dawn of the third millennium.

At the same time, this centenary year is a providential opportunity for the whole Christian community to give thanks to the Lord for the abundant fruits of holiness and human wisdom bestowed upon this humble and obedient servant of Christ.

St Joseph of Cupertino continues to shine out in our times as a beacon that enlightens the daily path of those who have recourse to his heavenly intercession. Popularly known as "the Flying Saint" on account of his frequent ecstasies and the extraordinary nature of his mystical experiences, he invites the faithful to follow the deepest expectations of the heart; he encourages them to seek the profound meaning of life and, in the last analysis, draws them to encounter God personally, abandoning themselves fully to his will.

3. As the Patron of students, St Joseph of Cupertino encourages the world of culture, and, particularly the world of education, to base human knowledge on divine wisdom. Besides, it is on account of his interior docility to the promptings of divine wisdom that this unusual saint can be proposed as a spiritual guide to every category of the faithful. To priests and consecrated persons, to young people and adults, to children and the elderly, to whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ, he continues to point out the priorities that this radical choice involves. The recognition of the primacy of God in our lives, the value of prayer and contemplation, passionate adherence to the Gospel "sine glossa", without compromises: these are a few indispensable conditions for being Jesus' credible witnesses, lovingly seek his holy Face. This is what this extraordinary mystic, an exemplary follower of the Poor Man of Assisi, did. He burned with tender love for the Lord and lived for the service of his Kingdom. Now from Heaven, he never ceases to protect and support all who, following in his footsteps, want to be converted to God and set out with determination on the path of holiness.

4. From the spirituality that defines him emerge the typical features of the genuine Franciscan tradition. In love with the mystery of the Incarnation, Joseph of Cupertino would contemplate in ecstasy the Son of God born in Bethlehem, calling him fondly and confidently "the little Baby Jesus". He expressed externally the joyful love of this mystery by holding close to his chest a wax figure of the Child Jesus and singing and dancing for the divine tenderness so abundantly poured out upon humanity in the grotto of the Nativity.

Also touching was St Joseph's participation in the mystery of Christ's Passion. The crucified One was ever present in his mind and heart, in the midst of the sufferings of a life in which he was often misunderstood and hindered. Tears would stream from his eyes at the thought of Jesus dying on the Cross, especially since, as he liked to repeat, it was sin that pierced the immaculate Redeemer with the hammer of ingratitude, selfishness and indifference.

5. Another important aspect of his spirituality was his love for the Eucharist. The celebration of Mass and the long hours he spent in adoration before the tabernacle were the heart of his life of prayer and contemplation. He considered the Sacrament of the Altar the "bread of angels", a mystery of faith that Jesus left to his Church, the sacrament in which the Son of God made man does not appear to the faithful face-to-face, but heart-to-heart. With this supreme mystery - he affirmed - God has given us all the treasures of his divine omnipotence and has clearly lavished upon us an excess of divine mercy. From daily contact with Jesus in the Eucharist, he drew serenity and peace which he then passed on to everyone he met, recalling that, in this world, we are all pilgrims and wayfarers on our way to eternity.

6. St Joseph of Cupertino was conspicuous for his simplicity and obedience. Detached from everything, he lived constantly on the move, going from one friary to another as the Superiors commanded, on every occasion abandoning himself into God's hands.

An authentic Franciscan, living according to the spirit of the Poor Man of Assisi, he was deeply devoted to the Successor of Peter and had a lively sense of the Church, whom he loved with an unconditional love. He felt he was a living and active member of the Church perceived in her intimate reality of mystical Body. He fully adhered to the desire of the Popes of his time, with docility letting himself be accompanied to the places where obedience took him and accepting besides the humiliation and suspicion that the originality of his charisms never failed to arouse. Of course, he could not deny the extraordinary nature of the gifts he had received, but far from any attitude of pride or vanity, he continued to nourish sentiments of humility and truth, attributing all the merit of the good that flourished in his hands to God's free action.

7. What can be said of his touching devotion as son to the Blessed Virgin? From the days of his youth he learned to stand at the feet of Our Lady of Grace in the shrine at Galatone. He would later pause to contemplate the beloved image of Our Lady of Grottella who accompanied him during his life. Finally, from the friary in Osimo where he spent his last years, he would often turn his gaze to the Basilica of Loreto, for centuries a centre of Marian devotion.

For him, Mary was a true mother with whom he experienced the simple, sincere, confident relations of a son. Still today, he repeats to the devout who turn to him: "This is our Protectress, Lady, Patroness, Mother, Spouse and Help".

8. In St Joseph of Cupertino, who is very dear to the people, there shines forth the wisdom of the little ones and the spirit of the evangelical Beatitudes. Throughout his life he points to genuine joy, even in the midst of fatigue and trials: a joy that comes from on high and is born from his love for God and for his brothers and sisters, the fruit of a long and demanding search for the true good. For this reason it is contagious toward those who come into contact with him.

If, because of his intense, burning dedication to Christian ascesis this saint might appear, at a superficial glance, as rude, severe and rigorous, yet he was a man full of joy, affable and cordial with all. Indeed, biographers say that he succeeded in passing on his holy Franciscan joy by his way of praying, enlivened with attractive music and popular songs that involved his listeners and revived their devotion.

9. All these features bring St Joseph of Cupertino spiritually close to the people of our time. I therefore hope that the observance of the anniversary will be a pleasant and timely opportunity to rediscover the true spirituality of "the Flying Saint". At his school everyone can learn how to pursue the path to "weekday" holiness, that flows from the faithful fulfilment of daily duties.

For the religious family of Friars Minor Conventual, may he be a shining model of how to follow the Gospel according to the specific charism of Francis and Clare of Assisi. May he remind the faithful who will take part in the various observances, that all believers must "put out into the deep", confident that the Lord will help them to respond fully to their own call to holiness.

In a word, may the heroic evangelical witness of this fascinating man of God, recognized by the Church and presented once again to the men and women of our time, be for each one a strong appeal to live his/her faith with passion and enthusiasm in the many complex situations of the contemporary world.

With these sentiments and good wishes, I gladly impart to you, Most Reverend Minister General, to your confreres around the world and to those who come daily to the Shrine in Osimo, a special Apostolic Blessing which I extend with affection to all who are inspired by the example and teaching of the saint of Cupertino.

From the Vatican, 22 February 2003.





To the Very Reverend Father Roberto Simionato
General Director of the Little Work of Divine Providence

1. With joy I learned that this Institute is commemorating the centenary of its canonical approval by Bishop Igino Bandi of Tortona. On this happy occasion, I am pleased to address to you, to the General Council and to the members of the entire Congregation a cordial greeting and the assurance of my spiritual participation in the various observances that will certainly help to revive the fervour of your origins, so that you may continue with unswerving enthusiasm the journey your Founder began more than 100 years ago.

2. The cleric Luigi Orione, a former student of Don Bosco in Turin, was only 20 years old when he opened the first Oratory [recreation centre] in Tortona, and the following year, 1893, he became a founder, setting up a "small house with boarding facilities" and a school for poor boys. In the events of daily life, lived with faith and charity, the plan for which divine Providence destined him began to unfold. In a letter dated 4 April 1897, he wrote to the future Cardinal Perosi, his fellow-citizen and friend, who had asked him about his "idea": "It seems to me that Our Lord Jesus Christ is calling me to a state of great charity ... but it is a great and gentle fire that needs to expand and set the whole world on fire. In the shadow of every bell tower a Catholic school will rise, in the shadow of every Cross there will be a hospital: the mountains will make way for the great love of Jesus Our Lord, and everything will be restored and purified by Jesus" (The Spirit of Don Orione, I,2).

It was precisely because he burned with this mystical fire that Don Orione overcame the obstacles and difficulties of the early days and became an unflagging, creative and effective apostle. Some of his companions in the seminary followed the cleric-founder; many of the students dreamt of being priests like him. The Work, which from the start he named "of Divine Providence", expanded with numerous members and activities. The Bishop of Tortona anxiously followed the development of those daring, humanly fragile initiatives, and he knew how to discern the action of the Spirit. With a Decree of 21 March 1903, the Bishop approved the charism and the constitution of the male religious Congregation, the Sons of Divine Providence, which included priests, hermits and coadjutor brothers. Later, the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity were born, and from them sprang two contemplative branches, the Blind Sacramentine Sisters, and the Contemplatives of the Crucified Jesus, while more recently the Don Orione Secular Institute and the Don Orione Lay Movement have come into being.

3. On the occasion of this Jubilee, I am pleased to express my deep gratitude to all of you, members of the Don Orione family, for your effective contribution to the Church's mission in recent years. I also want to recall what I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata: "You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished!" (n. 110). I therefore invite you to look to the future, "where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things" (ibid.).

Dear Sons of Divine Providence, the Church expects you to rekindle the gift that is in you (cf. II Tim 1,6) renewing your resolutions and, in a changing world, you should promote your vocation with creative fidelity. In the same Apostolic Exhortation, I said: "Institutes of consecrated life are thus invited courageously to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness of their founders and foundresses in response to the signs of the times emerging in today's world. This invitation is first of all a call to perseverance on the path of holiness in the midst of the material difficulties of daily life. But it is also a call to pursue competence in personal work and to develop a dynamic fidelity to their mission, and, if need be, adapting forms to new situations and different needs, in complete openness to God's inspiration and to the Church's discernment" (ibid., n. 37).

Only by remaining firmly rooted in divine life and keeping the spirit of your origins intact will you be able to respond prophetically to the needs of the present era. The primary obligation of every baptized person and, even more so, of every consecrated person, is to tend toward holiness; and it would certainly be "a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity" (Novo millennio ineunte NM 31). In your blessed Founder's style, and in line with the character of the religious life that you have embraced, do not be afraid to seek with patience and constancy "this high standard of ordinary Christian living", with recourse to "a genuine "training in holiness'" (ibid.) for yourselves, personally, and for the community, which is firmly anchored in the rich ecclesial tradition and open to dialogue with the new times.

4. Creative fidelity in a changing world: may this orientation guide you so that, as Don Orione loved to repeat, you may "keep up with the times". If the observances for the centenary of canonical approval are an incentive to "remember", reviving the spirit of your beginnings, at the same time, may they direct you, in view of your coming General Chapter, to "plan" new and courageous charitable initiatives.

May the spirit of your first hour remain unchanged! In this regard, I would like to highlight an important aspect of the charismatic intuition of the cleric Luigi Orione: his superior and unifying love for "Holy Mother Church". Then, as now, it is fundamental for your Work to foster this deep passion for the Church, so that you may "cooperate with humility, at the feet of the Apostolic See and of the Bishops, to renew and to unify in Jesus Christ our Lord mankind and society, by bringing the heart of abandoned children, the poor and the working classes to the Church and to the Pope: in order to restore all things in Christ, so that there may be one flock and one shepherd" (Constitutions, art. 5).

May Don Orione continue to accompany you from Heaven, along with all the confreres who, throughout these hundred years, spent their lives serving Christ and the poor. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, watch over you and obtain, as Don Orione prayed, that you "consecrate [your] whole life to giving Christ to people, and people to Christ's Church; may she shine bright in Christ, and in Christ to be consumed in the enlightened bringing of the Gospel to the poor, may [your] life and death be the sweetest song of charity, and a holocaust to the Lord" (The Spirit of Don Orione, IX, 131).

With affection I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer, as I wholeheartedly bless your entire spiritual family and all those you care for daily.



Saturday, 22 March 2003

Distinguished Professors,

I am very pleased to meet you on the occasion of the presentation in Rome of the book: Phenomenology World-Wide. Foundations - Expanding - Dynamics - Life Engagements. A guide for research and study. I congratulate Prof. Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, the editor of this work, and I greet everyone here. I am grateful to you all for your visit and for the complimentary copy of this publication, which is of particular interest to me.

A special feature of this work is that it contains "many voices", in other words, it is the result of the collaboration of more than 70 experts in the various areas of phenomenological research. This "symphonic" character corresponds with one of the aspirations of Edmund Husserl, the father of phenomenology. Indeed, he was eager to set up a research community to investigate the great world of humanity and life from different complementary approaches.

I thank God for having allowed me also to participate in this fascinating enterprise, starting with my years of study and teaching, and also later, in the subsequent phases of my life and in my pastoral ministry.

Phenomenology is primarily a style of thought, a relationship of the mind with reality whose essential and constitutive features it aims to grasp, avoiding prejudice and schematisms. I mean that it is, as it were, an attitude of intellectual charity to the human being and the world, and for the believer, to God, the beginning and end of all things. To overcome the crisis of meaning which is characteristic of some sectors of modern thought, I insisted, in the Encyclical Fides et Ratio (cf. n. 83), on an openness to metaphysics, and phenomenology can make a significant contribution to this openness.

Dear friends, in telling you once again of my gratitude for your visit and for the gift of this important philosophical contribution, I wish you success in your activities and cordially bless all of you and your loved ones.



Saturday, 22 March 2003

Dear Telepace Staff,

1. Welcome to this meeting on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of your television channel. I warmly greet you, and, particularly, I greet your founder and director, Mons. Guido Todeschini, whom I thank for his words on your behalf. I cordially greet your relatives, the collaborators, volunteers, listeners to the radio, viewers of the TV channel and the whole family of Telepace.

I was happy to learn that, thanks to eight satellites, your transmitter's signal can now be received on every continent. What a long way you have come in 25 years! I give thanks to God for all you have achieved and I express my gratitude to you for daily making even further progress in developing this radio-television channel that proposes to take the Gospel of peace to the far ends of the earth.

2. Telepace! Its name expresses the objective that the transmitter wants to realize. Telepace wants to be the television of peace, of that peace which is the gift of God and a humble and constant human achievement. When war threatens humanity's destiny, as it does today in Iraq, it is even more urgent for us to proclaim with a loud and decisive voice that peace is the only way to build a more just and caring society. Violence and arms can never solve human problems.

Your channel has made this indispensable education for peace its aim right from the start. In fact, Radio Pace came into being 25 years ago, when Italy was going through a disturbing climate of violence and terrorism, to give "a voice to those who have no voice". You jealously keep a tiny transmitter as a reminder of those days. It was the first means of communication of your radio station from which, over the years, you developed your radio-television channel that today enables you to reach out to nearly all the regions of the globe.

3. For 25 years, trusting in divine Providence, Telepace has kept intact its charism, free from any, even financial, conditioning in order to serve God and the human person in the Church. Since 1985, in collaboration with the Vatican Television Centre, it relays the apostolic journeys of the Successor of Peter and brings his words and teaching daily to countless families in Italy, in Europe and, since last year, in many other countries of the earth. It is not limited to broadcasting events and programmes of religious and ecclesial interest, but stimulates and encourages the generous solidarity of television viewers. In fact, it presents cases of extreme need and appeals for concrete aid for students from developing countries and for other needy persons. It brings comfort to those who are lonely or neglected; with messages of hope it enters prisons and hospitals. Telepace informs, educates in the faith, encourages people to hope, stimulates them to solidarity and spreads the peace that flows from the encounter with Christ.

4. To all this can be added the spiritual assistance that Telepace offers its listeners and viewers by broadcasting the daily celebration of the Mass, the recitation of the Rosary, Eucharistic adoration, spiritual retreats, and the other times it reserves for prayer and Christian formation. During the Holy Year, for example, every day it broadcast the special evening prayer that was held in St Peter's Square. I also know that many persons, including nuns from various monasteries of contemplative life, "mystical antennae", as you call them, accompany you and support you with their prayers, while the sick, hospital patients and prisoners offer up their sufferings for your apostolate.

Dear Telepace staff, pursue your work with unswerving enthusiasm. A vast field for apostolic action opens before you. Be faithful to your mission to proclaim the truth about God and the human person. Spread in the Church and in the world the voice of Christ, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (cf. Jn Jn 14,6), and be vigilant watchmen of his peace.

May Mary, Queen of Peace and Star of Evangelization, guide the progress of your channel so that you may communicate the joy, love and peace of Christ "our peace" (Ep 2,14).

I warmly bless you, along with Your loved ones and all the members of the great family of Telepace.



Monday, 24 March 2003

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome the delegation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America making an ecumenical journey to Istanbul, Rome and Canterbury. I also take this occasion to offer my cordial good wishes to Bishop Mark Hansen as he begins his term as Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and as Vice-President of the Lutheran World Federation. May your visit confirm you in your commitment to the cause of Christian unity.

The quest for full communion among all Christians is a duty which springs from the prayer of the Lord himself (cf. Jn Jn 17,21). In recent times we have come to appreciate more deeply the fellowship existing between Lutherans and Catholics, which led to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed in 1999. In that document we are challenged to build on what has already been achieved, fostering more extensively at the local level a spirituality of communion marked by prayer and shared witness to the Gospel. In a world situation filled with danger and insecurity, all Christians are called to stand together in proclaiming the values of the Kingdom of God. The events of recent days make this duty all the more urgent.

I join you in praying that Almighty God will bestow upon the world that peace which is the fruit of justice and solidarity (cf. Is Is 32,16-17). Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.



Monday 24 March 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am delighted to meet you again this morning, after the festive celebration of the Beatification which took place yesterday in St Peter's Square. I greet you all with affection. I greet the Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and faithful who came here for the event. Our illustrious brothers and sisters in the faith whom we now contemplate in glory, took part in a unique way in Christ's death and resurrection. The fruit of the Paschal Mystery, that, at the end of our Lenten journey, we are preparing to celebrate solemnly, gloriously shines forth in them.

2. Dear pilgrims who have come to celebrate the Beatification of Pierre Bonhomme, I am happy to welcome you. I am delighted with your celebration of the charism of this Blessed, linked to the history of the region of Cahors. In a special way I greet the Sisters of Our Lady of Calvary who thank God for their Founder, a person totally devoted to the poor. Dear Sisters, I encourage you to be faithful to the spirit of service that he taught you. He drew the strength for his mission from the mystery of the Eucharist, the centre of his day and of his ministry; he found in Mary, whom he venerated particularly at the shrine of Rocamadour, the protection and confidence that guided his initiatives. Following him, may you fully live your religious consecration in order to be his witnesses.

3. With great affection I wish to greet the Spanish-speaking Pastors, religious and faithful who took part in the celebration yesterday. You feel close to the three women who, with heroic generosity, gave themselves to their Christian vocation and enriched the Church with new foundations. I refer to the Spanish blesseds, Dolores Rodríguez Sopeña and Juana María Condesa Lluch, and the Swiss Blessed with a South American and universal heart, Mother Caritas Brader. All three lived in the same period and solidly nourished their faith with prayer, intimacy with the Eucharist and tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

4. Among the virtues of Bl. Caritas Brader, I desire to emphasize her missionary zeal that did not draw back in the face of difficulties.

Dear Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate: imitate joyfully your Foundress' example, follow her path with self-denial, instilling new hope into humanity. You have an important history, the Church is grateful to you for your mission and encourages you to persevere in it with the intercession and protection of Mother Caritas.

5. The religious, Handmaids of Mary Immaculate, saw their Foundress beatified yesterday. The history of Juana María Condesa Lluch has a special meaning for our time.

To you, the Handmaids of the Immaculate Conception, Bl. Juana Condesa left as a testament her great wisdom in knowing how to approach those in need of material and spiritual assistance, going with them on their way and, by the power of fraternity, assuring that it would lead to God and to the world that He desires. Along with those who in one way or another share in your activities in Spain, Italy, Panama, Chile and Peru, I encourage you to continue bearing this kind of evangelical witness.

6. The problems of emigration, social tensions, globalization, manifest or covert anti-clericalism, make it possible to understand better the inspiration that in her day led Bl. Dolores Sopeña to consecrate her life to the evangelization of those who were far from God and his Church.

Her apostolic zeal led her to found three institutions, today united in the "Sopeña family", that support many foundations in Spain, Italy, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic. Their principal objective continues to be the advancement and the proclamation of the Good News to families in the world of work; these families are not so lacking in education as was the case in the past, but they are always in need of Jesus Christ.

7. I greet with cordial affection the pilgrims who have come to Rome for the beatification of Ladislaus (László) Batthyány-Strattmann. The memory of this new blessed, who has ties with both the Hungarian and Austrian peoples, and his witness, stress again how important it is to safeguard and nurture the Christian values by which he lived, for peace and for the hoped for building of the common European house. May the new Blessed be for you, not just a protector to whom you can pray. May he also be a valid example that you can imitate, if you wish courageously to fulfil God's call!

Dear Hungarian-speaking pilgrims, like Bl. László Batthyány-Strattmann, may you too be faithful to the mission you have received for the service of the Gospel.

8. On this festive occasion, the "Icon of the Holy Family" will be handed over to the Archbishop of Valencia; it is the symbol of the World Meeting of Families. Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo brought it from Manila. I thank Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco, his collaborators, the authorities present here and all the faithful of Valencia, for the enthusiasm shown since the designation of Valencia as the host of the next World Meeting, and I encourage and bless the work and the initiative they will accomplish for its success. May the contemplation of this image in these years of preparation serve as an inspiration to continue the work of defending and promoting the institution of the family, so necessary if it is to carry out the mandate God entrusted to it and be "gaudium et spes", the joy and hope of humanity, a school that transmits the genuine values that humanity needs and a place to welcome life.

9. Brothers and Sisters, imploring the intercession of the new Blesseds so that they accompany us in the daily journey of the Christian life, with affection I bless you together with your loved ones and the Christian communities from which you come.



Dear Military Chaplains,

1. I am pleased to extend to you my greeting on the occasion of the course of formation in humanitarian law, organized jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

I desire to express my pleasure at the care these two Vatican offices have taken for some time to prepare this session in accord with the commitment made by the Holy See during the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (1999).

Moreover, I also wish to thank the qualified experts who have generously contributed their outstanding expertise for the success of the course.

Almost all the Military Ordinariates have sent their representatives to your course: this proves the value of the initiative that is meant to be a clear sign of the importance that the Holy See attaches to humanitarian law as a protection of the dignity of the human person even in the tragic context of war.

2. It is precisely when armed conflict erupts that the need for regulations to curb the brutality of the warfare becomes urgent.

Down the centuries, the consciousness of this urgent need has gradually led to the formation of a real juridical corpus, defined as "international humanitarian law". This body of law has been developed thanks to the maturation of principles inherent in the Christian message.

As I have had the opportunity to say in the past to the members of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, Christianity "offers this development a basis in its affirmation of man's autonomous value and pre-eminent dignity as a person with his own individuality, complete in his essential constitution, and endowed with rational consciousness and freedom of will. In past centuries too, the Christian view of man inspired the tendency to mitigate the traditional ferocity of war, so as to ensure more humane treatment for those involved in the hostilities. It made a decisive contribution to the affirmation, both morally and in practice, of the rules of humaneness and justice that are now, in duly modernized and specified form, the nucleus of our present-day international conventions" (18 May 1982; ORE, 14 June 1982, p. 12).

3. Military chaplains, inspired by Christ's love, are called by their special vocation to witness that even in the midst of the harshest combats, it is always possible, and only right, to respect the dignity of the military adversary, the dignity of civilian victims, the indelible dignity of every human being involved in armed conflict. In this way, moreover, the reconciliation is fostered that will be necessary for re-establishing peace when the war is over.

Inter arma caritas (charity under arms) was the significant password of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the early days, an eloquent symbol of the Christian motivation that inspired the Genevan, Henri Dunant, who founded this admirable organization, whose motivation should never be forgotten.

As Catholic military chaplains, in addition to carrying out your specific religious ministry, you must not fail to make your contribution to giving military staff an appropriate education in the values that motivate humanitarian law and make it not merely a juridical code, but first and foremost an ethical code.

4. Your course is taking place at a difficult moment in history, when the world once again is hearing the clash of arms. The thought of the victims and the destruction and suffering caused by armed conflict brings ever-deeper anxiety and great sorrow.

By now, it should be clear to all that the use of war as a means of resolving disputes between States was rejected, even before the UN Charter, by the consciences of the majority of humanity, except in the case of legitimate defence against an aggressor. The vast contemporary movement in favour of peace - which, according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, is more than "the simple absence of war" (Gaudium et spes GS 78) - demonstrates this conviction of people of every continent and culture.

In this context, the influence of the different religions in sustaining the quest for peace is a reason for comfort and hope. In our view of faith, peace, even if it is the fruit of political agreements and understanding between individuals and peoples, is the gift of God, whom we should insistently invoke with prayer and penance. Without conversion of heart there is no peace! Peace can only be achieved through love!

Right now we are all asked to work and pray so that war may disappear from the horizon of humanity.

With these hopes, I formulate my best wishes that the course of formation may be profitable to you, dear chaplains, to whom I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing which I gladly extend to the organizers, lecturers and other collaborators.

From the Vatican, 24 March 2003.

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 15 March 2003