Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 29 March 2003

April 2003




To the Very Reverend Father Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini
Superior General of the Order of Minims

1. I learned with pleasure that the first "March of Penance" will be taking place this 2 April in the city of Paola. It has the approval of Archbishop Giuseppe Agostino, the diocesan archbishop, and is organized by the Order's Council for Youth Ministry. Young people in particular are invited to take part in it. I am delighted to address a cordial welcome and greeting to you, dear Father, to the organizers, to your confreres and to all who will be taking part in this excellent initiative, which is to take place every year on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Paola.

2. The timely event is taking place this year in a period marked by many anxieties and much suffering, due to the current war. It is a particularly apt moment, therefore, to invite reflection and to pray for the fundamental gift of peace for humanity. In a certain sense, it is a spiritual follow-up to the "Day of Prayer and Fasting" with which Lent began. These powerful spiritual moments help us become more and more conscious of the urgent need to build peace, even at the cost of personal sacrifices. We must be prepared to give up even something legitimate with a view to a greater good. It is necessary above all to be aware that we can obtain everything from God with prayer. At the same time, the March can become a school of life because it makes possible reference to the shining example and teaching of the Saint of Paola, who did not hesitate to put his own choice of Gospel penitence at the service of the Church and of society.

3. The Saint lived in a time that was not without hardship and problems due to long drawn-out conflicts. He was committed to working for peace, doing penance as well as mediating between hostile parties. In 1494, while dense clouds were gathering over Italy, he confided: "I am striving to pray for peace". He described peace as "the greatest treasure that peoples can have", and "a holy product for which it is worth paying a high price".

Very Reverend Father, I encourage you, your confreres and the young participants in the March to accept with compliance, at the school of the Saint of Paola, the "sweet teaching" of Gospel penitence, in order to learn the true secret of peace. As the Saint himself taught, the achievement of peace at every level is linked to conversion of heart and a real change of life.

I warmly hope that the "March of Penance" will contribute to developing in the consciences of the new generations a sincere determination for peace, which they should foster with a process of personal self-denial in a spirit of repentance.

With these sentiments, as I invoke the heavenly intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and of St Francis of Paola, I impart with affection to the Pastor of the Archdiocese, to you, Very Reverend Father, and to the entire Order of Minims, to the organizers, to the young people and to all the participants in the penitential March, a special Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 5 April 2003

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1Tm 1,2). With fraternal affection I warmly welcome you, the Bishops of Scandinavia. Your first visit ad Limina Apostolorum in this new millennium is an occasion to renew your commitment to proclaim ever more courageously the Gospel of Jesus Christ in truth and love. As pilgrims to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, you "come to see Peter" (cf. Gal Ga 1,18) and his collaborators in the service of the universal Church. You thus confirm your "unity in the same faith, hope and charity, and more and more recognize and treasure that immense heritage of spiritual and moral wealth that the whole Church, joined with the Bishop of Rome by the bond of communion, has spread throughout the world" (Pastor Bonus, Appendix I, 3).

2. As Bishops, you have been endowed with the authority of Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 25) and entrusted with the task of bearing witness to his saving Gospel. The faithful of Scandinavia, with great expectation, look to you to be steadfast teachers of the faith, selfless in your readiness to speak the truth "in season and out of season" (2Tm 4,2). By your personal witness to the living mystery of God (cf. Catechesi Tradendae CTR 7), you make known the boundless love of him who has revealed himself and his plan for humanity through Jesus Christ. In this way eloquent testimony is borne to Godís extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2Co 1,20) and you yourselves are strengthened in your preaching of Jesus Christ, who is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6).

It is this message that needs to be heard today, clearly and unambiguously. In a world fraught with scepticism and confusion, it may seem to some that the light of Christ has been obscured. Indeed, modern societies and cultures are often marked by a secularism that easily leads to a loss of the sense of God, and without God the proper sense of man is soon lost as well. "When the Creator is forgotten the creature itself grows unintelligible" (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 36): people are no longer able to see themselves as "mysteriously different" from other earthly creatures and lose sight of the transcendent character of human existence. This is the context in which the liberating truth of Christ must resound: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn 8,32). We are speaking here of the fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of earthly existence and which forms the basis of the Gospel we preach, the "Gospel of life". In fact, it is the profound and persuasive echo of this sublime truth in the heart of every person ó believer and non-believer alike ó that "marvellously fulfils all the heartís expectations while infinitely surpassing them" (Evangelium Vitae EV 2).

3. A central aspect of the "new evangelization" to which I have called the entire Church is the evangelization of culture. For "at the heart of every culture lies the attitude man takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God. When this question is eliminated, the culture and moral life of nations are corrupted" (Centesimus Annus CA 24). The challenge facing you, dear Brothers, is to see that the voice of Christianity is heard in the public arena and that the values of the Gospel are brought to bear in your societies and cultures. I am pleased to note in this regard the positive impact of your pastoral letters and statements on matters of contemporary concern in your countries.

For example, in your recent Pastoral Letter on marriage and family life you addressed many difficulties that beset Christian families. Observing how the sacredness of marriage is obfuscated by its equation with various forms of cohabitation and noting the negative effects of divorce in your societies, you encourage married couples to preserve and develop the value of marital indissolubility. Thus you help them to become a precious sign of the unfailing fidelity and selfless love of Christ himself (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 20).

The institution of marriage, in fact, was willed by God from the very beginning and finds its fullest significance in the teaching of Christ. What more wondrous and joyous a moment is there for married couples, as they participate in Godís act of creation, than the birth of their children? And what greater sign of hope is there for humanity than new life? The truth of human sexuality becomes clearly seen in the mutual love of spouses and their acceptance of "the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person" (ibid., 14). Encouraging the faithful to promote the dignity of marriage and teaching them to treasure its indissoluble nature is nothing less than helping them to share in the love of God, which is perfect, complete, and always life-giving.

4. The people of Scandinavia are well known for their participation in peace-keeping missions, their deep sense of responsibility in the face of ecological crises, and their generosity in providing humanitarian aid. True humanism, however, always includes God. Otherwise it will eventually, even if unintentionally, deny human beings their proper place in creation and will fail to acknowledge fully the dignity which belongs to every person (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 5). Therefore you must help your respective cultures to draw on their rich Christian heritage in shaping their understanding of the human person. In Christ all people are brothers and sisters, and our gestures of solidarity towards them become acts of love and fidelity to Christ, who said whatever you do to one of the least of these, you do to me (cf. Mt Mt 25,45). This is the foundation of the culture of life and the civilization of love that we seek to build up, and it is also the perspective underlying your efforts to welcome the growing number of migrants in the Nordic lands.

5. Your local ecumenical programmes are likewise a source of encouragement, for the united witness of all Christians will do much to bring Gospel values to bear in society and advance the kingdom of God in our midst. Awareness of the common history shared by Christians has given rise to a "rediscovered brotherhood" from which spring many of the fruits of ecumenical dialogue ó joint statements (not least of which is the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification), shared prayer, solidarity in service to humanity. Correctly understood, ecumenism forms part of the commitment of all Christians to bear witness to their faith. While the ecumenical path rightly focuses on what we have in common, it must not of course neglect or gloss over the very real difficulties still facing us on the road to unity. Although full communion in faith does not yet exist, this should not cause despair but should prompt all believers to deepen their commitment to pray fervently and work resolutely for that unity which Christ wills for his Church (cf. Jn Jn 17,20-21).

6. Brothers, the new millennium demands a "new impetus in Christian living" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 29). Men and women the world over are searching for meaning in their lives; they need believers who not only "speak" to them of Christ but also "show" him to them. It is in our own contemplation of the face of Christ (cf. ibid., 16) that we come to make his light shine ever more brightly for others. Indispensable in this regard is the provision of formation programmes for children, youth and adults. Such pastoral initiatives, adapted to the particular circumstances of your people, will produce great fruits of holiness among them and will assist those who know little of Jesus Christ yet seek direction in their lives.

Fundamental to your mission is the continuing formation of diocesan clergy and Religious as well as the adequate training of seminarians. Moreover, promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life must also be seen as a priority as you face the challenges of evangelization in the Third Christian Millennium. In this way, you will work to ensure that a sufficient number of men and women respond to Christís call. Some of your local churches even now are experiencing growth in vocations to the consecrated life. This is a clear sign of a renewed interest in spirituality and reflects the desire, especially among young people, to deepen awareness and understanding of the faith. I encourage you in your role as Pastors to nurture this growth, doing all you can to facilitate the dynamic presence of religious and contemplative communities among your people, and providing the necessary human and spiritual support for your diocesan priests.

7. Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy, with fraternal affection I gladly share these reflections with you and encourage you in exercising the charism of truth which the Spirit has bestowed upon you. I assure you of my prayers as you continue to shepherd in love the flocks entrusted to your care. United in our proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, renewed in the enthusiasm of the first Christians, and guided by the example of the Saints, let us go forward in hope! In this Year of the Rosary, may Mary, Mother of the Church, be your sure guide as you "seek to do what Jesus tells you" (cf. Jn Jn 2,5). Commending you to her maternal protection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses.




Monday, 7 April 2003

Dear Archbishop Levada,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am pleased to welcome your ecumenical delegation of Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Anglicans from the San Francisco area. This pilgrimage, which coincides with the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, is a testimony to your commitment to the growth of Christian unity through sincere dialogue, common prayer and fraternal cooperation in the service of the Gospel. It is my hope that your visit to this City, blessed by the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and the memory of the early martyrs, will deepen your love of Jesus Christ and your zeal for the spread of his Kingdom. At a time of conflict and grave unrest in our world, I pray that your witness to the Gospel message of reconciliation, solidarity and love will be a sign of hope and a promise of the unity of a humanity reborn and renewed in the grace of Christ. Upon you and your communities I cordially invoke Godís abundant blessings.


Monday, 7 April 2003

To H.E. Mr Eduardo Duhalde
President of the Republic of Argentina

1. I am deeply grateful for the attentive text in which you express to me the recognition and affection of the beloved Argentine people. You have had the kindness to present it to me before reaching the end of your presidential mandate, on the occasion of your visit to the See of the Successor of the Apostle St Peter. In coming here today, you clearly desire to express the sincere gratitude of your compatriots for the Holy See's service to the progress, peace, justice and dignity of the human person.

2. The Church has always accompanied the progress of the Argentinians with her presence and closeness. Especially through the generous apostolic work of the Pastors of this beloved land, and particularly with the proclamation of the Word of the Lord and the spread of the great Gospel values, she has helped them to face with courage and confidence the challenges of the present time.

With concern for the whole Church and an awareness of the great difficulties that must be faced each day, I follow the ups and downs of the Argentine nation with interest at this critical time in history when the tragic events we are witnessing remind us all, and especially those with the arduous task of governing the peoples' future, of our responsibility, to God and to history, for building a world of peace and of spiritual and material well-being.

3. As I look at Argentina, I express the wish that the heritage of the Church's social teaching may continue to be a precious guide in overcoming the problems that stand in the way of building an order that is more just, fraternal and supportive. The Church, a witness of hope, is always ready to serve as a means of reconciliation and understanding between the different sectors that make up the fabric of society, so that each one of them may cooperate effectively and actively in solving the problems. There should be a dialogue which, precluding every type of violence in all its forms, will help to alleviate the hardships that primarily affect the least privileged classes of society and thus contribute, with the collaboration of all, to building a more dignified and human future.

Situations of injustice always conceal a serious moral disorder, which is not resolved merely by the application of more or less satisfactory technical measures, but by the determined promotion, above all, of a series of reforms that favour the rights and duties of the family as the natural and irreplaceable basis of society. An impetus must likewise be given to pro-life projects for the defence and development of life which take into account the ethical dimension of the person, from conception until natural death.

4. The Catholic faith, whose presence in this land dates back to the early 16th century, is one of its treasures. Throughout this age-old history, the pilgrim Church among your people has produced abundant fruits of life through the efforts of men and women of acclaimed virtue, such as Bl. Mother Cabanillas, whom I had the honour of raising to the glory of the altars last year, and of so many Christians who worked tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel as a service to the integral good of humanity. In effect, the deep Catholic roots that have formed the spiritual heritage of the Nation and are visible in its culture, history and certain legislative measures, have left a mark on the fundamental principles of the Constitution of your Country, at the same time guaranteeing legitimate respect for religious freedom. Argentina has always been able, and this deserves full recognition, to take in persons of every race and creed who have found, from La Quiaca to Tierra de Fuego and from the great cities and peoples of the Andes to those of the Atlantic coast, a place of peaceful and harmonious coexistence.

5. I encourage all Argentinians without exception to persevere in their search for the way that leads to harmony, without forgetting that it cannot dispense with the respect for and protection of the fundamental rights of the human person. Likewise, I encourage everyone to continue to work tirelessly to build a society that offers equal opportunities and dispels every shadow of discrimination among its members, never succumbing to the materialistic principles that numb consciences and harden hearts. At this difficult moment in international relations, we must bear in mind that the Gospel alone can inspire authentic and enduring principles of peace.

I pray to God that the Argentine nation, advancing on the paths of unity and effective solidarity, may achieve in the near future the prosperity which its children long for, after going through a major crisis. May the government leaders with political, administrative and legal responsibilities, as well as the experts in the various social sciences, discern and work hard to pass the necessary reforms, so that no one is deprived of what they need to develop as a person and a citizen. May they pay special attention to the most deprived social sectors, to the poor in general and to the unemployed, old-age pensioners and young people, without forgetting those who, for obvious reasons, are obliged to emigrate to other countries, crossing their own frontiers in search of a better future. The Argentinians, putting their trust in God and counting on the help of the international community, must be the principal protagonists and artisans of the history of a homeland that is serene and promising for all.

6. Mr President, when you return to your Country, please convey the Pope's cordial greetings to your fellow citizens and assure them of his prayers. As I invoke the protection of the Mother of Argentinians, Our Lady of LujŠn, I bless you all with deep affection.



Thursday, 10 April 2003

Dear Young People,

1. This year too, we have come together for a Meeting of prayer and celebration on the occasion of World Youth Day, the WYD!

I greet Cardinal Ruini, Vicar of Rome, and I thank him for his words; I will start by greeting the other Cardinals and Bishops present, and your priests and teachers. I greet the young people who have spoken to me on behalf of all the others and have offered me meaningful gifts, and each one of you, dear young people, boys and girls of Rome and of the Dioceses of Lazio who have gathered here. I greet the rain that has faithfully accompanied us; it more or less stopped, but it now seems to have started again!

I also greet those who are taking part in the Meeting of World Youth Day promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity and, with them, the delegations of young people from Toronto and Cologne, and the artists and witnesses who are accompanying us at today's event.

2. "Behold your Mother!" (Jn 19,27). I chose these words of Jesus as the theme for this 18th World Youth Day.

When his "hour" had come, Jesus from the cross gave Mary his Mother to the disciple John, making her, through the disciple he loved, Mother of all believers, Mother of us all. Behold, Jesus says to each one of us, Behold Mary, my Mother, who from this day becomes your Mother too!

Let us ask ourselves: who is this Mother? To understand this better, I recommend, in this Year of the Rosary, that you re-read the entire marvelous chapter VIII of the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council. Mary, "in an utterly singular way... cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the Saviour's work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason she is a mother to us in the order of grace" (n. 61; The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M. Abbott, S.J., The America Press, 1966). And this supernatural motherhood will continue until the glorious coming of Christ.

Of course, he, Jesus Christ, is the only Redeemer. He is the one Mediator between God and man! However - as the Council teaches - Mary cooperates and takes part in his work of salvation. Thus, she is a Mother for whom we must have a deep and true devotion, a profoundly Christocentric devotion, indeed, rooted in the Trinitarian Mystery of God himself.

3. ""Behold, your mother!'. And from that hour", the Gospel continues, "the disciple took her into his own home" (Jn 19,27).

Welcoming Mary into their home, into their life, is the privilege of every one of the faithful. This is especially true in difficult moments, such as those that you young people also have to live through at times in this period of your life. I remember this moment for me, when I was young and worked at the chemical factory, and I discovered these words: Totus Tuus. And with the power of these words I was able to get through the terrible war, the terrible Nazi occupation, and then through the other difficult experiences after the war. The possibility of taking Mary into our own home, into our own life, is offered to us all.

This is why today I want to entrust you to Mary. Dear friends, and I tell you from experience, open the doors of your life to her! Do not be afraid to open wide the doors of your hearts to Christ through the One who wants to bring you to him, so that you may be saved from sin and death! She will help you to listen to his voice and say "yes" to every plan that God conceives for you, for your good and for that of all humanity.

4. I entrust you to Mary while in spirit you are already on your way towards the World Youth Day in Cologne. The young people from Toronto have just brought here the Holy Year Cross. From Toronto to Cologne the Cross that next Sunday, Palm Sunday, they will present to their friends from Cologne. On the other hand, two youth from Rome have set under the Cross the Icon of Mary which stood guard over the "dawn watchmen" at Tor Vergata on the unforgettable World Youth Day in the Year 2000. Tor Vergata! So that it will always be clearly visible that Mary is a very powerful Mother who leads us to Christ, I would also like this Icon of Mary to be presented to the young people from Cologne next Sunday, along with the Cross and from now on, to be taken on pilgrimage round the world in preparation for World Youth Days.

With Mary, while you wait to meet the young people from all over the world in Cologne, remain in an atmosphere of prayer and inner listening to the Lord. For this reason, I would also like that as of today, the Day be prepared for with constant prayer to be raised by the whole Church and specifically, in Italy, at four important places: the Marian Shrine of Loreto and the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompei; here in Rome, at the Youth Centre of San Lorenzo, a stone's throw from St Peter's Basilica which for 20 years has welcomed young pilgrims to the Tomb of St Peter, and at the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, in Piazza Navona, where every Thursday evening since Holy Year 2000 young people can find an oasis of prayer before the Eucharist, and have an opportunity to receive the sacrament of Confession.

5. Thinking from this moment of the World Youth Day of Cologne, I would like to thank God once again for the gift of the World Youth Days. In these 25 years of my Pontificate I have been granted the grace to meet young people from every part of the world, especially on the occasion of these Days. Each one of them has been a "workshop of faith" where God and man have met, where every young person has been able to say: "You, O Christ, are "my Lord and my God'"!

They have been true schools of growth in the faith, of ecclesial life, of vocational response.
Furthermore, we can certainly say that every Day has been marked by the motherly love of Mary; the Church has been an eloquent image of her loving motherly concern for the rebirth of youth. Here is the rain again! It is raining again and we young people love you, rain!

6. "Behold your Mother!" (Jn 19,27), Regina Pacis! Responding to this invitation and taking Mary into your home will also mean working for peace. Mary, Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace), is indeed a Mother, and like every mother all she wants for her children is to see them living peacefully and in agreement with one another. In this tormented time in history, while terrorism and wars are threatening peace between men and women and religions, I would like to entrust you to Mary so that you may become champions of the culture of peace, today more necessary than ever.

Tomorrow will be the 40th anniversary of the publication of Bl. John XXIII's Encyclical Pacem in Terris. It is only by striving to build peace on the four pillars of truth, justice, love and freedom - as Pacem in Terris teaches us - that it will be possible to reinstitute cooperation among nations and to harmonize the different and contrasting interests of culture and institutions. Regina Pacis, ora pro nobis! Just a few more words and then I will let you go! Just another word and this word is about the Rosary.

7. [The Rosary], "the sweet chain that links us once again to God": Carry it with you always! The Rosary, recited with intelligent devotion, will help you assimilate the mystery of Christ, to learn from him the secret of peace and make it a project of life.

Far from being an escape from the problems of the world, the Rosary will motivate you to look responsibly and generously at them, and to find the strength to face them with the certainty of God's help and the firm determination to witness in all circumstances to "love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col 3,14 cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae RVM 40).

With these sentiments, I urge you to continue on your way through life, on which I accompany you with my affection and my blessing. This morning I celebrated Mass with the intention of obtaining God's blessing on this meeting with the young people of Rome and of Lazio.


"Behold, your Mother!'\i (@JN 19,27@)

O Virgin Mary, Jesus
on the Cross
wanted to entrust us to you,
not to lessen
but to reaffirm
his exclusive role as Saviour
of the world.

If in the disciple John
all the children of the Church were entrusted to you,
the happier I am to see
the young people of the world
entrusted to you, O Mary.
To you, gentle Mother,
whose protection I have always experienced,
this evening I entrust them to you once again.
All seek refuge and
protection under your mantle.
You, Mother of divine grace,
make them shine with
the beauty of Christ!

The young people of this century,
at the dawn of the new millennium, still live the torment that derives from sin,
from hatred, from violence,
from terrorism and from war.
But it is also the young to whom the Church looks confidently, knowing
that with the help of God's grace,
they will succeed in believing and in living as Gospel witnesses
in present day history.

O Mary,
help them to respond to their vocation.
Guide them to the knowledge of true love
and bless their affections.
Support them in times of suffering.
Make them fearless heralds
of Christ's greeting on Easter Day: Peace be with you!
With them, I also entrust myself
once again to you
and with confident affection
I repeat to you:
Totus Tuus ego sum!
I am all yours!

And each one of them
cries to you, with me:
Totus Tuus!
Totus Tuus!



Friday, 11 April 2003

Dear Sisters of the Poor,

1. I greet you with joy on the occasion of the General Chapter of your Institute. I cordially welcome each and every one of you, with a special thought for the Superior General and her Council. I extend my greeting to the whole of your religious Family, which strives to spread the Gospel of charity, especially among the poor.

For Orders and Congregations every chapter meeting is an important time of reflection in which to gather momentum for spiritual and missionary action since, in a certain way, it is a return in spirit to their own origins which will enable them to set out more courageously towards further apostolic goals.

This is also what you intended to do in this General Chapter, dear Sisters, open to the inspiration of the Spirit and attentive to the "signs" of the times. The rich charismatic heritage that Bl. Savina Petrilli has handed down to you represents a providential "talent" to be fruitfully expended in the Church and for the world.

2. Your Foundress, whom the Lord has allowed me to beatify 15 years ago, was consecrated to God and dedicated to her neediest brothers and sisters, inspired by the four great loves of St Catherine: the Eucharist, the Crucified One, the Church and the Poor. Ever ready to attend to the needs of her brethren, she did not hesitate 100 years ago to go to the continent of Latin America. Following her shining trail, her spiritual daughters then extended the congregation's presence to Asia as well.

The theme of the General Chapter: "A gift to give, the charismatic face of the Sister of the Poor", stresses the urgent need to carry on this spiritual and missionary action without ever losing sight of the charismatic insight of Bl. Savina Petrilli. "Being Sisters of the Poor", she observed, "involves the commitment never to abandon "those poor whom God gives us as brothers and sisters'" (Directory, p. 15), because "they must be dear to us and we must devote to them our special preference, our good will, our hearts, all our faculties and our work" (ibid., p. 1006). This love, Bl. Savina added, "will be our glory and the source from which heavenly blessings for the Institute will always flow, since those who have compassion on the poor attract the Lord's favour" (ibid., p. 1007).

3. Recognizing in the face of every poor person the face of Christ: it is this teaching that your Foundress repeats to you today, recalling, as she often did with the first sisters, that "nothing is too much for Jesus", and "the human heart can resist everything except kindness". The Sister of the Poor knows she must teach her heart to love and learn to "sacrifice herself and to be sacrificed without complaint", aspiring to the heroism of charity and ready to welcome each person, whatever the form of poverty presented.

Combining "contemplation and action", persevere, dear friends, in your ecclesial service which blossoms from prayer as "the flower from its root".

In our time it is especially necessary to reassert the primacy of listening to God and of contemplation, as you have been intent on doing during the work of the Chapter. If Jesus lives in you, it will precisely be this intimacy with him that will prevent any fracture between spiritual experience and work, which must be constantly adapted to the changing needs of the times.

As well as meeting people's material needs, never lose sight of the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, mindful of what your Foundress affirmed: "Those who cannot give their neighbour God should not give him anything, and anything given to him instead of the Creator is not charity".

Dear Sisters, a vast field of action lies before you: make it your concern to prepare yourselves with an appropriate and constant formation. May the Blessed Virgin accompany and sustain you, and may St Catherine and Bl. Savina Petrilli protect you. I assure you of my prayers, while with affection I bless you and your entire religious Family.

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 29 March 2003