Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 17 May 2003






Monday 19 May 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Yesterday morning we shared the joy of canonizing four shining witnesses of Christ: St Joseph Sebastian Pelczar, St Ursula Ledóchowska, St Maria De Mattias and St Virginia Centurione Bracelli. One Bishop and three Women Religious; all four founded institutes of consecrated life. Today we have the opportunity of meeting to continue to admire in each one a reflection of the face of Christ, and to thank God for them together.

With great joy I welcome and greet you who have come to honour St Maria De Mattias and St Virginia Centurione Bracelli. I greet the Pastors of the Dioceses in which these two new saints were born: Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa and Bishop Salvatore Boccaccio of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino. I also greet the other Bishops, the Authorities, the Priests and the faithful who have come from various regions of Italy, and in particular the Women Religious who have inherited the charisms and spirituality of these new saints.

2. The canonization of Maria De Mattias is a favourable opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of her lesson of life and to draw from her example useful guidelines for our own lives. I am thinking first and foremost of you, dear Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ, who are rejoicing to see your Foundress glorified, and of all of you, the faithful who are devoted to her and make up her spiritual family.

The message of Mother De Mattia is for all Christians, for she points to a priority and an essential commitment: to "keep our eyes fixed on Jesus" (He 12,2) in every event of life, never forgetting that he redeemed us at the price of his blood: "He gave everything", she would repeat, "he gave it for everyone".

My hope is that many will follow the example of the new saint. Throughout her life she strove to spread the Christian commandment of love, healing wounds and smoothing out the difficult situations and contradictions in the society of her time. It is easy to see the timeliness of such a message.

3. With warm affection I now greet you, dear Sisters of Our Lady of Refuge on Mount Calvary and Daughters of Our Lady on Mount Calvary, and all of you who are rejoicing in the canonization of St Virginia Centurione Bracelli.

The precious heritage that this saint has left to the Church, and particularly to her spiritual daughters, consists in charity, not meant as mere material aid but as a commitment of authentic solidarity, aiming at the full human and spiritual liberation and advancement of those in need. St Virginia knew how to transform charitable activity into contemplation of the face of God in human beings, uniting docility to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit with prudent and enlightened daring, constantly embarking on new beneficial projects.

Genuine charity flows from constant communion with God and is nourished in prayer. May the example of this new saint be for all an encouragement and an incentive to live, today too, the Gospel precept of love, as full adherence to the divine will and as concrete service to your neighbours, especially those in more difficult situations.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, may the heavenly Queen of the Saints, the Virgin Mary, guide you on the path taken by these two saints. I renew to you the expression of my gratitude for your presence and wholeheartedly bless you all.






Monday 19 May 2003

My cordial welcome to my fellow countrymen present today in St Peter's Square. I greet the Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and Women Religious. In a special way I greet Cardinal Primate of Poland, who is absent, and thank him for the kind words he has communicated to me. I hope that he will speedily and fully recover his health. I cordially greet the President of the Republic of Poland and the representatives of the State and of the territorial Authorities. I thank the President for the greetings he has expressed to me on behalf of the Republic and for his important address. God bless him!

Lastly, I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you here who were willing to make the effort of coming on pilgrimage in these days, so important for the Polish Church - the days on which we are presenting to the universal Church two new Polish Saints: Bishop Joseph Sebastian Pelczar and Ursula Ledóchowska. Remembering them, I would like in particular to greet the Sisters of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and of the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Agony.

Through the desire of Divine Providence I have accomplished these canonizations in the 25th year of my Pontificate and on my birthday. Thanks be to God! I thank you too, with all my heart! I am happy to be able to celebrate these events with such a large group of friends. I thank you for your kindness and for your sacrifices and prayers, for me and for the whole Church.

It would be hard to count how many meetings we have had within the span of the past years. We have had some in Rome and in Castel Gandolfo, and others in various countries of the world; but the meetings which took place in our homeland are the ones most deeply etched upon my heart.

Perhaps this is because they were especially intense, marked by profound prayer and religious reflection on the temporal reality of each one of us and of the entire nation: it is in situations such as these that God's saving plan is implemented. These meetings have always been an extraordinary sharing of the witness of the faith that sprang from the faith of our ancestors and which creates a particular atmosphere of life and culture, understood on a broad scale, which has determined our national identity. So it was in 1979, when on behalf of all who had no right to speak, I implored God for the gift of the Spirit, so that he might renew the face of the earth in our homeland.

The year 1979. We were accompanied then by the great Pastor and guide of the Polish Church, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, the Primate of the Millennium.

We supported one another with our common witness also in 1983, when in difficult circumstances for the nation we thanked God together for the 600th anniversary of Mary's presence in her image at Jasna Góra, and we prayed to obtain faith in the power of dialogue for "a prosperous and peaceful Poland... in the interest of tranquillity and good cooperation among the peoples of Europe", in the words of Pope Paul VI (Address to State Authorities, Warsaw, 17 June 1983, n. 1; ORE, 27 June, p. 4). In 1987, when the Polish nation was still battling against the powers of the hostile ideology, together we revived within us the hope which flows from the Eucharist instituted at the beginning "of the redeeming hour of Christ", which was "the redeeming hour of the history of humanity and of the world". The National Eucharistic Congress at that time reminded us once again that God "loved us to the very end".

In 1991, we had two particularly eloquent meetings. During the first one we thanked God for the gift of freedom recovered, and attempted to outline a way to live this freedom nobly, relying on the eternal law of God contained in the Decalogue. Already at that time, we tried to discern the dangers which freedom, cut loose from moral norms, might pose for the life of individuals and for society as a whole. These dangers are always present. Therefore, I never cease to pray that the conscience of the Polish nation may be formed on the basis of the divine commandments, and I believe that the Church in Poland will always be able to safeguard the moral order.

The second meeting of that year was linked to World Youth Day in Czestochowa. I will never forget that "Appeal of Jasna Góra", shared by young people from all over the world - for the first time also from beyond our Eastern borders. I give thanks to God because, standing at the feet of Our Lady of Jasna Góra, I was able to entrust them to her powerful protection.

Then there was a brief one-day visit to Skoczów in 1995, on the occasion of the canonization of Jan Sarkander. That day, too, brought a wealth of unforgettable spiritual experiences.

In 1997, we had a pilgrimage full of significant events. The first was the conclusion of the International Eucharistic Congress at Wroclaw. All the celebrations of the congress, and especially the statio orbis, reminded us that the Eucharist is the most effective sign of Christ's presence "yesterday, today and forever". The second event of special significance was the visit to the relics of St Adalbert on the millennium of his martyrdom. From the religious viewpoint this was an opportunity to go back to the roots of our faith. From the international viewpoint the meeting was a commemoration of the idea of the Congress of Gniezno, which was held in the year 1000. In the presence of the Presidents of the neighbouring countries, I said on that occasion: "There will be no European unity until it is based on unity of the spirit. This most profound basis of unity was brought to Europe and consolidated down the centuries by Christianity with its Gospel, with its understanding of man and with its contribution to the development of the history of peoples and nations. This does not signify a desire to appropriate history. For the history of Europe is a great river into which many tributaries flow, and the variety of traditions and cultures which shape it is its great treasure. The foundations of the identity of Europe are built on Christianity" (Homily, 3 June 1997, St Adalbert Square, Gniezno, n. 4; ORE, 11 June, p. 4).

Today, while Poland and the other countries of the former "Eastern Bloc" are entering the structures of the European Union, I repeat these words, which I am not saying in order to discourage you but, on the contrary, to point out that these countries have a great mission to carry out on the Old Continent. I know there are many who are against this integration. I appreciate their concern to preserve the cultural and religious identity of our nation. I share their worries, as well as the economic arrangement of forces in which Poland - after years of unlimited exploitation by the former system - appears to be a country with great possibilities but also scarce means. I must stress, however, that Poland has always been an important part of Europe and today cannot abandon this community which, it is true, is living through crises at various levels but constitutes a family of nations based on the common Christian tradition. Poland's entry into the structures of the European Union, with equal rights to the other countries, is for our nation and for the neighbouring Slav nations an expression of historical justice and, on the other hand, can constitute an enrichment for Europe. Europe needs of Poland. The Church in Europe needs the Pole's witness of faith. Poland needs Europe.

The period from the Union of Lublin to the European Union represents a great synthesis, but this synthesis' content is rich and varied. Poland needs Europe. It is a challenge that we and all the nations are confronted with at present, and which, on the wave of the political transformations in the region of the so-called Central-Eastern Europe, are emerging from the spheres of influence of atheistic Communism. This challenge, however, imposes a task on believers - the task of actively building the spiritual community, on the basis of the values that have made it possible to withstand decades of programmed efforts to introduce atheism.

May the Patroness of this work be St Hedwig, the Lady of Wawel, the great precursor of the union of nations on the basis of the common faith. I thank God for allowing me to canonize her during that very pilgrimage.

My long encounter with Poland and with its inhabitants which took place in 1999, was a common experience in faith of the truth that "God is love". In a certain sense it was a great national preparation for all we have lived in this past year: the profound experience of the truth that "God is rich in mercy". Is there another message which would bring such hope to the world of our day and to everyone at the begining of the third millennium? I did not hesitate, at the site of a special manifestation of the merciful Christ in Lagiewniki-Kraków, to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I ardently believe that that act of entrustment will meet with a trusting response on the part of believers on all the continents, and will bring them to inner renewal and consolidation in the work of building the civilization of love.

I recall these particular meetings with Poles, because in their spiritual content is contained the history of Poland, of Europe, of the Church and of this Pontificate in the last quarter of the century. Thanks be to God for that period, in which we experienced an abundance of his grace.

In the context of the mystery of Divine Mercy let us turn once again to the figures of the new Polish Saints. Not only did they both entrust themselves to the merciful Christ, but they became ever fuller witnesses of mercy. In the pastoral ministry of St Joseph Sebastian Pelczar, charitable activity had a special place. He was always convinced that active mercy is the most effective defence of the faith, the most eloquent preaching and the most fruitful apostolate. He himself supported the needy, and at the same time, took the trouble to ensure that care of them was organized and orderly, and not sporadic. He therefore appreciated charitable institutions and supported them with his own funds. Mother Ursula Ledóchowska made her life a mission of mercy for the most deprived. Wherever Providence took her, she found young people in need of instruction and spiritual formation, poor, sick or lonely people, battered by life in various ways, who expected of her understanding and concrete help. In accordance with her means, she never refused help to anyone. Her work of mercy will remain engraved for ever in the message of holiness, which yesterday became part of the whole Church.

Thus, Joseph Sebastian Pelczar and Ursula Ledóchowska, who have accompanied us today on this spiritual pilgrimage through Poland, have brought us back to Rome. I once again repeat my thanks to you for coming here. Yesterday afternoon I completed my 83rd year and entered my 84th year of life. I am aware ever more clearly that the day is drawing closer when I shall stand before God with my whole life; the period spent in Wadowice, that of Kraków and then my time spent in Rome: give an account of your ministry! I trust in Divine Mercy and in the protection of the Most Holy Mother each day, and especially on the day everything will be fulfilled: in the world, before the world and before God. I thank you once again for coming; I greatly appreciate your visit. Take my greeting to your families, to your loved ones and to all our fellow countrymen and women. I embrace you all with a grateful thought. May Almighty God Bless you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen. Praised be Jesus Christ. God bless you!






To Bishop Lucien Fruchaud of Saint-Brieuc and Tréguier

1. On 19 May 2003, the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc and Tréguier celebrates the seventh centenary of the dies natalis of Ivo Hélory of Kermartin, a son of Brittany. On the occasion of this event which fits into the context of a year dedicated to St Ivo, I join you in prayer, together with everyone who has gathered for the festivities and all the members of your diocese. I remember with emotion my visit to Brittany in 1996, to Sainte-Anne d'Auray. I appreciate the welcome and support which the local Authorities have given to the various religious events; I am grateful on this occasion to the bar of Saint-Brieuc for having organized a series of reflections on juridical matters. This witnesses to the great interest of civil society in a figure who was able to combine a social role and an ecclesial mission, drawing from his spiritual life the strength for action and for the unification of his being.

2. On 19 May 1347, Pope Clement VI raised Ivo Hélory to the glory of the altars. The testimony of the small rural community, collected during the cause for his canonization, is certainly the most beautiful tribute that can be paid to someone who devoted his whole life to serving Christ in serving the poor, as a magistrate, lawyer and priest. St Ivo was involved in defending the principles of justice and equity. He was careful to guarantee the fundamental rights of the person, respect for his primary and transcendent dignity, and the protection that the law must guarantee him. For all who exercise a legal profession, whose patron saint he is, he remains the voice of justice, which is ordained to reconciliation and peace in order to create new relations among individuals and communities and build a more impartial society. I give thanks for the shining example he offers to Christians today, and on a broader scale, to all people of good will, inviting them to walk on paths of justice, of respect for the law and of solidarity with the poor, to serve the truth and to take part in "a new "creativity' in charity" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 50).

3. St Ivo also chose to divest himself of everything, little by little, to be more radically conformed to Christ, desiring to follow him in poverty, to contemplate the face of the Lord in the faces of the lowly with whom he tried to identify (cf. Mt Mt 25). As a servant of God's Word, he meditated upon it, to help all those in search of the living water to discover its treasures (cf. Is Is 41,17). He tirelessly travelled through the countryside to bring material and spiritual help to the poor, calling his contemporaries to bear witness to Christ the Saviour through a daily life of holiness. It is an outlook such as this that enables "the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 29).

4. The values proposed by St Ivo retain an astonishing timeliness. His concern to promote impartial justice and to defend the rights of the poorest persons invites the builders of Europe today to make every effort to ensure that the rights of all, especially the weakest, are recognized and defended.

The Europe of human rights must ensure that the objective elements of natural law remain the basis of positive laws. In fact, St Ivo based his duty as judge on the principles of natural law, which every conscience that is formed, enligtened and attentive can discover through reason (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 91, a.1-2), and on positive law, which finds in natural law its fundamental principles, thanks to which it is possible to compile equitable juridical norms and to prevent them from being purely arbitrary or a mere act of government. By his way of administering justice, St Ivo also reminds us that law is established for the good of persons and peoples, and that its principal function is to safeguard the inalienable dignity of the individual in all the stages of his life, from conception to natural death. This holy Breton likewise took care to defend the family, its members and its property, showing that law plays an important role in social relations and that couples and families are essential to society and its future.

The figure and life of St Ivo can thus help our contemporaries to understand the positive and humanizing value of natural rights. "An authentic conception of natural law, understood as the protection of the illustrious and inalienable dignity of every human being, is the guarantee of equality and gives real substance to [the] "rights of man'" (Address to the Participants in the Eighth General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, 27 February 2002, n. 6; ORE, 13 March 2002, p. 5). For this, it is necessary to persevere in academic research to find the roots, anthropological meaning and ethical content of the natural right and the natural law, in the philosophical perspective of the great thinkers of history such as Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas.

Consequently, it behoves lawyers, all law-makers, legal historians and legislators themselves always to have, as St Leo the Great asked of them, a deep "love of justice" (Sermon on the Passion, 59), and to try always to base their reflections and practice on the anthropological and moral principles which put man at the centre of the elaboration of laws and of legal practice. This will show that all the branches of law are an eminent service to individuals and society. In this spirit, I rejoice that jurists have been able to make the most of the anniversary of St Ivo to organize two consecutive colloquiums, on the life and influence of their holy patron and on the deontology of European attorneys, thereby showing their attachment to epistemological and hermeneutical research in juridical science and pratice.

5. "N'an neus ket en Breiz, n'an neus ket unan, n'an neus ket eur Zant evel Zan Erwan": "There is not in all Brittany, there is not a single one, there is no saint like St Ivo". These words from the canticle to St Ivo express the full fervour and veneration with which the crowds of pilgrims, with their Bishops and priests but also all the magistrates, lawyers and jurists, continue today to honour the one whom popular piety has nicknamed "the father of the poor". May St Ivo help them to fulfil their aspirations to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with their God (cf. Mi Mi 6,8)!

6. In this month of Mary, I entrust you, Monsignor, to the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary. I ask God to sustain priests so that they may be holy and just witnesses of the Lord's mercy, and help their brethren discover the joy to be found in leading a personal and professional life in moral rectitude. I also pray to St Ivo to sustain the faith of the faithul, especially of the young people, so that they will not be afraid to respond generously to the call of Christ to follow him in the priestly or the religious life, happy to be servants of God and of their brothers and sisters. I encourage the seminarians and the team of formators of the Major Seminary of Saint-Yves at Rennes to pray to their holy patron with confidence, especially in this period of preparation for ordination to the diaconate and to the priesthood. Lastly, I entrust to the Lord all those who have a legal or judicial responsibility in society, so that they may always carry out their mission in a perspective of service.

I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you, as well as to Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda, my special Envoy, and to all the Bishops present, the priests, the deacons, the men and women religious, the people taking part in the historical and juridical Colloquiums, the various Authorities present and all the faithful who have gathered in Tréguier on the occasion of this commemoration.

From the Vatican, 13 May 2003





Tuesday, 20 May 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,2). I am pleased to greet you with the Apostle Paul's words. I greet your President, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, and thank him for the words he has addressed to me in the name of you all. I greet the other Italian Cardinals, the Vice-Presidents of your Conference and the General Secretary. I greet each of you with fraternal affection and I would like to express to you my closeness in prayer, my appreciation, and the solidarity with which I accompany your work as Pastors of the beloved Italian nation.

2. As the main theme of your 51st General Assembly you have chosen: Christian initiation. It is a particularly appropriate choice, because the formation of Christians and the transmission of the faith to the new generations are of crucial importance. This is intensified by today's social and cultural context in which many factors combine to make the commitment to become authentic disciples of the Lord even more difficult and, as it were, "against the tide", while the speed and extent of the changes are widening the gap between the generations and sometimes seriously hindering communication between them.

It is therefore right, as you said in your Pastoral Guidelines for this decade, to assume as a criterion for renewal "the option to make pastoral care correspond to the model of Christian initiation" (Communicating the Gospel in a Changing World, n. 59).

3. In a situation that requires a strong commitment to the new evangelization, programmes for Christian initiation must allow ample room for the proclamation of the faith and must adapt its fundamental motives to people's age and education.

It is consequently of utmost importance to start the Christian education of children at a young age, so that they may vitally assimilate it from their first years: families should be made aware of their noble mission and helped to carry it out, also by making up for any gaps they may leave. Indeed, no baptized child should be left without nourishment for the growth of the seed that Baptism has sown within him.

For their part, priests, catechists and formation teachers are called to cultivate their one-on-one conversation with children, adolescents and young people and not to conceal the great importance of God's call and the demanding commitment of the response to it, while at the same time, enabling them to enjoy the merciful closeness of the Lord Jesus and the motherly care of the Church.

4. I know and share the great concern with which you follow the progress of Italian society, anxious above all to foster the nation's internal coherence. You rightly stress the importance of the family for the moral and social health of the nation. Promising signs of a renewed attention to the family are coming from both the world of culture and those responsible for public life.

Your Assembly is also paying attention to the reform of the Italian school system and the new prospects opening up for teaching the Catholic religion. Catholic religion teachers and Catholic schools are entitled to full participation in the educational and formative role of schools, which are still waiting to see their role and educational contribution properly recognized in a context of effective parity.

Together with you, Brother Bishops, I would like to express special closeness to all unemployed persons and their families who are in conditions of hardship. Despite the improvements, there are still, especially in certain southern regions, areas in which young people, women and sometimes even fathers of families are unemployed with harmful consequences to themselves and to the country. Italy needs greater confidence and initiative if it is to offer better and more encouraging prospects to everyone.

5. We have just celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical "Pacem in Terris". This great legacy left by Bl. John XXIII points out to us and to all the peoples of the world the way to build an order of truth and justice, of love and freedom, and therefore, of true peace.

Of the many regions of the world deprived of the fundamental good of peace for far too long, we must unfortunately list the Holy Land. I would like to express to you, Italian Bishops, my deep appreciation of your project to send a representative there, immediately after the Easter season, to bring a sign of concrete solidarity especially to the communities of Christians who live there in conditions of serious difficulty.

6. At the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, I signed the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. I first of all entrust to you Bishops and to your priests the intention with which I wrote it, so that we may be the first to enter ever more deeply, through the Eucharist, into the Mystery of Easter, in which is brought about our salvation and that of the world.

Dear Italian Bishops, I assure you of my daily prayer for yourselves and for the communities whose Pastors you are. May the Virgin Mary, to whom the faithful turn with special confidence in this "Year of the Rosary", intercede so that in all the People of God faith may be strengthened and communion and the courage for mission increased.

My Blessing to you, one and all!


Thursday 22 May 2003

Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the Vatican distinguished representatives of the World Jewish Congress and of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. Your visit brings to mind the bonds of friendship which have developed between us since the Second Vatican Council issued the Declaration Nostra Aetate and placed relations between Jews and Catholics on a new and positive footing.

God’s word is a lamp and a light to our path; it keeps us alive and gives us new life (cf. Ps Ps 119,105). This word is given to our Jewish brothers and sisters especially in the Torah. To Christians this word finds its fulfilment in Jesus Christ. Although we hold and interpret this heritage differently, we both feel bound to bear common witness to God’s fatherhood and his love for his creatures.

Even if today’s world is often marked by violence, repression and exploitation, these realities do not represent the last word about our human destiny. God promises a New Heaven and a New Earth (cf. Is Is 65,17 Ap 21,1). We know that God will wipe away all tears (cf. Is Is 25,8), and that mourning and pain will be no more (cf. Rev Ap 21,4). Jews and Christians believe that our lives are a journey towards the fulfilment of God’s promises.

In light of the rich common religious heritage we share, we can consider the present as a challenging opportunity for joint endeavours of peace and justice in our world. The defence of the dignity of every human being made in the image and likeness of God, is a cause which must engage all believers. This sort of practical cooperation between Christians and Jews requires courage and vision, as well as trust that it is God who brings forth good from our efforts: "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain" (Ps 127,1).

Dear friends, I wish to express my encouragement for your commitment to bring help to suffering children in Argentina. It is my fervent hope and prayer that the Almighty will bless all your projects and plans. May he accompany you and guide your feet into the way of peace (cf. Lk Lc 1,79).


Thursday, 22 May 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am grateful to you for coming and greet you with affection. I greet the members of the Executive Council of the [Italian] Pro-Life Movement and especially the President, Hon. Mr Carlo Casini. I thank him for his words on behalf of those present. I greet each one of you and through you, the volunteers and all the members of your Sodality which has opened numerous centres to assist life and homes for care in every region of Italy.

For 25 years - that is, since 22 May 1978 when abortion was legalized in Italy - your association has never ceased to work to protect human life, one of the key values of the civilization of love.

2. It is not the first time that I have had the opportunity to meet you. In these years, in fact, I have had various contacts with your Movement. I recall in particular the visit I made to Florence in 1986 to the first pro-life centre to be set up in Italy. Moreover, on various occasions I have expressed my appreciation of your activities and encouraged you to do your utmost to make the right to life known to all. I renew these sentiments now, at the time when the mandate of your Executive Council is ending and in view of the forthcoming meeting scheduled for the beginning of June at which policies will be outlined for your future actions.

Please God you may continue, closely united with one another, to be a force of renewal and hope in our society. May the Lord help you to work ceaselessly to enable all, believers and non-believers alike, to understand that protection of human life from conception is an essential condition for building a future worthy of the human being.

3. On receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace, venerable Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom you consider the spiritual president of the pro-life movements in the world, had the courage to say to the leaders of political communities: "If we let a mother kill the fruit of her womb, what is left to us? It is the principle of abortion that endangers peace in the world".

It is true! There can be no true peace without respect for life, especially if it is innocent and defenceless as is that of the unborn child. Elementary coherence requires those who seek peace to safeguard life. No pro-peace activity can be effective unless attacks on life at all its stages, from conception until natural death, are as energetically opposed. Thus, your movement is not only a Pro-Life Movement but also an authentic peace Movement, precisely because of your constant effort to protect life.

4. Recurrent threats put unborn life at peril. The praiseworthy desire to have a child sometimes exceeds acceptable limits. Embryos produced in excessive numbers, selected and frozen, are submitted to destructive experimentation and destined to die in line with a premeditated decision.

Conscious of the need for a law to defend the rights of children who have been conceived, you are committed as a Movement to getting the Italian Parliament to pass a law which respects as fully as possible the rights of unborn children, regardless of whether they have been conceived using artificial methods that are in themselves morally unacceptable. I take this opportunity to express the hope that the legislative process under way will quickly reach a conclusion and that it will go by the principle that whenever a decision is to be made between the desires of adults and the rights of children, it will be made in the interests of children.

5. Never be discouraged and never tire, dear brothers and sisters, of proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel of life; may you be beside the families and mothers in difficulty. I renew, especially to you women, my invitation to defend the alliance between women and life, and to "promote a "new feminism' which rejects the temptation of imitating models of "male domination' in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation" (Evangelium Vitae EV 99).

God will never let you lack the help you need to conclude your many activities satisfactorily, if you turn to him with intense and constant prayer. I also assure you of my spiritual closeness and, as I invoke the motherly protection of Mary, I impart to you, to your families and to your movement a special Blessing.

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 17 May 2003