Speeches 2003






International Airport Adrija Riviera Kvarner of Rijeka/Krk

Thursday, 5 June 2003

Mr President,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. With great joy I set foot for the third time on the beloved land of Croatia. I thank Almighty God for having allowed me to come back among you on this, my hundredth Pastoral Visit.

I offer respectful greetings to you, Mr President, and to the other civil and military Authorities present. I deeply appreciate the gracious sentiments you have expressed in the name of those present and of all your fellow-citizens.

I embrace with affection the whole Catholic community in Croatia, and in a particular way my Brother Bishops. I offer a special greeting to Bishop Valter Zupan and to the priests, religious and laity of the Diocese of Krk, in whose territory this airport is located. I also greet the members of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and the followers of Judaism and Islam. I am pleased that on this occasion too we can join in testifying to our common responsibility for the building up of society in justice and mutual respect.

2. I have come among you in order to fulfil my mission as the Successor of Peter and to bring to all those living in this country greetings of peace and a heartfelt prayer for peace. In visiting the Dioceses of Dubrovnik, Djakovo-Srijem, Rijeka and Zadar I will be able to honour the ancient Christian roots of this land steeped in the blood of countless martyrs. I think of the martyrs of the first three centuries – and in particular of the Martyrs of Sirmium and of Roman Dalmatia as a whole – and I think of those of successive centuries, up to the last century and the heroic figure of Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac.

I will also have the joy of beatifying Sister Marija Propetoga Isusa Petkovic, who will be joined in a few weeks by the young Ivan Merz. The memory of these intrepid witnesses to the faith makes me reflect with deep emotion and gratitude on the Church which gave them birth and on those difficult times in which she jealously preserved her fidelity to the Gospel.

3. The Island of Krk has a rich Glagolitic heritage which has developed in the liturgical usage and in the daily experience of the Croatian people. Christianity greatly contributed to Croatia’s development in the past. It can also continue to make an effective contribution to Croatia’s present and its future. For there are values – like the dignity of the human person, moral and intellectual integrity, religious freedom, the defence of the family, openness to and respect for life, solidarity, subsidiarity and participation, respect for minorities – which are inscribed in the nature of every human being, but which Christianity had the merit of clearly identifying and proclaiming. It is on these values that the stability and true greatness of a nation is based.

Croatia has recently asked to become an integral part, also from the political and economic point of view, of the great family of the European peoples. I can only express my hope that this aspiration will be happily realized: the rich tradition of Croatia will surely contribute to strengthening the Union as an administrative and territorial unit, and also as a cultural and spiritual reality.

4. This country, like several neighbouring countries, still bears painful signs of a recent past: may those who exercise civil and religious authority never tire of trying to heal the wounds caused by a cruel war and of rectifying the consequences of a totalitarian system that for all too long attempted to impose an ideology opposed to man and his dignity.

For almost thirteen years Croatia has trod the path of liberty and democracy. As it looks to the future with confidence and hope, it now needs to consolidate, with the responsible and generous contribution of everyone, a social stability that will further promote steady employment, public assistance, an education system open to all young people and freedom from all forms of poverty and inequality, in a climate of cordial relations with neighbouring countries.

Upon these prospects I invoke the intercession of Saint Joseph, Patron of Croatia, and that of the Virgin Mary, Advocate of Croatia, Most Faithful Mother.

May God bless this land and its people!



Tuesday, 10 June 2003

Dear Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and
Members of the Dehonian Religious Family,

1. I am pleased to greet you at this special audience while the work of your General Chapter is coming to a close. Thank you for your visit!

I extend a cordial greeting to you all, especially the newly-elected Superior General, Fr José Ornelas Carvalho. I cordially thank him for his courteous words on behalf of those present and of your entire Institute established in 37 nations. To him and to the members of the General Council I extend my warmest good wishes for an inspired service of guidance that will foster the authentic progress of the Congregation and keep intact its original profile, which the Founder desired.

2. This year is the 125th anniversary of religious life of Venerable Léon Dehon. You have wished to commemorate it with a special Dehonian Year that ends on 28 June, the day when you will be commemorating his first religious profession. He himself recognized it as the day on which your Congregation came into being. I hope that this will be an incentive to you to go back to your origins with that "creative fidelity" (cf., Vita Conscrata, n. 37) which will keep intact your charism, distinguished by constant contemplation of the Heart of Christ, conscious participation in his reparative sacrifice and zealous dedication to spreading the Kingdom of the Lord in souls and in society, since it is precisely the rejection of God's love which is the root cause of the evils in the world (cf. Constitutions, n. 4).

It was this original inspiration which, in the second half of the 19th century, prompted Léon Dehon to give birth to an original spiritual and missionary experience at Saint-Quentin, France. The Founder's own enthusiasm must guide you, dear Brothers, in discerning and improving the areas of your apostolic action, also involving lay people in the "Dehonian Project".

3. The Chapter which is now drawing to a close has enabled you to "revisit" the foundations of your charism with the commitment to adapt them to our day, aware of the precious timeliness of your mission. I hope that you will treasure the orientations that are the outcome of the work of these days so that, by putting them promptly into practice, the Congregation may continue safely on its way, producing abundant fruit for the Church and for the world. However, for this to happen, it is first of all necessary that Christ remain the centre of your life and your works. Fr Dehon wanted his disciples, faithfully following the divine Teacher, to be prophets of Love and servants of reconciliation; persons totally intent on striving for holiness and able to communicate the reconciliation and love that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with his death, obtained for the humanity of all time.

4. In your work, dear Brothers, you are called to confront the challenges of the present time in history and you have certainly been granted to experience that every human being truly needs to know and encounter God. However, only in personal and community prayer is it possible to find the indispensable spiritual energy to bring this demanding mission to completion.

As the theme of the Chapter proposes, be "Dehonians on mission: hearts open in solidarity", who are ready to face the needs of today and to improve your apostolate in the contexts of spirituality, the mission "ad gentes", your presence in social life with special attention to culture (cf. Constitutions, n. 31).

Your activity in the field of religious information and documentation is also well known. Examine closely "the signs of the times", and never let fidelity to the Catholic doctrine and the Magisterium of the Church weaken so that you can render, through your publications, too, the indispensable service to the truth, the first form of charity.

5. Dear friends, your Institute's history has now reached the goal of 125 years of existence and activity; it has been a journey full of merits and apostolic fruits. Continue with courage and dedication!

I entrust to the heavenly intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary, and of Bl. Juan María de la Cruz, Protomartyr of your Congregation, the resolutions and effective choices that have resulted from the work of the Chapter.

I pray God that you may continue with renewed dynamism on the path of holiness and of service to the Kingdom of God. I accompany you with my affectionate thoughts, as I cordially impart a special Blessing to you who are present here, to your Confreres and to all the members of your spiritual Family across the world.



To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

It gives me great pleasure to greet you and all those taking part in the Fifth Symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment project which this year devotes its attention to the subject: «The Baltic Sea: a Common Heritage, a Shared Responsibility». As the convention opens, it is a particular joy for me to know that you have gathered in my homeland of Poland, in the city of Gdansk. Through the presence of Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, I wish to renew my solidarity with the objectives of the project and to assure you of my fervent support for the success of your meeting.

On a number of occasions I have commented on the growing awareness among individuals, and indeed the entire international community, of the need to respect the environment and the natural resources which God has given humanity. Your current symposium attests to the desire to transform that growing awareness into policies and acts of authentic stewardship. I shall follow with interest your endeavours to realize the aims outlined in our Common Declaration of last year.

It is imperative however that the true nature of the ecological crisis be understood. The relationship between individuals or communities and the environment can never be detached from their relationship with God. When man «turns his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable repercussions on the rest of the created order» (Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 5). Ecological irresponsibility is at heart a moral problem - founded upon an anthropological error - which arises when man forgets that his ability to transform the world must always respect God’s design of creation (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 37).

Precisely because of the essentially moral nature of the problems which the Symposium is addressing, it is proper that religious, civic and political leaders, alongside expert representatives of the scientific community, confront the environmental challenges facing the Baltic region. That the Symposium is taking place aboard a boat which will sail to many of the port towns on the Baltic Sea is itself a powerful reminder that the effects of ecological irresponsibility often transcend the borders of individual nations. Similarly, solutions to this problem will necessarily involve acts of solidarity which transcend political divisions or unnecessarily narrow industrial self-interests.

Your Holiness, in the Common Declaration on Environmental Ethics which we signed on 10 June last year regarding the safekeeping of creation, we outlined a specifically Christian interpretation of the difficulties which the ecological crisis presents. Christians must always be ready to assume in unison their responsibility within the divine design for creation, a responsibility which leads to a vast field of ecumenical and interreligious cooperation. As we stated, a solution to ecological challenges demands more than just economic and technological proposals. It requires an inner change of heart which leads to the rejection of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. It demands an ethical behaviour which respects the principles of universal solidarity, social justice and responsibility. As you yourself stated at the closing of the Fourth International Environmental Symposium in Venice, this calls for genuine sacrifice: «when we sacrifice our life and share our wealth, we gain life in abundance and enrich the entire world».

Your Holiness, I wish to express my encouragement for your commitment to lead the symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment project. I pray that Almighty God will abundantly bless this initiative. May he accompany you and your collaborators and guide you in the ways of justice, so that all creation may give praise to God (cf. Ps Ps 148).

From the Vatican, 27 May 2003




Thursday, 12 June 2003

1. I thank you for coming here today to the Pope's house so as to experience again that special routine that develops during apostolic journeys. I am thinking of all those whom you represent in spirit, all those, in other words, who are now advanced on the paths of life or who have already been called to God's house - who, in almost 25 years, have been privileged witnesses of this unique exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I greet Cardinal Roberto Tucci and thank him for his kind words to me, and above all for the help that in past years he has given me in the preparation and successful outcome of a considerable number of my 100 journeys. With him I thank his co-workers as well as his predecessors and those who have taken up this task.

I greet the Cardinals and Prelates present, particularly those who have participated in my Apostolic Journeys. My cordial thoughts then go to all of you who are gathered here: to the Minister of Infrastructures and Transport of the Italian Republic, the President, the Administrator Delegate and the General Director of Alitalia, together with the representatives of the flight crews and ground personnel, the members of the Gendarmerie and of the Pontifical Swiss Guard with their Commandants, the Health Care personnel and their director, the directors of Vatican Radio, of L'Osservatore Romano and of the Vatican Television Centre, the journalists accredited to the Press Office of the Holy See and its Director.

2. The 100th journey which I have just completed gives me the opportunity to renew my heartfelt thanks to divine Providence who has granted me to accomplish this important pastoral project.

Indeed, since the day when I was elected Bishop of Rome, 16 October 1978, Jesus' commandment: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15) has resounded in the depths of my heart with special intensity and urgency.

I felt it was my duty, therefore, to imitate the Apostle Peter who "went here and there among them all" (Ac 9,32), to build up and to consolidate the Church's vitality in fidelity to the Word and in the service of truth; to "tell them all... that God loves them, that the Church loves them, that the Pope loves them and also wants to receive from them the encouragement and example of their goodness, their faith" (Address at Fiumicino Airport prior to departure for Mexico, 25 January 1979; ORE, 5 February 1979, p. 7).

Furthermore, the Apostolic Journeys have highlighted a specific dimension of the ministry proper to the Successor of Peter, the "lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion" (Lumen Gentium LG 18).

3. On all these journeys I have truly felt like a pilgrim on a visit to that particular shrine which is the people of God. In this shrine I have been able to contemplate the Face of Christ, at times disfigured on the cross and at others, shining with light as on Easter morning.

I have been able to share directly in my Brother Bishops' problems and pastoral anxieties. The different categories of the faithful, whom I have always wanted to be close to, have enabled me to learn first-hand about the life of the Christian communities on the different continents and their expectations, difficulties, suffering and joys. I have never forgotten the young people, "the hope of the Church and of the Pope": in their joyful or preoccupied faces I have seen a generation ready to devote itself generously to following Christ and to building the civilization of love.

The great, colorful assemblies of the people of God gathered for the celebration of the Eucharist are impressed on my mind and heart as the highlight of my visits and my most stirring memory. Deeply in tune with them, I repeated Peter's profession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16).

Moved by the conviction that "man is the primary and fundamental way for the Church" (Redemptoris Hominis, n. 14), I then wanted to meet the brethren of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as the faithful of Judaism, Islam and the other religions, to reassert with conviction the concrete commitment of the Catholic Church to restore full unity among Christians, and her openness to dialogue and cooperation with everyone in order to build a better world.

Before me now I see the countless meetings I have had and all those who took part in them: once again I would like to embrace them all, to tell them all of the love and prayers of the Pope, once again to invite them all to "open wide the doors to Christ"!

4. Dear brothers and sisters who are gathered here, I would like to say "thank you" to you. Your work at various levels and in various capacities has enabled the Pope to go to meet the men and women of our time in the places where they live. And you have helped him in his ministry as an itinerant missionary, eager to proclaim the words of salvation to all with the deep conviction that God wants "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tm 2,4).

I thank in particular the Secreteriat of State that supervises the arrangements of my journeys, the Office of Liturgical Celebrations, and to all who make my ministry possible with their discreet service. I also thank those who work in the media who faithfully broadcast these visits in the various parts of the world.

I entrust to Almighty God all the seeds sown in the course of 100 Apostolic Visits, beginning with Puebla del los Angeles in Mexico up to Croatia, and I pray that with his grace they will reap a plentiful harvest for the good of the Church and of the world.




Friday, 13 June 2003

Your Eminences,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Participants at this meeting,

1. I greet you today with pleasure on the occasion of the Fourth Meeting of the Presidents of the Episcopal Commissions for the Family and Life of Europe. It is taking place at a very important time when topics of great significance for the future of the families of the European peoples are being discussed.

I cordially greet everyone. In a special way, I greet Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and I thank him for his words on your behalf. I extend my grateful thoughts to the Secretary and personnel of the Dicastery, which works with constant solicitude for the family. I greet each one of you present here and all who, in their respective nations, work with you in this pastoral sector of major interest for the Church and for all humanity.

The theme you have chosen: "Challenges and Possibilities at the Beginning of the Third Millennium" is particularly important and sheds clear light on the determination which motivates you to review the situation of the family in Europe, now passing through a difficult time.

However, the family is also endowed with a rich potential, since it is an institution firmly rooted in human nature. In addition, it experiences the energy with which the Spirit endows it and will never lack, in the fulfilment of its sacred mission to transmit life and spread family love through the generations.

2. To tell the truth, today the very identity of the family is being subjected to dehumanizing threats. Loss of the "human" dimension in family life is leading people to dispute the anthropological roots of the family as a communion of persons. Thus, more or less everywhere in the world, deceptive alternatives are emerging which do not recognize the family as precious and essential for the social fabric. In this way, through irresponsibility and lack of commitment to the family, we run the risk, unfortunately, of having to pay a high social price, and it is the future generations in particular who will have to pay it, as victims of a harmful and bewildered mindset and lifestyles unworthy of man.

3. In Europe today, the family institution is disturbingly fragile, a situation that is accentuated when people are not prepared to assume their own responsibilities in it in an attitude of full reciprocal giving and true love.

At the same time, it is necessary to recognize that many Christian families offer a reassuring ecclesial and social witness: they live admirably the reciprocal gift of self in conjugal and family love, overcoming difficulties and adversity. It is from this total giving that the happiness of couples derives, when they are faithful to conjugal love until death and are confidently open to the gift of life.

4. Trends are emerging in the European societies of the present day which not only do not help to safeguard this fundamental human institution which is, precisely, the family, but are hostile to it, further weakening its inner coherence. Indeed, they spread pro-divorce, pro-contraception and pro-abortion mentalities and deny the authentic sentiment of love; in short, they attack human life, failing to recognize the full right to life of the human being.

Attacks on the family and human life are, of course, numerous, but thanks be to God there are many families who stay faithful to their human and Christian vocation, despite the difficulties. They react to the attacks of a certain contemporary hedonistic and materialistic culture, and are organizing themselves to give a full response of hope together. Today, the pastoral care of families is a priority task. Signs of recovery and a new reawakening in defence of the family are being recorded. I mention here certain legislative interventions as well as timely incentives to halt the advance of the demographic winter, felt the most in Europe. Pro-family and pro-life movements are increasing; they are being consolidated and constitute a new social awareness. Yes, the family has countless resources!

5. Here I would like to renew my invitation to the leaders of peoples and to legislators to fully assume their commitments in the defence of life and to foster the culture of life. This year is the 20th anniversary of the publication by the Holy See of the Charter of the Rights of the Family. It presents the "fundamental rights that are inherent in that natural and universal society which is the family". These rights are "expressed in the conscience of the human being and in the common values of all humanity", which "arise, in the ultimate analysis, from that law which is inscribed by the Creator in the heart of every human being" (cf. Introduction). I hope that this important document will continue to be a valid support and guide for those who, in various capacities, have social and political duties and responsibilities.

May Mary, Queen of the Family, inspire and sustain your efforts in the "Family and Life" Commissions of your respective Bishops' Conferences, so that the Christian families of Europe may be increasingly "domestic Churches" and shrines of life. With these hopes, reinforced by prayer, I invoke constant divine help for your work as I gladly bless you all.



Saturday, 14 June 2003

Dear Children and Young People,

1. I greet you all with great affection, together with the priests and animators who have accompanied you. Thank you for coming here in such large numbers, on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood.

I greet Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and I am grateful to him for his words to me on your behalf. I then extend my thanks to those in charge of the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood who have prepared today's event, to the Directors of the Diocesan Missionary Offices and to the representatives of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

I am delighted to be with you today, also because 10 years ago - on the 150th anniversary of your association - I was unable to meet you.

2. Today you are renewing your commitment to the service of the Missions, reflecting on the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "Here I am! Send Me!" (Is 6,8). In your hearts and on your lips, God places three little words which are so important in the Bible: "Here I am". They were spoken by the Son of God when he came into the world, and his whole life was his constant prompt response of "here I am" to the heavenly Father.

"Here I am" was the Virgin Mary's response to the Angel of the Annunciation who brought her God's announcement. With it, Our Lady humbly accepted the mission of becoming Mother of Jesus, and hence, Mother of the Church.

"Here I am", you must learn to answer too, dear little missionaries, asking Jesus and Mary to help you. If you generously obey God's will, you will be able to experience the joy felt by so many missionary Saints down the centuries who spent their lives for the Gospel.

It is beautiful to see the Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood as an immense choir made up of children from all over the world, who together sing their "here I am" to God with prayer, enthusiasm and concrete commitment! This has been going on for 160 years, ever since the Holy Spirit called your society to life, suggesting to Mons. Charles de Forbin-Janson, Bishop of Nancy in France, that he should turn precisely to boys and girls, and ask them to help the children in China.

3. Since then the motto of the Missionary Childhood continues to be "Let children help children". But how? First of all, with prayer. As I reminded you in the Message I addressed to you last 6 January, every small missionary should be committed to reciting a "Hail Mary" every day for his or her distant peers.

The second commitment is to try to meet their needs concretely with your own savings. From a tiny seed, the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood has now grown into a majestic tree.

Of course, great and deep changes have taken place in humanity between the mid-19th century and our day. In the so-called "north" of the globe, living conditions for children have improved, but economic and social development has not always been accompanied by human development in the full sense. A loss of values has been recorded and it is often precisely the smallest who pay the highest price for this, apart from the fact that widespread areas of poverty still exist in the developed nations.

In the "south" of the planet, the cry of millions of children, condemned to die of hunger and diseases linked to poverty, is becoming more heartrending and directly addresses everyone.

4. Dear Children of the Missionary Childhood! You are the first to respond to this call. You form a chain of solidarity across five continents, and you offer the poorest children an opportunity to "give" and the richest to "receive" in giving. Continue to play the lead role in this "exchange of gifts" which helps build a better future for everyone.

Be witnesses and prophets of Christ, as the theme of the 160th anniversary of the Missionary Childhood suggests: "...and you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High". May Our Lady help you say to God "Here I am, send me!". Turn to her with trust, during this year that is dedicated to the Rosary, with this popular prayer that you certainly know well and already recite. Many children in the world pray the Rosary, as did the blessed children, Francisco and Jacinta of Fatima, and the Pope gladly joins them every day.

Dear children and young people, when you go home, take my greeting to your family and friends along with my Blessing, which I willingly extend to the whole Pontifical Society of the Missionary Childhood.


Monday, 16 June 2003

Dear Friars Minor,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of your Ordinary General Chapter that is taking place at the Portiuncula chapel in Assisi. I address my cordial greeting to the new Minister General, Fr José Rodriguez Carballo, and as I thank him for his courteous words expressing your common sentiments, I offer him my fervent good wishes for the success of his work in the demanding office that has been entrusted to him.

I extend my greeting to his predecessor, Fr Giacomo Bini, to those present, to all your Confreres, and in particular to all the sick and elderly friars, as well as to the young men who are the hope of your Order for the good of the Church.

2. In accordance with the ancient tradition, the Chapter you are celebrating is known as the "Pentecost Chapter", after the Solemnity close to which it has taken place right from the start. This circumstance, as I wrote in the Message I addressed to you, highlights "the fundamental role of the Holy Spirit, as St Francis recognized, and whom he liked to describe as the "Minister General' of the Order (cf. Celano, Vita Secunda, CXLV, 193). The Holy Spirit purifies, enlightens and inflames hearts with the fire of love, leading them to the Father in the footprints of the Lord Jesus (cf. Lettera a Tutti i Frati, VI, 62-63, n. 1)".

Every General Chapter is a time of special grace for the religious family celebrating it; a favourable opportunity to reflect on the progress achieved and to make decisions and draw up guidelines for the future. May the Holy Spirit enable you to understand more clearly the priorities of the mission that God entrusts to you for the good of the Church and of the world.

3. At the dawn of the third millennium, Christ's disciples have a keener and deeper awareness of the urgent need for the new evangelization. Your Communities also share in this apostolic desire, and the friars are determined, faithful to their vocation, to bring to the men and women of our time the glad tidings of salvation which Christ offers to humanity.

This missionary commitment will be fruitful to the extent that it takes place in harmony with the legitimate Pastors, to whom the Lord has entrusted the responsibility for his flock. I am pleased to highlight in this regard the efforts made to overcome the difficulties that have existed for some time in certain areas. I wholeheartedly hope that with the contribution of all, you will reach that understanding with the diocesan Authority which my venerable Predecessor Pope Paul VI requested, and which is indispensable for an effective evangelization.

Speeches 2003