Speeches 2003 - Monday, 16 June 2003

Dear Friars Minor, be true to your distinctive style, marked by poverty and fraternal life, docility and obedience, keeping your gaze fixed on Christ, like the "Poverello" of Assisi, your father and teacher. He teaches that "preachers must first attain in the secrecy of prayer what they later express in their homilies. They must first be warm inwardly, so as not to offer cold words outwardly" (cf. Celano, Vita Secunda, CXXII, 163).

4. Aspire to holiness! This is a truly urgent pastoral necessity in our time. In this regard I noted in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte that "the time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living" (n. 31). To help others seek God above all things, dear Friars, you must be the first to commit yourselves to that arduous but exalting personal and community ascesis, finding in your Rule and Constitutions "a map for the whole journey of discipleship, in accordance with a specific charism confirmed by the Church" (Vita Consecrata VC 37).

May the work of the Chapter, supported by the Prayer of the entire Order, contribute to the growth of that spirit of humble listening to God and filial adherence to the directives of the Pastors of the Church which must distinguish Friars Minor. May St Francis and the Holy Protectors of the Order help you.

May the Virgin Mary accompany you, she whom you venerate as your special Patroness with the title of "Immaculate". May she, the "Star of the New Evangelization", make you always ready to respond with devotion to the call of her divine Son. The Pope is close to you and cordially blesses you, your Fraternities and your entire spiritual Family.



Tuesday, 17 June 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. With great joy I welcome you who are entrusted with the pastoral care of the Catholic Church in Burkina Faso and Niger, at the time when you are experiencing this important moment in your episcopal ministry, the ad limina visit. You have come to pray at the tomb of the Apostles Peter and Paul, to increase within you the apostolic zeal that motivated them and brought them here as witnesses of the Gospel of Christ, to the point of the total gift of their lives. You have come to meet the Successor of Peter and those who work with him, to find in them the support you need for your pastoral mission.

I thank Bishop Philippe Ouťdraogo of Ouahigouya, President of your Bishops' Conference, for the kind words he has just addressed to me. I greet in particular those of you who have been appointed bishops since the last ad limina visit. I also express my affection for your diocesan communities, whose generosity and Gospel dynamism I know. I ask the Holy Spirit, poured out upon the Apsotles, to help you put out into the deep and to support you in your service to the people entrusted to your care, so that the Church-Family in Burkina Faso and in Niger may increasingly become the leaven of the new world that Christ came to establish for all humanity!

I am concerned about the lasting and integral development of the peoples of your countries, so dear to my heart, and I do not forget their daily struggle for survival. The difficult climatic conditions of the Sahel and the spreading desertification in the region confine the populations to an endemic poverty that gives rise to precariousness and despair and, in addition, makes them feel that they have been left out of the international scene. I would like to launch a solemn new appeal to the international community to manifest concrete and permanent support to the sorely tried populations of the Sahel, in the hope that solidarity combined with justice and charity may know no bounds or limits, and that generosity will enable them to view the future with greater serenity.

2. Despite the difficulties linked to the precariousness of the life of the local peoples, the missionary vitality of your diocesan Churches has been expressed in many ways. I give thanks with you for the celebrations that marked the centenary of the evangelization of Burkina Faso. On that happy occasion, you were able to experience the presence of the Spirit at work in the hearts of believers since the beginning of the evangelization. I know of the enthusiasm with which you involved the local communities, especially by diocesan Synods, in the preparation and celebration of this important time for the Church, which coincided with the universal event of the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation.

The pastoral guidelines of the first National Synod of Burkina Faso thus clearly invited Christian communities to spare no effort to build the Church-Family of God, called to walk towards holiness, and "which will enable 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). In thanking God with you for the patient and courageous work of the first missionaries, helped by valiant catechists, I encourage both Pastors and faithful to show themselves worthy to succeed them, and to give birth and life to Christian communities that are more and more joyful and appealing signs of communion and brotherhood. May disciples of Christ, wherever they live, make the signs of God's love for men visible!

3. Evangelization is an essential mission of the Church. The Gospel cannot be properly proclaimed without the contribution of believers at all levels in the particular Church. Your quinquennial reports express in several places your pastoral concern to make Christians, in the name of their Baptism, play a more and more active part in the work of evangelization.In fact, "the evangelizing activity of the Christian community, first in its own locality, and then elsewhere as part of the Church's universal mission, is the clearest sign of a mature faith" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 49). Developing this mission awareness in the heart of each believer continues to be a true challenge which you do not underestimate.

In order that the Church incarnate the Gospel in the different cultures, assimilating all that is good and renewing them from within, I recalled in my Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa that inculturation is an urgent priority in the life of the particular Churches, a step towards full evangelization so that every person can "receive Jesus Christ in an integral manner. It touches them on the personal, cultural, economic and political levels so that they can live a holy life in total union with God the Father, through the action of the Holy Spirit" (n. 62). The pastoral work of inculturation which you have started in your dioceses is bearing fruit, particularly in the life and witness of the basic Christian communities, which are leaven of Christian life and concrete signs of missionary communion that the Church-Family is called to become.

In your quinquennial reports you express gratitude for the vitality and witness of these small local communities. However, you estimate the long way they have yet to go before the Gospel transforms the spirit and heart of believers from within, so that they recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. The return to ancient practices that have not yet been purified by the Spirit of Christ, the difficulty they have in considering one another members of the same family saved by the Blood of Christ and the dangers of the modern, so-called progressive, civilization which weakens family bonds and relationships between human groups: all these situations invite you not to slacken your efforts to ensure that disciples of Christ fully assimilate the Gospel message and shape their life according to it, but without giving up their authentic African values.

Christians need to find new energy to surmount the obstacles to Gospel proclamation and work effectively at its inculturation: it is essential that their faith be increasingly well-founded and educated.You are keenly aware that this responsibility is incumbent on you, and you jointly shoulder it in your Episcopal Conference through a sharing of experiences and the deepening of theological and pastoral knowledge. It is a question of enabling pastors and faithful alike to let themselves be seized by Christ, to accept to be radically dependent on him, to want to live his life and learn to do his will, to walk in his footsteps in true holiness (cf. 1Th 4,3). I therefore encourage you to work without respite to help the lay faithful of your dioceses to become ever more aware of their role in the Church and thereby to honour their mission as baptized and confirmed persons. The ministry of the sacraments, the liturgy, biblical and theological formation, but also the various forms of artistic and musical expression as well as the media, must enable Christians to discover the riches of Christian faith with the means within their reach, and to be rooted in Christ to take an ever more active part in the life of the local communities, but without preventing them from fulfilling their vocation in the social, economic and political life of the nation.

4. In the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, I stressed that the Christian family, as a "domestic church" that is "built on the solid cultural pillars and noble values of the African tradition of the family, is called upon to be a powerful nucleus of Christian witness in a society undergoing rapid and profound changes" (n. 92). Your quinquennial reports mention the witness given by many families, who live fidelity to the sacrament of Christian marriage heroically in a context of civil legislation or traditional customs which do not favour monogamous marriage. Today, when the African family and its foundations are threatened, I urge you to promote the dignity of Christian marriage, a reflection of Christ's love for his Church, by recalling in particular that the mutual love of spouses is unique and indissoluble, that marriage, thanks to its stability, contributes to the fulfilment of their human and Christian vocation, and that such a family is the place where children thrive and the values are passed on to them. Christian communities, united to their pastors, should also seek to help families in the education of the young. Likewise, they will be careful to help engaged couples prepare for the sacrament of Marriage, and then later, in their conjugal and family life, so that they may put themselves at the service of the Church and of society.

5. Please convey the Pope's affectionate greetings to the priests in your dioceses. I am aware of the difficult conditions in which they often have to carry out their ministry. The distance between parishes, a poor road network and the small number of apostolic workers often hinder the follow-up and formation of Christian communities. I thank these priests for their generosity in serving Christ and his Church. I know of the care you take to procure with the means at your disposal all that they require for their spiritual health and material needs. In deep communion with their Bishops, may they lead a more and more dignified and holy life as befits their vocation and the witness they must bear as men of God, set apart to serve the Gospel! Ready to conform to Christ the Servant, they will be able to become models for the people entrusted to them, especially youth, whom they should invite to follow Christ joyfully and radically as priests or as consacrated persons. I give thanks on this occasion for the expansion of religious life in your countries and I encourage you to support and nurture this development, remembering that without the concrete sign of consecrated life, "there would be a danger that the charity which animates the entire Church would grow cold, that the salvific paradox of the Gospel would be blunted, and that the "salt' of faith would lose its savour in a world undergoing secularization" (Vita Consecrata VC 105).

After the example of your predecessors in the faith, I also encourage you to express ever more generously, as you already do, the solidarity of your local Churches with the neighbouring countries which often lack pastors, by sending them priests and lay missionaries, remembering that "all Bishops, as members of the body of bishops which succeeds the college of the apostles, are consecrated not for one diocese alone, but for the salvation of the whole world" (Second Vatican Council, Decree on Church's Missionary Activity Ad Gentes AGD 38). I hope that the spirit of communion thus created and through which each Church cares for all the others will give a new missionary impulse to your diocesan communities and foster their burning desire to make the Kingdom of God spring to life.

6. The formation of candidates to the priesthood is a serious responsibilty for Bishops. Some of you have made it a pastoral priority. It is essential to pay special attention to organizing this formation and to take great pains in choosing suitable formation teachers. It is also necessary to make diocesan communities aware of their responsibility in the formation of future priests and to involve them in it. "The Church as such is the communal subject which has the grace and responsibility to accompany those whom the Lord calls to become his ministers in the priesthood" (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 65). Moreover, a serious spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation, indispensable for the exercise of the priestly ministry, must be combined with a solid human and cultural formation. It will be particularly important to insist on the candidates' affective maturity, necessary for those who are called to celibacy, which means "[offering] with the grace of the Spirit and the free response of one's will the whole of one's love and care to Jesus Christ and to his Church" (ibid., n. 44).

7. In your countries, the Christian communities live in the heart of societies marked by the predominance of Islam and its values. I am delighted at your news that the relations of Catholics with the believers of Islam are generally marked by respect, esteem and friendliness. Christians and Muslims are in effect "called to commit themselves to promoting a dialogue free from the risks of false irenicism or militant fundamentalism, and to raising their voices against unfair policies and practices, as well as against the lack of reciprocity in matters of religious freedom" (Ecclesia in Africa ). I encourage you to cultivate this dialogue, equipping yourselves with the structures and means to guarantee it, in order to overcome the fear of others, which often stems from a deep misunderstanding of the religious values that motivate it, without ever giving up visibly accounting for the hope that is in you. May Christians and Muslims find in the genuine patrimony of their religious traditions the strength they need to collaborate in the supportive development of their country!

8. Dear Brothers in the episcopate, now that you are about to return home, I ask you to take back to the priests, deacons, men and women Religious, catechists and lay faithful of your communities, the affectionate greeting of the Pope who commends their Christian life and their apostolic commitment to the Lord. Indeed, "the structure of the apostolic community rests upon both" (Constitutions Apostoliques, III). Please transmit to all your fellow citizens my cordial good wishes for peace and prosperity. In the face of the scandal of poverty and injustice, it is my special hope that the Church will continue to exercise her prophetic role and to be the voice of the voiceless, so that everywhere the human dignity of every human being will be acknowledged, and all initiatives will be promoted which contribute to developing and ennobling individuals in their spiritual and material existence (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). May the Spirit of Pentecost help you grow constantly in hope and guide the Church-Family in Burkina Faso and in Niger into "all the truth" (Jn 16,13), so that she may keep alive in the midst of his people the presence of Christ the Saviour through an ardent witness to evangelical life! I entrust to the intercession of the Virgin Mary the future of your dioceses and that of the nations in which you live. Most particularly, I ask her to help you in your episcopal ministry. I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all the faithful of your dioceses.





International Airport of Banja Luka

Sunday, 22 June 2003

Illustrious Members of the Presidency of Bosnia Hercegovina,

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

1. With gratitude for your invitation, I have returned after six years to Bosnia-Hercegovina. I give thanks to God for allowing me once again to meet peoples who have always been so close to my heart.

I thank the Honourable Members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina, for their cordial greeting and for all that they, together with the other Authorities, have done to make my visit possible.

I greet my dear brother, the Most Reverend Franjo Komarica, the Bishop of Banja Luka, together with the other Bishops and all the faithful of the Catholic Church. I greet our brothers and sisters of the Serbian Orthodox Church and of the other Ecclesial Communities, and the followers of Islam and Judaism.

2. Knowing that I am entering your homes through radio and television, I greet and embrace all of you, dear people living in the different parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina. I know the long ordeal which you have endured, the burden of suffering which is daily a part of your lives, the temptations to discouragement and resignation which you experience. I stand beside you in asking the international community, which already has done so much, to continue to be close to you and to help you to reach quickly a situation of full security in justice and harmony.

You yourselves must be the primary builders of your future! The tenacity of your character and the rich human, cultural and religious traditions which distinguish you are your true wealth. Do not give up! Certainly starting afresh is not easy. It requires sacrifice and steadfastness; it requires knowing how to sow seeds and then to wait patiently. But you know that starting afresh is nevertheless possible. Trust in Godís help, and trust too in human initiative.

3. If society is to take on a truly human face and everyone is to look to the future with confidence, it is necessary to rebuild man from within, healing wounds and achieving a genuine purification of memory through mutual forgiveness. The root of every good and, sadly, of every evil is in the depths of the heart (cf. Mc 7,21-23). It is there that change must occur, making it possible to renew the fabric of society and to establish human relationships which favour cooperation between the vital forces present in the country.

In this regard, a grave responsibility belongs to those who, by the will of the electorate, democratically govern the nation: may they not renounce this indispensable task because of present difficulties, nor should they let themselves be pressured by partisan interests.

The Catholic Church seeks to make her own contribution to this common undertaking through the practical involvement of her sons and daughters, particularly through her various initiatives in the areas of education, aid and human development, in the free exercise of her specific mission.

4. Shortly, during the celebration of Holy Mass, I will have the joy of enrolling among the Blessed the young Ivan Merz, born here in Banja Luka, an illustrious example of Christian life and apostolic commitment.

By his prayers may he confirm the hopes and good wishes which the Pope today expresses for Bosnia-Hercegovina, so that present problems will find a positive solution, and that the country will see realized its aspiration to become part of united Europe in a context of prosperity, freedom and peace.





Plaza in front of the Most Holy Trinity Convent in Banja Luka

Sunday, 22 June 2003

Before leaving, dear Brothers and Sisters, I would like to tell everyone once again of my joy for having been able to share with you this intense moment of prayer. I thank my Brother Bishops of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the President of their Conference, Bishop Franjo Komarica of this Church. With him I thank the collaborators, ecclesial and lay, who have organized this day with the many months of hard work.

I would like also to renew my heartfelt thanks to the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the civil and military Authorities. I greatly appreciate what has been done at various levels so that my Visit could take place.

One last cordial greeting to the entire population of this beloved Country, without ethnic, cultural or religious distintion. I will have all the people of this country present, having received this afternoon the courteous visit of the Presidents of the Republic of Serbia and of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and then the Members of the Interreligious Council.

Upon all, I invoke the abundant blessings of the Most High, to whom I ask to enkindle in the hearts of each one sentiments of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of brotherhood. These are the solid foundations for a society worthy of man and acceptable to God.

Land of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Pope holds you in his heart and wishes you days full of prosperity and peace!



Tuesday, 24 June 2003

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today the memory of the Servant of God Paul VI reunites us on the feast day of his heavenly protector, St John the Baptist. Forty years have passed since his election to the Chair of Peter, which occurred on 21 June 1963, and 25 years since his death at Castel Gandolfo on the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 6 August 1978.

His marble bust is unveiled and blessed today, placed in the atrium of this Aula named after him and that he desired to be a seat for the Pope's teaching. I greet the Cardinals, Bishops, Prelates, Priests, men and women Religious and the lay people who have come together in order to praise the memory of my most venerable Predecessor.

I salute and thank in particular the sculptor, Floriano Bodini, who has already dedicated other works to this most worthy Servant of the Church. With him, I salute and thank those who have devised and actualized this project, beginning with the dear Archbishop Pasquale Macchi, Pope Paul VI's devoted and industrious Secretary. My greeting is extended as well to Pope Montini's relatives, including his nephews with their respective families, as well as those responsible for the prestigious "Paul VI Institute" of Brescia, that cultivates with love the memory of this illustrious Son of the Brescian region.

2. On 29 June 1978, in the last public celebration on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of his election as Supreme Pontiff, he delivered a discourse that had the solemn and moving tone of a final testament. I would like to reread a key passage: "We cast a general look", he said, "at the history of the period in which the Lord has entrusted his Church to us.... And although we consider ourself the least and unworthy Successor of Peter, at this furthermost threshold we feel ourself strengthened and upheld by the knowledge that we have untiringly repeated, before the Church and the world: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!'. We too, like Paul, feel that we can say: "I have fought the good fight, I have have run the race to the finish, I have kept the faith...' (Homily on Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Basilica; ORE 6 July 1978, p. 1).

Let us pray to the Lord so that he gives his faithful servant the deserved reward. At the same time, we also prayfor ourselves, that like him, we are able to work untiringly for the Reign of God. Help us, Mary, who at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI proclaimed "Mother of the Church".

With such sentiments, I bless all of you. Thank you to all present.


Thursday, 26 June 2003

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. I gladly welcome you, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Patna and Ranchi. You have come to Rome on the occasion of your Ad Limina visit: a privileged moment in your lives as Pastors as you make your way to the tombs of the Apostles to manifest and strengthen your bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter. I am grateful to you, Archbishop Toppo, for the kind words you offered in the name of your Brother Bishops. Your presence here today draws me ever closer to your beloved country and to the clergy, men and women Religious and the lay faithful of your Dioceses. During my meetings with the first two groups of Latin Rite Bishops from your nation, I recalled the successes and challenges facing those who proclaim the Gospel in India. While focusing on the bountiful harvest of grace you have continued to reap as a result of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I also noted the difficulties that remain. The Jubilee provided the Church in India, in communion with the universal Church, an opportunity to ponder the need for renewal of Christian life. You remember the past with gratitude; you live the present with enthusiasm and you look to the future with confidence (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 1).

2. "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15). Christís parting words to his disciples are both an invitation and a challenge to go forth and proclaim the Good News. Understood in this way, evangelization is a charge in which all the members of the Church share by virtue of their baptism. Therefore, all the baptized "should everywhere on earth bear witness to Christ and give an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope of an eternal life which is theirs" (Lumen Gentium LG 10). How unfortunate it is then that even today in many places in India unnecessary obstacles still impede the preaching of the Gospel. Citizens of a modern democracy should not suffer because of their religious convictions. Nor should anyone feel compelled to hide his or her religion in order to enjoy fundamental human rights, such as education and employment.

Notwithstanding these difficulties, the Church in India courageously preaches Christís message of salvation to the people of the subcontinent. I pray that you, dear Bishops, will remain beacons of courage and hope, inspiring clergy, Religious and lay faithful to take heart and continue to preach Christ who loves us even unto death, death on a cross (cf. Phil Ph 2,8). As Saint Paul reminds us, the surpassing power of God is ever our strength: we may be "perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (cf. 2Co 4,7-10).

3. The trials and tribulations that accompany a life in Christ ask of the Church a special commitment to the ministry of "first evangelization". The initial contact with the salvific message of Christ by those who have not yet heard the Good News demands of us all an intelligent and credible expression of the faith. The mission of training the faithful to respect and proclaim the Gospel falls to parents, teachers and catechists of today. For this reason, a fundamental task of every Bishop is to ensure that he has well-trained laity equipped and ready to be teachers of the faith.Catholics are to be encouraged to participate in the essential apostolate of the word that "acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world" (Lumen Gentium LG 35).

Fulfilling the role of a catechist requires a relationship of trust and cooperation between the clergy and the lay faithful. Bishops therefore must constantly strive to ensure that nothing erodes this rapport. They should always recognize that "all Christís faithful have the obligation and the right to strive so that the divine message of salvation may more and more reach all people of all times and all places" (Codex Iuris Canonici CIC 211). At the same time, personal views originating from caste or tribal affinity should never be allowed to cloud the authentic teaching of the Church.

4. Intimately related to the Churchís efforts for evangelization is a true and profound respect for culture. Culture is the space "within which the human person comes face to face with the Gospel" (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ). Always respectful of differing cultures, the Church seeks to engage her brothers and sisters of other religions in order to foster "a relationship of openness and dialogue" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 55). Thus considered, interreligious dialogue will not only increase mutual understanding and respect for one another, but will also help to develop society in harmony with the rights and dignity of all.

The Church in India has constantly demonstrated her commitment to the principle of the inalienable dignity of the human person through her numerous social institutions, offering unconditional love to Christians and non-Christians alike. Her schools, dispensaries, hospitals and institutes aimed at the integral development of the human person give untold assistance to the poorer members of society, regardless of creed. It is unfortunate that some of the Churchís honest attempts towards interreligious dialogue at its most basic level have sometimes been hindered by a lack of cooperation from the Government and by harassment from certain fundamentalist groups. India has strong traditions of respect for religious differences. It is my hope that for the good of the nation contrary tendencies will not be allowed to develop (cf. Address to the new Ambassador of India, 13 December 2002). As Bishops, it is your obligation to ensure that interreligious dialogue continues. However, while engaging in this mutual exchange, you must never allow it to be influenced by religious indifferentism. It is vital that Christís call to discipleship be preached and lived with conviction by every Christian.

5. Dear Brother Bishops, I am hopeful that you will persevere in your efforts to guarantee a solid theological training in your seminaries and a sound continuing formation for your priests, thus rejecting "the temptation to reduce Christianity to a merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 11). Proper theological preparation requires instruction which, while respecting that part of the truth found in other religious traditions, nevertheless unfailingly proclaims that Jesus Christ is "the Way and the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14,6 cf. Ecclesia in Asia ). To this end Catholic educational institutions must offer a sound philosophical formation which is necessary for the study of theology. Truth transcends the limitations of both Eastern and Western thought and unites every culture and society (cf. Fides et Ratio FR 76-77). As sharers in Christís prophetic mission, we have a solemn responsibility to bring that truth ever closer to ourselves and to others. This sacred duty is especially incumbent upon those who are entrusted to train priests and religious. Formators and professors are obliged to teach the message of Christ in its completeness as the only way, not as one way among many. In so doing "theologians, as servants of the divine truth, dedicate their studies and labours to ever deeper understanding of that truth, and never lose sight of the meaning of their service in the Church" (cf. Redemptor Hominis RH 19).

6. In considering the many responsibilities involved in your care of Godís people, I am keenly aware of the trials you face as you strive to develop a viable ecclesial life in your Dioceses. It is disheartening to see the work of the Church often compromised by a lingering tribalism in certain parts of India. At times this tribalism has been so strong that some groups have even refused to receive bishops and priests not from their clans, thus crippling the proper functioning of Church structures and obscuring the essential nature of the Church as communion. Tribal or ethnic difference must never be used as a reason for rejecting a bearer of Godís word. It is the responsibility of all Christians to examine their consciences to ensure that they always and everywhere love all Godís children including those who are different: "by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35).

I thank God for the numerous priests and Religious in your country who are living exemplary lives of poverty, charity and holiness. Faced with so many hardships, they may be tempted to lose the zeal and creativity indispensable for effective ministry. I earnestly pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen them in their work. To this end, I invite the whole Church in India to renew her missionary commitment (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 2).

Consecrated men and woman make a particularly valuable contribution to your local Churches. It is my hope that you will all continue to work closely together. In todayís circumstances there is an even greater need for good mutual relations. Some difficult and painful conflicts regarding the management of institutes and the ownership of property have arisen in your region. These issues, however, are not insurmountable for those who live the Gospel in a spirit of fraternal love and service. Pastoral planning and clear agreements between bishops and religious superiors will often provide solutions to problems of this sort. I am confident that "consecrated persons will not fail to cooperate generously with the particular Churches as much as they can and with respect for their own charism, working in full communion with the Bishop in the areas of evangelization, catechesis and parish life" (Vita Consecrata VC 49).

7. Dear Brothers, it is my fervent hope that your pilgrimage to Rome has been an opportunity for you to reflect again on the grace of the Holy Spirit which you received through the laying on of hands. One of the hallmarks of apostolic service to the Church is the bold proclamation of the Gospel (cf. Ac 2,28). I express my prayerful support for you and for all those in India, who through their witness continue to proclaim Christ yesterday, today, and for ever (cf. Heb He 13,8). Praying that this time has confirmed your faith in Christ, the source of our missionary and apostolic zeal, I commend you and all those whom you serve to the loving intercession of Mary, Queen of the Rosary, and with affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2003 - Monday, 16 June 2003