Speeches 2003

It is this very attitude that she proposes to civil society, urging everyone to be sincerely reconciled and conscious that there is no justice without forgiveness and that collaboration without reciprocal openness would be brittle. This is particularly urgent when one realizes how necessary it is to teach the young generations not to face the future conditioned by a history of suspicion, preconceptions and violence, but in a spirit of reconciled remembrance.

Poland and Ukraine, lands that became acquainted with the proclamation of the Gospel hundreds of years ago and so many of whose children have given countless testimonies of holiness, want to strengthen their friendly relations at the beginning of this new millennium, shedding past grievances and opening themselves to fraternal relations, enlightened by Christ's love.

3. I am delighted that the Christian communities of Ukraine and Poland are promoting this commemoration to help heal the wounds of the past, and I encourage these two brother peoples to persevere unremittingly in their search for collaboration and peace.

As I offer my cordial greetings to the entire Episcopate, the Clergy and the faithful of both these nations, I address a respectful thought to the Presidents and their respective civil Authorities, and through them, to the Polish and Ukrainian peoples who are ever present in my heart and in my prayers, in the hope that they will advance constantly in concord and peace.

I accompany these hopes with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly impart to all who will be joining in the celebrations planned.

From the Vatican, 7 July 2003




Castel Gandolfo

Saturday, 19 July 2003

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Rectors and Professors,
Dear Young University Students,

1. I am delighted to welcome you on the occasion of the Symposium "The University and the Church in Europe", organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences and the Italian Episcopal Commission for Universities, in collaboration with the Ministry for Universities. I cordially thank Bishop Amédée Grab for his words of introduction to this meeting, and the civil and academic Authorities for their appreciated presence. To all, teachers, chaplains and students, I address my cordial greeting.

You are meeting in Rome to celebrate the seventh centenary of the oldest university in the City, "La Sapienza". From Rome, your gaze has broadened in these days to the whole of Europe, in order to reflect on the relationship between the university and the Church at the beginning of the third millennium.

2. This relationship leads us directly to the heart of Europe, where civilization has succeeded in expressing itself in one of its most emblematic institutions. We are in the 13th and 14th centuries: the period in which "Humanism" was taking shape as a successful synthesis between theological and philosophical knowledge and the other sciences. This synthesis would have been unthinkable without Christianity and hence, without the age-old work of evangelization carried out by the Church in her encounter with the multiple ethnic and cultural realities of the continent (cf. Address to the Fifth Symposium of the European Bishops, 19 December 1978, n. 3).

This remembrance of history is indispensable in order to build the cultural perspective of the Europe of today and in the future, in whose construction the university is called to play an irreplaceable role.

Just as the new Europe cannot develop without drawing from its own roots, the same can be said of the university. Indeed, it is the place par excellence in which to seek the truth and make accurate analyses of phenomena, striving constantly to find more complete and fruitful syntheses. And just as Europe cannot be reduced to a market, so the university cannot be subjected to the requirements of the social and economic fabric, although it must be an integral part of them, on pain of losing its own predominantly cultural profile.

3. So it is that the Church in Europe looks to the university: even with esteem and confidence, doing her utmost to offer her own multiform contribution. First of all, with the presence of teachers and students who know how to combine competence and scientific rigour with an intense spiritual life, so as to imbue the university environment with a Gospel spirit. Secondly, through Catholic universities, which carry on the heritage of the ancient universities, born from the heart of the Church (ex corde Ecclesiae). I would also like to reaffirm the importance of the so-called "cultural laboratories", which are appropriately a priority choice of university ministry on the European level. A constructive dialogue is engaged in them between faith and culture, between science, philosophy and theology, and ethics is seen as an intrinsic requirement of research for an authentic service to the human being (cf. Address at the World Meeting of University Teachers for Their Jubilee, 9 September 2000, n. 5; ORE, 13 September 2000, p. 2).

To you, Professors, goes my encouragement; to you, students, the exhortation to make your talents fruitful with hard work; to all, the hope that you will always collaborate in the promotion of life and the dignity of man.

I will soon be lighting the torch that a relay team will take to the Church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, passing by the headquarters of the various universities in Rome: this is one way to emphasize the importance and value of the seventh centenary of "La Sapienza" University.

May Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom, always watch over you. I accompany you with prayers and my Blessing.

The Holy Father ended by greeting those present in French, English, German, Spanish and Polish. In English he said:

I offer warm greetings to the English-language participants, and I encourage them to promote in their Universities the study of Europe's Christian roots.

                                                            August 2003



Dear Scouts and Guides of AGESCI,

1. I still have a vivid memory of the visit that I had the joy to make to the participants in your national "Route", at Piani di Pezza in the Abruzzi in the summer of 1986. This year you have suggested a great new communitarian experience, the national Camp, that will take place simultaneously in four campsites, in the Provinces of Avellino, Cagliari, Perugia and Turin. This time, unfortunately, I am unable to accept your lovely invitation to be with you. I would like to assure you, however, that I remember you with affection and am close to you in prayer, so that each one of you, a young person or an adult, may live the days at "camp" to the full.

About three months ago I received in audience a large group of the directors and leaders of your Association, and I assured them of the Church's confidence and trust in the content and method of AGESCI's proven educational proposal. Now, as I think of the thousands of you in the splendid settings where you will pitch your tents, I would like to return to one of the formative topics dear to you, that is, the importance you must give to continually deepening your faith through practical love of, and respect for, nature: today this is an urgent and obligatory task for everyone, but it has always been so for scouts, who are motivated not by some vague "ecological feeling", but by the sense of responsibility that derives from faith. The protection of creation, in fact, is a distinctive feature of Christian commitment in the world.

2. Where everything speaks of the Creator and his wisdom, from the majestic mountains to the enchanting, flower-strewn valleys, may you learn to contemplate God's beauty, and may your souls, as it were, "breathe", opening to praise, silence and contemplation of the divine mystery.

The "rally" in which you are taking part, therefore, as well as being an adventure holiday, becomes in this way an encounter with God, with oneself and others; an encounter favoured by a serious review of life in the light of the Word of God and of the principles of your formation project.

When Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to Mount Tabor, he certainly had the opportunity to admire with them the view of Galilee that one can enjoy from those heights. But this obviously was not his primary aim. He wanted to make his disciples share in his prayer and to show them his glorious face in order to prepare them to bear up under the harsh trial of the passion. Keeping things in proper proportion, is this not also the meaning of the "camps" that AGESCI offers its members? These are important moments in which, with the help of the natural environment, you will have a strong experience of God, of Jesus and of fraternal communion. All this prepares you for life, for founding your most demanding plans on faith and for overcoming crises with the light and strength that come from Above.

3. Dear friends, the AGESCI scouts programme seeks to form the personality of children, young people and adults, in accordance with the Gospel model. It is a school of life where one learns a "style" which, if it is well assimilated, endures throughout life. This style can be summed up in the word "service". And if this applies for every young person who takes part in this scouting experience, regardless of his faith, it is especially true for you, who call yourselves and want to be real "Catholics". Your service must be even more generous and disinterested, after the example set by Jesus who said: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac 20,35).

Dear Scouts and Guides, I assure you of my spiritual presence, strengthened by prayer, so that Our Lady, the faithful Virgin, may protect and accompany you.

With these thoughts and heartfelt sentiments, I bless you, your leaders and the entire AGESCI family.

From Castel Gandolfo, 28 July 2003




Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

Wednesday, 6 August 2003

Today we are celebrating the liturgical Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. On this day let us recall the pious death of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI. Let us do so at this Holy Mass, in which Christ once again presents his redeeming sacrifice on the altar.

"Mysterium fidei": these are the words that introduce the memorable Encyclical Paul VI dedicated to the Eucharist in the third year of his Pontificate. A deeply devout teacher of Eucharistic doctrine and worship, he defined the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrifice as a "truly sublime" presence that "constitutes the greatest of miracles of its kind" (Mysterium Fidei, EV, nn. 423, 427). With what great faith and caring did Paul VI instruct the People of God on this central mystery of the Catholic faith!

On the Feast of the Transfiguration, let us ask, as we do in the liturgy, that "the Bread of heaven... transform us into the image of Christ" (Prayer after Communion). Paul VI also prayed for this in his time. Today we ask this for him so that contemplating the face of the Lord without veils, he may enjoy the vision of his glory forever.




To the Guides and Scouts of Europe
for the Sixth European Jamboree Meeting

1. On the occasion of the Eurojamboree of the Union internationale des Guides et Scouts d'Europe, which is taking place in Poland, I am happy to greet you, dear Guides and Scouts of Europe, and assure you of my deep union in prayer. The theme of this "Eurojamboree", "Duc in altum", once more takes up the words Jesus said to Peter, "Put out into the deep" (Lc 5,4), and it invites you to deepen the spiritual journey which was proposed to Christians around the world at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and to the young people in Toronto last year.

2. Dear young people, be generous in answering Jesus' call inviting you to put out into the deep and become his witnesses, discovering the trust he puts in you to devise a future together with him. Above all, to fulfil this mission the Church is entrusting to you requires that you cultivate a genuine life of prayer nourished by the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. As I stated in the recent Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: "Every commitment to holiness... must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination" (n. 60). It is important, therefore, that the Holy Mass form the centre and the culmination of this and all your encounters, especially during your weekly celebration of the Lord's Day.

The scouting experience, a priviledged route for spiritual growth, is a valid path that favours the total education of the person. It helps to overcome the temptation to be indifferent and egoistic and to open oneself to one's neighbour and to society. It can effectively promote the demands of the Christian vocation: to be "salt of the earth and light of the world" (cf. Mt Mt 5,13-16). I invite you to be faithful to the rich tradition of the scout movement and its formation programme through dialogue, the sense of justice, loyalty and friendly social relations. Such a lifestyle can be your original contribution to the realization of a greater and more authentic fraternity between the peoples of Europe, a precious contribution to the life of the societies in which you live.

3. Dear Guides and Scouts of Europe, you are a precious gift not only for the Church, but also for the new Europe which you see growing before your eyes, and you have been called "to share, with all the ardour of youth, in building the Europe of peoples, so that the dignity of every individual as a child loved by God will be recognized, and a society built on the basis of solidarity and charity" (To Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Europe at St Peter's Basilica, 3 August 1994, ORE, 10/17 August 1994, p. 9).

4. At the Shrine of Jasna Góra, particularly dear to me, you will renew your baptismal commitment in front of Our Lady of Czestochowa, together with your scout promise and your desire to be true apostles for the love of Christ. You will renew the act of consecration to Our Lady of the Annunciation which you pronounced nearly 20 years ago in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, on the occasion of your first European meeting. Since then, the fiat of Mary in response to God's will has become a core element of the spirituality of the Guides and Scouts of Europe, especially through the Angelus prayer and the Rosary. May these moments of Marian prayer in this year consecrated to Our Lady of the Rosary continue to fill your days, reviving in your hearts the memory of the marvellous Redemption Christ won for us.

When you return to your homes, to your families, to your communities, enriched by the experience of these days, let the words of Jesus resound in your hearts: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20). Strengthened by his grace, strive to live your commitment with renewed enthusiasm; thus, scouting will be for you "the means of santification in the Church", that will favour and encourage "a more intimate union between real life and your faith" (Statutes, art. 1, 2, 7). This is my wish for you in my prayers.

While I wholeheartedly invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin of Czestochowa upon your European meeting, upon the leaders of the Union internationale des Guides et Scouts d'Europe and upon each of you, I impart with affection the Apostolic Blessing upon all.

From Castel Gandolfo, 30 July 2003




Castel Gandolfo, 8 August 2003

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

I would like to express my warm gratitude for this common reflection, which has brought us together in these days in the search for truth. I thank God that we were able to meet here for the 12th time to consider the problems concerning the major questions that determine the specificity of human culture. I stressed the role of these problems in the Encyclical Fides et Ratio. In contemporary culture, fundamental questions regarding meaning and the truth, beauty, suffering, the infinite and contingency cannot be omitted. I thank you because we have been able to deal with them from a prospective in which science's new findings, together with reflection on classic philosophy, reciprocally complement each other.

Our community has expressed symbolically the bond between the Church and the Academy; this bond is particularly important in this era of major cultural changes. In order that the contemporary witnesses of truth should not feel alone, it is necessary to promote an authentic spirit of solidarity between all those who are at the service of thought. The Church cannot be indifferent to the achievements of science that have come about and developed within Christianity's cultural sphere of influence. It is also necessary to remember that truth and freedom are inseparably united in the great work of the edification of culture at the service of the complete maturation of the human person. Calling to mind the words of Christ, "the truth will make you free" (Jn 8,32), we want to build the gospel culture, free from those illusions and utopias which brought great suffering in the 20th century.

My thought goes to all those people who have participated in the past in our seminars. Many of them have gone to the Lord and, in His light, they certainly see more clearly the truths that we must discover in the semidarkness of research and discussions. I commend them all to God, together with all of you gathered here. May the sense of Christian responsibility for the future of culture unite us; this sense allows us to create a great harmony of life which indicates Christ as the source of every good. To him I entrust all of you, your loved ones and your future plans.




Saturday, 9 August 2003

Dearest young people,

1. I greet you affectionately on the occasion of the "Young People to Assisi" International Convention, which has brought you from many parts of the world to gather around the figure and the message of St Francis. I wish to greet Fr Joachim Giermek, Minister General, whom I thank for his courteous words outlining the essential content of your "Meeting". Together with him I also greet the dear Conventual Fathers who are accompanying you on an evocative pilgrimage to some of the most ancient Franciscan Shrines.

During these days of reflection and brotherhood, you have the opportunity to rediscover the fascination of places that today still bear testimony to the presence of the Poverello of Assisi. In particular, you have been able to deepen the content of the well-known prayer of Francis in front of the Cross of St Damian, and especially the significance of the invocation: "Enlighten my heart" (cf. Fonti Francescane, 276).

From the contemplation of the suffering face of Christ crucified, the young Francis drew the experience of that profound communion with Jesus that led him toward the purpose of his earthly existence, to conform himself to the utmost degree with the Lord, so much so that he bore the signs of the Passion impressed on his own body.

2. Dear participants at the Third International Meeting of "Young People to Assisi"! I wish to renew to you the invitation I gave to the entire Church at the beginning of the new millennium: contemplate the face of Christ, his dying face and the face of the risen One! "Jesus' cry on the Cross... is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all" (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 26). It is necesssary to welcome this message of hope in one's own life and to proclaim to the world this revelation full of God's love, as the Minister General aptly recalled.

Following the example of Francis, you will also learn to look with faith at the face of the Crucified One and to see reflected there the suffering of humanity. May the Cross of St Damian, which also accompanies you today, revive in you the light that "enlightens the heart" and guide your pilgrimage all the way to Cologne, where in 2005 the World Youth Day will be held, ever ready to proclaim and witness to the Gospel. Is not this Francis' invitation as well as the experience of Clare of Assisi, the 750th anniversary of whose death occurs in these days?

3. Contemplating the face of Christ, you will be able to experience the fruits of his Passion and Resurrection and be capable of receiving those suffering from sickness, violence, hatred and injustice. As Francis encountered Christ through solidarity and service to the poor and lepers (cf. Testamento, 1-3: Fonti Francescane, 110; Legenda Maior, 5: Fonti Francescane, 1034-1035), so too you, faithfully following his example, will be able to welcome the Redeemer and to serve him with generous dedication in every suffering and marginalized person. May the Lord grant you "wisdom and discernment" in order to be able to comprehend his will to the very depths and to translate it into appropriate life choices.

I accompany you with affection and prayer and I invoke on you and on the communities that you come from the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, whom Franciscans invoke with the beautiful title of "St Mary of the Angels". I bless all of you from the heart, together with your families and your friends.

At the conclusion, the Holy Father greeted the Polish youth present with the following words:

I also greet and salute the participants who have come from Wadowice. I thank all of you for coming.





Dearest Sisters,

1. The 11th of August 1253 marked the end of the earthly pilgrimage of St Clare of Assisi, disciple of St Francis and foundress of your Order, known as the Poor Sisters or Poor Clares, that today counts, in its various branches, around 900 monasteries scattered over the five continents. Seven hundred and fifty years from her death, the commemoration of this great Saint continues to be keenly felt in the hearts of the faithful; I am pleased on this occasion to send to your religious Family a cordial thought and an affectionate greeting.

On such an important jubilee commeration, St Clare urges all to understand in a much deeper way the value of the vocation, which is a gift given from God, intended to bear fruit. Concerning this, she wrote in her Testament: "Among the other gifts that we have received and do daily receive from our benefactor, the Father of mercies, and for which we must express the deepest thanks to the glorious Father of Christ, there is our vocation, for which, all the more by the way of its being more perfect and greater, do we owe the greatest thanks to Him. Therefore, the Apostle [writes]: "Know your vocation'" (2-4).

2. Born in Assisi between the years 1193-1194 of the noble family Di Favarone of Offreduccio, St Clare received, especially from her mother Ortolana, a solid Christian education. Illuminated by divine grace, she let herself be drawn to the new form of evangelical life initiated by St Francis and his companions, and decided, in her turn, to embark on a more radical following of Christ. She left her father's house during the night between Palm Sunday and the Monday of Holy Week of 1211 (or 1212), and following the advice of the Saint himself she went to the small church of the Portiuncula, heart of the Franciscan experience, where in front of the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary she divested herself of all her riches, to be reclothed in the poor habit of penance in the form of a cross.

After a brief period of searching, she came to rest in the small monastery of St Damian, where her younger sister Agnes followed her soon after. Here other companions joined her, desiring to incarnate the Gospel in a contemplative dimension. The determination with which the new monastic community followed in the footprints of Christ, considering poverty, hard work, tribulation, humility and contempt of the world as great spiritual joys, moved St Francis to write to them with fatherly affection: "Because by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the Most High King, the heavenly Father, and have espoused yourselves to the Holy Spirit, choosing to live according to the perfection of the holy Gospel, I resolve and promise for myself and for my brothers to always have that same loving care and solicitude for you as [I have] for them" (Form of Life of Clare of Assisi, Chapter VI, 3-4).

3. Clare put these words in the central chapter of her Rule, regarding them not only as one of the teachings received from the Saint, but as the fundamental nucleus of his charism, which emerges in the Trinitarian and Marian context of the Gospel of the Annunciation. In fact, St Francis placed the vocation of the Poor Sisters in the aura of the Virgin Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord who, overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, became the Mother of God. The humble servant of the Lord is the prototype of the Church, Virgin, Spouse and Mother.

Clare perceived her vocation as a call to follow the example of Mary, who offered her own virginity to the action of the Holy Spirit to become the Mother of Christ and of His Mystical Body. She felt closely united to the Mother of the Lord and because of this, urged St Agnes of Prague, the Bohemian princess who became a Poor Clare: "May you cling to his most sweet Mother who gave birth to a Son whom the heavens could not contain, and yet, she carried Him in the little enclosure of her holy womb, and held him on her virginal lap" (Third Letter to Agnes of Prague, 18-19).

The figure of Mary accompanied the vocational walk of the Saint of Assisi until the end of her life. According to a noteworthy testimony given at the Process of Canonization, Our Lady approached Clare on her deathbed, bending over her, whose life was a radiant image of Her own.

4. Only Clare's exclusive option for Christ crucified, undertaken with ardent love, can explain the determination with which she advanced along the way of "highest poverty", an expression that contains in its meaning the experience of renouncement the Son of God lived in the Incarnation.

With the specification "highest", Clare desired to express in some way the humble abasement of the Son of God, which filled her with wonder. She noted: "...so great and good a Lord, then, on coming into the Virgin's womb, chose to appear despised, needy and poor in this world, so that people, who were in utter poverty, want and absolute need of heavenly nourishment, might become rich in Him by possessing the kingdom of heaven" (First Letter to Agnes of Prague, 19-20). She grasped this poverty in the entire earthly experience of Jesus, from Bethlehem to Calvary, where the Lord "remained naked on the cross" (Testament of St Clare, 45).

To follow the Son of God, who became our path, meant for her no other desire than to be submerged with Christ in the experience of a humility and of a radical poverty, involving every aspect of the human experience, to the very stripping of the Cross. For St Clare the choice of poverty was a requirement for Gospel fidelity, to the extent that she resolved to ask the Pope for a "privilege of poverty", that was a prerogative of the form of monastic life she began. She inserted this "privilege", tenaciously defended throughout her life, into the Rule that received the papal confirmation two days before her death with the Bull Solet Annuere of 9 August 1253, 750 years ago.

5. Clare's gaze remained fixed on the Son of God to the end, in ceaseless contemplation of his mysteries. Hers was the loving gaze of the spouse, filled with the desire of an evermore complete sharing. She was immersed particularly in the meditation of the Passion, contemplating the mystery of Christ, who from the heights of the Cross called her and drew her [to him]. Thus, she wrote: ""All you who pass by the way, look and see if there is any suffering like my suffering!'. Let us respond with one voice, with one spirit, to Him, crying and grieving, Who said: Remembering you over and over makes my soul perish within me" (Fourth Letter to Agnes of Prague, 25-26). And she urged: "Let yourself be inflamed more strongly with the fervour of charity!... And sigh... in the great desire of your heart... may you cry out: Draw me after you... O Heavenly Spouse!" (Testament of St Clare of Assisi, 27, 29-32).

This full communion with Christ's mystery introduced her into the experience of the indwelling of the Trinity, wherein the soul matures in greater awareness of God's dwelling within her: "Since the heavens and the rest of creation cannot contain their Creator and only the faithful soul is His dwelling place and throne, and this only through the charity that the wicked lack" (Third Letter to Agnes of Prague, 22-23).

6. Guided by Clare, the community gathered in St Damian chose to live according to the form of the holy Gospel in the cloistered, contemplative dimension of "living together in unity of mind and heart" in a special way (Form of Life of Clare of Assisi, 1), according to a "manner of holy unity" (ibid., 2). Clare's particular understanding of the value of unity in the fraternity seems to be founded in a mature contemplative experience of the Trinitarian Mystery. Authentic contemplation, in fact, does not close in on self, but fulfils the truth of being one in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.

In her Rule, Clare not only based the fraternal life on its values of reciprocal service, of participation and of sharing, but made it her concern that the community would be also firmly built on the "unity of mutual love and peace" (Chapter IV, 22), and also that the Sisters would be "eager to conserve among themselves the unity of mutual love which is the bond of perfection" (Chapter X, 7).

Indeed, she was convinced that reciprocal love edifies the community and gives rise to vocational maturation, and she urged in her Testament: "Loving one another with the charity of Christ, may the love you have in your hearts be shown outwardly in your deeds so that, compelled by such an example, the Sisters may always grow in love of God and in charity for one another" (59-60).

7. Clare also perceived this value of unity in its broader dimension; and so, she willed that the cloistered community be fully inserted into the Church and solidly anchored to it with the bond of obedience and of filial subjection (cf. Form of Life, Chapter I, XII). She clearly understood that the life of the cloistered nuns was to be a model for the other Sisters called to follow the same vocation, as well as a shining witness for those living in the world.

The 40 years lived inside the small monastery of St Damian did not narrow the horizons of her heart, but expanded her faith in the presence of God, working out salvation in history. There are two episodes in which, with the strength of her faith in the Eucharist and with the humility of prayer, Clare succeeded in freeing the city of Assisi and the monastery from the danger of an imminent destruction.

8. How can we not emphasize that 750 years since Pontifical approval, the Rule of St Clare maintains intact its spiritual fascination and its theological richness? The perfect consonance of human and Christian values, the wise harmony of contemplative fervour and evangelical rigour makes it for you, dear Poor Clares of the Third Millennium, a highway to follow, without compromises or concessions to the spirit of the world.

To each of you Clare directs the words that she left to Agnes of Prague: "Happy, indeed, is she to whom it is given to share in this sacred banquet so that she might cling with all her heart to Him whose beauty all the blessed hosts of heaven unceasingly admire" (Fourth Letter to Agnes of Prague, 9).

The centennial anniversary offers you the opportunity to reflect on your vocation's specific charism as Poor Clares. A charism that is characterized, in the first place, by a call to live according to the perfection of the Holy Gospel, with a decided reference to Christ, the only and authentic programme of life. Is this not a challenge for the men and women of today? It is an alternative proposal to the dissatisfaction and superficiality of the contemporary world, which often seems to have lost its very identity, because it is no longer aware that it has been created by God's Love and is awaited by him in eternal communion.

You, dear Clares, fulfil in a spousal dimension the following of the Lord, renewing the mystery of the fertile virginity of the Virgin Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the perfect woman. May the presence of your monasteries entirely devoted to the contemplative life be also today a "memory of the Church's spousal love" (Verbi Sponsa, 1), filled with the consuming desire of the Spirit that incessantly implores the coming of Christ the Spouse (cf. Rev. Ap 22,17).

Given the need for a renewed commitment to holiness, St Clare offers at the same time an example of that teaching of holiness that, nourished by incessant prayer, leads to becoming contemplatives of the Face of God, opening wide the heart to the Spirit of the Lord, which transforms the whole person, mind, heart and action, according to the exigencies of the Gospel.

9. My most heartfelt wish, strengthened by prayer, is that your monasteries may continue to offer to today's world, with its widespread need for spirituality and prayer, the demanding proposal of a complete and authentic experience of God, One and Triune, by radiating his loving and saving presence.

May Mary, the Virgin of Listening, assist you. May St Clare and all the Saints and Blesseds of your Order intercede for you.

I assure a cordial remembrance for you, dear Sisters, for all who share together with you in the grace of this meaningful jubilee, and to all I impart from the heart a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 9 August 2003

Speeches 2003