Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 6 September 2003

5. Preparing today’s priests requires that seminarians be educated in the many different traditions of our Catholic faith. This is especially true in India which is fortunate to have Oriental and Latin Catholics in such close proximity. The numbers of Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholics present in your region challenges all the faithful to respect the needs and desires of those who celebrate the same Faith in different ways (cf. Address to the Syro-Malabar Bishops of India, 13 May 2003). "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace" (1P 4,10). This sharing can be accomplished by inter-ritual dialogue, education, joint projects and an experience of the different liturgical traditions of Catholicism. It is my hope that the Latin and Oriental Bishops will continue to work together in harmony with a shared spirit of love for Christ and his universal message of salvation. "As children of the one Church, reborn into the newness of life in Christ, believers are called to undertake all things in a spirit of common purpose, trust and unfailing charity" (Ecclesia in Asia ).

This same commonality of purpose is important in the ongoing ecumenical dialogue with our separated brethren. All Catholics are responsible for fostering the work of Christian unity. Although the Eastern Churches are "directly involved in ecumenical dialogue with their sister Orthodox Churches" (cf. ibid.), Latin Rite Catholics must also take an active role in this exchange by participation in ecumenical discussions and activities. At all times, we must keep in mind that "dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas. In some ways it is always an ‘exchange of gifts’" (Ut Unum Sint UUS 28).

6. Dear Brother Bishops, as you return to your beloved land it is my hope that you will convey my warm greetings to the priests, religious and lay people of your Dioceses. The last year has been one of uncertainty, conflict and suffering for many in India. Remembering our Lord’s commission to his disciples, I pray that as you leave this city of the Apostles Peter and Paul you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and prepared to act as instruments of reconciliation, stirring in the hearts of God’s people a firm desire to work for lasting peace and justice in your country (cf. Jn Jn 20,21-22).

With these sentiments I commend the Church in India to the loving intercession of our Blessed Lady, Queen of the Rosary, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and hope in the Lord.




Mr Ambassador,

I receive you with great pleasure at this Audience for the presentation of the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bolivia to the Holy See. I am deeply grateful to you for your kind words at this solemn act inaugurating the mission that your Government has entrusted to you.

Please convey my greeting to the President of the Republic, H.E. Mr Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, as well as to all the men and women who live in the vast territory of your sunny homeland, formed by a wealth of geographical features: majestic mountains, lowlands, valleys, lakes and plateaux. In those latitudes the features of the Bolivians were shaped by the encounter between the ancient indigenous cultures and those that arrived down the ages, and today offer a varied cultural and ethnic reality, called to live in mutual respect and integrated coexistence.

Bolivia has a strong religious imprint which, more than five centuries after the beginning of evangelization, reveals its people's faith. In this regard the Catholic Church, faithful to her task of bringing the message of salvation to all peoples, spares no effort to encourage the integral development of human beings and to defend their dignity, helping to consolidate the fundamental and basic values so that society may enjoy stability and concord.

The different ecclesial communities, also motivated by the wish to keep alive the content of the Gospel message, continue to contribute their valuable collaboration in such important areas as teaching, assistance to the most deprived, health care, as well as the promotion of the individual as a citizen and child of God. The Pastors of Bolivia, therefore, in communion with the Successor of Peter and as a reference point for everyone, must continue to offer their wise and prudent words that stem from a deep knowledge of the human situation in Bolivia, interpreted in the light of the Good News.

Consequently, in the difficult times that the country has lived through because of its sensitive and inflammable social situation, the Bolivian Episcopate has offered to help promote initiatives for peace that foster understanding and reconciliation. This way of working, as I pointed out to the Bishops during their last ad limina visit, "is only a temporary part of the greater task of carrying out a much more extensive work, that involves evangelization and promotes justice and fraternal solidarity among all citizens" (Address to the Bolivian Bishops on their ad limina Visit, 13 April 2002, n. 8; ORE, 1 May 2002, p. 3). May the religious mission that is proper to the Church not prevent her from fostering a national dialogue between the civil leaders, so that all may cooperate effectively to overcome the crises that surface.

Moreover, as you made clear, Your Excellency, this dialogue must be free of any form of violence and its various expressions, and must help build a more human future with the collaboration of all, avoiding the impoverishment of society. In this regard, it is timely to recall that mere application of the necessary technical means is not enough to achieve social improvements; reforms with a human and moral basis need to be promoted that take into account an ethical view of the person, the family and society.

The constant proposal of the fundamental moral values, such as honesty, austerity, responsibility for the common good, solidarity, the spirit of sacrifice and the culture of work can thus assure to all the members of the national community a better development, since violence, individual and collective selfishness and corruption at any level have never been sources of progress or well-being.

Bolivia's predicament must not be a cause of division, nor should it foment hatred or resentment among those who are called to build the country. It is well known that the future of a nation must be based on social peace which is the fruit of justice (cf. Jas Jc 3,18), building the kind of society which, starting with the political, parliamentary, administrative and judicial authorities, encourages concord, harmony and respect for individuals, as well as defending their fundamental rights.

Bolivians, with the rich qualities that distinguish them, must be the main protagonists and artisans of the country's progress, cooperating in a political stability that enables them all to take part in public life. Bolivian citizens are distinguished for their courage in dominating a nature that is harsh and rigorous; unwavering in the face of difficulties, they are motivated by a deep humanism and a sense of solidarity. I would therefore like to encourage them, so that they do not lose heart, to achieve better goals of progress. Each one, according to his gifts and possibilities, is called to make his own contribution to the good of the homeland. In this regard, I am pleased to know that the Authorities are determined to establish a more just and participatory social order. I therefore express my earnest hope that the Government's action may overcome the serious and long drawn-out financial crisis which affects above all the weakest social classes.

The moral teachings of the Church offer values and guidelines for building a more just and fraternal society; if they are taken into consideration by those who work at the service of the nation, they can be useful for a satisfactory response to the needs and aspirations of Bolivians.

The painful and widespread problem of poverty, with serious consequences in the area of education, health care and daily life, is a pressing challenge for political leaders and government authorities as they face the nation's future. A real awareness is esssential if they are to come to grips with the present situation at all levels, thereby truly cooperating in their commitment to the common good.

As in other parts, the poor lack the basic essentials and cannot find the indispensable means that allow for their promotion and integral development. I am thinking of the campesinos, the miners, those who live on the outskirts of cities who are victims of a materialism that excludes human beings and is solely motivated by the concern for enrichment or power.

In this situation, the Church, with the contribution of her social teaching, tries to further and encourage suitable initiatives that aim to overcome the situations of marginalization that affect so many needy brothers and sisters, in order to eliminate the causes of poverty, thereby fulfilling her mission, since concern for social progress is a part of evangelizing action (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41).

Mr Ambassador, before concluding this meeting, I would like to express to you my best wishes for the success of your mission that begins today. I ask you once again to express my sentiments and hopes to the President of the Republic and to the other Authorities of your country, as I invoke God's blessing and the protection of Our Lady of Copacabana upon you, upon your distinguished family and collaborators, and upon all the most beloved sons and daughters of the noble Bolivian nation, whom I always hold in deep esteem.





Dear Participants in the Extraordinary Assembly of Italian Catholic Action,

1. I am pleased to greet you all with joy and affection, dear brothers and sisters who have gathered in Rome for your Extraordinary Assembly on the theme: "History becomes prophecy". I address a cordial greeting in particular to your General Chaplain, Bishop Francesco Lambiasi, and to your National President, Dr Paola Bignardi.

The specific goal of the work that awaits you in the coming days is the most important task of revising the Statutes of the highly-esteemed Catholic Action, to bring them in line with the changing needs of the times and the apostolic perspectives of the new millennium. In recent years, your association has observed the norms and guidelines contained in the 1969 Statutes, which captured the spirit and decisions of the Second Vatican Council. They have helped you to discover better and better, in living it as "as lay persons", the greatness of the Christian vocation and apostolic commitment in an ecclesial and cultural context that is very different from that of previous years.

Updating the Statutes means telling yourselves, the Christian community and civil society today what the features of an Association like yours should be to meet the needs of the mission of the Church and of the evangelization of the world. The new Statutes will express your spirit, the lofty goals you set for yourselves and the approaches that define your mature ecclesial experience and give them an unmistakeable quality as well as a unique place in the panorama of lay associations.

2. Your long history originated from a charism: a special gift of the Spirit of the Risen One who never lets his Church lack the talents and resources of grace that the faithful need in order to serve the cause of the Gospel. Reflect upon the charism of Catholic Action, dear friends, with humble pride and deep joy!

It has inspired many young people, such as Mario Fani and Giovanni Acquaderni who founded it more than 130 years ago. This charism also guided and accompanied the journey of holiness of Pier Giorgio Frassati, Gianna Beretta-Molla, Luigi and Maria Beltrame-Quattrocchi, and a multitude of other lay people who lived in heroic fidelity to their baptismal promises with an extraordinary normality. The Pontiffs and Pastors who recognized your charism over the decades, blessed and supported your Association until they accepted it - like the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) - as an association especially chosen and promoted by the ecclesiastical authority to link it more closely to its apostolic office (cf. Nota Pastorale della CEI, 22 May 1981, n. 25).

3. This charism has been more fully described in the conciliar Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, Apostolicam Actuositatem (n. 20): you are lay Christians expert in the splendid adventure of making the Gospel and life converge, showing how well the "Good News" responds to the searching questions in each person's heart and is the highest and truest light that can guide society in building the "civilization of love".

As lay persons you have chosen to live for the Church and for the globality of her mission, "dedicated", as your Bishops wrote, "with a direct, organic connection, to the diocesan community", so as to enable everyone to rediscover the value of a faith lived in communion and to make every Christian community a family that cares for all its children (cf. Lettera del Consiglio Episcopale Permanente della CEI, 12 March 2002, n. 4).

As lay persons you have chosen to follow in the form of an Association the Gospel ideal of holiness in the particular Church, so as to cooperate as a unit, "an organic body", in the evangelizing mission of each ecclesial community.

As lay persons you have chosen to form an Association whose special connection with the Pastors respects and promotes the constitutive secular character of its members. The spirit of that "syntax of communion", which is a characteristic of the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council, and the rules of democratic participation in group life, help you express to the full the unity of the entire ecclesial Body of Christ and the variety of charisms and vocations, with full respect for the dignity and responsibility of every member of the People of God.

The organic synthesis of these goals - missionary, diocesan, unitary and secular - is the most mature and ecclesially-integrated form of the lay apostolate. By renewing your Statutes, you intend to reassert the value of these features today and to specify how they should be interpreted, so as to continue to touch the hearts of the many communities and lay persons who will be able to model their life on this ideal.

4. "The Church cannot do without Catholic Action": this is what I told you last year, during your 11th Assembly. I repeat it to you at the end of a particularly busy year, devoted to the renewal of ACI.

The Church needs you, she needs lay people who have found in Catholic Action a school of holiness in which they have learned to live the radicalness of the Gospel in ordinary daily life. The Blesseds who have emerged from your ranks, and the Venerables such as Alberto Marvelli, Pina Suriano and Fr Antonio Seghezzi, impel you to continue to make your Association a place where its members grow as disciples of the Lord, at the school of the Word and at the table of the Eucharist; a training ground where they can practise love and forgiveness, learn how to conquer evil with good and, with patient tenacity, weave a network of brotherhood that embraces everyone, especially the poorest.

Dear young people and adults of Catholic Action, your Association will be renewed if each one of its members rediscovers the promises of Baptism, choosing Christian holiness with full consciousness and availability as "the high standard of ordinary Christian living" in daily life (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 31). For this, we must let ourselves be moulded by the liturgy of the Church, cultivate the art of meditation and the interior life, and make an annual spiritual retreat. Dear friends, ensure that every one of your groups is a true school of prayer, and that each member has access to help in discernment and in fidelity to his vocation.

5. The Church needs you, because you have chosen service to the particular Church and her mission as the scope of your apostolic commitment; because you have made the parish the place where, day after day, you express faithful and enthusiastic dedication. In this way you continue to fan the missionary spirit of those men and women of Catholic Action who humbly and unobtrusively help make the Christian communities come alive in various parts of the country.

I urge you to devote all your energies to the service of communion in close unity with the Bishop, collaborating with him and with the presbyterate in the "ministry of synthesis", so as to weave a strong, tighter fabric of cordial communion, which is intensely human precisely because it is genuinely Christian. Help your parish rediscover its zeal for Gospel proclamation, and foster the pastoral solicitude that goes in search of everyone to help each to experience the joy of the encounter with the Lord. And through your presence, may every community shine in the neighbourhoods of your cities and villages as a living sign of the presence of Jesus, the Son of God who came to dwell among us!

6. The Church needs you, because Catholic Action is an open and welcoming environment in which anyone can express his availability for service, finding useful opportunities for formative dialogue in a congenial atmosphere that encourages generous decisions. There are witnesses and teachers in your Associations who are prepared to accompany their brothers and sisters on their way to a convinced and mature faith, capable of witnessing in the world.

I recommend that you emphasize a solid formation, adapted to the demands of the new evangelization. Always care for every person and help everyone to defend the treasure of faith, sowing it in every walk of life. May Catholic Action be once again for a growing number of people and communities the great school of lay spirituality and of the apostolate of movements and associations!

7. The Church needs you, because you never stop looking at the world with God's eyes; hence, you succeed in interpreting this time of ours and in making out in it the signs of the Spirit's presence. You have in your tradition the magnificent witnesses of lay people whose contributions were crucial to the growth of the human city.

Continue to make available to towns and villages, in workplaces and schools, in health-care and recreation centres, in culture, economics and politics, your skills and credibility, which can contribute to making our contemporary world the great work site of the civilization of love. May Catholic Action help the ecclesial community not to fall into the trap of disregarding the problems of life and families, of peace and justice, and may it witness to trust in the renewing and transforming power of Christianity. Thus, it will have an incisive effect on civil society, for the construction of the common home under the flag of the dignity and vocation of men and women, according to the Italian Church's "Cultural Project".

8. Dear members of Catholic Action, as I encourage you to explore ever more deeply the riches of your charism, I urge the diocesan and parish communities to carefully reappraise the Association as a place for the growth of lay vocations as well as an apprenticeship in which people learn to express them with ever greater confidence.

"History becomes prophecy": you have chosen this theme for your Assembly. I hope that you will reinterpret with wise discernment your own impressive background, distinguishing what is the fruit of time from what is a gift of the Spirit, which bears the seeds of a new future that has already started. I am sure that this Extraordinary Assembly will reveal the mature and serene face of the lay people involved, and I am deeply confident that you will adopt firm, clear options to make Catholic Action an Association that is equal to the mission entrusted to it.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, sustain you in your mission. To her, venerated in the Holy House of Loreto where you plan to go on pilgrimage next year, I entrust each one of you, your families and all your projects.

With these sentiments I cordially impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.

From Castel Gandolfo, 8 September 2003





To Fr Josep Maria Abella Batlle
Superior General
and to all the Chapter Fathers of the Missionary Sons of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary

1. I am pleased to offer a cordial greeting and congratulations to Fr Josep Maria Abella Batlle, recently elected Superior General, as well as to all of you who have gathered to celebrate your 23rd General Chapter that gives you a special opportunity to express your communion and loyalty to the Sucessor of Peter. At this Chapter, the seventh since the Second Vatican Council, and at the beginning of the third millennium, you set out to "discern, in the light of the Spirit, the best ways to preserve and adapt [your] charism and [your] spiritual patrimony to changing historical and cultural situations (Vita Consecrata VC 42), impelled by the spirit of renewal with which the Church has imbued all forms of consecrated life to face the new challenges to the mission.

2. For an adequate understanding of the signs of the times and of the work of evangelization, which is the task of Claretian Missionaries to promote and develop in the most varied regions of the world, you will find most useful the guidelines presented in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations addressed to the different continents. For these changing times the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennnio Ineunte will likewise offer you the appropriate framework for an apostolic spirituality that is fundamentally grounded in Jesus.

Service to the mission, wherever you carry it out, must stem from intimate union with the Lord who sends you. It must be lived in the journey of self-emptying even to the cross, which Jesus himself undertook and traced for his followers. It is a matter of a close communion that you must learn from the Heart of Mary, the source of the best response and truest adherence to the Gospel message. On this journey you will be sustained, as was your Founder, by daily listening to the Word and receiving the Eucharist, "the heart of the Church's life, and also of consecrated life" (Vita Consecrata VC 95).

3. When, in the broad panorama of society, you glimpse not a few signs of a widespread culture of death, think of the Chapter's theme, "That they may have life", and feel that the Lord Jesus is sending you to proclaim the God of life. In such moments life, an immense gift from the Father, must be protected, nurtured and given dignity, especially among the most forsaken, with a word of hope and unstinting gestures of acceptance and solidarity. It is an urgent task for every consecrated person to "proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time" (Evangelium Vitae EV 105). This is fundamental to the identity and harmony of people and of the human family overall.

4. I give thanks to God with you for the gifts with which he continues to bless your Congregation, predisposing it better and better to the service of the mission. Your institute must welcome the precious gift of new vocations, especially in Asia and Africa, and take pains with their integral formation. The gift of new candidates and mission achievements in different needy areas and the gift of the blood of martyrs that has been poured out bear witness to Jesus in our time.

5. Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you in your work at this Chapter, so that, with evangelical words and acts, you will be able to guide and encourage all the members of the Institute, especially the elderly and the sick, the young men in formation and those who may encounter the greatest problems in their missionary service. May the spirit of fraternal life shared in love and dialogue be present at every moment as an eloquent sign of ecclesial communion (Vita Consecrata VC 42).

May the Lord also bless all those who together with you form the Missionary Family, founded by St Anthony Mary Claret, as well as those who share your mission in many works or apostolic fronts. With these hopes and feelings and with all my affection, I impart my Blessing to you all.

From the Vatican, 8 September, Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 2003.





To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Roger Etchegaray
President Emeritus of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace and Cor Unum

1. I am particularly pleased to place in your hands, Your Eminence, my personal greeting to the distinguished Representatives of the Christian Churches and Communities and of the great world religions who are gathering for the 17th International Meeting of Prayer for Peace on the theme: "Between war and peace: religion and culture meet". My special thoughts go to Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aachen and to the faithful of his diocese who have helped organize the meeting.

This meeting in Aachen is a further stage on the journey I desired to start at Assisi in 1986, when the world was still split into two blocs and oppressed by the fear of nuclear war. Seeing the impelling need of the people to aspire once again to a future peace and prosperity for all, I invited the believers of the different world religions to gather in order to pray for peace. I had before my eyes the great vision of the Prophet Isaiah: all the people of the world on the move from the different parts of the earth to gather round God as one great, multifaceted family. This was the vision that Bl. John XXIII cherished in his heart and that prompted him to write the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, whose 40th anniversary we are commemorating this year.

2. In Assisi, that dream acquired a concrete and visible form, kindling hopes of peace in many hearts. We all rejoiced in them. Unfortunately, that longing did not receive the necessary prompt attention. In recent years, too little has been invested in defending peace and sustaining the dream of a war-free world. Instead, people have preferred to develop their private interests, squandering enormous wealth in other ways, especially on military expenditures.

We have all witnessed the development of self-centred passions in people for their own territory, race or nation. At times, even their religion has been subjected to violence. In a few days we will be commemorating the tragic attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Unfortunately, together with the towers, many hopes for peace also seem to have disintegrated. Wars and conflicts continue to flourish and poison a multitude of lives, especially in the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. I am thinking of the dozens of wars that are still being fought as well as that widespread "war" represented by terrorism.

3. When will all these conflicts cease? When will the peoples see a peaceful world at last? We will certainly not be doing anything to further the peace process if, with sinful disregard, we allow irresponsibility, injustice and inequality to thrive on our planet. The poor countries have often become the home of desperation and hotbeds of violence. We are loath to accept that war dominates the life of the world and of the peoples. We are loath to accept that poverty is the ubiquitous life-companion of entire nations.

We therefore wonder: what should we do? And, above all, what can believers do? How can peace be achieved in these belligerent times? I believe that these International Meetings of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Sant'Egidio Community, are already a concrete response to these questions. They have been taking place for 17 years now and have borne visible fruits of peace. Every year, people of different religions meet, become acquainted, relax, learn to live together and to assume a common responsibility for peace.

4. Once again, meeting in Aachen at the beginning of this new millennium is significant. This city, located at the heart of the European continent, clearly evokes Europe's ancient tradition: it evokes its ancient roots and, to start with, the Christian roots that have also harmonized and strengthened the others. Its Christian roots are not a memory of religious exclusivism but a basis of freedom, because they make the continent a crucible of different cultures and experiences. It is from these ancient roots that the European peoples drew the incentive that spurred them to reach the ends of the earth and to fathom the depths of man, his inalienable dignity, the fundamental equality of all and the universal right to justice and peace.

Today, when Europe is in the process of expanding its union, it is called to rediscover this energy by recovering the awareness of its deepest roots. It is not healthy to forget them. Merely to imply them is not enough to set hearts on fire. Not to mention them will drain hearts of feeling. Europe will be all the stronger for the present and the future of the world, the better able it is to quench its thirst at the sources of its religious and cultural traditions. The religious and human wisdom that Europe has accumulated down the centuries, despite all the tensions and contradictions that have accompanied it, is a heritage that can once again be drawn upon for the growth of all humanity. I am convinced that Europe, in anchoring itself firmly to its roots, will accelerate the process of internal union and make its indispensable contribution to progress and peace among all the earth's peoples.

5. In a divided world, driven on and on towards separation and particularism, there is an urgent need for unity. People of different religions and cultures are called to discover the way of encounter and dialogue. Unity is not uniformity. Peace is not built in mutual ignorance, but in dialogue and encounter. This is the secret of the Aachen Meeting. In seeing you, everyone will be able to say that on this road, peace among the peoples is not a remote utopia.

"The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 55). In our meeting we must therefore endeavour to lay solid, shared foundations of peace. These foundations will disarm the violent, call them to reason and respect, and create a network of peaceful sentiments all over the world.

With you, dear Christian brothers and sisters, "dialogue must continue with firm resolve" (Ecclesia in Europa, n. 31): may this third millennium be the age of union around the one Lord. The scandal of division is no longer tolerable: it is a repeated "no" to God and to peace.

With you, distinguished representatives of the great world religions, let us intensify the dialogue of peace: in raising our eyes to the Father of all the peoples, we will recognize that differences do not impel us to discord but to respect, loyal collaboration and the construction of peace.

With you, men and women of a lay tradition, we feel we should continue in dialogue and in love as the only ways to respect the rights of each one and confront the great challenges of the new millennium. The world needs peace, so much peace. As believers we know that the way that will lead us to achieving it is prayer to the One who can grant us peace. The path that we can all take is that of loving dialogue.

Armed with the weapons of prayer and dialogue, therefore, let us walk on the path to the future!

From Castel Gandolfo, 5 September 2003

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 6 September 2003