Speeches 2003







Thursday, 11 September 2003

Mr President of the Republic,
Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I give thanks to the Lord for allowing me to set foot today on the beloved Slovakian soil for the third time. I come as a pilgrim of the Gospel to bring greetings of peace and hope to all. My respectful greeting goes to you, Mr President of the Republic. I thank you for the noble words with which, in the name of all the people of this country, you have welcomed me. With you I also greet the civil and military authorities, thankful for their wide-ranging commitment in organising this apostolic journey of mine.

I embrace with affection my Brother Bishops, with the President of the Episcopal Conference, the Most Reverend František Tondra, Bishop of Spiš, and the Venerable Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec, Bishop of Nitra. Finally I extend a cordial greeting in the Lord to all the men and women who live, work, suffer and hope in this Land of Slovakia, and I invoke upon each and every one of you the very special blessings of the Most High God.

2. The civil and religious history of Slovakia has been written with the contribution of heroic and dynamic witnesses of the Gospel. My wish is to pay grateful tribute to them all. I am thinking of course of the glorious brothers from Thessalonika, Saints Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles of the Slavic peoples. I also remember all who generously served God and their fellow men and women, who have distinguished these regions with their virtues. To these we now add Bishop Vasil’ Hopko and Sister Zdenka Schelingová. Next Sunday I will have the joy of enrolling them among the Blessed. All of them have left behind a rich harvest of good in the Slovakian cultural heritage. The history of this Land indeed can be seen as a history of faithfulness to Christ and to his Church.

3. In the near future your country will become a full member of the European Community. Dearly beloved, bring to the construction of Europe’s new identity the contribution of your rich Christian tradition! Do not be satisfied with the sole quest for economic advantages. Great affluence in fact can also generate great poverty. Only by building up, not without sacrifices and difficulties, a society respectful of human life in all its expressions, that promotes the family as a place of reciprocal love and growth of persons, that seeks the common good and is attentive to the needs of the weakest, will there be guarantees of a future based on solid foundations and rich in goods for all.

4. In the days to come my pilgrimage will lead me to the Dioceses of Bratislava-Trnava, Banská Bystrica and Rožnava. But my desire at this moment is to embrace - at least in spirit - all the sons and daughters of Slovakia, together with the representatives of national minorities and of other religions. I would like to be able to meet and speak with each and every one of you, to call on every family, to visit your beautiful land, and to meet all the ecclesial communities of this beloved Nation. Please know that the Pope is thinking of each one of you and is praying for you all.

May God bless Slovakia and give you all peace, prosperity and harmony based on fraternity and mutual understanding.






Thursday, 11 September 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I come with joy to visit this beautiful Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Bratislava-Trnava, dedicated to the holy Precursor of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist.

I cordially greet your Archbishop Ján Sokol, the auxiliary Bishops and all of you. From this mother church of all churches of the diocese, I extend my warm greetings to all the people of this territory and upon all of you I invoke the grace and the blessing of the Lord

2. Saint John the Baptist is the man who lives in a solitude full of God’s presence and he becomes the voice that announces the coming of the Saving Lamb (cf. Lk ).

I encourage you dear Brothers and Sisters to nourish within yourselves the sense of God’s presence by listening to his Word, by prayer, by the celebration of the Sacraments, by service to your brothers and sisters. In this way you will become in your everyday life, like John the Baptist, heralds and witnesses to the loving and saving presence of God in today’s world.

To all of you, with affection, I impart my Blessing.






Banská Bystrica – Diocesan Seminary

Friday, 12 September 2003

To the Venerable Pastors
of the Church in Slovakia

1. It is with deep joy that I take part with you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, in this moment of shared fraternity, which calls to mind the Apostles gathered around Jesus to restore themselves in a salutary pause between the labour of preaching and the apostolate (cf. Mk Mc 6,30-32).

Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum!” (Ps 133,1). I greet you all and I embrace you in the Lord, and I renew the appreciation and the gratitude of the Church for the zeal that you show as you shepherd the faithful that have been entrusted to you (cf. 1P 5,2-3).

I join wholeheartedly with you in your thanksgiving to the Lord as you celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of your Episcopal Conference.

2. The Church of God in Slovakia, after the dark days of persecution and silence, during which it offered a shining witness of faithfulness to the Gospel, has been able in these last years to take up again its activities and to provide itself with those structures that are necessary for the free exercise of its mission.

I remember with pleasure, among other things, the general basic Agreement signed with the Slovak Republic in the year 2000, the work of the mixed commissions in preparation for other partial agreements, the establishment of the Military Ordinariate, the opening of the Catholic University at Ružomberok and the strengthening of the transmissions of Radio Lumen.

3. Together with the fore-mentioned actions, you are committed overall to the renewal of Christian life at different levels. The results we are seeing are comforting. Many people have rediscovered the evangelic courage to declare openly their Catholic Faith, as is seen from the 2001 census. The apostolic work – carried out under your guidance by so many zealous priests, religious men and women, and committed laypeople – is bearing fruits. Let us bless together the Name of the Lord!

I exhort you to continue courageously along the path you have begun. Human and spiritual formation, together with an adequate cultural preparation, must be the object of special concern in seminaries and religious houses so as to offer to the Church and to the world priests and consecrated persons who can be humble and ardent apostles of the Gospel. By praying to the “Lord of the harvest”, by arousing the sensibility of consciences, by wise pastoral action, the urgent task of promoting a new flowering of priestly and religious vocations is to be undertaken. In fact, the future of the Church in Slovakia depends on this.

Moreover, venerable Brothers, rely with confidence and wisdom on the cooperation of laypeople committed to imbuing temporal realities with Christian values. Be very attentive to the family, temple of love and life. Proclaim and defend the unity and indissolubility of marriage. Look with love on young people who are the present and future of the Church and society. Cultivate an open dialogue with the world of culture, sustained by the conviction that “faith and reason mutually support each other; each influences the other, as they offer to each other a purifying critique and a stimulus to pursue the search for deeper understanding” (Fides et Ratio FR 100).

4. Take care of the weak and the poor, in whom Christ asks to be recognised (cf. Mt Mt 25,40). With pastoral solicitude, be close to the unemployed. Take upon yourselves their difficult situation and encourage all areas of society to seek possible ways to create new jobs, where young people above all may find opportunities suited to their capacity, often enhanced by years of theoretical and practical preparation.

You are well aware how much human promotion serves evangelisation which is always the primary commitment of the Church. In this regard, I am pleased to point out that the celebration of Diocesan Synods, already convoked in the Dioceses of Banská Bystrica and Košice, will be a useful instrument for renewing and developing pastoral action and the proclamation of the Good News to the men and women of our times.

5. The Pope knows, venerable Brothers, that the Episcopal ministry brings with it thorns and crosses, that often remain hidden in the secret of the heart. But he also knows, as do you, that in the mysterious design of Providence, these sufferings are the guarantee of fruitfulness of an apostolate that, with God’s help, will produce abundant results.

Do not become discouraged. Do not let yourselves be overcome by difficulties and fatigue. Rely always on the support of God’s grace, which works wonders even through our weakness (cf. 2Co 12,9).

As a final thought for our meeting, dear Brothers, I am pleased to read with you what is stated in the concluding part of the Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops: “since he is the visible dynamic unitive centre of the particular Church, the Bishop stands first in rank, to serve God and God’s holy people. His entire authority, all his offices – if they are understood and exercised according to the Gospel – are an outstanding and continual service, that most perfect charity, which would make him ready even to give his life for his brothers. Especially in the case of a Bishop does presiding mean being useful and overseeing mean to serve; while to govern is to love and honour becomes a burden”.

May the Virgin Mary, venerated in this country as the Sorrowful Mother of the Lord, guard you all in her maternal heart and obtain for all the abundance of divine graces.

To you and to your communities, I impart my affectionate Blessing.

Banská Bystrica, 12 September 2003.








Friday, 12 September 2003

Dear Brethren, I greet you all with affection in the name of the Lord. I thank you for coming to Banská Bystrica to meet the Pope: your presence is an eloquent demonstration of the cordial cooperation and understanding that is a characteristic of the life of Christ’s disciples in this Land of Slovakia.

This friendly meeting takes on particular importance and significance. In fact, it is an occasion to let our Divine Master’s heartfelt prayer resound in the depths of our hearts: "That they may all be one ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,21).

Together with you I ask Almighty God to strengthen us in our common task of proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel for the men and women of our day. May he hasten the arrival of the day when we shall be able to praise his name together in full communion of faith and charity.

"May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Th 5,23). This is my hope and my prayer for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care.



Thursday, 18 September 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I greet each one of you with joy, new Bishops from various countries who have come for the traditional study convention sponsored by the Congregation for Bishops. I cordially thank you for this visit and express a grateful thought to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who has voiced your common sentiments.

At the beginning of your episcopal ministry, you wished to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to renew your profession of faith and reinforce your communion with the Successor of Peter.

In an atmosphere of brotherhood and prayer, you then wanted to examine the challenges that Pastors of the Church today can expect, so as to proclaim more effectively Christ's Gospel to the people of our time.

For my own part, I would like to assure you of my closeness and to encourage you to pursue your specific mission as Pastors with generosity and greatness of soul.

2. Dear Brothers, you know well that the Bishop's ministry is of prime importance to the life of the Church. Indeed, according to St Paul's words, the Church was built upon the foundation of the Apostles (cf. Eph Ep 2,20). And the Bishops, through the divine will, are successors of the Apostles and "shepherds of the Church, and that whoever hears them, hears Christ, while whoever rejects them, rejects Christ and him who sent Christ" (Lumen Gentium LG 20).

The pastoral mission entrusted to you is exalting, but today it is also particularly arduous and difficult. Indeed, our time, with its own specific problems, is marked by confusion and uncertainty. Many people, even Christians, seem bewildered and devoid of hope. In this context we Pastors are called to proclaim the Gospel and to be witnesses of hope, our gaze turned to the Cross, to the mystery of the triumph and fruitfulness of the crucified Christ. He, the living One, accompanies us on the paths of history with the power of his Spirit. This illuminating certainty must deeply inspire our pastoral outlook, confirming our faith in God and in men and increasing our apostolic daring.

The episcopal ministry, in the light of theological hope, was the theme of the last Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. After reflecting and praying over the conclusions of the Synod, I have compiled the customary Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation which I will present to the Church next 16 October, on the important date of the 25th anniversary of my Pontificate.

3. You still have vivid memories of your episcopal Ordination. On that day, through the sacramental act of the imposition of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, the fullness of your ministerial priesthood was conferred upon you. The Bishop's life is the gift of himself to Christ and to the Church. Our ministry calls us to lead a holy life. Be the vivid and visible image of the Good Shepherd. Watch over your flock "as those who serve". Love the Church more than yourselves! Live in her and for her, expending yourselves in the pastoral service.

Our interior life must always flow into our apostolate. Of course, it must also be an active, intense undertaking that expresses pastoral charity. The source of pastoral charity is the contemplation of the face of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Be men of prayer! By your example, you will show the primacy of the spiritual life, that is, the primacy of grace, which is the core of every apostolate. Each Bishop must be able to say with St Paul: "For me to live is Christ" (Ph 1,21).

4. Next, I would like to urge you to consider the well-being of your primary collaborators, the priests. Bishops, the Council recommends, should treat the priests with special love; they should show concern for their spiritual, intellectual and material conditions (cf. Christus Dominus CD 28). It is certainly a blessing for a diocese when every member of its presbyterate can rejoice to have found in the Bishop his best friend and father.

At the beginning of the third millennium, the urgent need for a satisfactory vocations ministry is being felt more than ever.

Vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life are a gift of God that must be asked for with insistence in prayer (cf. Mt Mt 9,38). But they are also the fruit of strong and healthy families and of ecclesial communities in which the figure of the priest is duly esteemed and appreciated. The utmost care should be taken in choosing seminary educators, because only the personal witness of a generous and joyful life can attract the hearts of young people today. It is in these contexts that youth will be able to hear and follow the voice of the Teacher, who invites them to follow him (cf. Mt Mt 19,21) and leads them to make the generous gift of self in the service of their brothers and sisters.

5. Dear Brothers, when you return to your dioceses after these days of study and intense communion, may you be comforted by the assurance that the Pope shares in your joys, your difficulties and your hopes.

I entrust to Mary, Mother of the Church, the mature resolutions that you have reached in these days, so that she may bring your every pastoral effort to fruition.

Upon each one of you, I warmly invoke a special blessing from the Lord, that I gladly extend to the communities entrusted to your pastoral care.




Friday, 19 September 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy!

1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of this course of formation organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I thank you for your visit. I greet each one of you, and through you I wish to embrace the entire Christian People entrusted to your care by Divine Providence, especially the priests, the men and women religious, the catechists and the laypeople actively engaged in spreading the Gospel. I offer a special word of greeting to Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I thank him for the words addressed to me and for the zeal with which he, together with all his co-workers, is dedicated to the cause of the missio ad gentes.

2. Dear and venerable Brother Bishops! By means of your generous dedication, you make the presence of Christ in the world bear fruit and you enrich the various activities of his Church. Your participation in this unique phase of formation, promoted by the Dicastery of Propaganda Fide, constitutes a further sign of how much you desire to foster missionary activity throughout the earth. This is still an urgent apostolic undertaking in our day, and you are called to be its courageous and tireless supporters in the midst of daily difficulties and trials. As I observed in my Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, in their ministry Bishops are responsible for the evangelization of the world, both as members of the Episcopal College and as Pastors of particular Churches (cf. No. 63). The proclamation of the Gospel in every part of the globe belongs to Pastors, who have been consecrated not just for a Diocese but for the salvation of all the world (cf. ibid.). "I sense that the moment has come", I wrote in that Encyclical, "to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church, can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 3). The whole Church therefore, in her different parts, is urged to spread the Gospel to the most distant regions of every continent.

3. For you also, dear and venerable Brothers, the call of Jesus resounds forcefully: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15).

Among your duties is that of transmitting the gift of faith and encouraging your communities to be evangelizers. There is room for everyone in the Lord’s vineyard. No one is so poor that he has nothing to give; no one so rich that he has nothing to receive.

May your soul hear every day the echo of the Redeemer’s exhortation: "Duc in altum"! This is an invitation to cast "spiritual nets" into the sea of the world. In turn, those who trust in the Divine Master experience the wonder of the miraculous catch of fish. This is the promise of Jesus, who does not disappoint those who place their trust in him, like Saint Paul and so many saints who in these millennia have made the Church glorious.

Yes, it is true! "God is preparing a great springtime for Christianity, and we can already see its first signs" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 86). Therefore be trustful and look with confidence to the future in every circumstance. The Lord – as he himself has assured us – remains always with us.

4. Be holy! On different occasions I have noted that holiness is the urgent pastoral need of our times. It is an pressing requirement first of all for those whom God has called to serve him more closely. Indeed, in order to be vigilant guardians of the Lord’s flock, in order to protect it from all kinds of dangers, in order to feed it with the food of the word and the Eucharist, Pastors themselves must be nourished by intense and constant prayer and must cultivate a deep intimacy with Christ. Only in this way will they become, for priests and for the faithful, examples of fidelity and witnesses of an apostolic zeal enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

Support and development of every apostolic undertaking is found in communion with God. Hence, you, dear and venerable Brothers, must be the first to strengthen your interior life by drawing from the fountain of divine grace, mindful always of the biblical image of Moses praying on the mountain: "Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed" (Ex 17,11).

5. No activity, no matter how important, should distract you from this spiritual priority that sets the tone for the apostolic mandate received with episcopal ordination. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, makes you his associates in serving the Christian people as fathers, teachers and pastors. Accompany the unceasing proclamation of the faith with coherent and joyful witness to the Gospel, for "it is primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus – the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 41).

In your communities there are living memories of saints, martyrs, confessors of the faith, courageous preachers of the message of salvation, persons who by their very lives more so than by their words made the love of Christ visible and, we could even say, almost physically tangible. Follow in their footsteps! Be pastors who, by their example more than by their words, honour the Gospel and inspire in those around them the desire to know it better and to put it into practice.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Missions, protect you. I assure you of a daily remembrance in my prayers and I cordially bless you, together with your communities.



Friday, 19 September 2003

Dear Brother Priests of the Orthodox Church of Greece,

I am pleased to meet with you during your visit to the Holy See and the historic city of Rome, which has the honour to preserve the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I rejoice over this new connection that is being established between us.

Your presence recalls to my mind the very special grace that the Lord bestowed upon me in the Jubilee Year, during my pilgrimage made "in the footsteps of St Paul", when he allowed my visit to His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and of All Greece, and to the Orthodox Church of Greece. We must continue to build on the solid foundation of the fraternal and evangelical bonds that we experienced on that occasion. Your visit to Rome becomes a valid initiative in this way, in order to know and to appreciate each other better and to advance relations that facilitate communion.

I continually turn to the Lord, so that he prepares us to open our hearts to his prayer "that all may be one" (Jn 17,11), and to make us capable of genuine obedience to his will so as to search out together ways for closer collaboration and an ever-deeper communion.

I hope that your visit to the holy places of Rome, along with the meetings, conversations and moments of confrontation, make up an experience that is positive and useful for your priesthood. May the Holy Spirit always accompany your ministry and strengthen the witness that each of you gives to the Gospel of our one Lord.

I ask that you transmit to His Beatitude Christodoulos and his Holy Synod my warmest greetings and sincere best wishes for every good and prosperity in the Lord.

The grace and peace of the Lord be with you!


Saturday, 20 September 2003

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction" (2Co 1,3-4). With these words of Saint Paul I greet you, the Bishops of Uganda, as you come on pilgrimage to the Tombs of the Apostles. Your presence here today fills me with joy and brings back memories of my visit ten years ago to Uganda. Vividly etched in my mind are the various encounters with you and the faithful of your local communities, especially our gathering at the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs to celebrate the holy mysteries of our faith on "the very ground made sacred by their deaths" (Meeting with Ugandan Bishops, Kampala, 7 February 1993, 9).

Our meetings over these days are moments of grace for all of us as we rejoice in and strengthen the bonds of fraternal communion that unite us in the task of bearing witness to the Lord and spreading the Good News of salvation. To those among your number who are making their first ad limina visit to Rome I offer a special word of greeting. The last time the Ugandan Bishops were here as a body, there was but one ecclesiastical province in your country; now there are four metropolitan sees counting a total of 19 dioceses. This is a very positive sign of the work being done for Christ, the building up of his Church in your country, and is yet another cause for praising the holy name of Jesus (cf. Phil Ph 2,10-11).

2. Sadly, parts of your country are currently embroiled in situations of armed conflict and anarchy. In the north especially, the bane of warfare is bringing untold misery, suffering and death, striking out even at the Church and targeting her ministers and her children. In the west and the northeast too episodes of violence and hostility afflict the land, draining the life and energies of your people. Assuring you and your people of my spiritual closeness in these dire circumstances, I join you in condemning every act of bloodshed and destruction. I make an urgent appeal to the parties involved to reject aggression and to commit themselves to working with their fellow citizens, courageously and in truth, to build a future of hope, justice and peace for all Ugandans.

The present political and social climate is a clarion call for concrete and far-reaching expressions of the collegial responsibility and communion that unite you in the service of the one "household of God" (Ep 2,19). I urge you to do all that you can to foster among yourselves a true spirit of solidarity and fraternal concern, especially by sharing resources, both material and spiritual, with other local Churches that are in need.

3. As Bishops, you have a serious duty to address issues of particular importance for the social, economic, political and cultural life of your country, to make the Church ever more effectively present in those areas. Working out the implications of the Gospel for Christian life in the world and applying it to new situations is crucial to your ecclesial leadership: this is the time for Catholics – together with other Christians – to bring the freshness of the Gospel to the struggle to defend and promote the fundamental values upon which a society truly worthy of man is built.

In this regard, I wish to encourage the efforts of your Conference in the spheres of health care, education, and development; these serve to show clearly the Church’s commitment to the integral well-being of her sons and daughters and of all Ugandans regardless of religious creed. Worthy of particular mention are the various HIV/AIDS initiatives that, in complete harmony with the Church’s teaching, seek to assist those affected by this disease and to keep the public duly informed about it.

4. If the Church is to assume her proper place in Ugandan society, suitable formation of the laity must be a priority in your mission as preachers and teachers. This spiritual and doctrinal formation should aim at helping laymen and women to carry out their prophetic role in a society that does not always recognize or accept the truth and values of the Gospel. The laity are also to be effectively involved in the life of the parish and diocese, in pastoral and administrative structures (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). Your priests in particular should be prepared to welcome this more active role of the laity and to assist them in carrying it out. Especially important in this same context are efforts aimed at overcoming tribal conflicts and ethnic tensions; for such rivalries have no place in the Church of Christ and serve only to weaken the overall fabric of society.

It is in fact the local Churches that "have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 29). This is the "pastoral revitalization" that I wrote about in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (ibid.), and it involves a renewal of the Christian community and of society that passes by way of the family. The strengthening of the communion of persons in the family is the great antidote to the self-indulgence and sense of isolation so prevalent today. All the more reason, then, to take to heart once more the urgent invitation that my predecessor Pope Paul VI addressed to every Bishop: "Work ardently and incessantly for the safeguarding and the holiness of marriage, so that it will always be lived in its entire human and Christian fullness" (Humanae Vitae HV 30).

5. In seeking to meet the challenges of the future, attention to young people remains of paramount importance. "The future of the world and the Church belongs to the younger generation . . . Christ expects great things from young people" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 58). As the celebrations of World Youth Day clearly confirm, young people have a keen capacity to commit their energies and their zeal to the demands of solidarity with others and to the search for Christian holiness. The whole Catholic community must work to ensure that the younger generations are properly trained and adequately prepared to fulfil the responsibilities that will be theirs, and which in some ways already are theirs.

A strong commitment to Catholic schools is a particularly effective way of ensuring the proper formation of Ugandan youth. These schools should seek to provide the kind of educational environment where children and adolescents can grow to maturity imbued with love of Christ and the Church. The specific identity of Catholic schools should be reflected throughout the curriculum and in every area of school life, in order that they may be communities in which the faith is nourished and pupils are prepared for their mission in the Church and in society. It is important also to continue to seek ways to bring sound moral and religious teaching to the public schools as well, and to promote in public opinion a consensus regarding the importance of such training. This service, which can result from closer cooperation with the government, is a significant form of active Catholic participation in the social life of your country, especially as it is provided without religious or ethnic discrimination and with respect for the rights of all.

6. As your local Churches seek to fulfil the missionary mandate received from the Lord himself (cf. Mt Mt 28,19), we cannot fail to give thanks for the vocations with which you are blessed. I exhort you to ensure that your vocational programmes zealously foster and protect this gift of God. Young candidates must receive a proper pastoral and theological formation that firmly roots them in a solid spiritual tradition and prepares them to meet the complex problems that the modernization of society presents. I encourage you to continue your efforts to provide qualified personnel to staff your formation centres, especially your five Major Seminaries.

Turning to those who are your closest co-workers in the Lord’s vineyard, I remind you to help your priests to grow always in appreciation of the unique privilege of acting in persona Christi. As they come to devote themselves ever more completely to their mission in chastity and simplicity of life, their work will increasingly become a source of immeasurable joy and peace. With regard to the loneliness that can sometimes accompany the pastoral ministry, your priests should be encouraged, as much as the local situation permits, to live in common and direct their efforts entirely towards the sacred ministry. They should come together as often as possible – both among themselves and with you, their spiritual father – for a fraternal exchange of ideas, counsel and fellowship (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 74).

The communities of men and women religious in Uganda also look to you for support and guidance: they too must be the object of your pastoral care and concern as shepherds of the flock that Christ has entrusted to you (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 45 Christus Dominus CD 15 CD 35). Nor can we fail to mention the catechists who play an essential part in meeting the spiritual needs of your communities, especially in those areas where there are simply not enough priests to preach the Gospel and exercise the pastoral ministry. They therefore need to have a deep awareness of their role and should be helped in every possible way to meet their responsibilities and obligations towards their own families.

7. Beloved Brothers in the Episcopacy, I pray that our time together will confirm you in the faith and encourage you to persevere in the work of Christ, the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (cf. 1P 2,25). Walk always with those entrusted to your pastoral care, showing them a father’s love, especially those suffering the scourge of violence, the pain of AIDS, the affliction of any other of a host of situations bringing hardship and difficulty. Make it your aim always to bring your people to an ever deeper knowledge of their Christian faith and identity. For it is thus that the Church will be ever better equipped to make the saving truth of the Gospel effectively present in Ugandan society.

Our hope and confidence – like that of the Holy Martyrs who, both in the south and in the north of the country, bore the ultimate witness to Christ – are founded on the power of the Risen Lord, whose saving grace "does not disappoint" (Rm 5,5). Invoking upon you and the faithful of your local communities the heavenly assistance of the Ugandan Martyrs, and commending you to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2003