Speeches 2003 - Monday, 17 November 2003

Many of you have expressed the hope that the Church in India will continue her efforts to remain actively engaged in the “new evangelization”. This is of special importance in modern societies, in which large portions of the population find themselves in desperate situations often leading them to seek quick and easy solutions to complicated problems. This sense of hopelessness may explain, in part, why so many people, young and old alike, are attracted to fundamentalist sects offering short-lived emotional fervour and an assurance of wealth and worldly achievement. Our response to this must be one of “re-evangelization”, and the success of this depends on our ability to show people the emptiness of such promises, while convincing them that Christ and his Body share their sufferings, and reminding them to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mt 6,33).

4. In my recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Gregis, I noted that the Bishop is the “minister of grace of the high priesthood”, exercising his office through his preaching, spiritual guidance and celebration of the sacraments (cf. No. 32). As Pastors of the Lord’s flock, you are keenly aware that you cannot effectively discharge your duties without dedicated co-workers to assist you in your office. For this reason, it is essential that you continue to promote solidarity among the clergy and greater unity between bishops and their presbyterates. I remain confident that the priests in your country “will live and work in a spirit of communion and cooperation with the Bishops and all the faithful, bearing witness to the love of Jesus declared to be the true mark of his disciples” (Ecclesia in Asia ).

Unfortunately, even those who have been ordained to service can at times fall victim to unhealthy cultural or societal trends which undermine their credibility and seriously hamper their mission. As men of faith, priests must not let the temptation of power or material gain distract them from their vocations, nor can they permit ethnic or caste difference to detract from their fundamental charge to spread the Gospel. As fathers and brothers, Bishops are to love and respect their priests. Likewise, priests should love and honour their Bishops. You and your priests are heralds of the Gospel and builders of unity in India. Personal differences or accidents of birth must never undermine this essential role (cf. Address to the Priests of India, Goa, 7 February 1986).

5. A firm commitment to mutual support ensures our unity in mission, which is founded on Christ himself and “enables us to approach all cultures, all ideological concepts, all people of good will” (Redemptor Hominis RH 12). We should ever keep in mind the words of Saint Paul when he taught that “none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Rm 14,7). The Church also urges the faithful to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Once we have engaged these brothers and sisters of ours, we are able to focus our efforts towards a lasting solidarity among religions. Together we shall strive to acknowledge our duty to foster unity and charity between individuals by reflecting on what we share in common and what can further promote fellowship among us (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 1,2).

Encouraging the truth requires a profound respect for everything that has been brought about in man by the Spirit, which “blows where it wills” (Jn 3,8). The truth which has been revealed to us obliges us to be its guardian and its teacher. In transmitting the truth of God we must always maintain “a deep esteem for man, for his intellect, his will, his conscience and his freedom. Thus the human person’s dignity itself becomes part of the content of the proclamation of the truth, being included not necessarily in words but by an attitude towards it” (cf. Redemptor Hominis RH 12). The Catholic Church in India has consistently promoted the dignity of every person and fostered the corresponding right of all peoples to religious freedom. Her encouragement of tolerance and respect of other religions is demonstrated by the many programmes of interreligious exchange which you have developed on both national and local levels. I encourage you to continue these frank and helpful discussions with those of other religions. Such discussions will help us to cultivate this mutual search for truth, harmony and peace.

6. My dear Brothers, Shepherds of the People of God, at the beginning of the third millennium let us rededicate ourselves to the work of bringing men and women together into a unity of purpose and understanding. It is my prayer that your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul will have renewed the strength you need to develop an authentic spirituality of communion which teaches all people how to “make room” for their brothers and sisters while “bearing each other’s burdens” (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43). I commend you, your priests, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church. As a pledge of peace and joy in Christ our Lord, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Dear Italian Bishops,

1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,3).

I greet with deep affection each one of you, meeting at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi for your 52nd General Assembly. I accompany you with prayer and wish you days of intense communion and fruitful work together. I greet in particular your President, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the three Vice-Presidents and the General Secretary, and all those who collaborate with generous commitment in the activities of your Conference.

2. On this occasion, your pastoral solicitude will focus on a topic of fundamental importance in the life and mission of the Church: the parish. It is very appropriately presented on the agenda of your Assembly as a "Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters" (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici CL 26).

I want you to know that I share your conviction that the parish has a central and indispensable role in making participation in the life of the Church possible and, in a certain sense, easy and natural, for every person and family. Actually, as the Second Vatican Council stated in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, parishes "in some way represent the visible Church constituted throughout the world" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 42).

The profusion of parishes throughout the Italian territory, their vitality, their ability to carry out a pastoral and social service attentive to the population's needs, are an extraordinary resource for the Church in Italy. In your Assembly you will search for the most suitable ways to preserve and increase this wealth in the midst of the great social and cultural changes of our time, besides responding to the multiple challenges that also seek to distance from the faith and from the Church the Italian people, whose Christian roots are so firm and so deep.

To achieve these goals it will be especially important for Italian parishes to keep the characteristic "family" style that distinguishes them and makes them, as it were, large "families of families": this will ensure that parishes are lively, welcoming places, actively able to defend and uphold the family, that precious, unique reality which unfortunately is constantly threatened today.

3. Your Assembly also affords me a favourable opportunity to address an affectionate, grateful and encouraging greeting to all priests of Italy involved in parish ministry, starting with the parish priests.

I am well aware of their daily effort, the problems they so often encounter, their constant disappointments, and I want to assure them of my cordial closeness. However, I also know the zeal and confidence that motivate them, the spirit of faith, the sense of Church from which they draw ever new energy.

May these priests know that the Pope carries them in his heart. May they know that he trusts them to preserve the faith in the People of God and increase the apostolic and missionary zeal of both Pastors and faithful, so that parish communities may be true cells of Christian outreach.

4. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I would like to express to you my deepest appreciation for the constant pastoral solicitude with which you follow and accompany social life in Italy.

A year after my Visit to the Italian Parliament this beloved Nation, that has contributed and continues to contribute so much to building Europe and spreading the authentic values of civilization, is still afflicted by various problems and disputes, while the evil weed of political terrorism has not been completely uprooted.

I therefore stand beside you in the work each one of you is doing to foster peace and harmony in the relationships between the different political, social and institutional elements. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly share in your continuous commitment to safeguard human life, the family founded on marriage, authentic educational freedom, and likewise, your concern for the development of employment and the support of the poorest classes.

5. Dear Italian Bishops, you have gathered at Assisi on the 750th anniversary of the death of St Clare. This place, to which I am bound by unforgettable memories, is a symbol of peace for the whole world. I join you in spirit to pray for the gift of peace for humanity, tormented by so many bloody conflicts. Together with you I entrust to the Lord the Italians who died in Iraq while carrying out their duty in the service of that population.

Lastly, let us pray for Italy and for all the Churches entrusted to your pastoral care, so that the faith and love of Christ may be light and nourishment for the entire Nation.

With sentiments of deep affection I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your Dioceses and to each Italian parish.

From the Vatican, 14 November 2003





Thursday, 20 November 2003

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. Peace be with you! It is with joy that I welcome you here today. I extend a special greeting to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao, and I thank him for the kind words addressed to me on your behalf. I am glad to greet the other Cardinals and the Bishops present among you, and to offer a particular welcome to our brothers and sisters from other Christian communities. On this occasion of your Fifth World Congress I also assure you of my spiritual closeness to the migrants, refugees, displaced persons and foreign students throughout the world whom you seek to assist.

The work of promoting the well-being of the many men and women who for various reasons do not live in their homelands represents a vast field for the new evangelization to which the whole Church is called. An important condition of this task is to recognize the mobility – voluntary and involuntary – of so many families today.

2. The Church continues to seek to respond to the signs of the times; a challenge which always calls for renewed pastoral commitment. Inspired by Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia and in response to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Pontifical Council is currently preparing an Instruction that will address the new spiritual and pastoral needs of migrants and refugees, and present the phenomenon of migration as a way of fostering dialogue, peace and the proclamation of the Gospel.

Special attention needs to be given today to the ecumenical aspect of migration, with reference to Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, and likewise to the interreligious dimension, with particular regard to the followers of Islam. I am confident that the Instruction will meet these requirements as well as articulate the need to promote a pastoral programme open to new developments yet always attentive to the duty of pastoral workers to collaborate fully with the local hierarchy.

3. It is in this context that the theme of your Congress was chosen: “Starting Afresh from Christ: towards a renewed pastoral care of migrants and refugees”. Taking my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as its starting point, you intend to consider today’s challenges in the light of the Word of God and the teachings of the Church, emphasizing charity and taking into special consideration the mystery of the Eucharist, particularly its celebration on Sunday. I encourage you in this task and remind you that it is not a formula that we seek but a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: “I am with you always” (Mt 28,20).

To this end, I affirm once again that pastoral renewal, regardless of the particular focus, “is not a matter of inventing a ‘new programme’. The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment” (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 29). This is our common proclamation of Christ, which must “reach people, mould communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture” (ibid.).

4. It is precisely in society and in culture that we must show respect for the dignity of man, of the migrant and of the refugee. In this regard, I once again urge States to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families which took effect on 1 July 2003. Similarly, I appeal to States to respect the International Treaties concerning refugees. Such protection of human persons must be guaranteed in every civil society and espoused by all Christians.

5. With gratitude for the work of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and the support of all those who collaborate with it, I gladly share these reflections with you and encourage you in your deliberations over the next five days. To you and all those entrusted to your particular care I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.



Friday, 21 November 2003

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. It is a great pleasure to receive you today, Members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, who have come to Rome for your Dicastery's Plenary Assembly. I heartily greet you all. I greet, in particular, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, to whom I wish to address a word of cordial appreciation for the respectful thoughts that he has addressed to me.

Charity towards God and neighbour is a clear demonstration of the Church's faith in the Lord, who "gave himself up for us" (Ep 5,2). From the pierced heart of Jesus crucified is born the Church, who consequently is committed to communicating to the world the love she has received from him.

She also communicates it to the people of our time, above all to the poor and those who find themselves in any type of need. It is this work, dear Members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, that the Pope entrusts to you, so that you can be a support for so many brothers and sisters in need, allowing them to experience the divine tenderness and the loving closeness of the Successor of Peter.

2. The Church is at the service of men and women in all their various and concrete material and spiritual needs. Since man "is the primary and fundamental way for the Church", as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptor Hominis at the very beginning of my Pontificate (cf. n. 14), the attention that must be given to him impels us to consider in depth the longing for fullness of life which is in his heart.

The theme that you have chosen for your meeting - "The religious dimension in our charitable work" - highlights this need. This actually takes into consideration that, in bringing comfort to those who are hungry, sick, alone and suffering, that deep aspiration that beats within every human creature - to know God - is not neglected. Indeed, all of us are searching for answers to the great questions of existence. We Christians know that only in Jesus is the true and complete response given to the human spirit's restlessness.

It is for this reason that the Church does not limit herself to satisfying only the material expectations of those in difficulty; her charitable action is not exhausted by building structures and through philanthropic works, praiseworthy as these may be. She also tries to meet the more hidden existential questions, even if they are not clearly expressed; and with simplicity and pastoral prudence she does not hesitate to witness to Christ, who reveals the tender, merciful face of God the Father.

3. Dear Members of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, I am sincerely grateful to you for your daily work and for the help that you give to the Holy See. The deliberations of these days will compel you to show the meaning and Gospel value of the service of charity which the Church exercises through her charitable institutions and through the witness of so many dedicated persons.

Numerous shining examples exist of this loving service towards God and neighbour. I point out to all Teresa of Calcutta, whom I personally accompanied for many years and who recently I had the joy of inscribing in the roll of the Blesseds. From Heaven, may she intercede for you and make your work fruitful. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of Mercy and Comforter of the afflicted, keep watch over you always.

With these sentiments, I warmly impart the propitious Apostolic Blessing upon each one of you and upon all the activities which the Pontifical Council Cor Unum accomplishes with generous commitment.


Saturday, 22 November 2003

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to greet you all on the occasion of your ad limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I greet in particular the youngest among you who are taking part in this meeting for the first time, and I thank Cardinal Godfried Danneels, President of your Bishops' Conference, for his kind words. I hope that this visit, which is an important time for contacts and exchanges with the Dicasteries of the Holy See and for a better service of evangelization but which is also a special moment for celebrating the affectus collegialis that unites us, will be for each one of you a significant landmark and encouragement in your difficult but exalting mission as Pastors of the People of God.

2. I find the information I received on the situation of your Church particularly disturbing. Indeed, one cannot conceal one's real and serious concern at the considerable and steady decrease in religious practice in your country, not only at Sunday celebrations but also at many sacraments, in particular Baptism, Reconciliation and, above all, Marriage. Likewise, the marked drop in the number of priests and the persistent vocations crisis are matters of grave concern for you. Yet you remarked on the quality of the pastoral collaboration among priests in your presbyteral councils, and with the representatives of the People of God in the diocesan pastoral councils. The increasingly active participation of the lay faithful in the Church's mission, especially in parishes, is also a cause of satisfaction. This participation must develop in accordance with the spirit of co-responsibility that the Second Vatican Council hoped for, and the pastoral guidelines contained in the interdicasterial Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests, which recalls the essential difference between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood and the irreplaceable character of the ordained ministry.

For this reason, in order to avoid possible confusion, the doctrinal principles concerning this topic must be clearly elaborated. This will give the faithful a clearer idea of the meaning of the ministerial priesthood for the service of the People of God. Young people will obviously not be able to commit themselves to the ministry if they are unable to recognize their place in the Christian community or if the faithful question the value of their commitment. In this area, therefore, it is your duty to teach all the members of your Dioceses the meaning and value of the ordained ministry.

3. Of course, the rapid changes you are noting correspond to a tangibly evolving society, marked by widespread secularization. This might at times give the impression that Belgian society is complacently turning its back on its Christian roots which, however, give depth to its life. Thus, your Country has recently acquired new and worrying legislation in areas that affect the fundamental dimensions of human and social life: birth, marriage and the family, sickness and death. You have not failed to intervene on these issues. It is important that Pastors always make their voice heard to reaffirm the Christian vision of life and, on this occasion, to show their disapproval, because these legal changes are not only a sign of adaptation or evolution in the face of new mindsets or conduct, but deeply affect the ethical dimension of human life and call into question natural law, the way human rights are conceived and, going even deeper, the way the human being and human nature are conceived.

4. So it is that you are living your mission as Pastors of Christ's Church on new pastoral ground, shifting and difficult. As I wrote very recently to the Bishops of the whole world: "If the duty of proclaiming the Gospel is incumbent upon the whole Church and each of her children, it is particularly so upon Bishops, who on the day of their sacred ordination, which places them in apostolic succession, assume as one of their principal responsibilities the proclamation of the Gospel; "with the courage imparted by the Spirit, they are to call people to faith and strengthen them in living faith'" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis ). As Bishops, we are therefore responsible for making people hear, loudly and clearly, the proclamation of God's salvation that is offered to every human being in the mystery of Christ's redemptive love, salvation brought about once and for all on the tree of the Cross. It is also our responsibility to invite the faithful to lead a life in conformity with the faith they profess. In a society that is losing its traditional reference points and willingly fosters a generalized relativism in the name of pluralism, our first duty is to communicate Christ, his Gospel of peace and the new light it sheds on the future of man. By acting in this way, "the Church is not motivated by an earthly ambition but is interested in one thing only: to carry on the work of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for he came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served" (Gaudium et Spes GS 3). I therefore ask you to engage in active dialogue with civil society and with all the people of Belgium, taking pains to make known explicitly the values of the Christian faith and its rich human experience through history and cultures, not to impose it as a model but out of respect for the truth whose ministers you are in Christ's name, and out of respect for the dialogue itself, which demands that each person's legitimate identity be taken into account. On these conditions the Church will find her proper place in Belgian society, proclaiming the Gospel clearly and working towards its gradual inculturation in the culture of our time.

5. To enable the faithful to enter into this truly missionary perspective, I encourage you to concentrate on developing the theological, spiritual and moral formation of as many of them as possible so that the lay faithful will feel upheld in their lives as Christians. It will also prepare them better to account for the hope that is in them (1P 3,15), through deeper knowledge of the Word of God and of the mystery of the faith, aided by a systematic and consistent explanation of its content based mainly on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You should also take care to support the universities and institutes that offer a very high level of education, more specialized but indispensable, so that they will persevere in witnessing consistently to the vigour of Christian thought. By so doing they will render an important service, especially to priestly formation!

Effectively support institutional relations also by means of the esteem and trust that bind you to these establishments as well as to the people who work in them and to theologians in particular, so that Catholic unity may always be expressed with the necessary respect for the competencies and responsibilities of each one (cf. Pastores Gregis )! Indeed, the Catholic university "must exercise its mission by being careful to maintain its Christian identity.... While preserving its own scientific autonomy, it has the mission of living the teaching of the Magisterium in the various areas of research in which it is involved" (Address to International Congress on Globalization and Catholic Universities, Organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the International Federation of Catholic Universities, n. 6, 5 December 2002; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 11 December 2002, p. 4). It is up to the university authorities and Pastors, whom you are, to see that this is done. I ask you also, jointly with the parish priests and through the continuing formation services, to distribute the Bible to families so that "listening to the Word of God [may] become a life-giving encounter in the ancient and ever valid tradition of lectio divina, which draws from the biblical text the living word which questions, directs and shapes our lives" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 39). I hope that especially the faithful will delve more and more deeply into the importance of the Eucharist in their personal and community lives. May they also make time for prayer in their daily lives, to draw from the true source in accordance with an essential principle of the Christian view of life: the primacy of grace (cf. ibid., n. 38)!

6. A special effort is needed to constantly improve the moral, theological and spiritual formation of the priests who will be responsible for leading the Christian communities of tomorrow, to ensure the quality of their witness in the society in which they live, as well as the visible unity of the presbyterate around the Bishops. In this regard, a purely superficial formation will not suffice; to become a Pastor after Christ's heart demands the person's true conversion. He reaches it through all the dimensions of priestly formation, in the crucible of community life as well as in the deepening of spiritual life. It is particularly to be hoped that young people, and more generally all Christians, will have a correct knowledge regarding the objective requirements of the call to the priestly ministry, especially with regard to celibacy for sacred orders which, in accordance with the tradition that comes to us from the Lord, are reserved for men. What I said to the whole Church at the beginning of the new millennium, "Duc in altum, put out into the deep!" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 1), I repeat to your communities in particular: put out into the deep, draw from the depths, restore to Christian life its full spiritual content! The expected renewal of Christian life and of vocations to the ordained ministry as well as to the consecrated life, cannot come about merely from external reforms or reorganization, however useful these may be. First and foremost, it must come from an inner renewal of the faith life of both Pastors and faithful. It is also important to rediscover the sacramental dimension of the Church and the truth about her mystery as the mystical Bride of the Son of God (cf. Eph Ep 5,31-32), who is the Redeemer of man. It is also at this level that the ordained ministry finds its true meaning: it is not merely a question of being the community animator or coordinator of the many varied activities of the ministry, but far more, of sacramentally representing, in the community and for the community, Christ the Servant, the Head of the Church which is his Body.

How could the Church lack this gift of the Lord to his Church? I urge you, dear Brothers, with all your strength as Pastors to support and encourage a vocations apostolate that challenges communities and young people so that they will all undertake to transmit God's call and prepare the future of your Dioceses.

7. The Church in Belgium has always paid attention to the education of youth, mobilizing many of her vital forces for this purpose, especially men and women Religious and the Catholic schools that are very numerous in your country and now have a large number of students. I congratulate you in this regard for clearly reasserting the principles of Catholic teaching and your attachment to its identity. I ask those in charge, the teachers and the pupil's parents, to reflect more deeply on the wealth of this Catholic identity in order to give the young generations the best of the Church's educational tradition, a sense of God and a sense of man, as well as the indispensable moral principles that will enable them to advance serenely and responsibly on the highroads of life. Then those young Belgians who choose to live the Gospel through involvement in temporal realities and in the sacrament of Marriage will be able to stand up with those who choose to follow Christ more radically on the path of the evangelical counsels, thereby adding new fruit to the already abundant harvest of consecrated life in Belgium.

It is from among the young people, generously open to Christ and the universality of his love, that vocations to the diocesan priesthood and missionary priests for the world can spring up.

8. Whereas in your reports you stressed the problems of Christian life in a seemingly anaemic society, you also noted the signs of a possible renewal: the new dynamism of pilgrimages, the attraction for the silence of the monastery, the tangible increase in the number of adult catechumens, the active participation of many lay people in the life of parish communities and the widespread new taste for an authentic spiritual life. With the Psalmist we could say: "May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy! He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him" (Ps 126[125]: 5-6). The believer's hope, expressed in these words on the return from the Babylonian Exile, illuminates the life of the lay faithful. The important discussions that interest Belgian society today actually ask of them a twofold witness: that of the prophetic word, by taking an unambiguous stand that corresponds with the demands of the Gospel, as the Magisterium of the Church reminds them on many occasions in season and out of season (II Tim 4: 2), and that of actions, the witness of committed men and women amid the joys and difficulties of daily life, in life as a couple and as a family, in work and social or political responsibilities, attentive to their brethren and showing solidarity in their joys and hopes (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 1), eager to witness to them Christ's love without reserve. Have at heart to encourage and support all who work to promote a programme for the pastoral care of the family that testifies to the greatness of Christian marriage and the happiness of welcoming children, which can also help those whose own life project has been damaged to find their place in the ecclesial community!

The faith of the Psalmist also illumines the daily toil of priests, generously devoted to their pastoral mission but who might feel weary or depressed at times by the difficulties they encounter. May they know how very close the Pope is to them, giving thanks for the fruitfulness of their ministry, often hidden, and praying that they may be ever more attached to Christ, their Teacher and their Lord! My gratitude, however, is also due to the permanent deacons: in communion with the Bishops and in collaboration with the priests, through the gift of their life they proclaim Christ's faithful and humble love. It is in the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and gives us on earth the hope of unending joy (cf. Roman Missal, Preface for Sundays, n. VI), which is drawn from the source of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, that you yourselves, Bishops of Belgium, receive new strength each day to encourage, support, enlighten and guide those whom the Lord has entrusted to your care in his Church. Be prophets for them, witnesses and servants of hope, for "especially in times of growing unbelief and indifference, hope is a stalwart support for faith and an effective incentive for love. It draws its strength from the certainty of God's desire for the salvation of all people (cf. 1Tm 2,4), and for the constant presence of the Lord Jesus, the Emmanuel who remains with us always, until the end of the world (cf. Mt Mt 28,20)" (Pastores Gregis ).

May the Virgin Mary, who in her womb bore the Hope of all men, watch lovingly over the needs of the Church in Belgium; may she turn towards her Son, as she did at the wedding in Cana, the hearts of all the faithful: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5)!

To you all, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to the priests and deacons, to the men and women Religious, and to all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.

Speeches 2003 - Monday, 17 November 2003