Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 22 November 2003




Saturday, 22 November 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Thank you for this concert with which you have wished to commemorate the centenary of the Motu Proprio "Tra le Sollecitudini", promulgated by my Predecessor, St Pius X. I greet with affection everyone present. I greet first of all Bishop Vasco Giuseppe Bertelli, President of the Italian Association of St Cecilia, and thank him for expressing the sentiments you share. I greet the sponsors and organizers of this sacred performance and thank you all for the important gift of the bell, upon which is engraved the biblical phrase: "Cantate Domino canticum novum".

I greet the choir members of the Scholae Cantorum "SS. Pietro e Paolo" from Gessate, Milan, and from San Gervasio di Capriate, Bergamo, who have performed an oratorio composed by Mons. Lorenzo Perosi, the "Passion according to St Mark". I greet those taking part in the National Congress of your praiseworthy Association. I extend an affectionate thought to the very many singers from all over Italy who will perform at the Eucharistic celebration in St Peter's tomorrow to commemorate this important anniversary.

2. Your Association is named after St Cecilia, whom popular piety presents as patroness of music.

This young Roman martyr invites believers to be watchful on their journey toward the encounter with Christ, gladdening the earthly pilgrimage with the festivity of music and song.

May St Cecilia accompany each of you from Heaven, dear brothers and sisters, and help you to carry out your mission fully in the Church.

As I invoke upon you the motherly protection of Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and cordially bless you all.





To Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño
Archbishop of Guatemala
President of the Second American Missionary Congress

1. The Second American Missionary Congress that is being held in Guatemala City on the theme "Church in America, your life is mission", gives me the opportunity to greet all those present with great affection and to remember with deep gratitude the warm welcome you gave me, as a pilgrim of love and hope, on my last Journey to this Continent, during which I had the joy of canonizing Br. Pedro de San José de Betancur.

In a certain way, the canonization of this extraordinary missionary was the prelude to this Congress. May his powerful intercession and the witness of his holiness guide you at this Assembly, from which the universal Church is executing with hope an abundant harvest of faith, holiness and missionary generosity.

I would like first of all to greet Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, Archbishop of Guatemala, and my numerous Brothers in the Episcopate who are meeting at this continental missionary Cenacle. I also address my affectionate greeting to all those who have collaborated in the preparation of the Congress and each one of the participants: priests, men and women religious, the lay faithful and especially, the young people and children. My Special Envoy, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, brings you the witness of my spiritual closeness and interest in this important event.

I am thinking in particular of you who have received the Lord's call to proclaim him ad gentes, a vocation of self-sacrifice and holiness that brings you to serve all the men and women and all the peoples of the earth. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation and saying to Zion, "Your God is King!'" (Is 52,7).

2. Dear brothers and sisters, the history of the evangelization of the American Continent reveals the intimate relationship between holiness and mission. Looking at this missionary work in a historical perspective, it is truly gratifying to note the great impact that the Gospel and Christian life have had on the first communities, as well as the witness of the many holy missionaries they inspired.

In this blessed land, from the very beginning of evangelization and in the course of its interesting history, the Lord's Spirit has created beautiful fruits of holiness in men and women who, faithful to the missionary mandate of the Lord, have dedicated their lives to proclaiming the Christian message, even in circumstances and conditions that were heroic. Their personal holiness and that of their communities were unquestionably at the root of this marvellous missionary dynamism. Today too, a new impetus to the mission ad gentes in America and from America needs holy missionaries and ecclesial communities.

This call to mission is linked to the vocation to holiness, which is "a fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation in the Church" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 90). As regards this universal call, we must become aware of our own responsibility in spreading the Gospel. Cooperation in the mission ad gentes must be a sign of mature faith and of a Christian life capable of producing fruits, so that the neediest particular Churches may receive a human and spiritual impulse that helps them walk with their Pastors.

To achieve this, "it is not enough to update pastoral techniques, organize and coordinate ecclesial resources, or delve more deeply into the biblical and theological foundations of faith. What is needed is the encouragement of a new "ardour for holiness' among missionaries and throughout the Christian community, especially among those who work most closely with missionaries" (ibid.).

3. Following my Pastoral Visits to the different Nations, in some of which the Gospel has only recently been proclaimed, I have formed the deep conviction that humanity is awaiting with ever greater longing for "the revealing of the sons of God" (Rm 8,19). Indeed, many people want to find the mystery of holiness and communion that is fundamental to the Church and is also the epiphany of "that love which springs from the heart of the Eternal Father and is poured out upon us through the Spirit which Jesus gives us (cf. Rom Rm 5,5), to make us all "one heart and soul' (Ac 4,32)" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 42).

Millions of men and women who do not know Christ or who know him only superficially live the hope - sometimes unconsciously - of discovering the truth about man and about God, about the way that leads to liberation from sin and from death. For this humanity that yearns or feels nostalgic for the beauty of Christ, for his bright and serene light that shines on the face of the earth, the proclamation of the Good News is a vital task that cannot be postponed.

Your Congress is facing this task. Respond promptly, therefore, to the Lord's call. Show your desire to be joyful witnesses and enthusiastic apostles of the Gospel to the very ends of the earth, witnessing to a holy life!

4. Since the joyful experience of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I have pointed out the way of holiness as the foundation on which the pastoral programme of every particular Church must be founded. It is a matter of "re-proposing wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 31). Dear brothers and sisters, this requires an appropriate and patient pastoral training - a training in holiness - that must be distinguished by the primacy it gives to Jesus Christ, to listening and to proclaiming his Word, to full and active participation in the sacraments, and to fostering prayer as a personal encounter with the Lord.

All pastoral activity must focus on Christian initiation and formation which, by helping to develop and reinforce the faith of those who are involved in it and attracting those who are still distant, is the best guarantee that the particular Churches in America will develop an effective process of cooperation and mission animation. This must indeed be "central to Christian life" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 83).

5. Encouraged by the Holy Spirit and by the witness of the growing number of missionaries ad gentes from your Countries, I would like to repeat to this large Assembly, which is a sign of the unity of all the peoples of the Continent, what I said in the past in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, addressing your Christian Communities: "The particular Churches in America are called to extend their missionary efforts beyond the bounds of the Continent; they cannot keep for themselves the immense riches of their Christian heritage. They must take this heritage to the whole world and share it with those who do not yet know it. Here it is a question of many millions of men and women who, without faith, suffer the most serious kind of poverty. Faced with this poverty it would be a mistake not to encourage an evangelizing effort beyond the Continent with the excuse that there is still much to do in America, or to wait until the Church in America reaches the point, basically utopian, of full maturity" (Ecclesia in America ).

Your particular Churches have a great responsibility in the work of evangelizing the contemporary world. They will bear an abundant harvest in this new missionary springtime, "if all Christians and missionaries and young Churches in particular, respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time" (n. 92).

Beloved brothers and sisters, it gives me deep joy to know that your Congress, for which you have prepared together during the Missionary Holy Year, will accept this call and give concrete and effective responses to the Gospel mandate of the mission that is life for the Church in America.

As in previous Missionary Congresses, I ask the Lord to grant us to live an intense experience of communion and that Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Evangelizer of America, "the model of that maternal love which should inspire all who cooperate in the Church's apostolic mission for the rebirth of humanity" (ibid., n. 92), will accompany you with her tenderness and protect you with her powerful intercession.

As I encourage each and every one of you to live in your own particular Church in a spirit of communion and service, I renew to you my invitation to carry out the mission in today's world, and I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 25 October 2003





Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to address my Message to you on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Religious Association of Social-Health Institutes. In warmly greeting each of you here, I would like to join, through you, all the members of this meritorious Sodality which offers a precious contribution to the professional and spiritual renewal of the world of health.

I exhort you to continue serving the sick with competence and dedication. The Lord, Giver of every good, continues to accompany and bless you as he has in the past 40 years.

2. In these days that conclude the liturgical year, believers are almost naturally directed to cast their gaze on the ultimate realities, to the time when the Lord at the Last Judgment will ask us if we have loved, helped and served our neighbour in need (cf. Mt Mt 25,31-46). In order to prepare for that decisive encounter we must engage daily in finding and contemplating in our brothers and sisters the face of Jesus, only Saviour of the world. We can recognize, especially in the sick and the suffering, the sorrowful face of Christ, who on the Cross has revealed to us the merciful love of the Father, a redeeming love that has definitively healed wounded humanity of sin.

In light of these perennial truths of faith, how important your mission to the sick appears! May the apostolate of mercy, to which you dedicate yourselves, become an authentic service of charity that, in time and space, makes visible and almost tangible the tenderness of the heart of God.

3. Those who live in situations of profound pain and suffering often fail to understand the meaning and significance of their existence. It is crucial, then, that someone like the Good Samaritan be beside them, to sustain and accompany them. Persons such as the recently beatified Mother Teresa are concrete and simple witnesses to the charity and compassion of the Lord for the marginalized, the suffering, the sick and the dying. While they soothe their physical wounds, they help them to encounter Christ who, by conquering death, has revealed the full value of life in each of its phases and conditions.

Do not cease, dearest Brothers and Sisters, proclaiming the Gospel of suffering! Through your service, witness to the redemptive power of divine Love.

4. I gladly take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the generous work that your Association carries out in many Nations, and especially in mission territories You are helping these young Churches to develop structures that welcome the sick and suffering and to prepare qualified health-care and pastoral workers.

It is good that such beneficial collaboration between the Ecclesial Communities of the North and of the South should be increasingly intensified, so that in every part of the world, especially where the most profound crises of religious and moral values exist, believers may be ready to uphold their faith.

With these hopes I renew to all the expression of my gratitude for your work. I assure you of my prayers and I affectionately impart the Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your respective Religious families and to the many sick and bedridden in the structures of ARIS.

From the Vatican, 24 November 2003




Thursday, 27 November 2003

Mr President,

1. The visit that you are paying me today is especially appreciated. As I greet you, Mr President, and your entourage, I would like to renew my most fervent good wishes to the entire Bulgarian Nation that it may continue on its way with confidence.

Today's meeting takes me back to the unforgettable visit that Providence granted me to make last May to Sofia, St John of Rila and Plovdiv. I vividly remember the faces of countless people who wanted to express to me their vibrant spiritual joy. I was able to perceive their determination to build the Country with refound serenity and trust in the future, within the great European household.

Moreover, my cordial meeting with the civil Authorities of every order and rank convinced me of the determination of one and all to continue courageously in the peaceful reconstruction of the whole of society, undaunted by the challenges that confront them from day to day.

2. My thoughts then go to the venerable Patriarch Maxim, Head of the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria, who desired to welcome me to his home with brotherly attention during my visit. This marked another stage in our progressive growth in ecclesial communion. With him, I observed that Europe expects the common commitment of Catholics and Orthodox in the defence of human rights and the culture of life.

I witnessed the same sentiments of readiness for dialogue and collaboration in the small but fervent Catholic community, actively committed to bearing witness to Christ on Bulgarian soil also in constant collaboration with the other religious Communities of the Country. My fervent hope is that this atmosphere of positive understanding will increase, for the full benefit of the reciprocal understanding and good of society as a whole.

3. Mr President, as I again express my pleasure at your visit today, I ask you to be kind enough to take back to your compatriots my renewed affectionate greeting and the assurance of my constant remembrance in prayer, so that God will continue to support your County's activities with abundant Blessings.




Venerable Brothers,

1. I joyfully extend my cordial greeting to each of you, Bishops and Friends of the Focolare Movement, who are taking part in the 22nd Ecumenical Congress which, in light of the tragic events of the past days, has been transferred from Istanbul to Rocca di Papa.

Although you will be unable to visit the venerable Church of St Andrew in Constantinople, you will nevertheless be warmly received at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul in Rome and offered hospitality reserved for brothers in Christ.

2. The programme of your annual meeting is centred on the Sacred Scripture phrase: "You are all one in Christ Jesus" (Ga 3,28). You are dealing with a theme more current than ever: it can provide a legitimate response to the serious rifts that plague today's world.

Your Congress can strengthen you in the ecumenical duty to hasten on the road towards that full unity for which Jesus prayed to the Father and for which he offered his very life!

You know well that Christian unity is dear to my heart and as such, from the beginning of my Pontificate, has received my constant attention.

3. I repeat to you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, what I recently wrote to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: "The force of love impels us towards one another and prepares us for listening, dialogue, conversion and renewal (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1)". And again: "Only an intense ecumenical spirituality, lived in docility to Christ and fully open to the promptings of the Spirit, will help us live with the necessary dynamism this interim period in which we must sum up our progress and our defeats, with the lights and the shadows on our journey of reconciliation" (Message, 3 November 2003; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 3 December, p. 6).

4. With fraternal affection I encourage you in the apostolic work you have undertaken and, while I assure you of my prayers for your pastoral activities, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all, which I gladly extend to Ms Chiara Lubich, who has welcomed you, and to those who are part of the Focolare Movement Centre.

From the Vatican, 25 November 2003





Friday, 28 November 2003

Mr President,

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial greeting to you and to express sentiments of gratitude for your visit this morning. This marks the first meeting between the supreme Authority of the Republic of Moldova and the Successor of Peter since your Country appeared on the international scene as a sovereign and independent Nation. Welcome!

In addressing you, I intend to direct an affectionate thought also to your fellow citizens, together with my encouragement to continue with confidence in the building of a Nation worthy of its noble traditions. The Nation that you represent has only recently gained its independence, and for this it needs to be kindly sustained in its efforts to surmount the inevitable difficulties that are especially common at the outset. Moldova, situated on the border dividing the Latin and Slav worlds, must make dialogue an essential working instrument of its own action, to allow the concrete possibilities of peace, justice and well-being to emerge.

2. The Catholic community, although small in number, is actively engaged in this process. Led by its zealous Pastor, it places itself as a lively and generous interlocutrix of society.

I would like to emphasize that the Church in Moldova is able to carry out freely its own mission of evangelization and charitable service, and that the State recognizes its legal status. It is desirable that non-judgmental dialogue between State and Church authorities continue in a fruitful manner for the good of the entire Moldavian society, respecting the rules of democracy and the equality of all religious confessions.

Mr President, as I renew the expression of my appreciation for your kind visit, I ask that you assure your fellow citizens of my prayers and continual remembrance, so that they continue to advance along the path of peace and prosperity, assured of Heavenly Blessings.



Friday, 28 November 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to welcome you, Bishops of the Provinces of Cambrai and Rheims. Your visit is the first of the series of meetings I shall be having with the Pastors of the Church in France. I am delighted, therefore, that I will have the opportunity in the weeks to come to talk to all the Bishops of your Episcopal Conference. I remember with emotion my Visit to your region and the World Youth Day that you have just mentioned. It mobilized young people on a wide scale and, as you say and as your reports and your regular diocesan bulletins emphasize, it has given a new impetus to the young Catholics of your Country. I would like to address a special greeting to the three recently-appointed Bishops. I thank Archbishop Thierry Jordan of Rheims, your spokesman, for his words expressing your affectio collegialis, your apostolic zeal and your hope, and for the good wishes he conveyed to me on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of my Pontificate. I am particularly aware of the context in which you are making your ad limina visit, an important time in a Bishop's spiritual life and mission and a beautiful experience of communion between Pastors.

2. In today's world, as your quinquennial reports show, your mission has certainly become more complex and delicate, mainly because of the crisis situation facing you, strongly marked by spiritual and pastoral frailty. Christian values and even the image of the Church are not seen positively by a society where a process of subjective and lax morality often prevails. Likewise, you are worried about the dwindling number of clergy and consecrated persons. However, whatever your apostolic circumstances, in order that Christ's hope may not cease to dwell within you and guide your ministry, I encourage you, as I recalled in Pastores Gregis, taking up the Bishops' recommendation at their Synodal Assembly, to pay attention to your own spiritual life, basing your ministry on a strong relationship with Christ, longer meditation on Scripture and an intense sacramental life. This will enable you to communicate to the faithful the desire to live in intimate union with God, so that they may strengthen their faith and together with you present the faith to your fellow citizens in the spirit of the documents you have drafted on Gospel proclamation. Indeed, every mission relies on the privileged relationship with the Saviour since, as the Apostle says, it is God who gives the growth (cf. 1Co 3,6). Since the early days of the Church, Apostles have been aware of the danger certain queries might pose for their ministry. They also remember that it is important to "devote [themselves] to prayer and to the ministry of the word" (Ac 6,4), watchful and steadfast in faith, ready to confront any challenges that arise in proclaiming the truth and in interpersonal exchanges (cf. St Gregory the Great, Homily on Ezekiel, I, 11, 4-6). What is fundamental to all Christian life, as I recalled in Novo Millennio Ineunte (cf. n. 39), and especially to the apostolic mission, is the relationship with Christ and familiarity with the Word, especially in lectio divina, which allows us to assimilate the Word of God and to shape our lives.

3. In the life and mission of Bishops, fraternal collaboration and concern for communion are essential, if they are to express the unity of the whole ecclesial Body. In fact, as the Apostle Paul says, living in the truth of love, "we are to grow up in every way into Christ who is the head from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and builds itself up in love" (Ep 4,15-16).

Consequently, an ever greater coherence between the members of the Apostolic College will be reflected in the whole Body of the Church. I know of your concern to carry out your episcopal ministry as well as possible, faithful to its nature, caring for the flock and faithful to the nature of the mystery of the Church. In this regard, I would first like to recall with you, as we celebrate this year the 50th anniversary of the major work of Cardinal Henri de Lubac, Méditation sur l'Église, the mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ in which you, as successors of the Apostles, are responsible for governing, teaching and sanctifying the Christian people, as I wrote in the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis (cf., n. 5). It appears more important than ever today to help the faithful discover the meaning and the greatness of the mystery of Christ's Church, broadly developed in the Constitution Lumen Gentium, which would require further study. This mystery refers to the mystery of the Eucharist, for "the Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist" (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 26). The Church is convened and assembled by Christ who communicates his life to her and gives her the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Taking part in the Eucharistic sacrifice, the memorial of the sacrifice of the Cross, Christians receive the Saviour, truly present, to be conformed to their Lord and through him, to live in fraternal communion, united to their Pastors who represent Christ the Head and Shepherd of the flock.

Without a serious and profound knowledge of the mystery of the Church, which always refers to Christ, it is obviously impossible to grasp the meaning of the ordained ministries, and more generally, of the structure of the Church; thanks to these ministries, the Church, in the footsteps of the Apostles, can proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth (cf. Mk Mc 16,15). I therefore encourage you, with all the people qualified in this area, to use a suitable catechesis when instructing the people of God in the divine nature of the Church - which is an intrinsic part of the Christian mystery, as we proclaim it in the Creed: "I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" - and in the meaning of episcopal ministry. This will contribute to greater unity between the various diocesan communities.

Nourished by this contemplation of the mystery of the Church, the faithful will be strengthened in their love for Christ and for his mystical Body. They will understand what they must be in order to participate more fully in the new evangelization. In fact, an evangelizer must wish to build the Church in accordance with the Lord's will and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and must want to be a child of the Church in which, as St Thérèse of Lisieux said with enthusiasm, each one is called to discover his vocation, for the glory of God and for the world's salvation. This also implies that each person be conscious that he is, in his own way, personally, in the family and in the community, an image of the Church in the eyes of the world. Therefore, deeply rooted in Christ, the faithful will be committed throughout their life to witness to the Good News of salvation, ready to look for the lost sheep. They will be messengers and artisans of unity, to build a reconciled world (cf. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 14-15 EN 29,31).

4. In order to show your close episcopal collegiality, to make your pastoral work more effective and to increase your exchanges, you have courageously undertaken after some thought to make certain changes. They include the reordering of ecclesiastical provinces, thereby returning to the ancient form of interdiocesan relations. These have fostered intense cooperation between the Bishops down the ages, particularly concerning doctrinal and pastoral programmes as shown by the Provincial Councils and Synods. It is sufficient to recall the Provincial Councils of the fourth century and the figure of St Caesarius of Arles, whose importance in theological teaching is well known.

Such a reference to history will awaken in Pastors and in the communities the desire to make the Church of Christ alive today through a renewed commitment. On your part, the decreasing number of priests and active members will certainly mean, without affecting the responsibility proper to each Bishop, that Dioceses of a single province can join together and establish common services, especially in catechesis, continuing formation of the clergy and laity, as well as everything that regards vocations. In this way they will avoid dispersion and inspire new dynamism. The smaller size of the new ecclesiastical provinces compared with the former apostolic regions will henceforth afford you a particularly appropriate opportunity for more intense collegial work in a comparatively unified pastoral framework. I earnestly hope that this will strengthen the bonds of your fraternal communion, and help and support you in your personal life and mission.

Bishops are constantly required to bear a witness of apostolic communion, with one another and with the whole of the Episcopal College around the Successor of Peter. They must work in great mutual confidence and take pains to do nothing that might break this communion or give a possible negative image to the faithful, and more generally to the world, notwithstanding respect for the proper, immediate power of each Bishop on diocesan territory and the supreme power of the Roman Pontiff (cf. Pastores Gregis ). In his action, speech and decisions, each Bishop in some way involves the whole episcopal body and the whole Church; the unity of the Church is rooted in the unity of the episcopacy. The diocesan Church, around her Pastor, is the image of the Church, one and united, for all the "particular Churches "are constituted after the model of the universal Church'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 833 cf. Lumen Gentium LG 23). In the same way, the Church of Christ is present in each ecclesial community united with its Pastor, however small it may be, and in it finds her origins and the source of her apostolate. However, it is right to stress there is no contradiction between legitimate diversity, which enables each diocesan Church to have her own features determined by her Pastors and communities. It would be prejudicial if the exercise of communion were to become a hindrance to the dynamism of the different local communities; in a certain way, this would contradict the very meaning of communion (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, n. 18). As the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium stresses: "In virtue of this catholicity each part contributes its own gifts to other parts and to the whole Church, so that the whole and each of the parts are strengthened by the common sharing of all things and by the common effort to attain to fullness in unity.... Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions without prejudice to the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity and protects their legitimate variety, while at the same time taking care that these differences do not hinder unity, but rather contribute to it" (n. 13). This gives rise to bonds of intimate communion.

5. A Bishop's apostolic mission consists primarily in preaching the Gospel, which makes us say like St Paul, "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1Co 9,16), communicating to the world the truth of which the Church is a vehicle. This goes hand in hand with the mission of guiding and sanctifying the People of God, after the example of the Good Shepherd, and so of building the portion of the Church entrusted to each Bishop, an image of the one Body of Christ. It is the Bishop's task to take special care of his local Church and to govern it well with the assistance of his collaborators, whom he himself has chosen. The smaller and weaker the people, the fewer priests there will be, and the more indispensable it is that the Bishop lead the flock entrusted to his care, careful not to leave it for too long, to visit the various communities, to listen to them and encourage them. In order to stress this mission and put all active members in mission, your Conference is currently reviewing its institutions. I praise this unanimous decision which shows the Bishops' awareness that the changes in society and in the Church demand new forms of collaboration and new functions, so that the structures may be truly at their service and at the service of all the aspects of mission. The routine renewal of the structure, although it may at times be painful to certain people, is necessary in order to prevent forms of sclerosis that might dampen pastoral dynamism and ecclesial research. In this regard, I greet the priests and lay people who humbly agree to collaborate in the life of the Church in the national proceedings of the Conference and who, by their devotion, witness to their concern to serve Christ.

6. I have chosen to focus my first talk on the Church and on the episcopal mission, with reference to the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Gregis. During the visits from the different French Ecclesiastical Provinces, I will have the opportunity to broach other subjects mentioned in the quinquennial reports that the Bishops of your Conference have sent to me. At the end of our meeting, I ask you to express my fraternal greetings and confident encouragement to the priests and deacons. As you have stressed, they carry out their mission faithfully and generously, and feel responsible for proclaiming the Gospel and for building up the Church. Please convey to all your diocesans, especially the individual persons and families who have had problems connected with the financial situation of your region, my affectionate thoughts, and assure them of my fervent prayers. As I entrust you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Patroness of your Country, Mother of the Church and "Mirror of the Church", as Fr de Lubac liked to call her, I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of your Dioceses.

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 22 November 2003