Speeches 2004


                                                         January 2004




Thursday, 8 January 2004

Your esteemed Eminence,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cordially welcome you all. I am pleased to receive such illustrious representatives of the academic fields of Wroclaw and Opole, and I thank you for coming and for your kindness.

I gratefully accept the gift that your Universities have wished to present to me; I welcome it not only as an expression of gratitude but especially as an eloquent sign of the bond which grows ever stronger between the Church and the world of science in Poland. It seems, thanks be to God, that we have left behind that period which, for ideological reasons, attempted to divide - or rather, to put in opposition - these two sources of the spiritual growth of the person and of society. I personally experienced this in a particular way. If today we are commemorating the 50th anniversary of my dissertation to qualify for university professorship, it must not be forgotten that this qualification was the last one obtained in the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University.

A short time later, it was suppressed by the Communist authorities. This act was aimed at dividing the institutions, but its intention was also to put reason and faith in opposition. I am not speaking here of that distinction which was born in the later Middle Ages based on the autonomy of the sciences, but of the imposed separation that did violence to the Nation's spiritual patrimony.

Nevertheless, I retained the conviction that those attempts would never definitively achieve their purpose. This conviction was strengthened in me, thanks to my personal encounters with men of science, professors of various disciplines who expressed the deep desire for dialogue and the common search for truth. I expressed this conviction also as Pope when I wrote: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth" (Fides et Ratio FR 1).

Your presence here inspires in me the hope that this invigorating dialogue will continue and that none of the present-day ideologies will be able to interrupt it. With this hope I look to all universities, academies and high schools. I hope that the great intellectual and spiritual opportunities of the Polish scientific world meet with adequate material support so as to be recognized and spread throughout the world for the good of all.

Once more, I thank you and ask that you take my greetings to your academic communities. God bless you!





To the participants in the International Symposium on
The Dignity and Rights of the
Mentally Disabled Person

1. You have gathered in Rome, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, experts in the branches of human knowledge, and priests, Religious and lay people committed to pastoral life, experts in theology, to examine the sensitive problems of the human and Christian education of people suffering from mental impairment. This Symposium, organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, constitutes an ideal conclusion to the European Year of Disabled Persons. It comes in continuity with the rich and plentiful ecclesial teaching that we now have and that elicits the effective commitment of the People of God on a vast scale, at various levels and in its various branches.

2. The starting point for every reflection on disability is rooted in the fundamental convictions of Christian anthropology: even when disabled persons are mentally impaired or when their sensory or intellectual capacity is damaged, they are fully human beings and possess the sacred and inalienable rights that belong to every human creature. Indeed, human beings, independently of the conditions in which they live or of what they are able to express, have a unique dignity and a special value from the very beginning of their life until the moment of natural death. The disabled person, with all the limitations and suffering that scar him or her, forces us to question ourselves, with respect and wisdom, on the mystery of man. In fact, the more we move about in the dark and unknown areas of human reality, the better we understand that it is in the more difficult and disturbing situations that the dignity and grandeur of the human being emerges. The wounded humanity of the disabled challenges us to recognize, accept and promote in each one of these brothers and sisters of ours the incomparable value of the human being created by God to be a son in the Son.

3. The quality of life in a community is measured largely by its commitment to assist the weaker and needier members with respect for their dignity as men and women. The world of rights cannot only be the prerogative of the healthy. People with disabilities must also be enabled to participate in social life as far as they can, and helped to fulfil all their physical, psychological and spiritual potential. Only by recognizing the rights of its weakest members can a society claim to be founded on law and justice: the disabled are not different from other people which is why, in recognizing and promoting their dignity and rights, we recognize and promote our own dignity and rights and those of each one of us.

A society that made room only for its fully functional, completely autonomous and independent members, would be unworthy of the human being. Discrimination on the basis of effectiveness is just as disgraceful as racial, gender or religious discrimination. A subtle form of discrimination is also present in politics and educational projects that seek to conceal or deny the deficiencies of disabled people by proposing lifestyles and objectives that do not correspond to their reality and turn out to be unjust and frustrating. Indeed, justice calls for continual and loving attention to the lives of others and a response to the special and different needs of every individual, taking into consideration his or her abilities and limitations.

4. The diversity that is due to a person's disability can be integrated into his respective unique individuality, and relatives, teachers, friends and the whole of society must contribute to this. Thus, for disabled people, as for any other human being, it is not important that they do what others do but that they do what is truly good for them, increasingly making the most of their talents and responding faithfully to their own human and supernatural vocation.

Recognition of their rights must be followed by a sincere commitment on the part of all to create practical living conditions, structures which provide support and legal protection that can respond to the needs and dynamics of the growth of disabled persons and of those who are involved in their situation, beginning with their families. Over and above any other consideration or individual or group interest, no effort must be spared in promoting the integral good of these people. Nor can they be denied the support and protection they need, even if this entails a greater financial and social burden. The mentally handicapped need perhaps more attention, affection, understanding and love than any other sick person: they cannot be left alone, unarmed and defenseless, as it were, in the difficult task of facing life.

5. In this regard, the care of the emotional and sexual dimensions of disabled persons deserves special attention. This aspect is often ignored, glossed over and reduced or even dealt with ideologically. Instead, the sexual dimension is a constitutive dimension of the human being as such, created in the image of the God of Love and called from the outset to find fulfilment in the encounter with others and in communion. The premise for the emotional-sexual education of disabled persons is inherent in the conviction that their need for love is at least as great as anyone else's. They too need to love and to be loved, they need tenderness, closeness and intimacy. Unfortunately, the fact is that disabled persons find themselves living these legitimate and natural needs in a disadvantaged situation that becomes more and more obvious as they grow from infancy to adulthood. Despite the damage to the mind and the interpersonal dimension, disabled people seek authentic relationships in which they can find appreciation and recognition as persons.

The experience of certain Christian communities has shown that an intense and stimulating community life, continuous and discreet educational support, the fostering of friendly contacts with properly trained people, the habit of channelling instincts and developing a healthy sense of modesty as respect for their own personal privacy, often succeeds in restoring the emotional balance of persons with mental disabilities and can lead them to live enriching, fruitful and satisfying interpersonal relationships. To show disabled persons that we love them means showing them that we value them. Attentive listening, understanding their needs, sharing their suffering, patience in guidance, are some of the ways to introduce the disabled into a human relationship of communion, to enable them to perceive their own value and make them aware of their capacity for receiving and giving love.

6. There is no doubt that in revealing the fundamental frailty of the human condition, the disabled person becomes an expression of the tragedy of pain. In this world of ours that approves hedonism and is charmed by ephemeral and deceptive beauty, the difficulties of the disabled are often perceived as a shame or a provocation and their problems as burdens to be removed or resolved as quickly as possible. Disabled people are, instead, living icons of the crucified Son. They reveal the mysterious beauty of the One who emptied himself for our sake and made himself obedient unto death. They show us, over and above all appearances, that the ultimate foundation of human existence is Jesus Christ. It is said, justifiably so, that disabled people are humanity's privileged witnesses. They can teach everyone about the love that saves us; they can become heralds of a new world, no longer dominated by force, violence and aggression, but by love, solidarity and acceptance, a new world transfigured by the light of Christ, the Son of God who became incarnate, who was crucified and rose for us.

7. Dear participants in this Symposium, your presence and commitment witness to the world that God is always on the side of the lowly, the poor, the suffering and the marginalized. By making himself human and being born in the poverty of a stable, the Son of God proclaimed in himself the blessedness of the afflicted and shared - in all things save sin - the destiny of man, created in his image. After Calvary, the Cross, embraced with love, becomes the way of life. It teaches each one of us that if we know how to travel with abandoned trust the exhausting, uphill road of human suffering, the joy of the Living Christ which surpasses every desire and every expectation will blossom for us and for our brothers and sisters.

A special Blessing to everyone!

From the Vatican, 5 January 2004




Friday, 9 January 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to accept the Letters with which the President of the Italian Republic accredits you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. On this happy occasion I offer you my cordial welcome and warm good wishes for the new year that has just begun.

I would like to thank you for bringing me the greetings of the President of Italy and of the Prime Minister. Please reciprocate these sentiments, and convey to them my fervent hope that the Italian people may continue to advance on the path of prosperity and peace, keeping intact the patrimony of religious, spiritual and cultural values that have made their civilization great. In difficult times, the beloved Nation that you represent here has been able to keep its spirit of altruism high, working with a keen sense of responsibility and generous dedication to those who, affected by unfortunate situations, found themselves in need of concrete and effective solidarity. Nor should we forget the active concern to create in the international arena a just order centred on respect for the human being, for his dignity and for his inalienable rights.

Such a commitment also entails risks, as was recently demonstrated by the tribute of blood of the soldiers who fell in Iraq, and of Italian volunteers in other parts of the world. I express my heartfelt wishes that with its special gifts of humanity and generosity, Italy will continue to encourage true dialogue and growth especially in the Mediterranean Basin and the Balkan area to which it is geographically close, but also in the Middle East, Afghanistan and on the African Continent.

As you pointed out, Mr Ambassador, our millennial ties are very close: they unite the See of Peter and the inhabitants of the Peninsula, whose rich patrimony of Christian values is a living source of inspiration and identity. The Agreement of 18 February 1984 states that the Italian Republic recognizes "the value of the religious culture", taking into account the fact that "the principles of Catholicism are part of the historical heritage of the Italian people" (cf. art. 9, 2).

Italy, therefore, is especially entitled to work to ensure that Europe too, in its competent institutions, recognizes its own Christian roots which can guarantee the citizens of the Continent an identity that is neither transitory nor based merely on political and economic interests, but is founded on deep and everlasting values. The ethical foundations and ideals behind the efforts for European unity are even more necessary today, if we want to give stability to the institutional character of the European Union.

I would like to encourage the Government and all the Italian political representatives to pursue their efforts in this field. May Italy remind all its sister nations of the extraordinary religious, cultural and civil patrimony that has made Europe great down the centuries.

Two important events in the relations between the Holy See and Italy will be commemorated in the course of the year that has just begun: the 75th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts and the 20th anniversary of the Signing of Agreement of Revision of the Lateran Concordat at Villa Madama. These two events witness how fruitful is the existing collaboration between the contractual parties, a collaboration that has developed through respect for their reciprocal milieus and a constant and serene dialogue, desirous of finding equitable solutions to their mutual needs.

The criteria of distinction and legitimate autonomy in their respective roles, mutual esteem and loyal collaboration in the promotion of men and women and the common good, are the principles that inspired the Lateran Pacts and were confirmed in the Agreement of 18 February 1984. It is necessary to draw constant inspiration from these criteria in solving any problems as they arise.

In the 20 years that have passed since the Agreement of Villa Madama, the competent Italian Authorities have proceeded to stipulate various integrating agreements provided for in the above-mentioned Agreement. We can thus look with satisfaction at all that so far has been achieved.

With regard to any shortcomings, possible developments or finishing touches, it is to be hoped that it will be possible to regularize the Agreement in the same spirit. The Church asks for no privileges, nor does she intend to go beyond the spiritual context proper to her mission. The agreements which originated in this respectful dialogue have the sole purpose of enabling her to carry out her universal task in full freedom and to foster the spiritual good of the Italian people. Indeed, the Church's presence in Italy is beneficial to society as a whole.

Mr Ambassador, you have stressed the key role played by the family. Today, in many people's opinion, it is threatened by a misunderstood concept of rights. The Italian Constitution recalls and protects the central role of this "natural society founded on marriage" (art. 29). It is therefore the task of the Government Authorities to make laws that encourage its vitality. The unity of this primary and essential cell of society must be safeguarded; families also expect the social and financial assistance they need to carry out their mission. They are called to play an important educational role, forming mature persons equipped with moral and spiritual values and who are able to live as good citizens. It is important that the State help families without ever stifling the freedom of parents to choose an education, sustaining them and their inalienable rights and efforts to consolidate their nuclear family.

Mr Ambassador, these are the reflections that your appreciated visit inspires in my mind. May God make Italy more and more united and supportive. This is my wish, which I accompany with a special prayer. I assure you of my esteem and support in the fulfilment of the mission entrusted to you, as well as the full attention of my collaborators. I reinforce these sentiments with the Apostolic Blessing that I willingly impart to you, to your family and to the beloved Italian people.



Friday, 9 January 2004

Your Eminence,
Dear Members of the Pontifical Council for Culture,

Thank you for your visit. I address my cordial welcome to each one. I greet in particular Cardinal Paul Poupard, your President, and I am grateful to him for his courteous words on behalf of everyone present.

The book that you are presenting to me today contains the most important texts of the Popes from Leo XIII to the present day on the relationship between faith and culture. The volume is a further testimony that down the ages the papal Magisterium has always fostered a positive vision of relations between the Church and those who play the lead in the world of culture. In fact, the cultural environment constitutes an important areopagus of the Church's missionary action.

In recent years, following in the footsteps of my venerable Predecessors, I too have sought to keep up a constant dialogue with the exponents of culture, presenting to the men and women of the third millennium the saving message of Christ.

Dear friends, may God accompany you in your daily work. I invoke upon you the constant protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, so that she will make your efforts to spread the Gospel fruitful. With these sentiments, I cordially bless you, together with all your loved ones.



Saturday, 10 January 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to greet Your Excellency on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire to the Holy See. I thank you for the cordial greetings you have just addressed to me on behalf of the President and of the Government of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and in your own name. I should be grateful to you if you would kindly reciprocate to H.E. Mr Laurent Gbagbo my best wishes for him and for the accomplishment of his important office at the service of the Nation. Through you, I would like to greet the entire people of Côte d'Ivoire. The memory of the warm welcome that I always received on my three Visits to your noble Country lives on in my mind and in my heart. I ask God to guide and support it in its efforts to advance along paths of a lasting peace, so that the new-found tranquillity may enable all to benefit from a peaceful and dignified life.

You have just recalled, Mr Ambassador, the desire of the Authorities of Côte d'Ivoire to spare no effort to bring about an effective national reconciliation between all its inhabitants, with a view to the peaceful settlement of the serious crisis your Country has been experiencing since September 2002. I ardently hope that the process of national reconciliation will be pursued and intensified and that the altercation of weapons will surrender to the weapons of dialogue.

The wish to complete the disarmament of the different parties engaged in the fighting is an important stage on the way to peace, for it shows the noble aspiration to say "yes" to dialogue and "no" to violence, to enable the various members of the Nation to advance together on the paths of concord and national unity. I am sure that this disarmament will involve all the weapons currently in the people's possession and thereby contribute to the inner stability of the Country. The prospect of the freedom of movement of citizens and goods should also permit Authorities to restore the peoples' confidence and enable them to meet their basic elementary needs.

To further a rapid return to the conditions of normal life, it would be well to re-establish without delay the relations between the institutions and the different branches of the administration, indispensable instruments for the smooth functioning of public life, and the relations between the Authorities and the citizens, for we all know that these infrastructures, equipped with staff who work for the common good, are essential to a country's dynamism.

Likewise, it is up to the political leaders to ensure that schools, essential links in educating the young generations in an altruistic sense of duty through an apprenticeship for life in society and acceptance of the fundamental values for social coexistence, are equipped to impart to students the teaching to which they have a right. Once the cogs of society turn more smoothly, an imperative desire will grow in everyone to surmount the challenges standing in the way of reconciliation, brotherhood and the Nation's development. In this spirit, the return to dialogue and respect among all the subjects of Côte d'Ivoire by means of consultation and negotiation will be a new opportunity to practise increasingly the noble ideals of freedom, solidarity, hospitality and religious tolerance to which you have just referred

Building up relations of trust between the human and religious communities that make up your Country is very important and a necessary condition for dispelling fear of others and rediscovering the benefit of living side by side. I appeal to the religious leaders and members of all the communities to do their utmost in this task that is essential to the stability, development and prestige of the Nation. Likewise, mutual trust, which must always inspire and imbue the social, political and economic life of a country at all levels, should be rooted in the promotion of the universal moral values such as respect for human rights and a sense of the dignity of every person. This trust cannot be lived to the full if it is not founded permanently on love.

As I recently had an opportunity to recall, "Love is also the loftiest and most noble form of relationship possible between human beings. Love must thus enliven every sector of human life and extend to the international order. Only a humanity in which there reigns the "civilization of love' will be able to enjoy authentic and lasting peace" (Message for World Day of Peace 2004, n. 10).

May each one's effort, in all the social categories, combine to reinforce relations of trust and to teach one another in a respectful, responsible and disinterested manner, to solve conflicts peacefully, developing an ever greater awareness in the people of Côte d'Ivoire of the contribution your Country is called to make to furthering the precious good of peace on your Continent and throughout the world, with a view to building a true family of nations!

Mr Ambassador, you brought up the role and work the Catholic Church in Côte d'Ivoire does with a view to participating in a specific way, through the voice of her Pastors or the initiatives of her members, in the peaceful resolution of the conflict in your Country. I am delighted to hear it.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I would like to greet with affection all the members of the Catholic community who live in Côte d'Ivoire or in the diaspora. United with their Pastors, may they increasingly act as true Gospel witnesses and be a leaven of unity and reconciliation, living and presenting clearly the values contained in the Christian message! Supported by the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, they will be able to work patiently with all people of good will to banish the fears and prejudices that hinder people from building a renewed and supportive society.

Mr Ambassador, you also highlighted the active role that the Catholic Church has embraced with international organizations to guarantee material, medical, psychological and spiritual help to the population of displaced and traumatized people who are victims of conflicts. Christ's love, which she wants to witness among all humanity, invites her to concern herself with all human beings, giving priority to the weakest and those who are suffering. Rejecting all forms of division that endanger the pursuit of the common good and wishing to make known the Good News of Christ, she knows that she is called, through her work in health care and social and charitable assistance as well as in education, to contribute to the integral fulfilment of persons and peoples in conformity with their vocation. I invite her to persevere in this effort, especially in the guidance she can give families: "It is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio FC 42).

Your Excellency, at the end of our meeting and at the moment when you are beginning your mission, I offer you my very best wishes for the noble task that awaits you. I assure you that you will always find an attentive welcome and cordial understanding with my collaborators.

I cordially invoke upon you, Your Excellency, upon those who work with you, upon your family, upon the citizens of Côte d'Ivoire and their Leaders, abundant divine Blessings.




Saturday, 10 January 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I extend a warm welcome to you as I accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See. This occasion rekindles the memories of the visit I made to your country in 1989, when I experienced at first hand the hospitality, warmth and rich cultural traditions of the Indonesian people. With these recollections, I am grateful for the greetings and good wishes which you bring from President Megawati Soekarnoputri. I gladly reciprocate her kind sentiments, and I ask you to convey to her and to the Government and people of Indonesia the expression of my esteem and the assurance of my prayers for the Nation’s continuing development and prosperity.

As you have remarked, your country and the Holy See enjoy bonds of friendship and cooperation which are made ever stronger by our mutual commitment to working for the peace and well-being of all peoples at every level of society. This is an undertaking that involves all men and women of good will, and is today a task of unprecedented importance as the entire human family seeks effective means to counteract international terrorism. There is no question that this baneful scourge has grown more virulent in recent years, generating brutal massacres that serve only to exacerbate difficult situations, increase tensions and erode possibilities for peace among peoples and nations. Your own country has unfortunately had first-hand experience of such heinous acts of violence and disregard for the inviolability of innocent human life. The deep shock felt worldwide fifteen months ago when a terrorist bomb exploded in Bali still remains very much present in the mind and heart of the international community.

Despite the contempt for human life that such terrorist attacks represent, our response must never be one of hatred or revenge. Nor are measures that are merely punitive or repressive sufficient. The fight against terrorism must also be conducted at the level of politics and education. Political mobilization is needed to eliminate the underlying causes of situations of injustice that can drive people to actions of desperation and violence. Likewise necessary is a commitment to programmes of education that are inspired by and foster respect for human life in all circumstances. In this way the unity of the human race will prevail, proving more powerful than any contingent division separating individuals, groups and peoples (cf. Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, No. 8). And it is precisely in this regard that the great religions of the world have a particularly important role to play.

Interreligious understanding and cooperation will in fact do much to promote a clearer sense of the oneness of all mankind, helping to eradicate the social and cultural causes of terrorism. I am convinced moreover that Islamic, Christian and Jewish religious leaders must be at the forefront in condemning terrorism and in denying terrorists any form of religious or moral legitimacy. Dialogue must be promoted as a means of mutual awareness, as an exchange of spiritual patrimonies and as an instrument for peacefully overcoming differences. This is the only way to guarantee the unity, ensure the stability and build the democracy so ardently desired by the great Nation that you represent.

In this same regard, I am pleased to note your Government’s active commitment to maintaining harmony among the followers of the different religions present in Indonesia. Indeed, the motto displayed on your national coat-of-arms — Bihneka Tungal Ika, "unity in diversity" — expresses an important guiding principle as your country strives to build and strengthen a society based on the democratic principles of freedom and equality, regardless of language, ethnic background, cultural heritage or religion. The presidential elections scheduled to take place later this year — a truly historical moment for Indonesia — provide an excellent opportunity to reinforce these principles in the country’s democratic institutions and to foster the full participation of all citizens in the public life of the Nation. This political climate can also prove to be of great advantage in the ongoing transformation of Indonesian society, as efforts are made to eliminate corruption and to ensure that the human rights of all citizens, especially those belonging to ethnic and religious minorities, are respected.

For her part, the Catholic Church is an active partner in the continuing national programme of developing structures capable of satisfying the hopes and aspirations of all the peoples of the archipelago. Her role in the area of education is of particular importance: although Catholics account for only a very small part of the total population, they have developed an extensive and effective school system. The commitment to religious tolerance and to the fundamental principle of religious freedom allows the Church to make a priceless contribution to the life of the country. I am hopeful that the Government will continue to assist her in pursuing this mission by respecting the Catholic identity of her schools and educational activities.

Mr Ambassador, I am sure that your mission will further strengthen the bonds of understanding and friendship between us. You can be assured that the Holy See will remain a committed partner with your country as it seeks to advance its own development and to be a force for stability and peace in Asia and within the wider community of nations. Upon yourself and the beloved people of the Republic of Indonesia I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Speeches 2004