Speeches 2004 - Paul VI Audience Hall

The unanimous hope that we express is that people may be purified of the hatred and evil that threaten peace continuously, and be able to extend to one another hands that have never been stained by violence but are ready to offer help and comfort to those in need.

3. Jews honour the Almighty as protector of the human person and the God of the promises of life. Christians know that love is the reason why God enters into relations with human beings and that love is the response he demands of them. For Muslims, God is good and can fill the believer with his mercies. Nourished by these convictions, Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot accept that the earth be afflicted by hatred or that humanity be overwhelmed by endless wars.

Yes! We must find within us the courage for peace. We must implore from on High the gift of peace. And this peace will spread like a soothing balm if we travel non-stop on the road to reconciliation. Then the wilderness will become a garden in which justice will flourish, and the effect of justice will be peace (cf. Is Is 32,15-16).

Omnia vincit amor!


Monday, 19 January 2004

Dear Friends from Finland,

Once again this year I am pleased to welcome your Ecumenical Delegation on its visit to Rome for the feast of Saint Henrik, Patron of Finland. In this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I wish to express my gratitude for the ecumenical progress made between Catholics and Lutherans in the five years since the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. A promising sign of this progress on our path to full and visible unity has been the establishment of a new dialogue group between Lutherans and Catholics in Finland and Sweden. It is my hope that Lutherans and Catholics will increasingly practise a spirituality of communion, which draws on those elements of ecclesial life which they already share and which will strengthen their fellowship in prayer and in witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.





To Archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela

1. On the occasion of the opening of the Holy Door that ushers in the Jubilee Year of Compostela 2004, the first in the third Christian millennium, I address a cordial greeting to the Pastors and faithful of this Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela and to all the beloved sons and daughters of Galicia. Likewise, from this very moment I join in spirit the pilgrims travelling in very different ways who, motivated by a deep desire for conversion, will be setting out for the tomb of the Apostle St James from other parts of Spain, from Europe and from the most remote locations on earth.

Down through history, countless men and women have made their way to the so-called "Finis terrae" (end of the earth) in a spirit of prayer and sacrifice. The anonymous travellers who followed the Vía Láctea were converted by their journey to Santiago de Compostela. The Santiago pilgrimage speaks to us of the spiritual and cultural origins of the Old Continent, as the Church and Europe are two realities whose existence and destiny are closely connected (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, n. 108). Consequently, despite the current cultural crisis, certain aspects of which are having repercussions in the lives of some Christians, we must reaffirm that the Gospel continues to be a fundamental reference for the Continent. I myself have twice been on pilgrimage to this city, aptly called "the spiritual capital of European unity". I treasure indelible memories of it.

2. The Church of Compostela, which has been privileged from time immemorial to protect the tomb of the Friend of the Lord, feels called to generously welcome and pass on the deep sense of life inspired by the faith that St James "Boanerges" (cf. Mk Mc 3,17) proclaimed.

Thus, the Santiago Way, on which so many pilgrims throughout history have purified and increased their faith and which has given human culture a clearly Christian stamp, cannot ignore its spiritual dimension. The Santiago phenomenon, which refers solely to the age-old pilgrimage to Compostela, cannot mask its identity because of concomitant cultural, economic and political factors. Any initiative intended to distort or dilute its specifically religious character would misrepresent its authentic origins. In this regard, the pilgrim is not only a traveller: he is first and foremost a believer who desires to follow Christ faithfully through that experience of life, keeping the Apostle's daring example before him.

"Pilgrims through Grace: What do you talk about on the way?". This, the theme of the current Holy Year, refers to the Gospel account of the disciples of Emmaus. It is an image of the Christian pilgrimage well suited to pilgrims of the new millennium.

3. Down the centuries, the essence of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela has been conversion to the living God through the encounter with Jesus Christ. The celebration of this Jubilee is also a journey of conversion. In fact, people from all Continents will be meeting in Compostela to confess their Christian faith and to implore and receive God's merciful pardon; its fullness is expressed in the grace of the Jubilee Indulgence that provides for the total remission of the temporal punishment due to sins. The pilgrim, gradually turning away from his former way of life, is called to put on "the new man" and take on the new mindset proposed by the Gospel. Moreover, the incense rite of "Botafumeiro" represents his purification, as his new being is offered like the incense that rises to the presence of the Lord.

The pilgrimage to the Basilica of Compostela during the Jubilee Year is also intended to give a new impetus to the Christian community through the commitment to revitalize the faith. For this, the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist are essential.

The traditional gesture of embracing the Apostle, a witness and martyr of Jesus Christ, symbolizes joyful acceptance of the faith that St James the Greater preached without flagging to the point of giving up his life. Therefore, the Santiago Way is more than a road that leads to a destination. Crossing the threshold of the imposing "Gate of Glory" and modelling their lives on the light of the Scriptures, pilgrims return to be living and credible witnesses of the Lord at home.

In this way the lintel of this portal of Grace, evocative of the heavenly Jerusalem, will witness to the daring of those who fear neither the future nor the obstacles that have yet to be overcome, so that the new humanity can take place and remind us that life itself is a path through Christ to God the Father in the Spirit.

4. And so, although the pilgrimage is arduous and demanding, it is a joyful proclamation of faith. It is a personal journey in which all pilgrims, following the example of the "son of thunder", are converted into bold and zealous apostles. Pilgrims are asked to proclaim the Kingdom of God with their meditative journey, surrendering to intimacy with the Lord in prayer and in silence, leaning on the staff of his Word, contemplating the wonders of nature formed by the Creator with personal ascesis and with few provisions, avoiding the perils of the gnostic experience of the disturbing pseudo-religious and cultural movements.

The Way to Santiago, then, is also a place and time for dialogue, reconciliation and peace; a journey of spiritual brotherhood and an incentive to ecumenical commitment in accordance with the universal vocation of the Church. Hospitality, an inherent feature of people on pilgrimage, also implies an important contribution to the European society of our day, where the phenomenon of migration demands special attention.

5. This Holy Year offers us a favourable opportunity to give new and forceful dynamism to our commitment to the values of the Good News, presenting them persuasively to the new generations and imbuing our personal, family and social life with them.

The various pastoral activities planned for the Jubilee are geared to this, especially the meeting of the Commission of Episcopates of the European Community (COMECE) and the European Youth Meeting. These events demonstrate the vitality of the Church's faith, founded on apostolic preaching, which must reach out in a brotherly way to America and the other Continents.

Compostela must continue to be a prophetic voice, a shining beacon of Christian life and hope for the new forms of evangelization (cf. Address in Obradoiro Square, 19 August 1989, n. 2; ORE, 28 August 1989, p. 2.).

6. To St Mary of the Way, the Pilgrim Virgin, icon of the Church on her path through the desert of history who will accompany the pilgrims on their penitential journey, and to the protection of St James who will greet them smiling on their arrival at the Gate of Glory, I entrust this Year of St James, confident that the abundant fruit of the Jubilee celebration will help to revitalize Christian life, keeping us steadfast in faith, certain in hope and constant in charity.

Together with these wishes, as a pledge of benevolence I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.

From the Vatican, 30 November 2003, the First Sunday of Advent




Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Mr Commissioner,
Officials and Officers of the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican,

1. It is always a pleasure to welcome and meet you: I greet each and every one with special affection. I especially greet Dr Salvatore Festa, to whom I am also grateful for his courteous words on behalf of those present. I accept with gratitude your fervent good wishes for the year that has just begun and cordially reciprocate them. May 2004 be a peaceful and profitable year for each one of you, for your families and for all your loved ones!

Your visit today gives me the opportunity to express to you once again my gratitude for and appreciation of the daily service that you carry out and that I have followed attentively for more than 25 years.

2. Your task has become complicated in recent years due to episodes of brutal terrorist violence that have strongly shaken the security of our cities. While you are using every possible means to intensify vigilance, the commitment to teaching peace appears more urgent every day. I also wanted to mention this important challenge in the Message for the recent World Day of Peace. In the face of all the dramatic situations of our time, there is a risk of giving in to fatalism as though peace were an impossible goal. Do not give in to this temptation! Teaching peace, with all its practical requirements, must continue to be the object of the constant commitment of all.

3. Dear friends, the Pope accompanies you in your daily service; he shares in your worries and supports you with his prayers, imploring God to protect you and your families. With these sentiments, as I renew my best wishes for the new year, I impart a special Blessing to each one of you here present and to all your loved ones.



Tuesday, 20 January 2004

Dear Brother Bishop,

Distinguished Participants in the Meeting of the Islamic-Catholic Liaison Committee, Peace be with you! It is my pleasure to welcome you at the conclusion of your ninth annual meeting. Your committee, which facilitates communication between Christians and Muslims, was established during a time of great expectation for world peace. Unfortunately, this hope has not yet been fulfilled. In the face of the tragedies which continue to afflict humanity, it is all the more necessary to convince people that peace is possible. Indeed, it is a duty (cf. No. 4 Message for the World Day of Peace, 2004). I encourage you, and all leaders of religions, to promote a culture of dialogue, mutual understanding and respect. Upon you all, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 22 January 2004

Mr President,

I am pleased to welcome you and your family to the Vatican. Your visit brings back vivid memories of my journey to Malta three years ago, and the very warm welcome which I received. My Jubilee pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul was an occasion for me to appreciate once more your country’s ancient Christian heritage, and to encourage your fellow citizens in their efforts to build a society worthy of its noble cultural tradition. Malta’s strength has always been its families, which have not only enriched the social fabric but also contributed significantly to the Church’s universal mission, not least through their abundant harvest of priestly and religious vocations. May families always find encouragement and support in their work of educating the young who are the future of Malta. Upon you and all the beloved Maltese people I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings of prosperity, joy and peace.



Saturday, 24 January 2004

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

1. I am pleased to be resuming my Audiences with the Bishops of France during their ad limina visits. I welcome you with joy, Bishops from the Provinces of Toulouse and Montpellier. I thank Archbishop Emile Marcus of Toulouse for his kind words. I am delighted with the spirit of collaboration that exists between your two Provinces, which is greatly facilitated by your historical connections and by the presence of the Catholic Institute and the Diocesan Seminary of Toulouse that accepts, in particular, seminarians from the whole region. As Head of the Episcopal Commission for Ordained Ministers, Archbishop Marcus has just told me of your perplexities and worries about the future of the clergy, recalling the particularly alarming situation that your Country is going through which, unfortunately, is verified by the quinquennial reports of the Dioceses of France. I pray to the Lord constantly that young men will hear the call to the priesthood, especially to the diocesan priesthood, and will commit themselves to follow Christ, leaving everything like the Apostles, as the text of the Gospel of the Mass that opened this year of Ordinary Time appropriately recalled (cf. Monday of the First Week, Mc 1,14-20).

2. It is therefore this matter of the diocesan priesthood, essential for the local Churches, which I desire to discuss with you today. I can easily understand that you may sometimes feel disheartened, like your priests, in the face of the future situation and prospects. However, I would like to ask you to hope and to be ever more determined in your commitment to promote the priesthood. Although it is right to look realistically at the difficulties, you should not succumb to despair or look helplessly at the statistics and the dwindling number of priests, for which, moreover, we cannot be held totally responsible. Indeed, the Letter to the Catholics of France, published by your Bishops' Conference in 1996 and still applicable, emphasized that the crisis the Church is passing through is largely due to repercussions, within the ecclesial institution as well as in the life of its members, from the social changes, the new forms of behaviour, the loss of moral and religious values and a widespread consumerist attitude. Nonetheless, with Christ's help and conscious of our heritage, in adversity we must constantly propose the priestly life to young people as a generous commitment and a source of happiness, taking care to renew and reaffirm the pastoral care of vocations.

It is first of all the priest's role that can distance young people who are often used to an easy and superficial way of life: his identity in modern society is rather uncertain and unclear while his responsibilities are increasingly heavy. It is essential to reaffirm this identity, defining the figure of the diocesan priest more clearly. In fact, how can young people be attracted by a form of life if they do not grasp its greatness and beauty, and if priests themselves do not take the trouble to express their enthusiasm for the Church's mission? A priest, a man set apart in the midst of his brothers and sisters to serve them better, finds joy and equilibrium in his life in his relationship with Christ and in his ministry. He is the pastor of the flock; he guides the People of God, celebrates the sacraments, teaches and proclaims the Gospel and also guarantees his spiritual fatherhood to accompany the faithful. In all this, he is at the same time the witness and the apostle who expresses his love for Christ, for the Church and for men and women through the many acts of his ministry.

The importance, diversity and burden of the mission that priests of this generation have to take on give the impression of a deflated ministry that certainly does not always attract the young to follow their elders. In this regard, I would like to acknowledge the courage, zeal and tenacity of priests who exercise their ministry in conditions that are often very difficult and in a society that does not recognize them properly. May they not be discouraged but find in Christ the daring to carry out the mission entrusted to them! I give thanks with them for their fidelity, a sign of their deep love for Christ and for the Church. May they never forget that through the acts of their ministry they make God's tenderness present and communicate to human beings the grace they need! Convey to them the affection of the Successor of Peter, who accompanies them daily in his prayers! Invite them, at youth meetings and in their homilies, to account for the happiness that is to be found in following Christ in the diocesan priesthood! My affectionate prayers go especially to the elderly or sick priests who, through their life of intercession and a ministry within their capacity, continue in a different way to serve the Church.

3. The mission's requirements and people's many requests put pressure on a few priests who risk neglecting their spiritual life or letting it fade into the background. Likewise, they have to coordinate the needs of daily life, of the ministry, of continuing formation and of their leisure time to restore their energy, so as not to upset the balance between their human and affective life. What matters most to priests is the edification and growth of their spiritual life, based on a daily relationship with Christ and in the celebration of the Eucharist, the Liturgy of the Hours, lectio divina and prayer. This relationship creates unity in being a priest and in the ministry. The heavier the burden a priest must bear, the more important it is for him to be close to the Lord in order to find in him the graces he needs for his pastoral service and availability to the faithful. It is in fact this personal spiritual experience that enables him to live in fidelity and ceaselessly to rekindle the gift he has received through the laying on of hands (cf. II Tim 1: 6). As I recalled in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, the response to the crises in the ministry that many countries are experiencing lies in an act of total faith to the Holy Spirit (cf. n. 1), in a better and stronger construction of the spiritual life by priests themselves, which keeps them on their demanding journey of holiness (cf. nn. 19-20), and in continuing formation which is, as it were, the soul of pastoral charity (cf. nn. 70-81). It is up to you to watch that members of the presbyterate base their mission on a life of regular and faithful prayer and on the practice of the sacrament of Penance.

4. Some priests, mainly younger ones, feel the need for a fraternal priestly experience, a community process, in order to sustain one another and to mitigate the difficulty of the inevitable loneliness associated with the ministry that some may feel although, sometimes paradoxically, they have too individualistic an approach to their ministry. I encourage them to develop their desire for fraternal life and mutual collaboration, which can only strengthen communion in the diocesan presbyterate around the Bishop. It is your task, with the members of your Episcopal Council, to take this desire into consideration by suggesting that priests enter ministries where, if possible, they can establish strong bonds with their confreres. I also ask you to be increasingly close to your priests, who are your invaluable collaborators. First of all, you must constantly develop a strong pastoral and fraternal relationship with them, marked by reciprocal confidence and affectionate closeness. It would be good if you were to pay regular visits to priests at home, as some of you already do. This will enable you to evaluate their ministry and lifestyle besides showing interest in their daily routine.

I also encourage priests of all generations to be ever closer to one another and to develop their priestly brotherhood and pastoral collaboration without fear of differences or specific sensibilities, which can further the local Church's outreach. In this spirit, participation in an association of priests is a valuable help. The stronger the bonds of communion and unity are between the Bishop and his priests, the greater the coherence of the diocese, the stronger the sense of the common mission and the more eager young men will be to join the presbyterate. Without any doubt, the fraternal life of the Church's ministers is a concrete way of presenting the faith and of appealing to the faithful to develop renewed relationships and live more deeply in the love that comes to us from the Lord. For it is by this, as the Apostle says, that we will be recognized as his disciples and able to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel. Especially in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, how can we not feel responsible for unity in the heart of the presbyterate, as St Ignatius of Antioch exhorted: "Your presbyterate, worthy of its reputation, worthy of God, should be in harmony with the Bishop as the strings of a zither are in tune; indeed, in the concord of your sentiments and the harmony of your charity, you sing of Jesus Christ.... Thus, it is useful for you to be in irreproachable unity, so as to partake in God always" (Letter to the Ephesians, IV, 1-2).

The disparity between Dioceses in the number of priests continues to grow. The new organization of the Church in France, now divided into Provinces, will permit interesting forms of collaboration in this area for a better distribution of priests according to need and for cooperation in diocesan services and in the different administrative bodies. In this regard, I wish to greet the Dioceses that are already experiencing this fraternal sharing. I thank the priests who are willing, at least temporarily, to leave the Diocese to which they remain legitimately bound in order to serve the Church in areas with fewer clergy out of concern to build real priestly communities; their availability is particularly eloquent.

5. In the world today, the question of ecclesiastical celibacy and the chastity associated with it is often a stumbling block for young people as well as for other members of the faithful. It is the subject of much misunderstanding in public opinion. I would like, first of all, to express my appreciation for the fidelity of those priests determined to live to the full this essential dimension of their priestly life, who thereby show the world that Christ and the mission can fulfil life. They also show their attachment to the Lord in the total gift of their vital energy, which is a witness to the absolute of God and a particularly fruitful participation in building up the Church. I ask priests to be on the alert in the face of the temptations of the world and to make a regular examination of conscience. This will enable them to live more and more deeply in fidelity to their commitment, which conforms them to Christ, chaste and totally given to the Father, and is an important contribution to the proclamation of the Gospel. Any attitude contrary to this commitment is a counter-witness for the Christian community and for humanity. It is your duty to be attentive to the emotional conditions of your priests' lives and to their possible difficulties. You know by experience that young priests, like all their contemporaries, are marked both by extraordinary enthusiasm and by the frailties of their time, which you know well. It is right to accompany them with great care, appointing for them a very wise priest to support them in the first years of their ministry. The appropriate psychological and spiritual assistance might also be necessary in order to prevent situations that might be dangerous in the long term from lasting. Likewise, in cases where priests lead a life that does not conform to their state, it is important to invite them expressly to conversion.

Chastity in celibacy is of inestimable value. It constitutes an important key to the spiritual life of priests, to their commitment to the mission and their proper pastoral relationship with the faithful. It must not be based mainly on emotional aspects, but on the responsibility incumbent on them in the ministry. Identified with Christ in this way, they will be ever more available to the Father and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

6. In the face of the increasingly weighty responsibilities that priests must confront, it is important to help them to discern priorities and to encourage trusting collaboration with lay people, with respect for the responsibilities of each one. I know of the joy and happiness they experience in their ministry, in the proclamation of the Word of God, in their direct contacts with men, women and children, in the sharing of responsibilities with lay persons. What could be better for a pastor than to see the faithful growing in humanity and in the faith and taking their place in the Church and in society?

Growing de-Christianization is the major challenge at the moment; I call you to take it up by mobilizing all the priests in your Dioceses. What is urgent is the mission in which all the Lord's disciples must participate and the evangelization of a world that no longer knows the fundamental aspects of Christian dogma necessary for a Christian existence and fruitful participation in sacramental life. This world, for the most part, has even forgotten the cultural elements of Christianity.

7. Permanent deacons, who are mostly married and whose numbers continue to grow in your Dioceses, have an important role in the diocesan Churches. I greet them with affection, as well as their wives and children who help them in their ministry with their closeness and support. Your reports witness to the esteem in which you hold them and the trust you place in them. I appreciate the mission they carry out, for they are sometimes in contact with milieus very far from the Church.

Their brethren recognize their professional competence and their brotherly closeness with the people and culture in which they are immersed. They present a characteristic face of the Church which likes to be close to people and their daily situation in order to plant in their lives the proclamation of Christ's message, in the same way as St Paul in Athens, as recounted in the episode of the Areopagus (cf. Acts Ac 17,16-32). They deserve gratitude for the mission of the Church that they carry out as servants of the Gospel, guiding the Christian people, bearing a primordial witness of the Church's attention to all categories of society, set on making the Christian message known by their words and by their personal, conjugal and family life and making men and women reflect on the great questions of society so that Gospel values may shine forth!

At the end of our meeting, I ask you to take back my affectionate greetings to all the faithful of your Dioceses, and especially, to convey my spiritual closeness to the families who were victims of the flooding that has afflicted the inhabitants of the region at various times and of the tragic accident at the AZF factory, reminding Christians and all people of good will of the need for attention and ever greater solidarity with our sorely-tried brothers and sisters.

As I entrust you, together with the priests, the deacons and the entire Christian people in your care to the motherly affection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of your Dioceses.



Sunday, 25 January 2004

I extend a heartfelt welcome to all the artists and to those accompanying them. Thank you very much for having entrusted to me the "Book of Cherubin" - the register of the offerings made by those who understand the value of every act of creativity in the life of society and of peoples.

I once wrote that in the human craftsman is mirrored the image of the Creator (cf. Letter to Artists, n. 1). Today I repeat these words in front of the representatives of the Foundation which has as its purpose the promotion of life's creative style, especially among youth. I repeat them as the basic motivation for the correctness of your activity. I say them also to bring to the attention of all artists here present that "mirroring God" entails a great responsibility.

It is above all a responsibility for oneself and for one's own talent. Artistic talent is a gift from God and those who discover this gift in themselves sense at the same time a certain duty: they understand that this talent cannot be wasted, but must be developed. They also realize that they do not develop it for their own satisfaction, but in order to serve with this talent their neighbour and the society in which they live. This is the second dimension of the responsibility of an artist: the responsibility to form the spirit of society and of peoples.

The third dimension of this responsibility is revealed in the perspective contained in the saying of the Greek philosopher Plato: "The power of the Good has taken refuge in the nature of the Beautiful" (Philebus, 65). When we speak of creativity, spontaneously we think of the beautiful. However, the beautiful can begin to exist only when the power of good resides in her nature. The artist, therefore, is responsible not only for the aesthetic dimension of the world and of life, but also for its moral dimension. If creativity is not guided by good, or worse still it is directed towards evil, it is not worthy of the title of "artist".

To you, dear young people who desire to live creatively, and to all you who want to help them in different ways, I place on your hearts this three-fold responsibility. Be faithful to the beautiful and to the good: this will bring you closer to God, the first Creator of the beautiful and the good, so that you are able to help others to draw from this wellspring inspiration for their spiritual growth. May God assist you!

For this creative effort I cordially bless you.




Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Mr Executive Director,

I am pleased to greet you and to express once more my deep appreciation of all that the World Food Programme does to assist those who suffer from hunger and malnutrition throughout the world.

The complexities of our modern era are such that the joint commitment and efforts of many different organizations are necessary if the nutritional needs of millions of men, women and children are to be adequately met. This is no easy task. But I am confident that, with the help and support of countless people of good will, the World Food Programme will continue to be an important instrument of solidarity and assistance in the ongoing battle against undernourishment and starvation.

I gladly assure you and all involved in this essential undertaking of my prayers. May Almighty God bless your work with success.

Speeches 2004 - Paul VI Audience Hall