Speeches 2004




Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to address my cordial thought to all of you, participants of the international Convention on "Natural Regulation of Fertility and Culture of Life", being held in Rome in these days. To all and to each one I extend my warm greetings. I express my deep appreciation to those who have organized this meeting, most especially the Study Centres for Natural Regulation of Fertility; the Faculties of Medicine and Surgery of the various Roman Universities; the Italian Ministry of Health; the Italian Institute of Social Medicine and the Office for the University Apostolate of the Rome Vicariate.

This meeting deals with relevant themes concerning the development of relations between science and ethics. The Magisterium of the Church has followed with lively interest the development of what we could call the "culture of responsible procreation", and has promoted the knowledge and diffusion of the so-called "natural" methods of fertility regulation. My venerable Predecessors, from Pius XII to Paul VI, on many occasions encouraged research in these fields, so as to offer an ever more sound scientific basis for a regulation of births that respects the person and God's design for the human couple and procreation. In these years, thanks to the contribution of countless Christian couples in many parts of the world, the natural methods have been introduced and reflected on by family groups and movements and by ecclesial associations.

2. Today, we increasingly observe a mindset that, on the one hand, draws back from responsible procreation, while on the other, it would like to dominate and manipulate life. Therefore, it is urgent to intensify effective cultural action that would overcome in this regard commonly-held opinions and misinformation, very often exaggerated by a certain type of propaganda. At the same time, careful education and formation should be provided for married and engaged couples, young people in general, as well as for social and pastoral workers, to illustrate properly all the fundamental and motivational aspects of fertility's natural regulation as well as its practical application.

Centres of study and the teaching of these methods will be invaluable in promoting responsible motherhood and fatherhood, in such a way that every person, beginning with the child, will be recognized and respected for who they are, because every choice will be based on and guided by the criterion of the sincere gift of self.

Clearly, when one speaks of "natural" regulation, respect for biological rhythm alone is not what is meant. In a much more complete way, it entails upholding the truth of the person's profound unity of spirit, psyche and body, a unity that can never be reduced to a simple set of biological mechanisms.

It is only in the context of complete and limitless reciprocal love by the married couple that the act of procreation, on which the future of humanity itself depends, can be carried out in all of its dignity.

It is right, therefore, that not only doctors and researchers be called to offer their responsible contribution to this fundamental event, but also pastoral workers and political authorities in their respective areas of competence.

3. The fact that some Faculties of Medicine have promoted the Convention allows me to stress in a special way the role doctors have in this delicate field. Here I wish to renew the expression of respect the Church has always reserved for those in the world of health care who strive to fulfil their vocation at the service of life consistently. I am especially thinking of the men and women scientists involved in the research and diffusion of natural methods of fertility regulation who, enlightened by faith, also educate people in the moral values that the practice of these methods presupposes. The role and the responsibility of Universities are decisive for the promotion of research programmes in this field, and for the formation of future professionals capable of helping young people and couples always to make conscious and responsible choices.

I hope that this meeting will be another step on this journey, offering deep insights into the theme in its many scientific, cultural, psycho-social and formative aspects. It will provide an updated report on the state of the teaching of natural methods at the international level, especially in the European Faculties of Medicine.

While assuring my spiritual closeness to each of those participating in the Convention, I wish your intense days of study a successful outcome. With these sentiments, as I invoke the special assistance of Mary Most Holy on your work, I willingly extend to all a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 28 January 2004




Saturday, 31 January 2004

Dear friends of SERMIG - Arsenal of Peace,

1. Once again I meet you with joy and warmly greet you all. Your large presence - I see in particular many young people - becomes an eloquent sign of the vitality of your Fraternity and of the will that moves you to work at the service of peace. "Arsenal of peace": this is the name of what could be known as your real home, the "forge" of your projects and activities. You want to be messengers, witnesses and tireless apostles of peace. Thank you for your youthful enthusiasm! Thank you for the hope that you represent for the Church and the world!

2. A special greeting to the Cardinals, to the Bishops and to your priests friends. I would also like to extend a cordial greeting to Mr Ernesto Olivero, who founded your well-deserving Association 40 years ago. I thank him for the kind words he has used to express your shared feelings, explaining to me the meaning of today's event. I greet the President and the actors of the "Company of Turin" theatre group and the "Voices of Hope" orchestra and choir of the Arsenal of Peace, who have put on an interesting artistic and musical performance. I greet the authorities and those who have wished to attend this important engagement.

Through you, dear brothers and sisters of SERMIG, I would like to extend my best wishes to many boys and girls who, in different nations, endeavour to lay the foundations for a "Friendly World" where no one will feel a stranger and all will cooperate in the service of justice and peace.

3. The theme of today's gathering - "Peace will win provided we dialogue" - highlights the close relationship between respect for others, dialogue and peace. In our age, characterized by a large network of exchanges between diverse cultures and religions, it becomes necessary to promote and facilitate the acceptance and reciprocal understanding between individuals and peoples. Your Fraternity is dedicated to this mission and offers a contribution, appreciated by many, toward the cause of peace. On this subject, I also congratulate you on instituting the "University of Dialogue", whose purpose is to give a voice to young persons of every nation, culture and religion, in order to construct a world where all are full members of the one human family. This dialogue must embrace every aspect of life: social, economic and religious.

4. In the Message for the recent World Day of Peace, I recalled that teaching peace is a constant duty, an urgency of our time. In the face of spreading violence, the diffusion of a hedonistic and consumerist mentality and the growth of distrust and fear, we must reaffirm vigorously that peace is possible and therefore, if it is possible, it is also a duty. You have put this conviction into practice throughout your Institute's 40 years of existence. Continue, dear friends, to go in this same direction. May the Virgin Mother of Christ accompany you. May St Francis, to whom your Fraternity is linked, protect you, along with the saint of Turin, John Bosco, whose liturgical feast day we are celebrating today, and all of your patron saints. The Pope loves you and assures you of his prayers, blessing each one of you and your numerous apostolic and missionary projects.

                                                         February 2004


Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Your Eminence,
Distinguished Father Rector,
Dear Seminarians,

I am delighted to welcome you all to the Apostolic Palace! In the context of your seminary formation, you have come on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles and the See of the Successor of Peter. May this visit strengthen your union with the universal Church!

"Come and see" (Jn 1,39). With these words, Christ invited the first disciples to follow him and to stay with him. The seminary "is called to be, in its own way, a continuation in the Church of the apostolic community gathered about Jesus" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 60).

Dear Seminarians, your friendship with Christ, Lord of your precious vocation, and your readiness to follow him in the hierarchical community of the Church must grow deeper and deeper. Seminary life is intended to help and guide you precisely in this. Every day, over and over, you must give a fundamental answer to Christ's crucial question: "Do you love me?".

Study and prayer, the regular reception of the sacrament of Penance and devout participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice are indispensable means on the path to holiness.

May the Lord, therefore, give you from this moment - and later, when you are priests - the grace to respond to his holy call with the total gift of your life. For this I cordially impart to you, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, my Apostolic Blessing.



Thursday, 5 February 2004

Distinguished Friends,

With affection I greet you, the members of the American Jewish Committee as you come to the Vatican. It is with gratitude that I recall your 1985 visit to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, which has so significantly contributed to the strengthening of Jewish-Catholic relations.

As we now approach the fortieth anniversary of this historic document, there is regrettably a great need to repeat our utter condemnation of racism and anti-semitism. Violence in the name of religion is always a desecration to religion. Countering this alarming trend requires that together we stress the importance of religious education which promotes respect and love towards others.

In these days our attention remains drawn to the Holy Land which continues to be afflicted by violence and suffering. It is my fervent prayer that a just solution will be found which respects the rights and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Upon all of you, I invoke the gift of peace. Shalom aleichem.



Friday, 6 February 2004

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am once again delighted to meet you at the end of the Plenary Session of your Congregation. In addressing my cordial greeting to each one, I would like to thank Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in particular for the sentiments he has expressed on behalf of all, and for his concise summary of the many different tasks of the Dicastery.

This biannual appointment enables me to review the salient points of your work and likewise, to point out the challenges on the horizon that engage you in the delicate task of promoting and safeguarding the truth of the Catholic faith, at the service of the Magisterium of the Successor of Peter.

In this sense, your activity's special doctrinal profile could be described as truly "pastoral" since it is part of the universal mission of the Supreme Pastor (cf. Pastor Bonus ). Its mission is primarily the unity of faith and the communion of all believers, a unity that is essential to the fulfilment of the saving mission of the Church.

The wealth of this unity should be constantly rediscovered and appropriately defended as the challenges each epoch poses arise. The contemporary cultural context, marked both by widespread relativism and the temptation of a facile pragmatism, are more than ever in need of renewed evangelizing zeal and the courageous proclamation of the truth that saves man.

2. The traditio evangelii constitutes the first and fundamental task of the Church. All her activities must be inseparable from the commitment to help everyone meet Christ in the faith. This is the reason why I am especially eager to see that the evangelizing action of the whole Church should never weaken, either before a world that still does not know Christ or before the many who are distant from him, even after and in spite of having known him.

Witness of life, of course, has primary importance in the proclamation of the Gospel. Nevertheless, it will always be inadequate "if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 22).

This clear announcement is necessary to move hearts to adhere to the Good News of salvation. Those who proclaim it are rendering an immense service to men and women seeking the light of truth.

3. The Gospel naturally requires human beings to choose to adhere to it of their own free will. However, to enable them to express this adherence, the Gospel should be offered to them since "the multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ - riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth..." (Redemptoris Missio RMi 8). Full adherence to the Catholic truth does not curtail human freedom but exalts it and urges it towards fulfilment in freely given love, overflowing with tenderness for the good of all men and women.

This love is the precious seal of the Holy Spirit who leads the way in evangelization (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 30), never ceases to move hearts at the proclamation of the Gospel and likewise opens them to accepting it. It is this horizon of love that motivates the new evangelization which I have invited the whole Church to embark on several times and would like to recall to her once again at the beginning of this third millennium.

4. Another theme that has been dealt with on various occasions is the reception of magisterial documents by Catholic faithful who are often bewildered rather than informed by the immediate reactions and interpretations of the social communications media.

In fact, the reception of a document must be regarded, apart from the media, above all as an ecclesial event that involves acceptance of the Magisterium in the most cordial communion and sharing of the Church's doctrine. Indeed, it is a matter of authoritative words that shed light on a truth of faith or on certain aspects of Catholic doctrine that may be contested or distorted by certain currents of thought and actions. Moreover, it is precisely in its doctrinal effectiveness that we discover the profoundly pastoral character of the document, whose acceptance thus becomes a favourable opportunity for formation, catechesis and evangelization.

For reception to become an authentic ecclesial event, appropriate provision should be made to transmit and disseminate the document itself, which will permit full knowledge of it first of all by the Pastors of the Church, who are principally responsible for welcoming and evaluating the Pontifical Magisterium as teaching that helps to form the Christian conscience of the faithful in the face of the challenges of the contemporary world.

5. Another important and urgent topic I would like to call to your attention is that of natural moral law. This law belongs to the great heritage of human wisdom. Revelation, with its light, has contributed to further purifying and developing it. Natural law, in itself accessible to every rational creature, points to the first essential norms that regulate moral life. On the basis of this law it is possible to construct a platform of shared values around which can be developed a constructive dialogue with all people of good will and, more generally, with secular society.

Today, as a result of the crisis of metaphysics, people in many spheres no longer recognize a truth engraved on every human heart. On the one hand, therefore, we are witnessing the spread of a fideistic morality among believers, and on the other, the lack of an objective reference point for legislation, which is often based merely on social consensus, making it more and more difficult to establish an ethical foundation common to all humanity.

My intention in the Encyclical Letters Veritatis Splendor and Fides et Ratio was to offer useful elements for rediscovering, among other things, the idea of natural moral law. Unfortunately, these teachings so far do not seem to have been accepted as widely as hoped and the complex problem deserves further study. I therefore ask you to encourage timely initiatives for the purpose of contributing to a constructive renewal of the teaching on natural moral law, seeking consensus with the representatives of the different confessions, religions and cultures.

6. Finally, I would like to mention a sensitive and timely matter. In the past two years your Congregation has witnessed a considerable increase in the number of disciplinary cases referred to it because of the competence the Dicastery possesses in ratione materiae on delicta graviora, including the delicta contra mores. The body of canonical norms that your Dicastery is called to apply with justice and equity strives to guarantee both the exercise of the right of defence of the accused and the demands of the common good. Once the offence has been proven, it is necessary in each case to assess carefully both the just principle of proportionality between fault and punishment, as well as the predominant need to protect the entire People of God.

This does not only depend on the application of canonical penal law. Its best guarantee is the correct and balanced formation of future priests who are explicitly called to embrace with joy and generosity that humble, modest and chaste lifestyle that is the practical basis of ecclesiastical celibacy. I therefore invite your Congregation to collaborate with the other Dicasteries of the Roman Curia qualified to form seminarians and the clergy, so that they may adopt the necessary measures to ensure that seminarians live a life in accordance with their vocation and their commitment to perfect and perpetual chastity for the Kingdom of God.

7. Dear friends, I thank you for the precious service that you offer to the Holy See and to the entire Church. May your work bear the fruit that we are all desiring. To this end, I assure you of a special remembrance in prayer.

May you be accompanied by my Blessing, which I cordially impart with grateful affection to you all and to your loved ones in the Lord.





To my Venerable Brother

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia
of Terni-Narni-Amelia

1. While the sixth International Meeting of Bishops and Priests, Friends of Sant'Egidio Community, is drawing to a close, I would like to convey my cordial greeting to you and to every participant.

You have come to Rome from various countries to experience moments of reflection and prayer together in an atmosphere of brotherhood, enriched by the presence of the leaders of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. You are bound to one another by your connection with the Sant'Egidio Community, an association that for 36 years has been carrying out an appreciated service of evangelization and charity in the city of Rome and in other places in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Its innumerable activities are particularly valuable at this time in history when we are conscious of the urgent need to proclaim and to witness to the Gospel of love to every people, overcoming the difficulties, obstacles and misunderstandings that today are dramatically present.

Your reflection in these days, therefore, has most appropriately focused on the theme, "The Gospel of love", recognizing in it the message of hope that must be conveyed especially to the poor, who are ever more numerous despite the widespread affluence that exists in various countries.

2. My venerable Predecessor, Bl. John XXIII, liked to say that the Church belongs to everyone but especially to the poor, echoing as it were the Gospel Beatitude: "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God" (Lc 6,20). The Kingdom of God belongs to the poor who, as several Fathers of the Church point out, can intercede for us before God. St Gregory the Great, for example, commenting on the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, writes: "Every day we can find Lazarus if we seek him, and every day we come across him even without seeking him. The poor who importune us at inappropriate times could intercede for us on the Day of Judgment.... Consider whether it is right to refuse them, since those importuning us may be our future protectors. So do not miss opportunities to act with mercy!" (Hom. in Evangelia, 40, 10: PL 76, 1309).

If, in the Book of Sirach, we read: "The prayer of a poor man goes from his lips to the ears of God, and his judgment comes speedily" (21: 5), the Gospel states clearly that on the Day of Judgment, the Lord of the universe will say to those on his right hand: "I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me" (Mt 25,35-36).

3. We fervently pray to be granted that Gospel wisdom which makes us understand the bond of love that links the poor to Jesus and to his disciples! Indeed, the divine Teacher uses the term "brother" to indicate the disciples and the poor, embracing them, as it were, in a single circle of love. Yes! For the disciple of Christ, the poor are brothers and sisters to be welcomed and loved, not strangers to whom we pay a few minutes of attention when necessary. The poor, then, are also our "masters"; they make us understand what we all are before God: beggars of love and salvation.
Venerable Brother, may love for the poor continue to be the badge that distinguishes the Sant'Egidio Community and those who desire to share its spirit. May every one be able to make himself "neighbour" to those in need and thus experience the truth of the words in the Bible: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac 20,35).

As I assure you of my prayers, I invoke upon each and every one the motherly protection of Mary, and I send you all a special Apostolic Blessing that I willingly extend to those whom each one of you meets in your daily pastoral ministry.

From the Vatican, 7 February 2004





Saturday, 7 February 2004

Mr President,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican in your capacity as the President of the Fifty-eighth General Assembly of the United Nations. As you know, the Holy See considers the United Nations Organization an indispensable means for promoting the universal common good. You have undertaken a restructuring aimed at making the Organization function more efficiently. This will not only ensure an effective superior instance for the just resolution of international problems, but also enable the United Nations to become an ever more highly respected moral authority for the international community. It is my hope that the Member States will consider such a reform "a clear moral and political obligation which calls for prudence and determination" (Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 7), and a necessary prerequisite for the growth of an international order at the service of the whole human family. I offer prayerful good wishes for your own efforts on behalf of this goal and I willingly invoke upon you and your associates the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.




Saturday, 7 February 2004

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I greet you with joy, Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Lyons and Clermont, at the end of your ad limina visit. Praying together at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul is always an important moment of spiritual replenishment; it revives in us an awareness of the irreplaceable value of Christian witness, sometimes even to the point of martyrdom, and of the apostolic roots of our faith. It is also a time of fraternal sharing and work that strengthens our sense of Church, thanks to the meetings with the Successor of Peter, who guarantees ecclesial communion, and with the different Dicasteries. I would like to welcome in particular the many new Bishops in your group, and I cordially thank Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyons and Primate of the Gauls who has presented to me on your behalf the two regions and some of your pastoral concerns. You describe a situation that is often difficult due to the lack of pastors and the secular attitude while your Dioceses are striving courageously to prepare for the future.

2. Today I would like to reflect with you on the life of the diocesan Church. Since the previous ad limina visits of the Bishops of France in 1997, many Dioceses have thought seriously about the life and role of the parishes. This became necessary due to demographic development and growing urbanization, as well as to the shortage of priests, whose scarcity will be felt even more in the years to come. In many Dioceses, this work is carried out in the context of a diocesan synod; in others, what might be called a "synodal process" has been started, in all cases seeking the broad involvement of Pastors and faithful to review the parish's place in the life of the Church, including its future prospects. In most cases, the Bishop subsequently decided to re-organize the pastoral structure of his whole Diocese, either by creating new, fewer and better parishes, or by regrouping the existing ones into more consistent groups to serve better the needs of evangelization.

3. This pastoral reflection, far from being confined to the administrative reform and to the parish boundaries, has made possible a real process of continuing formation and catechesis with the faithful, enabling them to take on with greater awareness the riches of parish life; in other words, the three important missions of the Church: the prophetic mission, marked by the responsibility to proclaim the Good News of salvation to all, which the Lord himself entrusted to the Church; the priestly mission, which consists in sharing in the one priesthood of Christ through the celebration of the divine mysteries; and lastly, the royal mission, which is expressed in service to all in the manner of Jesus Christ.

Thus, the faithful have been able to evaluate together the way in which parishes has been carrying out their tasks, learning to coordinate them and acquiring a better grasp of what creates unity.

Indeed, it is essential for the faithful to realize that children's catechesis, the life of prayer and serving the sick are not simply activities entrusted to "specialists" or volunteers, but are fundamental to the Christian mission and consequently, to the common good, as St Paul so aptly put it when comparing the Church the to the body (cf. 1Co 12,12-28). Every Ecclesial Community, and particularly the parish that is the basic cell of diocesan Church life, must proclaim the Gospel, celebrate the worship that is due to God and serve as Christ did.

It is also important to ensure that the parish community expresses the diversity of its members and the variety of their charisms, and be open to the life of associations or movements. It will then become a living expression of ecclesial communion that puts the possessions of each one at the service of all (cf. Acts Ac 4,32), and never withdraws into itself. Thus, the faithful will show their interest in parochial communion and will feel that they belong to the Diocese as well as to the whole Church (cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 529 CIC 2).

4. For the faithful to become aware of the true identity of the parish, which is not merely a geographical territory or an administrative division but rather a fundamental Ecclesial Community, implies rediscovering the real identity of the Diocese. Nor is the Diocese merely an administrative district; it is first and foremost the expression of an ecclesial reality: the Diocesan Church, "a section of the People of God entrusted to a Bishop to be guided by him with the assistance of his clergy" (cf. Christus Dominus CD 11). Consequently, the Diocese is a living entity, a human and spiritual reality, a family of communities made up of the parishes and other ecclesial initiatives in the area.
I would like to stress the importance of this rediscovery of the Church's true nature. She is neither an administration nor an enterprise, but is primarily the expression of a spiritual reality made up of men and women, called by God's grace to become sons and daughters of God, who have entered into a new brotherhood through Baptism which has incorporated them into Christ.

5. Rediscovery of the sacramental nature of the Church, which is also a "mission on behalf of communion" (Christifideles Laici CL 32) must therefore be expressed in a new dynamic that is totally geared to evangelization. Your Dioceses have understood this well by choosing a missionary topic for their synodal reflection, such as the pastoral reorganization of the Diocese, the evangelization of young people or the pastoral approach to the sacraments. Concentrating everyone's energy on achieving this goal will make it easier to identify the concrete pastoral priorities and to implement them in the area with the help of all pastoral workers. Likewise, working together over a long period on the critical issue of the future of the Christian community enables priests and lay people to understand one another more deeply, to appreciate the implications and specific role of each of them in the life of the Church and to perceive more clearly that ecclesial communion favours respect for differences and their complementarities, as well as their common service to Christ and to our brethren in the one faith.

I rejoice with you in the diocesan meetings you have been able to organize, especially the youth gatherings to which, with the whole diocesan Church, you pay special attention. They make it possible to perceive more clearly the meaning of Church-communion, since individuals from different groups, different places and with different sensibilities are called to meet one another in order to journey forward together, exactly as the meaning of the word "synod" demonstrates. I ardently hope for an ever more intense unity and adherence to the Pastors responsible for leading the flock. In this regard, I know that you take care to welcome those groups and priests whose outlook is more traditional, and you will certainly be able to develop this. It is also the task of the members of more traditional communities to be open to the realities and sensibilities of the local Churches and to take a more and more active part in diocesan life, in accordance with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Like all their brother priests, the priests of these communities have a specific pastoral role to play among the faithful by their example of real filial communion with the Bishop and the universal Church, and by being ready to respond to the call of mission.

To be faithful to the meaning of mission is vital for the Church and the expression of "her deepest identity" (cf. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 14). Obviously, remodelling our Churches' pastoral tools requires more than adapting the size of the parish territory. It is also necessary to be open to other dimensions, paying heed above all to the new social phenomena and to all the "modern equivalents of the Areopagus" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 37). To achieve this, some Dioceses have decided to combine their apostolic forces by putting priests available for this mission at the service of the Dioceses with the fewest priests. I am pleased with this initiative and hope that it will be copied elsewhere, possibly in different forms and perhaps in the context of the new Provinces or wherever the acute disparity of means risks penalizing certain Dioceses. May all priests who receive such requests make themselves available!

6. In your reports, you express the importance you attach to the solemn celebration of the liturgy in the Cathedral Church around the Bishop and his priests and with many of the faithful on several occasions throughout the year, such as the Chrism Mass or at the time of Ordinations. The liturgy thus becomes the "principal manifestation of the Church" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 41), in which all the People of God gather in the place that represents the visible communion of the diocesan Church; they acquire a deeper awareness of her identity, rediscovering her sacramental source that is Christ the Lord, the Word made flesh, whose Spirit acts through the ministry of Pastors and in the first place of the Bishop. The ecclesial Body thereby shows the diversity of its members and at the same time the bonds that they have with one another and with the Bishop, the servant of communion among them all.

The assurance that Christian life is rooted in the Eucharistic mystery, "source and summit of the life of the Church", according to the beautiful description of the Council Fathers (cf. ibid., n. 10), brings more and more of the faithful to work actively with the ordained ministers in the preparation and celebration of the liturgy, to highlight the beauty of Christian worship that is ordered "for the glory of God and the salvation of the world", as the liturgy of Mass says.

7. To serve as Christ served is the royal mission of every baptized person and every Ecclesial Community which the Diocese must therefore express in practice. In a certain way, the ministry of permanent deacons honours this duty. Indeed, many deacons receive a mission that has something to do with the exercise of charity, when given the responsibility of chaplaincies in the world of health care or of prisons, or at the service of charitable institutions. However, it is the lay faithful who play the principal role in this ecclesial mission of service through their daily witness to the Gospel at work and in their various duties in the world. In political and social life, in the many spheres of economic activity and in cultural action, they toil in the heart of society to promote relations between people that respect and honour the dignity of every person in all his or her dimensions. They also express their sense of justice and solidarity with the least privileged at local, national and international levels, especially by supporting missionary works. French Catholics also have a long missionary tradition. Despite the current forms of poverty, may they not forget the countries to which their predecessors took the Gospel! To be engaged in the foreign mission, far from impoverishing a parish or Diocese, will give it in return the new strength that comes from the sharing of gifts.

8. At the end of our meeting at which I have dealt with the situations that constitute your daily work and fill your prayers as Pastors, I cannot forget all your collaborators. I am thinking first of all of the Vicars General, more directly associated with the exercise of your ministry and who daily travel over the roads of the Dioceses to meet the needs of parishes, their Pastors and their faithful; and of the Episcopal Vicars who also work to bring the pastoral action of the Bishop closer to everyone. I am also thinking of the people who work in the Diocesan Curia at the service of the diocesan community, helping to administer its assets and to improve the exercise of solidarity with a more just and efficient sharing of resources, or again, to inform on matters of justice. Many Dioceses have recently opened a "diocesan house" for movements and services to improve the collaboration between them and simply to enable people to meet, which the media - that is, the diocesan radio and press - do as well. Through you, dear Brother Bishops, I would like to encourage all who work in these diocesan institutions and are thus carrying out a service to the Church, whose missionary dimension escapes no one. May they receive warm thanks!

On your return to your Dioceses to take up the service the Lord has entrusted to you with courage and spiritual determination, be sure to tell all the baptized of the Pope's support and encouragement! May all the faithful make a point of sharing fully in the life of their respective Dioceses. They will thereby build bonds of communion with one another, without forgetting to be open to the other Churches and to constantly foster their attachment to the universal Church by praying also for the Pope and the fulfilment of his ministry! As the Successor of Peter, I have received the special mission to strengthen my brethren in the faith (cf. Lk Lc 22,32) and to serve communion among all the Bishops and faithful. Pleased once again to put my ministry at your service, entrusting you to the motherly intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wholeheartedly impart to you and to all your faithful an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2004