Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 7 February 2004



Monday, 9 February 2004

Dear Sisters,

1. Your visit today gives me great joy and I gladly welcome you at the end of the Ninth General Chapter of your Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget. Your Sisters who are working in various countries of the world are gathered here with you in spirit around the Successor of Peter. I send my most cordial greeting to each and every one.

In a special way I affectionately greet the General Abbess, Mother Tekla Famiglietti, who has been re-elected for an additional six-years term. In thanking her for the sentiments she has expressed to me, I offer to her as well as to the new General Council my very best wishes for fruitful work at the service of the praiseworthy Brigittine Family, which has grown in recent years and has been enriched by new institutions and activities. I thank God with you for this comforting apostolic development and for the promising growth of vocations.

2. "Returning to the roots... for a renewal of religious life": this is the theme on which you have chosen to reflect at your Chapter Meeting. You place yourselves in an atmosphere of silence and prayer to listen to the Holy Spirit in order to discern the priorities of your Order in this age of ours. Every authentic renewal requires a wise recovery of its original spirit so as to express the founding charism in apostolic choices in tune with the needs of the times. Therefore, faithful to the particular monastic vocation that marks the Brigittine Family, you have taken pains to reaffirm the absolute primacy that God must occupy in the lives of each one of you and in your communities. You are called first of all to be "specialists of the spirit", souls on fire with divine love, contemplatives ceaselessly dedicated to prayer.

3. Only if you are "specialists of the spirit", like St Bridget, will you be able to embody in our age the charism of Gospel radicalness and unity inherited from Bl. Elizabeth Hesselblad. Through the hospitality and welcome that you offer in your houses you will be able to witness to God's merciful love for every person and to the yearning for unity that Christ bequeathed to his disciples.

In my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, I wrote that the great challenge of the third millennium was to "make the Church the home and school of communion", and that to this end it is necessary to "promote a spirituality of communion" (cf. n. 43). I ask you, dear Sisters, to be tireless builders of the "great ecumenism of holiness". Your ecumenical activity is particularly appreciated because it is accomplished in countries in Northern Europe where fewer Catholics are present, and because the encouragement of dialogue with our brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations is important.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, watch over your Order and may St Bridget and Bl. Elizabeth Hesselblad intercede for you. I accompany you with daily remembrance before the Lord, as I cordially bless you and all your communities.




Wednesday, 11 February 2004

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Once again St Peter's Basilica has opened wide its doors to the sick: to you who are present here, and in spirit to the sick across the world. I greet you with deep affection, dear friends. From this morning, my prayers have been dedicated especially to you and I am now delighted to meet you. With you, I greet your relatives, friends and the volunteers who have accompanied you. I greet the members of National Italian Union for Transporting the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines (UNITALSI), as well as the directors and operators of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi that is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. In particular, I greet and thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini who has presided at Holy Mass, the concelebrating Bishops and priests, the men and women religious and all the faithful present.

2. Twenty years ago on the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, I published the Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris on the Christian meaning of human suffering. At the time, I chose that date thinking of the special message that the Virgin addresses from Lourdes to the sick and to all the suffering.

Today too, our gaze turns to the venerable image of Mary which stands in the grotto of Massabielle. At its base are the words: "I am the Immaculate Conception". These words have a special resonance this year, here in the Vatican Basilica where 150 years ago Bl. Pope Pius X solemnly proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. And it is precisely the Immaculate Conception, a truth that introduces us into the heart of the mystery of Creation and of the Redemption, that inspired my Message for today's World Day of the Sick.

3. In looking at Mary our hearts are opened to hope, for in her we see the great things God accomplishes when we render ourselves humbly available to doing his will. The Immaculate Virgin is a marvellous sign of the victory of life over death, of love over sin, of salvation over every physical and spiritual ailment. She is a sign of comfort and never-failing hope (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 68). What we admire already fulfilled in her is a pledge of what God wants to give to every human creature: fullness of life, joy and peace.

May contemplation of this ineffable mystery comfort you, dear sick people; may it illumine your work, dear doctors, nurses and health-care workers; and may it sustain your precious activities, dear volunteers who are called to recognize and serve Jesus in every needy person. May Our Lady of Lourdes watch over everyone as Mother. Thank you for the prayers and sacrifices that you also generously offer for me! I assure you of my constant remembrance, and affectionately bless you all.



Thursday, 12 February 2004

Mr President,

I receive you with pleasure on this visit you have wished to pay me, renewing to me the demonstration of affection and esteem for the Pope that is a feature of Colombians. I am delighted with the collaboration that exists between the Church and your Country's Authorities. Colombia is very present in my mind and in my prayers; I pray that its people may journey on towards true social peace without giving in to discouragement, rejecting any form of violence and conceiving new forms of coexistence for the safe, firm progress of justice, fostering unity, brotherhood and respect for each person on a vast scale, reaching to every corner of the Nation.

It is time to lay firm foundations for the moral and material reconstruction of your national community, to rebuild a just, supportive, responsible and peaceful society.

I am grateful to you for your visit and renew my good wishes for the spiritual and material progress of the Colombians, for their coexistence in harmony and freedom, as I ask the Most High to pour out every kind of Blessing on the beloved sons and daughters of Colombia, the families, the Ecclesial Communities, the various public institutions and on those who govern them. Entrusting these hopes to the motherly intercession of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, Queen of Colombia, I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.



Thursday, 12 February 2004

Mr Prime Minister,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican. Your presence brings back vivid memories of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during which I prayed fervently for peace and justice in the region. While signs of hope have not been altogether absent, unfortunately the sad situation in the Holy Land is a cause of suffering for all.

No one must yield to the temptation of discouragement, let alone to hatred or retaliation. It is reconciliation that the Holy Land needs: forgiveness not revenge, bridges not walls. This demands that all leaders of the region follow, with the help of the international community, the path of dialogue and negotiation which leads to lasting peace. Upon you and your people I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.




Thursday 12 February 2004

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today to the Vatican. Your presence here is a sign of the cooperation that, for more than fifty years now, has marked the official relations between the Holy See and your country. I am confident that this spirit of collaboration will continue to grow ever stronger as we address issues of mutual concern to us.

Not least in this regard is the ongoing commitment to safeguard the inalienable rights and dignity of the human person, especially in efforts aimed at promoting greater understanding among peoples of different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Mr Minister, I assure you of my good wishes for your stay in Rome and I invoke upon you the blessings of Almighty God.




Friday, 13 February 2004

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. At the end of your ad limina visit, I welcome you with joy, Pastors of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bordeaux and Poitiers. In coming on pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Apostles Peter and Paul, you have entrusted the faithful of your Dioceses to them, asking for their intercession to support your mission to teach, govern and sanctify the people in your charge. I thank Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Bordeaux, President of the Bishops' Conference of France, for presenting to me the hopes of your diocesan Churches. I hope that your stay in Rome will strengthen you in your ministry and help to imbue the missionary outreach of your communities with fresh zeal. You have just mentioned the attention that the Bishops of France pay to the youth apostolate. Indeed, the Bishop is asked to be "particularly concerned for the evangelization and spiritual accompaniment of young people. A minister of hope can hardly fail to build the future together with those to whom the future is entrusted, that is, with young people" (Pastores Gregis ).

2. In your quinquennial reports, you recall the complex, difficult environment in which young people live. The new information technology influences their cultural universe and has a strong impact on their relationship with the world, with time and with others, and shapes their behaviour. This creates a culture of the immediate and the transitory that does not always favour a deeper approach, interior growth or moral discernment. Yet the use of these new means of communication is of undeniable interest. Moreover, your Conference and many Dioceses have identified clearly the positive aspects of this change, suggesting especially to young people those Internet sites on which they can find information and learn and discover the different proposals of the Church. I cannot but encourage the development of these means to serve the Gospel and to foster dialogue and communication.

Society is marked by numerous inconsistencies that render young people particularly fragile: broken families, families reconstituted with different siblings, a rupture in social relations. How can we fail to think of those children and young people who suffer deeply from the break-up of their nuclear family or who are in unstable situations that often make them feel as if society rejects them? Likewise, the evolution of attitudes continues to be a cause of worry: an exacerbated subjectivity; an excessive distancing from customs that give young people the idea that any form of conduct is right because it is possible; a serious deterioration of moral awareness that leads to the conviction that objective good and evil no longer exist. You also mention social violence that gives rise to serious tensions, especially in certain urban or suburban neighbourhoods, as well as the increase in suicidal tendencies and the use of drugs. Lastly, the growth of unemployment worries young people.

They sometimes give the impression that they have entered adult life too soon because of their knowledge and behaviour and of not having had the time for physical, intellectual, emotional and moral development, the stages of which are not concomitant. The multiplicity of messages and models of life conveyed by society easily confuses young people's perception and practice of moral and spiritual values, to the point of jeopardizing a well-knit identity, control of their emotions and the development of their personality. These are the many phenomena that endanger the growth of young people and the friendly co-existence between individuals and generations.

3. As Pastors, you must be abreast of these situations, aware of the generosity of young people who readily offer to work for just causes and who are eager to find happiness. These qualities are a pastoral potential that the Church must take into account in her youth programmes, and it is the Church's vocation to contribute to the full development of the young. French Christian communities are the heir to great figures in the world of education: priests, men and women religious and lay people who succeeded in introducing appropriate teaching methods in their time. I ask you, despite your scant means, to spare no effort in the field of education. In particular, I appeal to the religious communities with this charism not to desert the world of school or extracurricular education, as it is the place par excellence to attract young people, proclaiming the Gospel to them to prepare the future of the Church. I invite youth movements, although they are few, to persevere with their activity, never forgetting that all education is long term. Today I ask them to make novel suggestions for young people, to offer them the specific places, means and guidance within their Diocese and parish, their chaplaincies, movements or services, that will foster their human and spiritual growth. It is up to Christian communities to lead young people to Christ and friendship with him, so that they may live of his life and build an ever more fraternal society. The social aspect must not lead one to forget the goal of pastoral care: to lead young people to Christ.

4. Young people tend to form groups where they are recognized and loved. No child can live or be formed without love and the kindly watchfulness of adults; this is actually the mission of education. I therefore ask diocesan communities to pay ever greater attention to the places of education; first of all, the family, which it is right to support and help, especially in parent-child relationships and particularly during adolescence. The presence of adults other than parents is often beneficial.

Likewise, school is a privileged place for a fraternal and peaceful life where each person is accepted for who he is, with respect for his values and personal and family beliefs. I encourage Catholic schools to be communities where Christian values are part of the educational programme and training, where the teaching of the Magisterium is passed on to young people through catechesis adapted to their various age-groups at school. The presence of non-Catholic children must not be an obstacle to this process. I also hail the mission of the school and university chaplaincies. Even if their members are few, may those who guide them always remember that in one way or another young people pass on what they learn to their peers! It is important to plan the pastoral care of young people both at important times - spending time with them is of capital importance in the education of youth - and in the context of regular activities, so that the religious outlook is part of their development and of their life.

Your reports and diocesan bulletins demonstrate that the World Youth Day in Paris, which I remember with emotion, is still continuing to bear fruit among the young. It is important to remind them to live their relationship with Christ faithfully, and to realize that the life of faith and sacramental practice has nothing to do with purely transitory wishes and is not merely one activity among the many in life. I hope that teachers will help them to discern their priorities, for it is impossible to truly know Christ without making an effort to meet him and have regular encounters with him. We should also rely heavily on young people to evangelize other young people, to attract their friends. In these contexts they have resources which it is right to use well.

5. The pastoral care of young people demands perseverance, attention and creativity on the part of those who accompany them. Do not hesitate to designate for this highly-qualified priests who have a sound formation and a solid spiritual and moral life in order to guide young people, pass Christian teaching on to them and share with them times of brotherhood and leisure activities so that they may become missionaries. I hope that your Dioceses will do their best to achieve this despite the difficult period through which you are going. May adults provide young people with the concrete means to meet one another in order to live and deepen their faith, training them to study and meditate on the Word of God and have recourse to personal prayer, while also calling them to conform themselves ever more closely to Christ. It is also right to help them question their life and their plan for life so that they make themselves available to the Lord's call to a special vocation in the Church: the priesthood, the diaconate or the consecrated life. Parents and educators should not be afraid to ask young people whether they might have a vocation to the priestly or religious life.

This is in no way an obstacle to freedom of choice but on the contrary, it is an invitation to reflect on their future "to make their life an "I love you'", as I recalled during my Visit to Lyons in 1986. It is the task of all who work in youth ministry to help them have a faith that allows them to measure themselves critically against contemporary culture by developing a healthy discernment of questions that concern society.

You recall with concern the fractures in the world of youth and the precarious situations that confront them and are sometimes an incentive for self-assertion, violence or destructive conduct.

Following in Christ's footsteps, the Church seeks to be close to young people injured by life for whom the Lord has a special love. I greet and encourage the work of the people in the movements, services and the world of charity who encourage creativity in charity, making themselves close to the alienated and the suffering, enabling them to recover a taste for life. May they reveal the face of Christ, who loves every human being, whatever his direction or frailties!

6. I would also like to draw your attention to the support you should give to young people preparing for marriage. They have frequently known much suffering in their families and sometimes have repeated experiences of it. Society abounds with various types of relationships, devoid of anthropological or moral qualifications. For her part, the Church wishes to propose the path of progress in a loving relationship that passes through the engagement period and proposes the ideal of chastity; she recalls that marriage between a man and a woman as well as the family are founded first of all on a strong relationship and a definitive commitment, and not only on the purely emotional aspect which cannot constitute the sole basis of married life. Pastors and Christian couples should not be afraid to help young people reflect on these sensitive and essential matters through catecheses and lively, appropriate dialogue, making the depth and beauty of human love shine forth!

7. The Church has an original word to add in the discussions on education, on the social phenomena and especially on issues concerning the emotions and the moral and spiritual values. Formation cannot consist only in technical and scientific training; it aims principally at an education of the whole being. I greet the priests, deacons, men and women religious and lay people who have this noble desire to guide young people. I know that their task is arduous and at times unproductive since the results do not always seem to measure up to the effort expended; may they not be disheartened, for no one knows the secret of young hearts! "If Christ is presented to young people as he really is, they experience him as an answer that is convincing and they can accept his message, even when it is demanding" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 9).

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, at the end of our meeting I give thanks with you for the work of the Spirit in the hearts of young people. They ask the Church to accompany them; they deeply aspire to live a demanding and true ideal despite the often confused points of reference the contemporary world offers them. It is up to you to lead them to Christ and to point out the path of holiness so that they can play an ever more active part in the life of the Church and society. I encourage the Christian communities of your Dioceses to give them their proper place, to listen to the questions they ask and to give them truthful answers. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, whose feast we have just celebrated, I willingly grant an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you and all the members of your diocesan communities, especially the young people to whom I ask you to convey this message: the Pope is counting on them.


Saturday, 14 February 2004

Venerable Brothers,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. It is a joy to receive you and I address my most cordial welcome to you all. I first greet and thank the Bishops of the Slovak Bishops' Conference who have organized this national pilgrimage. I greet in particular Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec and Cardinal Jozef Tomko, as well as Bishop Frantisek Tondra whom I thank for his courteous words conveying the sentiments of all. I express my deep gratitude to the President of the Republic for his presence and his warm greeting.

2. During my Pontificate, divine Providence has granted me to visit Slovakia three times: in 1990, shortly after the fall of the Communist regime; in 1995; and last year, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic and the creation of the Slovak Bishops' Conference.

Today you have come to reciprocate the Visit I was able to pay you five months ago of which I treasure vivid memories. You planned your stay in Rome to coincide with the Feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius, Patrons of Slovakia and Co-Patrons of Europe. This happy liturgical context makes it possible to highlight the ancient bonds of communion that bind the Church in your Country to the Bishop of Rome. At the same time, the witness of these two great Apostles to the Slavs is a strong appeal to rediscover the roots of your people's European identity, roots you share with the other nations of the Continent.

3. I have the joy of welcoming you to St Peter's tomb. You have come here to strengthen the profession of the faith that is your people's most precious and imperishable heritage.

I ask you to keep this faith whole, indeed, to nourish it with prayer, an appropriate catechesis and continuing formation. It should not be hidden but proclaimed and witnessed to with courage and a consistent ecumenical and missionary balance. This is what the Brothers Cyril and Methodius teach as founders of the long line of saints who sprang up in the course of your history. Firmly anchored to the Cross of Christ, they put into practice what the divine Teacher preached to his disciples from the outset: "You are the salt of the earth.... You are the light of the world" (Mt 5,13).

4. For you, being "salt" and "light" means making the Gospel truth shine out in the personal and community decisions you make every day. It means keeping intact the spiritual heritage of Sts Cyril and Methodius, opposing the widespread tendency to conform to similar or standardized models.

Slovakia and Europe are being enriched with many cultural contributions in the third millennium, but it would be most harmful to forget that Christianity made a crucial contribution to the formation of the Continent. Dear Slovakians, make your own important contribution by interpreting those human and spiritual values that have given your history meaning. It is indispensable that these ideals which you have lived consistently continue to guide a free and supportive Europe that can harmonize its different cultural and religious traditions.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, as I once again express to you my gratitude for your visit, in taking my leave may I entrust to you Christ's invitation to Simon Peter: "Duc in altum - Put out into the deep" (Lc 5,4). I hear this exhortation constantly echoing in my soul. This morning I address it to you.

5. Pilgrim People of God in Slovakia, put out into the deep and sail on, across the ocean of this new millennium, fixing your gaze on Christ. May Mary, Virgin Mother of the Redeemer, be the Star that guides you on your voyage. May your revered Patrons, Sts Cyril and Methodius, protect you, together with numerous heroes of the faith, some of whom paid for fidelity to the Gospel with their blood.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your loved ones and to the entire Slovak People.


Tuesday, 17 February 2004

Your Excellency,
Rector Magnificent,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most grateful to you for your kindness in paying me a visit at the Vatican and in conferring upon me the title of Doctor honoris causa of your University. This act has a special eloquence for me, given that it coincides with the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Opole. It is now almost 10 years since the historic unification of the School for Advanced Pedagogical Studies in Education and the Institute of Pastoral Theology, which started the University of Opole.

When I consented to the establishment of that Faculty and its incorporation into the structures of a State University, I was aware that the creation of that Athenaeum was very important for the Opole region. I am pleased that during this decade the University has been developing and is becoming a dynamic research centre where thousands of young people can acquire knowledge and wisdom.

I thank God for the fact that the University, as the Archbishop said, cooperates with the Church in the work of social integration in the Opole area. I know that she is doing so in her own way. If the Church encourages processes of unification based on the common faith, the common spiritual and moral values, on the hope and love that are able to forgive, the University, for its part, has its own especially valuable means for this purpose; although they stem from the same root they have a different character - one might even say, a more universal character. Since these means are based on the deepening of the cultural heritage and the treasure of national and universal knowledge, as well as on the development of the various branches of science, they are accessible not only to those who share the same faith but also to those with other convictions. This is important. Indeed, if we speak of social integration, we cannot by this mean cancelling differences, unifying the way of thinking or forgetting history, often marked by events that created divisions. By social integration we mean a persevering search for those values common to human beings who have different backgrounds, a different history and consequently, their own view of the world and specific references to the society in which they happen to live.

The University, by creating possibilities for the development of the humanities, can help in a purification of memory that does not forget wrongs and sins but makes it possible to forgive and to seek forgiveness, and subsequently, to open minds and hearts to truth, goodness and beauty, values that constitute the common treasure and should be harmoniously cultivated and developed. The different branches of knowledge can also promote unification. It even seems that thanks to the fact they are free from philosophical and especially ideological premises, they can approach this task more directly. Yes, they may demonstrate differences with reference to the ethical assessment of research, and we cannot disregard them. However, if researchers recognize the principles of truth and the common good, they will not refuse to collaborate in order to learn about the world on the basis of the same sources, similar methods and a common goal: dominion over the earth in accordance with the Creator's recommendation (cf. Gn Gn 1,28).

Today much is said about Europe's Christian roots. If cathedrals, artwork, music and literature are signs of them, in a certain sense they are eloquent in silence. Universities, on the other hand, can speak about them aloud. They can speak in the language of today, comprehensible to everyone.

Yes, their voices might not be heard by those who are deafened by the ideology of the secularization of our Continent, but this does not dispense academics, faithful to historical truth, from the task of bearing witness through a sound examination of the secrets of knowledge and wisdom that have flourished in the fertile soil of Christianity.

Ut ager quamvis fertilis sine cultura fructuosus esse non potest, sic sine doctrina animus (Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, II, 4). Just as a field, even if it is fertile, cannot bear fruit without cultivation, so also a spirit without culture. I quote Cicero's words to express my gratitude for that "cultivation of the spirit" which the University of Opole has been implementing for 10 years.

I hope that this great work may be carried on for the good of the Opole region, Poland and Europe. May the collaboration of all the faculties of your Athenaeum, including the Faculty of Theology, serve all who desire to develop their humanity on the basis of the most noble spiritual values.

I bless everyone present from the heart for this endeavour, all the professors and students of the University of Opole, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.




Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am pleased to send you my cordial greeting on the occasion of the annual meeting of the Bishops Friends of the Focolare Movement, which is an appropriate time to reflect together on the spirituality of Mary's work.

I deeply appreciated the fact that for this meeting you decided to reflect upon and discuss the theme of holiness as a primary requirement to be proposed to all the members of the People of God. The Second Vatican Council recalled that holiness is the vocation of every baptized person. I stressed this same truth in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Indeed, only a Christian community that is shining with holiness can effectively carry out the mission that Christ has entrusted to it: to spread the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.

"For the sanctity of people": this specification puts the accent precisely on the universal character of the Church's vocation to holiness, a truth that is one of the pillars of Lumen Gentium, the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council. Two general aspects should be appropriately emphasized. First of all is the fact that the Church is profoundly holy and is called to live and express this holiness in each of her members. Secondly, the phrase "sanctity of people" suggests ordinary life, that is, the need for all the baptized to be able to live the Gospel consistently in their daily lives: in the family, at work, in every relationship and occupation. It is precisely in the ordinary that one must live the extraordinary, so that the "standard" of living is directed "high", that is, "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", as the Apostle Paul teaches (cf. Eph Ep 4,13).

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, for whom I know you have a filial devotion, be the sublime model that always inspires you. She epitomizes the holiness of the People of God, for in her the perfection of the Christian vocation shines out in deepest humility. I entrust each one of you to her motherly protection, dear and venerable Brothers, as I wish you every good for your Convention and cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.

Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 7 February 2004