Speeches 2004 - Tuesday, 24 February 2004

You must not succumb to the claims of those who, hiding behind an erroneous conception of the principle of the separation of Church and State and of the lay character of the State, seek to reduce religion to the merely private sphere of the individual and refuse to recognize the Church's right to teach her doctrine and pronounce on moral issues which affect the social order, when the fundamental rights of the person or the spiritual good of the faithful so require. In this regard, I would like to draw attention to the courageous commitment of the Pastors of the Church in Mexico in defence of life and the family.

The noble aspiration to an increasingly modern, prosperous and developed Mexico demands an effort on the part of all to build a democratic culture and consolidate the State of rights. In this regard, the Mexican Bishops, motivated by an attitude of diligent collaboration, recently launched a pressing appeal for national unity and dialogue between the leaders responsible for civil society. They pointed out that "private interests must be set aside and initiatives of reform must be proposed, on the basis of common points, which lead to the achievement of the general well-being of the population" (Mexican Bishops' Conference, Building the Mexican Nation task for all, 10 December 2003).

The widespread, painful problem of poverty, with its serious consequences for the family, education, health and housing, is a pressing challenge for Government and political Authorities responsible for public life. There is no doubt that its eradication will require technical and political measures aimed at ensuring that economic activities and production take into account the common good, and especially the most deprived groups. It should not be forgotten, however, that all these measures will prove futile unless they are motivated by authentic ethical values. Furthermore, I would like to encourage the efforts made by your Government and other Mexican public Authorities to foster solidarity among everyone, avoiding evils that derive from a system that puts gain before the person and unjustly victimizes the individual. A model of development that does not tackle social imbalances with determination cannot prosper in the future.

The indigenous peoples need special attention. They are very numerous in Mexico and are sometimes relegated to oblivion. When I canonized the Indian, Juan Diego in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I had the opportunity to point out that "the noble task of building a better Mexico, with greater justice and solidarity, demands the cooperation of all. In particular, it is necessary today to support the indigenous peoples in their legitimate aspirations, respecting and defending the authentic values of each ethnic group. Mexico needs its indigenous peoples and these peoples need Mexico!" (Homily at Canonization of St Juan Diego, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico, 31 July 2002, n. 4; ORE, 7/14 August 2002, p. 8).

Another concern of the Church and society in Mexico is the high rate of Mexicans emigrating to other countries, especially to the United States. In addition to the uncertainty of those Mexicans who leave in search of a better life is the problem of their cultural uprooting and painful dispersion or separation from their family, not to mention the regrettable consequences of numerous illegal cases.

To stem the well-known "efecto llamada" (call effect, when immigrants who have settled in a country encourage relatives to join), which gives rise to a constant flow of immigrants that is contained by means of severe restrictions, the Church recalls that the methods developed in the host countries must be accompanied by close attention in the immigrant's country of origin, which is where the idea of emigrating begins. Therefore, the causes that drive many citizens to feel obliged to leave their homeland must first be detected and remedied. On the other hand, Mexican residents abroad must not feel forgotten by their Country's Authorities, who are called to provide care and services which will help them to keep in touch with their Country and their roots. I would also like to stress the importance of the meetings of Bishops of the frontier Dioceses of Mexico and the United States. They are jointly seeking ways to improve the situation of the immigrant population, since parishes and other Catholic institutions constitute the principal reference point with which they can identify on arrival in a foreign country.

Mr Ambassador, to conclude this meeting, I repeat my very best wishes to you for the fulfilment of the lofty mission that is beginning today. As I look forward with heartfelt anticipation to the celebration of the 58th International Eucharistic Congress that will take place next October in Guadalajara and in which thousands of faithful from many countries across the world will be participating, I ask you to convey my sentiments and hopes to the President and Authorities of Mexico. I invoke an abundance of divine graces upon you, upon your distinguished family and collaborators and upon all the sons and daughters of the beloved Mexican Nation, maternally protected beneath the starry mantle of the "Dark Virgin" of Tepeyac, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of Mexico and Empress of Latin America.




To my Venerable Brother in the Episcopate
Archbishop Geraldo Majella Agnelo of São Salvador
President of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops and Primate of Brazil

On the occasion of the Brotherhood Campaign that the National Bishops' Conference of Brazil has been promoting for 40 years, I would like to express my pleasure at this opportunity to speak to all the faithful united in Christ, with the renewed hope of conversion and reconciliation that Lent inspires in us in preparation for Easter. It is a season in which every Christian is especially invited to reflect on the various social situations among the Brazilian people that require greater brotherhood. This year the theme chosen is: "Water, a source of life".

As everyone knows, water is immensely important for the earth: without this precious element, it would rapidly become an arid desert, a place of hunger and thirst where people, animals and plants would be condemned to death. In addition to being a condition for life on earth, water also has the power to cleanse and purify, washing away impurities. For this very reason, in the Sacred Scriptures water is considered the symbol of moral purification: God "washes" away all the sinner's wickedness (cf. Ps Ps 50,4). At the Last Supper, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples; and in response to Peter's protests, Jesus says: "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me" (Jn 13,8).

It is in Christian Baptism, however, that water acquires its full spiritual significance as a source of supernatural life, as Christ himself proclaims in the Gospel: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (Jn 3,5).

Baptism is therefore established as the way to life with God. The neophyte, moved by the action of grace of the Spirit, receives participation in the new life in Christ (cf. Gal Ga 3,27-28). Having become a new creature, the baptized person can and must make his relations with his peers and with all creation conform to justice, to charity and to the responsibility that God entrusted to human care (cf. Gn Gn 2,15). This gives rise to concrete obligations in the area of ecology for every individual.

Fulfilment of these obligations presupposes an openness to a spiritual and ethical perspective capable of overcoming the selfish attitudes and lifestyles which lead to the depletion of natural resources.

As a gift from God, water is a vital element essential to survival; thus, everyone has a right to it. Attention must be paid to the problems that derive from its scarcity, which is evident not only in Brazil but also in many parts of the world. Water is not an unlimited resource. Its rational use in solidarity demands the collaboration of all people of good will with the Government Institutions so as to ensure the effective protection of the environment, understood as a gift from God (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America ). This is a question, therefore, that must be set in context in order to establish moral criteria based precisely on the value of life and the respect for the rights and dignity of all human beings.

In opening the Brotherhood Campaign of 2004, I renew the hope that the various bodies of civil society, joined by the National Bishops' Conference of Brazil and the other Churches as well as by the religious and non-religious Organizations, may indeed guarantee that water remain an abundant source of life for one and all.

With these hopes, I invoke the protection of the Lord, giver of all good things, that he may stretch out his beneficent hand over the fields, lakes and rivers of this Land of the Holy Cross, pouring out his gifts of peace and prosperity in abundance. With his grace, may sentiments of brotherhood and lively cooperation be reawakened in every heart. With my special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 19 January 2004




Thursday, 26 February 2004

Your Eminence,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Priests of Rome,

1. I am delighted with this meeting that is once again taking place at the beginning of Lent, giving me an opportunity to see you, listen to you and share your hopes and pastoral concerns. I offer an affectionate greeting to each one of you, thanking you for your service to the Church of Rome. I greet and thank the Cardinal Vicar, the Vicegerent, the Auxiliary Bishops and those of you who have addressed me.

We are meeting at a time when I am about to resume my encounters with the parishes of Rome in which most of you carry out your daily ministry. I have very much been looking forward to this direct contact with the parish communities I have not yet been able to visit, because this is part of my task as Bishop of this beloved Church of Rome.

2. The Cardinal Vicar's words and subsequently your addresses have shed light on the various aspects of the pastoral programme centred on the family to which our Diocese is committed this year and the next, within the framework of that “ongoing mission” which, after the Great Jubilee and the positive experience of the “City Mission”, constitutes the backbone of our pastoral activity.

Dear Priests, putting the family at the centre, or rather, recognizing the centrality of the family in God's design for humanity and thus in the life of the Church and society, is an indispensable task that has motivated these 25 years of my Pontificate, and even earlier, my ministry as a Priest and Bishop and also my commitment as a scholar and university lecturer.

I therefore rejoice at sharing with you your concern for the families of our beloved Diocese of Rome on this happy occasion.

3. If it is to be authentic and fruitful, our service to families must always lead to the source, that is, to God who is love and who lives in himself a mystery of personal communion of love. In creating humanity in his image out of love, God has inscribed a vocation in the hearts of men and women, and hence, the capacity for love and communion and for bearing the responsibility they carry. This vocation can be fulfilled in two specific ways: through marriage and through virginity or celibacy. Both, therefore, are an actuation, each in its own way, of the most profound truth of man and of his being created in the image of God (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio FC 11).

Marriage and the family thus cannot be considered a mere product of historical circumstances or a superstructure imposed from outside on human love. On the contrary, they are an inner need of this love to fulfil itself in its own truth and in the fullness of the reciprocal gift of self. Even those features of spousal union that today are all too often misunderstood or rejected, such as unity, indissolubility and openness to life, are instead requests for the authenticity of the covenant of love. It is in this very way that the bond which unites the man and the woman becomes an image and symbol of the covenant between God and his People, which finds its definitive fulfilment in Jesus Christ. Therefore, among the baptized marriage is a sacrament, an effective sign of grace and salvation.

4. Dear Priests of Rome, let us never tire of proposing, proclaiming and witnessing to this great truth about love and Christian marriage. Our vocation, of course, is not that of marriage, but the priesthood and virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of God. However, it is precisely in celibacy, joyfully welcomed and protected, that we in turn are called to live the truth about love in a way that is different though just as full, giving ourselves totally with Christ to God, to the Church, and to our brothers and sisters in humanity.

Thus, our virginity “keeps alive in the Church a consciousness of the mystery of marriage and defends it from any reduction and impoverishment” (Familiaris Consortio FC 16).

5. I have very often stressed the fundamental and indispensable role of the family, both in the life of the Church and in civil society. But precisely in order to sustain Christian families in their demanding tasks, the pastoral solicitude of us priests is essential.

In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, I therefore recalled that the Bishop is “the person principally responsible in the diocese for the pastoral care of the family” (n. 73). Likewise, dear Priests, your responsibility to families “extends not only to moral and liturgical matters but to personal and social matters as well” (ibid.). You are called in particular to “support the family in its difficulties and sufferings” (ibid.), caring for its members and helping them to live their lives as husbands and wives, parents and children in the light of the Gospel.

6. In fulfilling this important mission, many of us will be able to draw very valid help from the experience we have lived in our own families, from the witness of faith and trust in God, of love and dedication, of the capacity for sacrifice and forgiveness that we received from our own parents and relatives. The daily contact with Christian families entrusted to our ministry, however, offers us constantly renewed examples of life in accordance with the Gospel and thus stimulates and comforts us in turn to live our own specific vocation with fidelity and joy.

Therefore, dear Priests, we must consider our apostolate with families a source of grace, a gift that the Lord offers us even before we see it as a specific pastoral duty.

So do not be afraid to spend yourselves for families, to dedicate to them your time, energy and the spiritual gifts the Lord has given you. Be caring and trustworthy friends to them as well as pastors and teachers. Accompany them and sustain them in prayer; suggest to them the Gospel of marriage and the family with truth and love, without reservations or arbitrary interpretations. Be spiritually close to them in the trials life often holds in store, helping them to understand that the Church is always mother for them as well as teacher. Also teach the young to understand and appreciate the true meaning of love and thus to prepare themselves for forming authentic Christian families.

7. The erroneous and frequently aberrant forms of behaviour that are publicly proposed, flaunted and exalted, and likewise the daily contact with the difficulties and crises that many families experience can also give rise in us to the temptation of distrust and resignation.

Dear Priests of Rome, it is exactly this temptation that we must overcome with God's help, first of all within us, in our hearts and in our minds. In fact, the plan of God who inscribed in man and woman the vocation to love and to the family is still the same today. The action of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the dead and risen Christ, is just as powerful. No error, no sin, no ideology and no human deceipt can demolish the profound structure of our being, which needs to be loved and is in turn capable of true love.

Thus, however great the difficulties, our confidence in the present and future of the family is all the stronger and our service to families as priests must be all the more generous and zealous.

Dear Priests, thank you for this meeting. With this trust and with these hopes, I entrust each one of you and every family in Rome to the Holy Family of Nazareth, and I wholeheartedly bless you and your communities.

At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father spoke extemporaneously:

“Est tempus concludendi”, especially looking at those of our brothers who have had to remain standing throughout because there was no seat for them, not one more seat: we are numerous.

I would like to thank the Cardinal Vicar and the Episcopal College of Rome for organizing this meeting. I would now like to sum it up.

In the first place, Rome: what does Rome mean? The Petrine City and every parish is Petrine. There are 340 parishes in Rome. I have visited 300 of them but still have 40 left to visit. However, we will begin this Saturday to complete the number of visits. Let us hope everything will go well.

Next, Rome is not only parishes: it is seminaries, universities and different institutions. At this meeting, we have spoken directly or indirectly of all these institutions.

The theme is the family. Family means: “male and female he created them”; it means love and responsibility. From these two words spring all the consequences. We have heard a lot said of these consequences with regard to marriage, the family, parents, children, school.

I am deeply grateful to all of you because you have described these consequences, this reality. This concern certainly belongs to the parish. I learned long ago, when I was in Krakow, to live beside couples and families. I also followed closely the process that leads two people, a man and a woman, to create a family, and with marriage, to become spouses, parents, with all the consequences that we know.

Thank you for focusing your pastoral concern on families and for seeking to solve all those problems that the family can bring with it. I hope you will proceed in this most important area, because the future of the Church and of the world passes through the family. I hope you will be able to prepare this good future for Rome, for your Homeland of Italy and for the world. Many, many good wishes!

Here is the text that I had prepared, but I laid it aside! You will find it in L’Osservatore Romano.

Here are some phrases written in Romanesco [the Roman dialect]: “Dàmose da fà!” (let us keep busy), “Volèmose bene!” (let us love one another), “Semo Romani!” (we are Romans). I never learned Romanesco: does that mean that I am not a good Bishop of Rome?



Friday, 27 February 2004

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I greet you with joy, Pastors of the Province of Besançon, as well as the Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishop of Strasbourg. My thoughts and prayers go to Bishop Pierre Raffin of Metz, who has been unable to take part in this ad limina visit. I thank Archbishop André Lacrampe for his reflections on the challenges and hopes of society and the pastoral life of your Dioceses, and on the European perspectives that you have at heart precisely because of your geographical location on the borders of several countries.

2. I was especially touched by the fact that in mentioning the Council of Europe you recalled the late Archbishop Michael Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, who was assassinated last December. When he was posted to Strasbourg as Permanent Observer of the Holy See, he was a convinced builder of cooperation between the States of the European Continent. Today I ask the local Churches to be ever more firmly committed to European integration. To achieve it, it is important to reread history, remembering that the Christian anthropological, moral and spiritual values contributed largely down the centuries to forging the different European nations and weaving deep bonds between them. The many beautiful churches, signs of the faith of our ancestors scattered across the Continent, clearly demonstrate and remind us that these values were and still are the basis of relations between individuals and peoples, and the mortar that binds them.

Union, however, cannot be achieved to the detriment of these very values or in opposition to them. Indeed, relations between the different countries cannot be based solely on economic or political interests: the debate on globalization makes this plain. Nor can they be based on convenient alliances that would weaken the process of the enlargement under way and could lead to reverting to the ideologies of the past that mocked both the human being and humanity. These bonds must aim to build a Europe of Peoples, thereby making it possible to terminate the conflicts that have bathed the Continent in blood throughout the 20th century. This is the price of the birth of a Europe whose identity will rest on common values, a Europe of brotherhood and solidarity; only a Europe of this kind will be able to take the differences into account, since its perspective is the advancement of men and women, respect for their inalienable rights, the quest for the common good and the happiness and prosperity of all. The Church hopes to contribute more and more to the unity of the Continent through her centuries-old presence in the different countries of the Continent, her participation in the unity of peoples and cultures and in social life, especially in the fields of education, charitable aid, health care and social assistance (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, n. 113). What is sought above all, as I recalled in my Address to the Presidency of the European Parliament (5 April 1979), is the service of the individual person and of peoples, with respect for their beliefs and profound aspirations.

3. During the last Assembly of your Episcopal Conference, you tackled the question of the Church's place in society with a view to seeking a "better way of living together". The desire to take an active part in public life, individually or jointly at all levels of society in order to be at the service of their brothers and sisters, is one of the characteristics of disciples of Christ. Because of her vision of human beings and her love for them, the Church cannot ignore the life of anyone, and considers the world the theatre for her presence and action.

I cannot encourage pastors enough to watch over the integral formation of young people, especially those who will be in charge and leaders of the nation in the future, to ensure that wherever they work and are involved they have the necessary elements for reflection on human and social situations and to be attentive to people to help them base their decisions on moral criteria. The Church hopes to offer them the enlightenment of the Gospel and of her Magisterium. In this domain, Catholic Universities have a specific role of reflection with all their social partners to help them analyze specific situations, always studying how to keep the human being at the centre of their decisions. This process is not only addressed to the Catholic faithful but also to all people of good will who hope to reflect in truth on the future of humanity.

In this regard, I would like to pay a tribute to the work of the Social Weeks of France. You are deeply attached to this institution which is preparing to celebrate its centenary. During its annual meetings which are attracting more and more participants - a sign that its research responds to real expectations - those who take part in the meetings have the opportunity to question one another about the social issues that our world is facing, in the light of the Gospel and of the social doctrine of the Church. Since the publication of the Encyclical Rerum Novarum by my Predecessor Leo XIII, the Church's social teaching has been continuously enriched. I am delighted with the relations that Social Weeks is promoting and developing throughout Europe, thereby creating a movement for reflection on the increasingly complex questions of the contemporary world and uniting people in laying the foundations of our future society.

Through this participation in all the forms of social life, the first field of their apostolate, Christians truly fulfil their vocation and mission in accordance with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. In proclaiming Christ, Christians are also messengers of new hope for society; by promoting "deeper understanding of the laws of social living" (Gaudium et Spes GS 23), they invite society to a radical transformation. Apart from the right and duty to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations, the Church likewise claims the right to "make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls" (Code of Canon Law, CIC 747 CIC 2). In politics, in the economy, in workplaces and in the family, it is up to the faithful to make Christ present. They must also radiate the evangelical values that express with particular clarity the dignity of the human being and his or her central place in the world, thus recalling the primacy of the human being over any private interest and institutional mechanisms.

4. The participation of Christians in public life, the visible presence of the Catholic Church and of other religious denominations, in no way questions the principle of secularity nor the prerogatives of the State. As I had the opportunity to recall at the time of the exchange of good wishes with the Diplomatic Corps last January, a properly understood secularity must not be confused with secularism; nor can it erase the beliefs of individuals or communities. To seek to eliminate this important dimension in the life of individuals and peoples from the social arena as well as the signs that express it, would be contrary to a properly understood freedom. Freedom of worship cannot be conceived of without the freedom to practise one's religion individually and collectively, or without the freedom of the Church. Religion cannot be confined to the private realm, at the risk of denying all its community aspects in its own life and its social and charitable action in society for everyone, independently of his or her philosophical or religious beliefs. In the name of religious freedom, which is one of the fundamental aspects of freedom of conscience, every Christian and every follower of any religion has the right to have his or her beliefs and practices respected, as long as this does not threaten the security and legitimate authority of the State (cf. Declaration on Religious Freedom, nn. 2-3).

5. It is important that young people grasp the impact of the religious process in personal and social life, that they be acquainted with the religious traditions they encounter and have a kindly approach to interpreting religious symbols and recognizing the Christian roots of cultures and of European history. This leads to a respectful recognition of others and their beliefs, to a positive dialogue, to overcoming collectivism and to a better social understanding. Many Muslims live in your Country and you make the effort to maintain good relations with them through the mediation of the leaders or local communities and the promotion of interreligious dialogue which is, as I have had the opportunity to say, a dialogue of life. Such a dialogue must also revive in Christians the knowledge of their faith and their attachment to the Church: any form of relativism can only do serious damage to interreligious relations.

It is up to you to pursue and intensify, perhaps in some cases by going through the authorized channels, relations with the civil Authorities and with the various categories of elected members in your Country in the national and European Parliaments, especially with Catholic members of Parliament and with international institutions. I am delighted with the new forms of dialogue that have recently been established between the Holy See and the Leaders of the Nation to settle undecided matters. Through his specific mission, the Apostolic Nuncio, on behalf of the Holy See, is called to play an active role and to follow attentively the life of the Church and her situation in society.

6. In accordance with her noble tradition, France has numerous links with Third World Countries, especially on the African Continent. Today more than ever, if the peoples of Africa are to emerge from the poverty and bloody conflicts that do not cease to devastate their land, it is right to continue to give assistance to these peoples, aiming at providing for their basic needs and especially to help them to assume responsibility for their own development, particularly through a good education in civic and political affairs. This must enable them to overcome group opposition, so that each one may truly acquire a sense of the State and all citizens join forces to construct a future of peace and prosperity. In these educational areas, the Church has an experience that she is more than ever required to transmit for the good of persons and peoples.

7. As my meetings with the different Provinces of France are coming to an end, I give thanks for the courageous commitment of the Pastors and faithful in proclaiming the Gospel. May they not be discouraged in the face of the difficulties and, to human eyes, the meagre results obtained! We must all consider ourselves primarily as God's cooperators (cf. II Cor 6: 1), carrying out our mission in fidelity to the gift received, proclaiming in season and out of season the Word of God that the world needs in order to allow it to hope and to find a new dynamism. The Holy Spirit will know how to make human work fruitful. Christ, Redeemer of man, comes to open the path of life to each one. Do not be afraid to cry to the world that God is humanity's only lasting happiness, and to guide men and women in the discovery of Christ and in building a world in which it is good to live! As I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, Patroness of France, I impart to you and to all the Pastors and faithful of your Dioceses an affectionate and fatherly Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 27 February 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive the Letters of Credence with which the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina accredits you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See.

In offering you a cordial welcome, I warmly thank you for your courteous words. I would also like to convey my respectful greeting to the three Members of the above-mentioned Presidency. I likewise greet the Peoples made up of the other inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are all equally close to my heart and present in my prayers.

Love for those dear populations impelled me to go on pilgrimage to Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 1997 and in June 2003. I thank God who made possible these two unforgettable Visits. They were especially useful in enabling me to take into account the difficulties and hardships caused by the recent warfare and to witness to my solidarity and closeness with those who continue to suffer its consequence.

I felt that these Journeys were required by my pastoral mission to bring the message of love, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace to each one. I wanted to strengthen my Catholic brethren in faithfulness to the Gospel, so that they might continue to be "builders of hope", together with all the others who consider Bosnia and Herzegovina their homeland. Only peace in justice and reciprocal respect, only the promotion of the common good in an atmosphere of authentic freedom are suitable conditions for building a better future for all.

Moreover, since the outbreak of hostilities at the beginning of the 1990s, the Apostolic See has been working so law and order can be restored in the region. Mr Ambassador, "the joy and hope, the grief and anguish" (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 1) of the inhabitants of this part of Europe have always echoed in the Pope's heart.

Many economic, social and political problems and challenges have yet to be faced. I am thinking in the first place of the unsolved problem of refugees and exiles from the Banja Luka region, from Bosanska Posavina and from other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are waiting to be repatriated in full security to lead a dignified life. These brothers and sisters of ours cannot be left on their own, nor can their hopes be disappointed. The more time passes, the more urgent becomes the duty to respond to their legitimate expectations: their suffering calls for our solidarity.

Possible situations of injustice and marginalization should be dealt with and resolved, guaranteeing each People of Bosnia and Herzegovina its respective rights and duties, assuring them equal opportunities in every social circle through democratic structures that can counter the temptation to take advantage of one another. This demands a constant and sincere commitment to democracy and to its harmonious development, in the knowledge that democracy is promoted only through the constant work of education and requires adherence to a common patrimony of ethical and moral values and constant attention to the legitimate needs and aspirations of individuals, families and social groups. Democracy must be built day by day with patient tenacity, using tools and methods that are always worthy and respectful of a civilized society.

I encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina to take the path of peace and justice without hesitation. I would also like to recall that in order to guarantee the rights of individuals and groups, effective equality of all before the law and a concrete respect of neighbour are indispensable. In this regard, it is appropriate to create the conditions for sincere forgiveness and authentic reconciliation, putting aside hatred and resentment and all memory of past injustices and artificially-created prejudices.
This great task demands the effective collaboration and serious commitment of all the members of society, including political leaders. The Church, conscious of her mission in the world, has already achieved much in this respect, and will continue to collaborate with total availability.

The existing differences cannot, of course, be disregarded; on the contrary, it is necessary to respect them and keep them duly in mind, ensuring that they do not become the pretext for disputes, or worse, for conflict, but are considered a common enrichment. Those with responsibility at various levels are called seriously to seek to resolve the problems that beset the local populations, by proposing solutions that are advantageous for all, putting the human being, his dignity and his legitimate needs at the centre of attention. This is the challenge of a multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural society precisely such as that of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Despite the persistence of numerous difficulties, the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina are continuing to nourish the lively hope that they will be able to solve their current problems, thanks to the help of the international community that has so far played an appreciable role. Bosnia and Herzegovina would like to join the other European countries to build a common house. May this aspiration be achieved as soon as possible. May that "strip" of Europe which has so deeply suffered for several centuries make its own special contribution to the process of European integration that is under way, with equal rights and duties.

The Holy See backs this process of unification and hopes that with the contribution of one and all a great family of peoples and cultures will be built in Europe. Indeed, United Europe is not only an extension of boundaries, but supportive growth with respect for every cultural tradition, in the commitment to justice and peace on the Continent and throughout the world.

Mr Ambassador, at the time when you are beginning your important office as representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Holy See, I wanted to communicate to you these thoughts that I have particularly at heart. I would like to assure you that my collaborators will be pleased to give you all possible assistance in the fulfilment of your noble mission.

Please convey to the Members of the Presidency, to the other Authorities and to the Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina my fervent good wishes for constant progress in peace and in justice, accompanied by the assurance of my daily prayer, so that all may bless God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Speeches 2004 - Tuesday, 24 February 2004