Speeches 2004 - Friday, 27 February 2004



Saturday, 28 February 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you at the presentation of the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Argentina to the Holy See. The occasion also affords me the opportunity to express my cordial welcome to you and to wish you the very best in discharging the highly responsible mission that your Government has entrusted to you.

I am grateful for your kind words on behalf of H.E. Mr Néstor Kirchner, President of the Country, and of his Government, expressing their determination to further relations both with this Apostolic See and with the local Church in view of the many far-reaching goals they have in common.

Please convey to the President my cordial greeting and my esteem and closeness to the Argentine people who have given and continue to give so many proofs of their love and loyalty to the Successor of Peter.

I am pleased to note the good diplomatic relations between the Argentine Nation and the Holy See. They are based on mutual respect and esteem and the desire for loyal cooperation with respect for the autonomy of each in its own province, and the search for the integral common good of each person and all peoples. In addition to being a privileged institutional channel, they are like a reflection of the historical and spiritual ties that unite the Argentine people, with deep Catholic roots, to the Chair of Peter.

This very year one of the most important demonstrations of the Christian spirit of Argentinians will be commemorated: the inauguration of the monument to Christ the Redeemer that towers among the peaks of the Andes on the Chilean border. If, at that time, the monument expressed the confidence that with divine help the grave difficulties the Country was going through would be overcome, the solemnity with which the centenary celebrations are taking place today is a promising sign of hope. They revive that joyful faith and carry forward the commitment to continue fostering those values inspired by the Gospel that certainly contribute to building a more peaceful, supportive and reconciled society that strives constantly to improve the standard of living of all its citizens, without exception.

The Church brings what is proper to her mission to the context of these relations whose purpose is the integral good of one and the same people. She thereby contributes to the well-being of nations. She encourages love of neighbour which, in turn, is an unfailing source of authentic development; she encourages fraternal attitudes which are the solid basis of all peaceful coexistence; and she inculcates in consciences rigorous respect for the innate dignity of human being and their rights, which are the foundation of a truly just social order.

Argentina is a unique witness of the fruits that cordial relations produce in various milieus, bringing a spirit of collaboration to relations between the Church and the nations. This has been so on certain occasions when thorny problems, threatening the inestimable value of peace, have been brought to a satisfactory conclusion through the process of dialogue and understanding. On others, the external factors that exercise an influence on serious economic situations have been minimized, but without neglecting to encourage those who suffer them to develop their great capacity for work and imagination so as to overcome them without either shirking responsibilities or sparing any effort.

In this context, we cannot overlook the enormous amount of work done by numerous Catholics and Catholic institutions that have served and serve Argentine society in the most varied spheres, from culture to education, the advancement and care of the most underprivileged and the unemployed, in addition to the various forms of participation in the common good of the Nation.

Many of these forms of cooperation for the Country's common good come to the fore especially in the difficult periods when for a variety of reasons uncertainty spreads and the need for hope, or the lack of it, increases. Therefore, defending and helping institutions that implement humanitarian initiatives or projects of human and social advancement are the proper competence of a clear-sighted public Authority committed to the good of all its citizens.

In carrying out her mission, the Church never ceases to strive to invite all men and women of good will to build a society based on basic and indispensable values for a national and international order worthy of the human being.

One of these is undoubtedly the value of human life. Lack of respect for it not only attacks the right to life of each human being from the moment of conception to natural death, which no one can claim the right to violate, but it also reduces the very foundation of all human coexistence. Indeed, it is fitting to ask what might be the meaning of the effort to improve the forms of social coexistence other than to guarantee life itself. This value therefore needs to be carefully safeguarded by reacting promptly to counter the many subtle plays to degrade the primordial good of life by objectifying it for other ends.

Another pillar of society is marriage, the union of a man and a woman who are open to life, which gives rise to the natural institution of the family. It is not only older but also more universal than any other form of human coexistence which it supports, since it constitutes the first fabric of intimate relationships woven by love, mutual support and solidarity. The family, therefore, has its own rights and duties that it must exercise in the context of its own autonomy. In this regard, it is incumbent upon the legislative and political bodies of the larger societies, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, to guarantee these rights scrupulously and to help families to discharge their duties when they cannot carry them out with their own means.

Here, it seems to me appropriate to recall that legislators, especially Catholic legislators, cannot contribute to formulating or approving laws contrary to "the primary and essential norms regulating the moral life", and consequently, to the loftiest values of the human person which ultimately come from God, the supreme legislator (cf. Address to Government Leaders, Members of Parliament and Politicians, 4 November 2000, n. 4; L'Osservatore English edition [ORE], 8 November 2000, p. 7).

It is necessary to recall this at a time when many seek to reduce marriage to a mere individual contract with features very different from those of marriage and the family, and end by degrading it as though it were a superfluous association within the social body. More than ever, therefore, the Public Authorities must protect and assist in all its dimensions the family, the basic cell of society, aware that by so doing they are promoting a just, stable and promising social development.

Argentina has been and is particularly sensitive to these aspects, knowing that these are issues on which the whole of humanity's future depend. Consequently, I would like to express my appreciation for the efforts made in favour of marriage and the family at certain international meetings, while at the same time I ask that this course be pursued.

Mr Ambassador, I once again offer you my very best wishes for your role as Ambassador of your Country to the Holy See, and I ask Our Lady of Luján, so close to Argentines, to enlighten you in your work of promoting the good will between the Pope and your noble Nation. I ask you also to encourage the efforts of both the Authorities and citizens to build a society that is more prosperous, more just and more open to the spiritual dimension. They will thus contribute not only to the good of their own homeland, but also to that of their Brother Peoples in the Cono Sur of America, and of the entire international community.

With these hopes, as I wish you a very pleasant stay in Rome, I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your distinguished family and all those who work with you.

March 2004





To My Venerable Brother
Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino
President of the Pontifical Council Iustitia et Pax

I was pleased to be informed of the Conference on "The Business Executive: Social Responsibility and Globalization" which is meeting in these days under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Christian Union of Business Executives. I would ask you kindly to convey to all present my warm greetings and good wishes.

It is my hope that the Conference will be a source of inspiration and renewed commitment to Christian business leaders in their efforts to bear witness to the values of God’s Kingdom in the world of commerce. Their work is in fact rooted in that dominion and stewardship which God has given man over the earth (cf. Gen Gn 1,27) and finds particular expression in the promotion of creative economic initiatives with enormous potential to benefit others and to raise their material standard of living. Because "there is no human activity – even in secular affairs – which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion" (Lumen Gentium LG 36), Christians charged with responsibility in the business world are challenged to combine the legitimate pursuit of profit with a deeper concern for the spread of solidarity and the elimination of the scourge of poverty which continues to afflict so many members of the human family.

The present Conference is taking place at a time when the financial and commercial sector is becoming increasingly aware of the need for sound ethical practices which ensure that business activity remains sensitive to its fundamentally human and social dimensions. Since the pursuit of profit is not the sole end of such activity, the Gospel challenges business men and women to embody respect both for the dignity and creativity of their employees and customers and the demands of the common good. On a personal level, they are called to develop important virtues such as "diligence, industriousness, prudence in undertaking reasonable risks, reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relationships, and courage in carrying out decisions which are difficult and painful" (Centesimus Annus CA 32). In a world tempted by consumerist and materialist outlooks, Christian executives are called to affirm the priority of "being" over "having."

Among the important ethical issues facing the business community at present are those associated with the impact of global marketing and advertising on the cultures and values of various countries and peoples. A sound globalization, carried out in respect for the values of different nations and ethnic groupings, can contribute significantly to the unity of the human family and enable forms of cooperation which are not only economic but also social and cultural. Globalization must become more than simply another name for the absolute relativization of values and the homogenization of life-styles and cultures. For this to happen, Christian leaders, also in the commercial sphere, are challenged to bear witness to the liberating and transforming power of Christian truth, which inspires us to place all our talents, our intellectual resources, our persuasive abilitites, our experience and our skills at the service of God, our neighbour and the common good of the human family.

With these sentiments, I offer prayerful good wishes for the deliberations of the Conference and willingly invoke upon all taking part God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace.

From the Vatican, 3 March 2004




Saturday, 6 March 2004

Distinguished Mr President,

1. With pleasure I welcome you, your wife and your entourage to the Vatican. You are visiting me in order to communicate the cordial relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See. Mr President, please accept my grateful acknowledgment in return!

2. Germany presents itself to Europe and to the world with the wealth of its Länder. The Republic's federal structure blends your region's various cultural traditions into a harmonious whole, rich in incentive, so that some of its fundamental features may be considered to be a model for the united peoples of Europe. The common spiritual-cultural heritage of the Continent undoubtedly also includes Christianity. The Länder States of Germany are rich in extraordinary manifestations of the Christian faith, which also offer many people today a direction and give a dimension to life, thus shaping coexistence. Indeed, the Christians who enter politics share in the responsibility to ensure that this precious Christian heritage can continue to enrich society in Germany and in all of Europe.

3. Today Germany enjoys a good reputation in every part of the world. This is primarily due to the fact that the Germans are ready to allow people in countries with economic difficulties to share in their well-being. For this reason, the Federal Republic from the start has made available considerable funds for development aid. Added to this is the generous support the German State also offers through Church-assistance organizations to countless viable projects for human advancement and also to the people involved in the less well-off countries. Many have gratefully experienced the fact that the Germans think not only of themselves and their own problems, but also place great importance on justice, solidarity and education, not only at home but anywhere in the world.

4. Distinguished Mr President, I hope that the patronage and the trust shown by your visit today may increase the cooperation between the State and the Church in Germany, the good relationships between the Federal Republic, the Länder and the Holy See, so that they can continually deepen. I heartily implore for you personally, for your collaborators, for all the inhabitants of the Federal Republic of Germany and, not the least, for your family, the abundant Blessing of God.



Saturday, 6 March 2004

I am delighted to express the most cordial gratitude to you, dear Professor, also on behalf of all the participants, at the end of the Retreat during which you led us in the contemplation of the mystery of Christ, suggesting to us profound meditations on the theme: “Following You, the Light of life”.

I am thinking with deep appreciation of the commitment to advanced and proximate preparation that this has entailed for you. Together with the collaborators of the Roman Curia, we have profited from the reflections that you gradually unfolded for us with original insights and a vast theological, biblical and spiritual knowledge. What also struck us was the passion with which you explained this content, frequently referring to the ministerial experiences of every day life. Thank you, because with the distinctive style of your theological research and your pastoral activity, you have provided for our minds and hearts precious incentives to become ever more deeply involved in following the One who is the Light of the world.

I would also like to express to you my special appreciation for the colloquial and prayerful tone that you impressed upon our journey, helping us to lift our spirits to God in that attitude of contemplation, steeped in faith and love, that I never cease to ask of the People of God, urging Christian communities to let shine forth in the midst of the world first and foremost the “art of prayer” (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 32).

For his part, the Lord will repay you for all this. To him I entrust you and the ecclesial service you carry out with zeal and fidelity. May the Blessed Virgin, whom you helped us to contemplate in the context of our earthly pilgrimage towards the heavenly homeland, watch over you and all of your apostolic activities.

Lastly, I extend an affectionate greeting to all of you who have taken part in this Retreat, with a grateful thought also for those who collaborated in it by preparing the liturgy and the hymns.
As I entrust each one to the heavenly protection of the Blessed Virgin, I impart my Blessing to you all.




Tuesday, 9 March 2004

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am pleased once more to greet you, the Members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, on the occasion of your Plenary Meeting and I thank your President, Archbishop John Foley, for his kind words.

As your Meeting this year marks the Fortieth Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication, as well as the Fortieth Anniversary of the foundation of your Dicastery, I encourage you to draw inspiration from the conciliar document to continue in your mission of helping those who work in this vast field to animate it "with a humane and Christian spirit" (Inter Mirifica, No. 3). In this way the media will be in a better position to tap their "enormous positive potential for promoting sound human and family values and thus contributing to the renewal of society" (Message for the 2004 World Communications Day, No. 6).

I invoke the guiding light of the Holy Spirit upon you and your work, and I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.



Friday, 12 March 2004

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am happy to welcome you, Bishops of The Netherlands who have come to Rome as pilgrims to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, to live a beautiful experience of fraternal communion with the Successor of Peter and among yourselves. I hope that you will find support and renewed dynamism in this visit so that you may always assume the responsibility for the apostolic ministry in your Dioceses with courage and confidence. I thank Cardinal Simonis for his words to me, sharing your concerns as Pastors and your hopes for the future.

2. As your quinquennial reports emphasize, for the past 30 years your Country has been experiencing the phenomenon of intense secularization. This trend has very strongly affected the Catholic Church and unfortunately continues to be a feature of Dutch society, "to the extent that reference to the Gospel seems to have disappeared from certain decisions and guidelines of individuals and in public life, especially in the ethical context" (Message for the 150th Anniversary of the Re-establishment of the Episcopal Hierarchy of The Netherlands, 7 June 2003, n. 2). At the same time, your Dioceses and the Christian communities of which they consist have had to face a considerable, continuous decline in the number of the faithful and of Pastors, which is a cause of deep concern to you. In 1980 I had already convoked in Rome a Special Synod for the Bishops of The Netherlands to show my solicitude for your Church and to strengthen in her the bonds "of the communion of the Church, a communion at the same time local and universal" (Homily at Mass in the Sistine Chapel for the Conclusion of the Synod of Dutch Bishops, 31 January 1980, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 11 February 1980, p. 2). In the face of persistent difficulties, both old and new, there might be a temptation to despair or to withdraw into self, as the disciples themselves had experienced (cf. Lk Lc 24,17-21). As I recently recalled (cf. Pastores Gregis ), it is the Word of the risen Christ that indicates our route most clearly: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel..." (Mc 16,15). In fact, "the Gospel of hope, received and assimilated by the Church, calls for daily proclamation and witness. This is the proper vocation of the Church in every time and place" (Ecclesia in Europa, n. 45).

3. Clearly there is a need to proclaim the Good News of Christ's love particularly to the young people who are no longer guided by reliable reference points and live in a society more and more marked by moral relativism and religious pluralism. Parishes and Catholic schools, together with families, should do their part to assure the transmission of the Christian heritage, not only by providing children and young people with the knowledge they need to assimilate and understand Catholic doctrine, but also by offering them an example through daily witness of demanding Christian life, nourished by love of God and neighbour. In this perspective, I invite Catholic teaching to maintain and strengthen its proper identity by its harmonious adaptation to the ever new needs of education in a pluralistic society, with respect for others but without sacrificing what constituted its original wealth. It is your responsibility as Pastors to watch over this, by encouraging all teachers to work along these lines.

4. Being witnesses to Christ by word and deed is a responsibility shared by all the baptized and implies several conditions. How can we give what we ourselves do not possess? How can we speak of Christ and make people want to know him if we are not first his disciples? To proclaim the Gospel, we all need to set out anew from Christ (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, III) and to draw our apostolic energy from the source of living water which is Christ himself. I am delighted to know that your parish communities are rediscovering the Sunday Eucharist as the basis and the heart of their Christian life. By tending the beauty of the liturgical celebration and seeking to respect faithfully the liturgical norms established by the Church, they are accepting the teachings of the Word transmitted and actualized by the Pastors of the Church, and are nourished with the Bread of Life. As I reminded the whole Church: "The Eucharistic Sacrifice, while always offered in a particular community, is never a celebration of that community alone.... From this it follows that a truly Eucharistic community cannot be closed in upon itself, as though it were somehow self-sufficient; rather, it must persevere in harmony with every other Catholic community. The ecclesial communion of the Eucharistic assembly is a communion with its own Bishop and with the Roman Pontiff" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 39).

5. To bring the Church in The Netherlands better into line with the needs of the mission, you have courageously undertaken to adapt the ecclesial institutions, especially by reorganizing the services of your Bishops' Conference and by regrouping the parishes in your Dioceses into coherent units. Take care that this up-dating is not limited to a formal restructuring but is an opportunity to rediscover the essential role of the parish and the mission of the faithful of whom it consists, for a better mobilization of one and all with a view to Gospel proclamation. I ask you to offer the lay faithful the means to nourish their faith through a stronger sacramental life, frequent reading of the Word of God and study of the teachings that the Magisterium offers to everyone. I know that many of the faithful are voluntarily serving the Christian community in catechesis, in youth chaplaincies, in service to the sick. A large number carry out a mission entrusted to them by the Bishop for a specific period, working in harmony with the priests and deacons. The Church rejoices in this, for she needs everyone's help in order to carry out her mission. As Bishops, may you succeed in attracting and training true leaders. Show them your support, especially by offering them appropriate formation and spiritual guidance. May these persons feel that they are sent and backed by the diocesan Church, with respect for differences and for the necessary complementarity of roles within the Christian flock whose shepherd is the Bishop (cf. 1Co 12,12-30)! In many of your parishes today, the congregation has acquired a more cosmopolitan look due to the presence of immigrant faithful. I encourage you to welcome them as brothers and sisters so that they may contribute their own stone to the common building by putting their enthusiasm at the service of all, and so that this exchange of gifts, always an enrichment to the Church, may revive among you the awareness of Christian brotherhood.

6. You have at heart to give your communities the priests they need, despite the vocations crisis that continues to have a serious effect on your Country. To this end, you have undertaken to promote a more vigorous vocations apostolate in your Dioceses and to give your future pastors a high-quality human, theological, spiritual and pastoral formation. Spare no efforts in this area, even if the investment in people can seem costly to you at a time when priests are so much in demand. You are certainly preparing the future of the Church, and this mission is an absolute priority. Some Dioceses make the most of the presence of young priests who come to study from other local Churches, even on other continents, and are glad of this pastoral collaboration, this "exchange of gifts". Although it is legitimate to appreciate this sharing, we know well that each Church must strive to inspire vocations, to give herself the means for her life in Jesus Christ, by making fruitful the gifts she herself has received. I am counting first of all on the young people of your Country so that, like Peter, they will hear the Lord's call: "Do not be afraid; henceforth, you will be fishers of men" (Lc 5,10), and respond generously. I also ask families to be places of faith and seedbeds for vocations, passing on dauntlessly the Lord's call to the young!

Young priests are scarce in your Dioceses and are often called very soon to exercise many important pastoral responsibilities. They must be accompanied in their ministry in particular by suitable programmes for permanent formation, and must be able to rely on their Bishop as a father (cf. Pastores Gregis ); they can also expect the support of the Christian community that welcomes them and especially in collaboration in responsibility with their lay brothers and sisters. May they all remember that whatever their mission may be, it is first and foremost a service to Christ and his Church! However, they will find strength and joy for their apostolate in love of the Lord, who never abandons his own (cf. Is Is 49,15) and invites them to be with him (Mc 3,14). Give them the means for this companionship with Christ through regular spiritual retreats, so that they may re-examine their life before God and give thanks for all they receive from him in their generous service to their brothers and sisters!

7. Do not be afraid to recall the importance of the witness of consecrated life. It has left a deep mark on your Country; unfortunately, the communities which live there today have aged considerably and, moreover, risk disappearing if an effort is not made to inspire new vocations. This implies parents in the home are careful to create true freedom for their children, without directing them too soon to purely social criteria of a successful career. Catholic schools must also contribute to this awakening and enable young people to discover, especially through the saints, the example of men and women who could respond to the Lord's call and witness to the beauty of a life given without reserve. This also implies that Christian communities know how to appreciate the variety and complementarity of vocations, and that the young discover that consecrated life is close to them and receptive to their questions. I urge men and women religious to live their charism with fidelity and confidence, without fearing the arrival of young religious communities or new ecclesial movements which can undoubtedly help to bring consecrated life closer and make it more visible, and also to revive the older communities.

8. Today you note among your compatriots a renewed interest in religious matters and a new spiritual thirst that some express, especially the younger generations. This pleases me and I urge all Pastors to be aware of these developments and to propose strong spiritual paths to the People of God. I hope that all the children of the Church, especially the lay faithful, will truly have at heart to witness to their faith, bringing the light of the Gospel to the various social milieus. May they extol the greatness of marriage and the beauty of the family in a society tempted to renounce definitive commitments for more transient forms of union! It is also important that they witness to the inalienable dignity of all human persons in the contexts of work and social relations, as well as in the ethical issues to which technological progress and financial pressures constantly give rise, and that they witness to the Christian values which have contributed to forging the Europe of today. I invite the lay faithful to acquire the human and Christian formation they need in order to take part in the debates that interest Dutch society in a spirit of dialogue, bringing to it the concern to reveal the riches of the Christian outlook on humanity and the human being's demanding call to overcome all forms of selfishness in order to live in accordance with the Gospel.

9. At the end of our meeting, I urge you to model your pastoral action ceaselessly on Christ, the Good Shepherd (cf. Pastores Gregis ). May you, who are the "source and foundation of unity" in your Dioceses (Lumen Gentium LG 23), be courageous and passionate guides of your flock and never hesitate to speak, in season and out of season, to light it on its way and ensure that it walks in the faith! I offer a very special greeting to the priests and the deacons, your collaborators in the ministry, who need your initiative and enthusiasm in order to work together and weave bonds of fraternal communion among all the faithful. May they be assured of the Pope's encouragement and prayers! Over and above your current problems, do not forget the missionary tradition of your Church: the mission ad gentes in distant lands is also in need of workers! Christian communities of other denominations with whom you are on good terms live in your Dioceses. Continue firmly along the path of ecumenism, pursuing dialogue despite the difficulties and encouraging all possible opportunities to demonstrate our common desire for unity. May the Catholic faithful appear in the eyes of all, and especially of the members of other religions, as peacemakers keen on a truthful dialogue and motivated by respect for the human being!

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, you have just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the re-establishment of the episcopal hierarchy in The Netherlands as an opportunity to thank God for all the gifts you have received from him, to strengthen the bonds of fraternal communion and to mobilize yourselves with a view to the mission entrusted to the entire Church. As I entrust you to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, I impart to you as well as to the priests, deacons and all the faithful of your Dioceses, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 13 March 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I receive you with great pleasure at this solemn celebration of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Nicaragua to the Holy See, and I offer you a cordial welcome at the beginning of the important mission that your Government has entrusted to you. I am grateful for your thoughtful words as well as for the greeting you have conveyed to me from the President of the Republic, H.E. Mr Enrique Bolaños, which I reciprocate, renewing my best wishes to him for his lofty responsibility.

Mr Ambassador, please convey my affection and closeness to the beloved people of Nicaragua whom I have twice had the opportunity to visit. I recall in particular that memorable day, 7 February 1996, on which Nicaraguans were truly able to meet the Successor of the Apostle Peter and freely express to him their support and affection.

During my two Visits to your Country, I was able to see that Nicaraguans are a joyful, dynamic people with deep Christian roots, eager for a serene future where everyone may benefit from constant development. Down through history, however, they have frequently been put to the test. In addition to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, they have had to endure years of social oppression and internal problems that have led many of the inhabitants to live in difficult, straitened circumstances with the various scars that these leave in all sectors, including the break-up of families, lack of access to education and housing and health-care problems.

Nonetheless, Mr Ambassador, there are causes for hope in a better future. One can detect greater solidarity, not only among friendly nations but first and foremost among the citizens themselves who are aware of the need to participate. It is they who must work with courage and tenacity to improve their Homeland. The capacity for hard work, the moral fibre and the spirit of self-denial of Nicaraguans in the face of adversity are well known. They have frequently demonstrated it. If it is clear that external help is at times necessary, it should be kept in mind that Nicaraguans themselves, with the rich qualities that distinguish them, must play the lead. They must be the principal architects who build the Country day by day, working with tenacious perseverance to overcome the difficult situations which are all too often aggravated by extreme and widespread poverty, unemployment and the lack of dignified housing.

In the Message for World Day of Peace 1998, I said: "Situations of extreme poverty, wherever they are found, constitute a prime injustice. Eliminating them ought to be a priority for everyone at the national as well as the international level" (n. 5). In this regard, I would like to encourage your Government's efforts to deal with this evil; it cannot be considered endemic but results from a series of factors that must be confronted with determination and enthusiasm, if the quality of the life of Nicaraguans is truly to be improved. These efforts, combined with those of the international community whose assistance must be well organized and managed with transparency, honesty and efficiency, are indispensable conditions for building a peaceful, just and supportive society that truly measures up to the desires of Nicaraguans and is in harmony with their traditions.

The elimination of corruption that has undermined the just social and political development of so many peoples is an important factor in this struggle against poverty.

I am pleased to know that the Authorities of your Country are determined to lay solid foundations that will enable them to establish a more just and participatory social order, reinforcing democracy and the public structures and promoting an educational system that encourages the civic sense of citizens and their respect for the law. The guidelines of Catholic social doctrine and the moral teachings of the Church, values that deserve to be taken into consideration by people who work in the service of the Nation, will be a great help in building a more just and fraternal society. It is impossible to progress towards true social peace without an order in which the freedoms of individuals are more and more firmly rooted. At the same time, citizens must be given an incentive to trust in the public institutions, for a more active collaboration and the responsible participation of all in the common good.

The Bishops, together with their presbyterate and the various religious communities that have settled in Nicaragua, carry out their mission of evangelization and sanctification proper to their ministry. In this regard, the Authorities of your Country can continue to rely on the loyal collaboration of the Pastors of the Church and of the Catholic faithful in the specific areas of their activity, in order to sharpen in each one his sense of responsibility for improving the living conditions of all (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 57), since the integral service to human beings is also part of the Church's mission. The local Church tries to foster reconciliation. She also seeks to encourage the development of a more democratic society, offering her collaboration to ensure that values such as justice and solidarity, respect for the law and love for the truth are always present in the life of Nicaraguans.

Before the conclusion of this ceremony, I would like to express to you, Mr Ambassador, my best wishes that the mission you are beginning today will be very fruitful. I ask you to convey my sentiments and hopes to the President and the other Authorities of the Republic, as I invoke an abundance of Blessings from the Most High upon you, your distinguished family and collaborators, as well as on all the sons and daughters of the noble Nation of Nicaragua, whom I entrust to the constant, motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, so deeply venerated as the Immaculate Conception.

Speeches 2004 - Friday, 27 February 2004