Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 13 March 2004



Saturday, 13 March 2004

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Dear Members of the Pontifical Council for Culture,

1. At the end of your Plenary Assembly dedicated to reflection on "The Christian faith at the dawn of the new millennium and the challenge of non-belief and religious indifference", I greet you with joy. I thank Cardinal Poupard for his words. The challenge you have focused on is an essential concern of the Church on all the continents.

2. In communication with the local Churches, you are mapping out a new geography of non-belief and religious indifference across the world, noting an interruption in the process of the transmission of the Christian faith and values. At the same time, we perceive the search for meaning by our contemporaries, witnessed to through cultural phenomena especially in the new religious movements with a strong presence in South America, Africa and Asia: the desire of all men and women to understand the deep meaning of their lives, to respond to the fundamental questions on the origin and the end of life and to journey towards the happiness to which they aspire. Over and above the crises of civilizations and the forms of philosophical and moral relativism, it is up to Pastors and faithful to identify and examine the essential questions and aspirations of our contemporaries, to enter into dialogue with individuals and peoples, and to find original and inculturated ways of presenting the Gospel message and the person of Christ the Redeemer. Culture and art have a wealth of resources to draw from in order to pass on the Christian message. To convey it, however, they require knowledge so that it can be interpreted and understood.

At a time when the great Europe is rediscovering strong ties, it is important to uphold the world of culture, arts and letters, so that it may contribute to building a society that is not founded on materialism but on moral and spiritual values.

3. The spread of ideologies in various social sectors demands a new intellectual thrust from Christians in order to propose strong reflections that will reveal to the younger generations the truth about man and God, and will invite them to acquire an ever more refined knowledge of the faith. It is by means of philosophical and catechetical formation that the young will be able to discern the truth. A serious rational process is a bulwark against all that has to do with ideologies. It develops the taste to penetrate ever deeper so that philosophy and reason may be open to Christ. This is what happened in all periods of the Church's history, and particularly in the Patristic period when the newborn Christian culture was able to enter into dialogue with other cultures, especially Latin and Greek. Such a reflection will also become an invitation to move from a rational to a spiritual approach, to arrive at a personal encounter with Christ and to build up the inner being.

4. It is up to you, therefore, to discern the great cultural changes and their positive aspects, so as to help Pastors find appropriate responses to them and to open men and women to the newness of Christ's Word. At the end of our encounter, I express my gratitude to you for your collaboration and, as I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all.





To Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa,
Archbishop of Santiago and President of the Chilean Bishops' Conference,
and to Archbishop Eduardo Vicente Mirás of Rosario,
President of the Argentine Bishops' Conference

1. On the occasion of the solemn commemoration of the centenary of the inauguration of the monument to Christ of the Andes, I am pleased to send an affectionate greeting to the Cardinals and Prelates of Argentina and Chile, as well as to the High Authorities and the other participants in this important celebration. It calls to mind crucial events in the history of both Countries and expresses the fundamental, deeply-rooted Christian values on which the identity and coexistence of their Peoples are based, while at the same time expressing their firm determination to increasingly strengthen every day the commitment to continue together on the path to peace.

2. Indeed, if setting up the majestic monument at the time entailed the deployment of considerable means and the close collaboration of many people and institutions, this was equalled by the earlier efforts to give the gesture meaning. In the previous years, various agreements had been made to solve the different disputes between the two Peoples by peaceful means, which led to the four definitive peace treaties signed in 1902.

The best of victories was won and the true strength of the human being was demonstrated, as well as the genuine greatness of the Nations. The threat of war gave way to friendly coexistence between two neighbouring sister Countries. Their joy and satisfaction at having achieved the inestimable triumph of peace were well justified.

3. The deep spirit of faith of both Argentines and Chileans recognized in those events a priceless gift of God who "bless[ed] his people with peace!" (Ps 29[28]: 11) and wanted to shape their gratitude in the Andean peaks, so that the divine blessing might extend from on high to all the brother and sister lands and make the boundary a place of encounter rather than antagonism.

From that time, the figure of Christ the Redeemer has been an invitation to repeat with the Psalmist the ceaseless prayer of those who place full trust in him: "Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people" (Ps 72: [71]: 3). In fact, peace on earth, "which all men of every era have most eagerly yearned for", is an ongoing task that can never be considered completed and always requires divine help, as well as common sense and experience (cf. Message for World Day of Peace 2003, n. 1; 9).

4. At the inauguration, solemn words were spoken that were later carved on a tablet at the foot of the monument as an eternal reminder for posterity of an unbreakable covenant: "Sooner shall these mountains crumble into dust than Argentines and Chileans break the peace". What is the point of the beauty of the majestic peaks and the richness of the fertile valleys if ties of friendly coexistence and peace are not encouraged on the earth where the Creator set man and woman?

Those words remind the citizens and Authorities of today of the need to continue their efforts, through the constant promotion of a culture of peace and significant gestures that make it prevail over any other alternative, to reinforce the bonds of agreement and friendship, the path of loyal dialogue and respect for the law.

At the beginning of the third millennium, in which there was no lack of new threats to peace, I would like to ask the beloved sons and daughters of Argentina and Chile to turn their gaze in the commemoration of this centenary to the Redeemer, and to implore him for light and for the necessary strength to face today's challenges with hope and determination. I join in spirit the joy of the celebration, and especially in your prayers for the development of fraternal coexistence, areas of mutual collaboration and the vital commitment to build a society founded above all on the recognition of the inalienable dignity of the human person. Thus, peace will be guaranteed and a legacy bequeathed to the new generations that will enable them to build a better future on solid and lasting foundations.

I implore Christ the Redeemer to continue to accompany the noble Nations of Argentina and Chile with his protection, guiding them on the path of peace and encouraging their efforts to reach ever high goals of prosperity, living the spiritual values. With these sentiments I send you my Blessing.

From the Vatican, 11 February 2004




Saturday, 13 March 2004

1. It gives me special joy to meet you on the occasion of the Second European Day of University Students. I address a cordial greeting to each one of you who come from the various Roman Athenaeums and I thank you for your enthusiastic presence. I greet the Cardinal Vicar and the civil and academic Authorities present here.

I say a heartfelt "thank you" to Mons. Leuzzi and to all who worked to prepare this event, to the inter-university Choir and Orchestra who enlivened it, to the Vatican Television Centre and Vatican Radio who have enabled it to be broadcast in various European nations.

With great affection I extend my greeting to the young people who are linked to us by satellite in Prague, Czech Republic; Nicosia, Cypress; Gniezno, Poland; Vilnius, Lithuania; Riga, Lettonia; Tallinn, Estonia; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Budapest, Hungary; La Valletta, Malta; and Bratislava, Slovakia. These are the 10 Countries that will be entering the European Union.

2. This Marian vigil has a strong symbolic value. Indeed, dear university students, you are also entrusted with an important role in building the united Europe, firmly rooted in the spiritual traditions and values that have shaped it. In this regard, universities constitute one of the typical contexts in which culture, marked by a Christian influence, has been formed down the centuries. It is vital that this rich patrimony of ideals not be squandered.

May Mary, whom we have several times called upon as Sedes Sapientiae, protect each one of you, your studies and your commitment to your cultural and spiritual formation.

3. Dear young people of Rome, carrying the Cross, you will shortly arrive at the Church of St Agnese in Agone where together you will renew your profession of faith. The university students in the other countries have joined this pilgrimage in spirit. I send them my cordial greeting.

To you here and to those who have joined us via radio or television I impart a special Blessing, which I gladly extend to your families, your Nations and the whole of Europe.



Monday, 15 March 2004

Illustrious Captains Regent,

I am pleased to extend my cordial welcome to you on this occasion when the Most High Magistrature of the Titanus Republic wishes to confirm the secular bonds that exist between those you represent and the Successor of Peter. As I thank you for the kind words you have expressed to me on behalf of your fellow citizens, I ask you to pass on my heartfelt sentiments of closeness to a venerable people who have made freedom, honesty and industriousness not only a programme of life, but the foundation itself of their civilian existence.

Marinus the monk, your Founder, is in a certain sense the precursor of the idea of a "Europe of the peoples". He handed down to you values and institutions which still continue to show their actuality and vitality today, even after 1,700 years. These are expressed in your Republic's motto: libertas. The ancient Republic, which you worthily represent here today, finds its specific identity grounded in those Christian roots that have made Europe's history so great. I trust also that for the future of your Republic, you will continue in planning your initiatives to be inspired by these legitimate ethical criteria which have become an example of the proper management of the common good.

As I renew the expression of my affection, already shown to your People from the beginning of my Pontificate when in August 1982 I went to Mount Titanus, I hope that the Serene Republic of San Marino continues to give witness to its own more than 1,000-year-old patrimony of values in the assembly of Nations. It is with these thoughts that I impart to you, your loved ones and all your citizens my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.



Thursday, 18 March 2004

"Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mc 16,15).

1. Dear Superiors and students of Redemptoris Mater Diocesan Seminary, I am delighted to welcome you with these words of the risen Jesus which you hear and meditate upon on the Feast of Sts Cyril and Methodius, the anniversary of the canonical establishment of your Seminary.

I greet, first of all, the Cardinal Vicar and thank him for his words. I greet with affection your Rector, Mons. Claudiano Strazzari, the other superiors and formation teachers and each one of you, dear students.

2. More than 16 years have passed since your Seminary opened its doors. It has been a new and very significant experience in view of its formation of priests for the new evangelization. Since then, various other Redemptoris Mater Seminaries have sprung up in the world that are inspired by your model and share your purposes.

In the course of these years, your Seminary has produced particularly abundant good results. For these I give thanks with you to the Lord. I would also like to thank for these same results the Neocatechumenal Way, in which your vocations are born and develop. I also thank the Rector and your other superiors who, under the caring guidance of the Cardinal Vicar, preside with love and wisdom over your preparation for the priesthood.

My grateful thoughts also go to the Founders of the Way, to whom we are indebted for their felicitous insight in proposing the creation of your Seminary and who work so hard to encourage the birth of vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life in the Way itself. I would then like to recall with you two Bishops, Bishop Giulio Salimei and Bishop Maximino Romero who, with their enlightened dedication and the example of their lives, have both made a great contribution - the former as Rector, the latter as Spiritual Director - to initially developing and successfully shaping Redemptoris Mater.

I am also pleased to stress, as the Cardinal Vicar has already recalled, that in the past 16 years, your Seminary has produced a large number of zealous priests, fittingly dedicated partly to pastoral service in the Diocese of Rome and partly to the mission in every region of the world as fidei donum priests.

3. To achieve these positive results you must always have a clear idea throughout your formation of the nature and features of the ministerial priesthood, as they were described by the Second Vatican Council and later by the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis.

The common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood are in fact ordered and closely related to one another, since each in its own way participates in the one priesthood of Christ.

However, they are different in essence and not only in rank (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 10). Indeed, by virtue of the sacrament of Orders, priests are configured in a special way to Jesus Christ as Head and Shepherd of his people, and they must devote the whole of their lives, like Christ, to serving this people. Precisely because they sacramentally represent Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd, they are called to preside over the communities entrusted to their care in close communion with their Bishop, and in accordance with each of the three dimensions - prophetic, priestly and royal - in which the one mission of Christ and of his Church is expressed (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 12-16).

Dear seminarians, by adhering to this solid doctrine in your formation and, subsequently, in the daily exercise of the priestly ministry, you will be able to live the grace of the priesthood joyfully and to assure an authentic and fruitful service to the Diocese of Rome and the sister Churches to which you may be sent.

Prayer, study and community life, well harmonized in the formation programme and put into practice with fidelity and generosity in the concrete life of your Seminary, are the ways in which the Lord sculpts in you, day after day, the image of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

4. When you are priests, you can also prepare yourselves confidently and fruitfully on these foundations to live without reserve your constitutive membership in the diocesan priesthood, for which the Bishop is both the essential reference point and the deep bond that binds you to the experience of the Neocatechumenal Way. Indeed, as art. 18 of the Statues of the Way states, in the diocesan and missionary Redemptoris Mater Seminaries, "candidates to the priesthood find in participation in the Neocatechumenal Way a specific, basic element of the formation process and, at the same time, they train to make the genuine presbyteral choice of service to the entire people of God, in the fraternal communion of the priesthood".

Likewise, it is necessary to avoid a false choice between pastoral service in the Diocese to which you belong and the universal mission to the ends of the earth which is rooted in sacramental participation in the priesthood of Christ (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 17-18), for which you are specially prepared through the experience of the Neocatechumenal Way.

In fact, the decision as to where you are eventually sent is up to the Bishop, who has at heart both the needs of his Diocese and the requirements of the universal mission. By entrusting yourselves to his decisions with confident and affable obedience, you will find your inner peace and serenity and will be able to express in every case your missionary charism, given that also here in Rome, pastoral care is and must be more and more marked by the priority of evangelization.

5. Dear Superiors and students of Rome's Redemptoris Mater Seminary, always look at your life, your vocation and your mission with the eyes of faith. At the end of this meeting, I would like once again to express the affection and confidence I feel for you and to assure you of my constant prayers for each one of you, for the whole Seminary, for the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way and especially for the vocations to the priesthood that develop in them.

With these sentiments I impart to all of you and to those who are dear to you the Apostolic Blessing.




Saturday, 20 March 2004

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I cordially greet all of you who took part in the International Congress: "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas". I wish to extend a special greeting to Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Vice-President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and to Prof. Gian Luigi Gigli, President of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and selfless champion of the fundamental value of life, who has kindly expressed your shared feelings.

This important Congress, organized jointly by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, is dealing with a very significant issue: the clinical condition called the "vegetative state". The complex scientific, ethical, social and pastoral implications of such a condition require in-depth reflections and a fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue, as evidenced by the intense and carefully structured programme of your work sessions.

2. With deep esteem and sincere hope, the Church encourages the efforts of men and women of science who, sometimes at great sacrifice, daily dedicate their task of study and research to the improvement of the diagnostic, therapeutic, prognostic and rehabilitative possibilities confronting those patients who rely completely on those who care for and assist them. The person in a vegetative state, in fact, shows no evident sign of self-awareness or of awareness of the environment, and seems unable to interact with others or to react to specific stimuli.

Scientists and researchers realize that one must, first of all, arrive at a correct diagnosis, which usually requires prolonged and careful observation in specialized centres, given also the high number of diagnostic errors reported in the literature. Moreover, not a few of these persons, with appropriate treatment and with specific rehabilitation programmes, have been able to emerge from a vegetative state. On the contrary, many others unfortunately remain prisoners of their condition even for long stretches of time and without needing technological support.

In particular, the term permanent vegetative state has been coined to indicate the condition of those patients whose "vegetative state" continues for over a year. Actually, there is no different diagnosis that corresponds to such a definition, but only a conventional prognostic judgment, relative to the fact that the recovery of patients, statistically speaking, is ever more difficult as the condition of vegetative state is prolonged in time.

However, we must neither forget nor underestimate that there are well-documented cases of at least partial recovery even after many years; we can thus state that medical science, up until now, is still unable to predict with certainty who among patients in this condition will recover and who will not.

3. Faced with patients in similar clinical conditions, there are some who cast doubt on the persistence of the "human quality" itself, almost as if the adjective "vegetative" (whose use is now solidly established), which symbolically describes a clinical state, could or should be instead applied to the sick as such, actually demeaning their value and personal dignity. In this sense, it must be noted that this term, even when confined to the clinical context, is certainly not the most felicitous when applied to human beings.

In opposition to such trends of thought, I feel the duty to reaffirm strongly that the intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being do not change, no matter what the concrete circumstances of his or her life. A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a "vegetable" or an "animal".

Even our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the clinical condition of a "vegetative state" retain their human dignity in all its fullness. The loving gaze of God the Father continues to fall upon them, acknowledging them as his sons and daughters, especially in need of help.

4. Medical doctors and health-care personnel, society and the Church have moral duties toward these persons from which they cannot exempt themselves without lessening the demands both of professional ethics and human and Christian solidarity.

The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.), and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed. He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery.

I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.

The obligation to provide the "normal care due to the sick in such cases" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Iura et Bona, p. IV) includes, in fact, the use of nutrition and hydration (cf. Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", Dans le Cadre, 2, 4, 4; Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Charter of Health Care Workers, n. 120). The evaluation of probabilities, founded on waning hopes for recovery when the vegetative state is prolonged beyond a year, cannot ethically justify the cessation or interruption of minimal care for the patient, including nutrition and hydration. Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.

In this regard, I recall what I wrote in the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, making it clear that "by euthanasia in the true and proper sense must be understood an action or omission which by its very nature and intention brings about death, with the purpose of eliminating all pain"; such an act is always "a serious violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person" (n. 65).

Besides, the moral principle is well known, according to which even the simple doubt of being in the presence of a living person already imposes the obligation of full respect and of abstaining from any act that aims at anticipating the person's death.

5. Considerations about the "quality of life", often actually dictated by psychological, social and economic pressures, cannot take precedence over general principles.

First of all, no evaluation of costs can outweigh the value of the fundamental good which we are trying to protect, that of human life. Moreover, to admit that decisions regarding man's life can be based on the external acknowledgment of its quality, is the same as acknowledging that increasing and decreasing levels of quality of life, and therefore of human dignity, can be attributed from an external perspective to any subject, thus introducing into social relations a discriminatory and eugenic principle.

Moreover, it is not possible to rule out a priori that the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration, as reported by authoritative studies, is the source of considerable suffering for the sick person, even if we can see only the reactions at the level of the autonomic nervous system or of gestures. Modern clinical neurophysiology and neuro-imaging techniques, in fact, seem to point to the lasting quality in these patients of elementary forms of communication and analysis of stimuli.

6. However, it is not enough to reaffirm the general principle according to which the value of a man's life cannot be made subordinate to any judgment of its quality expressed by other men; it is necessary to promote the taking of positive actions as a stand against pressures to withdraw hydration and nutrition as a way to put an end to the lives of these patients.

It is necessary, above all, to support those families who have had one of their loved ones struck down by this terrible clinical condition. They cannot be left alone with their heavy human, psychological and financial burden. Although the care for these patients is not, in general, particularly costly, society must allot sufficient resources for the care of this sort of frailty, by way of bringing about appropriate, concrete initiatives such as, for example, the creation of a network of awakening centres with specialized treatment and rehabilitation programmes; financial support and home assistance for families when patients are moved back home at the end of intensive rehabilitation programmes; the establishment of facilities which can accommodate those cases in which there is no family able to deal with the problem or to provide "breaks" for those families who are at risk of psychological and moral burn-out.

Proper care for these patients and their families should, moreover, include the presence and the witness of a medical doctor and an entire team, who are asked to help the family understand that they are there as allies who are in this struggle with them. The participation of volunteers represents a basic support to enable the family to break out of its isolation and to help it to realize that it is a precious and not a forsaken part of the social fabric.

In these situations, then, spiritual counselling and pastoral aid are particularly important as help for recovering the deepest meaning of an apparently desperate condition.

7. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in conclusion I exhort you, as men and women of science responsible for the dignity of the medical profession, to guard jealously the principle according to which the true task of medicine is "to cure if possible, always to care".

As a pledge and support of this, your authentic humanitarian mission to give comfort and support to your suffering brothers and sisters, I remind you of the words of Jesus: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25,40).

In this light, I invoke upon you the assistance of him, whom a meaningful saying of the Church Fathers describes as Christus medicus, and in entrusting your work to the protection of Mary, Consoler of the sick and Comforter of the dying, I lovingly bestow on all of you a special Apostolic Blessing.





To my Venerable Brother
Fr Bernardo D'Onorio, O.S.B.
Abbot of Montecassino

Sixty years have passed since the events of the war that dramatically marked the history of Montecassino and its environs, but vivid echoes of them still live on in the minds and vicissitudes of many people and families of this ancient and well-known place. On 15 February 1944, a terrible bombardment razed the abbey to the ground; a month later, on 15 March, the town of Cassino was hit. At last, however, on 18 May, fighting ceased and a new life began in the region.

I am grateful to you, Father Abbot, for informing me of the celebrations for which the diocesan and municipal communities are preparing, gathered closely round the venerable tomb of St Benedict and harking back to those months of suffering and pain but also of hope and solidarity. I gladly take this opportunity to address my cordial greeting to everyone, assuring them of my spiritual closeness, reinforced by the constant remembrance of the Visits I have been able to pay to the Abbey and to the nearby Polish cemetery.

While the commemoration of the bereavements and destruction are under way, I prayerfully join those who are renewing Christian support for all the victims. At this time, my thoughts also go to all who are making their own contribution to the cause of justice and peace. I would like in particular to fix your gaze on the Abbey of Montecassino, the true coffer of a precious treasure of spirituality, culture and art. That the ancient monastery was destroyed by the war yet later perfectly rebuilt becomes an invitation to hope for us believers, prompting us as it were to see in this event a symbol of Christ's victory over evil as well as of human ability, with the power of faith in God and brotherly love, to overcome the harshest of conflicts to make goodness, justice and harmony triumphant.

The Second World War was an abyss of violence, destruction and death unlike anything previously known (cf. Message for the 37th World Day of Peace, 1 January 2004, n. 5). What befell Montecassino deserves to be commemorated and held up as a warning to ponder, a reminder to all of their sense of responsibility. The new generations, Italian and European, have the good fortune not to have experienced the war directly. Yet they also know something about the tragedies to which wars give rise because of the victims that the many conflicts in various parts of the world are claiming. Young people are the hope of humanity: they must be able to grow up in an atmosphere of an ongoing and effective education in peace. They must learn from history a fundamental lesson of life and coexistence in solidarity: the law of force is destructive, whereas the force of law is constructive.

This is the thought that I entrust for consideration to all who are taking part in these commemorative celebrations. I make myself spiritually present at them with a special prayer to St Benedict who, precisely 40 years ago, was proclaimed Patron of Europe. I also call on Sts Cyril and Methodius, Co-Patrons of the Continent whose feast we celebrated yesterday, and above all, on the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace. May the family of Nations experience a renewed and unanimous commitment to peace in justice.

To you, venerable Brother, to the Reverend Monks, to the civil and military Authorities and to the entire population I cordially impart the implored Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 15 February 2004





Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 13 March 2004