Speeches 2004

To Sister Stella Holisz
Superior General
The Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate

With great affection in the Lord, I send greetings to you and all the Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate on the occasion of your Fifteenth General Chapter during which you will reflect on the theme: “Rekindle your first love - respond to the challenges of today”. Assuring you of my prayers for the success of your gathering, I give thanks to the Lord for your dedication to his Kingdom. Guided by the Holy Spirit and inspired by the example of Saint Vincent Pallotti, I am confident that your Chapter will be a source of encouragement for all the Sisters to renew their commitment to witness to the inseparable unity of love of God and love of neighbour (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 63).

Your vocation as missionaries, patterned on the lives of the Apostles, eloquently shows that the more one lives in Christ the better one serves him in others, going even to the furthest missionary outposts and facing the greatest dangers (cf. ibid., 76). The firm commitment to make Christ known and loved has its sublime origin in the “fountain-like love” of the Father made present in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit (cf. Ad Gentes AGD 2). Drawn up into Christ’s impelling love, you cannot but speak (cf. Acts Ac 4,20) of this source of the hope and joy that kindled your first response to the call of the Lord and which has continued to strengthen you in the life of apostolic service to others.

In a world where the shadows of poverty, injustice, and secularism are cast over every continent, the need for authentic disciples of Jesus Christ remains as urgent as ever. It is precisely witness to Christ’s Gospel that dispels the darkness and illuminates the way of peace, fostering hope in the hearts of even the most marginalized and dejected of people. The men and women you encounter from many religions, cultures, and social groups searching for meaning and dignity in their lives can never have their longings fulfilled by some vague religiosity. It is only by joyful fidelity to Christ and by a bold proclamation of him as Lord – a testimony founded on his command to go and make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt Mt 28,19) – that you can assist others to come to know him. In so doing you will experience the full beauty and fruitfulness of your missionary vocation.

Dear Sisters, the Church looks to you to “speak” of Christ to those whom you serve and to “show” him to them (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 16). Such witness demands that you yourselves first contemplate the face of Christ. Your initial and ongoing formation programmes must therefore assist all the Sisters to conform themselves totally to Christ and his love of the Father. For this formation to be truly Christian, each aspect of it must rest upon a profound spiritual foundation which shapes the life of each Sister. In this way you will not only continue to “see” God with the eyes of faith but will also be effective in making his presence “perceptible” to others through the example of your own lives (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 68) – lives marked by the zeal and compassion for the poor so readily associated with your beloved founder.

Invoking upon you the intercession of Saint Vincent Pallotti, the anniversary of whose dies natalis occurs today, and the protection of your Patron, Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I gladly impart to you and to all the Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 22 January 2004





Wednesday, 24 March 2004

Hon. Mr Mayor,
Dear Members of the Awards Committee of the Charlemagne Prize,
Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I offer you all a cordial welcome here in the Vatican. I address a special greeting to the representatives of the City of Aachen accompanied by the Mayor, Mr Linden, and guests of the German Federal Republic. Aware that the Catholic Church has at heart the union of Europe, you have come here to honour the Successor of Peter with the International Charlemagne Prize. If I am able to receive this Prize today, conferred in an extraordinary and unique way, I do so with gratitude to Almighty God, who has filled the European people with the spirit of reconciliation, peace and unity.

2. The Prize, awarded by the City of Aachen for laudable efforts to promote Europe, has very fittingly taken the name of the Emperor Charlemagne. Indeed, the King of the Franks, who established Aachen as the capital of his kingdom, made an essential contribution to the political and cultural foundations of Europe and therefore deserved the nickname Pater Europae (father of Europe) that his contemporaries gave him. The felicitous combination of classical culture and Christian faith with the traditions of various peoples took place in Charlemagne's empire and developed in various forms down the centuries as the spiritual and cultural legacy of Europe. Even if modern Europe presents in many aspects a new reality, we can nevertheless recognize the highly symbolic value of the historical figure of Charlemagne.

3. Today, Europe's growing unity also includes other fathers. On the one hand, we must not underestimate those active thinkers and politicians who have given and who give priority to the joint reconciliation and growth of their peoples, instead of insisting on their own rights and on exclusion.

In this context, I would like to recall those who have been awarded the Prize so far; we can greet some of them who are present here. The Apostolic See recognizes and encourages their activities and the commitment of many other personalities to the peace and unity of the European peoples.

My special thanks go to those who have put all their efforts at the service of building the common European House on the foundations of the values passed on by the Christian faith as well as on those of Western culture.

4. Since the Holy See is located in Europe, the Church has special relations with the peoples of this Continent. Therefore, from the very beginning the Holy See has been involved in the process of European integration. After the horrors of the Second World War, my Predecessor, Pius XII of venerable memory, demonstrated the keen interest of the Church by explicitly supporting the idea of forming a "European union", leaving no doubts about the fact that for such a union to be valid and lasting, it is necessary first of all to go back to Christianity as a factor that creates identity and unity (cf. Address of 11 November 1948 to the Union of European Federalists in Rome).

5. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, what kind of Europe should we dream of today? Permit me to outline a rapid sketch of my own vision of a united Europe.

I am thinking of a Europe that is free of selfish brands of nationalism, in which nations are seen as living centres of a cultural wealth that deserves to be protected and promoted for the benefit of all.

I am thinking of a Europe in which the conquests of science, economics and social well-being are not geared to a blind consumerism but are at the service of every needy person, offering integral assistance to those countries that are endeavouring to reach the goal of social stability. May Europe, which has undergone so many bloody wars in its history, become an active agent of peace throughout the world!

I am thinking of a Europe whose unity is based on true freedom, whose precious fruits of freedom of religion and social freedoms have matured in the humus of Christianity. Without freedom there is no responsibility, either before God or before men and women. The Church, especially since the Second Vatican Council, wants to make ample room for freedom. The modern state is aware that it cannot be a state of rights if it does not protect and promote the freedom of its citizens, allowing them to express themselves as individuals and as groups.

I am thinking of a Europe that is united thanks to the work of the young. Young people understand one another with the greatest of ease, over and above geographical boundaries! How can a young generation be born, however, which is open to the true, the beautiful, the noble and to what is worthy of sacrifice, if in Europe the family no longer represents an institution open to life and disinterested love? A family of which the elderly are an integral part, with a view to what is most important: the active communication of values and of the sense of life.

The Europe I have in mind is a political, indeed, a spiritual unit in which Christian politicians of all countries act with an awareness of the human riches that faith brings: men and women who are committed to making these values fruitful, putting themselves at the service of all for a Europe centred on the human person on which shines the face of God.

This is the dream I carry in my heart and which I would like on this occasion to entrust to you and to the future generations.

6. Mr Mayor, I would like once again to thank you and the Awards Committee of the Charlemagne Prize. From my heart I implore God to pour out his Blessings in abundance upon the City and Diocese of Aachen, and upon all who are working for the true good of the inhabitants and peoples of Europe.



Friday, 26 March 2004

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1Tm 1,2). With fraternal affection I warmly welcome you, the Bishops of Australia. I thank Archbishop Carroll for the good wishes and kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and I assure you of my prayers for yourselves and those entrusted to your pastoral care. Your first visit ad Limina Apostolorum in this new millennium is an occasion to give thanks to God for the immense gift of faith in Jesus Christ which has been welcomed and treasured by the peoples of your country (cf. Ecclesia in Oceania, 1). As servants of the Gospel for the hope of the world, your coming to see Peter (cf. Gal Ga 1,18) affirms and consolidates that collegiality which gives rise to unity in diversity and safeguards the integrity of the tradition handed down by the Apostles (cf. Pastores Gregis ).

2. Our Lord’s call to "come follow me" (Mt 4,19) is as valid today as it was on the shores of Lake Galilee more than two thousand years ago. The joy and hope of Christian discipleship mark the lives of countless Australian priests, Religious, and faithful men and women who together strive to respond to Christ’s call and bring his truth to bear on the ecclesial and civic life of your nation. Yet it is also true that the pernicious ideology of secularism has found fertile ground in Australia. At the root of this disturbing development is the attempt to promote a vision of humanity without God. It exaggerates individualism, sunders the essential link between freedom and truth, and corrodes the relationships of trust which characterize genuine social living. Your own reports unequivocally describe some of the destructive consequences of this eclipse of the sense of God: the undermining of family life; a drift away from the Church; a limited vision of life which fails to awaken in people the sublime call to "direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them" (Fides et Ratio FR 5).

In the face of such challenges, when the winds are against us (cf. Mc 6,48), the Lord himself calls out: "Courage! It is I! Have no fear" (Mc 6,50). Remaining firm in trust, you too can dispel apprehension and fear. Especially within a culture of the "here and now", Bishops must stand out as fearless prophets, witnesses and servants of the hope of Christ (cf. Pastores Gregis ). In proclaiming this hope, which springs from the Cross, I am confident that you will lead men and women from the shadows of moral confusion and ambiguous thinking into the radiance of Christ’s truth and love. Indeed, it is only by understanding humanity’s final destination – eternal life in heaven – that the multitude of daily joys and sorrows can be explained, enabling people to embrace the mystery of their own life with confidence (cf. Fides et Ratio FR 81).

3. The Church’s witness to the hope that she holds (cf. 1P 3,15) is especially powerful when she gathers together for worship. Sunday Mass, because of its special solemnity, the obligatory presence of the faithful, and its celebration on the day when Christ conquered death, expresses with great emphasis the Eucharist’s inherent ecclesial dimension: the mystery of the Church is made present in a most tangible way (cf. Dies Domini, 34). Consequently Sunday is the "supreme day of faith", "an indispensable day", "the day of Christian hope!"

Any weakening in the Sunday observance of Holy Mass weakens Christian discipleship and dims the light of witness to Christ’s presence in our world. When Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes subordinate to a secular concept of "weekend" dominated by such things as entertainment and sport, people stay locked within a horizon so narrow that they can no longer see the heavens (cf. Dies Domini, 4). Rather than being truly satisfied or revitalized, they remain entrapped in a senseless pursuit of the novel and deprived of the perennial freshness of Christ’s "living water" (Jn 4,11). Though the secularization of the Lord’s day understandably causes you much worry you can, however, draw comfort from the faithfulness of the Lord himself who continues to beckon his people with a love which challenges and calls (cf. Ecclesia in Oceania, 3). In urging the dear faithful of Australia – and in a special way the young people – to remain faithful to the celebration of Sunday Mass, I make my own the words found in the Letter to the Hebrews: "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, ... not neglecting to meet together ... but encouraging one another" (He 10,23-25).

To you as Bishops I suggest that as moderators of the liturgy you give pastoral priority to catechetical programmes which instruct the faithful about the true meaning of Sunday and inspire them to observe it fully. To this end I refer you to my Apostolic Letter Dies Domini. It outlines the pilgrim and eschatological character of the People of God, which can so easily be overshadowed today by shallow sociological understandings of community. As a remembrance of a past event and the celebration of the living presence of the Risen Lord amidst his people, Sunday also looks to the future glory of his return and the fullness of Christian hope and joy.

4. Intimately linked to the liturgy is the Church’s mission to evangelize. While the liturgical renewal, ardently desired by the Second Vatican Council, has rightly resulted in a more active and conscious participation of the faithful in the tasks proper to them, such involvement must not become an end in itself. The "purpose of being with Jesus is to go forth from Jesus, in his power and with his grace" (Ecclesia in Oceania, 3).

It is precisely this dynamic that the Prayer after Communion and the Concluding Rite of the Mass articulate (cf. Dies Domini, 45). Sent by the Lord himself into the vineyard – the home, the workplace, schools, civic organizations – disciples of Christ find no room for "standing idle in the marketplace" (Mt 20,3) nor can they be so deeply immersed in the internal organization of parish life, that they are distracted from the command to evangelize others actively (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 2). Renewed by the strength of the Risen Lord and his Spirit, Christ’s followers must return to their "vineyard" burning with a desire to "speak" of Christ and to "show" him to the world (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 16).

5. The communio that exists between a Bishop and his priests demands that the well-being of the presbyterate be close to every Bishop’s heart. The 1998 Statement of Conclusions (Interdicasterial Meeting with a representation of the Australian Bishops) noted, with good reason, the great dedication of the priests serving the Church in Australia (cf. No. 19). In expressing my own appreciation of their tireless and unassuming service, I encourage you always to listen to your priests, as a father would listen to a son. In a secular context such as yours it is of particular importance that you help your priests to appreciate that their spiritual identity must consciously shape all their pastoral activity. The priest is never a manager or mere defender of a particular point of view. In imitation of the Good Shepherd, he is a disciple seeking to transcend his own personal limitations and rejoice in a life of intimacy with Christ. A relationship of deep communion and friendship with Jesus, in which the priest habitually talks "heart to heart with the Lord" (Instruction The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community, 27), will nurture his quest for holiness, enriching not only himself but the entire community he serves.

It is in embracing the universal call to holiness (cf. 1Th 4,3) that the particular vocation to which God summons every individual is found. In this regard I am sure that your initiatives to promote a culture of vocation and to treasure the various states of ecclesial life, which exist so that "the world may believe" (Jn 17,21), will bear fruit. As for the young men who generously respond to God’s call to the priesthood, I again affirm that they must receive your every assistance as they strive for a life of simplicity, chastity and humble service, in imitation of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, of whom they are to become living icons (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 33).

6. The contribution of consecrated men and women to the mission of the Church and the building up of civil society has been of immeasurable worth to your nation. Innumerable Australians have benefited from the selfless commitment of Religious to pastoral ministry and spiritual guidance as well as to education, social and medical work, and care of the elderly. Your reports attest to your admiration of these men and women, whose "gift of self for love of the Lord Jesus and, in him, of every member of the human family" (Vita Consecrata VC 3) so enriches the life of your Dioceses.

This deep appreciation of consecrated life is rightly accompanied by your concern for the decline in Religious vocations in your country. A renewed clarity is needed to articulate the particular contribution of Religious to the life of the Church: a mission to make the love of Christ present in the midst of humanity (cf. Instruction Starting Afresh From Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium, 5). Such clarity will give rise to a new kairos, with Religious confidently reaffirming their calling and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, proposing afresh to young people the ideal of consecration and mission. The evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, embraced for the love of God, splendidly illuminate the fidelity, self-possession and authentic freedom necessary to live the fullness of life to which all men and women are called. With these sentiments I again assure Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters of the vital witness they provide by radically walking in the footsteps of Christ.

7. Dear Brothers, I am pleased to acknowledge your steadfast efforts to uphold the uniqueness of marriage as a life-long covenant based on generous mutual giving and unconditional love. The Church’s teaching on marriage and stable family life offers saving truth to individuals and a sure foundation upon which the aspirations of your nation can be anchored. Incisive and faithful explanation of Christian doctrine regarding marriage and the family is of utmost importance in order to counter the secular, pragmatic and individualistic outlook which has gained ground in the area of legislation and even a certain acceptance in the realm of public opinion (cf. Ecclesia in Oceania, 45). Of particular concern is the growing trend to equate marriage with other forms of cohabitation. This obfuscates the very nature of marriage and violates its sacred purpose in God’s plan for humanity (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 3).

Raising families according to the splendour of Christ’s truth is a sharing in God’s work of creation. It lies at the heart of the call to promote a civilization of love. The deep-seated love of mothers and fathers for their children is also the Church’s, as is the pain experienced by parents when their children fall victim to forces and trends which draw them away from the path of truth, leaving them disorientated and confused. Bishops must continue to support parents who, despite the often bewildering social difficulties of today’s world, are in a position to exercise great influence and offer broader horizons of hope (cf. Pastores Gregis ). It is the Bishop’s particular task to ensure that within civil society – including the media and entertainment industry sectors – the values of marriage and family life are supported and defended (cf. ibid., 52).

8. Finally I wish to acknowledge the noble contribution the Church in Australia makes to the attainment of social justice and solidarity. Your leadership in the defence of the fundamental rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, and the developmental support offered to indigenous Australians, are shining examples of the "commitment to practical and concrete love for every human being" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 49) to which I have called the whole Church. Australia’s growing role as a leader in the Pacific region presents an opportunity for you to respond to the pressing need for a careful discernment of the phenomenon of globalization. Vigilant concern for the poor, the abandoned and the mistreated, and promotion of a globalization of charity will do much to indicate a path of genuine development which overcomes social marginalization and favours economic benefit for all (cf. Pastores Gregis ).

9. Dear Brothers, with affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and assure you of my prayers as you seek to shepherd the flocks entrusted to you. United in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, go forward now in hope! With these sentiments I commend you to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, and to the intercession and guidance of Blessed Mary MacKillop. To you and to the priests, deacons, Religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Saturday, 27 March 2004

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Priesthood,
Dear Young People,

1. In this holy season of Lent when the Church is walking towards Easter in the footsteps of Christ the Lord, I am pleased to welcome all the participants in the Course on the Internal Forum. This Course, organized each year by the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary, is not only followed with special interest by priests and confessors, but also by seminarians who want to prepare themselves to exercise with generous care the ministry of Reconciliation, so essential to the life of the Church.

I first greet you, Cardinal James Francis Stafford. In your capacity as Major Penitentiary, you are accompanying this select group of teachers and students as well as Officials of the Tribunal for the first time. I am also delighted to see here the praiseworthy Religious of various Orders who are dedicated to the ministry of Penance in the Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome for the benefit of the faithful of the Urbe and the Orbe (the city and the world). I greet you all with affection.

2. The new Rite of Penance came into effect in Italy 30 years ago. It had been promulgated a few months earlier by the Congregation for Divine Worship. It seems to me only right to recall this event that placed in the hands of priests and faithful a precious instrument for the renewal of sacramental Confession whose doctrinal premises and instructions for a dignified liturgical celebration are invaluable. I would like to draw attention to the abundant harvest of texts of Sacred Scripture and prayer that the new Rite offers, giving the sacramental moment the full beauty and dignity of a confession of faith and praise to God.

It is also worth stressing the newness of the formula for sacramental absolution, which sheds greater light on the Trinitarian dimension of this sacrament: the mercy of the Father, the paschal mystery of the death and Resurrection of the Son, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

3. With the new Rite of Penance, so rich in biblical, theological and liturgical references, the Church has put in our hands a timely aid for living the sacrament of forgiveness in the light of the Risen Christ. On Easter Day itself, as the Evangelist recalls, Jesus entered the Upper Room through closed doors, breathed upon his disciples and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20,22). Jesus gave them his Spirit, for he is "the forgiveness of all sins", as the Roman Missal says (cf. Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter, Prayer over the Gifts), so that through the ministry of the priest, the penitent might obtain reconciliation and peace.

The fruit of this sacrament is not only the forgiveness of sins, necessary to those who have sinned. It "brings about a true "spiritual resurrection', restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1468). It would be an illusion to want to strive for holiness in accordance with the vocation that God has given to each one of us without frequently and fervently receiving this sacrament of conversion and sanctification.

The horizon of the universal call to holiness which I proposed as the foundation of pastoral planning for the Church at the beginning of the third millennium (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 30) has a crucial premise in the sacrament of Reconciliation (cf. ibid., n. 37). It is, in fact, the sacrament of pardon and grace, of the encounter that regenerates and sanctifies, the sacrament which, with the Eucharist, accompanies the Christian on his way towards perfection.

4. By its nature this sacrament involves a purification, both in the acts of the penitent who lays bare his conscience out of the deep need to be forgiven and to be born to new life, and in the outpouring of sacramental grace that purifies and renews. We will never be holy enough not to need this sacramental purification: humble confession, made lovingly, gives rise to an ever more delicate purity in our service to God and the motivation that sustains it.

Penance is a sacrament of enlightenment. The word of God, sacramental grace, the exhortations filled with the Holy Spirit of the confessor who is a true "spiritual guide", together with the penitent's humble reflection, illumine his conscience, make him understand the sin he has committed and dispose him once again to strive for goodness. Those who make frequent use of Confession and do so desiring to make progress know that in this sacrament, together with God's forgiveness and the grace of the Holy Spirit, they will receive a precious light for their journey towards perfection.

Lastly, the sacrament of Penance brings about a unifying encounter with Christ. Gradually, from confession to confession, the believer experiences an ever deeper communion with the merciful Lord to the point of fully identifying with him, which comes with that perfect "life in Christ" of which true holiness consists.

Seen as an encounter with God the Father through Christ in the Spirit, the sacrament of Penance not only reveals his beauty, but also the fittingness of its assiduous and fervent celebration. It is also a gift for us priests who, despite being called to exercise the sacramental ministry, have shortcomings of our own that need forgiveness. The joy of forgiving and of being forgiven go hand in hand.

5. All confessors have a great responsibility to exercise this ministry with kindness, wisdom and courage. Their task is to make lovable and desirable this encounter that purifies and renews us on our way towards Christian perfection and on the pilgrimage towards our heavenly Homeland.

Dear confessors, as I express the hope that the grace of the Lord will make you all worthy ministers of the "message of reconciliation" (cf. II Cor 5: 19), I entrust your precious service to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, who, in one of the Masses dedicated to her during this Lenten season, the Church calls upon as "Mother of Reconciliation".

Together with these sentiments, I affectionately impart my Blessing to you all.



Monday, 29 March 2004

Distinguished Guests,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you, the President and members of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Your visit is yet another sign of the bonds of friendship between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church, bonds which we hope will grow ever stronger.

God has created man in his image and has endowed human beings with the capacity to love. It is through love that we fulfil our destiny to act in the likeness of God. From this stems our duty to serve one another according to the commandment found in the Book of Leviticus: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord" (19:18). We are called especially to serve those who need our help to live in security, justice and freedom.

I gladly encourage the activity of your Joint Committee. May God bless your efforts and grant you success in helping those in need.





1. I should like, first of all, to extend my cordial greetings to all the students who have come together at this time in Rocca di Papa for the eighth "International Youth Forum" on the theme "Young people and the university: witnessing to Christ in the university world". Your presence is a source of great joy to me, because it is a shining example of the ever-young universal face of the Church. For you have come from five continents, representing over 80 countries and 30 international Movements, Associations and Communities.

And I should also like to greet the Rectors, professors and lecturers attending the Forum, as well as the bishops, priests and the laity engaged in the pastoral care of universities, who will be accompanying the students as they reflect over the coming days.

I wish like to express my most sincere thanks to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Mgr Stanislaw Rylko, and all his co-workers, for convening this welcome event. I vividly recall previous years' Forums organised to coincide with the international celebrations of World Youth Day. For this year it was decided to renew the format, to give the Forum a more clearly defined scope, emphasising its educational dimension by choosing a specific theme around which to debate one concrete aspect of young people's lives. The theme for this meeting is certainly highly topical and meets a real need. I am delighted that so many young people, coming from such rich and diverse cultures have gathered at Rocca di Papa to reflect together, to share their experiences, and to embolden one another to bear witness to Christ in the world of higher education.

2. It is important in our age to rediscover the bond that unites the Church to the world of higher education. For the Church not only played a decisive role in founding the first universities, but throughout the centuries she has been a workshop of culture, and continues in the same direction today through the Catholic Universities and various forms of presence in the vast world of higher education. The Church sees the University as one of those "workplaces in which man's vocation to acquire knowledge, and the constituent bond of humanity with truth as the purpose of knowledge, become a daily reality" for so many professors, young researchers and generations of students (address to UNESCO, 1980).

Dear students, in the University you are not only recipients of services, but you are the true protagonists of the activities performed there. It is no coincidence that the period spent in higher education is a vital stage in your existence, in which you prepare yourselves to take on the responsibility for decisive choices that will direct the whole of your future life. It is for this reason that you must approach higher education with a searching spirit, to seek the right answers to the essential questions about the meaning of life, happiness and complete self-fulfilment, and beauty as the splendour of truth.

Speeches 2004