Speeches 2004




Thursday, 27 May 2004

Your Excellency,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican today and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Suriname to the Holy See. I greatly appreciate your reference to President Venetiaan’s desire for close cooperation between your country and the Holy See, and I would ask you kindly to convey to him my cordial greetings. To the Government and people of Suriname I offer the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the Nation.

The Church’s diplomatic relations form part of her mission of service to the human family and are specifically intended to promote peace and harmony among the world’s peoples. These are essential conditions for progress in attaining the common good and integral development of individuals and nations, which can only be achieved to the extent that the dignity proper to every human being is protected by a nation’s legislative structures and affirmed by its civic institutions.

In your own country, Mr Ambassador, with its especially rich and varied cultural and religious traditions, the importance of recognizing the innate human dignity of every individual is immediately apparent. Without a vigorous defence and promotion of the common values rooted in the very nature of the human person, the peaceful coexistence of communities of differing ethnic and religious backgrounds would lack a solid foundation. Furthermore, in situations of cultural and religious pluralism, it is increasingly apparent that mutual understanding and respect for differences play a vital role in maintaining the national unity necessary for genuine progress and for ensuring that the dreaded spectre of interreligious or interethnic conflict does not occur. In this regard, I am glad to note the commendable contributions of the long-established Council of Christian Churches and of the Interreligious Council, both of which are particularly active in helping Surinamese society to develop more closely in conformity with the dignity and rights of its citizens.

As you have noted, Suriname together with the rest of the world community is facing the pressing problems of today’s ever more globalized world and the emerging new international order. While globalization in itself is a neutral phenomenon, I have not hesitated to make known my concern at witnessing a globalization that exacerbates the conditions of the needy, that does not sufficiently contribute to resolving situations of hunger, poverty and social inequality, and that fails to safeguard the natural environment. To counteract these injustices the international community must strive to ensure that globalization is ethically responsible, treating all peoples as equal partners and not as passive instruments. In this way globalization can serve the whole human family, no longer bringing benefit merely to a privileged few but advancing the common good of all (cf. Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 2 May 2003).

A heightened sense of economic, political and cultural interdependence demands an increased solidarity between the developed and developing nations. One sure sign of the international community’s positive commitment to the common good, which such solidarity upholds, is the growing recognition of the urgent need to alleviate poverty wherever it is found (cf. Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, No. 14). The Holy See for its part will continue to support the Millennium Development goals as well as new initiatives such as the International Finance Facility, which has as its dual purpose the financing of sustainable development projects and the realization of the target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income in aid. Reduction of the crushing debt which entraps many developing countries is essential if their economic potential is to be harnessed.

The exercise of solidarity also demands a wholehearted effort within each society (cf. Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, No. 39). If genuine international progress is to be made along the path of equal partnership, then practical gestures of assistance by wealthy nations must be met with political transparency and accountability on the part of the receiver. Responsible government, the maintenance of law and order across the country, and the participation of all sectors of society in support of the civic institutions committed to the genuine development of the nation, all have their particular role in contributing to a culture of peace and collaboration. In your own Nation these are among the conditions necessary to attract the investment required to stimulate the economic growth necessary to enable Surinamese living abroad to return to their homeland with the prospect of employment and a secure future.

For her part the Catholic Church in Suriname will likewise continue to assist in the attainment of the goals of peace and prosperity. Faithful to her spiritual and humanitarian mission, she takes an active role in the interreligious initiatives and multicultural activities which endeavour to serve the well-being of the people. Through her numerous schools, health-care facilities, and community development programmes the Church seeks to build a better future for the country. In this service she desires neither power nor privilege, but only the freedom to express her faith and love in works of goodness, justice and peace.

Mr Ambassador, as you enter the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the ready assistance of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia. May your mission serve to strengthen the bonds of understanding and cooperation between Suriname and the Holy See which have deepened since the establishment of diplomatic relations ten years ago. Upon you and your fellow citizens I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 27 May 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I welcome Your Excellency with pleasure to the Vatican on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Tunisia to the Holy See.

I thank you for conveying to me the kind words of H.E. Mr Zine Le Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Republic, and I would be grateful if you would reciprocate to him my cordial wishes for his person and for his compatriots. I ask the Most High to support the efforts of all Tunisians to build a society that is more and more fraternal and supportive, in which each citizen may benefit from the progress made and achieve his or her legitimate aspiration to live in justice and peace.

You have recalled, Mr Ambassador, the long tradition of tolerance and acceptance that mark Tunisia, as well as your Country's deep attachment to the cause of peace. In the face of the current international situation, marked by the intolerable violence of terrorism and undermined by the instability of several regions of the world, especially the Middle East, it is urgently necessary for people of good will to join forces for peace. The Holy See is sparing no effort to achieve this, especially by reminding the individual members of the international community of their responsibility in this context. As I have often affirmed, only recourse to negotiations in an honest and demanding dialogue will enable adversaries and the belligerent to find new ways to settle conflicts and restore a situation of justice and mutual respect.

I therefore appeal once again to those who have authority in the war process. They must remember that their priority mission is to offer to persons and peoples the gift of peace, so that each one may plan his own future and that of his family with confidence and serenity. Violence and war, as we know only too well, cannot solve conflicts. On the contrary, most often they inflict such injuries and damage that they generate lasting hatred between persons and peoples and destroy, sometimes for long periods, all possibility of dialogue and respect.

I rejoice at the broad convergence of views you drew attention to on this matter between your Country and the Holy See. I hope that our joint efforts may be the source of significant progress for world peace, for we cannot be passive before the dramas that are tearing our world apart and are such a grim portent for the generations to come. I am thinking in particular of the conflict in the Holy Land that has been drawn out for so many years and seriously wounds the conscience of all believers.

The long experience of Christian faith in its dialogue with human societies in the course of history has shown that religion, in its essential truth, is a powerful means of humanization for mankind. It invites all to respect the Creator and his creation; it reveals to people their dignity as creatures, called to have dominion over the world, directing their history in accordance with God's plans, always seeking the truth and acting as justice and the law require.

These features of "human" conduct apply to relations between individuals and between groups in the heart of society, but they also apply for relations between nations and in international relations. As I recalled in my last Message for the World Day of Peace: "Law is the first road leading to peace, and people need to be taught to respect that law. Yet one does not arrive at the end of this road unless justice is complemented by love. Justice and love sometimes appear to be opposing forces. In fact, they are but two faces of a single reality" (n. 10).

There is no doubt that the different religions, particularly Christianity and Islam, each in its own province, still have a long way to go to establish a true dialogue with one another, respectful and fruitful, in order to denounce any manipulation of religion to serve violence, and to convince men and women and especially political leaders to engage in new perspectives to build brotherhood and a just and lasting peace for everyone. I am delighted, therefore, by your Country's engagement to establish a sincere dialogue between the cultures and the religions. This is an important goal which must lead to relations that show greater solidarity between human and religious communities.

For its part, the modest Catholic community that lives in Tunisia has no other ambition than to witness to the dignity of man, created in the image of God, and to put itself in a brotherly way at his service. May I be permitted, Mr Ambassador, to greet through you its Pastor, the Bishop of Tunis, and all the Catholic faithful there. They are particularly involved not only in the field of education but also in health care. They have put and wish to continue to put their hearts into the development of the Country through their work and are eager to pursue an open and loyal dialogue of life with Muslim believers. I encourage them to grow in mutual love, to show themselves welcoming to their brethren who come from other Churches, thereby witnessing to their sense of brotherhood and their love for peace.

At the time when you are inaugurating your noble mission at the service of peace and good relations between your Country and the Holy See, I would like to assure you, Mr Ambassador, of my cordial good wishes and the support of my co-workers. You will always be welcome at the Vatican where you will find in them the help you may need. I invoke upon you, your family and all your Embassy staff an abundance of divine Blessings.




Thursday, 27 May 2004

Mr Ambassador,

As you come to the Vatican to present the Letters accrediting you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Holy See, I offer you a cordial welcome. Not only does your presence here today remind me of the warm and enthusiastic reception I received during my Pastoral Visits to your country in 1981 and 1998, but the kind greetings you bring from President Obasanjo rekindle the memory of our friendly meeting here in the Vatican during the Jubilee Year 2000. I ask you to convey my good wishes to His Excellency the President and to assure him of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

I am pleased to hear you refer to your country’s commitment to good governance and to the consolidation of democracy. Indeed, having made the important transition from military rule to a civilian government, the challenge before you now is to build up and strengthen your young democracy, increasing the participation of all segments of the population in a representative and juridically safeguarded ordering of public life. An essential requirement in this regard is the need for political authority to be exercised with transparency and accountability. Public life, both on the national and international levels, is to be guided by "four precise requirements of the human spirit: truth, justice, love and freedom" (Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, No. 3). I encourage Nigeria to be ever more committed to this courageous democratic endeavour undertaken with a deep sense and spirit of service to its people.

Indeed, there exists an indissoluble bond between peace and truth that must be recognized if men and women are to live in freedom, justice and security. "Honesty in the supply of information, equity in legal systems, openness in democratic procedures give citizens a sense of security, a readiness to settle controversies by peaceful means, and a desire for genuine and constructive dialogue, all of which constitute the true premises of a lasting peace" (ibid., No. 8). When people more fully grasp the meaning and consequences of events in their own lives and in the world, they are better equipped to make effective contributions to peace, especially through the proper use of societal structures and mechanisms — juridical, political, economic — to serve the common good.

Of course, as the Federal Republic seeks ever greater national stability and unity along the path of increased democratization of society and institutions, challenges are not lacking. Moral courage and political wisdom are necessary, for example, in dealing effectively with the outbreaks of violence in the Niger Delta region, with the political and ethnic tensions in the north-west, and with the problems of corruption, poverty and disease. Through a resolute commitment to work tirelessly and steadfastly for the cause of peace, for the defence of human dignity and human rights, for the integral development of every individual, these challenges can be met and the way will be prepared for heightening awareness of the common destiny and interdependence that links all Nigerians, and indeed all peoples, as members of the one great family of mankind. Increasingly, Nigeria has emerged as a country predisposed to serve the cause of peace and development through international institutions such as the African Union and the United Nations. I encourage Nigerian leaders to be steadfast in their solidarity with other nations in order that a free and just world may become a reality.

In the service of peace, which is also the service of truth, religion has a vital role to play. It makes its most effective contribution in this area by concentrating on those things that are proper to it: "attention to God, the fostering of universal brotherhood and the spreading of a culture of human solidarity" (ibid., No. 9). Now, when communities or peoples of different religious convictions or cultures live in the same area it can sometimes happen that tensions will develop or increase, which, because of the strong passions involved, can turn into violent conflict. For this reason, it is of paramount importance to recall that "recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a perversion of the very teachings of the major religions. I reaffirm here what many religious figures have repeated so often: the use of violence can never claim a religious justification, nor can it foster the growth of true religious feeling" (Message for the 1999 World Day of Peace, No. 5).

The Catholic Church in Nigeria is committed to the peaceful advancement of the nation, especially through her presence in the fields of education, health care and social services. The effective guarantee of the right of religious freedom will enable Catholics to continue to work for the spiritual and material progress of society. In this regard, I am confident that the Government will fulfil its commitment to address the difficulties faced by foreign missionary workers seeking visa renewals. It is also my fervent hope that tensions between diverse ethnic and religious communities, escalating to the point of violence and even murder in some parts of the country, will be defused by sincere dialogue and efforts aimed at reconciliation and mutual understanding and cooperation.

Mr Ambassador, I trust that your mission will serve to strengthen the ties of friendship existing between your country and the Holy See. As you assume your new responsibilities I offer you my prayerful good wishes, and I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and the beloved people of Nigeria I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 27 May 2004

Your Excellencies,

1. I welcome you with joy on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your Countries: Suriname, Sri Lanka, Mali, Yemen, Zambia, Nigeria and Tunisia. I thank you for conveying to me the courteous words of your respective Heads of State, and I ask you to reciprocate them by expressing my respectful good wishes for them and for their lofty mission at the service of their country. Through you, I also greet the leaders of civil society, the religious Authorities of your nations and all your compatriots. I avail myself of your presence at the Vatican to offer my fervent good wishes to the Catholic community of your respective countries, and my cordial greetings to all your fellow citizens.

2. Disturbing news concerning the status of human rights is constantly arriving from all the continents. It makes clear that in contempt of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (cf. art. 5), people - men, women and children - are tortured and their dignity is offended. Thus, the whole of humanity is injured and derided. Since every human being is our brother or sister in humanity, we cannot keep silent before such intolerable abuses. It is the duty of all people of good will, whether they have responsibilities or are ordinary citizens, to do their utmost to enforce respect for every human being.

3. I appeal today to the consciences of our contemporaries. Indeed, the human conscience must be educated so that the unacceptable forms of violence which weigh heavily on our brethren in humanity may cease once and for all, and all people may join forces to promote respect for the most fundamental rights of every man and woman. We cannot live in peace and our hearts will always be uneasy so long as human beings are not treated with dignity. It is our duty to show solidarity to every one of them. Peace cannot be established unless we all join forces, especially you who are diplomats, to ensure that every person on this earth is respected. Peace alone entitles us to hope in the future. Your mission, therefore, is to be at the service of fraternal relations between persons and peoples.

4. Consequently, I express my desire for peace for your governments and for all the inhabitants of your countries. At the time when you are beginning your noble mission to the Holy See, I offer you my very best wishes and invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, your families, your colleagues and the nations that you represent.



Friday, 28 May 2004

Mr Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to offer my welcome to you and to the delegation that has accompanied you. Your visit today comes after the solemn act of the exchange of the Instruments of Ratification of the Accord between Slovenia and the Holy See on certain juridical topics of common concern. I thank you for your kind words and ask you to convey my respectful greeting to Mr Janez Drnovsek, President of the Republic.

2. The Agreement that comes into force today testifies to the commitment of the Republic of Slovenia to maintain good relations with the Apostolic See. These relations are founded on mutual respect and loyal collaboration for the benefit of all the inhabitants of your Country, which has recently joined the European Union. I know that Slovenia desires to contribute to the common commitment to make Europe a true family of Peoples in a context of freedom and mutual cooperation, while at the same time safeguarding its own cultural and spiritual identity.

Mr Prime Minister, I am convinced that Slovenia will be able to make this contribution effectively, because it can also refer to the Christian values that are an integral part of its history and culture. May it always remain faithful to these values!

3. Once again I address my affectionate thoughts and the assurance of my constant remembrance in prayer to the beloved Slovenian People, whom I have twice visited with great joy.

May God help them to make constant progress on their way towards development and peace. God bless dear Slovenia!

With these sentiments, I willingly impart my Blessing to you and to your fellow citizens.





Friday, 28 May 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With joy and fraternal affection I welcome you, the Bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee, on the occasion of your quinquennial visit ad limina Apostolorum. May these days of reflection and prayer at the heart of the Church confirm you in your witness to Jesus Christ, "the same yesterday, today and forever" (He 13,8), and to "that gracious word of his which can enlarge you, and give you a share among all who are consecrated to him" (Ac 20,32).

In my continuing reflections with you and your Brother Bishops on the exercise of the episcopal office, I now wish to turn from the mission of sanctification entrusted to the successors of the Apostles to the prophetic mission which they carry out as "heralds of the Gospel and teachers of the faith" (Lumen Gentium LG 25) within the communion of the whole People of God. There is in fact an intrinsic relationship between holiness and Christian witness. By their rebirth in Baptism, "all the faithful together become a holy and royal priesthood, offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ, and declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into his marvelous light" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 2 cf. 1P 2,9). Every Christian, in carrying out this prophetic mission, has taken on a personal responsibility for the divine truth revealed in the Incarnate Word, handed on in the Church’s living Tradition, and made manifest in the efforts of believers to spread the faith and to transform the world by the light and power of the Gospel (cf. Redemptor Hominis RH 19).

2. This "responsibility for the truth" demands of the Church a forthright and credible witness to the deposit of faith. It calls for a correct understanding of the act of faith itself as a graced assent to the word of God which enlightens the mind and empowers the spirit to rise to the contemplation of uncreated truth, "so that by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves" (Fides et Ratio, Proemium). An effective proclamation of the Gospel in contemporary Western society will need to confront directly the widespread spirit of agnosticism and relativism which has cast doubt on reason’s ability to know the truth which alone satisfies the human heart’s restless quest for meaning. At the same time, it must firmly defend the Church as being, in Christ, the authentic minister of the Gospel and the "pillar and bulwark" of its saving truth (cf. 1Tm 3,15 Lumen Gentium LG 8).

For this reason, the new evangelization calls for an unambiguous presentation of faith as a supernatural virtue by which we are united to God and become sharers in his own knowledge, in response to his revealed word. The presentation of an authentically biblical understanding of the act of faith, one which emphasizes both its cognitive and its fiducial dimensions, will help to overcome purely subjective approaches and facilitate a deeper appreciation of the Church’s role in authoritatively proposing "the faith which is to be believed and put into practice" (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 25). An essential element of the Church’s dialogue with contemporary society must also be a correct presentation, in catechesis and preaching, of the relationship between faith and reason. This will lead to a more fruitful understanding of the spiritual dynamics of conversion as obedience to the word of God, openness to "putting on the mind of Christ" (Ph 2,5), and sensitivity to that supernatural sensus fidei by which "the people of God, under the guidance of the sacred magisterium to which it is faithfully obedient, adheres indefectibly to ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints’" (Lumen Gentium LG 12).

3. The word of God must not be chained (cf. 2Tm 2,9); instead, it must resound before the world in all its liberating truth as a word of grace and salvation. If indeed "it is Christ, the new Adam, who fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his supreme calling" (Gaudium et Spes GS 22), then all the Church’s efforts need to be focused on and directed to this one goal: to make Christ everywhere known and loved as "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14,5). This will require a profound renewal of the missionary and prophetic sense of the whole People of God, and the conscious mobilization of the Church’s resources in the work of an evangelization which enables individual Christians to give an account of the hope that is within them (cf. 1P 3,15) and the Church as a whole to speak courageously and with a united voice in addressing the great moral and spiritual issues confronting the men and women of our time.

The Church in the United States, with its impressive network of educational and charitable institutions, is challenged to an evangelization of culture capable of drawing from the wisdom of the Gospel "things both new and old" (Mt 13,52). It is called to respond to the profound religious needs and aspirations of a society increasingly in danger of forgetting its spiritual roots and yielding to a purely materialistic and soulless vision of the world. Taking up this challenge, however, will require a realistic and comprehensive reading of the "signs of the times", in order to develop a persuasive presentation of the Catholic faith and prepare young people especially to dialogue with their contemporaries about the Christian message and its relevance to the building of a more just, humane and peaceful world. Now is above all the hour of the lay faithful, who, by their specific vocation to shape the secular world in accordance with the Gospel, are called to carry forward the Church’s prophetic mission by evangelizing the various spheres of family, social, professional and cultural life (cf. Ecclesia in America ).

4. In these reflections on the Church’s prophetic mission, I cannot fail to express my appreciation of the efforts which the American Bishops have made since the Second Vatican Council, both as individuals and through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, to contribute to an informed and respectful discussion of important issues affecting the life of your nation.In this way the light of the Gospel has been brought to bear on controversial social questions such as respect for human life, problems of justice and peace, immigration, the defense of family values and the sanctity of marriage. This prophetic witness, presented with arguments drawn not only from religious convictions which Catholics share with many other Americans, but also from the principles of right reason and law, is a significant service to the common good in a democracy like your own.

Dear Brother Bishops, in the daily exercise of your ministry of teaching I encourage you to ensure that the spirituality of communion and mission finds expression in a sincere commitment on the part of each believer and of every one of the Church’s institutions to the proclamation of the Gospel as "the only fully valid response to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society" (Christifideles Laici CL 34). The profession of the Catholic religion demands of every member of the faithful a consistent witness to the truth of the Gospel and the objective requirements of the moral law. As you strive to fulfill the Apostle’s charge to "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort" (2Tm 4,2), may you be ever more united in spirit, working tirelessly to enable the flock entrusted to your pastoral care to be witnesses of hope, heralds of God’s Kingdom and builders of the civilization of love which responds to the deepest aspirations of the human heart.

With these sentiments I entrust you and all the clergy, religious and lay faithful of your particular Churches to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.



Saturday, 29 May 2004

Most Reverend President,
Dear Student-Priests at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy,

1. I am pleased to welcome you at a special Audience at the end of your academic year, and I greet you all with affection. First of all, I greet your President, Archbishop Justo Mullor García, whom I warmly thank for expressing your common sentiments of affection and filial loyalty to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. I renew to him my cordial good wishes for the 25th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.

I extend my greetings to all the members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and in particular to those who are dedicated to your formation, dear students who come from various nations. I also send a respectful thought to the Pastors of your respective dioceses, and thank them for assigning you to carry out this special pastoral service.

2. As your President has just recalled, our meeting is taking place on the vigil of Pentecost, a liturgical Solemnity that sheds light on the Church's missionary vocation. After receiving the Holy Spirit, the Apostles set out from Jerusalem filled with courage and enthusiasm and began to travel the world proclaiming the Good News. Ever since, this proclamation has never ceased to ring out among men: Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, is the Saviour of man, of every man and of the whole man.

Down the centuries, evangelization has come face to face with different cultures and, especially recently, with dialogue with the national and international civil institutions.

Dear students of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the specific form of your participation in the evangelizing mission of the Church fits into this context. Keeping in touch with the Pope, the Pontifical Representations are called to represent him in the Ecclesial Communities of the Countries where they work, with the Governments of the nations and with the international organizations. This demands of the staff of these Missions an ability for dialogue and knowledge of the various peoples and of their cultural and religious expressions, as well as of their legitimate expectations. An appropriate theological and pastoral formation and, above all, mature and total fidelity to Christ are also indispensable to you. Your work will be fruitful and you will feel completely fulfilled in your priesthood only if you stay united to Christ in prayer and seek constantly to discern his will.

3. Dear Students, I hope you will keep alight in your minds and hearts the life-giving flame of the Holy Spirit that we fervently implore in these days, and that you will be witnesses of peace and love wherever divine Providence leads you.

May the Virgin Mary watch over you and make you gentle and courageous apostles of her divine Son. May problems never stand in the way of your generous dedication to Christ and to his Church.

I assure you of my daily remembrance in prayer, and I bless you as well as your families and all your loved ones with affection.

Speeches 2004