Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 29 May 2004



Monday, 31 May 2004

Dear Sisters of the Monastic Family of Bethlehem
of the Assumption of the Virgin and of St Bruno,

I am delighted to welcome you on the occasion of your General Chapter. I greet in particular Sr Isabelle, your Prioress, as well as the members of the General Council. I also cordially welcome the members of the Council of the men's branch of your Monastic Family who are also present. In this season of Pentecost, I hope that the Spirit will strengthen you in your specific mission and enlighten you in the decisions you will have to take. As you seek to quench your thirst at the source of your founding charism, may the Breath of God enable you to enter into ever greater intimacy with Christ, the fount of the effectiveness of your witness and the dynamism of your fraternal charity!

Through humble and daring fidelity in the silence that marks your hidden life, you are sustained by the prayer of the Virgin Mary. Through your contemplative life, you raise the world to God and remind the people of today to make time in life for silence and prayer.

May St Bruno, tireless custodian of the Kingdom to come, obtain that you remain vigilant in prayer, keeping "watch, holy and persevering, as you wait for the return of the Master, to open to him as soon as he knocks (cf. Lettre à Raoul, n. 4)! In particular, I invite your monastic Family, whose title bears the name of Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Emmanuel, to intensify its prayers for the Near East, imploring the Lord to grant the grace of peace and reconciliation to all the inhabitants of this region, battered by violence.

With all my heart I willingly impart to you an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all the Sisters of your Monastic Family, to the members of the male branch and to all those who are close to you.





Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens

Monday, 31 May 2004

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I would like to join you in spirit as you take part in the traditional Marian meeting for the conclusion of the month of May in the Vatican. I address a cordial greeting to the Cardinals and Prelates, priests, men and women religious and all those present. I thank everyone who has helped to organize this evocative moment of prayer.

2. The month of May ends with the liturgical feast of the Visitation: the second joyful mystery which instils in hearts an ever new breath of hope. The meeting between Mary and Elizabeth is brought about by the Holy Spirit who fills the mothers with joy and causes the unborn prophet to leap in the womb. Then this year, we are celebrating the Visitation the day after Pentecost; this reminds us of the breath of the Spirit that impels Mary and with her, the Church, to take to the highways of the world to bring Christ, the hope of humanity, to everyone.

3. The flames of the candles you carried during the procession also symbolize the hope that Christ who died and rose has given humanity. Dear brothers and sisters, may you always be bearers of this light. Indeed, as the Lord recommends to his disciples, may you yourselves be light (cf. Mt Mt 5,14), in your own homes, in every environment and in every circumstance of life. Be so with your faithful Gospel witness, learning every day at the school of Mary, the perfect disciple of her divine Son.

May she herself obtain for you this gift from the Holy Spirit, the Teacher of our inmost being. I ask the Lord to grant this to you as I renew my affectionate greeting to you and cordially bless you all.

From the Vatican, 31 May 2004


June 2004



Thursday, 3 June 2004

Your Eminence
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to have this meeting with you who represent the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine, her Pastors, her men and women religious and all her faithful.

I thank you, Your Eminence, for your kind words on behalf of all your Confreres, and I would like to assure you that I am close to you with my affection, my prayers and my profound admiration for your Church's vitality and the fidelity that has distinguished her down the centuries.

With a wealth of heroic witnesses, also in the recent past, your Church is working on pastoral programmes that provide for the generous and harmonious collaboration of clergy and laity for an effective evangelization, encouraged by the atmosphere of freedom that today we can breathe in your Country too.

2. I therefore share in your aspiration to obtain a full juridical and ecclesial status that is firmly grounded in the canonical and conciliar discipline. I share in your prayers and in your suffering, awaiting the day established by God on which, as Successor of Peter, I will be able to approve the mature fruit of your ecclesial development. In the meantime, you know well that your request is being seriously studied, also in the light of the assessments of other Christian Churches.

May this delay not dampen your apostolic courage nor serve to extinguish or attenuate the joy of the Holy Spirit that enlivens and impels you, dear Cardinal Husar, as well as your Brother Bishops, together with the priests, Religious and faithful, to an ever more intense commitment to proclaim the Gospel and consolidate your ecclesial Tradition.

May I ask you, venerable Brothers, to take back to your faithful the expression of my vivid memories and the assurance of my constant prayers, together with the Apostolic Blessing that I cordially impart to you and to all the members of the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine.





Friday, 4 June 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "We also thank God that when you received the word of God you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God at work in you" (1Th 2,13). With this passage from Saint Paul I warmly welcome you, the Bishops of the Church in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. Developing my reflection on the munus propheticum of the Bishop, I wish to reflect today on the pressing task you face of the evangelization of culture.

2. The Church, sure of her competence as the bearer of the Revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. Fides et Ratio FR 6), has since Pentecost made her pilgrim way proclaiming: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6). Her confidence is based on the knowledge that this message has its origin in God himself. In his goodness and wisdom God has entered our human history so that through his Son – the sum total of Revelation – we might be drawn into his own divine life (cf. Dei Verbum DV 2). Thus the fundamental dynamic of the Church’s prophetic mission is to mediate the content of faith to different cultures enabling people to be transformed by the power of the Gospel which permeates their way of thinking, standards of judgement, and norms of behaviour (cf. Sapientia Christiana, Foreword I)

The observation of my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, that "the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the drama of our time" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 20), is manifest today as a "crisis of meaning" (cf. Fides et Ratio FR 81). Ambiguous moral positions, the distortion of reason by particular interest groups, and the absolutization of the subjective, are just some examples of a perspective of life which fails to seek truth itself and abandons the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of human existence (cf. ibid., 47). Against the darkness of this confusion the light of the truth which you openly proclaim (cf. 2Co 4,2) will shine forth as a diakonia of hope, guiding men and women to understand the mystery of their own life in a coherent manner (cf. ibid., 15).

3. As ministers of truth, with a courage imparted by the Holy Spirit, (cf. Pastores Gregis ), your preached and lived testimony to God’s extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2Co 1,20) appears as a sign of strength and trust in the Lord and begets new life in the Spirit. Some today view Christianity as weighed down by structures and failing to respond to people’s spiritual needs. Yet, far from being something merely institutional, the living center of your preaching of the Gospel is the encounter with our Lord himself. In fact, it is only by knowing, loving and imitating Christ that, with him, we can transform history by bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture.

It is clear then that all your activities must be directed towards the proclamation of Christ. Indeed, your duty of personal integrity renders contradictory any separation between mission and life. Sent in Christ’s name as pastors for the care of particular portions of the People of God, you must grow with them as one mind and body in the Holy Spirit (cf. Pastores Gregis ). I urge you therefore to be close to your priests and people: imitate the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep and calls each by name. Inspired by the great Pastors who have gone before us, like Saint Charles Borromeo, your visiting and careful listening to your brother priests and the faithful, and your direct contact with the marginalized, will be quasi anima episcopalis regiminis. In this way you prolong your teaching through the concrete example of humble faith and service, encouraging in others the desire to live a life of authentic discipleship.

4. Central to the new impetus in Christian living, to which I have called the whole Church (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 29), is the unequivocal prophetic witness on the part of consecrated men and women to the fullness of Christ’s truth. Stemming from the radical nature of their following of Christ, this prophetic witness of Religious is marked by their profound conviction of the primacy with which God and the truths of the Gospel shape Christian life and by their dedication to assisting the Christian community in uplifting all sectors of civic society with those truths.

In the wake of increasing secularism and fragmentation of knowledge (cf. Fides et Ratio FR 81), "new forms of poverty" have arisen, particularly in cultures which enjoy material well-being, that reflect a "despair at the lack of meaning in life" (Instruction Starting Afresh From Christ: A Renewed Commitment to Consecrated Life in the Third Millennium, 35). Distrust of the human being’s great capacity for knowledge, the acceptance of "partial and provisional truths" (Fides et Ratio FR 5), and the senseless pursuit of novelty, all point to the ever more difficult task of conveying to people – especially the young – an understanding of the very foundation and purpose of human life. Faced with these tragic flaws in social development, the wondrous array of charisms proper to each Religious Institute must be placed at the service of the complete knowledge and realization of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which alone "fully discloses humankind to itself and unfolds its noble calling" (Gaudium et Spes GS 22). Particularly important in cultures undermined by secularism is the commitment by Religious to the apostolate of ‘intellectual charity’. Charity "in the service of intelligence" – through promotion of excellence in schools, commitment to scholarship, and articulation of the relationship between faith and culture – will "ensure that the fundamental principles, upon which a civil society worthy of the human person is built, are everywhere respected" (Instruction, op. cit., 38) including the political, juridical and educational arenas.

5. The rise of the prophetic mission of the laity is one of the great treasures unfolding in the Church of the third millennium. The Second Vatican Council rightly considered in detail the duty of the laity to "seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will" (Lumen Gentium LG 31). It is also true however that over the last forty or so years, while political attention to human subjectivity has focused on individual rights, in the public domain there has been a growing reluctance to acknowledge that all men and women receive their essential and common dignity from God and with it the capacity to move towards truth and goodness (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 38). Detached from this vision of the fundamental unity and purpose of the whole human family, rights are at times reduced to self-centred demands: the growth of prostitution and pornography in the name of adult choice, the acceptance of abortion in the name of women’s rights, the approval of same sex unions in the name of homosexual rights.

In the face of such erroneous yet pervasive thinking you must do everything possible to encourage the laity in their "special responsibility" for "evangelizing culture ... and promoting Christian values in society and public life" (Pastores Gregis ). False secularistic forms of "humanism" which exalt the individual in such a manner that they become a veritable idolatry (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 5) can be countered only by the rediscovery of the genuine inviolable dignity of every person. This sublime dignity is manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered — created by God and redeemed by Christ, we are all called to be "children in the Son" (cf. ibid., 37). So, again I say to the people of the United Sates, it is the Paschal Mystery of Christ that is the only sure point of reference for all of humanity on its pilgrimage in search of authentic unity and true peace! (cf. Ecclesia in America ).

6. Dear Brothers, with affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and encourage you in the sharing of the fruits of the charism of truth which the Spirit has bestowed upon you. United in your proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and guided by the example of the Saints, go forward in hope! Invoking upon you the intercession of Mary, "Star of the New Evangelization", I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your dioceses.




Friday, 4 June 2004

Mr. President,

1. I offer a warm welcome to you and to Mrs. Bush, and to the distinguished Delegation accompanying you. I also extend a cordial and affectionate greeting to all the people of the United States whom you represent. I thank you for wishing to meet with me again, in spite of the difficulties presented by your own many commitments during this present visit to Europe and Italy, and by my own departure tomorrow morning for a meeting with young people in Switzerland.

2. You are visiting Italy to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Rome and to honor the memory of the many American soldiers who gave their lives for their country and for the freedom of the peoples of Europe. I join you in recalling the sacrifice of those valiant dead and in asking the Lord that the mistakes of the past, which gave rise to appalling tragedies, may never again be repeated. Today I too think back with great emotion on the many Polish soldiers who died for the freedom of Europe.

Our thoughts also turn today to the twenty years in which the Holy See and the United States have enjoyed formal diplomatic relations, established in 1984 under President Reagan. These relations have promoted mutual understanding on great issues of common interest and practical cooperation in different areas. I send my regards to President Reagan and to Mrs. Reagan, who is so attentive to him in his illness. I would also like to express my esteem for all the Representatives of the United States to the Holy See, together with my appreciation for the competence, sensitivity and great commitment with which they have favored the development of our relations.

3. Mr. President, your visit to Rome takes place at a moment of great concern for the continuing situation of grave unrest in the Middle East, both in Iraq and in the Holy Land. You are very familiar with the unequivocal position of the Holy See in this regard, expressed in numerous documents, through direct and indirect contacts, and in the many diplomatic efforts which have been made since you visited me, first at Castelgandolfo on 23 July 2001, and again in this Apostolic Palace on 28 May 2002.

4. It is the evident desire of everyone that this situation now be normalized as quickly as possible with the active participation of the international community and, in particular, the United Nations Organization, in order to ensure a speedy return of Iraq’s sovereignty, in conditions of security for all its people. The recent appointment of a Head of State in Iraq and the formation of an interim Iraqi government are an encouraging step towards the attainment of this goal. May a similar hope for peace also be rekindled in the Holy Land and lead to new negotiations, dictated by a sincere and determined commitment to dialogue, between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

5. The threat of international terrorism remains a source of constant concern. It has seriously affected normal and peaceful relations between States and peoples since the tragic date of 11 September 2001, which I have not hesitated to call "a dark day in the history of humanity". In the past few weeks other deplorable events have come to light which have troubled the civic and religious conscience of all, and made more difficult a serene and resolute commitment to shared human values: in the absence of such a commitment neither war nor terrorism will ever be overcome. May God grant strength and success to all those who do not cease to hope and work for understanding between peoples, in respect for the security and rights of all nations and of every man and woman.

6. At the same time, Mr. President, I take this opportunity to acknowledge the great commitment of your Government and of your nation’s numerous humanitarian agencies, particularly those of Catholic inspiration, to overcoming the increasingly intolerable conditions in various African countries, where the suffering caused by fratricidal conflicts, pandemic illnesses and a degrading poverty can no longer be overlooked.

I also continue to follow with great appreciation your commitment to the promotion of moral values in American society, particularly with regard to respect for life and the family.

7. A fuller and deeper understanding between the United States of America and Europe will surely play a decisive role in resolving the great problems which I have mentioned, as well as so many others confronted by humanity today. May your visit, Mr. President, give new and powerful impetus to such cooperation.

Mr. President, as you carry out your lofty mission of service to your nation and to world peace, I assure you of my prayers and cordially invoke upon you God’s blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.

May God bestow peace and freedom upon all mankind!

Remarks on the occasion of the award of the "Presidential Medal of Freedom"

I am grateful, Mr. President, for this thoughtful gesture.

May the desire for freedom, peace and a more humane world symbolized by this medal inspire men and women of good will in every time and place.

God bless America!





Payerne Military Airport in Bern

Saturday, 5 June 2004

Mr President,
Venerable Brothers,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. For the third time, divine Providence has brought me to this noble Country of Switzerland, a crossroads of languages and cultures, to meet a people which preserves ancient traditions and is open to modern times.

I address my cordial and respectful greeting to the President of the Swiss Confederation and thank him for his words of welcome. I greet the other Authorities and I am grateful to them for their welcome as well as for all they have done to facilitate this time too my stay in Switzerland.

I offer a fraternal greeting to the President of the Bishops' Conference, the other Bishops present and through them, the Ecclesial Communities of every Canton in your Country. My respectful thoughts also go to the Christians of other Confessions and to all people of good will who work in this Country.

2. The purpose of my Apostolic Pilgrimage is to meet the young Catholics of Switzerland on the occasion of their national rally. I will meet them this evening in the Bern Arena and it will be a celebration for them and also for me.

It is the duty to proclaim Christ's Gospel that impels me on the paths of the world, to propose it anew to the men and women of the third millennium and particularly to the new generations. Christ is the Redeemer of humanity! Those who believe in Christ and follow him become builders of the civilization of love and peace.

3. Dear inhabitants of Switzerland, may I knock in spirit at the heart of each one of you, entering your homes and the various places where you live and carry out your daily activities. I would like once again to present to you all the joyful Gospel proclamation of Christ our Saviour, offering to each one of you my best wishes that you will enjoy his peace.

With these sentiments, I implore the Lord to pour out his gifts in abundance upon the whole Country. God bless Switzerland!





Ice Palace of BEA Bern Expo in Bern

Saturday, 5 June 2004

Dear Swiss young people, I am glad to be with you here today. Your enthusiasm has rejuvenated my heart! Thank you, thank you for your cordiality. You are the good future of Switzerland.
Steh auf! Lève-toi! Alzati! Sto se! [arise!] (Lc 7,14).

1. The Lord's words to the young man of Nain ring out loudly at our gathering today and are addressed to you, dear young friends, young Catholics of Switzerland!

The Pope has come from Rome once again to listen with you to these words from Christ's lips and to echo them. I greet you all with affection, dear friends, and thank you for your warm welcome. I also greet your Bishops, the priests, Religious and the animators who accompany you on your journey.

I address an especially respectful greeting to Mr Joseph Deiss, President of the Swiss Confederation; to Pastor Samuel Lutz, President of the Synodal Council of the Reformed Churches of Bern-Jura-Soleure; and to your friends of other Confessions who have desired to take part in this event.

2. The Gospel of Luke tells the story of an encounter: on the one hand there is the melancholy procession accompanying the young son of a widowed mother to the cemetery; on the other, the festive group of disciples who follow Jesus and listen to him. Today too, young friends, you can find yourselves part of that sad procession winding its way through the village of Nain. This is what happens if you allow yourselves to give in to desperation, if the mirages of the consumer society seduce you and detach you from true joy to swallow you up in transient pleasures, if indifference and superficiality envelop you, or if, as you face evil and suffering, you doubt in God's presence and God's love for every person and seek to appease your inner thirst for true, pure love in the drifting of confused emotions.

At those very moments Christ comes close to each one of you and, as he said to the young man of Nain, he says a word to you which comes as a shock: "arise". "Accept the invitation that will set you on your feet again".

These are not simply words: it is Jesus himself who stands before you, the Word of God made flesh. He is the "true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1,9), the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn Jn 14,6), the life that the Father gives us in abundance (cf. Jn Jn 10,10). Christianity is not just a book of culture or an ideology, nor is it merely a system of values or principles, however lofty they may be. Christianity is a person, a presence, a face: Jesus, who gives meaning and fullness to human life.

3. Well, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid to meet Jesus: indeed, seek him in reading Sacred Scripture with attention and availability and in personal and communal prayer; seek him in active participation in the Eucharist; seek him as you meet a priest for the sacrament of Reconciliation; seek him in the Church which is manifest to you in parish groups, movements and associations; seek him in the face of the suffering brother who is in need and a stranger.

This search marks the existence of so many of your young contemporaries on their way towards the World Youth Day that will be celebrated in Cologne next summer. I cordially invite you too, straightaway, to take part in this great event of faith and witness.

I too was 20, like you. I enjoyed sports, skiing, acting. I studied and I worked. I had desires and worries. In those years, now so long ago, when my native Land was wounded by war and then by the totalitarian regime, I sought the meaning to give to my life. I found it in following the Lord Jesus.

4. Dear young woman, dear young man, youth is the period in which you wonder what to do with your life, how to contribute to making the world a little better, how to encourage justice and build peace.

This is the second invitation I am addressing to you: "Listen!". Do not tire of training yourselves in the difficult discipline of listening. Listen to the voice of the Lord who is speaking to you through the events of daily life, through the joys and sufferings that go with it, the people who are close to you, the voice of your conscience thirsting for truth, happiness, goodness and beauty.

If you are able to open your hearts and minds with availability, you will discover "your vocation", in other words, the plan that God in his love has devised for you from eternity.

5. You will be able to build a family founded on marriage, that pact of love between a man and a woman who commit themselves to a communion of stable and faithful life. Through your own witness, you will be able to confirm that even amid all the difficulties and obstacles, it is possible to live Christian marriage to the full as an experience filled with meaning and, as it were, "good news" for all families.

Or if this is your vocation, you will be a priest or a Religious, giving your life to Christ and to the Church with an undivided heart and thus becoming a sign of God's loving presence in today's world. Like so many who have gone before you, you will be able to be an undaunted and unflagging apostle, watchful in prayer, cheerful and welcoming in community service.

Yes, you too can be one of these! I am well aware that you may feel hesitant when faced with such a proposal; but I say to you: do not be afraid! God does not let himself be outdone in generosity! After almost 60 years of being a priest, I am happy to bear my witness to all of you here: it is beautiful to be able to spend oneself without reserve for the cause of the Kingdom of God!

6. There is yet another invitation, a third one: young people of Switzerland, "Set out on your way!". Do not be content with discussion; do not wait to do good for opportunities that may never come. The time for action is now!

At the beginning of this third millennium, you too, young people, are called to proclaim the message of the Gospel with the testimony of your lives. The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals to ensure that the Gospel permeates the fabric of society and inspires a civilization of authentic justice and love without discrimination. Now more than ever, in a world all too often deprived of light and the courage of noble ideals, it is not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Rom Rm 1,16). Rather, it is time to preach it from the rooftops (cf. Mt Mt 10,27).

The Pope, your Bishops, the whole Christian community are counting on your commitment, on your generosity, and following you with confidence and hope: young people of Switzerland, start out on your way! The Lord goes with you.

May you have Christ's Cross in your hands. Let the words of Life be on your lips; and in your hearts, the saving grace of the Risen Lord!

Steh auf! Lève-toi! Alzati! Sto se! [arise]. It is Christ who is speaking to you. Listen to him!





Square in front of Viktoriaheim Residence

Sunday, 6 June 2004

Dear Friends,

1. At the end of this Apostolic Pilgrimage in Switzerland, I am delighted to meet you, members of the Association of Former Swiss Guards, with your relatives. I offer each one of you my cordial greeting. In the more than 25 years of my Pontificate, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with many of you at the Vatican and it is a pleasure to see you again now with your families. Thank you for your pleasing presence. I address a special "thank you" to Mr Jacques Babey, President of your Association, for his courteous words on your behalf.

2. The Successor of Peter has a special debt of gratitude to this Country's Catholic community. This is because it provides the Swiss Guards, who for 500 years have carried out the special task of keeping order and safeguarding security in the Vatican, at Castel Gandolfo and wherever the Pope's ministry takes him. In the Gospel it is said that a good tree is known by its fruit (cf. Mt Mt 7,17-18). Well, the young people from here who go to Rome for this special service to the Pontiff are young men who do honour to their families and parishes of Switzerland.

3. They also honour this praiseworthy Association that is concerned to keep the interest in this service to the Church ever alive here in their Homeland, so that the Pontifical Swiss Guard may benefit from a constant and valid exchange. I thank you warmly for all you have done and continue to do, and encourage you to persevere in your commitment to witness to Christ and to be faithful to the Church in our changing world.

May the Virgin Mary always watch over you and your families. I wholeheartedly bless you all.





Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. While you are gathered for the 12th meeting of the Post-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for Africa, I address a cordial greeting to each one of you in this blessed season that follows the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

This Post-Synodal Council, appointed 10 years ago by the Synod Fathers at the end of the Special Assembly for Africa, has on various occasions encouraged the Bishops of Africa in their effort to put into practice the conclusions of the Synod, contained in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa. Indeed, by meeting regularly, you are able to review the achievements, projects and progress made by the local African Churches, which are especially praiseworthy and deserving of admiration, given that the political and socio-economic situations are for the most part deplorably unfavourable even if there may be some comforting signs in them.

Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 29 May 2004