Speeches 2004

This is the reason why I once again renew my gratitude to you for the important work you do in the name of episcopal collegiality. Indeed, you constantly offer the Successor of Peter enlightened advice, based on your pastoral experience of the situation in the Church and in society on the African Continent.

2. I described the First Special Assembly as "a Synod of Resurrection and Hope" (Ecclesia in Africa ), and so indeed it was, since it was already possible to glimpse here and there the first signs of this new flowering. Unfortunately, however, the Continent seems to be experiencing neither truce nor lasting peace. In addition to international conflicts are the endemic hotbeds of conflict that sow terror and devastation among the peoples whose only aspiration is to live in peace, rediscovered at last.

In addition, other scourges come to afflict Africa and Africans: poverty that derives both from a compromised economic situation as well as from the difficult conditions in the areas of education and health care. In this regard, how could we fail to mention the social scourge of AIDS or the insecurity due to conflicts, latent or being fought out, and lastly, the corruption that still beleaguers too many levels of civil society? All of this makes up the vicious circle that causes gangrene in this young and vigorous body.

To break the links of these new chains requires the joint effort of all the vital forces of society and particularly of the Church, which are already at work and intervene at every level with self-denial and dedication. For her part, the universal Church, faithful to her prophetic role for Africa, has already reminded the great world leaders of five priorities in order to restore to Africans what has been taken from them, often with violence: respect for life and religious differences, the eradication of poverty, the end of arms trafficking, the resolution of conflicts and action with a view to development, motivated by solidarity.

3. Our hope, of course, is strong because it is rooted in Christ and draws vigour and inspiration from him. The Special Assembly for Africa stressed the family dimension of the Church, insisting on the notion of the Church as God's family, and in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa I took up this beautiful expression of the divine fatherhood, which is so meaningful. In this "family" context, it seems to me to be important to recall the need for authentic fraternal reconciliation, after the wounds inflicted by the hostilities that still poison interpersonal, interethnic and international relations in the different regions of Africa.

Has not the time come to deepen this African synodal experience, for which many Pastors of Africa have been pressing? The exceptional growth of the Church in Africa, the rapid succession of Pastors, the new challenges that the Continent must face demand responses that can stem only from a persevering and concerted effort to implement Ecclesia in Africa, thereby restoring renewed strength and more firmly-grounded hope to this Continent in difficulty.

As a pledge of collegial communion and gratitude for your tireless availability and invaluable service, I impart my affectionate Blessing to you in your capacity as members of the Post-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for the Special Assembly for Africa.



To my Venerable Brother Bishop Gebhard Fürst of Rottenburg-Stuttgart
Venerable Brother in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Dear Sisters in Christ,

1. "Living by the power of God": with this maxim, many Christian Catholics and countless guests of other confessions and of the political and social world met in Ulm for the 95th German Katholikentag.From Rome I greet all those who took part in its opening celebration on the square in front of the Cathedral of Ulm. The cathedral's spire looks like a finger pointing to Heaven, towards God, the Creator of all life. He is the source of our hope and strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength (cf. Neh Ne 8,10). I greet all those who are following this event on radio and television.

May the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen and ever close to his Church, be with you! I address a special greeting to the Bishop of the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart and to the Central Committee of German Catholics who together organized this event. I also greet the Bishops of Germany, of all the other European countries and of the whole world; their presence highlights the communion of Catholics, manifest in the Dioceses of Germany, with their brothers and sisters of the same confession in the great universal Church.

2. "Living by the power of God". The programme of the Katholikentag is guided by this maxim, taken from the Second Letter to the Corinthians [13: 4]. It is an incentive to make all liturgical celebrations, conversations and prayers come alive through the power of God. I urge you to spend these days with open eyes and hearts so that you may once again be aware that the power of God is dynamically at work within you and, through your witness to faith, can also be lived in society.

During the events of this great Catholic meeting in which many other Christians are also taking part, may you feel the urge to raise your voices bravely as believing Christians whenever the foundations of the Christian faith and human coexistence are disputed, the lofty values of Christian marriage and of the family are overlooked and the uniqueness of life as a gift of God is at stake! Spur one another to be committed anew to the poor and the marginalized for peace and justice throughout the world! Bear witness to everyone to the hope that is in you (cf. 1P 3,15).

3. The venue of your meeting, the city of Ulm, stands on the banks of the Danube, the great river that connects the East and West of Europe. In recent decades, the consciousness of a European identity and of a sense of belonging to the European peoples have grown stronger and stronger. Just a few weeks ago, another 10 States joined the European Union, including eight countries from Central and Eastern Europe. This expansion can become a great advantage for the community.

Europe is not a mere or casual union of States geographically linked to one another. Europe, despite its cultural multiplicity, must increasingly become, on the basis of human and Christian values, a spiritual unit that inspires men and women in their actions. Let us therefore make the most of the possibility that united Europe offers us to spread Christ's Gospel better, so that no one is left without God's exceptional saving gift! Christians have toiled for European unity and continue to work for this end. Europe today needs the contribution of Christians and Christianity if its peoples are to develop and flourish. As I said in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, the Continent needs "to make a qualitative leap in becoming conscious of its spiritual heritage. The impetus for this can only come from hearing anew the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (n. 120). Those who live by the power of God and intend to build up society by the power of God must face this task in every place and in every time.

4. Dear Brothers and Sisters, in these days let the dynamism of God, who enlightens and liberates, move you! Entrust all human suffering, your shortcomings and your limitations to the greatness of God, whose love exceeds our own hearts. He wants to make us share in his divine life and give us the love and strength we need to serve our neighbour and to bear witness to our common faith in time and in society. So that you may live by the power of God, I commend all of you who have gathered in Ulm on the occasion of the Katholikentag to the intercession of Mary, the Most Holy Virgin and Mother of God, and to St Boniface, whose martyrdom 1,250 years ago the Church is commemorating in these days; and I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.

From the Vatican, Solemnity of Corpus Christi 2004




Thursday, 17 June 2004

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to offer you a cordial greeting, Bishops from the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Medellín, Barranquilla, Cali, Cartagena, Manizales, Popayán and Santa Fe de Antioquia who form the first group to come on an ad limina visit from beloved Colombia. During your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, and at your meetings with the Bishop of Rome and his collaborators, you will find new dynamism to continue your episcopal mission, aware that Christ is present in his Church (cf. Mt Mt 28,20) and guides her with the power of his Spirit so that she may be a sign of salvation in the midst of the world. May he, the Teacher of Pastors, fill you with hope and make you his witnesses in your lives (cf. 1P 3,15), so that you may build up all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.

I am grateful to Archbishop Alberto Giraldo Jaramillo of Medellín for his kind words, renewing the attachment of each of you and of the Ecclesial Communities you preside over in the name of the Lord, at the same time presenting to me the pastoral orientations that guide your ministry so that the men and women of Colombia may walk towards intimate communion with the Triune God and live in peace as members of one great, united family.

2. Your presence prompts me to renew the closeness and affection that I feel for your Country. I remember my Pastoral Visit there in 1986 in order to sow "the peace of Christ through the paths of Colombia". Those were unforgettable days filled with activity, in which I could see for myself the hopeful faces of the Colombians, appreciate the work the Church carries out with such enthusiasm, address a word of encouragement to everyone and remind them of God's ineffable love for each one of us.

The Church in this Nation has continued to bear fruits of holiness. In recent years, I have had the opportunity to raise to the honour of the altars two new Blesseds who came precisely from your regions: the generous priest, Mariano Euse, in the year 2000, and more recently, Mother Laura Montoya, venerated as the mother of the Indigenous peoples. Earlier, a group of young Colombian students of the Hospitaller Order won the palm of martyrdom and were beatified in 1992. These examples of holiness are precious pearls that adorn the ecclesial history of your Country, part of whose rich spiritual heritage is the Christian faith.

3. You are making your ad limina visit after the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which was ""a river of living water', the water that continually flows "from the throne of God and of the Lamb' (cf. Rv Ap 22,1) [and] has been poured out on the Church" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 1). You have come to Rome, therefore, equipped with a torrent of grace that has given new life to your particular Churches. There are, consequently, reasons for hope in the future, working at the service of the Kingdom of God, inspired by the words of Jesus Christ: "Duc in altum!" (put out into the deep) (Lc 5,4).

Borrowing the words of Jesus that I suggested as the theme for the Third Christian Millennium, I would like to encourage you to persevere undaunted and with complete confidence in the Lord in the task of evangelization, the fundamental mission of the Church. Indeed, Jesus entrusted this task to his Apostles before ascending into Heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father, an event that we celebrated in the liturgy not long ago. On that occasion, Jesus said to them: "Go into all the world" (Mc 16,15), assuring them at the same time of his close and mysterious presence.

4. The Church, faithful to the mandate of Jesus, continues to make evangelization her main activity. Evangelization involves many aspects, all of which are important, but concrete circumstances according to time and place dictate the priorities and ensure that none are neglected. In the particular case of your Country where an internal conflict has dragged on for years, taking a heavy toll of innocent victims, causing great pain to families and society, generating poverty and insecurity and limiting the potential for integral development, you are aware that you must give priority in your pastoral options to peace and reconciliation and thus contribute to building society on the solid Christian pillars of truth, justice, love and freedom, and to fostering forgiveness which is born from a sincere desire for reconciliation with God and with the brethren.

Two years ago on the occasion of the Centenary of the Consecration of Colombia to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devout practice that has been renewed in many communities of your Country, I wrote: "A society that listens to and obeys Christ's message moves on the way to true peace, rejects every kind of violence and conceives of new ways of harmonious living, takes the reliable and sound path of justice, reconciliation and forgiveness, and fosters bonds of unity, fraternity and respect for each person" (9 May 2002; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 19 June, p. 4, n. 4).
Never hesitate to devote all your pastoral zeal and commitment to promoting reconciliation that derives from evangelization, with the deep conviction that it will illumine the action of lay Christians and be an effective and permanent remedy to the harsh and serious evils that currently trouble many citizens of your Nation because of the civil war that has caused so many deaths, even of servants of the Gospel. Among these, I would like to recall Archbishop Isaías Duart of Cali, as well as the priests and Religious assassinated in recent years. This grievous situation has reduced many Colombians to poverty and to running the risk of fostering a culture of death and violence instead of the culture of life and solidarity that so truly befits your Catholic origins.

5. Another field of pastoral action that demands special attention is the promotion and defence of the family institution, attacked today on many fronts by multiple and subtle arguments. We are witnessing a trend, in some places most widespread, that tends to weaken its true nature.

I am aware of the commitment you devote to defending and promoting this institution that owes its origin to God and his plan of salvation (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 49). It is therefore necessary to continue to proclaim firmly the truth about marriage and the family established by God as an authentic service to society. Failing to do so would be a grave pastoral omission that would lead believers into error as well as those who have the serious responsibility of making decisions for the Nation's common good. This truth is not only valid for Catholics but for all men and women without distinction, since marriage and the family are an irreplaceable good for society, which cannot remain indifferent to its belittlement or the loss of its identity.

In this regard, family ministry, carried out above all by couples who belong to movements or associations for marriage spirituality and who set an example in the education of their children, must guide young couples and families in difficulty as well as those who are preparing for marriage in order to discover the values of Christian matrimony and to be faithful to the commitment they assume in receiving this sacrament. At the same time, it is important to teach them that in conceiving children, they must follow the criterion of responsible parenthood and must also see to their human and religious formation at home in an atmosphere of serene coexistence and tenderness, as an expression of God's love for each one of his children.

6. A sign of hope for the Church in Colombia is the new flourishing of vocations that marks your Ecclesial Communities and is an expression of their vitality. The region you come from is rich in priestly and Religious vocations and your seminaries are a special blessing for the Church, as the priests they train serve not only in your own particular Churches, but some are also ready to work in other needier areas.

I therefore encourage you to continue on this path of assiduously preparing the vocations' apostolate of the future, aware of each Ecclesial Community's irreplaceable role in this ministry. Above all, it must be based on constant prayer to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his harvest and to teach children and young people to confront the challenges of Christian life, disposing them to hear the divine call to follow Christ on the journey of priestly or consecrated life by means of the evangelical counsels.

7. Dear Brothers, with these thoughts, I want to encourage you in your service to the pilgrim Church of God in Colombia. When you return to your Dioceses, urge your priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful to live their faith in Christ. Take my greeting to young people, called to be the "dawn sentinels" of this new millennium and the hope of the Church and the Nation; in particular, I am thinking of young Colombians who are training at seminaries or formation houses for the priesthood or the Religious life; of families, schools of rich humanity and Christian virtues, and most especially those families suffering because of the kidnapping of one or other of their members; of the poor and the needy, who must always be the subject of your care and attention; of professionals in the different areas of human activity, so that they may be builders of a renewed society in this very particular period of your history; and of the sick and the elderly.

May the Blessings of the Lord be poured out upon you and your Christian communities through the intercession of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, Mother of all Colombians, whose hand extends the rosary, "a prayer for peace..., the bond of communion and fraternity which unites us all in Christ". As a confirmation of these wishes, may you be accompanied by the Apostolic Blessing which I am pleased to impart to you and extend to all the members of your Dioceses.



Friday, 18 June 2004

Kingdom of Spain

On Friday, 18 June, H.E. Mr Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo, Ambassador of Spain, presented his Letters of Credence to the Holy Father. The following is a translation of the Spanish text of the Pope's Address to the new ambassador.
Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you at the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Spain to the Holy See. This ceremony also affords me an opportunity to express my cordial welcome to you, and at the same time my best wishes for the discharge of the important responsibility that your Government has entrusted to you.

I am grateful for your kind words. They revive my sentiments of closeness for and appreciation of a Country which, as Your Excellency has stressed, has always been distinguished by its bond with the Church due to its deep-rooted Christian tradition. A large-scale evangelization has resulted in the large number of faithful in the world who speak Spanish.

I deeply appreciate the greetings from His Majesty the King, the Royal Family and the Spanish Nation and its Government, and I ask you to convey to them the Pope's fond affection for all Spaniards.

As I note with satisfaction that the state of diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See is based on esteem and respect, I cannot forget my five Visits to this Country. I remember above all my most recent one of last year, when the warmth of the testimonies were combined with overflowing vivacity and enthusiasm. Once again I found myself among a vibrant multitude from a cross-section of society with a deep faith and fond affection for the Successor of Peter. It was a very clear sign of hope for the Church and for Spanish society, since noble values lived intensely are, as it were, the soul that gives coherence to all human activities and imbues it with creativity and integrity in times of decline or adversity such as Spain has recently experienced, especially due to the scourge of terrorism.

Conscious of this, I took my leave addressing a heartfelt invitation to the Spanish People: "Do not neglect this mission which ennobled your Country in the past and is the bold challenge for the future" (Regina Caeli, Madrid, 4 May 2003; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 7 May 2003, p. 7).

This mission endures beyond the boundaries of the Homeland, where many thousands of men and women religious, volunteer workers and lay cooperators, with their dedication and self-denying efforts, are as many messengers portraying the best image of their Country. Spain has produced a multitude of saints and is covered with monuments, centres for assistance, cultural centres and works of art inspired by the faith. They are visible signs of its identity and the vital force that has guided its glorious past and which it has generously been able to bring to many other peoples. At a time when a new Order is also being born in old Europe, its contribution cannot fail to plainly manifest its Christian roots which, as in the other European countries, have for centuries engendered the lofty concept of the person open to transcendence, which is also a crucial factor of integration and universality.

In exercising her mission, the Church seeks the integral good of each people. She works in her own province and fully respects the autonomy of the civil Authorities, whom she appreciates and for whom she prays to God that they may serve all citizens with generosity, skill and justice.

In fact, it is a question of two autonomous milieus. They cannot be ignored since both benefit from loyal and constructive dialogue, because the common good frequently requires different forms of collaboration between them, without the least sign of discrimination or exclusion. This was a feature of the partial Agreements between Church and State that were established immediately after the approval of the current Spanish Constitution. The results achieved and the development attained with their practical application are also a consequence of constant, open communication, established on firm and durable foundations. This was precisely to avoid the risk of the sudden alterations or transient alternations that all too often give rise to insecurity and confusion about the proper rights of institutions, families and citizens.

In her evangelizing action, the Church attempts to invite all men and women of good will to build a society based on fundamental and indispensable values for a just and worthy national and international order of the human being. This should be combined with her religious mission and has an ethical character with a universal outreach, founded on the incomparable dignity of the human person created in the image of God, from whom his inalienable rights derive. Public institutions must serve and promote precisely these rights, in accordance with the classical principle of subsidiarity. Thus, human coexistence, rather than only obeying partial or transient interests, must govern by means of the ideals of freedom, justice and solidarity.

In this perspective, it is advisable to reveal the incoherence of certain tendencies in our time. Whereas on the one hand they increase people's well-being, on the other hand they cut off their dignity and most fundamental rights at the roots; this is what happens when the fundamental right to life is limited or exploited, as in the case of abortion. The protection of human life is a duty of all.

Moreover, the question of life and its promotion is not only a prerogative of Christians, but belongs to every human conscience that aspires to the truth and is concerned about humanity's future. Public authorities, as guarantors of the rights of all, are under the obligation to defend life, especially the lives of the weakest and most helpless. The real "social conquests" are those that promote and safeguard the life of each one and, at the same time, the common good of society.

In this field some "social conquests" are misnamed, for in reality they only benefit some at the cost of the sacrifice of others, and public leaders, as the guarantors and not the source of the rights that are innate in all, must view them rather with concern and alarm.

Something similar sometimes happens with the family, the central and fundamental nucleus of every society, the unequalled hearth of solidarity and the natural school of peaceful coexistence, which deserves the greatest possible protection and help in carrying out its tasks. Its rights are a priority in comparison with those of larger social bodies. Among these, the right to be born and to grow up in a stable home in which the words "father" and "mother" can be said joyfully and without deception should not be forgotten. Thus, the smallest children are also prepared to open themselves confidently to life and to society, which will benefit as a whole if it does not listen to certain voices that seem to confuse marriage with other, quite different forms of union, if they are not actually opposed to it, or to consider children as mere objects for a person's own satisfaction.

Among other things, families have the right and duty to raise their children, doing so in accordance with their own moral and religious convictions; integral formation cannot escape the transcendent and spiritual dimension of human beings. The role of educational institutions bound to the Church fits into this context. They contribute to the common good like many others in various milieus which also render a service to citizens, and often to the least privileged. Nor should the teaching of the Catholic religion in State schools be undervalued, based precisely on the right of the families that ask for it, without discrimination or imposed conditions.

Mr Ambassador, I repeat to you my very best wishes for the Embassy of your Country to the Holy See, and in this Holy Year of St James, I ask the Apostle of Santiago to continue to be as he has for centuries a shining beacon for the peoples of Spain, making its territory a path paved with efforts and hopes for so many pilgrims from across Europe. Many of the pilgrims have been enchanted by the hospitality and nobility of those they encountered on their way; they witnessed their hard work, constancy and fidelity; they discovered a Nation that knows how to aim high. These are the virtues that shaped its glorious history and, with the support and loyal collaboration of all, give rise to hope in a promising future, a more prosperous and impartial society that is open to the spiritual values.

With these aspirations, as I wish you a happy stay in Rome, I impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your distinguished family and to those who work with you.



Saturday, 19 June 2004

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Diocese of Aversa,

1. I am delighted to extend my heartfelt welcome to all of you. This gathering marks a meaningful moment in your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles at the closing of the pastoral visit carried out by your Archbishop.

I greet you with affection, beginning with your Pastor, Archbishop Mario Milano, whom I thank for the kind words he has addressed to me on behalf of you all. I greet Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the priests, Religious and all who are involved in parish councils and in diocesan pastoral activities. My thought then goes to all here present, together with those unable to come in person, calling to mind in a special way the young people, families and the elderly or sick who are alone. I assure each one of my spiritual closeness with affection and prayer.

2. The pastoral visit that today draws to a close was for your diocesan community one of the most important fruits of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000; a unique "time of grace", allowing for reflection and the deepening of communion between all members of the Diocese, closely united with its own Pastor and with the Successor of Peter. I am convinced that this will give rise to a renewed ascetic and missionary thrust in all of the faithful towards the building of a new society.

With reference to this, I think back to what I said to you in the springtime of the year 2000, when I met with you in St Peter's Square. At that time I brought to your attention the importance of material and spiritual solidarity; today, I repeat those words once again: "Be witnesses of solidarity" (Insegnamenti XXIII/1 [2000/1], p. 558). It is a solidarity that begins with the most immediate aspects of daily life, from work to assistance, in order to give life to a more just and equitable society.

3. However, side-by-side with the social sphere, the sense of solidarity and of reciprocal help must also invest in that of spiritual communion and the evangelizing mission of every Christian community. Is not holiness the greatest witness of solidarity that your Diocese is called to offer to the men and women of our time? Yes! Dear brothers and sisters, announce Christ and his Gospel coherently, with generous fidelity and trustful abandonment to the divine will. Nourish your existence with fervent prayer, docile listening to the Word of God and frequent use of the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist.

Dear brothers and sisters, continue the walk you have begun, strengthened too by the grace of today's pilgrimage. May God make fruitful your proposals of ecclesial communion and the pledge for the new evangelization, according to the guidelines resulting from this pastoral visit.

From the Marian shrine of Casapesenna, which I had the joy of visiting 14 years ago, may the Holy Virgin continue to accompany you in this engaging spiritual and apostolic itinerary.

On my part, I assure you of my spiritual closeness and I cordially bless you, together with your parochial and religious communities, your families and all those who are dear to you.





To my Venerable Brother
Bishop Egidio Caporello of Mantua

1. I am pleased that the Christian Community is intending to commemorate the 12th centenary (804-2004) of the Diocese with a special Jubilee this year. On this happy occasion, I would like to extend my cordial greeting to you, venerable Brother, and to all those whom divine Providence has entrusted to your pastoral care.

The visit 1,200 years ago to Mantua of my venerable Predecessor St Leo III to venerate the "relic" of the Most Precious Blood of Christ and to raise the city to the rank of an episcopal see, gave rise to an uninterrupted stream of the faithful to venerate this important "relic", which refers to the mystery of the Redemption and the gift of the sacrament of the Eucharist.

I gladly join you and the whole Diocese in raising a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for the many fruits of good that have ripened down the centuries. Furthermore, I hope that the various Jubilee events will trigger a renewed commitment of loyalty to Christ through a deeper knowledge of the reasons for faith and a reinforcement of the sense of belonging to the Church. This will not fail to encourage priests, Religious and the faithful to be ever more enthusiastic in their Gospel proclamation and witness.

2. The Jubilee Year of the Diocese that began on 30 November 2003, the First Sunday of Advent, will end next 21 November, the Solemnity of Christ, the Universal King. Its main purpose is to awaken and intensify in all the members of the diocesan Community the memory of the death and Resurrection of Christ, a mystery that is made ceaselessly present in the Eucharist.

This Church of Mantua, therefore, has rightly placed at the heart of the Jubilee celebrations Christ, concealed beneath the veil of the Eucharistic species. Drawing inspiration from the splendid Gospel passage of the multiplication of the loaves (cf. Lk Lc 9,10-17) which contains a prophetic announcement of the wonderful miracle of the Eucharist, the living gift of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church wishes to stimulate in every believer a generous missionary attitude. Listening to Jesus' words: "you give them something to eat" (Lc 9,13), each person must feel called by the Lord, like the Twelve, to a responsible service of love for others, and especially for the poor and needy.

Venerable Brother and dear faithful of Mantua, daily participation in the Eucharist, the food of eternal life, can transform the lives of believers. Nourished by this bread of salvation, they can grow like a Church which "gives life", for the Lord will enable them to work the miracles that the Son worked and, with the power of the Holy Spirit, constantly renews in his people.

3. Dear friends, the Eucharist imbues you with the courage and joy to be holy. This Jubilee period is therefore a favourable opportunity to deepen the universal vocation to holiness. The world needs holy people before and more than everything else.

The 1,200 years of the Diocese's history record the presence of outstanding figures that continue to shine with the radiance of their unreserved attachment to Christ. The Liturgy presents them once again for the imitation and devotion of believers. I recall, in the first place, St Anselmo da Baggio, the principal Patron of the Diocese, "a luminous reflection of the holiness of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ", as I described him on the ninth centenary of his death (cf. Insegnamenti IX/I [1986], 228).

My thoughts then turn to St Aloysius Gonzaga, Co-Patron of the Diocese, whom I had the opportunity to honour in Castiglione delle Stiviere, his birthplace, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of his death. Still today, this ardent young man, follower of Christ, addresses a pressing exhortation to us of coherence and fidelity to the Gospel, reminding us that God must have priority in our lives.

I am also thinking of my venerable Predecessor, St Pius X, who spent several years of his fruitful episcopal ministry in Mantua, a zealous and loving Pastor, whose memory lives on.

Following in the footsteps of so many Saints and Blesseds, may the Christians of Mantua proceed in their journey of faith, every day building up their attachment to Christ and reinforcing the bonds of a fraternal union, strengthened by their unshakable fidelity to the Gospel.

4. Like the rest of Italy, Mantua has known rapid social changes in recent years and many financial difficulties, while it is confronting a growing number of different cultures and religions. A certain consumeristic and secularized mindset is undermining the unity and stability of families and, by attracting more and more Christians, causes them de facto to contribute to a progressive detachment from the values of the faith in social, civil and political milieus. It is vital to respond to these erosive forces and hence indispensable to rediscover the Christian roots of one's own culture.

All the faithful are called into question by this commitment. They will make an effective contribution to this urgent task if they know how to put Christ at the centre of every personal, family and community project. It is by starting afresh from him that it becomes possible to build a more just and fraternal world.

5. Beloved Diocese of Mantua, do not despair at the difficulties you meet! I repeat to you too, "Duc in altum!" [put out into the deep]. The Spirit of the Risen One will not fail to sustain and strengthen you; he will impel you to look beyond your limitations and discover with grateful wonder the miracle of Bread that is always more than plentiful. Supported by the example and prayer of your Holy Patrons, walk with confidence on the paths of the new millennium!

Faithful of the beloved Church of Mantua, I entrust you to the motherly protection of the Crowned Virgin, Queen and Mother of Divine Grace, particularly venerated in your region. May she guide you and support you always.

With these sentiments and hopes, I send to you, venerable Brother, to the clergy, the Religious and the entire diocesan Community a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 10 June 2004, Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Speeches 2004