Speeches 2004





Monday, 21 June 2004

Mr President,

It gives me great pleasure, a few months after you have assumed your important office, to receive you together with your distinguished entourage. By this visit you show your esteem for the Apostolic See. Your presence here reflects the desire to develop harmonious collaboration between the local Church and the State for the good of the Spanish People, a desire you yourself expressed to me when I met you in the Plaza de Colón, Madrid, after Holy Mass on 4 May last year.

Through you, I would like to express anew my affection and closeness to all the Spanish people, to Their Majesties the King and Queen, and to the Royal Family, together with those who, as part of the Government, gave me such a warm welcome on each of my five Visits to your Country. I reciprocate this demonstration of affection by renewing my sincere appreciation to the Catholic community in Spain. With its Bishops, it is walking the paths of faith in close communion with the Pope. I likewise pray that this beloved Nation may always aim at integral progress; I pray that peaceful coexistence in it may be strengthened in unity among the population and peoples of this great Land with its marvellous and various diversity, and that it will preserve its moral and cultural values as well as its Christian roots.

A few days ago when I received your new Ambassador, I had the opportunity to mention various aspects of Spanish society. Reasserting what I said on that occasion, I would like to renew to you my sincere gratitude for this kind visit. I warmly hope that your personal commitment and that of your Government will reach the pre-established goals by undertaking the modern development of Spain, and that in this task due attention will be paid to the ethical values so firmly rooted in the religious and cultural tradition of your People.

Be assured that you can rely on the collaboration of the Holy See to work together in the great cause of peace and for the spiritual progress of peoples, to contribute to the eradication of terrorism and all forms of violence so as to achieve the best results for human beings with their legitimate requirements, their dignity, rights and freedoms. I fervently ask the Almighty to pour out an abundance of his gifts and Blessings upon you, Mr President, upon your collaborators involved in Government, and upon the beloved children of your noble Country.






Tuesday, 22 June 2004

Your Highness,

I am particularly pleased to welcome you and I thank you for your visit, which gives me an opportunity to repeat the esteem and gratitude I feel towards the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. I cordially greet you and extend my affectionate thoughts to those who have kindly accompanied you.

I willingly make the most of this occasion to convey my greeting to all the members of this worthy Institution who work in various parts of the world. The Holy See appreciates the many services it renders to the cause of evangelization and, in particular, the numerous beneficial initiatives that it constantly promotes for the needy.

I gladly assure you of my remembrance in prayer so that God, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, will bless every good work of your Sodality, as I encourage you to persevere with generosity on your journey of fidelity to Christ and to his Church.

With these sentiments, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your collaborators and to the entire Sovereign Military Order of Malta.




Thursday, 24 June 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. As the visits of the Bishops of the United States of America to the tombs of the Apostles continue, I am pleased to greet you, the Bishops of the Provinces of Portland in Oregon, Seattle and Anchorage. In our series of reflections on the exercise of the ministry entrusted to us as successors of the Apostles we have been considering the episcopal munus docendi in the light of the Church’s prophetic witness to the Kingdom of God, of which she is, on earth, the seed and beginning (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 5). In addition to the personal testimony of faith and holiness for which individual believers are responsible by virtue of their Baptism, the Church is also called to give an important institutional testimony before the world.

For this reason, the Risen Lord’s command to make disciples of all nations and to teach them "to carry out everything I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20) must be the indispensable reference point for every activity of the Church. Her many religious, educational and charitable institutions exist for one reason only: to proclaim the Gospel. Their witness must always proceed ex corde Ecclesiae, from the very heart of the Church. It is of utmost importance, therefore, that the Church’s institutions be genuinely Catholic: Catholic in their self understanding and Catholic in their identity. All those who share in the apostolates of such institutions, including those who are not of the faith, should show a sincere and respectful appreciation of that mission which is their inspiration and ultimate raison d’être.

2. Today creativity is especially needed in better shaping ecclesial institutions to fulfill their prophetic mission. This means finding innovative ways to enable the light of Christ to shine brightly, so that the gift of his grace may truly "make all things new" (Ap 21,5 cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 54). The Church’s many institutions in the United States – schools, universities, hospitals and charitable agencies – must not only assist the faithful to think and act fully in accordance with the Gospel, overcoming every separation between faith and life (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 34), but they must themselves embody a clear corporate testimony to its saving truth. This will demand constantly re-examining their priorities in the light of their mission and offering a convincing witness, within a pluralistic society, to the Church’s teaching, particularly on respect for human life, marriage and family, and the right ordering of public life.

3. The Church’s educational institutions will be able to contribute effectively to the new evangelization only if they clearly preserve and foster their Catholic identity. This means that "the content of the education they impart should make constant reference to Jesus Christ and his message as the Church presents it in her dogmatic and moral teaching" (Ecclesia in America ). Moreover, a truly Catholic education will aim at an integration of knowledge within the context of a vision of the human person and the world which is enlightened by the Gospel. By their very nature, Catholic colleges and universities are called to offer an institutional witness of fidelity to Christ and to his word as it comes to us from the Church, a public witness expressed in the canonical requirement of the mandatum (CIC, c. 812; cf. USCCB, The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States, Part 2, art. 4, 4, e). As communities committed to the pursuit of truth and the establishment of a living synthesis of faith and reason, these institutions should be at the forefront of the Church’s dialogue with culture, for "a faith which remains on the margins of culture would be a faith unfaithful to the fullness of what the word of God manifests and reveals, a truncated faith, and even worse, a faith in the process of self-destruction" (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, 44).

The Church’s presence in elementary and secondary education must also be the object of your special attention as shepherds of the People of God. Local parochial schools have done much to provide solid academic, moral and religious formation for so many Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. I take this opportunity to acknowledge with gratitude the devoted work of countless priests, religious and lay people in the field of Catholic education, and I invite you to join me in encouraging them to persevere in this necessary mission (cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Consecrated Persons and their Mission in Schools, 84). I would also ask you to encourage your priests to continue to be present and visible in parish schools, and to make every effort to ensure that, despite financial difficulties, a Catholic education remains available to the poor and the less privileged in society.

4. Religious education programs too are a most significant component of the Church’s evangelizing mission. While catechetical programs for children and young people, especially in relation to sacramental preparation, remain essential, increasing attention must be paid to the particular needs of older adolescents and adults.Effective programs of religious education, whether on the diocesan or the parish level, require a constant discernment of the actual needs of the different ages and groups, as well as a creative assessment of the best means of meeting them, especially the need for training in mental prayer, the spiritual reading of Scripture (cf. Dei Verbum DV 11), and the fruitful reception of the sacraments. This continuing discernment calls for the personal involvement of the Bishop, together with pastors, who are directly responsible for the religious instruction imparted in their parishes, with religious education professionals, whose generosity and experience are such a great resource in your local Churches, and with parents, who are called before all others to form their children in the faith and in Christian living (cf. CIC, c. 774 § 2).

5. The many initiatives of American Catholics on behalf of the elderly, the sick and the needy – through nursing homes, hospitals, clinics and various relief and assistance centers – have always been, and continue to be, an eloquent witness to the "faith, hope and love" (1 Cor 13:31) which must mark the life of every disciple of the Lord. In the United States, generations of religious and committed lay people, by building up a network of Catholic health care institutions, have borne outstanding testimony to Christ, the healer of bodies and souls, and to the dignity of the human person. The significant challenges facing these institutions in changing social and economic circumstances must not be allowed to weaken this corporate witness. Established policies in complete conformity with the Church’s moral teaching need to be firmly in place in Catholic health care facilities, and every aspect of their life ought to reflect their religious inspiration and their intimate link to the Church’s mission of bringing supernatural light, healing and hope to men and women at every stage of their earthly pilgrimage.

6. Dear Brothers, with deep gratitude for the great contribution which the Catholic institutions present in your Dioceses have made to the growth of your local Churches, I join you in praying that they will become ever more effective agents of the new evangelization, sources of vital energy for the apostolate, and a true leaven of the Kingdom (cf. Mt Mt 13,33) in American society. Upon all the clergy, religious and lay faithful engaged in works of ecclesial service I invoke the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and strength in the Lord.



Thursday, 24 June 2004

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I offer each one of you a cordial greeting on the occasion of the 71st Assembly of the ROACO: Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches.

I greet Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and thank him for interpreting the sentiments of all those present. I greet the Secretary and Collaborators of the Dicastery as well as the Apostolic Nuncio in Romania, the new Custos of the Holy Land and the Directors of the Agencies. I offer everyone a cordial welcome.

2. Your visit reminds me of the present predicament of the Christian communities of the Eastern Churches which are being subjected in our time to harsh trials due to current hostilities, terrorism and other problems. Faithful to the task you assumed and following the guidelines of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, you have not let them lack your support. In this session, you combined with your generous action for the peoples of Iraq special attention to the Greek-Catholic Church of Romania. I thank you for these signs of your caring. They constitute a precious service of solidarity to those in need. To carry them out in the best way possible, you must draw the strength you need from the Eucharist. On this subject, I wrote in my recent Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia that "the seeds of disunity, which daily experience shows to be so deeply rooted in humanity as a result of sin, are countered by the unifying power of the Body of Christ. The Eucharist, precisely by building up the Church, creates human community" (n. 24).

3. An important opportunity to express this supportive communion that unites all believers in Christ is the Collection for the Holy Land, traditionally made on Good Friday in every part of the world.

My venerable Predecessors have always recommended care for the Mother Church in Jerusalem to all the Christian Communities. It is necessary to persevere, praying intensely for peace for the peoples who live in the Land of Jesus. May the Christians so tried by never-ending violence and many other problems that cause financial impoverishment, social conflict, and human and cultural debasement, never lack the support of the entire Catholic Church. Thanks also to the Good Friday Collection mentioned above, it is possible to help those in urgent need and foster the spirit of reciprocal acceptance and respect, encouraging the development of a common desire for reconciliation. All this cannot but contribute to building the much-desired peace.

4. One of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches' most important tasks in sustaining the pastoral life and evangelizing work of the Catholic Churches of the East continues to be the formation of formation teachers. Your contribution in this regard must take into account how great the needs of seminaries and formation houses often are, and how priorities vary from one Ecclesial Community to another. This Dicastery is also making a considerable financial effort to train priests and to look after seminarians, Religious and lay people so that the Churches, having overcome the conditioning of the past, may now count on qualified pastors and on a responsible and competent laity.

5. May the Lord Jesus and his heavenly Mother, so beloved and venerated everywhere by the ancient Churches of the East, help our brothers and sisters in the faith to respond courageously to the challenges of the new evangelization. May St John the Baptist, whose birth we are commemorating today, help them with his intercession, together with all the saints.

I assure you of my prayers as I very willingly impart to you, your collaborators, your benefactors and all your loved ones a special Apostolic Blessing.



Friday, 25 June 2004

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the European Symposium for University Teachers which is taking place in the context of the International Year of the Family. You have been engaged in reflecting and comparing the foundations, experiences and prospects of families in Europe. I extend my cordial greeting to each one of you. In particular, I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, to whom I am grateful for his courteous words on your behalf.

I express my deep appreciation for the theme you have chosen: Europe's future is staked on the family. It can be said that the family mirrors society, hence, also the Europe that is under construction. The development of families is and will be the most important indicator of cultural and institutional development on the Continent. It is therefore particularly appropriate that universities, and especially Christian teachers, follow attentively the dynamics of families, fostering a responsible and conscious outlook in young people.

2. In the first millennium the encounter between Roman law and the Christian message brought about what one might call the European model of the family that subsequently spread on a wide scale in the Americas and in Oceania. The vicissitudes of this model coincide with the events of the so-called "Western" civilization itself. In fact, in the middle of the past century, in the socially and economically better-developed communities, phenomena symptomatic of a deep crisis surfaced with disruptive consequences that are visible to everyone today (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa, n. 90). In the face of this crisis, the family has always been a strong and cohesive element and, despite being bitterly opposed, has remained the object of aspirations, desires, plans and yearning. The origin of this crisis is really cultural, to the point that the younger generations today seem to be strongly attracted by the ideal of the traditional family but are almost incapable of assuming responsibility for it in the right way.

3. Thus, it is possible to comprehend the importance of a congress such as yours, which looks at the family institution in the perspective of its foundations - philosophical, juridical and theological - for a full interpretation of current experiences that are often problematic and sometimes dramatic, and to grasp the many perspectives that are unfolding in the context of a renewed family model.

The main question, however, is precisely this: can we still speak of a family model today? The Church is convinced that in the context of our time it is more necessary than ever to reassert the institutions of marriage and the family as realities that derive from the wisdom of God's will and reveal their full significance and value in his creative and saving plan (cf. ibid.; cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes GS 48 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio FC 11-16). To this end, side by side with the strictly pastoral initiatives is the role of all who work in the context of culture and scientific investigation, where the method of dialogue and comparison between the different disciplines concerned with family topics becomes highly significant.

4. In dealing with the European context, it is this method that is inspiring you in the course of this current Symposium. I hope that your timely initiative will contribute to ensuring that in Europe, today and tomorrow, families can carry out satisfactorily the role inherent in their most eminent dignity. To this end, I assure you of my special remembrance in prayer and I invoke the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the model for every family.

I wish each one of you, dear friends, success in your work and a peaceful stay in Rome. I accompany this wish with my Blessing, which I extend to all your loved ones.



Friday, 25 June 2004

Mr President,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican so early in your term of office, and through you I send heartfelt greetings to the people of Malta. Your visit today occurs at an important moment in the history of your country. As Malta takes its rightful place in the European Union, it has a vital role to play in upholding the profoundly Christian identity of this Continent. In this regard I would like to express the Holy See’s sincere appreciation for the support given by Your Excellency and the Government of Malta for the inclusion of a reference to Europe’s Christian heritage in the Preamble of the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union.

Since the time of Saint Paul, Malta has been renowned for its firm adherence to the faith. I pray that it will persevere in this and I am confident that the Maltese people, well known for their dedication to the Church and, in particular, their great respect for family life, will draw others to a deeper appreciation of the liberating message of the Gospel.

Upon you and all the beloved people of Malta I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings of prosperity, joy and peace.


Saturday, 26 June 2004

Dear Friends of the Italian Sports Centre,

1. Welcome to this meeting that commemorates the 60th anniversary of your praiseworthy institution, founded to evangelize the world of Sport in Italy. I welcome you and I greet you all with affection. I greet the Prelates present, starting with Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference. I am especially grateful to him for describing your Association's programmes and projects to me just now. I greet your directors, trainers, referees and umpires, leaders and chaplains. I extend a cordial greeting to Mons. Vittorio Peri, the [Italian] National Ecclesiastical Consultant, and to Mr Edio Costantini, the National President. Above all, I greet you, dear young athletes, and thank you for your warm welcome.

2. "Arise" (Lc 7,14). I would like on this occasion to take up the Lord's invitation to the young man of Nain, which was the theme of my recent Apostolic Pilgrimage to Switzerland, to reflect also with you on the meaning of your mission in the Church and in society.

"Arise! Listen! Set out!". I addressed these words to the young people at the Ice Palace of Bern this past 5 June. I repeat the same invitation to you, dear friends of the Italian Sports Centre. Each one of you is called to follow Christ and to be his witness in the context of sport.

You are well aware of this unique vocation and, as your Association's cultural and sports programme states, you mean not only to promote sport within Italian society but also to contribute to answering the fundamental questions the new generations are asking about the meaning of life, its purpose and its goal. You thus intend to promote a sporting mindset and culture which, by actually "doing sport" and not only "talking about sport", will help people rediscover the full truth about the human person.

3. The Italian Sports Centre came into existence 60 years ago with this goal: to propose to young people, then marked by the appalling consequences of the Second World War, the practice of sports, not only as a source of physical well-being but as an ideal of life, courageous, positive, optimistic and a means for the integral renewal of the individual person and of society. My venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pius XII, then asked your Sodality to be the leaven of Christianity in stadiums, on roads, on mountains, at sea, wherever your banner is raised with honour (cf. Address to the Italian Sports Centre, 1955).

In the course of the years, dear friends, you have tried to stay faithful to this behest, presenting the Italian Sports Centre as a school for authentic human formation. You have toiled to acquaint children, young people and adults with the riches and beauty of the Gospel, through various types of sports. You have helped them to encounter Jesus and choose him as their ultimate raison d'être.

4. Still today this is your mission, and society still needs it. The efforts of your sports' association to promote sport as a formative experience in the parishes, schools and throughout the territory, will help the young generations to choose and to foster the authentic values of life: love for truth and justice, the taste for beauty and goodness, the search for genuine freedom and peace.

In our time, organized sport sometimes seems conditioned by the logic of profit, of the spectacular, of doping, exasperated rivalry and episodes of violence. It is also your task to proclaim and to witness to the humanizing power of the Gospel with regard to the practise of sport, which if lived in accordance with the Christian outlook, becomes a "generative principle" of profound human relations and encourages the building of a more serene and supportive world.

I hope that you, especially, dear young athletes, will practise sport with loyalty and a healthy spirit of competition. In this way it will help you to face the demanding competition of life with courage and honesty, with joy and with calm confidence in the future.

Through Mary's intercession, I entrust the entire family of the Italian Sports Centre and all its projects for good to the Lord, and I bless you all with affection.


Saturday, 26 June 2004

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome to the Vatican the representatives of the international movement of Bruderhof Communities. You share a tradition in which Christ’s call to discipleship finds expression in common life in the Spirit and in daily witness to the evangelical law of love. Christians always need to hear anew the radical summons to holiness which is the heart of our Savior’s message. Your witness to that message is especially reflected in your respect for God’s creation and your deep commitment to defending the sacredness of all human life.

I greet you with affection in the Lord and I pray that the growing contacts with the Catholic Church which you are fostering will bear fruit in ever greater mutual understanding, respect and cooperation. May God our merciful Father pour out upon you and your communities his abundant blessings of wisdom, joy and peace.


Monday, 28 June 2004

Your Highnesses,

I am pleased to receive you at this audience, shortly after you have celebrated the sacrament of Marriage, and I thank you for the token of respect you have paid me by desiring to visit me at the beginning of your married life. The birth of a new family is always an important event: for the husband and wife, whose reciprocal love is enriched and strengthened by divine grace, and also for their respective families and for society, since a faithful, lasting union brings new hope and the promise of life.

I then renew the good wishes that I sent you on your wedding day, and I ask God to help you in this new state of life in order to form a happy home which, because of its importance in Spanish society, may also be an exemplary reference point for so many families of this beloved Nation.
I ask you to convey my greeting to Their Majesties, the King and Queen, as well as to all the Spaniards who have demonstrated their warm affection on this occasion. I renew my greeting and my very best wishes, while I bless you both with all my heart.




Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul

Tuesday, 29 June 2004

Your Holiness,
Venerable and Beloved Brothers of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,

1. Welcome in the name of the Lord! Our thanks go to him because he is granting us to meet today on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, who are also venerated in the Orthodox Liturgy as the Protothronoi [the first to be enthroned].

Let us also give thanks to God as we commemorate together the blessed encounter 40 years ago between my venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, and the venerable Patriarch Athenagoras I. They met in Jerusalem, where Jesus was raised on the Cross to redeem humanity and to gather it into unity. How providential that meeting was for the life of the Church, and courageous and joyful at the same time! Inspired by trust and love for God, our enlightened Predecessors were able to overcome age-old prejudices and misunderstandings and set a wonderful example as pastors and guides of the People of God. In rediscovering each other as brothers, they felt a sentiment of deep joy that impelled them confidently to resume relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople. May God reward them in his Kingdom!

2. Your Holiness, I welcome you with great affection and I am truly delighted to be able to offer you hospitality at this house in which the memory of the Holy Apostles lives on. Together with you, I greet those who have accompanied you, and in particular the Metropolitans and the Delegation of the Patriarchate; I also greet the Group of the faithful from the Greek-Orthodox Archdiocese in America and the Group of Professors and students from the Chambésy Institute of Orthodox Theology for Higher Studies, led by Bishop Makarios. I thank them all for their cordial presence.

In the past 40 years, our Churches have had important opportunities for contact that have fostered the spirit of reciprocal reconciliation. We cannot forget, for example, the exchange of visits between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I in 1967. I then cherish a vivid memory of my own Visit to the Phanar in 1979, and of the announcement with Patriarch Dimitrios I of the beginning of theological dialogue. I also remember Patriarch Dimitrios I's visit to Rome in 1987, and that of Your Holiness in 1995, which was the prelude to other important opportunities for meeting. These are many signs of our common commitment to persevere in following the way on which we have set out, so that Christ's desire may be fulfilled as soon as possible: ut unum sint!

3. On this journey, we have certainly been oppressed by the memory of the painful events in our past history. In particular, on this occasion we cannot forget what happened during the month of April 1204. An army that had set out to recover the Holy Land for Christendom marched on Constantinople, took it and sacked it, pouring out the blood of our own brothers and sisters in the faith. Eight centuries later, how can we fail to share the same indignation and sorrow that Pope Innocent III expressed as soon as he heard the news of what had happened? After so much time has elapsed, we can analyze the events of that time with greater objectivity, yet with an awareness of how difficult it is to investigate the whole truth of history.

In this respect, the Apostle Paul's recommendation is helpful to us: "Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart" (1Co 4,5). Let us pray together, therefore, that the Lord of history will purify our memory of all prejudice and resentment and obtain for us that we may advance in freedom on the path to unity.

4. The example bequeathed to us by Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI that we are commemorating today also invites us to do this. May the memory of that encounter encourage a leap forward in dialogue and in the reinforcement of our mutual, brotherly relations. For this purpose, the theological dialogue through the "Joint Commission" will continue to be an important instrument. This is why I hope that it will be able to resume as soon as possible. Indeed, I am convinced of the urgent need for it, and it is my desire and that of my collaborators to avail ourselves of every possible means to foster the spirit of reciprocal acceptance and understanding, in fidelity to the Gospel and to our common apostolic Tradition. The old and ever new commandment of love, which the Apostle Paul echoed in his famous words: "love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honour" (Rm 12,10), urges us to take this path.

5. I entrust these resolutions of reconciliation and full communion to the Holy Apostles whom we commemorate today. Let us invoke them confidently, so that their heavenly intercession will strengthen us in the faith and make us persevere in the endeavour to satisfy Christ's desire as soon as possible. May Mary, Mother of the One who calls us all to full unity in her love, obtain this gift for us.

With these sentiments I renew to you, Your Holiness, and to all of you, my welcome guests, a most cordial greeting.

Speeches 2004