Speeches 2004 - Monday, 13 September 2004





Thursday, 16 September 2004

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I greet all of you who are taking part in the Formation Meeting organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to support you in your responsibility for serving the Churches in the mission countries that have been entrusted to you. I thank Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Dicastery, for his kind words on your behalf, and I thank everyone who has prepared for and enlivened this meeting.

2. I am delighted with the vitality of your Churches. They are called in all the cultures to express the communion of the one Church of Christ in fidelity to the Magisterium. Your primary task is to be the zealous guardians of the integrity of the faith and the unity of the Church. Called to follow Christ, you must take care constantly to nurture communion with the Roman Pontiff and with the other Bishops, especially within the Bishops' Conference and the Ecclesiastical Province (cf. Pastores Gregis ).

3. Be models for the Christian people, finding the strength to be servants of the Gospel in a spiritual approach, an intense sacramental life and continual formation. In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, stressing that the Bishops' ministry of sanctification is ordered to the holiness of the People of God, I added: "In his ministry, the Bishop must tirelessly promote a genuine pastoral and educational programme of holiness" (n. 41). To lead the people of believers to true holiness and to express the Christian hope, may each one of you make St Paul's view your own: "For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1Co 9,16).

4. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, in a few days you will be returning to your communities, all too often sorely tried. Assure them of the prayers and affectionate closeness of the Pope in their intentions. Tell the Pastors that the Church is counting on them to be witnesses in their words and throughout their lives. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Missions, help you in the service that has been entrusted to you! I very willingly impart to all of you, to your Dioceses and to the organizers of this formation meeting, a special Apostolic Blessing.



Friday, 17 September 2004

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. On your Banking Group's second anniversary, you have wished to express your closeness to me and to renew your sentiments of respect. I am grateful and I welcome you!

I thank your President in particular for his courteous words on everyone's behalf.

The complex world of credit calls the Church to reflect on the many ethical implications it involves. Indeed, to pursue goals aimed at maximizing profit would be decidedly narrow; instead, constant reference must be made to the superior values of human existence if one desires to contribute to the true growth and full development of the community. Giuseppe Toniolo, the great Catholic economist, observed in this regard that Christian morality should be "the most powerful factor for inspiring economic vigour in peoples and for guaranteeing them more regular and effective relations" (Trattato di Economia Sociale, I, 94).

2. In this perspective, your presence in society can be instrumental for real progress, by proffering services that support all the worthwhile initiatives of individuals and groups who turn to you for their legitimate financial and economic needs.

I hope that your work will always be sustained by this elevated outlook, so that it may contribute to the good of all who avail themselves of your activities, and more generally, to that of the whole community in which you work.

With these sentiments, as I invoke upon you and your families an abundance of heavenly favours, I cordially impart my Blessing to you all.





Friday, 17 September 2004

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I welcome and greet all of you who are taking part in the updating session promoted by the Congregations for Bishops and for the Oriental Churches. I greet the Prefects of the two Dicasteries, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re and Cardinal Moussa Daoud, who have fittingly gathered together the Pastors of the two great traditions of the universal Church, of the West and of the East.

As I thank Cardinal Re for his cordial words expressing your common sentiments, I would like to congratulate you, dear and venerable Brothers, who have accepted the invitation to live these days of deep episcopal brotherhood. Initiatives of this kind encourage communication and communion between the Churches and the espicopal body's harmonious concern for the Lord's flock, at whose service every Bishop is placed.

2. With his consecration, in fact, the Bishop fully becomes a teacher, priest and guide of the Christian community. Christ must therefore always be the heart of his ministry, the divine Teacher present both in the words of Scripture and in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

In the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, I wanted to recall that the Eucharist is at the heart of the "munus sanctificandi" of the Bishop (cf. n. 37). I keenly hope that the Year of the Eucharist, which will begin on 17 October with the closing of the International Eucharistic Congress, will be a providential opportunity for examining more deeply the central importance of the Eucharistic Sacrament in the life and activity of every particular Church. It is round the altar that the bonds of fraternal love are strengthened and the awareness of all believers that they belong to the one People of God, whose Bishops are Pastors, is revived.

3. As Bishops it is your task to watch over the celebration of the sacraments and worship in general. Safeguard the expectations of the faithful to have a dignified celebration in which nothing is left to improvisation or chance. Indeed, the liturgy is the great school of Christian life where we worship, love and become acquainted with the Lord, where we are strengthened in our desire to follow the Teacher and in our determination to offer our own consistent witness.

You are, moreover, aware that the ministry of sanctification requires the witness of a holy life. The Spirit of God, who has made you holy through your episcopal consecration, expects of you a generous daily response. Your holiness is not merely personal, for its effects always prove beneficial to the faithful (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis ), and imbues you with that moral authority you need to exercise your ministry effectively. The witness of our lives must confirm what we teach.

4. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I exhort you to tend the flame of love for Christ at the altar each day, drawing from its heat the desire to give yourselves to God and to the Church.

May Mary, "Woman of the Eucharist", and the array of Apostles and holy Bishops sustain your steps and your ministry with their intercession.

With these sentiments, I impart my Blessing to you and gladly extend it to the communities entrusted to your pastoral care.



Saturday, 18 September 2004

Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See.

I warmly thank you for conveying to me the courteous good wishes of H.E. Mr Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, President of the Republic. I would be grateful if you would reciprocate with my cordial good wishes for him and for the prosperity of the Egyptian People.

Madam Ambassador, you have recalled the need to build a culture of peace, to pave the way to real solidarity among men and women and to make the nations' future one of true harmony. As the Holy See never ceases to recall in these troubled times, there can be no lasting peace in international relations unless the desire for dialogue gets the better of the logic of confrontation.

Whether it is in Iraq, where the return to civil peace seems so difficult to establish, in the Holy Land, unfortunately scarred by a never-ending war that fosters nothing but hatred and the desire for vengeance, or in other countries, wounded by the terrorism that so brutally strikes innocent people, violence reveals everywhere its horror and its inability to settle conflicts. It produces nothing good but only hatred, destruction and death.

I once again remind the International Community of its responsibility to encourage the return to reason and negotiation, the only possible way out of conflicts between human beings, because all peoples have the right to live in serenity and peace.

Madam Ambassador, you stressed the desire to serve peace that marks the Holy See's concerns. I am pleased to refer in turn to the culture and political tradition of your Country. Through the vicissitudes of history, this tradition of your Nation, on the boundary between the African and Asian Continents, has given it and continues to give it a special place in international relations, in order to work for peace and reconciliation between persons and peoples.

One of the main responsibilities of a State is to guarantee the peace, well-being and safety of its citizens. As you yourself mentioned, Your Excellency, with regard to the place of women in Egyptian society, this implies assuring the equality of all before the law and fostering mutual respect and good understanding between the different members of the Nation.

I know that I can count on the vigilance of the Egyptian Authorities especially to assure to all citizens the principle of freedom of worship and of religion, which is an eminent form of the freedom of individuals, hence, one of the fundamental human rights. I appeal to the leaders of civil society to ensure that they are careful to see that these individual rights are effectively respected wherever there are Christian communities, without the fear of any form of discrimination or violence. Egyptian Catholics, on their part, are pleased to play an active role in their Country's development and are constantly concerned to establish peaceful relations with their compatriots.

Religions have an important role to play in achieving the construction of peace. This mission is essential for humanity's future. They all have something to say about man, concerning his duties to the Creator, himself and his peers. They spread a doctrine that honours life as a sacred gift of God which human beings must respect and cherish.

As I have often said, it is for this very reason that religions are called to be resolutely committed to denouncing and rejecting all recourse to violence as contrary to their own aim, which is, precisely, to reconcile men and women with one another and with God.

Often involved in specifically educational tasks for children and young people, religions in this respect have an important responsibility to assume concerning the content of their teaching, to combat and reject any sectarian approach and, vice-versa, to develop and encourage all that leads to a deeper knowledge of and respect for others. You may rest assured that the Catholic Church is attending to this mission in her own domain with determination.

Egypt's prestigious al-Azhar University, which I have had the opportunity to visit, fulfils an essential function in the Muslim world and provides an opportunity for interreligious dialogue, especially between Christians and Muslims, to be continued and intensified.

It is important to develop a better reciprocal knowledge of the traditions and mentalities of the two religions, of their role in history and their responsibilities in the contemporary world, through meetings between religious leaders, but it is also appropriate to awaken respect and the desire for mutual knowledge among individuals and communities of believers, in towns and villages. With greater mutual esteem, Christians and Muslims will be better able to work together to serve the cause of peace and a better future for humanity.

Your presence here, Your Excellency, enables me to greet through you the Pastors and faithful of the different rites that comprise the Catholic community of Egypt. I hope that the faithful will always have at heart the development of fraternal and constructive relations with one another, sharing their specific endowments and thus paying homage to Catholic unity. May they pay special attention to the quality of Gospel witness that they give to the whole population, in the schools they are responsible for and in the charitable agencies they put at the country's service!

I also invite them to pursue dialogue with their Christian brothers and sisters, particularly the members of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, which is sorely tried at this time by the tragic death of its Pastor, H.B. Petros VII, Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa. May they seek to collaborate, whenever possible, in common activities at the service of men and women!

At the time when you are entering your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I offer you my best wishes for its success. Be assured, Madam Ambassador, that you will always find a welcome as well as understanding from my collaborators.

I cordially invoke upon Your Excellency, your family as well as on all the Egyptian People and its leaders, the Almighty's abundant Blessings.



Saturday, 18 September 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. In the grace and peace of our Lord I cordially welcome you, the members of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific, and make my own the greeting of Saint Paul: "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world" (Rm 1,8). I am grateful to Archbishop Apuron for his good wishes and kind sentiments offered on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you and those entrusted to your care of my prayers. Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum expresses the profound communion of love and truth which unites the scattered dioceses of the Pacific with the Successor of Peter and his collaborators in the service of the universal Church. Travelling great distances to "see Peter" (cf. Gal Ga 1,18) you confirm your "unity in the same faith, hope and charity, and more and more recognize and treasure that immense heritage of spiritual and moral wealth that the whole Church, joined with the Bishop of Rome … has spread throughout the world" (Pastor Bonus, Appendix I, 3).

2. Jesus Christ continues to turn his loving attention to the peoples of Oceania, drawing them to a still deeper faith and life in him. As Bishops you respond to his call by asking: how can the Church be an even more effective instrument of Christ? (cf. Ecclesia in Oceania, 4). Even where the life of the Church is filled with signs of growth, no effort can be spared in taking effective pastoral initiatives to make the Lord better known and loved. Indeed, families and communities, continuing to search for meaning in their lives, look to see ‘faith in action’. This demands that you, as teachers of the faith and heralds of the Word (cf. Pastores Gregis ), preach with clarity and precision how "faith in fact has the force to shape culture itself by penetrating it to its very core" (Ecclesia in Oceania, 20). Anchored in the Christian tradition, and alert to the signs of contemporary cultural shifts, your episcopal ministry will thus be a sign of hope and direction for all.

3. Dear Brothers, the vibrant pastoral life of your dioceses, which your reports clearly describe, is an uplifting sign for all. The joyful liturgical celebrations, the keen participation of the young in the mission of the Church, the flowering of vocations, and the palpable presence of faith in the civic life of your nations, all attest to God’s infinite goodness to his Church. Yet, with the prudence of a father’s concern for his family, you have also expressed worries about the winds of change extending to your shores. The encroachment of secularism, particularly in the form of consumerism, and the long reach of the most insidious aspects of the media, which convey a deformed outlook on life, the family, religion and morality, unsettle the very foundations of traditional cultural values.

In the face of such challenges, the peoples of Oceania are growing in their understanding of the need to renew their faith and find a more abundant life in Christ. In this quest they look to you, with great expectation, to be steadfast ministers of truth and audacious witnesses to Christ. They wish for you to be vigilant in seeking new ways to teach faith in such a way that they will be strengthened by the power of the Gospel which must permeate their way of thinking, standards of judgement, and norms of behaviour (cf. Sapientia Christiana, Foreword). In this context, it is your preached and lived testimony to God’s extraordinary "yes" to humanity (cf. 2Co 1,20) which will inspire your peoples to reject the negative aspects of new forms of colonization and to embrace all that begets new life in the Spirit!

4. En tant que don inépuisable de Dieu, l’unité de l’Église resplendit sur la totalité de ses membres comme un appel pressant à grandir dans une communion de foi, d’espérance et de charité. Au milieu des changements culturels, qui sont souvent des facteurs de division, le grand défi d’aujourd’hui consiste à faire de l’Église « la maison et l’école de la communion » (Novo millennio ineunte NM 43). Cela requiert de l’Évêque, envoyé au nom du Christ pour prendre soin d’une portion déterminée du peuple de Dieu, d’aider son peuple à devenir un dans l’Esprit Saint (cf. Pastores Gregis ). Par conséquent, je vous encourage à imiter le Bon Pasteur qui connaît ses brebis et qui appelle chacune par son nom. Les rencontres et l’écoute attentive de vos plus proches collaborateurs – prêtres, religieux, religieuses et catéchistes –, de même que les contacts directs avec les pauvres, les malades et les personnes âgées, unifieront votre peuple et enrichiront votre enseignement grâce à l’exemple concret que vous donnez d’une foi humble et du service.

L’importance particulière de la communio entre un évêque et ses prêtres signifie que vous avez toujours à coeur de leur manifester votre intérêt paternel pour leur épanouissement et leur bonheur. Vous êtes les premiers formateurs de vos prêtres. Votre sollicitude pour la formation humaine, spirituelle, intellectuelle et pastorale de vos séminaristes et de vos prêtres est une expression évidente de votre amour pour eux, et cela portera beaucoup de fruits dans vos diocèses. Cette affection spéciale doit se manifester par une attention soutenue à leur sanctification personnelle dans le ministère et à la constante mise à jour de leur engagement pastoral (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 2). Je vous invite donc avec insistance à jouer un rôle toujours plus important dans le suivi de vos séminaires et dans la proposition de programmes réguliers de formation permanente des prêtres, pour que s’édifient leur identité et leur personnalité sacerdotales (cf. ibid., n. 71). Une telle identité ne devra jamais se fonder sur une quelconque charge sociale ou sur des titres. Elle est avant tout constituée par une vie de simplicité, de chasteté et d’humble service (cf. ibid., n. 33), qui appelle autrui à faire de même.

Pour terminer sur ce point, je m’associe à vous, priant pour vos prêtres et leur exprimant ma profonde gratitude et mes vifs encouragements. Je salue en particulier ceux qui, dans la perspective d’un engagement authentique pour l’Église dans le Pacifique, ont laissé le ministère paroissial qu’ils aimaient pour se mettre au service des séminaires. On doit rendre hommage à leur générosité. Aux prêtres qui, pour des raisons variées, n’ont pas pu vivre les exigences de leur ministère, je rappelle que Dieu, qui est riche en miséricorde et plein d’amour, les appelle chaque jour à revenir à lui. En définitive, rappelez à tous vos prêtres l’affection profonde que je leur porte!

5. The history of the founding of the Church in Oceania is the story of countless consecrated men and women who abandoned themselves to the Lord’s call to proclaim the Gospel with selfless dedication. Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters continue to be at the forefront of evangelization in your dioceses. By pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, Religious respond in particular to the growing thirst among your people for a sustaining spirituality to enliven their faith. Such witness demands for Religious themselves daily nourishment from the wellspring of a sound spirituality. The spiritual life, embedded in an Order’s charism, must therefore have "first place in the programme of Families of consecrated life in such a way that every community will be a school of true evangelical spirituality" (Vita Consecrata VC 93). Indeed, apostolic fruitfulness, generosity in love of the poor, and the ability to inspire vocations among the young depend upon this priority and its creative growth in personal and communal commitment.

Religious Sisters, in particular, have contributed greatly to the social development of women and children in your region. In so doing they have borne witness to those feminine values which express the essential relational character of humanity: the capacity to live "for the other" and "because of the other" (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, 14). Authenticity, honesty, sensitivity and service enrich all human relationships. What I have called the "genius of women" will also enrich the pastoral organization of your own dioceses. Solicitous collaboration and careful coordination with Religious Orders is now needed to ensure that adequate programmes of theological and spiritual formation - initial and ongoing - are provided to prepare Religious women for their invaluable role in the increasingly demanding task of evangelization of culture in the Pacific.

6. Dear Brothers, during the Synod for Oceania many of you noted with satisfaction that an increasing number of the lay faithful are coming to a deeper appreciation of their duty to participate in the Church’s mission of evangelization (cf. Ecclesia in Oceania, 19). Your Catechists have embraced with great zeal and generosity Saint Paul’s burning conviction: "woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1Co 9,16). This passion cannot, however, be left to a small group of "specialists" but must inspire and call forth all the members of the People of God to bring to bear the power of the Gospel on the very heart of culture and cultures (cf. Catechesi Tradendae CTR 53). This requires great attention to promoting catechesis programmes for adults. As general educational standards among your communities rise, it is imperative that your people grow in their understanding of the faith and their ability to express its liberating truth. In this regard, I am confident that you will give special consideration to the development of the chaplaincy at the University of the South Pacific where so many of your fine young men and women are being trained as future leaders of your communities. Let them account for the hope that is in them! (cf. 1P 3,15).

7. With affection and fraternal gratitude I offer these reflections to you and encourage you to share the fruits of the charism of truth which the Holy 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! Commending you to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and invoking upon you the intercession of Saint Peter Chanel, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and the priests, Religious, and lay faithful of your dioceses.



Tuesday, 21 September 2004

Mr Ambassador,

Welcome to the Vatican, where I have the pleasure of receiving you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Portuguese Republic to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings you have conveyed to me from President Jorge Sampaio and from the Portuguese People; his words reminded me of the days of my Pastoral Visits to your Country, especially at the Shrine of Fatima, when I was able to see for myself the Christian roots of this Nation, blessed and protected by Our Lady. I would be most grateful, Your Excellency, if you would kindly express to the President of the Republic my best wishes for the well-being and prosperity of the entire Country, and the assurance of my prayers to the Most High that he will continue to inspire the sentiments of reciprocal understanding and brotherhood that will make it possible for all to contribute to building the common homeland.

Everyone is familiar with the social and political world scene at the beginning of this millennium: the accentuation of regional differences, both cultural and economic; the concern to safeguard peace in the face of the escalation of extremist groups which "have in turn put even greater obstacles in the way of dialogue and negotiation" (Message for the World Day of Peace 2004, n. 8); the frequency of natural disasters and others which are far more serious and devastate entire populations, such as famine and the endemic diseases that sometimes escape all control; the glaring gap between rich and poor and the consequent disregard for human rights which are, among other things, cause for grave apprehension to any government leader conscious of the far reaching effect of his own decisions.

Mr Ambassador, your Country is aware of the Holy See's efforts to humanize globalization and to profit from the beneficial influence of scientific and technological progress with a view to the greater well-being of every people or nation. For this reason, the Authorities of the Portuguese Government did not hesitate to recognize and proclaim their own Christian convictions at the moment of their collaboration in drafting the European Constitution. I would like to make the most of this opportunity to express my gratitude for your Government's action in bringing the Christian identity of Europe to the fore, and I hope that the convictions that derive from it will be asserted in both national and international contexts.

In this regard, the signing of the new Concordat between the Holy See and Portugal confirms the living expression of a mature agreement to reinforce the presence of this Christian "soul" founded in the "deep historical relations between the Catholic Church and Portugal, taking into account the mutual responsibilities that impel both States, in the area of religious freedom, to continue their service to the common good and to collaborate in building a society that promotes the dignity of the human person, justice and peace" (Cf. Preamble, 18 May 2004). May Providence, as of old, make us relive the past with new and daring gestures, by striking the hour of a new evangelization that it is up to us all to discover. My wishes are for a Portugal that is active and fearless, ever open to the new challenges of our society and aware that the Almighty will not leave empty-handed those who strive to trust in his plans.

Moreover, the new challenges could be better evaluated if presented to public opinion by the International Community as part of a logical development whose driving force was constituted by the local society's own vitality: associating the citizens with social projects, giving them confidence in those who govern them and in the Nation to which they belong; it is on these foundations that the harmonious life of human societies is built. Faithful to her religious and humanitarian mission, the Church seeks to fulfil her role as a leaven of unity and would like the Gospel to make ever more fertile the seed of culture that has formed a nation.

I know that the Catholic Pastors and faithful of your Motherland, the cradle of many Portuguese Saints and Blesseds, are devoted to this task, Mr Ambassador, as you, moreover, have recognized, emphasizing the service to the faith of this generous and faithful people. I make the most of this opportunity, Your Excellency, to convey through you my fraternal greetings to all your compatriots, members of the Catholic Church, whose heartfelt aspiration is to cooperate harmoniously and effectively with their fellow citizens in building a supportive and fraternal Nation.

Mr Ambassador, at this moment when your mandate is officially beginning, I offer you my best wishes for the success of your noble mission. I assure you that the concern and attention of my collaborators is at your disposal in all that may contribute to the fruitful fulfilment of your office.

Lastly, as I reaffirm all my affection for the People of Portugal and my respectful greeting to their Leaders, I invoke upon you, Your Excellency, upon your relatives and all those who work with you as well as on the whole Nation, the help of God and an abundance of his Blessings.





Thursday, 23 September 2004

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I welcome you with great affection. I am delighted that you have included in your Congress a meeting with the Successor of Peter, and I thank Fr Wolf Notker for his courteous words introducing it.

I have listened to your troubles and worries. Do not let the problems of our time discourage you. God continues his work in you and with you in his own way, as Jesus foretold when speaking to his disciples: "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16,33).

2. Be faithful to your history. Our secularized world is indebted to you for the witness of your communities that put God in the centre place. Many Bishops are asking to have in their Dioceses these vital spaces of encountering the Lord. Through the liturgy, study and work, may you be an example of Christian life that is fully oriented to God, respectful of humankind and of creation.

I am aware of your contacts with monks and nuns of other religions: these are important relationships that can prove fruitful. I urge you to deepen ecumenical relations with our brothers and sisters of Eastern Europe. Monasticism is a natural platform for mutual understanding. This is extremely important at this moment in history in order to preserve the Christian roots of Europe.

3. I am pleased that as the great Benedictine Family, you are increasingly rediscovering your common heritage. Dear brothers and sisters, continue on your way, following in the footsteps of St Benedict and St Scholastica: "Prefer nothing whatsoever to Christ" (RB, 72, 11). Faithful to this rule of life, you will experience a future full of God's gifts.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary obtain them for you. I entrust you to her, as I wholeheartedly bless you and all your communities.

Speeches 2004 - Monday, 13 September 2004