Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 13 November 2004



Monday, 15 November 2004

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to you as I accept the Letters of Credence appointing you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind greetings which you bring from President Sheikh Ghazi Ajeel Al-Yawar, and I gladly offer my own good wishes to the authorities and people of your country. Through the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio I have continued to remain close to the dear people of Iraq since the beginning of this period of conflict. I would ask you to assure them of my ongoing concern for the many victims of terrorism and violence. I pray that they will be spared further suffering and receive the assistance they need from international humanitarian organizations.

Your ancient culture has been described as the "cradle of civilization" and has boasted the presence of Christians since the beginning of Christianity itself. Indeed, it has been a fine example of the many ways in which the adherents of different religions can live in peace and harmony. It is my ardent hope that as Iraq moves towards the realization of democracy, these hallmarks of her history will again become an essential part of society.

Your Excellency has remarked on the importance of protecting the dignity of every human person. Essential to this is the rule of law as an integral element of government. Preserving this fundamental principle is basic for any modern society that truly seeks to safeguard and promote the common good. In fulfilling this task, the clear distinction between the civil and religious spheres allows each of these to exercise its proper responsibilities effectively, with mutual respect and in complete freedom of conscience. It is my hope that the Iraqi people will continue to promote their long tradition of tolerance, always recognizing the right to freedom of worship and religious instruction. Once these fundamental rights are protected by ordinary legislation and become an enduring part of the living fabric of society, they will enable all citizens, regardless of religious belief or affiliation, to make their proper contribution to the building up of Iraq. In this way the country can express the deeply held religious convictions of all its peoples through the creation of a society that is truly moral and just. I can assure Your Excellency that the entire Catholic Church, and in a special way the Chaldean Christians present in your country since the time of the Apostles, is committed to assisting your people in constructing a more peaceful and stable nation.

Iraq is currently in the throes of the difficult process of transition from a totalitarian regime to the formation of a democratic State in which the dignity of each person is respected and all citizens enjoy equal rights. Authentic democracy is possible "only in a State ruled by law", and requires that "the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and . . . through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility" (cf. Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 46). As you prepare your people to undertake the task of freely electing the men and women who will lead the Iraq of tomorrow, I encourage the current government in its efforts to make certain that these elections are fair and transparent giving all eligible citizens an equal opportunity in this democratic right which they are encouraged to exercise.

The struggle to overcome the challenges brought about by poverty, unemployment and violence is also currently faced by Iraq. May your government work untiringly to settle disputes and conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, having recourse to military force only as a last resort. Accordingly, it is essential that the State, with the assistance of the International Community, promote mutual understanding and tolerance among its various ethnic and religious groups. This will enable the people of the region to create an environment that is not only committed to justice and peace but is also capable of sustaining the necessary economic growth and development integral for the well-being of your citizens and the country itself. Men and women can together eliminate the social and cultural causes of division and conflict "by teaching the greatness and dignity of the human person, and by spreading a clearer sense of the oneness of the human family" (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 12).

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your mission will strengthen the bonds of understanding and cooperation between the Republic of Iraq and the Holy See. Be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia are always ready to assist you in the discharge of your high duties. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Iraq I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Monday, 15 November 2004

Dear Sisters,

1. I am cordially grateful to you for today's visit, which is taking place during the General Chapter of your religious Family. I greet with affection every one of you here. In particular, I greet the new Superior General, Mother Samuela Werbinska, with her Council, and I thank her for the kind words that she wished to direct to me. I extend my thought to all the Sisters actively engaged in testifying to the Gospel of love in different nations.

2. In these days you have been able to reflect on the charism that distinguishes you. When, towards the middle of the 1800s, your Foundresses, Clara Wolff, Matilde and Maria Merkert, and Francesca Werner, began to serve the "suffering members of the Body of Christ" in the city of Nysa in Poland, they based the goal and plan of their apostolate on the words of Jesus: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40). Inspired by the example of St Elizabeth of Hungary, who they chose as the Patroness of their new Congregation, they totally dedicated themselves to the poor and needy, contemplating in their faces that of the Redeemer.

From that time your Institute notably grew and today looks with confidence to the future, setting up its tents in various regions of the world.

3. "Duc in altum!". This is the theme that you have chosen for the General Chapter. Your apostolate, dear Sisters, will be more efficacious the more you remain anchored to the roots of your charism. Follow the example of your Foundresses, who cultivated an intimate dialogue with the Lord. Each of your apostolic projects springs from an unceasing communion with him. Cultivating an intense life of prayer and of listening to God will make it easier for you to assure the brothers and sisters in difficulty not only material support, but also spiritual consolation.

4. In these days, you are studying so as to respond with "creative faithfulness" to the challenges of today's society. It is necessary to start afresh from Christ and to witness in a simple and concrete way to his merciful love for everyone, and in a special way for those on the fringes of our society who are considered to be "losers" in life.

May the Virgin Mother of the Lord accompany you always; interceding for you is St Elizabeth of Hungary and your protecting saints. I assure you that I will remember you in prayer and from my heart I bless you, dear Sisters, your Congregation as well as the laity of the Apostolic Community of St Elizabeth, and all those you meet in your daily apostolate.




Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. In our mutual joy at this meeting, I offer each and every one of you my heartfelt greetings for the renewed experience of episcopal communion in our concern for all the Churches (cf. II Cor 11: 28). I offer you my embrace of peace and brotherhood in the spirit of communion that makes us feel of one heart and mind (cf. Acts Ac 4,32). In particular, I greet Archbishop Eterovic, the Secretary General, and thank him for his kind words.

As Members of the 10th Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, you are continuing to live and work in the native spirit of the Synod of Bishops, which is communion. When in 1965 Pope Paul VI, of venerable memory, was prompted to establish this provident institution, the Church was still immersed in the atmosphere of the Second Vatican Council in which the doctrine and spirituality of communion was progressively reborn with persuasive inner intensity.

2. The forthcoming 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that you have for some time been carefully preparing for will address a topic crucial to the Church: the Eucharist. In fact, the theme of the Synod is: The Eucharist, source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. It is from the Eucharist that the Church draws vital energy for her presence and action in human history.

In the Eucharist is found an exemplary prefiguration of communion between the faithful and their Pastors and of the collegial spirit among the Pastors of the particular Churches and the Pastor of the universal Church. It will certainly be the Eucharist that gives spirit and shape to this primordial, indispensable and diffusive character of the Church, a compact organic body that grows to the mature adulthood of Christ (cf. Eph Ep 4,13).

The upcoming Synod will once again afford a favourable opportunity for the Church to strengthen faith in and adoration of the mystery of the Eucharist, to renew collegial and hierarchical communion and to foster brotherly love.

3. Dear Brothers, not only does the preparatory phase of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, now at hand, coincide chronologically with the Year dedicated to the Eucharist, but there is also a special instance of reciprocity between the universal Church and the Synod itself. During this Year, the Church and the Synod are converging towards a single aim: the Lord Jesus, present, alive and life-giving in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

The Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia and the Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine are entrusted to the Church so that Eucharistic procedures and doctrine may everywhere find souls ready for communion with the Lord and with their brethren in the mandate of love. One important task of the Church's Pastors is to be authentic teachers of communion (cf. Pastores Gregis ) so that the entire flock of the Lord may grow in the unity of the one body (cf. Eph 4: 3ff.), the spaces of pastoral charity be extended (cf. St Augustine, PL, 5, 440), and collegiality and hierarchical communion flourish for the holy fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal Ga 5,22).

May the Church, renewed in the rediscovery of the gift and mystery of the Eucharist, extend this inexhaustible richness of life to those near and far, in the urgent work of the new evangelization.

On these resolutions and especially on the preparations for the Synod, I invoke with you the protection of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God and of the Church, of the Apostle St Peter and of all the Bishop Saints, while I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your beloved particular Churches.


Thursday, 18 November 2004

Dear and Venerable Brothers,

1. I greet you with affection and address my greeting of peace to you all.

Welcome to you, Sheikh-ul-Islam, Head of the Presidency of Muslims of the Caucasus that is striving with constant abnegation to build peace in a region where, unfortunately, there are still violent conflicts.

Welcome to you, Bishop Aleksandr of Baku and the Caspian Region, who belong to the Russian Orthodox Church to which I am bound by ties of esteem and affection.

Welcome to you, Head of the Community of Mountain Jews, an ancient community that sets an example of coexistence and fraternal collaboration in a context where the vast majority are Muslim.

2. Your visit reminds me of the one that God granted me to pay to Azerbaijan in 2002. I remember the warmth with which I was welcomed, the cordiality of President Heidar Aliev and his pride in telling me of the religious tolerance on which the life of your Country is hinged. When I learned the news of his death, I prayerfully commended his soul to God. I likewise pray for the new President, Ilham Aliev, and for all the People of Azerbaijan, wishing them days of peace and prosperity.

I hope with all my heart that with the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, peace may return to Azerbaijan. Like other disputes, this should be faced with good will in the mutual search for reciprocal openness and understanding, and in a spirit of true reconciliation.

3. Thank you, dear friends for this visit. When you go home, take back to everyone the embrace of the Pope and of the Catholic Church. May God help you to build an ever more fruitful coexistence between you and the Catholic Community of Azerbaijan. To it and to its Pastor, dear Fr Ján Capla, I send my affectionate thoughts, as I pray the Lord to help him carry out his evangelical mission in the Caucasus.

4. May your visit to the Pope of Rome be, as it were, a symbol for the world. In other words, may it show that tolerance is possible and is a value of civilization that prepares the ground for a broader human, civil and social development in greater solidarity.

No one has the right to present or to use religions as instruments of intolerance or the means of aggression, violence and death. On the contrary, if friendship and reciprocal esteem among them is additionally sustained by a commitment to tolerance on the part of Government Leaders, it can be a rich resource of authentic progress and peace.

5. All together, Muslims, Jews and Christians, let us appeal to humanity in the name of God and civilization, so that homicidal violence may cease and people take the way of love and of justice for all. This is the path of the religions. May God help us walk on it with perseverance and patience!





Friday, 19 November 2004

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7). With the Apostle Paul's words, I greet you all, members of the Post-Synodal Council of the General Secretariat of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops.

Since your Council was established and until the end of the Special Assembly, your Council's collaboration has proved invaluable, not only in the drafting of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia but also in the evaluation of its application on the Asian Continent. This task inevitably requires a fruitful dialogue with the "multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural situation of Asia, where Christianity is still too often seen as foreign" (n. 21).

2. The biblical reference in the Synod theme is particularly apt for Asia: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10). The high percentage of young people registered on the Continent is a reason for optimism for the future and a challenge for the present: a reason for optimism because the new generations, full of promise, are prepared to dedicate themselves totally to a cause; a challenge, because unrealized dreams can give rise to disappointment and those who foster them can easily be taken advantage of by the promoters of extremist ideologies.

Moreover, the Church wants to contribute to the cause of peace in Asia, where various conflicts and terrorism are causing the loss of many human lives. During the Special Assembly, the Synod Fathers looked with apprehension at the Holy Land, "the heart of Christianity" beloved to all the children of Abraham. Unfortunately, in recent years, the hotbeds of war have spread so that it is urgently necessary to build peace, a far from easy undertaking that requires the contribution of all people of good will.

3. If the proclamation of the Gospel in Asia is to put down deep roots, all believers in Christ must imbue every aspect of life with their faith, imitating the Asian saints and martyrs who gave the Catholic faith the supreme witness of blood. It is necessary, especially where Christian faithful suffer and are not free to profess their faith, to proclaim the Kingdom of God with a "silent witness of life" (Ecclesia in Asia ), carrying the cross and following in the footsteps of the suffering and crucified Christ, patiently waiting for the day of full religious freedom to come.

4. In addition, the celebration of the Synod sheds light on the fact that dialogue is a "characteristic mode of the Church's life in Asia" (ibid., n. 3). The spirit of dialogue at the Synod Assembly, which enlivened relations between the youngest Churches and those whose origins date back to the Apostles, is also the right approach to take, with patience and courage, in regard to the other Christian communities. Despite the obstacles, dialogue must progress if the Church is to be faithful to the mandate entrusted to it by Christ to preach the Gospel in its entirety to all nations (cf. Mt Mt 28,19-20), ever docile to the action of the Holy Spirit who is "the prime agent of the inculturation of the Christian faith in Asia. The same Holy Spirit who leads us into the whole truth makes possible a fruitful dialogue with the cultural and religious values of different peoples, among whom he is present in some measure..." (Ecclesia in Asia ).

5. The fact that the Church in Asia is a "little flock" (Lc 12,32) must not lead to discouragement, since the effectiveness of evangelization does not depend on numbers. After Pentecost, the Apostles and a limited number of disciples were sent out to preach the Gospel to the whole world (cf. Acts Ac 2,1 ff.). Through the parables of the yeast (cf. Mt Mt 13,33) and of the mustard seed (cf. Lk Lc 13,19 Lc 17,6), Jesus himself teaches that what is small and hidden to human eyes, thanks to God's almighty intervention, can obtain unhoped for results. Faith in divine Providence, therefore, must constantly inspire the missionary action of the Church in Asia, the Continent of hope.

May Christians in Asia continue to follow Christ faithfully; may they continue, with the greatest possible dedication, to spread the gift of his peace and love.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Asia, watch over them all and obtain peace for every Nation on that beloved Continent. I assure you of my prayers and to all of you present here I cordially impart my Blessing, which I gladly extend to all the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful of the Church in Asia.



Saturday, 20 November 2004

Your Beatitude,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome to the Vatican the International Board of Trustees of Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem. I take this opportunity to encourage you, and all associated with the work of the Hospital, always to give the best of yourselves in generous service to the sick, with the greatest respect for their human dignity and their unique value in the eyes of God. I appreciate the praiseworthy sense of solidarity and concern for the needs of the Palestinian community which led to the establishment of Saint Joseph’s as the only Catholic hospital in Jerusalem. May the Hospital continue to find moral and material support both in the Holy Land and abroad. To you, and to all the benefactors, staff and patients, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 20 November 2004

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

1. I am pleased to receive you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. I address my cordial greeting to you all. In particular, I greet Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, whom I thank for the sentiments he has expressed.

I know that the Dicastery is working hard to spread the "Gospel of the family". The expression is an appropriate one, for to proclaim the "wonderful news" of the family that is rooted in the Heart of God the Creator is a noble and crucial mission. The family founded on marriage is an irreplaceable natural institution and a fundamental element of the common good of every society.

2. Those who destroy this fundamental fabric of human coexistence by failing to respect its identity or distorting its tasks injure society deeply and often cause irreparable damage. You rightly intend, therefore, to reflect on various national and international aspects that affect the family. In this context too the Church cannot disregard the norm pronounced by the Apostle Paul: "We must obey God rather than men" (Ac 5,29).

In the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, I already gave prominence to "the unique place that, in this field, belongs to the mission of married couples and Christian families by virtue of the grace received in the sacrament", and I recalled that this mission must be "placed at the service of the building up of the Church" and "the establishing of the Kingdom of God in history" (n. 71). This mission has lost none of its timeliness; on the contrary, it has become exceptionally urgent.

3. Coming to the main theme of your Plenary Meeting, "The mission of mature and experienced couples in regard to engaged couples and young married couples", I would like to encourage you to renew your commitment to young families. As I said in Familiaris Consortio, "in her pastoral care of young families, the Church must also pay special attention to helping them to live married love responsibly in relationship with its demands of communion and service to life. She must likewise help them to harmonize the intimacy of home life with the generous shared work of building up the Church and society" (n. 69).

Moreover, in that Document I pointed out that young families, "finding themselves in a context of new values and responsibilities, are more vulnerable, especially in the first years of marriage, to possible difficulties, such as those created by adaptation to life together or by the birth of children" (n. 69). I therefore urged young couples to accept warmly and evaluate intelligently the discreet, delicate and generous help of other couples who have had a long experience of marriage and the family.

4. In this regard, I am pleased to point out the increasing presence throughout the world of pro-family and pro-life movements. Their dynamism, placed at the service of those setting out on the path of recently contracted marriage, guarantees valuable assistance in inspiring the appropriate response to the riches of the vocation to which the Lord is calling them.

Ten years ago, in my Letter to Families, I stressed how important the rich experience of other families can be, especially when the "we" of the parents, of husband and wife, develops in the "we" of the family with the most precious gift of children (cf. n. 16). It is in this way that the domestic Church, the sanctuary of life and the true pillar of humanity's future, is built.

5. To conclude, my thoughts go to the Fifth World Meeting of Families, which will take place in 2006 in Valencia, Spain. I know that your Pontifical Council is preparing that event jointly with the Archdiocese of Valencia. I greet Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco who is present here, and send a warm greeting to the beloved Land of Spain that will have the honour of hosting this event.

As I invoke continuous divine assistance upon your work, I entrust you to the special intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth and bless you with all my heart.




Tuesday, 23 November 2004

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Members of the Senate and the Academic Staff,
Honourable Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I cordially greet you all. I am pleased to be able to welcome so distinguished a representation of the Mikolaj Kopernik University in Torun. I thank the Rector Magnificent for his courteous words and the Academic Senate for having conferred upon me the title of doctor honoris causa. I accept it with gratitude as a sign of the dialogue between science and faith that is continuously developing.

2. As I welcome you to the Vatican, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I recall that day in June 1999 when I was granted to cross the threshold of your Athenaeum. I also remember speaking precisely of this dialogue, whose purpose is to overcome the illuminist opposition between truth reached by reason and truth understood through faith. Today, we understand better and better that it is a question of the same truth and that people who reach it in their own different ways are not journeying alone but also seek confirmation of their own intuitions in the encounter with others. Only then will scholars and people of culture be truly able to assume that special responsibility which I mentioned at Torun: the "responsibility for truth: to strive for it, to defend it and to live in accordance with it" (Address to the Rectors of Academic Institutions, Torun, Poland, 7 June 1999, n. 5; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 16 June 1999, p. 8).

3. I am delighted that the Mikolaj Kopernik University is developing dynamically and offering to an increasing number of young people the possibility of acquiring knowledge. It is good that the Faculty of Theology can also participate in this development. As I am aware, it has been given an impetus by the support that the local Authorities are giving to the city, which certainly has every right to be called the "university city". May this joint effort be useful to the city and region of Torun and to the whole of Poland. No nation can possess a greater treasure than to be made up of learned citizens.

4. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, once again I thank you for your visit. Please take back my greeting to all the teachers and students at your University, and also to all the inhabitants of the city of Torun. May God's blessing be with you always! May God favour you!



Thursday, 25 November 2004

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

1. I welcome you with joy on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. I warmly greet the President, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, and thank him for his words on your behalf. I greet the Members and Consultors, Officials and Staff of this Dicastery, dedicated to carrying out its mission to strengthen the baptized by knowledge of their own identity and Christian vocation through a wealth of initiatives.

2. I am thinking, for example, of the Meeting of Catholics of Eastern Europe, organized last year in Kiev, Ukraine, which highlighted the role that the lay faithful played in the spiritual and material rebuilding of those nations after long years of atheistic totalitarianism.

I am also aware of your Pontifical Council's attention to the new season of lay association, which is marked by closer collaboration between the various groups, communities and movements. The "Repertoire of international associations of the faithful" is most useful in this regard.

Furthermore, I have been informed of the first steps of the "Church and Sports" Department that you have recently created, as well as of the reassuring results of the International Youth Forum on the university apostolate.

Nor can I overlook the intense preparation for World Youth Day that will be celebrated in Cologne, Germany, in August 2005. This event, with the theme: "We have come to worship him" (Mt 2,2), urges the whole Church and especially young people to set out like the Magi to meet the God who became Man for our salvation.

3. Having completed the series of Assemblies dedicated to the sacraments of Christian initiation, you are beginning with this Plenary Meeting to reflect on the parish, a topic that will keep you busy in the coming years.

The next stage, as is evident from your agenda, consists in helping the lay faithful rediscover the true face of the parish, the "most immediate and visible expression" of the Church which is "living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters" (Christifideles Laici CL 26). The parish is the vital cell that is the natural place for lay people to participate in the building and mission of the Church in the world. The parish provides a presence that constantly calls each person to think about the ultimate meaning of life; it is a door open to all, giving access to the path of salvation. In a word, it is the place par excellence for the proclamation of Christ and for formation in the faith. For this very reason, the parish must be constantly renewed so as to be a true "community of communities", capable of truly effective missionary action.

4. During this year dedicated to the Eucharist, how could I fail to recall that the Eucharist is the pulsating heart of the parish, the source of its mission and a presence that ceaselessly renews each one? Indeed, parishes are "communities of the baptized who express and affirm their identity above all through the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 32).

Dear brothers and sisters, I hope with all my heart that the reflection on the parish, which the Pontifical Council for the Laity has begun at this Meeting, will help everyone understand better that the parish community is the place for an encounter with Christ and the brethren. I accompany you with my prayers, as I entrust you and your loved ones to the motherly protection of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church.

With these sentiments, I bless you all.



Friday, 26 November 2004

Mr. President,

I am pleased to greet you and your entourage as you come to the Vatican, and I thank you for the kind sentiments you have expressed on behalf of the people of Yemen.

During this period of unrest in your region, I urge you and all men and women of good will to combat terrorism, striving for peace and justice. This is only possible when people recognize the ongoing need for tolerance and mutual understanding. In this regard, I encourage you in your efforts to foster the spirit of frank and open dialogue between the different religions and peoples of the Arabian Peninsula. It is my fervent prayer that Almighty God may impart to you and all the Yemeni people, the gifts of peace, harmony and reconciliation.




Friday, 26 October 2004

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With affection in Christ Jesus, I welcome you, my brother Bishops from the ecclesiastical Provinces of Dubuque, Kansas City in Kansas, Omaha and Saint Louis, on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. Today, as I continue my reflections on the exercise of episcopal governance, I wish to consider with you the relationship which unites you to your closest co-workers in the apostolate, your brother priests.

Several times in the course of these talks I have asked you and your Brother Bishops to convey to the priests of the United States my personal gratitude and appreciation for their faithful service to the Gospel. In these days, as you kneel before the tomb of Peter, here at the very heart of the Church, I ask you not only to commend them and their ministry to the Lord, but to renew your commitment to working with them “in unanimity, possessing the one love, united in spirit and ideals” (cf. Phil Ph 2,2).

2. Hinc unitas sacerdotii exoritur. These words inscribed over the high altar of Saint Peter’s Basilica are a solemn reminder that the fellowship uniting you and your priests is ultimately born of the grace of Holy Orders and the one mission entrusted by the Risen Lord to the Apostles and their successors in the Church (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7). The Second Vatican Council, in particular, appealed to this vision of the unity of the priesthood in its teaching that priests form one presbyterium with their Bishop, exercising with him, and under his authority, the office of Christ, the shepherd and head of his Church (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 28). The daily strengthening of this spiritual and hierarchical communion within the diocesan presbyterate is a primary and essential task of each Bishop.

The Council in fact exhorted Bishops to be particularly concerned for the welfare of their priests, treating them as sons and friends, and constantly cultivating that supernatural charity which brings about a union of wills in the service of the People of God (cf. Christus Dominus CD 16,28). I myself am convinced that the most effective means of promoting such a union is through a shared and constantly renewed commitment to the life and mission of the particular Church. In a complete and sacrificial love for the local Christian community, Bishops and priests alike will discover “a wealth of meaning, criteria for discernment and action which can shape both their pastoral mission and spiritual life” (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 31). The Bishop, by demonstrating clearly that he loves the Church entrusted to his care with an undivided heart, will be the first to promote among his brother priests the growth of that “fellowship of life, work and charity” (Lumen Gentium LG 28), grounded in the “one love”, which is the heart and soul of the apostolate.

Speeches 2004 - Saturday, 13 November 2004