Speeches 1997 - Friday, 21 March 1997



TO THE Bishops' Conference of France ON ITS

"Ad limina Apostolorum" VISIT

Saturday, 22 March 1997

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to welcome you during your ad limina visit. It is an opportunity for you to strengthen the mission you have received, through your prayers at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and your meetings in the different departments of the Roman Curia. Your presence in Rome expresses the fraternal communion which exists between the Successor of Peter and the diocesan Bishops around Christ, who is the Head of the Church. “We are in various places in the Church; we are not separated from his Body, ‘because God is one, and one also is the mediator between God and men’ (1Tm 2,5)” St Paulinus of Nola, Letter, 2, 3). Our conversations enable me to be close to all who, with you, are involved in the mission and who contribute to the dynamism of the diocesan community.

The President of your Eastern Apostolic Region, Bishop Marcel Herriot, has given an overview of your pastoral concerns; I am grateful to him for it. This part of France presents many contrasts and sometimes acutely experiences the social difficulties present throughout the country. This must not unsettle the faithful but, on the contrary, lead them to show generous solidarity for the destitute, whatever their origin. On the other hand, the position of your region at one of the great crossroads of Europe leads you to exchanges with your neighbours that cannot fail to benefit all; your experience will be invaluable for the preparation of the new Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, because the Church on this continent will profit from greater mutual knowledge and fraternal collaboration. I also point out that in many of your Dioceses the presence of large ecclesial communities which arose from the Reformation is an invitation to take an active part in ecumenical dialogue, one of the great tasks to be pursued at the dawn of the third millennium. Because of the Church's vitality, despite shadows, the strong Christian tradition of your area inspires trust in the future and, as you say, there are signs of hope.

2. As you clearly state in your quinquennial reports, among the aspects of pastoral work that worry you is the question of vocations. In some of your Dioceses the number of young people who are willing to enter the priesthood or the consecrated life has remained very low, sometimes for years. Priests are increasingly overburdened and have no relief in sight. Nonetheless, far from slackening in their missionary enthusiasm, they tirelessly continue to fulfil their pastoral tasks. I warmly commend their courage and tell them again that they must not despair, for the Lord never abandons his Church. The period of crisis your Dioceses are undergoing must not cause your diocesan communities as a whole to forget that there is a need to continue and redouble their efforts to transmit to the young the call to the priesthood and the consecrated life, but without disparaging the vocation to marriage.

3. Several of you have stressed that today the young hesitate to commit themselves for fear of the future and for lack of witnesses who can be convincing, attractive figures. It is important that priests and the whole Christian people believe that God continues tirelessly to call men and women to his service, in the intimacy of their hearts and through the witness of the ecclesial community. Therefore all Christ’s faithful must make their contribution to help young people face the future without excessive fear, to enable them to discover the joy of following Christ, to help them have confidence in themselves and patiently to discern the voice of the Lord, as the prophet Eli did with the young Samuel (cf. 1S 3,1-19).

4. In this area, the family has a specific role to fill. The young learn the first knowledge of the faith, of prayer and of the practice of virtue particularly from their parents. In the same way, the willingness to respond to a specific vocation comes from the filial disposition of a heart that wants to do the Lord’s will and knows that Christ has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn Jn 6,68). Families can be disturbed at seeing their young people commit themselves to following Christ, particularly in a world where Christian life does not represent an attractive social value. I nonetheless invite parents to look with the vision of faith at their children’s future, to help young people freely fulfil their vocation; it is at this price that they will be happy in their lives, for the Lord gives those he has chosen the spiritual strength and necessary resources to overcome their difficulties. The total gift of self to the Lord and to the Church is a source of joy and “the synthesis of pastoral charity” (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 23). I urge the lay faithful to commit themselves to the pastoral care of vocations and to support young people who show an inclination to dedicate themselves to the Church’s service; fortunately some lay people are already engaged in the diocesan vocations service, but this must not remain the concern of only a few.

In this perspective, it is important that the place of the priest and of consecrated persons be clearly recognized in Christian communities. In particular, everyone must remember that ecclesial life cannot exist without the presence of a priest, who acts in the name of Christ, the Head of the Church, and who, in his name, gathers the people around the Lord's table and grants them pardon for their sins. Likewise, the absence of consecrated persons, whether of the contemplative or the active life, can make one forget that commitment to the kingdom of heaven is the primary aspect of all Christian life. It is clear that if young people do not have personal contact with priests or consecrated persons, and if they do not perceive the specific mission of each one of them, it will be difficult for them to envisage such a commitment on their own.

5. You note that the young people who are thinking of the priesthood and the seminarians already in formation have gone through difficult periods in their lives. Some are fragile, sometimes on account of a social or family environment which has been the cause of wounds that are slow to heal, or, as was observed during the recent canonical visits, because of the permanent mobility of families, making it hard for them to have a sense of rootedness, or because of the decadent morals often present in society, or again, because of the recent conversion of certain candidates. Therefore you should help them structure their personality, in order to become the spiritual house of which St Peter speaks (cf. 1P 2,5). This requires special attention on your part and on the part of those responsible for vocations services to guide the discernment phase and their preparation with care and sensitivity. In particular, it will be essential to see that formation personnel have the required abilities, and that they firmly uphold the essential principles of priestly formation.

For this preparatory phase, some Bishops have chosen to require of candidates, in various forms, a propaedeutic year, an initiative that seems to be bringing good results. Thus, at the end of the first phase, candidates should have “certain qualities: a right intention, a sufficient degree of human maturity, a sufficiently broad knowledge of the doctrine of the faith, some introduction into the methods of prayer, and behaviour in conformity with Christian tradition” (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 62). So as to be able to deal later with the different tasks of the ministry, these young men must be willing to grow, in order to acquire the psychological, human and Christian maturity necessary for every servant of Christ and the Church. During the propaedeutic year, candidates especially deepen their sense of the theology of election and of the covenant God made with men. Thus they prepare themselves to hear the call of Christ and the Church and to follow in obedience the formation programme proposed by their Bishops and, later, the pastoral missions that will be entrusted to them.

6. As those responsible for calling the candidates who will be your future coworkers in the priesthood, it is your task to determine whether or not to accept candidates from other Dioceses according to the canonical provisions (cf. can 241-242) recently recalled in the Instruction on the Admission to Seminaries of Candidates from Other Dioceses or Religious Families, which the Congregation for Catholic Education has addressed to you. On this subject, acceptance without discernment can be damaging for the young men themselves, who instead of entering into a process of a trusting relationship with and of filial obedience to the Bishop of their Diocese, are sometimes tempted to choose their Diocese of incardination and place of formation according to purely subjective criteria; they become in some way directors of their own formation, according to their own sensitivities and not to objective criteria. This attitude will undoubtedly weaken their sense of service, their spirit of openness to pastoral work in the Diocese and their availability for the Church’s mission.

7. With the entire Bishops' Conference, you are revising the basic spiritual, philosophical, theological and pastoral formation of the young men who are called to the priesthood. I am pleased with the work you are doing to complete a new Ratio studiorum, which will then regulate seminary formation in France. It is in fact the duty of Bishops, in continual and trusting collaboration with the seminary staff, to organize the studies of candidates for the priestly ministry, for it is you who call them and who, by the imposition of hands, bring them into the diocesan presbyterate.

The seminary is a central institution in the Diocese; it participates in the visible nature of the Body of Christ and in its pastoral dynamism; it contributes to the unity of all the members of the Christian community, because priestly formation goes beyond specific pastoral sensitivities. By carrying out all or part of their course there, seminarians thus have the opportunity to be close to the Bishop, priests and the many local human and ecclesial situations. When there is no diocesan seminary, the Bishop and his co-workers who are guiding the seminarians must maintain organized links with the seminaries where they have sent their candidates. Despite geographical distances, they should also find ways of making these institutions and all their vitality known to the members of the Diocese, especially young people; if they are not known, there is less chance that those who hear the Lord’s call will enter them.

8. Composed of people from different walks of life, the seminary must become a family and, in that image, enable each young man, with his own sensitivity, to develop his vocation, to become aware of his future commitments and to be formed in the community, spiritual and intellectual life under the guidance of a team of priests and teachers trained specifically for this task. Thus the young men learn to be active members of the presbyterate around the Bishop. Throughout the subsequent stages, emphasis will be put on the unifying principle of all Christian life: love for Christ, for the Church and for mankind, since it is by living in love that one is configured to Christ, Shepherd and High Priest, and it is through love that the Lord’s flock is guided. “One cannot in fact be a good pastor, except by becoming one with Christ and with the members of his Body, through charity. Love is the first duty of the good pastor” (St Thomas Aquinas, On the Gospel of Jn 10,3). Formation in one's relationship with Christ is thus a priority, through prayer and personal recourse to the sacraments, particularly Reconciliation and the Eucharist which is the school of priestly life; the priest is called to be the icon of Christ in his personal life and in the different functions of his ministry (cf. Lumen gentium LG 21 Pastores dabo vobis PDV 16,49). It is also the spiritual life which makes his mission truly effective.

Further, it is appropriate to develop in candidates the practice of the theological and moral virtues, by training them to discipline their lives and to exercise self-control. A future priest must also learn to put his life in the Saviour’s hands, to consider himself a member of the diocesan Church and, through her, of the universal Church, and to undertake his activity in the perspective of pastoral charity (cf. Second Vatican Council, Optatam totius OT 8-9).

Pastoral formation cannot be merely theoretical; seminaries are right to give an important place to pastoral activities in the area, which encourages the young men to put down roots in the local community. However, be sure to continue giving priority to study, for if the serious intellectual enrichment of the courses in the seminary is insufficient, it will be impossible to compensate for it later.

9. All this must go hand in hand with a sound intellectual, philosophical and theological formation, which is essential if the young men are to become missionaries, proclaiming to their brothers and sisters the Good News of the Gospel and the Christian mysteries. Study will thus have an important place and will train priests for the ongoing formation indispensable throughout their ministry, because a spiritual life that is not constantly nourished intellectually risks being impoverished. This requires a great love for the truth. The Council's Decree Optatam totius has outlined in a remarkably balanced way the main orientations of ecclesiastical studies; it is always appropriate to refer to it (cf. especially nn. 14-17).

Philosophical studies should not be underestimated: they awaken sensitivity to the different human ways of searching for God; they develop a culture that makes it possible to be constantly in dialogue with the world so that it can be invited to turn to Christ; finally, they provide the elements for developing a Christian anthropology, for teaching moral conduct and for taking the Christian mystery into consideration.

Is there any need to stress the privileged place owed to the study of the word of God, in order to receive its ever-living message and to be an enlightened witness to it? Of course, a sound foundation in the different branches of theology is indispensable, if priests are to respond to the expectations of their contemporaries to go beyond superficial presentations of the Church’s teaching which cannot comfort them in the faith. The theology of the liturgy, in particular, enables the ministers of the Eucharist and the other sacraments to celebrate with dignity the mysteries whose stewards they are and to show their full richness and significance to the faithful.

All that can be said of the intellectual formation of future priests and also of the growing need for the formation of the laity leads me to invite you, in view of the years to come, to agree to make the necessary effort to provide a higher standard of academic formation for young priests who have an aptitude for it, so that they may have the opportunity to be involved in research and teaching. Moreover, it is also important that you make a special effort to prepare priests for vocational discernment, spiritual direction and leadership in community life.

10. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I am aware of your concern for your seminaries. My recent Apostolic Visit made it clear. I also know of your problems, your anxiety about the small number of seminarians at the present time. That is why I wished to go over certain points with you, without being able to cover them all here. I wanted to encourage you and to assure you once again that the current trial your Dioceses are undergoing can only be understood if one looks at it with faith in the Lord’s Cross. And, in the light of Easter, we will hear the Lord tell his disciples, who we are: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20,21).

In hope I join in your prayer for vocations, for seminarians, for priests and for consecrated persons. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to them, as well as to yourselves and to all the members of your Dioceses.



TO H.E. Mr José Cuadra Chamorro,


Monday, 24 March 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. With great pleasure I offer you my cordial welcome today at the presentation of your Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Nicaragua to the Holy See. With deep gratitude I return the affectionate greetings which Dr Arnaldo Alemán Lacayo, President of the Republic, conveys to me through you, and I kindly ask you to express my best wishes to him for the prosperity and spiritual well-being of the people of the beloved Nicaraguan land.

2. Your presence here prompts me to recall with deep feeling 7 February last year, when I had the opportunity to make my second Pastoral Visit to this beloved country. On that occasion, when Nicaraguans were able to meet the Successor of the Apostle Peter and freely express their support and affection to him, I was able to see that “new and important pages have been written in your national history and many circumstances have changed” (Arrival address in Managua, n. 1; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 14 February 1996, p. 4 ). Indeed it is encouraging to observe how the transition to a new order gradually leads to greater consolidation of a state of law, in which personal freedoms are increasingly guaranteed, and, at the same time, helps instil in citizens trust in the public institutions so that everyone will collaborate more actively and participate responsibly in the common good (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 44), by an effort to restore peace and achieve reconciliation, as well as by the effective, although difficult, social reintegration of former soldiers through programmes for them and for the areas affected by the conflict.

3. In Nicaragua, Mr Ambassador, the road to establishing a stable democracy, which will guarantee the harmonious promotion of human rights for all, is conditioned, as in other areas of the American continent, by economic collapse and social crisis. These especially affect those with limited material resources, who are also exposed to widespread unemployment and are often the victims of administrative corruption and many forms of violence. It should not be forgotten that economic imbalances likewise contribute to the gradual deterioration and loss of moral values. Among their effects are family breakdown, social permissiveness and little respect for life.

In this regard, among the priorities of the present time there is an urgent need to recover the above-mentioned values through political and social measures that encourage decent, steady employment for all, so that the material poverty in which many of the inhabitants live will be overcome, the family institution will be strengthened and access to education for all classes of the population will be fostered. On these lines, it is inescapable that special care be given to education by developing a genuine policy to strengthen and spread those moral and spiritual values that are basic to a truly human society which, like yours, is rooted in Christian principles. Thus a contribution will be made to enabling the Nicaraguan people, so rich in human and traditional values, to live in peace, through progress and the appropriate spiritual, cultural and material development in an atmosphere of social justice and solidarity. Indeed, this cannot be reduced to a vague emotional sentiment or an empty word. Solidarity demands an active moral commitment, a firm and constant determination to devote oneself to the common good, that is, to the good of one and all, because we are all responsible for one another (cf. ibid., nn. 39-40).

4. During my two visits to your country, I could appreciate that the noble Nicaraguan people have been entrusted with a rich heritage of faith. This spiritual heritage, enhanced by the various expressions of popular piety down the ages, is one which the Bishops, together with their priests and Nicaragua’s different religious communities, wish to preserve and increase through the new evangelization. The whole Church, as she faces the third millennium of the Christian era, is committed to presenting with new ardour the salvation that Jesus Christ brings to all people. In this regard, your national authorities can continue to rely on the loyal collaboration of the Church's Pastors and of the Catholic faithful in their own fields of activity, so that everyone will be more aware of his responsibility to improve living conditions for all (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 57), since integral service to man is also part of the Church’s mission.

5. In the Central American isthmus, Nicaragua coexists with the other countries of the area, whose deep bonds of faith, language, culture and history do not diminish their national identity. In this regard, the local Church, with her work of evangelization, has endeavoured to promote reconcilation and to foster a more democratic social process, especially after certain periods which saw ideological clashes and fratricidal conflicts that have left their sad consequences of death and hatred. In this regard, the Church herself would like to continue to offer her collaboration so that values such as justice and solidarity may always be present in the life of this region’s nations.

For this reason the Holy See likewise follows with appreciation and interest the process of Central American integration. In a context of increasingly powerful political and economic associations, there is a growing need for greater solidarity between the countries of the isthmus, called to struggle together against poverty, unemployment and other evils that threaten its stability and welfare. The international comunity for its part, as I had the opportunity to recall in the above-mentioned visit, must help by offering its collaboration, as in the past, so that through effective aid and exchange programmes better conditions may be created for all (cf. Farewell address in Managua, 7 February 1996, n. 3; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 14 February 1996, p. 8).

6. Before concluding this ceremony, Mr Ambassador, I would like to offer you my best wishes that your mission, which begins today, may yield abundant and lasting fruit. I ask you please to convey my sentiments and hopes to the President and the other authorities of the Republic, as I invoke abundant blessings from the Most High on you, your distinguished family and your staff, as well as on all the children of the noble Nicaraguan nation, whom I commend to the constant motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, so venerated there under the title of the Most Pure Conception of Mary.




Monday, 24 March 1997

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I address a cordial welcome to you all, sponsors, organizers and participants in the convention on the theme: “The Environment and Health”, to which the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart has offered hospitality and scientific collaboration. In particular I thank Mr Sergio Giannotti for describing to me this important initiative.

Ecology, which arose as a name and a cultural message more than a century ago, very soon caught the attention of experts and is demanding ever greater interdisciplinary efforts from biologists, physicians, economists, philosophers and politicians. It takes the form of a study of the relationship between living organisms and their environment, and especially between man and his surroundings. In fact, the environment, animate and inanimate, has a decisive influence on man’s health, the topic on which you are concentrating during this convention.

2. The relationship between man and the environment has marked the various phases of human civilization, starting with primitive culture: in the agricultural, industrial and technological phases. The modern era has witnessed man's growing capacity for transformative intervention.

The aspect of the conquest and exploitation of resources has become predominant and invasive, and today it has even reached the point of threatening the environment’s hospitable aspect: the environment as “resource” risks threatening the environment as “home”. Because of the powerful means of transformation offered by technological civilization, it sometimes seems that the balance between man and the environment has reached a critical point.

3. In ancient times, man showed ambivalent and alternating sentiments towards the environment in which he lived: admiration and reverence, or fear of an apparently threatening world.

To the idea of the cosmos biblical Revelation has brought the illuminating and peaceful message of creation, from which it follows that worldly realities are good because they were willed by God for love of man.

At the same time, biblical anthropology has considered man, created in God’s image and likeness, as a creature who can transcend worldly reality by virtue of his spirituality, and therefore, as a responsible custodian of the environment in which he has been placed to live. The Creator offers it to him as both a home and a resource.

4. The consequence of this doctrine is quite clear: it is the relationship man has with God that determines his relationship with his fellows and with his environment. This is why Christian culture has always recognized the creatures that surround man as also gifts of God to be nurtured and safeguarded with a sense of gratitude to the Creator. Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality in particular has witnessed to this sort of kinship of man with his creaturely environment, fostering in him an attitude of respect for every reality of the surrounding world.

In the secularized modern age we are seeing the emergence of a twofold temptation: a concept of knowledge no longer understood as wisdom and contemplation, but as power over nature, which is consequently regarded as an object to be conquered. The other temptation is the unbridled exploitation of resources under the urge of unlimited profit-seeking, according to the capitalistic mentality typical of modern societies.

Thus the environment has often fallen prey to the interests of a few strong industrial groups, to the detriment of humanity as a whole, with the ensuing damage to the balance of the ecosystem, the health of the inhabitants and of future generations to come.

5. Today we often witness the taking of opposite and exaggerated positions: on the one hand, in the name of the exhaustibility and insufficiency of environmental resources, demands are made to limit the birth rate, especially among the poor and developing peoples. On the other, in the name of an idea inspired by egocentrism and biocentrism it is being proposed that the ontological and axiological difference between men and other living beings be eliminated, since the biosphere is considered a biotic unity of indifferentiated value. Thus man’s superior responsibility can be eliminated in favour of an egalitarian consideration of the “dignity” of all living beings.

But the balance of the ecosystem and the defence of the healthiness of the environment really need human responsibility and a responsibility that must be open to new forms of solidarity. An open and comprehensive solidarity with all men and all peoples is essential, founded on respect for life and the promotion of sufficient resources for the poorest and for future generations.

If humanity today succeeds in combining the new scientific capacities with a strong ethical dimension, it will certainly be able to promote the environment as a home and a resource for man and for all men, and will be able to eliminate the causes of pollution and to guarantee adequate conditions of hygiene and health for small groups as well as for vast human settlements.

Technology that pollutes can also cleanse, production which amasses can also distribute justly, on condition that the ethic of respect for life and human dignity, for the rights of today’s generations and those to come prevails.

6. This requires firm points of reference and inspiration: a clear knowledge of creation as a work of God’s provident wisdom and the awareness of human dignity and responsibility in the plan of creation.

It is by looking at the face of God that man can brighten the face of the earth and ensure environmental hospitality for man today and tomorrow.

I already recalled in my Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace that “the most profound and serious indication of the moral implications underlying the ecological problem is the lack of respect for life evident in many of the patterns of environmental pollution” (n. 7; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 18-26 December 1989, p. 2).

The defence of life and the consequent promotion of health, especially among very poor and developing peoples, will be simultaneously the measure and the basic criterion of the ecological horizon at both the regional and world level.

In your endeavour to preserve the healthiness of the environment, may the Lord enlighten and assist you. I commend your efforts to his bounty as our Father, rich in love for each one of his creatures, and I bless you all in his name.



TO students taking part in UNIV ’97 Congress

Tuesday, 25 March 1997

Dear Young People,

1. I am pleased to offer a warm welcome to all of you who have gathered in Rome from more than 60 countries and 400 universities, for the traditional meeting of the International UNIV Congress, which is being held this year for the 30th time. I would like to express my satisfaction to the organizers of the meeting and to all those, as in the past, who have spared no effort to offer periods of cultural enrichment and integral formation to students and university professors from all over the world.

The conviction that the university is a privileged place in which society’s future is formed spurs you courageously to study subjects which are decisive for humanity’s destiny. You know that only personal commitment, inspired by Gospel values, can supply adequate answers to the great questions of the present time. Authentic culture, in fact, is primarily a call that echoes in the depths of conscience and obliges the individual to improve himself in order to improve society. The Christian knows that there is an unbreakable connection between truth, ethics and responsibility. He therefore feels accountable to the truth, and, to serve it, risks his own personal freedom.

2. The theme of your Congress: “Multicultural society: competition and cooperation”, aims to disprove the theory which holds that once the myth of collectivism collapses, the free market is the only thing that remains. Actually the limitations of this theory are more and more apparent, since it paves the way to an “unbridled” economy that brings with it the serious phenomena of marginalization and unemployment, if not forms of intolerance and racism as well.

New ways inspired by sound moral presuppositions must be taken. The Church’s social doctrine teaches that the dignity of the human person, created in the image of God, must always be put at the root of political practice, juridical thought, economic programmes and social theories. The human being lives and develops in interaction with others: in family and in society. The heritage that comes to him from belonging to a group by virtue of his birth, culture and language must therefore be a factor of convergence and not of exclusion.

How much truer this is for those who have the faith! In the footsteps of his Master who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20,28), the Christian makes service his ideal, in the conviction that the society of the future, if it is to improve, must rest on the culture of solidarity. The initiatives of volunteer work, which you have described in the Forum of your Congress, show that this is your choice. Hundreds of socially useful works in economically depressed areas and numerous programmes for social advancement and assistance are likewise signs of a commitment which is not occasional and aims to build a Gospel-inspired model of society.

3. In the Message for the preparation of the next World Youth Day, to which you are invited, I wanted to suggest to young people the words in John’s Gospel: “‘Teacher, where are you staying?’... ‘Come and see’” (Jn 1,38-39). Among the “places” where the Christian meets Jesus, I pointed out human suffering: “You will meet Jesus where men and women are suffering.... Jesus’ dwelling is wherever a human person is suffering because rights are denied, hopes betrayed, anxieties ignored. There, in the midst of humankind, is the dwelling of Christ who asks you to dry every tear in his name” (Message for the 12th World Youth Day, 1997, n. 4; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 28 August 1996, p. 2).

Following these indications, the social projects that you promote confirm your desire to build a new world based on Christ’s call.

In fact, he is the final goal of your commitment, which is not based on mere philanthropy. Do not be satisfied with meeting the material needs of the most deprived: try to bring them to Christ, for he alone can truly wipe all tears away and give salvation.

What an immense field of apostolate is open to you! Anyone who has met Christ feels he shares in his redemptive mission and is his co-worker in man’s salvation. This awareness kindles in one’s heart the need to know him better, in order to learn to turn his merciful gaze towards man. To all this, your meditation on the Word, your prayers, the sacrament of Reconciliation, the Eucharist and the other privileged means of encounter with the mystery of his Person will lead you.

4. In the title of your congress the word “competition” appears. For the Christian this is first and foremost an inner struggle to improve and to grow in virtue so as to be more like Christ. This is the way in which each one of you can make your service to others fruitful, as Blessed Josemaría Escrivá recalled: “Ask him to introduce his ideas and plans into our lives: not only into our heads but also into the depths of our heart, and into all our outward actions” (Friends of God, 249), since humanity’s salvation passes through each one’s struggle to be holy.

Dear English-speaking young people, commit yourselves ever more fully to the Lord. Make him the centre of your lives and the inspiration of your apostolate. Reach out to other young people like yourselves, in order to engage them in the great task of building a more truthful, just and genuinely free society. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who stood at the foot of the Cross of Jesus, sustain you in all you do for the Church and for the world.

Dear French-speaking young people, I invite you to the 12th World Youth Day in Paris: there you will meet young people from many cultures, but who are all united in order to advance in life by following Christ who died and rose for the world’s salvation. God bless you!

I greet all the Portuguese-speaking young people. In this year of preparation for the Jubilee of Redemption, the Pope asks you to be “credible witnesses” to your faith, “consistent with respect to what you are proclaiming so that the life-giving light of the Gospel may shine out in the family and in society”. May God bless you!

5. Dear young people, thank you for your presence, thank you for your commitment! Bring to the world the joy that is born from being in communion with Christ. Be witnesses to the newness of the Gospel, in order to collaborate generously in building the civilization of love.

With this wish, which I offer you as Easter approaches, I entrust you to the motherly protection of Mary and affectionately impart my Blessing to you.

Speeches 1997 - Friday, 21 March 1997