Speeches 1997 - Monday, 7 April 1997




8 April 1997

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends in Christ,

It is always a pleasure for me to greet the members of The Papal Foundation, on what has become a traditional yearly visit to Rome. Close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter we are at one with the whole Church in the great hymn of praise which we raise to the Father during this Easter Season in thanksgiving for the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through the Foundation you express a special oneness with the Successor of Peter, the visible foundation of the Church's unity and peace. You are truly close to my heart and present in my prayers.

This year, in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the whole Church has been called to reflect on Christ, the Word of God, made man by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 40). As Christians, our actions should always manifest the presence in our lives of the mystery of salvation into which we have been incorporated through Baptism. In union of mind and heart with the Lord we must strive to live in a Christ-like fashion: "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Ga 3,27). There is no greater grace that I could invoke upon you than this: that your faith be strengthened and your love be renewed.

The Papal Foundation is a work of faith and love. It means supporting the Pope's ministry and the works which the Apostolic See wishes to promote in different parts of the world at the service of the Gospel. I thank you for your generosity and for the tireless efforts that have gone into bringing you ever closer to achieving the Foundation's goals.

May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, intercede for you and your families and for all who support the Foundation. As a pledge of the grace which flows from fidelity to Christ and his Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




10 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Holy See. On this auspicious occasion I express my gratitude for the greetings which you have brought from President Ezer Weizman and which I cordially reciprocate. I ask you to convey my good wishes and assure him of my prayers for your country and for all the peoples of the Holy Land.

The diplomatic relations established in 1994 between the Holy See and the State of Israel represent an important step in the continuing process of normalization which we have undertaken. These diplomatic ties cannot however be considered an end in themselves, for their purpose is to help achieve the even greater goals spelled out in the Fundamental Agreement signed at the end of 1993. The spirit of that Agreement, the good faith and the commitment expressed therein, must be constantly at the forefront of all our efforts as we continue to travel together the road of mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation.

Much has already been done to implement the different Articles of the Fundamental Agreement, and I acknowledge with pleasure Your Excellency's reference to the "Legal Agreement" which will soon be brought before the Israeli Government for approval and implementation. We must be grateful to all those on both sides whose untiring efforts have enabled us to reach this point. It is my hope that the "Legal Agreement" will be signed and ratified as soon as possible, since it represents a most significant juridical instrument for the life of the Catholic Church in Israel and for the Catholic faithful who are Israeli citizens. Moreover, we are speaking here of an important step in helping all the people of Israel, regardless of religious faith or cultural differences, to work together as equal partners in the building up of Israeli society. This involves nothing less than firmly placing our hope in the Creator and in the ability he has given man to respond to what is asked of him: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Mi 6,8).

This brings us to what you have rightly identified as one of the challenges - indeed the great challenge - facing the peoples of the Middle East: the quest for peace. As you have pointed out, progress has been made, and the Holy See, ever an active supporter of the peace process, is pleased whenever positive results are forthcoming. However, difficulties and crises are not lacking, which even now threaten to shatter the fragile optimism that has been growing. In this regard, I renew the expression of the grave concern with which the Holy See and the entire international community has noted the recent heightening of tensions in an already delicate and volatile situation. There are serious problems which daily touch upon the physical safety of individuals, both Israelis and Palestinians, and which threaten the possibility of release from the seemingly endless spiral of action, reaction and counter-reaction. This is in fact a vicious circle from which there can be no escape unless all parties act with genuine goodwill and solidarity. As I remarked earlier this year: "All people together, Jews, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Arabs, believers and non-believers, must create and reinforce peace"; this peace "rests on sincere dialogue between equal partners, with respect for each other's identity and history, . . . on the right of peoples to the free determination of their own destiny, upon their independence and security" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 1997, No. 3).

In this context I cannot fail to mention, if only briefly, the unique character of Jerusalem. The Holy City, the City of Peace, remains part of the common patrimony of the whole of humanity, and must be preserved and safeguarded for all generations. Different peoples identify with the words of the Psalm: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!" (Ps 122,6). The Catholic Church will continue to do her part in fostering the vocation and mission which the God of Revelation himself has entrusted to the Holy City in its complex and varied history. And when we think about the peace which God desires, we cannot forget that it involves justice, respect for every person's dignity and a willingness to understand others.

The Holy See and the Catholic Church as a whole are deeply committed to cooperating with the State of Israel "in combatting all forms of anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism and of religious intolerance, and in promoting mutual understanding among nations, tolerance among communities and respect for human life and dignity" (Fundamental Agreement, Article 2 SS 1). There can be no question that in these areas more can be done and must be done. It is precisely such renewed efforts that will give to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 a truly universal significance, not limited to Catholics or Christians but embracing all peoples in every part of the world. I am confident that the Israeli authorities, and their Palestinian counterparts, will do all they can to ensure that those who come to visit the historic and holy places connected with the three great monotheistic faiths will be welcomed in a spirit of respect and friendship. It is my own fervent hope to be among those making such a pilgrimage, and I am grateful for the kind invitations which I continue to receive.

Mr Ambassador, I wish you success in your mission as your country's Representative to the Holy See, and I assure you of the cooperation of the various offices of the Roman Curia as you discharge your high duties. For you and your country I make my own the prayer of the ancient Biblical author: "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace!" (Nb 6,26).




Friday, 11 April 1997

1. Your Eminence, I cordially thank you for the sentiments you have just expressed in presenting to me the Pontifical Biblical Commission at the beginning of its mandate. I cordially greet the old and new members of the Commission attending this audience. I greet the “old” members with warm gratitude for the tasks already completed and the “new” members with special joy inspired by hope. I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet you all personally and to say again to each of you how much I appreciate the generosity with which you put your competence as exegetes at the service of the Word of God and the Church’s Magisterium.

The theme you have begun to study at this plenary session is of enormous importance: it is, in fact, fundamental for a correct understanding of the mystery of Christ and Christian identity. I would first like to emphasize this usefulness, which we could call ad intra. It is also inevitably reflected in a usefulness, so to speak, ad extra, since awareness of one’s own identity determines the nature of one’s relations with others. In this case it determines the nature of the relations between Christians and Jews.

2. Since the second century A.D., the Church has been faced with the temptation to separate the New Testament completely from the Old, and to oppose one to the other, attributing to them two different origins. The Old Testament, according to Marcion, came from a god unworthy of the name because he was vindictive and bloodthirsty, while the New Testament revealed a God of reconciliation and generosity. The Church firmly rejected this error, reminding all that God’s tenderness was already revealed in the Old Testament. Unfortunately the Marcionite temptation is making its appearance again in our time. However what occurs most frequently is an ignorance of the deep ties linking the New Testament to the Old, an ignorance that gives some people the impression that Christians have nothing in common with Jews.

Centuries of reciprocal prejudice and opposition have created a deep divide which the Church is now endeavouring to bridge, spurred to do so by the Second Vatican Council's position. The new liturgical Lectionaries have given more space to Old Testament texts, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been concerned to draw constantly from the treasures of Sacred Scripture.

3. Actually, it is impossible fully to express the mystery of Christ without reference to the Old Testament. Jesus' human identity is determined on the basis of his bond with the people of Israel, with the dynasty of David and his descent from Abraham. And this does not mean only a physical belonging. By taking part in the synagogue celebrations where the Old Testament texts were read and commented on, Jesus also came humanly to know these texts; he nourished his mind and heart with them, using them then in prayer and as an inspiration for his actions.

Thus he became an authentic son of Israel, deeply rooted in his own people’s long history. When he began to preach and teach, he drew abundantly from the treasure of Scripture, enriching this treasure with new inspirations and unexpected initiatives. These — let us note — did not aim at abolishing the old revelation but, on the contrary, at bringing it to its complete fulfilment. Jesus understood the increasing opposition he had to face on the way to Calvary in the light of the Old Testament, which revealed to him the destiny reserved for the prophets. He also knew from the Old Testament that in the end God’s love always triumphs.

To deprive Christ of his relationship with the Old Testament is therefore to detach him from his roots and to empty his mystery of all meaning. Indeed, to be meaningful, the Incarnation had to be rooted in centuries of preparation. Christ would otherwise have been like a meteor that falls by chance to the earth and is devoid of any connection with human history.

4. From her origins, the Church has well understood that the Incarnation is rooted in history and, consequently, she has fully accepted Christ’s insertion into the history of the People of Israel. She has regarded the Hebrew Scriptures as the perennially valid Word of God addressed to her as well as to the children of Israel. It is of primary importance to preserve and renew this ecclesial awareness of the essential relationship to the Old Testament. I am certain that your work will make an excellent contribution in this regard; I am delighted with it and deeply grateful to you.

You are called to help Christians have a good understanding of their identity, an identity that is defined first and foremost by faith in Christ, the Son of God. But this faith is inseparable from its relationship to the Old Testament, since it is faith in Christ who “died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” and “was raised ... in accordance with the Scriptures” (1Co 15,3-4). The Christian must know that by belonging to Christ he has become “Abraham’s offspring” (Ga 3,29) and has been grafted onto a cultivated olive tree (cf. Rm 11,17-24), that is, included among the People of Israel, to “share the richness of the olive tree” (Rm 11,17). If he has this firm conviction, he can no longer allow for Jews as such to be despised, or worse, ill-treated.

5. In saying this I do not mean to disregard the fact that the New Testament preserves traces of obvious tension between the early Christian communities and some groups of non-Christian Jews. St Paul himself testifies in his Letters that as a non-Christian Jew he had proudly persecuted the Church of God (cf. Gal Ga 1,13 1Co 15,9 Ph 3,6). These painful memories must be overcome in charity, in accordance with Christ’s command. Exegesis must always seek to advance in this direction and thereby help to decrease tensions and clear up misunderstandings.

Precisely in the light of all this, the work you have begun is highly important and deserves to be carried out with care and commitment. It involves certain difficult aspects and delicate points, but it is very promising and full of great hope. I trust it will be very fruitful for the glory of God. With this wish, I assure you of a constant remembrance in prayer and I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.




Friday, 11 April 1997

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the home of the Successors of Peter. I am pleased to receive you, young people from the Archdiocese of Marseilles, who have come to Rome with your Archbishop, Bernard Panafieu. I greet him fraternally and thank him for the words he has addressed to me on your behalf.

Marseilles has had her place in the Church for a long time. The Gospel was proclaimed in your region and bore many fruits, of which you are the heirs. Your Diocese has received and given much: the canonization of Bishop de Mazenod on 3 December 1995 reminds us of this. You, in turn, set out to seek the living sources of your faith. You have already been able to sense how the work of Sts Peter and Paul has marked this city of Rome. Two thousand years after their passing, it is not difficult to perceive the results of their preaching and to form an idea of what remains to be done so that “God may be everything to every one” (1Co 15,28).

The first Apostles heard Christ telling them “come and see” (Jn 1,39). You receive this call, which it is your duty to transmit to others.

Come, and you will see that I want to change your life so as to unite it more closely to mine!

Come, and you will see that your life is full of meaning, greatness and beauty, if you are able to offer it!

Come, and you will see that I am always with you along the way!

We have just celebrated the Lord's Resurrection. In Rome you are communing in faith with those who were the first witnesses of this Resurrection; you can see the people whom God continues to help grow. In the Archdiocese of Marseilles, the people need you. They need you to be faithful witnesses to the Gospel and to be able serenely “to account for the hope that is in you” (1P 3,15), telling all those who want to give meaning to their life that the risen Christ is waiting for them.

The feast of Easter, as you know, precedes that of Pentecost by 50 days. The risen Christ sent the Holy Spirit to his Apostles so that they would proclaim the Good News “to the end of the earth” (Ac 1,8). Those among you who are preparing for Confirmation are also waiting to receive the Spirit of Pentecost. He will make them stronger for bearing the witness Christ asks of them, and thus for taking their proper place in the Church.

Dear friends, I am pleased to see so many of you: be proud and happy to have received the grace of faith! Always be zealous in passing it on, because you are the salt of the earth and you have much to offer those you meet on your way. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to your Archbishop, to the priests and to all those who have accompanied you, to each one of you, to your parents, your brothers and sisters and to all the members of your families.





Saturday, 12 April 1997

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to receive you, Pastors of the Church in the East-Central Region, at the end of the series of ad limina visits of the Bishops of France. At the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, you have rediscovered the source of Gospel dynamism which has inspired so many illustrious figures in your particular Churches, from Iranaeus, Francis de Sales, Margaret Mary, John Mary Vianney, Pauline Jaricot, Antoine Chevrier and the initiators of social Catholicism. Still today this dynamism continues to give life to the disciples of Christ for whom you are responsible and whose witness in the heart of society is guided by you.

Here I would like to pay tribute to the memory of Cardinal Albert Decourtray, a zealous Pastor of the Archdiocese of Lyons and a generous servant of the Church in France. I thank Archbishop Claude Feidt of Chambéry, your President, for his clear presentation of the life of your Dioceses. I was able to appreciate the priests’ apostolic sense and observe the important place the laity have held in your area in the Church’s mission. Gratitude for their specific vocation and their trusting collaboration with priests makes it possible to give greater vigour to ecclesial life. In your region I also know that ecumenism, inspired principally by Fr Couturier, is a constant pastoral orientation. Among the satisfactions and problems of daily life, may your communities remain a sign of hope for the future for all!

2. During my recent visit to France, the pilgrimage I made to the tomb of St Martin of Tours gave me the opportunity to meet a representative assembly of “life’s wounded”. You have wished to make that celebration a symbol of the Church’s resolute commitment to those who are suffering, those shunned by society or who are rejected on the paths of life. It is this essential aspect of the Church’s mission that I would like to discuss with you today.

The quinquennial reports from the Dioceses of your country shed light on the serious human problems facing society. Indeed the economic crisis is leading part of the population to experience situations of poverty and instability which are having increasingly harsh effects on the younger generations. Helplessness with regard to difficult living conditions, social inequalities, unemployment whose causes are sometimes interpreted in a simplistic way impair relations between the different human groups within the national community. Life’s uncertainties can also result in a withdrawal into self which prevents attention to the appeals of the most destitute around one and of less fortunate people.

It is fortunate in this period of far-reaching change that many are developing a clear awareness of the interdependence of individuals and nations, and of the need to practise true solidarity understood as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” (Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 38). The values of liberty, equality and fraternity, on which the French people have chosen to base their collective life, in some way express the conditions of solidarity without which it is impossible for man to live a full life among his brothers and sisters. A society’s greatness is judged according to the place it gives the human person, and first of all the weakest, who cannot be considered only according to what they possess or can contribute by their activity.

3. Your Bishops' Conference has intervened on social issues several times, especially during the plenary assemblies and through its social commission. Recently again, you made an appeal not to regard “social marginalization” as a growing calamity in your country. Many of you also intervened to recall the Gospel tradition of defending the feeblest. It is in fact important that the Church’s words be demonstrated vigorously to public opinion, to promote human dignity wherever it is threatened, and to uphold the Gospel principles which give meaning and value to all human life. Sent into the heart of the world to proclaim the Gospel of life, the Church is concerned for the wellbeing of all society with respect for the convictions of each person and each group.

The National Council for Solidarity, which you set up a few years ago, is an important place for dialogue and reflection for a more effective involvement and for the co-ordination of aid organizations. I warmly encourage you at the diocesan level to foster initiatives adapted to the new needs emerging in the cities and suburbs, and in the rural areas that are sometimes overlooked. The new forms of poverty require new responses. Christians are called all the more to conversion of heart, personally and collectively to develop new ways of life that prophetically invite their compatriots to change their behaviour, so that crises may be overcome and each person have his fair share of the national wealth. By giving proof of their freedom as regards their own possessions and by more judicious spending, they will make effective sharing possible with those who are deprived. May all be resourceful in the search for new ways! Thus a renewed world will be built where life is stronger than death and love overrules the forces of selfishness.

Today charity must put on a new face. It cannot be reduced to mere temporary assistance. It asks for “the courage needed to face the risk and the change involved in every authentic attempt to come to the aid of another” (Centesimus annus CA 58). Those affected by marginalization or any other form of poverty must be able to lead a dignified family life and meet their own needs, by fully developing their potential. In this way they will not remain on the fringes of society; thanks to their brothers and sisters in humanity, they will be offered hope and a future. It will be remembered that attention to the poorest must not be limited to the material dimensions of life. It must also take into consideration each individual’s spiritual development and encourage access to training and culture. The freedom brought by Christ transforms the person’s whole being.

4. It is more urgent than ever to guarantee the awareness of all the members of the Christian community and their education in their responsibilities with regard to “life’s wounded”. “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1Jn 4,20). Christ’s disciples are invited to follow their Master on the ways he himself took by giving his life for humanity, wounded and deprived. Thus, by fitting precisely into the logic of love lived according to Christ, the Church must be totally supportive of the lowliest. This is not an optional task, but an inalienable duty of fidelity to the Gospel, its acceptance and its proclamation. This fidelity involves concern for the weakest members of the Body of Christ and for every human person. May the baptized listen to the poorest and to their aspirations, and among them be true witnesses to the salvation which Christ brings to every man and woman! May they acquire a true sense of sharing, an expression of their love of neighbour! Charity “is love of the poor, tenderness and compassion for our neighbour. Nothing does greater honour to God than showing mercy!” (St Gregory of Nazianzus, On love of the poor, n. 27).

The Lord’s own face is shown through “life’s wounded”. We must constantly witness that “every being wounded in body or in spirit, every person deprived of his most elementary rights, is a living image of Christ” (Meeting with the poor, the sick and the elderly, Tours, France, 21 September 1996, n. 2; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 2 October 1996, p. 6). Therefore the encounter with the Lord leads naturally to serving our lowliest brothers and sisters. An attitude of respect, sharing and compassion for the underprivileged reflects our fidelity to Christ. Every Christian who, despite his own weakness, holds out his hand to help his brother rise and continue on his way is thereby acting like the Lord himself. “Charity, in its twofold reality as love of God and neighbour is the summing up of the moral life of the believer. It has in God its source and its goal” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 50).

During your last plenary assembly in Lourdes, you recalled that “by the service of charity, deacons are witnesses to and ministers of Christ’s charity. They have the ministerial responsibility to see that charity is concretely lived” (Le diaconat: un don de Dieu à mettre en oeuvre, 1996). I therefore encourage them, in their ministry as deacons, to give this mission an important place and to sensitize Christian communities to the service of charity. Your region has a long tradition of social Catholicism which must spur the faithful to acquiring a serious knowledge of the Church’s social doctrine, considering it as an incentive to practising their faith. Valuable help is also contributed by the Catholic institutes for advanced studies specialized in social questions, in particular, in seeking the causes of new situations of poverty and in analyzing structures of injustice which harm man, so as to propose concrete solutions.

5. In your quinquennial reports, you referred to the many forms of Christian presence in places of poverty and suffering in your Dioceses. Thus many Christians, with admirable devotion, offer assistance to the sick, the handicapped, the elderly, the dying and the victims of new diseases. In several of your Dioceses, a considerable effort has been made to create facilities for the sick and their families. The Christians who direct them, by their deep human understanding and their efforts to alleviate each one's suffering, are the loving and merciful face of Christ and his Church for all those who are tried.

Many of the faithful are most generously committed to serving their poorer brothers and sisters in charitable movements such as Catholic Aid, which recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its foundation, or again, in your region, the Association of the Homeless. Today, I would particularly like to encourage the young people who, in apostolic or educational movements such as the Young Christian Workers or Scout movement, share the frequently difficult situation of their companions and work with them to build a more just society where each person can find a place and live a decent life. May they remember that the struggle for justice is an essential element of the Church’s mission! I cordially greet the members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, whose founder Frédéric Ozanam will soon be beatified. Thus it is one of their own who will be held up to French youth as a model of universal brotherhood among the poorest classes, one who declared: “I want to encircle the whole world in a network of charity”. I also encourage all Catholics who, in one way or another, organize services providing social assistance or solidarity in parishes, new communities or associations in their neighbourhood or village, in collaboration with their fellow citizens of other ways of thinking.

It is also necessary for those who have political, economic and social responsibilities to fulfil their task honestly, taking care to give priority to the good of persons and taking into account the human implications of their choices. A clear awareness of the dignity of work, conceived with a view to man’s advancement and the fulfilment of his vocation, must motivate them. “Human work ... surpasses all other elements of economic life, for the latter are only means to an end” (Gaudium et spes GS 67).

6. It is not always easy, in a context of social crisis, to react to a certain weakening of the moral conscience in the encounter with persons of different origins or cultures. Cultural gaps are often profound. They inspire mistrust and fear. Public opinion sometimes blames the immigrant for economic problems.

The Second Vatican Council stresses that “in his fatherly care for all of us, God desired that all men should form one family and deal with each other in a spirit of brotherhood. All, in fact, are destined to the very same end, namely God himself, since they have been created in the likeness of God” (Gaudium et spes GS 24). No human being can be excluded from this divine plan. Thus, each person must be attentive to those who are strangers in society. On various occasions you have recalled the demanding duty of fraternal acceptance and mutual recognition, stressing that “in God’s eyes, all men are of the same race and ancestry” (Lettre des Évêques aux catholiques de France). Revelation presents Christ himself to us as the stranger knocking at our door (cf. Mt Mt 25,38 Ap 3,20), the one who rightly urges the Christian community to join in accepting and supporting our immigrant brothers and sisters with respect for what they are and for their culture, especially when they are in distress.

It is the Church's mission to recall that in any society the foreigner, like any citizen, has inalienable rights, such as that of family life and security, of which he must not be deprived. In drafting laws that enact duties necessary for life in common, individual rights must be preserved, and it must be done in a spirit that allows citizens to learn to live in pluralism, for the benefit of all. However, the real problems posed by immigration cannot be permanently solved without establishing new solidarity with the immigrants’ countries of origin.

In the parishes, the brotherhood of the faithful of various origins indicates communion in Christ according to the Church’s universal dimension, when each person can express himself and be heard. Similarly, the meeting between Christians and followers of other religious traditions must provide them with a better mutual knowledge in order to build together a more united human family.

7. In public opinion, weariness and little interest sometimes seem to be shown with regard to the long-term problems of developing the poorest nations. However, world peace is based on solidarity. On the other hand, it can be noted that while immediate action is often more of an incentive to the faithful, a clearer awareness of the grave issues of development is essential. To remind people of the urgent need to collaborate in the progress of peoples, of “all men and the whole man”, is also part of the Church’s mission. In France there is a long-standing and constant tradition among your particular Churches, of showing concrete solidarity to the Third World, and especially to Africa. I invite you to devote more energy to promoting co-operation between the local Churches, listening increasingly to the needs of these Churches and seeking to establish a true partnership.

Here I would like to recognize the many initiatives which religious congregations and ecclesiastical institutions are taking, such as the Catholic Delegation for Co-operation and many other organizations of Christian inspiration. They express your communities’ effective attachment to the Third World countries, especially by sending religious and lay personnel to the locality, by sharing resources, or further, by taking responsibility for the acceptance and formation in France of priests from these countries.

To help your faithful and all people of goodwill once again to become aware of the serious questions linked to structures of world economy, which threaten the life of so many men and women, I invite you to make known the document recently published by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”, World Hunger — A Challenge for All: Development in Solidarity. In fact, as I have already said, “the international economic scene needs an ethic of solidarity, if participation, economic growth, and a just distribution of goods are to characterize the future of humanity” (Address to the 50th General Assembly of the UN, 5 October 1995, n. 13; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 11 October 1995, p. 9).

8. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, to end these meetings I have had on the occasion of the ad limina visits of the Bishops of France, and after my recent travels in your country, I would like to tell you once again of my joy at sharing the worries and hopes of your episcopal ministry and at seeing the vitality of the Church in France. I hope that during your visit to the Successor of Peter, your prayers at the tombs of the Apostles and your meetings in the dicasteries of the Roman Curia may be for you a source of dynamism and trust in the future, in communion with the universal Church. In a few months, we will be meeting again in Paris for World Youth Day. This will be the opportunity for the Catholics of France, and more particularly for the young people, to welcome their brothers and sisters from all over the world and to share with them their Gospel convictions and their commitments to build the civilization of love. At the time when we have started preparations for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I earnestly invite all the Catholics of France to go to this meeting, and to serve their brothers and sisters. Christ is waiting for them there!

I impart my Apostolic Blessing to each one of you and to the members of your Dioceses.

Speeches 1997 - Monday, 7 April 1997