Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 19 April 1997




Saturday, 19 April 1997

Dear Brothers and Sisters of San Marino-Montefeltro,

1. You have come festively and in large numbers to tell me once again of your joy at the reorganization of your Diocese after years of a temporary and uncertain arrangement, despite the loving care of Pastors who jointly administered the Dioceses of Rimini and of Montefeltro. I thank them cordially.

I greet and thank your Bishop, Paolo Rabitti, who has come to your community “toto corde”, that is, with all his heart, to help you remain a united and fervent Church. I greet the priests, the religious and the civil authorities who have accompanied you, and all those present.

2. Dear brothers and sisters, with your Bishop I also say to you: “Church of San Marino-Montefeltro, stand up and walk!”.

You live in a complex and varied region. You live in a countryside that is unpolluted for the most part but in need of ecological attention, the rebirth of its social and occupational fabric, the improvement of its roads, the restoration of its cultural assets which are in danger of decay. And to a certain extent — especially in the Republic of San Marino — you are witnessing a vitality in urban life, trade, tourism, hospital care and diplomacy that demands a “soul”, that is, wise gradualness and harmony, if it is to be genuine and lasting.

As Christians, you know that you must be leaven in the world, and therefore you cannot shirk commitment in both of these two situations in the Diocese, showing in Montefeltro and in San Marino that you are active, enterprising and consistent Christians. The Gospel is the resource for every situation. Believers are called to be for society what the soul is for the body: a source of vitality, truth and honesty. Just as the monks of old ploughed your lands and restored life to your mountains by their labours, so you, Christians of today, should zealously devote yourselves to tilling souls, so that all may discover the optimism of hope and the joy of working together for the common good.

Rediscover your zest for life, for the family, for the town; encourage a healthy modernity, without stumbling in the weariness and blind alleys of those social contexts which have no future.

3. The arrival of a residential Bishop has encouraged your community and spurred you to renewed commitment. Keep this enthusiasm alive and accept the inevitable effort of enlivening the diocesan structures. First of all you must live in the most heartfelt and active ecclesial communion. Love, help and listen to your Bishop, so that he can joyfully and fruitfully give you the service you expect of him.

Priests and religious of San Marino-Montefeltro, only the union of your intentions and actions can put you in a position to strengthen the Diocese. You will be able deal with the rather advanced average age and the many pastoral demands if you join forces and work with great missionary generosity. I bless and encourage the dedication you have already given to your mission.

You are also feeling the urgent need for more priestly vocations and those of special consecration. They are the most eloquent proof of a Church’s vitality. I appeal to families and young people to open their hearts to responding promptly to the Lord’s call. Priests, for their part, know that the care of vocations has priority in their pastoral work.

To you, the laity, I recommend active involvement in the community. Along with your particular civil, political, social and cultural duties, you must emphasize the pastoral life, that is, catechesis, the liturgy, formation, the sacraments, Christian life in the family and in social contexts, and charity. I would like to see your parishes, religious houses, Catholic Action, associations, groups, to be beehives of apostolic, missionary and evangelizing effort.

Dear lay people, you are the Church: be the Church!

4. The Republic of San Marino is an important and unique part of the Diocese. I extend a cordial and grateful greeting to it, to the Captains Regent, to the authorities present and, of course, to all who are gathered here and to all its citizens. Dear friends, I am aware of your efforts to make your country present and active in the world, with that characteristic sense of freedom and humanity which stems from your holy patron Marinus and is innate in your people. I express great satisfaction with this. Even a small nation is great if it is founded on the rock of truth and radiates the light of justice.

Do not squander centuries of civilization Your Republic is eager to transform itself into a modern country, to build its development on a European level, to respond to its vocation of tourism and culture, to renew its town-planning, to make itself receptive to international requirements.

I hope that this transformation will take place according to a correct hierarchy of values, and I urge the people of San Marino to remain firmly anchored to the moral, family and social values which are characteristic of their history. It is a question of achieving economic prosperity without squandering centuries of civilization.

The Republic of San Marino knows that, on many sides, its current experience is seen as a significant “test” of a sound laicism combined with genuine respect and promotion of religious values; of wise modernization of social life without obliterating its traditional heritage; of sincere participation in international life, without being aligned with hegemonic drives, but always making a contribution imbued with democracy and freedom.

I am pleased that this spirit has also permeated Church-State relations to such a degree that authoritative and distinguished persons (some of whom are present here) were able to draft the recent Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of San Marino, which is certainly another page of civilization in the Republic’s more than a thousand-year-old history.

5. Dear brothers and sisters of the Diocese of San Marino and Montefeltro, thank you for your visit and thank you for your gifts!

I ask the Lord that your firm resolution to help your Diocese recover its full vigour may receive the seal of the Lord’s grace. To this end, as I invoke the intercession of Our Lady of Grace and of Sts Marinus and Leo, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you, present and absent, from Montefeltro and San Marino.




Mr Mayor,

I would like to congratulate you on the day when Rome solemnly recalls the anniversary of its foundation. This significant event, which according to tradition occurred 2,750 years ago, cannot leave indifferent the one who has his seat in Rome and therefore has a vital, daily relationship with this city.

In addressing you, the city’s chief magistrate, I intend affectionately to greet the entire population of Rome and all those who administer and represent it. It is the birthday of Rome: our Rome of the millenniums and of today, of the Latin and Christian civilizations, which is looking to the future and determined to remain faithful to its heritage of lofty civil and spiritual tradition.

Today’s anniversary occurs during the first year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Rome is committed to preparing itself in such a way as to offer the world the concrete image of caput mundi which characterizes it.

The remaining years of the century in which we are living, with its lights and shadows, are certainly a providential opportunity for Rome to renew its mission of peace and solidarity, in the awareness of its own vocation as a crossroads of culture and faith.

Down the millenniums the city has always been open and welcoming to everyone. Even when it had to endure hard times, it was able to rely on its age-old energies and the noblest values of its history, to be reborn and thus continue to bestow its gifts of civilization and spirituality on visitors from every part of the world.

The many problems it now has to face are new challenges which must motivate its commitment to the loftiest goals of humanity and common brotherhood. This will happen particularly through the patient and courageous service of its administrators, called to work with a sense of responsibility to make the city ever more welcoming to all who knock at her doors, especially those who are deprived of work, a dignified home or adequate assistance. It is a demanding mission which, if supported by the contribution of all the citizens, will redound to the benefit of the younger generations, to whom it will guarantee a civil, moral and spiritual heritage capable of sustaining them on their journey. The diocesan community, for its part, will not fail to give its own particular support by continuing, as in the past, to make every possible contribution to the city's progress and to the human and spiritual well-being of all its residents.

Mr Mayor, in expressing the hope that this anniversary will encourage the further growth of the whole Roman community, so dear to me, I invoke upon it the intercession of Mary most holy, Salus Populi Romani, and of the Apostles Peter and Paul, its heavenly patrons. As I await the opportunity to ascend that historic hill in person to pay homage to the city, I send you and your co-workers my blessing and greeting.

From the Vatican, 21 April 1997.






Thursday, 24 April 1997

Your Excellencies,

1. I am pleased to receive from Your Excellencies the Letters accreditating you to the Holy See as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective nations. At the start of your new mission, I offer you my cordial wishes and welcome you to Rome, this city where an ancient civilization has left its imprint not only on the stones, but also on the culture and the expression of moral and spiritual values lived by men down the ages.

2. My recent journey to Sarajevo prompts me again to make a pressing appeal, through you, for peace among the human communities in each country and between nations. You know the value the Church attaches to good understanding between peoples, so that each one can live in tranquillity and build the earthly city together. The growing phenomenona of globalization are sometimes at the root of social tensions. However, they can be a source of energy for countries and for friendly exchanges between human beings. This assumes that the rules of international life are more and more deeply inspired by ethical principles.

We should first of all recall the priority of man, made to live in society, but who cannot be reduced to this community dimension of his life. Because of its prerogatives and functions, the State is the primary guarantor of human freedoms and rights, that is, of respect for the whole person by virtue of his own dignity; in fact, since he is a spiritual being, man is the fundamental value and counts more than all the social structures in which he takes part. “Any threat to human rights, whether in the framework of man’s spiritual goods or in that of his material goods, does violence to this fundamental dimension” (Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 23 June 1980, p. 9). This attention to human rights on the part of the authorities instils in all the citizens trust in the national institutions responsible for ensuring their protection.

3. In public life as in the different spheres of social life, every person must encourage dialogue. This allows each individual and group to be recognized in their diversity and, at the same time, to feel that they are called to serve their country. It is the task of those who, in one capacity or another, exercise public responsibility to ensure the integration of persons living in the same territory and to enable their activities to work together for the benefit of all. When members of the national community do not play an active part in their country’s destiny, their gradual marginalization opens the way to many forms of violence. On the other hand, the State's recognition and consideration of religious and cultural differences, as well as the call for each individual to work for the common good, are elements that strengthen among all the citizens their love of country, their desire to work for its unity and growth, and their openness to others, to the point of offering a fraternal welcome to displaced persons and foreigners.

4. At the level of each country and of the international community, the authorities and social partners are concerned to develop effective solidarity between citizens and peoples.As difficulties increase in many countries, greater solidarity is expressed in the first place by emergency aid. In this regard, I acknowledge the efforts of the international community and numerous organizations to provide humanitarian aid, in order to help the world’s poorest countries, bring assistance to the civilian populations in war zones, welcome persons forced to flee from their country and offer assistance to regions coping with various natural disasters.

But this solidarity is also expressed in other ways. Indeed, by means of technical assistance and appropriate training, countries emerging from difficult periods should be encouraged to provide themselves with stable democratic institutions, to make the most of their wealth for the good of all the inhabitants, and to assure their peoples a moral, civil and intellectual education. It is through the integral advancement of their people that countries will truly be helped to develop, to be the agents of their progress and partners in international life, and to look to the future with trust. For its part, thanks to the objectives of the Decade for the Eradication of Poverty, which were set at the Copenhagen Summit, the UN is making a most timely appeal to all countries to redouble their efforts in this field.

5. Your Catholic citizens, clergy and laity are concerned to be involved in national society, relying on the moral principles which the Holy See constantly teaches and develops. In particular, they play an active part in the areas of education, health and charitable activity, which are three forms of service in which they seek to help young people develop their personality and to accompany those who suffer. In this way they show God’s loving face to those around them, with respect for their particular beliefs and without a spirit of proselytism. Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, which they and all their compatriots must enjoy in the name of equity among all a nation’s citizens, gives them the opportunity to nurture their spiritual life and to find in personal prayer and community celebrations the source of their dynamism in the world.

6. Your Excellencies, our meeting is an opportunity for me to offer you these few reflections. At the end of this ceremony, my thoughts turn to the States you represent to the Successor of Peter and to their leaders. I would be grateful if you would express my sincere esteem and regard to them. I pray that each of your compatriots will have peace and prosperity, as I invoke an abundance of divine blessings on you, your families and your co-workers, as well as on your compatriots.





24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

I offer you a warm welcome as you present the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mauritius to the Holy See. The sentiments which you have expressed are deeply appreciated, as well as the good wishes which you have brought from His Excellency President Cassam Uteem and the Government. I gladly reciprocate with the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the people of your country.

You have kindly referred to the cordial relations existing between Mauritius and the Holy See, and I am confident that your mission will strengthen the bonds which unite us in the pursuit of the progress of the human family. With profound respect for different cultures and civilizations, the Church seeks to promote understanding and foster effective solidarity between peoples and nations. She does so above all by contributing to the formation and development of the human spirit, and by striving to enkindle in people a zeal to work selflessly and responsibly for the common good.

Each nation has its own specific contribution to make in building up and strengthening a civilization of peace. Living at one of the crossroads of the world, Mauritians embody values and traditions of both East and West, and they have admirably shown that people of different races and cultures can indeed live together peacefully and productively. The Catholics of Mauritius too play an active role in the life of your nation. Inspired by the dynamism of their faith, a dynamism which I was privileged to witness at first hand seven years ago when Divine Providence enabled me to visit your country, they are extensively involved in education and in charitable services on behalf of the needy. In all her activities, the Church seeks to promote understanding and harmony among different ethnic and religious groups, convinced that only peace and cooperation can bring the development and progress for which people yearn.

This is also the motivation behind the Church's presence in the international community, where her activity is aimed at fostering dialogue between nations in order to bring about true and lasting peace in the world. Steadfast commitment to integral human development remains an essential element of this peace, for there can be peace only when everyone has a just share in the benefits of progress. There is an intrinsic connection between development and respect for human dignity and human rights. Development in fact cannot be limited solely to the material sphere but must be centred on the genuine fulfilment of the person. An economic system that would turn people into mere means of production and profit could never satisfy their deepest aspirations for a better life. Here we see that there is a moral dimension to development, which requires that absolute respect be given to all the demands that derive from the order of truth and good proper to the human person (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 33).

Moreover, the legitimate development to which every country aspires cannot be pursued irresponsibly, at the cost of the natural environment. Entire regions of the globe are threatened by excessive exploitation of natural resources and by inadequately controlled pollution. Nations and individuals have a moral duty to protect the common patrimony of animal and plant life, and to avoid contaminating land, sea and air. Recalling the great beauty of your own Island nation, I express the hope that the international community as a whole will implement without delay the policies needed in order to ensure that the legacy of a healthy natural environment is handed on to future generations.

Mr Ambassador, at the beginning of your mission as Representative of your country to the Holy See I offer you my good wishes and assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Expressing once more my esteem for the people of Mauritius, I invoke abundant divine blessings upon Your Excellency and the entire nation.





Thursday, 24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. I welcome Your Excellency with great pleasure at the presentation of the Letters accrediting you to the Holy See as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Finland.

I ask you kindly to convey to Mr Martti Ahtisaari, President of the Republic of Finland, my cordial thanks for his friendly message which you bring me. In turn, I offer him my best wishes for the successful accomplishment of his task in the service of all his compatriots. I thank you for your courteous words with regard to myself. They witness to noble sentiments, which I have deeply appreciated; they also reveal your attention to and understanding of the Apostolic See’s action and its spiritual and moral mission in favour of peace, of solidarity among people, human rights and the dignity of every being.

2. Mr Ambassador, you have mentioned several aspects of international life, appropriately recalling the role your country has played in the development of European relations, especially within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose foundation has been linked to your land by the signing of the Final Act in Helsinki on 1 August 1975. All the countries on the continent are invited to take part in building a Europe of peace and solidarity, so that the institutions established really are at the service of peoples. In this regard, I am grateful to your government and your compatriots for their participation in the efforts to achieve peace in Bosnia-Hercegovina, through dialogue with the hostile forces and by constant technical assistance, so that the people of that land may equip themselves with the democratic institutions indispensable to public life and give a new momentum to their economy for the good of all.

For the future of the European continent where troubling sources of tension still exist, and for peace and friendship between peoples, it is more important than ever for nations to take sound institutional measures together; this will reinforce trust and collaboration between the different governmental authorities and between the peoples who live on this continent. Such a step will benefit all Europeans and will foster the spiritual, moral and economic growth which is essential in a period when the crisis is affecting many individuals and many families.

3. Mr Ambassador, you recalled the issue of human rights about which the Holy See is deeply concerned, for it is the expression of the greatness and inalienable dignity of every human being, of the moral sense and of attention to each one’s place in society. Indeed there is a close link between the value of the person and the service required of him for the common good. As could be seen in in a certain number of conflicts, refusal to guarantee the inviolability of the human being can only have harmful consequences on social life. For as a member of a nation, man must work with and for his brothers and sisters, but, created in God’s image, his being and his life are not restricted to their community dimension. The spiritual man is at the service of humanity, but society is ordered to human advancement.

4. As I have already written in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, I rejoice at the “growing moral sensitivity, more alert to acknowledging the value and dignity of every individual as a human being, without any distinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion or social class” (n. 18). More than ever before, our contemporaries are called to guarantee the protection of the primordial right to life and human dignity of every person who has been conceived, and the development in societies of a culture of life. In this spirit, the formation of our contemporaries’ moral conscience is essential, so that they tirelessly react when human dignity is demeaned. Especially for health-care personnel, this must go as far as to include the possibility, freely recognized, of exercising conscientious objection, to avoid committing acts irreconcilable with their philosophical beliefs and faith.

5. Your visit to the home of the Successor of Peter enables me to recall the presence of the Catholic faithful in your country. They are very few, but they appreciate the freedom they are allowed in the exercise of their Christian life; by promoting the primordial moral values that are the basis of human dignity and lead to fraternal life, they would like above all to play an active part in the social life of their country, in a cordial and constructive dialogue with all the components of the nation, and particularly in an ecumenical spirit with Finland’s different religious communities.

I am also thinking of all your compatriots, an important number of whom are today suffering the effects of the economic crisis which is affecting the continent. I hope that, in a constant impulse of national solidarity, each individual may find his place within society, and have the means to live in dignity with the members of his family. Thanks to their sense of sociability and the values of acceptance and sharing which are their hallmark, your fellow citizens are also invited to make their specific contribution to building the Europe of peoples. Thus they will discover that exchanges between the nations on the continent are a source of benefit for all, and they will advance the cause of justice and peace, to live happily in their land.

6. At the beginning of your mission as representative of the Republic of Finland, Mr Ambassador, I wish you an enjoyable stay in Rome. I can assure you that you will always find attentive support and a cordial welcome with my coworkers.

I most willingly invoke an abundance of divine blessings on your Excellency, on the Finnish people and on all those who are responsible for their destiny on the threshold of the third millennium.






24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

On this happy occasion I extend to you a cordial welcome and accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cyprus to the Holy See. With heartfelt gratitude for the greetings which you have brought from your Government and people, I ask you kindly to convey to His Excellency President Glafcos Clerides the assurance of my goodwill and of my prayers.

Your presence today at the Vatican as the Representative of a people proud of their ancient civilization and cultural values serves to remind us that peoples and cultures flourish when the spiritual dimension of the person is given due place in the life of society. Regard for human dignity and rights accompanies the transcendent view of man's destiny which, from the earliest Christian times, has been deeply enshrined in the minds and hearts of Cypriots. In effect, acknowledgment of man's unique dignity as made in the image of the Creator (cf. Gen Gn 1,26-27) provides the solid foundation for building a society based on freedom, justice and peace. In this sense, authentic material and moral progress depend upon the observance of "universal human rights, rooted in the nature of the person, rights which reflect the objective and inviolable demands of a universal moral law" (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 5 October 1995, No. 3).

Peace, which has been called "the tranquillity of order" (Saint Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XIX, 13), is not a passive state, but an achievement of the conscious and painstaking efforts of those who, with God’s help, strive to create it. It is not enough — though it is an indispensable first step — to limit wars, halt hostilities and guarantee security. It is also necessary to support concrete initiatives that will lead to a reconciliation of hearts. The enormous challenge of working for reconciliation can be met only if parties in conflict are determined to free themselves of past conditioning. As the Third Christian Millennium approaches, I have asked for a re-examination of history with a new attitude of openness and a desire for a "healing of memories" (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 Jan. 1997, No. 3). If the new Millennium is to dawn in peace, people and nations must be persuaded of the need to offer and accept forgiveness — "the essential condition for making the journey towards an authentic and lasting peace" (ibid., No. 1).

Mr Ambassador, the continuing division of Cyprus reminds us that a solution has yet to be found to this painful problem. I repeat in this regard what I said in 1996 to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See: "Such a situation, which prevents people who are separated or dispossessed of their property from building their future, cannot be maintained indefinitely. May the negotiations between the parties involved be intensified and inspired by a sincere desire to bring them to a successful conclusion!" (Address, 13 January 1996, No. 4). We must be convinced that if mutual respect, good will, a willingness to admit past mistakes and a firm commitment to peace prevail, a way forward will be found. The courageous efforts of far-sighted leaders can lead to just solutions even in the case of longstanding conflicts and divisions.

The Catholic faithful of Cyprus are eager to cooperate with their Orthodox brothers and sisters in offering the testimony of lives inspired by the values of their Christian faith. As Catholics and Orthodox prepare to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, may they pray together that the Holy Spirit will guide them to more effective cooperation in the service of the Gospel of Peace. Moreover, in the spirit of the Beatitudes they should seek to create a climate of interreligious dialogue with the followers of other religions, in order to open the way for all the people of Cyprus to overcome the wounds of division and engage in practical gestures of reconciliation.

On this solemn occasion, Mr Ambassador, I offer you my best wishes for the noble task that you are about to undertake, certain that you will do all you can to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the Holy See and the Republic of Cyprus. Rest assured that in the fulfilment of your mission you will always find a cordial welcome at the various offices of the Roman Curia. Upon Your Excellency and your fellow-citizens I cordially invoke the blessings of Almighty God.





Thursday, 24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. I welcome you with real pleasure for the presentation of your Letters of Credence at the solemn inauguration of your mission as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Malta to the Holy See. I beg you to convey my gratitude to your President, Mr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, for his sentiments of courteous esteem which you have kindly conveyed. I likewise express my best wishes for peace and prosperity for the beloved Maltese people.

I cordially thank you, Mr Ambassador, for your noble words, and I offer you my best wishes for the fruitful fulfilment of your lofty mission in service to your compatriots.

2. That mission, Mr Ambassador, has been assigned to you at an important time in history, especially for the Holy See: that is, on the eve of the Year 2000 which is an epochal goal for the whole world and for believers in Christ, the 2000th anniversary of the Incarnation, which will be celebrated with a Great Jubilee. All peoples of Christian culture, including the ancient and noble people of Malta, are aware of the significance of this anniversary. It is certainly an eminently spiritual event, but there is no doubt that its cultural and social aspects are very important and I am sure that the citizens of Malta will pay great attention to both aspects of the event.

Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 19 April 1997