Speeches 1997



                                                              May 1997




Saturday, 3 May 1997

Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the Vatican the Permanent International Ecumenical Consultation of Religious, representing religious communities from the various Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities. "Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7).

Your group seeks to play a very specific role in the ecumenical movement. Christians always need to hear anew "the message of reconciliation" which has been entrusted to us in the Gospel (2Co 5,19). But our efforts are often obscured by our divisions. Your special contribution is to bear witness to discipleship as expressed in common life in the Spirit, whereby you strive to live according to the supreme evangelical law of love in fraternal communion with others. Thus, while recognizing differences, you lay stress on the bond which above all others is capable of building the unity of the one body of Christ, the Church.

It is my hope and prayer that your efforts will bear much fruit, especially your attention to the value for ecumenism of the consecrated life as a path of Christian formation, conversion and transformation. May God bless your endeavours, and may he abundantly pour out upon you his spiritual gifts





Monday, 5 May 1997

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Men and Women Religious,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The joyous and festive atmosphere of the Easter season that illumined the solemn beatification liturgy yesterday morning continues and intensifies at this gathering where we would like once again to pause and reflect together on the spiritual experience and Gospel virtues of the new blesseds.

In communion with the particular Churches where they lived and worked, let us offer our praise to the Lord for the marvels worked by his grace in our glorious brothers and sisters in the faith. At the same time, we feel encouraged by them to become ever more convinced witnesses of Christ the Lord, to proclaim him with our words and our life. May the spiritual closeness and fraternal support of their powerful intercession comfort us.

2. With great affection, I address all the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who have come from Spain and Latin America to take part in the joy of the beatifications of Bishop Florentino Asensio, Ceferino Giménez Malla “El Pelé” and Mother María Encarnación Rosal.

I greet the Bishops of Spain, particularly Bishop Ambrosio Echebarría of Barbastro-Monzón, and the faithful of this Diocese which since yesterday has two new blesseds. Your Ecclesial Community has the honour of having seen the flourishing of these two martyrs, models of life for Christians, who now intercede for us.

Among the many aspects of the rich spiritual biography of Bishop Asensio we must stress his constant and unconditional dedication to preaching the Gospel, first as a priest and then in his brief episcopal ministry. He remained ever faithful to this task, preaching in the cathedral until the last Sunday before his arrest. He offers us an admirable example of the great importance for the Christian life of the explicit proclamation of Christ and the transmission of and formation in the faith through catechesis. I encourage you all, Pastors and faithful, to spare no efforts or means to give catechetical activity its due place in the life of the Ecclesial Communities so that it can offer everyone a deeper knowledge of Christ.

The new blessed died as a witness to the faith that he had lived and proclaimed so many times. At that decisive moment he did not lack the integrity and dignity, strength and courage which were the fruits of his unconditional adherence to Christ and his Gospel. May his example help Christians to witness to the faith as he did.

3. Bl. Ceferino Giménez Malla achieved the palm of martyrdom with the same simplicity that he had lived. His Christian life reminds us all that the message of salvation knows no boundaries of race or culture, because Jesus Christ is the redeemer of people of every tribe, race, people and nation (cf. Rv Ap 5,9).

“El Pelé” was a deeply religious man: with particular devotion to the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary, he regularly took part in Mass and fervently recited the Rosary; he prayed frequently and belonged to various religious associations. His life was consistent with his faith; he practised charity towards all, was honourable in his activities, peacefully settled conflicts and gave wise advice about situations as they arose. For this reason he enjoyed the esteem of all who knew him.

Dear sons and daughters of the Gypsy people, for you Bl. Ceferino is a light on your path, a powerful intercessor, a guide for your steps. On his journey to holiness, “El Pelé” must be an example for you and an encouragement for the full involvement of your particular culture in the social context where you live. At the same time, it is necessary to overcome old prejudices which cause you to suffer from forms of discrimination and rejection that sometimes lead to an undesirable marginalization of the Gypsy people.

4. Latin America has a new blessed, Mother María Encarnación Rosal. I affectionately greet the Bishops and faithful who have come from there as part of the pilgrimage of the Bethlehem Family from Guatemala, the native land of Mother María Encarnación, from Colombia, the country where she is buried, from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the United States and also from Spain and Italy, and the two nations with Bethlehem missions: Cameroon and India.

Bl. María Encarnación enriched the Church by helping to preserve the spirituality of Bethlehem. A tenacious and strong woman with an extraordinary personality and great love for the Sacred Heart, she did not despair in the face of difficulties and thus succeeded in actively and faithfullly co-operating with the plan of God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Tm 2,4). Her commitment to the task of evangelization, even in the midst of troubles and sacrifices, makes her worthy of the admiration of all and, most especially, a constant model for her daughters.

Today, when the Church on the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is gaining new awareness of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord, Bl. María Encarnación Rosal is an example and encouragement in view of the challenges of the new evangelization.

Dear Sisters of Bethlehem, in your Mother you have an admirable model of a life totally consecrated to God and totally devoted to the mission with generosity, creative fidelity to her own charism and unconditional service to the Church and to her brothers and sisters, in the spirit of simplicity and welcome which radiates from the Bethlehem cave.

5. Together with the Christian community of Reggio Calabria-Bova, we rejoice at the beatification of Gaetano Catanoso, the first diocesan priest of Calabria to be raised to the glory of the altars. He is resplendent for his fidelity to the flock of Christ, whose sufferings and deprivations he fully shared, taking on their problems and bringing everyone a word of comfort and hope. He achieved this ideal of priestly life in the poor, isolated village of the Aspromonte mountains, where he began his pastoral work, and in the urban parish of Reggio Calabria, which was entrusted for many years to his pastoral care.

From the very first years of his priestly ministry, he was deeply concerned about reparation centred on devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. He himself confided: “The Holy Face is my life. He is my strength”. He passed on this particular spirituality to the congregation he founded, which by its very name, “Sisters of St Veronica of the Holy Face”, expresses its own goal and mission in the Church and in society: to wipe the Face of Christ, wounded and suffering, in all the “crucified” people of the contemporary world.

The life of Bl. Catanoso, lived entirely for the good of his brothers and sisters and for the redemption of his land, is a pressing invitation for all to seek in the perennial values of the Christian faith the foundations for building the authentic progress of society.

6. From his youth, Bl Enrico Rebuschini was committed to following Christ “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. He continually entrusted himself to God, cultivating intimacy with the paschal mystery, ceaseless prayer and humility. At the same time, he gave his life for his neighbour, especially the neediest, for whom he developed the virtues of listening and service, and even more, of obedience, “as if one were obeying God himself”.

In the months that preceded his entry into the Order of Clerics Regular Servants of the Sick, he had written in his diary: “I offer my whole self and my life for my neighbour”. God rewarded him with the gift of contemplative prayer, in which he remained immersed even as he wandered on foot through the streets of Cremona. The people liked to call him “the street mystic”. The example and intercession of Bl. Rebuschini inspire us to intensify, with unswerving fidelity to Christ, our daily service to promoting the “civilization of love” in the world.

7. Dear brothers and sisters, by their witness these five new blesseds illumine our way in Christ’s footsteps.

Returning to your city, you will bring with you the joyful memory of intense hours spent in Rome. May the heavenly intercession of the new blesseds sustain you today and always. May the maternal presence of the Mother of God, to whom the month of May which has just began is especially dedicated, protect you.

And may you be accompanied by my Blessing, which I cordially impart to all of you present here, to your families and to your communities.



To the Most Reverend Father Hermann Schalück

Minister General of the Friars Minor

1. On the occasion of the Ordinary General Chapter, taking place at the shrine of the Portiuncula, a place dear to the heart of the Poor Man of Assisi, I am pleased to send the Order of Friars Minor my cordial best wishes. At this place Francis began his evangelical life (cf. 1 Cel 22) and there he ended his stay on earth (cf. 1 Cel 110), wishing to “give back his soul to God in that place where he first knew the way of truth perfectly” (1 Cel 108).

In addressing you, Most Reverend Father, my intention is to send my fervent greetings to the Capitulars and all the friars working in every region of the world, wishing each and every one of them, in the words of St Francis, “true peace from heaven and sincere love in God” (EpFid II, 1).

2. “The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi EN 14). This urgency is rightly perceived by your order, which has included it among the main topics of the Chapter, where you propose a vigorous reconfirmation of the commitment of the Friars Minor to following the poor, chaste and obedient Christ so as to be better able to announce the sublime truths of the Good News to all, remaining “steadfast in the Catholic faith” (RB XII) and fervent in communion with Holy Mother Church (cf. Test. ).

Apostolic and missionary work is indeed fruitful if carried out in agreement with the legitimate Pastors to whom Christ has entrusted the responsibility for his flock. The order ought, therefore, to guide its members towards an ever more effective collaboration with the local Churches in which they render their much appreciated service (cf. Phil Ph 1,5).

3. In the footsteps of others among my revered Predecessors, and in particular of Pope Paul VI who addressed the Apostolic Letter Quoniam proxime (AAS 65 [1973], 353-357) to the Madrid General Chapter, I also intend to be spiritually close to the work of the Chapter as it looks afresh at the theme of the “Vocation of the Order Today” and seeks to deepen the understanding of it from the viewpoint of memory and prophecy.

When they consider their glorious past, rich in history, sanctity, culture and apostolic commitment, Franciscans cannot but feel the duty of measuring up to it, straining to write new and meaninful pages of their history (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata VC 110). As we draw near to the dawn of the third millennium, how could we fail to highlight the vocation and evangelizing misssion of the order, which stand, as it were, at the very heart of its identity?

The call to return to the order's origins and to its most important historical expressions should be taken as a paradigm for the current endeavour of the Fraternity. It is called to live in the present day the mission that God, through the Church, has entrusted to it by means of its profession of the Rule of St Francis.

The “memory” of the gift bestowed by God on the Church and the world in the person of the Poverello leads you to a new understanding of contemporary situations. It leads you also to be open to the expectations and challenges of the present in dynamic continuity with the past so as to prepare the future with constructive zeal.

4. The living unity between yesterday, today and tomorrow is a necessity if “memory” is to become “prophecy”. Indeed, “true prophecy is born of God, from friendship with him, from attentive listening to his word in the different circumstances of history” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata VC 84).

Authentic “prophecy” requires, likewise, that the Christi vivendi forma, shared by the Apostles (cf. ibid., nn. 14, 16) and made their own by Francis of Assisi and his first companions (cf. 1 Cel 22, 24), become the norm for the friars at the end of this century. In this way they will be able to pass on intact to the generations of the third millennium the spiritual inheritance received from the hands of the Seraphic Father himself through the mediation of so many known and unknown friars.

The reference back to its original experience, inspired by the Spirit of the risen Christ, will surely open your family to a future rich with hope. It will help you to discover in daily events the presence of God at work in the world and to promote that wise dialogue between faith and culture which is especially necessary today.

It should, indeed, never be forgotten that consecrated life, placed at the service of God and mankind, “has the prophetic task of recalling and serving the divine plan for humanity, as it is announced in Scripture and as it emerges from an attentive reading of the signs of God's providential action in history” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata VC 73).

In such a perspective your order also needs to undertake an attentive discernment, leading you to question yourselves about the meaning of your munus in the Church and the vocation of the Franciscan Fraternity at the present time.

5. The specific munus of the Friars Minor was indicated by St Francis when he wrote in the Letter to the Whole Order: Praise God, “for he is good; extol him in your works. This is the very reason he has sent you all over the world, so that by word and deed you might bear witness to his message and convince everyone that there is no other almighty God besides him”.

This munus has since been explained in numerous documents of the Church, referring to the mandate to preach penance conferred upon the order by Pope Innocent III (1 Cel 33) and confirmed in the course of the centuries by my revered Predecessors.

The whole history of the Minors confirms that the proclamation of the Gospel is the vocation, the mission and the raison d'être of this Fraternity. The Rule itself, when it explains the vocation of the order in the Church, recalls that the friars are called to take their place with Christ and are mandated to preach, while caring for the sick (cf. Mk Mc 3,13-15 Mc 1 Cel Mc 24 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata VC 41). These clear guidelines from the founder require a unity and complementarity between the proclamation of the Gospel and the witness of charity. This is an apostolic and missionary task that involves all friars; cleric and lay. The Legend of the Three Companions recalls that, “at the end of the Chapter, [Francis] gave permission to preach to anyone, cleric or lay, who had the spirit of God and the necessary eloquence” (Trium Soc.59), while the other friars offered their co-operation through prayer and charity.

6. This indispensable unity of the apostolica vivendi forma therefore requires that all the friars, each according to his proper condition and specific gifts, enter fully into the one evangelizing vocation of the order. And this demands a constant effort at the level of the formation which precedes and accompanies the commitment of the workers in the Lord's vineyard (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi EN 15). You should therefore take care to ensure that all, cleric and lay, receive a suitable formation so that each friar may be able to enter into the vast field of evangelization and charitable work with an apostolic spirit and due professionalism (cf. Mt Mt 10,7-8).

Furthermore, it is necessary that a constant spirit of prayer animate apostolic action and the work of human advancement, so that the commitment to “fill the whole earth with the Gospel” emanates from an experience of Christ. This is the profound meaning of the personal and interior knowledge of Christ that the order, in communion with the whole Church, is today called to promote among the People of God. As is well known, the unity between evangelization and contemplation is embedded in the Rule of the Friars Minor, which invites “not to extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion” (RB V). St Francis reminds us that “the preacher should first attain by secret prayer what he shall later pour out in holy sermons. He must first grow hot within so as to avoid speaking words that are cold” (2 Cel 163).

The apostolic and charitable life receives its content, coherence and dynamism from communion with Christ. From their experience of his life-giving presence, the strength and conviction of the proclamation that creates communion with God and with the Church will be poured also onto the Friars Minor. The Apostle John reminds us of this: “We declare to you that which we have seen and heard so that you also may be in communion with us; and truly our communion is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1Jn 1,3).

7. Most Reverend Father, I encourage this Fraternity to tackle the work of the Chapter with the evangelical style that animated St Francis and pray that the Lord will abundantly pour forth his Holy Spirit on every capitular. I entrust the reflections of these days to Mary Immaculate that she who is the Mother and Queen of the Minors may help each friar to proclaim the marvels that the Lord is accomplishing in the world and stimulate your entire order to respond to the call of Christ with renewed dedication.

I accompany these my sentiments with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I impart on you, on the Fathers Capitular and on all the Friars Minor scattered throughout the world.

From the Vatican, 5 May 1997.







5 May 1997

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Holy See. With gratitude for your President's greetings, I warmly reciprocate with the assurance of my prayers to Almighty God for the Iranian people and for their peace and well-being.

Your presence here today testifies to the formal ties which exist between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Holy See and to our willingness to cooperate in matters of bilateral and multilateral interest. Diplomatic relations between the various States and the Holy See are clearly unique insofar as the Holy See, while enjoying age-old recognition in the community of nations and engaging in diplomacy in accordance with international law, has characteristics all its own. Its diplomatic activity reflects this difference, which determines the way in which it approaches questions of both national and international concern. The Pope, as Successor of the Apostle Peter and head of the universal Church, is called to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith, and to strengthen the religious life of Catholics in every part of the world. It is not surprising therefore that the Holy See, relying on the friendship and cooperation of the countries in which the members of the Church live, follows with close interest their conditions of life and the role they play in society at large.

The Catholics of the Islamic Republic of Iran are a small minority, but they have been present in your country from the earliest centuries of the Christian era and have always been a part of the rich cultural life of the nation. The Holy See counts on the help of the Iranian Authorities to ensure that they will continue to enjoy the freedom to profess their faith, as also to benefit from a sufficient number of Bishops, priests and other religious personnel. The Church in Iran, precisely because of its small numbers, needs the solidarity of other Churches which out of their generosity are willing to contribute the personnel required for adequate pastoral care.

The Holy See makes every effort to help the Catholic community of Iran to keep alive the many signs of the Christian presence, so that the churches and holy places in Iran will not become mere archaeological monuments or even be forgotten altogether. At the same time, that small community sees itself as truly Iranian, and the experience of centuries of living side by side with their Islamic neighbours can be extremely useful in fostering ever greater mutual understanding and cooperation between the followers of the Christian faith and Islamic believers everywhere.

This important question leads us to consider once more the commitment, of which I have often spoken and to which the Holy See firmly adheres, of promoting interreligious dialogue, and in particular of developing a permanent dialogue between the religions which have a common point of reference in the faith of Abraham. In 1985, at Casablanca in Morocco, I explained the Church's thought on this matter to thousands of young Muslims who came to hear me: "For us - Christians and Muslims - Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection" (Speech to Young Muslims, 19 August 1985, No. 1). Consequently, the Holy See confidently looks to religious Authorities and leaders of Government to support in a respectful and correct way the growth of mutual knowledge and the progress of dialogue between believers and between religions.

This reference to our belief in the one God reminds us also of the duty to work together for the defence of fundamental human values. Your Excellency has mentioned areas in which such collaboration is possible, and I gladly concur with your expressed desire to see an extension of this cooperation in the future. Outstanding among the values to be defended are freedom of religion and of conscience, and with them the other rights which flow from the dignity of the person and of peoples. Of particular concern to believers must be the advancement of justice and solidarity, so essential to the welfare of the vulnerable and needy members of the human family.

Only in a world of justice and peace can people grow in obedience to God and in generous service to their fellow human beings. The responsibility of States to work for such an international situation is no mere pragmatic demand of their potential interests; it springs from the very nature of the responsibility which the leaders of nations assume in the service of their people. Respect for international law and commitment to negotiation as the means of resolving tensions - also with assistance from the international community itself when necessary - are imperatives of the task of building a better world in which goodness and religion can flourish. Today we must all hope for and support a new phase of international cooperation, more solidly based on humanitarian concern and effective help for the suffering, and less dependent on the cold calculation of technical and economic exchanges and benefits.

Iran's profound Islamic traditions and the religious sensitivity of its people and leaders are motives for a well-founded hope of ever increasing openness and cooperation with the international community. The Holy See for its part will always be ready to work in harmony with those who serve the cause of peace and uphold the human dignity with which the Creator has endowed every human being.

Your Excellency, I wish you well as you begin your lofty mission as your country's diplomatic representative to the Holy See, and I assure you of the ready cooperation of the various offices of the Roman Curia. My prayers are filled with confidence that the Most High will multiply his blessings to you and to the beloved Iranian people.




Tuesday, 6 May 1997

Dear Commandant,

Dear Chaplain,
Officers and Members of the Swiss Guards,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. It is a great joy for me to greet you in the Apostolic Palace on this special day. I bid a special welcome to the new members of the Guards, for whom this day has special meaning as they swear their solemn oath. I am happy that so many relatives have come to Rome to celebrate this festive day. The presence of their parents and family members expresses not only the close relationship of many Swiss Catholics with the Successor of Peter, but also bears witness to the upbringing and the good example by which they have imparted to their sons the Christian faith and the sense of selfless service along life's journey. For this, dear parents, I cordially say to you, “God reward you!”.

2. This day also allows us to cast a glance at the past. It was during the Sack of Rome that the Swiss Guards had to prove themselves. They withstood the test and defended the Pope. Many of the guards fought to the death for him. Today you need not fear a Sack of Rome. However, there is the threat of a “sack of the soul”. Even in our day many young people are seeking goods and values that do not simply fill their hands, but first and foremost their soul. However, Rome is not only the Eternal City, rich in history, culture and faith; it is also an invitation to life. Use the time and the many opportunties to find a more meaningful life in this city. Make the most of the chance offered you here to expand your cultural, linguistic and spiritual horizons.

3. Today some of you are swearing to fulfil faithfully your service in the Guard and others of you are renewing your own oath in your hearts; may all of you recall, however, what Jesus confided to his friends: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10,28). Jesus invites us to take him as the standard for our life and conduct, just as he chose the heavenly Father as the sole measure and centre of his life.

4. The period you will be spending in Rome is an exceptional time in your life, a time that many people would like to experience. Throughout the year, despite the duties required by your service, I urge you to be vigilant, to hear God’s call about the way he wants to take with you today and in the later stages of your life. Live in a spirit of sincere and close brotherhood, as you help each other to grow in faith and to lead a life that corresponds to your mission in the Church. Your training and the service you are called to fulfil are necessary and essential. But it is even more important that you should make the most of the opportunity to strengthen your faith and to love the Church more and more.

On this day, I would also like to express to you all my gratitude for deciding to put yourselves for a while at the service of Peter’s Successor and thus to help guarantee the necessary order and security within the territory of Vatican City. One of your duties is to welcome with courtesy and kindness all the pilgrims who speak to you. By doing so, you will give them a friendly and welcoming impression of the Vatican, for you are often the first people to whom visitors speak when they come to visit the Vatican.

5. I address these thoughts particularly to the new recruits who are beginning their service. I would also like to encourage the older Guards always to give good example to their younger companions who are today being enrolled in the Swiss Guards, so they can make valuable progress day by day, at both the human and spiritual level.

To this end I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, and to all who join you on this special occasion.



TO LEBANON (MAY 10-11, 1997)




Saturday, 10 May 1997

Mr President,
Your Eminence,
Your Beatitudes and Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. First of all I thank His Excellency the President of the Republic for the cordial words of greeting which he has just addressed to me in the name of all the Lebanese people and I am particularly grateful for the welcome accorded to me on this memorable occasion.

My gratitude goes also to the supreme State Authorities, and in particular to His Excellency the President of the Parliament and His Excellency the President of the Council of Ministers. I am grateful for the warm welcome given to me by the Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops, the other Christian, Muslim and Druze religious leaders, the civil and military Authorities and all my Lebanese friends. I greet the sons and daughters of this land who have wished to take part in this ceremony by radio or television.

Allah iuberekum! (God bless you!)

2. How can I not begin by recalling the stop which Pope Paul VI made in Beirut on 2 December 1964, on his way to Bombay? In this way he demonstrated his special interest in Lebanon, showing that the Holy See esteems and loves this land and its people. Today, with great emotion, I have kissed the soil of Lebanon, as a sign of friendship and respect. I come among you, dear Lebanese people, as a friend who wishes to visit a people and support them in their daily journey. It is as a friend of Lebanon that I come to encourage the sons and daughters of this land of hospitality, this country of ancient spiritual and cultural traditions, so desirous of independence and freedom. On the threshold of the Third Millennium, Lebanon, while preserving her particular treasures and remaining faithful to herself, must be able to embrace the new realities of modern society and to take her full place in the community of nations.

3. Thoughout the years of war, together with the whole Church, I closely followed the difficult times experienced by the Lebanese people and united myself in prayer with the sufferings which they endured. On numerous occasions, from the beginning of my Pontificate, I have urged the international community to help the Lebanese people once again to live peacefully within a national territory recognized and respected by all, and to foster the rebuilding of a society of justice and brotherhood. From a human standpoint, many people died in vain as a result of the fighting. Families were displaced. Some Lebanese were forced into exile far from their native land. People of different cultures and religions who had been living on friendly terms and as good neighbours found themselves separated, even bitterly opposed.

That period, which has happily come to an end, is still present in everyone's memory and has left many scars on people's hearts. Nonetheless, Lebanon is called to look resolutely to the future, a future freely determined by the choice of its people. In this spirit, I wish to pay homage to the sons and daughters of this land who, in the troubled times which I have just mentioned, gave an example of solidarity, fraternity, forgiveness and charity, even at the risk of their lives. I especially hail the attitude of many women, including mothers of families, who were a leaven of unity, educators in peace and coexistence, and tireless dialogue partners between different groups and between generations.

4. Henceforth all are called to commitment on behalf of peace, reconciliation and fraternal life, by offering at their various levels signs of forgiveness and by working in the service of the national community, so that violence will never again prevail over dialogue, fear and suspicion over trust, resentment over fraternal love.

In this new Lebanon which you are slowly rebuilding, it is important to give a place to every citizen, particularly to those who, inspired by legitimate patriotism, wish to become involved in political activity or economic life. From this point of view, the first condition for any truly democratic process is a just balance between the vital forces of the nation, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity which demands that each individual should share in and take responsibility for decision- making. On the other hand, the management of the res publica is founded on dialogue and compromise, not for the sake of making particular interests prevail or of preserving privileges, but so that political activity can be a fraternal service, independently of cultural or religious differences.

5. On 12 June 1991 I announced the convening of the Special Assembly for Lebanon of the Synod of Bishops. After many stages of reflection and sharing within the Catholic Church in Lebanon, the Assembly met in November and December 1995. Today I have come among you for the solemn phase of the Synodal Assembly. To Catholics, to the Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and to all people of good will, I am bringing the results of the Bishops' work, enriched by cordial dialogues with the fraternal delegates: the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon. This document, which I shall sign this evening in the presence of the young people, is not a conclusion or the final point in the journey which has been begun. Quite the opposite: it is an invitation to all Lebanese to begin with confidence a new page in their history. It is the contribution of the universal Church to the greater unity of the Catholic Church in Lebanon, to the overcoming of divisions between the different Churches and to the development of the country, in which all Lebanese are called to take part.

6. As I arrive for the first time on Lebanese soil, I wish to say once more, Mr President, how grateful I am to you for your welcome. I offer warm good wishes for yourself and for your mission on behalf of your fellow-citizens. Through you, I offer cordial greetings to all the citizens of Lebanon. With all of them, I pray for Lebanon, that it may become what the Most High desires it to be.

Allah iuberekum! (God bless you!)

Speeches 1997