Speeches 1997

I am convinced that this experience of coexistence will enrich everyone, reinforcing in the Eastern Catholic Churches the commitment to find the most appropriate ways to offer their own specific contribution: they make the treasure of the Christian East present in the heart of the Church and, at the same time, participate in the flow of grace which runs through the many and variegated forms of the body of the Catholic Church. The common expectation depends upon fidelity to this twofold vocation. I trust that a clearer awareness of this identity will serve to facilitate the precise place of Eastern Catholics in the ecumenical framework encouraging them to overcome misunderstandings and tensions which have caused and still cause great suffering. This reasserts what I said in my Letter to the Bishops of the European Continent on relations between Catholics and Orthodox in the new situation of Central and Eastern Europe: “It is my heartfelt hope that wherever Oriental Catholics and Orthodox live side by side there will be established relations which are fraternal, mutually respectful and sincerely seeking a common testimony to the one Lord” (Letter to the Bishops of Europe on relations between Catholics and Orthodox, 31 May, L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 17 June 1991, n. 6, p. 2).

The more the Eastern Churches become themselves, the more effective will be their witness, the more visible their belonging to the Christian East and the more fruitful and valuable the way they complement the Western tradition.

3. I ask the martyrs, famous and unknown, venerated by these Churches, to accompany this event, interceding with our common Father to obtain openness of heart and mind, the courage of fidelity and blessed hope in the day of the Lord.

With this wish I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to Your Eminence and to all the participants at the meeting.

From the Vatican, 28 June 1997, the liturgical commemoration of St Irenaeus.






Saturday, 28 June 1997

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to welcome you for the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the “Association of Sts Peter and Paul”, an association desired by my venerable Predecessor Paul VI. I extend my greeting to each one of you with the words of the Apostle Peter: “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ: grace and peace” (2P 1,1-2).

I thank Mr Gianluigi Marrone who has expressed the sentiments of all, your chaplain Mons. Carmelo Nicolosi, and his assistant, Mons. Franco Follo. I add a particular remembrance for Mr Pietro Rossi, President emeritus, and Archbishop Giovanni Coppa, the first chaplain, now Apostolic Nuncio in the Czech Republic, and the late Mons. Nicolino Sarale, who spent much of his priestly energy among you.

2. Twenty-five years have passed since Paul VI of venerable memory wanted the great tradition of the Palatine Guard of Honour to continue in a way more in keeping with the changing times. These 25 years of activity document that the tradition was wisely developed in line with its original spirit.

In keeping with the motto inherited from the Palatine Guard: “Fide constamus avita”, you have not only persevered in the faith received, but grown in it through your careful catechetical meetings, your active liturgical service in St Peter’s Basilica and your charitable activity in the Dono di Maria Home and at the dispensary for immigrant children, next door to the Casa Santa Marta.The presence among you of some Missionaries of Charity and Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul makes one think that, in a certain sense, they are also part of your family association collaborating, when possible, with silent and precious assistance to many needy brothers and sisters.

3. Today, together with my appreciation of the skilled help you offer the Successor of Peter and his charitable ministry, I would like to express my gratitude for the work you carry out in Vatican City. Thank you for your many services and above all for your dedicated spirit in fulfilling them! Persevere in your initiatives, ever deeply mindful of the Apostle Paul’s exhortation: “Veritatem facientes in caritate” (Ep 4,15): profess the truth in love. This expression indicates the fundamental law which, with the help of divine grace, sustains Christian life. To “profess the truth in love” is possible when the life of believers grows and is nourished by actions sustained by sanctifying grace and oriented to God in charity, urged by the awareness that faith without works is dead (cf. Jc 2,17).

The works that faith needs in order to live are suggested by God's loving will, contained in the commandments. The strength to express that will in action is guaranteed by grace, whose source is the Incarnate Word: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1,17).

I therefore urge you to be always united to Christ like the branches to the vine, so that proclamation and witness to truth are united to love and take place in love. Indeed, the truth of the Gospel is fulfilled and manifested in love.

By living the truth in love, you take part in building the Church and in the growth of the whole world, in the footsteps of Jesus Christ who is its Head and Lord.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, continue in your generous work with the dedication you have always had. May the approach of the Great Jubilee increase your enthusiasm, because the jubilee celebrations will demand an even greater commitment from you, especially with regard to “guarding” the Holy Door of the Vatican Basilica. You previously rendered this service of honour and love during the Holy Year of 1975 and during the Extraordinary Holy Year of 1983. It will bring you into daily contact with many pilgrims who will pass through this Door to enter the Basilica, and to whom you will be required to give attentive assistance.

Dear members of the Association of Sts Peter and Paul, I would like to conclude this meeting by renewing my invitation to be always authentic and “special” witnesses to the love of God, as your statutes clearly indicate. I entrust you to Mary, Virgo Fidelis, together with your families and all your loved ones. May the Blessed Virgin watch over you with her maternal love and obtain for you from the Redeemer the gifts of perseverance in happiness and serenity.

May you also be accompanied by my Blessing which I willingly extend to your families, especially remembering the children and those who are ill.



30 June 1997

Dear Archbishops George and Chaput,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It gives me great pleasure to meet all of you on the occasion of the conferring of the Pallium. As is well known, the ancient tradition is that the Pallium be woven from the wool of lambs blessed each year on the Feast of Saint Agnes. The lambs symbolize Christ, the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd. As the sacrificial Lamb, he gave himself completely on the Cross for our salvation. As Shepherd he leads the flock to safe pastures and goes after the sheep which have strayed. The Pallium therefore, as well as being a sign of jurisdictional power in the Church, has a profound spiritual meaning for the Metropolitans concerned, and for the communities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Archdiocese of Denver.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that every Bishop is "sent by the Father to govern his family... by his prayer, preaching and all the works of charity" (Lumen Gentium LG 27). Dear Friends, I am certain that you will continue to support your Archbishops with your prayers and your cooperation. I hope that your celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul in Rome will help to increase your love of the Church, for which these Apostles willingly gave their lives as witnesses to Christ. I ask you to take my greetings to your families, your parishes and your communities. Upon all of you I invoke an abundance of divine favors, and I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

July 1997






3 July 1997

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear young friends,

It is always a pleasure for me to greet the participants in the Annual Summer School of Astrophysics sponsored by the Vatican Observatory, and this year is no exception. I cordially welcome you here, a welcome which I extend also to the group of friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory who have joined you in these final days of your study session.

"Rejoice, young man, in your youth... Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth" (Ec 11:9; 12:1). These words of Sacred Scripture come to mind as I see this group of young scholars from many different nations. Certainly you have good reason to rejoice in the gifts which God has granted you, as you look with confidence to the future. It is my hope that your research into the vast expanses of the universe and the mysteries of time and space will awaken in you an awe for the infinite wisdom of the Creator and an ever greater respect for the dignity of each human being created in his image. For the future of the human family lies not merely in the development of knowledge and technology, but in the efforts of men and women of wisdom, vision and passionate concern for the building of a world of justice, peace and authentic solidarity.

Dear friends, as I offer you my prayerful good wishes for your studies, I cordially invoke upon you and your families the richest blessings of Almighty God.




Friday, 4 July 1997

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. With great joy I welcome to this house you who have received from the Lord the mandate to guide his Church in Burkina Faso and Niger. You have come to Rome to visit the tombs of the Apostles and to meet the Successor of Peter in order to find light and support in your episcopal mission of "building up the body of Christ" (Ep 4,12), in communion with the universal Church. I thank Bishop Jean-Baptiste Somé of Diébougou, President of your Bishops' Conference, for his kind words and his clear-sighted presentation of the Church’s life in your country. Through you, I extend an affectionate greeting to each one of your diocesan communities and to all the inhabitants of your region, whose warm hospitality I have twice been able to appreciate. May I be permitted to mention here dear Cardinal Paul Zoungrana, a great churchman in Burkina Faso, as well as the recently appointed Bishops, to whom I express my encouragement and fervent prayers. The creation of new Dioceses in your country is an eloquent sign of the Church’s vitality among the peoples of this region. In the year that the Church in Niger is celebrating the 50th anniversary of her foundation, I am pleased to share in the joy and hope of Bishop Guy Romano, recently appointed diocesan Bishop of Niamey, and of the Catholic community in that country whose Gospel dynamism I know well.

2. On the threshold of the third millennium, the Church will celebrate the first centenary of the beginning of evangelization in Burkina Faso. It is fortunate that through your initiative, Christians have been invited to know and reflect on the history of their communities during this century, which has seen the blossoming and growth of the seed sown since the foundation of the first mission station in Koupéla in 1900. With you, I pay homage to the missionaries who strove with admirable zeal to spread the Good News and give life to the new indigenous communities which today we see flourishing in a remarkable way. In recalling this progress of the Church in Burkina Faso towards her centenary, Christians will give fervent thanks to the Lord for all the gifts they have received and will be encouraged to continue zealously the work undertaken by their fathers in the faith.

This jubilee is a privileged opportunity for the faithful of your two countries to deepen the roots of their faith in Jesus Christ, the one Mediator and Saviour of all mankind; it will enable them also to renew their missionary effort so that the message of salvation may reach a greater number. In this regard, the work of building the Church-Family, which you are pursuing with self-sacrifice and great concern for inculturating the Gospel, witnesses to the love and respect that as disciples of Christ you bring to your peoples, their cultures and the whole of Africa. I fervently hope that the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, the fruit of that moment of grace which was the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, may be for each one of your local Churches the charter for her mission of evangelization on the threshold of the new phase opening up before her.

3. In communion with you in your episcopal duties, your priests work generously to give life and growth to the People of God, as faithful witnesses to Christ among their brothers and sisters. The Council teaches that priests, called to perfection by the grace of their Baptism, must seek holiness more intensely by virtue of their own ministry entrusted to them in the sacrament of Holy Orders (cf. Presbyterorum ordinis PO 12). I therefore invite those whose "first task" is "to preach the Gospel of God to all men" (ibid., n. 4) to conform their whole life to the greatness of the mystery which they proclaim, by a spiritual life nourished with the word of God and by constantly seeking the signs and calls of God in their life and in the life of men. May they also remember that their priestly life is rooted in the celebration of the Eucharist, "the source and summit of all evangelization"! With Christ, who gave his life for the salvation of all people, they will then become true servants of their brothers and sisters.

To have an ever vital sense of the mission entrusted to them and to respond to it appropriately, priests at every age and in every condition of life must take part in continuing formation.

In fact, while they continue to carry out the priestly ministry, this formation "has as its aim that the priest become a believer and ever more of one: that he grow in understanding of who he truly is, seeing things with the eyes of Christ" (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 73). I therefore hope that this concern, indispensable for fulfilling one's priestly duties, will remain alive in your Diocese.

The imminent opening of a new inter-diocesan seminary for the first cycle is an important sign of hope for the Church’s future. The demanding discernment of vocations and the need to give candidates for the priesthood a sound human, spiritual and pastoral foundation are serious responsibilities for the Bishops, Christ's first representatives in priestly formation (cf. Pastores dabo vobis PDV 65).

The vitality and growth of consecrated life, especially of institutes founded in your region, are significant advances for an authentic inculturation of the Gospel message. "If the consecrated life maintains its prophetic impact, it serves as a Gospel leaven within a culture, purifying and perfecting it" (Vita consecrata VC 80).

4. In your reports, I have noticed the important place of the laity in the life of your communities. Through the diversity of their commitments, they fulfil their vocation as baptized persons in the Church and in society. I call on them to remain "devoted ... to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Ac 2,42), especially by actively participating in the life of parishes and basic Christian communities, which are privileged places for the birth and development of the Church-Family. I hope that in their many pastoral movements and spiritual groups they may find the means to create, in fraternal union, enthusiastic centres of evangelization and that through their action in urban life they may become a leaven for transforming society.You wish to support the young people of your Dioceses in their aspirations to find an active and recognized place in the Church-Family and in the life of their country.

As I have already done, I urge young Africans to have the Gospel boldness to take their nation's development in hand, to love the culture of their people and to work for its renewal in fidelity to their cultural heritage, by sharpening their scientific and technical expertise, and especially by witnessing to their Christian faith (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ).

I would like to convey a special word of encouragement to the trained catechists and their assistants, to the "father and mother catechists" whose role in handing on the faith is paramount. I invite them to use the means offered them to deepen their knowledge of Christ and of the Church’s doctrine. They will thus be able to fulfil their mission more and more competently, sharing with their brothers and sisters their own experience of meeting the Lord. Bishops and priests, be attentive guides and supports for them every day! Furthermore, catechists, under your leadership and in close association with their priests, play an invaluable role in welcoming and guiding people who wish to follow Christ, in order to lead them through the catehumenate to a commitment of sincere faith and to full integration into the ecclesial community. In fact, Baptism signifies and effects "‘rebirth from the Spirit, establishes real and unbreakable bonds with the Blessed Trinity, and makes us members of the Body of Christ, which is the Church’. Therefore a journey of conversion that did not culminate in Baptism would stop half-way" (Ecclesia in Africa ).

5. In African societies, the family has a fundamental place. Its essential values must therefore be preserved. The Christian family should be a privileged place for bearing witness to Christ and his Gospel. A teacher for each of its members, it is a school of human and spiritual formation. Christians will also remember that "marriage thus demands an indissoluble love; thanks to this stability, it can contribute effectively to the complete fulfilment of the spouses’ baptismal vocation" (Ecclesia in Africa ). A serious preparation of young people for the sacrament of marriage will lead them to success and to the full maturity of their commitment to forming a true community of love. I therefore encourage you to promote the guidance of Christian families at the different stages of their formation and development. Pay very special attention to young families, to help them discover and live their vocation and responsibilities. Be close to those who are more likely to encounter difficulties in life.

6. Thanks to her works of mutual aid, of social advancement, of service in the world of health care and education, the Church in your country participates in the development of man and society. And here I would like to acknowledge the admirable work of so many Christians, priests, religious and lay people who generously show that charity is the heart of the Church’s mission. I hope that from Ouagadougou my appeals for solidarity towards the peoples of the Sahel may continue to resound. It should also be recalled that "a people’s development does not derive primarily from money, material assistance or technological means, but from the formation of consciences and the gradual maturing of ways of thinking and patterns of behaviour. Man is the principal agent of development, not money or technology" (Redemptoris missio RMi 58). I am pleased with the involvement of pastors and community leaders in this work of educating consciences. Furthermore, Bishops of Burkina Faso, you recently called the faithful and all people of goodwill to safeguard and reinforce social peace, in order to contribute to "humanizing society" in a sensitive period of social life. I fervently hope that peace and concord will reign among all the members of the nations in your region, and that a definitive solution based on justice and solidarity will be found for the problems that still occur.

7. Following the Second Vatican Council, the African Synod recalled with insistence that "openness to dialogue is the Christian’s attitude inside the community as well as with other believers and with men and women of goodwill" (Ecclesia in Africa ). The fraternal relations of Catholics with other Christians must concretely express the common responsibility of Christ’s disciples for the witness they must give to the Gospel. Believers in Islam are also numerous in your region. I congratulate you on the peaceful relations that usually exist among believers. I keenly hope that they will continue to grow in mutual knowledge. The freedom, recognized by society, to choose one’s religion will help to create an atmosphere of respect, brotherhood and truth, which will encourage a common effort for the advancement of individuals and society. In this same spirit of fraternal dialogue, may Christians clearly witness to their faith in Jesus the Saviour among those who belong to the Traditional Religion or other currents of thought.

8. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I am aware of the diversity of situations that the Church encounters in your countries, and of the great needs your Dioceses have, especially for pastoral personnel. I also encourage you to continue, through your Bishops' Conference, to show generous solidarity towards the missions. The sharing of human and material resources, even when one has one’s own urgent needs, is an expression of the communion that must exist among all the local Churches. Be especially concerned to help the neediest Dioceses to form leaders and catechists who will make it possible to establish living and active communities. I invite priests and religious to be open to the Holy Spirit, to their Bishops or superiors and be willing to be sent to preach the Gospel beyond the borders of their own Diocese or country (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). It is your task today to give others what you yourselves received from the missionaries who came from elsewhere and which the Lord has increased among you.

9. At the close of our meeting, I would like once again in mind and heart to join the people entrusted to you in the lands of Burkina Faso and Niger. We have now started the immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a time when we are called to focus our attention on the person of Christ, the Son of God made man. It is with trust then that I invite you to face the future in his presence. Amid the difficulties and conflicts that the African continent is experiencing, may your communities be bold signs of hope through the charity they will be able to live and transmit. May they show everyone that the Lord never abandons those who suffer or those who feel rejected or excluded by society! I entrust the hopes and sorrows of your peoples to the motherly intercession of the Mother of the Saviour. And I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to the priests, religious, catechists and all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.




Saturday, 5 July 1997

Dear Brothers,

1. I am pleased to extend my cordial greeting to you all, gathered in Rome for your General Chapter, which is being celebrated on the fourth anniversary of the opening of the first free popular public school in Europe, founded by St Joseph Calasanz in the spring of 1597 in the Trastevere district of Rome.

By recalling the past you intend to analyze the present in order to accept its challenges. This is what the theme of your chapter assembly asks of you, inviting you to reflect on the Piarist charism and ministry today. You wish to question yourselves on how to respond to the demands of the present time with a marked sensitivity for what the Church and society need today, but remaining faithful to the spirit of your origins. I must encourage you in this very timely resolution.

I address my greetings to Father José Maria Balcells Xuriach, Superior General of the Congregation, and thank him for the sincere words he has addressed to me on behalf of all present. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the entire family of the Piarists for its invaluable work in the difficult field of education, encouraging you in this important service in favour of the young generations. This apostolate is not easy, but it indispensable for the spread of the Gospel and Christian culture, as well as for the formation of mature and responsible believers.

2. Your founder thoroughly understood this and did not limit himself to beginning a "school for everyone", but took Christ as his model and sought to pass on to young people the wisdom of the Gospel as well as the profane sciences, teaching them to perceive the loving action of God the Creator and the Redeemer in their lives and in history.

After the example of the divine Master, who "saw the great throng, and ... had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things" (Mc 6,34), he devoted himself particularly to the poor. St Joseph Calasanz can therefore rightly be considered the true founder of the modern Catholic school, whose goal is the integral formation of man and open to everyone. The initiative he took 400 years ago retains its validity today since, in the secularized environment in which the new generations are growing up, it is very important to offer them a school inspired by Christian principles. Precisely for this reason, in the Letter which I sent a few days ago to your Superior General, I again expressed the wish that "democratic countries may finally implement effective parity for non-State schools, a parity which at the same time respects the latter’s educational programme" (24 June, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 23 July, p. 2).

3. The object of your reflection during this General Chapter is the specific mission of Piarist religious in the world of education today. In this regard I wish to emphasize that as religious, you are called to bring to your work in the schoolroom the characteristics that correspond to your special charism which represents an important ecclesial contribution. Your work in schools must primarily reflect your total consecration to God in following Christ. This allows you to draw the attention of the world of culture to that transcendent horizon, in which the question of the meaning of human life is fully resolved, in the light of God’s plan in Christ through the Spirit.

The values of the faith must permeate your pastoral and pedagogical projects as well as their concrete achievement. Sustained by love and dedication to Jesus Christ, you are called to guide those whom God entrusts to your care, directing them with your advice in their response to the call which God addresses to each one.

Furthermore, as sons of Calasanz you will not fail to give priority to the education of those who for some reason are marginalized and excluded. Faithful to your original charism and your traditions, you will study how to do all you can to offer these young people the chance to overcome that serious form of poverty that the lack of cultural and religious formation constitutes.

I would also like affectionately to remind you that your specific presence in the world of Christian education will only be possible if each one of the Piarists and all the communities of the Order diligently cultivate a profound Gospel spirituality, nourished by listening to the word of God, by liturgical celebrations, by personal and community prayer, by the practice of virtue and by constant ascetic commitment. Your founder gave you an example of all this and also left you a written memorial in the Constitutions and in his letters.

4. Dear brothers, from the very start lay teachers have co-operated in your mission; their number and the quality of their contribution has increased in our time. Your Founder recommended you to consider those who were closest in spirit and dedication to your ideal as true members of the community. With their witness to faith and their professional competence, they become a concrete and living example of the lay vocation for all the students.

Indeed, it is the proper task of lay Christian teachers to integrate both faith and culture in their personal lives and teaching activity, thus bringing the Gospel into our secular world. They should not do this in a purely theoretical or intellectual way, but in carrying out their educational mission: in the daily contact with their students they can help them to combine human and Christian values in a vital way. Thus lay educators contribute to the evangelization of the young generations and, through them, the Christian renewal of the future society.

5. Dear Piarist Fathers, I hope your chapter assembly will yield abundant fruit and I hope that each one will be able to draw constantly from the riches of the teaching of Christ the Master, whose words "are spirit and life" (Jn 6,64), for the benefit of all those who are entrusted to your teaching ministry.

May Mary most holy, whose name shines in the actual title of your Order of "the Poor of the Mother of God", and to whom St Joseph Calasanz so often commended the institute, assist you always and make your apostolic labours fruitful. Remember what the Saint asked of you, urging you to invoke her with full confidence: "Let your insistence be with our Mother and not with men, because she is never disturbed by our insistence, but men are" (Letters, 58). Do not fear, therefore, to be "insistent" with the Blessed Virgin, whom you venerate in a special way as your Mother!

With these sentiments, I sincerely impart my Blessing to you and willingly extend it to your confrères and co-workers and to all those to whom your daily educational commitment is addressed.




Saturday, 19 July 1997

I greet the town of Castel Gandolfo with the town council and all those present.

There are various castles on the mountains too, but Castel Gandolfo is unique! For centuries this place has been kept for the Pope.

From the mountains of the Val d’Aosta I have now returned to Castel Gandolfo.

I commend myself to everyone’s prayers.

Have a good Sunday!




Saturday, 26 July 1997

Today’s Eucharistic celebration, on the liturgical commemoration of St Joachim and St Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has a particular meaning, especially for you, dear Rogationist Fathers of the Heart of Jesus, whom I cordially greet. I am pleased to join you in giving thanks to the Lord for the centenary of the birth of your congregation, which sprang from the generous heart of Bl. Annibale Maria Di Francia, the 70th anniversary of whose death occurs this year.

The Eucharist is the culmination of ecclesial prayer: in this the prayer of Christ and of the Church for vocations is fulfilled according to the Lord's explicit mandate: “Rogate ergo Dominum messis ut mittat operarios in messem suam” (Mt 9,38). In these Gospel words Annibale Maria Di Francia found the “way” to respond fully to God’s will. Making it his own, he made his own the sentiments of the Heart of the Good Shepherd, full of compassion for the Father’s flock.

Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of every Christian vocation, and her holy parents whom we venerate to day, let us implore the gift of the Holy Spirit, that he may form in the Church men and women enthusiastic for Christ and the Gospel, ready to give themselves for God’s kingdom, with all their heart and all their strength. And may your blessed founder obtain for you and for your whole spiritual family the gift of renewed apostolic and missionary flowering.




To Dr. Jane Dempsey Douglass
President of the
World Alliance of Reformed Churches

I am pleased to take the opportunity offered by the presence of Cardinal Edward I. Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at the twenty-third General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches meeting in Debrecen, Hungary, from August 8 - 20, to send warm greetings to you and to the participants in this important Assembly, which has as its theme: Break the Chains of Injustice.

Speeches 1997