Speeches 1997






25 September 1997

Your Eminences,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to convey my greetings to you on the occasion of the second plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church. I thank you for your dedicated work and I am particularly grateful to your President, Archbishop Francesco Marchisano, for having expressed your common sentiments. Your group has recently been enriched by new, well-qualified members, in order to be more representative of the Churchís universality and the diversity of cultures, through whose artistic expressions a manifold hymn of praise to God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ, can certainly be raised. An affectionate welcome to you all.

The theme of your meeting is of great interest: "The Cultural Heritage of the Church in Relation to Preparations for the Jubilee". As I wrote in Tertio millennio adveniente, in view of the Jubilee the Church is invited to reconsider the way she has taken during these 2,000 years of her history. Her cultural heritage represents an important part of the patrimony she has progressively built up for the sake of evangelization, education and charity. Indeed, Christianity has had an enormous effect in the fields of art with its various expressions, and in that of culture with its whole deposit of wisdom.

This session offers you a favourable opportunity to exchange experiences about what is being organized for the Jubilee in the various ecclesial situations for which you are the authoritative spokesmen. In addition, it enables you to gather suggestions that can be communicated to the competent institutions of the individual countries for whatever use seems appropriate in the context of their particular traditions.

In this first year of preparation for the historic event of the Year 2000, it is particularly the contemplation of the icon of Christ that must reinvigorate the spiritual strength of believers, so that they may love the Lord and witness to him at the present moment for the Church and for cultures, with the courage of holiness and the genius of art. The various artistic expressions and many forms of culture, which have been a privileged means of sowing the Gospel, demand close examination and a far-sighted critique at the end of this millennium, so that they can become capable of a new creative power and help bring about the "civilization of love".

2. "Cultural goods" are meant for human advancement and, in the ecclesial context, acquire a specific meaning since they are ordered to evangelization, religious practice and charity.

Their typology is various: painting, sculpture, architecture, mosaic, music, literature, theatre and cinema. These various artistic forms express the creative power of the human genius which, through symbolic figures, conveys a message transcending reality. If they are enlivened by spiritual inspiration, these works can help the soul in its search for the divine and can even serve as interesting pages of catechesis and ascesis.

Ecclesiastical libraries, for example, are not temples of sterile knowledge, but the privileged places of true wisdom which recount the history of man, the glory of the living God, through the efforts of those who have sought the mark of the divine being in fragments of creation and in the depths of souls.

Museums of sacred art are not storehouses for inanimate finds, but enduring nurseries in which the genius and spirituality of the community of believers is handed on.

Archives, especially ecclesiastical archives, not only preserve the course of human events but also lead to a meditation on the action of divine Providence in history, so that the documents preserved there become a memorial to the evangelization carried out in time and an authentic pastoral tool.

Dear friends, you are actively involved in safeguarding the priceless treasure of the Churchís cultural heritage, in preserving the historical memory of all that the Church has accomplished down the centuries, and in opening her to further developments in the liberal arts.

You have made the commitment, at this "opportune time" on the eve of the Jubilee, to present discreetly to our contemporaries all that the Church has done over the centuries in inculturating the faith, as well as to give wise encouragement to people of art and culture, so that by their works they might constantly seek the face of God and of man.

The objective of the countless activities being planned for the Holy Year is to emphasize the fundamental proclamation: "Christ, yesterday, today and for ever", through the contribution of every aspect of art and culture. He is the one Saviour of man and of the whole man. The efforts of your Commission to co-ordinate the artistic-cultural sector, through a special body which evaluates the many proposals for artistic events, are therefore praiseworthy.

In addition to the ancient vestiges are the new areopagi of culture and art, which can be fittingly used to encourage believers to grow in their faith and to bear witness to it with renewed strength. From the archeological sites to the most modern expressions of Christian art, contemporary man must be able to reread the Churchís history, and thus be helped to recognize the mysterious fascination of Godís saving plan.

3. The work entrusted to your Commission consists in giving pastoral and cultural guidance to ecclesial communities by making the most of the many expressive forms that the Church has produced and continues to produce at the service of the new evangelization of peoples.

It is a question of preserving the memory of the past and of safeguarding the visible monuments of the spirit with the continual, painstaking work of cataloguing, maintaining, restoring, preserving and protecting. Everyone with responsibility in this sector must be urged to make a priority commitment so that preserving the heritage of the faithful and of all human society receives the attention it deserves. This patrimony belongs to everyone, and so must become dear and familiar to all.

Moreover, new productions must be encouraged, by an interpersonal contact that is more attentive and available to those who work in this area, so that our era too may create works that document the faith and genius of the Churchís presence in history. Thus local ecclesiastical authorities and the various associations must be encouraged, to further the constant and close collaboration between the Church, culture and art.

It is also necessary to shed greater light on the pastoral meaning of this commitment, so that it may be perceived by the contemporary world, by believers and non-believers. To this end it is appropriate to encourage periods of formation in the diocesan communities for the clergy, for artists and for all those interested in the cultural heritage, so that the patrimony of art may be fully appreciated in the fields of culture and catechesis.

For this reason I commend your work in presenting the contribution made by Christianity to the culture of various peoples through the evangelizing activity of priests, religious and committed laity. Even a few centuries of evangelization have almost always produced artistic expressions destined to remain decisive in the history of various peoples.

It is appropriate to emphasize the most genuine forms of popular piety, with their own cultural roots. The importance of parochial, diocesan and regional ecclesiastical museums and of literary, musical, theatrical or cultural works of religious inspiration in general must be stressed, to give a concrete and beneficial appearance to the historical memory of Christianity.

To this end it will be useful to organize meetings at the national or diocesan level, in collaboration with cultural centres (universities, schools, seminaries, etc.), to highlight the patrimony of the Churchís cultural goods. It will also be useful to promote locally the study of religious or lay individuals who made a significant mark on the life of the nation or the Christian community, as well as to emphasize events in the nationís history in which Christianity was decisive in various respects, notably in the field of art.

4. Enlivening the Holy Year with our cultural heritage thus unfolds ad intra through an appreciation of the heritage the Church has produced throughout these two millenniums of her presence in the world, and ad extra through the sensitization of artists, connoisseurs and and those in positions of responsibility.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Church, teacher of life, cannot fail to carry out the ministry of helping contemporary man to re-experience religious wonder at the fascination of beauty and wisdom stemming from all that history has bestowed on us. This task demands a diligent, long-lasting work of guidance, encouragement and exchange. I therefore renew to you my warmest thanks for all you are doing in this area, and I encourage you to continue with enthusiasm and competence in your valued service to culture, art and faith. This is your specific contribution to the preparatcion for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, so that the Church can continue to be present in todayís world by promoting every valid artistic expression and inspiring the development of the various cultures with the Gospel message.

I invoke divine assistance upon the work of your assembly, as I cordially bless each one of you and all who work with you in an area so important for the life of the Church.





Friday, 26 September 1997

Mr Mayor,

Members of the Town Board and Council,

As I prepare to leave Castel Gandolfo to return to the Vatican, I am pleased to have this meeting with you, which has now become a tradition. It enables me to express my heartfelt gratitude to you for everything your administration does for me and for my assistants.

I thank you, Mr Mayor, for your kind words to me just now, which expressed the sentiments of the entire municipal administration and all the inhabitants of Castel Gandolfo. I cordially greet all the members of the Town Council.

Through you, I would also like to convey to your fellow citizens my deep appreciation of their well-known courtesy and the caring attention with which they surround me and follow my activity in service to the universal Church.

The Lord has allowed me to spend quiet days in this pleasant and tranquil spot: days which have enabled me to regain my strength, to continue my pastoral ministry with greater vigour. I would also like on this occasion to add a word of gratitude for your concern in meeting the many needs of those who came to visit me in Castel Gandolfo during the summer months. I give thanks to God, and I am grateful to you all that everything was always handled smoothly and calmly.

In taking my leave of you, I am pleased to entrust to your thoughts my imminent pilgrimage to Bologna for the close of the National Eucharistic Congress, as well as my forthcoming journey to Rio de Janeiro for the World Meeting with Families.

These are moments of great importance in the Churchís life, events that have an undoubted effect on public opinion. I deeply hope that that they will mark stages in a renewed spiritual enthusiasm not only for believers but for all humanity. As we advance towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it is more important than ever that the Gospel increasingly become a shining beacon of hope and love for contemporary man and particularly for families.

I sincerely hope that love and harmony will increase in all your families, and that an atmosphere of understanding and solidarity will prevail in them so that each one's efforts will contribute to building up the common good. I accompany this cordial greeting with the assurance of a remembrance to the Lord, that he will help you with his grace and fill you with abundant consolation.

With these sentiments, I impart my Blessing to you and to the whole population of Castel Gandolfo.





(SEPTEMBER 27-28, 1997)




Piazza Maggiore

Saturday, 27 September 1997

1. In this beautiful, ancient square, the Piazza Maggiore, I cordially greet all of you who have come to meet me: you who are taking part in the National Eucharistic Congress, you, the Church of Bolognaís faithful, and you, her citizens!

I greet in particular Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of the city, as well as the Prime Minister and the Mayor of Bologna; to each of them I express my warmest thanks for their sincere and friendly words of welcome. Their presence here expresses, for different but converging reasons, the soul of a city and a nation whose histories are irrevocably interwoven with the Gospel.

I am grateful to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, whom I cordially greet, for having represented me here as my Legate from the start of the closing celebrations of the National Eucharistic Congress.

Lastly, I extend my greetings to my confrŤres, the Cardinals and Bishops who have come from every part of the nation, to the regional authorities, to the mayors of the towns in this Archdiocese of Bologna and of so many Italian cities, to the other religious, civil and military authorities ó national and local ó who have wished to honour this occasion with their presence; to them go my respectful thoughts and strong encouragement to persevere generously in their respective tasks, exercising the responsibilities entrusted to them for pursuing the common good.

2. At this time I must also address an affectionate thought to the dear peoples of Umbria and the Marches who yesterday were stricken several times by a serious earthquake that caused incalculable damage to people and property. I express sincere condolences for the victims and heartfelt sympathy for their familiesí grief. I am spiritually close to all who have been left homeless and to those who have suffered and are anxious. The extensive damage to the artistic and religious patrimony, especially to the Upper Basilica of St Francis, to the Sacred Convent of Assisi and to other monuments and churches in various localities devastated by the earthquake is also a reason for sorrow.

As I entrust the souls of the deceased to the divine mercy, I ask the Lord to comfort their relatives, to encourage the injured and to support everyone who has been harmed by the earthquake. May this time of suffering and trial be alleviated by the Lordís grace and the solidarity of so many generous persons who, with the effective co-ordination of the public authorities, are making every effort to aid their brothers and sisters in need.

3. I am delighted to be in Bologna for the third time. With a heart grateful to divine Providence, which has given me this opportunity, I recall my two previous visits: the first in 1982 for the "Pastoral Visit" to the Church in Bologna, then led by the late Cardinal Archbishop Antonio Poma; the second in 1988 when, responding to an invitation from the rector of the university, I came to celebrate the ninth centenary of this illustrious institution's foundation.

On those occasions I could observe the lasting fidelity to the Gospel of the Christian community living in this land and I could encourage it in the great task which, on the threshold of the new millennium, engages the ancient Churches of the Christian West born in a special way from the first evangelization: the task of a new evangelization able to imbue behaviour, culture and all life with the Gospel spirit.

My third pilgrimage was prepared in spirit by the first two and in some ways completes them. I have come to enrol a son of your people among the ranks of the blesseds: Ven. Fr Bartholomew Mary Dal Monte. I came above all to preside at the conclusion of the National Eucharistic Congress, a privileged stage in the preparations for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000; a preparation which therefore begins with reflection on Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world: yesterday, today, and for ever.

4. It is he who is the beginning, the object and the goal of all evangelization. Thus we must look to him with ever renewed faith and hope, especially in this Italian land evangelized so long ago and today marked by so many social and spiritual challenges.

The twofold occasion of this visit leads me to entrust a twofold message to you all, the faithful and people of goodwill, especially those of you who are responsible for the public welfare. First of all the message concerning the Eucharist: "summit and epitome of divine generosity", as was said in the doctrinal document for the Congress, the Eucharistic sacrament is Godís true gift to each heart that opens itself in faith to the Gospel message. By sharing in the one Eucharistic Bread, believers are given the opportunity to open themselves to communion with their brothers and sisters. The Eucharist thus becomes a source of fruitful order and peaceful cooperation in every human society.

The second message is that of holiness: with the reverberation of its human riches, holiness is anything but useless to society. A people who wanted to confine within church walls this daily "gift of God" (cf. Jn Jn 4,10) would certainly be all the poorer. This is proved by the shining examples which have come from the human response to God's initiative in the course of time. The history of your Church in Bologna can offer numerous testimonies in this regard.

5. Today the National Eucharistic Congress, which has been going on here for about a week, focuses its attention on the family. Reflecting on the vocation to holiness which is proper to married couples, participants in the Congress have joined the young people in their vigil as they wait for tomorrow's great Eucharistic celebration.

The family is the "primordial human community". Was it not through a family that the Only-begotten Son of the Father entered into our history? This is why the family is always and everywhere the way of the Church. In a certain sense, it becomes more so wherever it is suffering internal crises or is subject to harmful cultural, social and economic influences which undermine its internal cohesion, if not actually preventing its formation.

This is why the Church considers service to the family one of her essential tasks. She never tires of asking that its primordial and connatural rights be recognized. At the same time, however, the Church continues to take responsibility for encouraging concrete assistance in the many situations of material and spiritual distress in which married couples are finding themselves, especially if they are young.

6. Dear parents who have come here from every region of Italy, I address my most cordial greetings to each one of you. You have come with your children to adore Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. You love to honour him, calling him by the name of Bridegroom of the Church, his Bride.

I know your generosity, your commitment and your patience in the difficulties and labours you must face every day. Do not be afraid! You have opened the door of your house to Christ, indeed, you have wished to build your home on the rock of his Word. Christ will save your families from every threat of the evil one.

You have at heart to transmit your beliefs and hopes to the new generations, guiding their growth so that they will become mature people who can spend their lives for their brothers and sisters, making their own existence a sincere gift to their neighbour. Thus they will be artisans of that "family humanism" which Italian society so urgently needs.

In this context, I also greet the members of the Pro-Life Movement, who I know are present in large numbers on this day dedicated to the family. As I cordially thank everyone who has generously worked for the successful outcome of this great Eucharistic Congress, I invoke the constant protection of God and of the Madonna of St Luke upon the people of Bologna and on those who guide their destiny.

At the end of his address the Holy Father led the recitation of the Angelus and then spoke extemporaneously.

Thank you again for this invitation and for welcoming me a third time. A Latin proverb says: "Omne trinum est perfectum".





(SEPTEMBER 27-28, 1997)


Saturday, 27 September 1997

Dear Young People,

1. I am pleased to take part in this vigil which is being held in a context of faith and joy where singing plays an important role. It is the young peopleís faith and joy which I have been able to experience already on other occasions, especially during the great world meetings with youth. And I have noted with interest that after World Youth Day in Manila in 1995 came the European meeting in Loreto; after the recent meeting in Paris, we are meeting this evening in Bologna. It is young people who take the lead in this succession of meetings in various parts of the world. But then we always return to Italy. "Return" means that the Pope returns to the Vatican or to Castel Gandolfo. I take this opportunity to greet you with affection, dear young people, and I extend my cordial thoughts to all of Italyís youth.

We began our meeting, which I followed with great attention, with Psalm 96, an invitation to "sing to the Lord a new song". It invites us to bless his name, to rejoice and be glad together with all creation. Singing thus becomes the response of a heart filled with joy, which recognizes Godís presence beside it.

The answers are blowing in the breath of the Holy Spirit "You have remained here, visible Mystery": you have been repeating these words throughout the National Eucharistic Congress. Faith is also expressed in song. In our life, faith makes us sing the joy of being children of God.

All of you, artists and young people, whom I greet affectionately, express through music and song, "on the lyres of our time", words of peace, hope and solidarity.

This evening music and poetry have spoken of the questions and ideals of your youth. This evening, by way of music, Jesus has come to meet you.

2. Dear young people, I thank you for this festive gathering which you wanted to organize as a sort of dialogue in several voices, where music and choreography help us to reflect and pray. A representative of yours has just said on your behalf that the answer to the questions of your life "is blowing in the wind". It is true! But not in the wind which blows everything away in empty whirls, but the wind which is the breath and voice of the Spirit, a voice that calls and says: "come!" (cf. Jn Jn 3,8 Ap 22,17).

You asked me: How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? I answer you: one! There is only one road for man and it is Christ, who said: "I am the way" (Jn 14,6). He is the road of truth, the way of life.

I therefore say to you: at the crossroads where the many paths of your days intersect, question yourselves about the truth value of every choice you make. It can sometimes happen that the decision is difficult or hard, and that there is an insistent temptation to give in. This had happened to Jesusí disciples, for the world is full of easy and inviting ways, downhill roads that plunge into the shadow of the valley where the horizon becomes more and more limited and stifling. Jesus offers you an uphill road, which is heavy going but lets the eye of the heart sweep over ever broader horizons. The choice is yours: to let yourselves slide downhill into the valley of a dull conformism, or to face the effort of climbing to the peak, where you can breathe the pure air of truth, goodness and love.

We meet here in Bologna a little more than a month after the great meeting in Paris, and the theme of that World Day is still echoing within us: "Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see". This is the invitation I also address to you: come and see where the Teacher lives. This Congress in Bologna tells us that he lives in the Eucharist.

3. I hope that you too, with Simon Peter and the other disciples, can meet Christ and ask him: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,67).

Yes, Jesus has the words of eternal life; everything is redeemed and renewed in him. With him it is truly possible to "sing a new song" (Ps 96,1) at this vigil before the great feast that we will end tomorrow with the celebration of the Eucharist, the culmination of the National Eucharistic Congress.

Now I would like to tell you something personal. With the passing of time, the most important and beautiful thing for me remains the fact that I have been a priest for more than 50 years, because every day I can celebrate Holy Mass! The Eucharist is the secret of my day. It gives strength and meaning to all my activities of service to the Church and to the whole world.

In a short time, when it is the dead of night, the music and singing will give way to silent adoration of the Eucharist. The music and singing will be replaced with silence and prayer. Our eyes and hearts will be fixed on the Eucharist.

Let Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament speak to your hearts. It is he who is the true answer of life that you seek.

He stays here with us: he is God with us. Seek him without tiring, welcome him without reserve, love him without interruption: today, tomorrow, for ever!

Finally, I must tell you that during this vigil I have thought of all the riches that exist in the world, especially those in man: the voices, the insights, the answers, the sensitivity and many, many other talents. We must be deeply grateful for all these talents. And this gratitude means precisely the Eucharist. By giving thanks for the good things of this world, by giving thanks for all these riches, by giving thanks for all these talents, we make ourselves better able to multiply all these talents, just like the good servant in the Gospel. Good night. Praised be Jesus Christ!

I offer you all my affectionate greetings and my Blessing.

Before leaving at the end of the meeting, the Holy Father spoke extemporaneously.

So, before going, I would like to finish what I said earlier. I told you that we need the Eucharist because we need to be grateful for all these goods, for all this riches, for all these talents. A great thanksgiving is necessary. But this thanksgiving must be made through the sacrifice of the Cross; it must be made through the bloody death of Christ. If there were no death, there would be no Resurrection either, nor would there be the paschal mystery. "Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando; dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus". You all know Latin well. But some of the more learned priests will translate it for you. I wanted to tell you this to round out your vision of what the Eucharist means. Thank you for this meeting.





(SEPTEMBER 27-28, 1997)



Sunday, 28 September 1997

Dear Sisters,

1. With great joy I offer my affectionate greetings to all of you who are gathered in this magnificent cathedral of Bologna and, through you, I would like to address the cloistered women religious in the monasteries of Italy who are spiritually united with the celebrations of the National Eucharistic Congress. I greet dear Cardinal Eduardo MartŪnez Somalo, who celebrated Holy Mass for you this morning; with him, I also greet dear Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, together with all the Bishops and priests present.

The Eucharistic Congress taking place in Bologna at the moment is an extraordinary spiritual event involving the entire People of God. It particularly concerns you, whose contemplative vocation is found in the very heart of the Church. Indeed, your mission is to nourish and support the Churchís pastoral activity with the precious contribution of contemplation, prayer and sacrifice, which you continually offer in your monasteries whose silent presence gives the people of our time the beginnings of God's kingdom.

2. Like the Church, the monastic community is born of the Eucharist, nourished by the sacrament of the Lord's Body and Blood, and constantly oriented to it. Every day the liturgy invites you to contemplate, through the pierced side of Christ crucified, the mystery of the Fatherís eternal love, to witness to it then in your lives which are totally dedicated to God. To you Jesus reveals the mystery of his love so that you may cherish him, like Mary, in the fruitful silence of faith, becoming collaborators with her in the work of salvation.

Beloved sisters, your life, absorbed and preserved in the mystery of the Trinity, makes you sharers in the intimate dialogue of love which the Word ceaselessly carries on with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

Thus your daily "sacrificium laudis", united to the canticle of your lives as consecrated persons in your vocation to the cloister, already anticipates on this earth something of heavenís eternal liturgy. The contemplative, said Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, "must always be occupied with thanksgiving. While every one of her acts and movements, every one of her thoughts and aspirations root her more deeply in love, at the same time they are like an echo of the eternal Sanctus" (Writings, Retreat, 10, 1).

3. The Eucharist is the gift Christ gave to his Bride when he left this world to return to the Father. Dear sisters, the Christian community sees in your lives "a sign of the exclusive union of the Church as Bride with her Lord" (Vita consecrata VC 59). The nuptial mystery which pertains to the Church in her entirety (cf. Eph Ep 5,23-32) acquires a particular significance in vocations of special consecration, a significance which reaches its most eloquent expression in the consecrated woman: in fact, by her very nature she is a figure of the Church, virgin, bride and mother, who preserves intact the faith given to the Bridegroom, begetting individuals to new life in Baptism.

Precisely because she is dedicated to fully living the spousal mystery of exclusive union with Christ, in the cloistered woman religious "the Churchís heavenly mystery is fulfilled" (St Ambrose, De institutione virginis, 24, 255; PL 16, 325 C). The cloistered religious responds to the mystery of the "body given" and the "blood shed", which every Eucharist represents and renews, with the total sacrifice of herself, by her renunciation "not only of things, but also of "space, of contacts, of so many benefits of creation" (Vita consecrata VC 59). Enclosure is a special way of "being with the Lord", participating in his self-emptying in a form of radical poverty, by which God is chosen as "the one thing needful" (cf. Lk Lc 10,42), by loving him exclusively as the All of all things. In this way the dimensions of the monastery extend over immense horizons, because they are open to the love of God that embraces every creature.

Therefore enclosure is not only a means of immense value for achieving recollection, but a sublime way of participating in Christís paschal mystery. The vocation to the cloister is rooted in the Eucharistic mystery, encouraging your participation in Jesusí redemptive sacrifice for the salvation of all.

4. In the light of these truths, we see the close link between contemplation and mission. Through the exclusive union with God in charity, your consecration becomes mysteriously but really fruitful. This is your particular way of participating in the Churchís life, the irreplaceable contribution to her mission that makes you "the co-workers of God himself and the support of the weak and hesitant members of his ineffable Body" (St Clare of Assisi, "Third Letter to Agnes of Prague", 8; Fonti Francescane, 2886).

Your "way of life" makes visible to the people of our time the Churchís prayerful face and her heart entirely possessed by love for Christ and overflowing with gratitude to the Father. From every monastery prayers of praise and intercession are raised for the whole world, whose sufferings, expectations and hopes you are called to accept and to share.

Your contemplative vocation is also a joyful proclamation of Godís closeness, a proclamation that is all the more important for people today who need to rediscover the transcendence of God and, at the same time, his loving presence at the side every person, especially if poor or confused.

Your life, with its separation from the world expressed concretely and effectively, proclaims the primacy of God and is a constant reminder of the preeminence of contemplation over action, of the eternal over the transitory. Consequently it suggests, as an expression and anticipation of the goal towards which the ecclesial community is heading, the future recapitulation of all things in Christ.

5. A significant testimony that this is all true was given by the example of St Theresa of Lisieux, the first centenary of whose death we are commemorating this year and whom I will have the joy of proclaiming a doctor of the Church on 19 October next. Her short life, spent in hiddenness, continues to speak to us of the fascination of seeking God and of the beauty of giving oneself totally to his love.

In her ardent desire to co-operate in the work of Redemption, she wondered, as you know, what her specific mission in the Church would be. No choice fully satisfied her, until the day when, enlightened interiorly, she understood that the Church had a heart, and that this heart was burning with love: "In the heart of the Church, my mother", she then decided, "I will be love".

To fulfil this exceptional vocation to love it is essential not to let oneself be dazzled by worldly wisdom; only to the little ones, in fact, did the Father reveal his mysteries, entering their hearts, which according to a lovely expression of St Clare of Assisi are the "mansio et sedes", the "dwelling place and abode" of the divine Majesty (cf. "Third Letter to Agnes of Prague", 21-26; Fonti Francescane, 2892-2893).

Your cloistered communities, with their own rhythms of prayer and the practice of fraternal charity, where solitude is filled with the Lordís sweet presence and silence prepares the soul to listen to his inner promptings, are the place where you are formed every day by this loving knowledge of the Fatherís Word. I deeply hope that your life will be imbued with this constant striving for God, with a ceaseless Eucharistic offering that will transform your life into a total holocaust of love in union with Christ, for the worldís salvation.

6. Thank you, dear cloistered sisters, for the precious gift of your specific contribution to the Churchís life and, in particular, for the prayers with which you have accompanied this National Eucharistic Congress.

Thank you for your presence as contemplative women religious who keep the call to total love for Christ the Bridegroom alive in the heart of the Church. The Christian community is grateful to you for this witness.

By your life of union with the Lord, be eloquent signs of his love for all humanity. You will thus make the spiritual contribution of hope and joy to everyone, directing men to the meeting with Christ, our true peace.

I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your cloistered communities and to your contemplative sisters throughout Italy.

Speeches 1997