Speeches 2005-13 6



Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth Friday, 30 December 2005

Dear Friends,

I greet with deep affection all of you who work in this Centre named after St Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus and an example of great availability to the divine Teacher. I thank you for your warm family welcome, as well as for the courteous words your representative addressed to me on behalf of you all.

I greet Sr Chiara and the other Sisters, the doctors, the volunteers and each one of the families who find invaluable help here.

The service you carry out is inspired by the example of St Martha who took care of Jesus, who as a man had human needs: he was thirsty and hungry, he was weary after his journey, he needed a moment of rest, to be away from the crowds for awhile and from the city of Jerusalem. Like Martha, you too strive to serve Jesus in the people you meet.

My Visit acquires special significance because it is taking place in the Christmas season: in these days our gaze comes to rest on the Infant Jesus. In coming here, I find Jesus himself in the children for whom you lovingly care. They are the subject of your attention, just as the newborn Messiah in the Crib is the focus of Mary and Joseph's care.

In each one of them, as in the Bethlehem Grotto, Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts, asking us to make room in our lives for him. God is like that: he does not impose himself, he never uses force to enter, but asks, as a child does, to be welcomed. In a certain sense, God too presents himself in need of attention: he waits for us to open our hearts to him, to take care of him. And every time we turn lovingly to "one of these least brothers of mine", as the Lord said, it is he whom we are serving (cf. Mt 25,40).

Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Finding myself among you and noting your dedication to children and their parents, I would like to stress the fundamental vocation of the family to be the first and principal place where life is welcomed. The modern concept of family, partly in reaction to the past, gives great importance to conjugal love, emphasizing its subjective aspects of freedom of choice and feelings.

On the other hand, people are finding it harder to perceive and understand the value of the call to collaborate with God in procreating human life. Besides, contemporary societies, despite being equipped with so many means, do not always succeed in facilitating the mission of parents, either on the level of spiritual and moral motivations or on that of practical living conditions.

There is a great need, both from the cultural and the political and legislative viewpoints, to support the family, and initiatives such as your dispensary are more useful than ever in this regard. These realities are small but important, and, thanks be to God, the Church is rich in them and does not cease to put them at the service of all.

Dear brothers and sisters, before leaving you, I invite you to pray with me for all the families of Rome and the world, and especially for those in difficult conditions, particularly because they are obliged to live far from their country of origin.

Let us pray for the parents who do not succeed in guaranteeing their children what they need for their health, education and a dignified and serene life. Let us invoke the motherly protection of Mary for everyone: Ave Maria....

I now impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you and to your dear ones, as I wish you all a peaceful, prosperous New Year.


Dear Young Pueri Cantores,
Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet you on the occasion of your Congress in Rome. I thank your President for his warm words and appreciate the spirit in which your Federation carries out and intends to continue its mission in the Church at the service of the liturgy, offering in addition a message of peace and brotherhood to the whole world.

During the Christmas season, it is especially appropriate to praise the Lord in song and to express our joy to him, thereby following the example of the Virgin Mary, who was the first to give thanks to the Lord for the mystery of the Incarnation with her Magnificat, which the Church re-echoes from generation to generation.

Yes, we are rejoicing; a Saviour is born to us, he has come to set us free and to call us to enter into glory with him.

The Second Vatican Council did not fail to recall how deeply the Church appreciates the role of those who through their singing contribute to the beauty of the liturgy. For "Christ is present when the Church prays and sings", and we are united to the Church in Heaven (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 7-8).

You therefore have an important mission to help God's people pray with dignity, for sacred music is a "ministerial function" in the service of the Lord (ibid., n. 112).

Always remember that when "the Church prays, sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer him their spiritual homage and receive his grace more abundantly" (ibid., n. 33). I therefore thank you, young people, and I know that as well as the joy of singing, your commitment is also a demanding sacrifice. I thank the adults who have accompanied you and supervise you.

As I assure you of my prayers, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you and all the members of the Federation of Pueri Cantores.


Dear Friends,

I am particularly pleased to meet today with all of you who form the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State. It is a pleasant opportunity to become better acquainted with you and to express to you my sentiments of esteem and gratitude.

I greet first of all Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka, President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, as well as Mons. Giulio Viviani, your chaplain. I greet and thank Commander Camillo Cibin, Inspector General, who has expressed your common sentiments. I then extend my greeting to each one of you.

This visit is taking place on the last day of 2005, a truly special year for the Church. The illness, death and funeral celebrations of beloved Pope John Paul II, the period of the Vacant See, the Conclave and my election as Bishop of Rome are events that made an extraordinary impression on those who live here in the Vatican, as well as on the faithful throughout the world.

For you, as I well know, it has been an extremely busy period. You have carried out your work with dedication and a spirit of sacrifice, in accordance with the best traditions of the Gendarmerie Corps.

Thank you, dear friends, for all that you do with self-denial and faithfulness every day, together with the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps, to serve the Pope and his collaborators, helping to guarantee to Vatican City serenity and order, welcoming the pilgrims who come to visit the tombs of the Apostles or to meet the Successor of Peter, and seeking to solve any problems that may arise on every occasion, especially during liturgical celebrations, at audiences in the Vatican and during the Apostolic Visits of the Pope in Rome and elsewhere in the world.

Yours is a delicate and ever more necessary activity, which requires dedication, prudence and great availability. Thank you for your service!

Dear Gendarmes, in presenting the Birth of the Redeemer, the liturgy of this Christmas season points out to us the shepherds who, while they kept vigilant watch over their flocks, welcomed the proclamation of the Angels and hastened to adore him in the Bethlehem Grotto.

We are all invited to seek and contemplate, like them, the Saviour who became man for us and for our salvation. On the alert and ever ready for action: these are the spiritual attitudes that also fittingly apply to your work, which involves you by day and by night.

May you also always be vigilant in the purely spiritual context. Jesus addresses this exhortation to all his disciples so that, without letting themselves be attracted by the various enticements of the world, they may walk without flagging on the path of the Gospel and never lose the precious gift of the faith.

For this reason it is indispensable to pray always, preserving interior union with the Lord. He alone gives meaning and value to our existence. May he, therefore, support you at every moment and repay you for the sacrifices your service entails.

In a few hours a New Year will begin, which I hope will be serene and rich in blessings for each one of you and for your families. I assure you of my prayers for this and warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you, entrusting to the Lord all the Gendarmes in active service and those who have retired, your relatives and your loved ones.

Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and of St Michael the Archangel, your Patron, may the Baby Jesus, whom we contemplate in the Crib, grant you a New Year illumined by his joy and his love.

Thank you! May your work go well. Happy New Year!

7                                                              January 2006


Dear Friends,

Our meeting is taking place in the evocative atmosphere of the Christmas season at the beginning of 2006, and it is a particularly favourable opportunity for me to offer each one of you my best wishes for a serene and fruitful New Year. I warmly greet you and I am pleased to receive you at this special Audience.

I can say that you are at home here and I am sincerely grateful for the prestigious service you carry out, making many sacrifices, since you are constantly required to be available at Audiences, ceremonies and official receptions, whenever the Pope meets Heads of State, Prime Ministers and Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.

I wanted to hold this meeting with you in order to tell you how much I appreciate the concern and cordiality with which you carry out your special role. In these first months of my Pontificate I have been able to experience even more closely and directly the spirit that motivates you and all those who work in the Papal Antechamber.

Moreover, I know of your devotion to the Successor of Peter, for which I also thank you. May God reward you for it.

I would like to address a special greeting to your wives who have kindly accompanied you today as well as to all those who have desired to be present at our meeting, which we could well describe as a family gathering.

Your praiseworthy College, coordinated by the Dean, is dependent on the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household and has centuries of history behind it. Times change and customs and traditions evolve, but the spirit with which each College member is called to work beside the one whom divine Providence calls to govern the universal Church remains the same.

Since this house, the Pontifical Household, is home to all believers, it is also your duty, dear Personnel of the Antechamber, always to make it welcoming to everyone who comes to meet the Pope.

Dear friends, your service also entails a diligent commitment to witness to the One who is the true Lord and Master of the house: Jesus Christ. This requires you to continue an ongoing dialogue with him in prayer, which is increased by friendship with and closeness to him and the constant readiness to witness to his welcoming love to everyone you meet.

If this is the spirit in which you carry out your tasks - and I am sure that this is the case for all of you - then they can become a special apostolate and an opportunity to communicate with courtesy and cordiality the joy of being Christ's disciples in every situation and at every moment of our lives.

Tomorrow, we will be celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany and my thoughts go to Mary, who presented the Child Jesus to the Magi who had come from afar to worship him. Just as the Virgin presented Jesus to the Magi, so she continues to offer him to humanity.

Let us welcome him from her hands: Christ fulfils the deepest expectations of our hearts and gives full meaning to all our projects and acts. May he be present in families and reign everywhere with the power of his love.

And may Mary's motherly intercession obtain that you increasingly experience profound communion with him every day, a communion that begins on earth and will reach its fullness in heaven, where we will be, as St Paul recalls, "fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God" (Ep 2,19).

For my part, I would like to assure you of my remembrance in prayer that the Lord may accompany you throughout the year that has just begun, bless your families and make your activities fruitful with good. With these sentiments, I wholeheartedly impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all your loved ones.


Thursday, 5 January 2006

Mr Mayor, Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

To find the right words, I had an Address prepared because to speak well at this moment is not so easy, even if the heart is full of joy. Therefore, allow me to read this Discourse, but I do so with all my heart.

Every year, as long as he could, the venerable Pontiff John Paul II came to admire this Crib of yours. Continuing this beautiful tradition, I have also gladly come here this evening, with great joy, to meet you and to visit the Crib you have also set up this year. I know that you were very eager for the Pope not to miss this traditional Christmas event, but I must tell you that I have likewise been looking forward to it.

Indeed, I wanted to thank you in person for the work you carry out, dear ecological workers, ensuring cleanliness and order in the vast area that surrounds St Peter's Square, which so many pilgrims and tourists visit.

And this cleanness and order are not only something external. They are the expression of a spirit, a mindset, which reveals inner beauty; the beauty which we pursue and which makes our city, the capital of the world in many senses, so hospitable.

Your service - the President mentioned the gestures of charity that you make, and these are very important - demands dedication and entails many sacrifices. I therefore thank you with all my heart! I greet you with affection and through you, I would like to greet all your colleagues.

I address a special thought to the Mayor of Rome and to the other Authorities, the directors, those in charge of the Azienda Municipale Ambiente (AMA) [Municipal Environmental Agency] and everyone who has wished to be present. My heartfelt thanks then go to those who have expressed your common sentiments.

One reason for our meeting is the visit to your Crib, the "Street-Cleaners' Crib", the best-known Crib in Rome, whose history dates back more than 30 years, since it was conceived and built for the first time for Christmas 1972 with the enthusiastic collaboration of many ecological workers. I know that it is enriched from year to year with new elements, but remains faithful to the style typical of the houses of Palestine in Jesus' time.

It is truly impressive, with 95 houses built entirely of tufa and equipped with doors and windows in the style of the period. It has plenty of rivers, streams, aqueducts, lights and streets paved with cobblestones.

In short, it is a vast rural scene peopled with about 200 figures, a tableau built with material from every part of the world and in particular, from St Peter's Colonnade, Bethlehem and San Giovanni Rotondo.I am impressed, and I congratulate all those who have toiled patiently to bring such a well-built project to completion.

The visit to the Crib, especially this evening on the eve of the Solemnity of the Epiphany, is like returning on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, to the holy Grotto where the Redeemer was born, and to Jerusalem, where the Wise Men arrived from the East and met Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
The mystery of salvation

Pausing to contemplate this Gospel scene becomes an incentive to meditate upon the central mystery of our salvation: God became a man for our sake; we can welcome him into our hearts and feel the joy of his sanctifying presence.

It is not enough, however, to stop and look, we must do far more! Jesus must become the centre of our whole existence. Yes, it is important that he be the guide of our daily journey and the ultimate and definitive destination of our earthly pilgrimage.

As I express to you and your families my cordial good wishes for 2006 that has just begun, I would like to borrow St Augustine's beautiful sentence, which I chose for Christmas this year: "Expergiscere, homo: quia pro te Deus factus est homo - Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man" (Message Urbi et Orbi, Christmas 2005, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 4 January 2006, p. 1).

Dear friends, the Lord wants us to be vigilant and attentive without letting ourselves be duped by the false appeals of all that is fleeting and short-lived. May it be like this for all of you, dear friends, and may the Lord grant you a serene and fruitful New Year.

I accompany this hope with the assurance of my prayers for you and for your loved ones, while I warmly bless you all.

Let us pray the "Our Father" together, and I will then impart my Blessing to you.


Dear Friends,

At the beginning of this new year I welcome you, the leaders of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, on the occasion of your visit to the Vatican. I recall with gratitude the presence of Delegations from the World Alliance both at the funeral of my predecessor Pope John Paul II and at the inauguration of my own papal ministry. In these signs of mutual respect and friendship I am pleased to see a providential fruit of the fraternal dialogue and cooperation undertaken in the past four decades, and a token of sure hope for the future.

This past month, in fact, marked the fortieth anniversary of the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, which saw the promulgation of the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio. The Catholic-Reformed Dialogue, which came into existence shortly thereafter, has made an important contribution to the demanding work of theological reflection and historical investigation indispensable for surmounting the tragic divisions which arose among Christians in the sixteenth century. One of the results of the Dialogue has been to show significant areas of convergence between the Reformed understanding of the Church as Creatura Verbi and the Catholic understanding of the Church as the primordial Sacrament of God’s outpouring of grace in Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1). It is an encouraging sign that the current phase of dialogue continues to explore the richness and complementarity of these approaches.

The Decree on Ecumenism affirmed that "there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion" (No. 7). At the very beginning of my Pontificate I voiced my own conviction that "inner conversion is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress" (Homily in the Sistine Chapel, 20 April 2005), and recalled the example of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who often spoke of the need for a "purification of memory" as a means of opening our hearts to receive the full truth of Christ. The late Pope, especially on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, gave a powerful impulse to this endeavour in the Catholic Church, and I am pleased to learn that several of the Reformed Churches which are members of the World Alliance have undertaken similar initiatives. Gestures such as these are the building-blocks of a deeper relationship which must be nurtured in truth and love.

Dear friends, I pray that our meeting today will itself bear fruit in a renewed commitment to work for the unity of all Christians. The way before us calls for wisdom, humility, patient study and exchange. May we set out with renewed confidence, in obedience to the Gospel and with our hope firmly grounded in Christ’s prayer for his Church, in the love of the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 24).

TO THE VATICAN GENTLEMEN-IN-WAITING Clementine Hall Saturday, 7 January 2006

Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you this morning at a special Audience and I greet you with deep cordiality. This is a favourable occasion to become better acquainted with you and to express my gratitude for the service you render to the Successor of Peter. I see you at ceremonies and official receptions, when I meet Heads of State, Prime Ministers, Ambassadors and other Authorities. I am deeply grateful to you for your collaboration!

Today, you have not accompanied important political figures but your kind consorts, as to a family reunion. I am also pleased to welcome them and to greet them with fatherly affection.

Your service, dear Gentlemen-in-waiting, is a courtly service that belongs to the age-old tradition of the Pontifical Household. Today, of course, everything in it has been greatly simplified, but although functions and roles are different compared with those of the past, the purpose of all who work in it has remained the same: to serve the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

We are meeting at the end of the Christmas season and at the beginning of the New Year. In this period we have kept our gaze fixed on the Saviour who came down to earth. It is he, in the disarming simplicity of Holy Night, who brought us the riches of communion with his own divine life.

He is the light that is never extinguished, the centre of our existence, and after pausing in prayer before the Crib, like the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Magi who came from the East to worship him, we set out anew on our daily routine, bearing in our hearts the joy of having experienced his presence.

Wrapped in this great mystery, let us start the New Year with serenity and trust, under the sign of God's life-giving love.

In this perspective, dear friends, I am pleased to wish you a prosperous 2006. In the Church, every task is important, when people cooperate in the realization of the Kingdom of God.

To continue safely on her voyage, the Barque of Peter is in need of many inconspicuous services that help her, together with others that are more visible, to navigate smoothly. It is indispensable never to lose sight of the common scope, that is, dedication to Christ and to his work of salvation.

I entrust you and your families to Mary, Mother of the Saviour, so that she will accompany and support you at every moment of your existence, while I hope that you will increasingly experience the joy of Christ's presence in your lives.

And I gladly bless you all, assuring you of my special remembrance in prayer.


Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

With joy I welcome you all to this traditional meeting between the Pope and the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. After our celebration of the great Christian feasts of Christmas and Epiphany, the Church continues to draw life from the joy that they bring: that joy is great, because it arises from the presence of Emmanuel - God with us - but it is also quiet, since it is experienced within the domestic setting of the Holy Family, whose simple and exemplary story the Church relives intimately at this time. Yet it is also a joy that needs to be communicated, because true joy cannot be isolated without becoming attenuated and stifled. So to all of you, Ambassadors, and to the peoples and Governments that you worthily represent, to your beloved families and to your colleagues, I wish Christian joy. May it be the joy of universal brotherhood brought by Christ, a joy that is rich in truthful values and is openly and generously shared; may it remain with you and grow every day of the year that has just begun.

Your Dean, Excellencies, has conveyed the greetings and good wishes of the Diplomatic Corps, finely expressing your sentiments. To him and to you I offer thanks. He also mentioned some of the many grave problems that afflict today’s world. They are of concern to you as also to the Holy See and the Catholic Church throughout the world, which is in solidarity with every form of suffering, with every hope and with every effort that accompanies human history. Hence we feel united as in a common mission, which confronts us with ever new and formidable challenges. Yet we address them with confidence, eager to support one another - each according to his proper responsibility - on our path towards great common objectives.

I spoke of “our common mission”. And what is this, if not the mission of peace? The Church’s task is none other than to spread the message of Christ, who came, as Saint Paul writes in the Letter to the Ephesians, to proclaim peace to those who are far away and to those who are near (cf. 2:17). And you, esteemed Diplomatic Representatives of your peoples, according to your statutes (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations)you have this among your noble goals: to promote friendly international relations. On this foundation, true peace can develop.

Peace, alas, is hindered or damaged or threatened in many parts of the world. What is the way that leads to peace? In the Message that I delivered for the celebration of this year’s World Day of Peace, I said: “wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace” (no. 3). In truth, peace.

In today’s world, alongside appalling scenes of military conflict, open or latent, or only apparently resolved, one can observe, thank God, a courageous and tenacious effort on the part of many people and institutions in support of peace. Reflecting upon this situation, I would like to offer some thoughts by way of fraternal encouragement, which I will set out in a few simple points.

The first: commitment to truth is the soul of justice.Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy. The lie often parades itself as truth, but in reality it is always selective and tendentious, selfishly designed to manipulate people, and finally subject them. Political systems of the past, but not only the past, offer a bitter illustration of this. Set against this, there is truth and truthfulness, which lead to encounter with the other, to recognition and understanding: through the splendour which distinguishes it - the splendor veritatis - truth cannot fail to spread; and the love of truth is intrinsically directed towards just and impartial understanding and rapprochement, whatever difficulties there may be.

Your experience as diplomats can only confirm that, in international relations too, by seeking the truth one can identify the most subtle nuances of diversity, and the demands to which they give rise, and therefore also the limits to be respected and not overstepped, in protecting every legitimate interest. This search for truth leads you at the same time to assert vigorously what there is in common, pertaining to the very nature of persons, of all peoples and cultures, and this must be equally respected. And when these aspects of diversity and equality - distinct but complementary - are known and recognized, then problems can be resolved and disagreements settled according to justice, and profound and lasting understandings are possible. On the other hand, when one of them is misinterpreted or not given its due importance, it is then that misunderstanding arises, together with conflict, and the temptation to use overpowering violence.

There seems to me to be an almost paradigmatic illustration of these considerations at that nerve point of the world scene, which is the Holy Land. There, the State of Israel has to be able to exist peacefully in conformity with the norms of international law; there, equally, the Palestinian people has to be able to develop serenely its own democratic institutions for a free and prosperous future.

The same considerations take on a wider application in today’s global context, in which attention has rightly been drawn to the danger of a clash of civilizations. The danger is made more acute by organized terrorism, which has already spread over the whole planet. Its causes are many and complex, not least those to do with political ideology, combined with aberrant religious ideas. Terrorism does not hesitate to strike defenceless people, without discrimination, or to impose inhuman blackmail, causing panic among entire populations, in order to force political leaders to support the designs of the terrorists. No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists’ own blindness and moral perversion.

The commitment to truth on the part of Diplomatic missions, at both bilateral and multilateral level, can offer an essential contribution towards reconciling the undeniable differences between peoples from different parts of the world and their cultures, not only in a tolerant coexistence, but according to a higher and richer design of humanity. In past centuries, cultural exchanges between Judaism and Hellenism, between the Roman world, the Germanic world and the Slav world, and also between the Arabic world and the European world, have enriched culture and have favoured sciences and civilizations. So it should be again today, and to an even greater extent, since the possibilities of exchange and mutual understanding are much more favourable. To this end, what is needed above all today is the removal of everything that impedes access to information, through the press and through modern information technology, and in addition, an increase in exchanges between scholars and students from the humanities faculties of universities in different cultural regions.

The second point which I would like to make is this: commitment to truth establishes and strengthens the right to freedom. Man’s unique grandeur is ultimately based on his capacity to know the truth. And human beings desire to know the truth. Yet truth can only be attained in freedom. This is the case with all truth, as is clear from the history of science; but it is eminently the case with those truths in which man himself, man as such, is at stake, the truths of the spirit, the truths about good and evil, about the great goals and horizons of life, about our relationship with God. These truths cannot be attained without profound consequences for the way we live our lives. And once freely appropriated, they demand in turn an ample sphere of freedom if they are to be lived out in a way befitting every dimension of human life.

This is where the activity of every State, and diplomatic activity between States, comes naturally into play. In the development of international law today, it is becoming increasingly clear that no Government can feel free to neglect its duty to ensure suitable conditions of freedom for its own citizens without thereby damaging its credibility to speak out on international problems. And rightly so: for in safeguarding the rights belonging to the person as such, rights which are internationally guaranteed, one must naturally give primary importance to ensuring the rights of freedom within individual States, in public and private life, in economic and political relations, and in the cultural and religious spheres.

In this regard, you yourselves are well aware that by its very nature the Holy See’s diplomatic activity is concerned with promoting, among other forms of freedom, the aspect of freedom of religion. Unfortunately, in some States, even among those who can boast centuries-old cultural traditions, freedom of religion, far from being guaranteed, is seriously violated, especially where minorities are concerned. Here I would simply recall what has been laid down with great clarity in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Fundamental human rights are the same on every latitude; and among them, pride of place must be given to the right to freedom of religion, since it involves the most important of human relationships: our relationship with God. To all those responsible for the life of Nations I wish to state: if you do not fear truth, you need not fear freedom! The Holy See, in calling for true freedom for the Catholic Church everywhere, also calls for that freedom for everyone.

I come now to a third point: commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation. This necessary link between peace and the commitment to truth has given rise to an objection: differing convictions about the truth cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them. In the course of history these differences have caused violent clashes, social and political conflicts, and even wars of religion. This is undeniably true, but in every case it was the result of a series of concomitant causes which had little or nothing to do with truth or religion, and always, for that matter, because means were employed which were incompatible with sincere commitment to truth or with the respect for freedom demanded by truth. Where the Catholic Church herself is concerned, in so far as serious mistakes were made in the past by some of her members and by her institutions, she condemns those mistakes and she has not hesitated to ask for forgiveness. This is required by the commitment to truth.

Asking for forgiveness, and granting forgiveness, which is likewise an obligation – since everyone is included in the Lord’s admonition: let him or her who is without sin cast the first stone! (cf. Jn 8,7) – are indispensable elements for peace. In this way our memory is purified, our hearts are made serene, and our gaze is clearly fixed on what the truth demands if we are to cultivate thoughts of peace. Here I would recall the illuminating words of John Paul II: “There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness” (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace). I repeat these words, humbly and with deep love, to the leaders of nations, especially those where the physical and moral wounds of conflicts are most painful, and the need for peace most urgent. One thinks immediately of the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who had a message of peace and forgiveness for all; one thinks of Lebanon, whose people must rediscover, with the support of international solidarity, their historic vocation to promote sincere and fruitful cooperation between different faith communities; and of the whole Middle East, especially Iraq, the cradle of great civilizations, which in these past years has suffered daily from violent acts of terrorism. One thinks of Africa, particularly the countries of the Great Lakes region, still affected by the tragic consequences of the fratricidal wars of recent years; of the defenceless people of Darfur, subjected to deplorable violence, with dangerous international repercussions; and of so many other countries throughout the world which are the theatre of violent conflict.

Surely one of the great goals of diplomacy must be that of leading all parties in conflict to understand that, if they are committed to truth, they must acknowledge errors – and not merely the errors of others – nor can they refuse to open themselves to forgiveness, both requested and granted. Commitment to truth – which is certainly close to their hearts – summons them, through forgiveness, to peace. Bloodshed does not cry out for revenge but begs for respect for life, for peace! May the Peacebuilding Commission recently established by the United Nations Organization respond effectively to this basic demand of mankind, with the willing cooperation of all concerned.

And now, Your Excellencies, I would like to make a final point: commitment to peace opens up new hopes. This is, in some sense, the logical conclusion of everything that I have been saying. Man is capable of knowing the truth! He has this capacity with regard to the great problems of being and acting: individually and as a member of society, whether of a single nation or of humanity as a whole. The peace, to which he can and must be committed, is not merely the silence of arms; it is, much more, a peace which can encourage new energies within international relations which in turn become a means of maintaining peace. But this will be the case only if they correspond to the truth about man and his dignity. Consequently one cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity. Here my thoughts turn to the limitless multitudes who are suffering from starvation. They cannot be said to be living in peace, even though they are not in a state of war: indeed they are defenceless victims of war. Immediately there come to mind distressing images of huge camps throughout the world of displaced persons and refugees, who are living in makeshift conditions in order to escape a worse fate, yet are still in dire need. Are these human beings not our brothers and sisters? Do their children not come into the world with the same legitimate expectations of happiness as other children? One thinks also of all those who are driven by unworthy living conditions to emigrate far from home and family in the hope of a more humane life. Nor can we overlook the scourge of human trafficking, which remains a disgrace in our time.

Faced with these “humanitarian emergencies” and other human tragedies, many people of good will, along with different international institutions and non-governmental organizations, have in fact responded. But a greater effort is needed from the entire diplomatic community in order to determine in truth, and to overcome with courage and generosity, the obstacles still standing in the way of effective, humane solutions. And truth demands that none of the prosperous States renounce its own responsibility and duty to provide help through drawing more generously upon its own resources. On the basis of available statistical data, it can be said that less than half of the immense sums spent worldwide on armaments would be more than sufficient to liberate the immense masses of the poor from destitution. This challenges humanity’s conscience. To peoples living below the poverty line, more as a result of situations to do with international political, commercial and cultural relations than as a result of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, our common commitment to truth can and must give new hope.

Your Excellencies!

In the Birth of Christ, the Church sees the Psalmist’s prophecy fulfilled: “mercy and faithfulness will meet; justice and peace will embrace; truth will spring up from the earth and justice will look down from heaven” (Ps 85,10-11). In his commentary on these inspired words, the great Church Father Augustine, expressing the faith of the whole Church, exclaimed: “Truth has indeed sprung up from the earth: Christ, who said of himself: ‘I am the Truth’, has been born of the Virgin” (Sermo 185).

The Church always draws life from this truth, but at this stage in the liturgical year she finds it a source of special light and joy. And in the light of this truth, may these words of mine stand for you, who represent most of the world’s nations, as an expression of conviction and hope: in truth, peace!

In this spirit, I offer to all of you my heartfelt best wishes for a happy New Year!


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to receive you for the traditional exchange of good wishes at the beginning of this New Year, which is also the first year of my ministry as Bishop of Rome and universal Pastor of the Church. Indeed, it is a favourable opportunity to confirm and strengthen those links, developed and consolidated over two millennia of history, forged between the Successor of Peter and the City of Rome, its Province and the Lazio Region.

I offer my cordial and respectful greeting to the President of the Regional Board of Lazio, Hon. Mr Pietro Marrazzo, to the Mayor of Rome, Hon. Mr Walter Veltroni, and to the President of the Province of Rome, Hon. Mr Enrico Gasbarra. I thank them for their kind words, also on behalf of the Boards they head. With them, I greet the Presidents of the respective Council Assemblies and all of you who are gathered here.

First of all, I feel the need to express through you my affection and pastoral concern for all the citizens and inhabitants of Rome and Lazio. I do so with the words of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, on the occasion of his Visit to the Town Hall on the Capitoline Hill on 15 January 1998:

"The Lord has entrusted you, Rome, with the task of being prima inter Urbes in the world, a beacon of civilization and faith. Live up to your glorious past, to the Gospel proclaimed to you by the martyrs and saints who made your name great. Open the riches of your heart, Rome, and your millennial history to Christ. Do not be afraid; he does not stifle your freedom and your greatness. He loves you and wants to make you worthy of your civil and religious vocation, so that you will continue to bestow the treasures of faith, culture and humanity on your children and on the people of our time" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], n. 5, 28 January 1998, p. 6).

During the months of John Paul II's illness followed by his death, the Population of Rome and Lazio showed the intensity of their loving response to the Pope's love in an extraordinary and touching way.

On this occasion, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to you, distinguished Authorities, and to the Institutions you represent, for your important contribution to welcoming the millions of people who came to Rome from every part of the world to pay their last tribute to the late Pontiff and later, for my election to the See of Peter.

During those days, Rome and Lazio, like the rest of Italy and all humanity, truly lived a profound spiritual experience of faith and prayer, of brotherhood and the rediscovery of the goods that make our life dignified and rich in meaning. Nor can such an experience remain barren in the context of the civil community, its tasks and its multiple responsibilities and relations.

I am thinking in particular of that highly sensitive area that is as crucial to the formation and happiness of people as to the future of society: the family.

For the past three years the Diocese of Rome has made the family the focus of its pastoral commitment, in order to help the family face the new causes of crises and challenges widespread in our cultural context by a clearer and more convinced awareness of its real nature and consequent duties.

Indeed, as I said last 6 June, speaking to the Convention the Diocese organized on these topics:
"Marriage and the family are not in fact a chance sociological construction, the product of particular historical and financial situations. On the contrary, the question of the right relationship between man and woman is rooted in the essential core of the human being and it is only by starting from here that its response can be found" (Address to Ecclesial Diocesan Convention, St John Lateran, 6 June 2005; ORE, 15 June, p. 6).

I therefore added: "Marriage as an institution is thus not an undue interference of society or of authority. The external imposition of form on the most private reality of life is instead an intrinsic requirement of the covenant of conjugal love" (ibid., p. 6).

Here, it is not a question of specific norms of Catholic morals but of elementary truths that concern our common humanity: respecting them is essential for the good of the person and of society. Consequently, they also call into question your responsibilities as public Administrators and your legal competences in two directions.

On the one hand, all measures that can sustain young couples in forming a family, and the family itself, in the procreation and education of children, are as expedient as ever: in this regard, problems such as the cost of housing, nurseries and kindergarten schools for the tiniest children immediately spring to mind.

On the other, it is a serious error to obscure the value and roles of the legitimate family founded on marriage by attributing legal recognition to other improper forms of union for which there is really no effective social need.

The protection of unborn human life likewise requires attention: care must be taken that pregnant women in difficult conditions do not lack material help, and that drugs which in some way conceal the gravity of abortion are not introduced as an anti-life choice.

Then, in a society that is ageing, assistance to the elderly and the whole range of problems that concern the health care of citizens is becoming increasingly important. I would like to encourage you in the efforts you are making in these areas and to stress that in the health sector, the continuing scientific and technological developments as well as the commitment to containing costs must be promoted, keeping firmly to the superior principle of the centrality of the patient.

The many cases of suffering and of mental illness deserve special attention. This is partly in order not to leave without adequate help those families which often find they have to cope with very difficult situations.

I am pleased at the development in recent years of various forms of collaboration among the public Administrative Boards of Rome, the Province and the Region, and the ecclesial volunteer organizations, in the work aimed at alleviating both old and new forms of poverty, which unfortunately afflict a large part of the population and many immigrants in particular.

Distinguished Authorities, I assure you of my closeness and daily prayer, for you yourselves and for the exercise of your lofty responsibilities. May the Lord illumine your good resolutions and give you the determination to bring them to fruition.

With these sentiments, I warmly impart to each one of you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your families and to all who live and work in Rome, in the Province of Rome and throughout Lazio.

TO MEMBERS OF THE NEOCATECHUMENAL WAY Paul VI Audience Hall Thursday, 12 January 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I warmly thank you for your visit, which gives me the opportunity to send a special greeting also to the other members of the Neocatechumenal Way scattered in so many parts of the world. I address my thoughts to each one present, starting with the venerable Cardinals, Bishops and priests. I greet those in charge of the Neocatechumenal Way: Mr Kiko Argüello, whom I thank for his words on your behalf, Ms Carmen Hernández and Fr Mario Pezzi. I greet the seminarians, the young people and especially the families that are preparing to receive a special missionary "mandate" to go to various nations, especially in Latin America.

This is a task that fits into the context of the new evangelization in which the family plays a role more important than ever. You have asked that the Successor of Peter confer this mandate as my venerable Predecessor John Paul II did in the past, on 12 December 1994, because you intend your apostolic action to take place in the heart of the Church, in total harmony with her directives and in communion with the particular Churches in which you are going to work, making the most of the riches of the charisms that the Lord has awakened through the Founders of the Way.

Dear families, the crucifix you will receive will be your inseparable travelling companion while you proclaim with your missionary action that only in Jesus Christ, who died and was raised, is there salvation. You will be his docile and joyful witnesses, walking the highways of every continent in simplicity and poverty, sustained by ceaseless prayer and listening to the Word of God and nourished by participation in the liturgical life of the particular Churches to which you are sent.

The importance in evangelization of the liturgy, and in particular of Holy Mass, has often been stressed by my Predecessors, and your long experience can certainly confirm that the centrality of the mystery of Christ celebrated in the liturgical rites is a privileged and indispensable way to build living and persevering Christian communities.

Precisely to help the Neocatechumenal Way to render even more effective its evangelizing action in communion with all the People of God, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments recently imparted to you in my name certain norms concerning the Eucharistic Celebration, after the trial period that the Servant of God John Paul II conceded. I am sure you will attentively observe these norms that reflect what is provided for in the liturgical books approved by the Church.

By faithfully keeping to every Church directive, you will make your apostolate even more effective, in tune and in full communion with the Pope and the Pastors of every Diocese. And in so doing, the Lord will continue to bless you with abundant pastoral fruits.

In fact, you have been able to do a great deal in these years and numerous vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life have been born in your communities.

Today, however, our attention is addressed particularly to families. More than 200 of them are about to be sent out on mission; these are families who leave without much human support but who are counting first and foremost on the support of divine Providence.

Dear families, you can witness with your history that the Lord does not abandon those who entrust themselves to him. Continue to spread the Gospel of life. Wherever your mission leads you, let yourselves be illumined by the comforting words of Jesus: "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides", and again, "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

Sufficient for a day is its own evil" (Mt 6,33-34). In a world that seeks human certainties and earthly reassurance, show that Christ is the firm rock on which to construct the building of your own existence and that trust placed in him is never in vain.

May the Holy Family of Nazareth protect you and be your model. I assure you of my prayer for you and for all the members of the Neocatechumenal Way, while I affectionately impart to each one the Apostolic Blessing.

TO PONTIFICAL GESTATORIAL CHAIR BEARERS Consistory Hall Friday, 13 January 2006

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to receive you and I address to each one my cordial greeting, which I extend to your kind consorts, together with my best wishes for every good for the year that has just begun. I have the opportunity to see you almost every day as I carry out my ministry, especially when I receive important figures and groups.

Today, however, is a favourable opportunity to meet you all together, in a family atmosphere, to express to you my appreciation and gratitude for the contribution you make to the smooth functioning of Papal Audiences and celebrations.

Diligence, courtesy and discretion are the qualities that must distinguish you in your work, as you concretely express your love for the Church and your dedication to the Successor of Peter.

The office of the Pontifical Gestatorial Chair Bearers is an ancient one which has evolved down the centuries in various ways, linked to the customs and needs of the times, and it has been consolidated with the strengthening of the unique role of the Church of Rome and of her Bishop.

As the very title recalls, yours is a task that has always been linked to the Chair of Peter. Information about the College of Gestatorial Chair Bearers goes back to the 14th century. They were given various tasks, under the Prefect of the Sacred Apostolic Palaces or the Majordomo, tasks which, for the most part and in a different way, are still in existence today.

All this, dear friends, must bring you to see in your work, over and above its transitory and temporary aspects, the value of the connection with the Chair of Peter. Your work, therefore, fits into a context where everything must speak to everyone of the Church of Christ, and must do so coherently, imitating the One who "did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mc 10,45).

Recent reforms introduced by my venerable Predecessors, especially Pope Paul VI, who had to implement the innovations of the Council, are seen in this perspective. The protocol was simplified in order to return to a greater moderation, more in tune with the Christian message and needs of the times.

My hope, dear friends, is that you can always be, in the Vatican as well as at home, in the parish and in every milieu, accommodating and attentive to your neighbour. This is a valuable lesson for your children and grandchildren, who will learn from your example that being at the service of the Holy See requires first of all a Christian mindset and lifestyle.

In the family atmosphere of our meeting, I would like to assure you of a special prayer for your intentions and for those of your loved ones, as I invoke upon you all the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy and of St Peter.

May the Lord help you always to carry out your work in a spirit of faith and sincere love for the Church. To you who are present here and to your loved ones, I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing.

TO THE VATICAN'S PUBLIC SECURITY FORCE Clementine Hall Saturday, 14 January 2006

Dear Prefect,
Dear Commissioner,
Dear Officer in Charge,
Dear Officers and Agents,

Your meeting with the Pope which takes place every year has become a beautiful tradition. Dear friends, your dedicated and professional service guarantees safety for pilgrims in St Peter's Square and in the area surrounding the Vatican.

Today's meeting is also an appropriate opportunity to exchange cordial and fervent good wishes at the beginning of the New Year, which I hope will be serene and prosperous for everyone.
I have the joy of receiving you for the first time as Successor of the Apostle Peter, although I have had the opportunity in the past to meet you almost every day in the Square, or nearby, and was always able to see for myself how meritorious your difficult work is.

I therefore address my sincere welcome and greeting to each one of you with affection, and willingly extend it to your respective families and all your loved ones. In particular, I would like to greet your General Commissioner, Dr Vincenzo Caso, who has headed the Inspectorate for just a few months. I thank him for his courteous words on behalf of those present and all members of your special working community. I would also like to address a respectful greeting to Prefect Salvatore Festa.

You are guards of order and security: a task that requires technical and professional training combined with great patience, constant watchfulness, courtesy and a spirit of sacrifice.

All those who work in the various offices of the Holy See, the pilgrims and tourists who come to meet the Pope or to pray in St Peter's, know that they can count on your discreet and efficient assistance. You are silent and vigilant "guardian angels" for them, who keep watch day and night over the area.

How can we forget, for example, the tremendous effort made by your Inspectorate and by the Police, with the support of various elements of the Italian Army and other bodies during the demanding days of the sickness, death and funeral of beloved Pope John Paul II? You were equally efficient on the occasion of my election to the Chair of Peter.

I make the most of today's meeting to renew my warmest thanks and those of my collaborators to all who contributed on those historic occasions to keep everything running smoothly; the whole world was able to admire how efficiently you organized everything.

This leads us to consider how important it is to always work in harmony and with sincere cooperation on the part of all. Families, communities, various organizations, nations and the world itself would be all the better if, as in any healthy and well-structured body, each member were to carry out his or her specific task conscientiously and altruistically, however small or great it might be.

Dear friends, let us open our hearts to Christ and welcome with trust his Gospel, a precious rule of life for those in search of the true meaning of human existence. Let us ask the Virgin Mary for help so that, as a caring Mother, she may protect each one of you, your families and your work, and watch over Italy in the year 2006 that has just begun.

With these sentiments, I invoke upon you and upon your loved ones an abundance of heavenly gifts, as I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each one of you.
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