Speeches 2005-13 40605

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Diocese of Verona,

Thank you for your enthusiasm. Thank you for your joy, which is the expression and result of faith.
I am delighted to welcome you on your pilgrimage to the Tombs of the Apostles. I cordially greet you all, starting with your Bishop, whom I thank for expressing your common sentiments. I greet the priests, the men and women religious, the leaders of the ecclesial associations and movements, as well as the civil Authorities who wished to be present at this meeting.

At the end of the diocesan Synod, with today's pilgrimage to the Apostolic See, you desire to express the bonds of communion that bind the diocesan Community of Verona to the Church of Rome and to reaffirm your full adherence to the magisterium of the Successor of Peter, constituted by Christ, "Pastor of all the faithful", who is "to promote the common good of the universal Church and the particular good of all the Churches" (Decree Christus Dominus
CD 2).

You have come here to be strengthened in the faith and I, only recently called to this weighty task, am glad to greet, through you, such an ancient and illustrious Ecclesial Community as that of St Zeno, very venerated in my Country as well, and to encourage you to persevere in your commitment to Christian witness in the contemporary world.

Your Synod, which began three years ago, has reached its culmination in the Year of the Eucharist. This happy coincidence helps us to understand better that the Eucharist is the heart of the Church and of Christian life. "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" - "the Church draws her life from the Eucharist"- this is what the Servant of God John Paul II has left written for us in his last Encyclical. All the contexts of your Diocese must live on the Eucharist: from the families, small domestic churches, to every social and pastoral section of the parishes and of the territory.

At Bari last Sunday, at the end of the [Italian] National Eucharistic Congress, I wanted to recall that "Christ is truly present among us in the Eucharist. His presence is not static. It is a dynamic presence that grasps us, to make us his own, to make us assimilate him. Christ draws us to him, he makes us come out of ourselves to make us all one with him. In this way he also integrates us in the communities of brothers and sisters, and communion with the Lord is always also communion with our brothers and sisters" (Homily, Solemnity of Corpus Domini, Bari, 29 May 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 June 2005, p. 7).

It is true: our spiritual life essentially depends upon the Eucharist. Without it, faith and hope are extinguished and charity cools.

This is why, dear friends, I urge you to take better and better care of the quality of the Eucharistic celebrations, especially those on Sunday, so that Sunday may truly be the Lord's Day and confer fullness of meaning on everyday events and activities, demonstrating the joy and beauty of the faith.

The family was rightly one of the main themes of your Synod, as it has been in the pastoral guidelines of the Church in Italy and throughout the world. Indeed, in your Diocese, moreover, as elsewhere, divorce and de facto unions are on the increase, and this constitutes for Christians an urgent appeal to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel of Life and of the Family in its integrity.

The family is called to be an "intimate partnership of life and love" (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes GS 48), because it is founded on indissoluble marriage. Despite the difficulties and the social and cultural conditioning of this period of history, Christian spouses must not cease to be in their lives a sign of God's faithful love: may they collaborate actively with priests in the pastoral guidance of engaged couples, young married couples and families, and in bringing up the new generations.

Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: only in this inexhaustible source of love will you be able to find the necessary energy for your mission.

The Church was born from the Heart of the Redeemer, from his pierced side, and she is ceaselessly renewed in the sacraments.

May it be your concern to draw spiritual nourishment from prayer and an intense sacramental life; deepen your personal knowledge of Christ and strive with all your might for the "high standard of ordinary Christian living" which is what holiness is, as our beloved John Paul II used to say.

May Mary Most Holy, whose Immaculate Heart we are commemorating today, obtain as a gift for all the members of your Diocese total fidelity to Christ and to his Church. I entrust the post-synodal journey that awaits you to the intercession of the heavenly Mother of the Redeemer and to the support of the saints and blesseds of your region.

For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, as I affectionately impart a special Apostolic Blessing to your Bishop, to you and to your entire diocesan Community.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I very willingly accepted the invitation to introduce our Diocesan Convention with a Reflection, first of all because it gives me the chance to meet you, of having direct contact with you, and then too, because I can help you acquire a deeper understanding of the sense and purpose of the pastoral journey the Church of Rome is making.

I greet with affection each one of you, Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, and in particular you lay people and families who consciously take on those duties of responsibility and Christian witness that have their root in the sacrament of Baptism and, for those who are married, in the sacrament of Marriage. I cordially thank the Cardinal Vicar and the couple, Luca and Adriana Pasquale, for their words on behalf of you all.

This Convention and the guidelines it will provide for the pastoral year are a new stage on the journey begun by the Church of Rome, based on the Diocesan Synod, with the "City Mission", desired by our deeply loved Pope John Paul II in preparation for the Great Jubilee of 2000.

In that Mission all the components of our Diocese - parishes, religious communities, associations and movements - were mobilized, not only for a mission to the people of Rome, but to be themselves "a people of God in mission", putting into practice John Paul II's felicitous expression: "The parish must seek itself outside itself" and find itself, that is, in the places where the people live. So it was that during the City Mission thousands of Christians of Rome, mainly lay people, became missionaries and took the word of faith first to the families in the various districts of the city, and then to the different workplaces, hospitals, schools and universities, and the environments of culture and leisure time.

After the Holy Year, my beloved Predecessor asked you not to stop on this journey and not to lose the apostolic energies kindled or the fruits of grace gathered. Therefore, since 2001, the fundamental pastoral policy of the Diocese has been to give the mission a permanent form, and to impress a more decidedly missionary approach on the life and activities of the parishes and of every other ecclesial situation.

I want to tell you first of all that I fully intend to confirm this decision: indeed, it is proving to be more and more necessary. There are no alternatives to it in a social and cultural context in which many forces are working to distance us from the faith and from Christian life.

For two years now the missionary commitment of the Church of Rome has focused above all on the family. This is not only because today this fundamental human reality is subjected to a multitude of problems and threats and is therefore especially in need of evangelization and practical support, but also because Christian families constitute a crucial resource for education in the faith, for the edification of the Church as communion and for her ability to be a missionary presence in the most varied situations of life, as well as to act as a Christian leaven in the widespread culture and social structures.

We will also continue along these lines in the coming pastoral year, and so the theme of our Convention is "Family and Christian community: formation of the person and transmission of the faith".

The assumption from which it is necessary to set out, if we are to understand the family mission in the Christian community and its tasks of forming the person and transmitting the faith, is always that of the meaning of marriage and the family in the plan of God, Creator and Saviour. This will therefore be the focus of my Reflection this evening and I will refer to the teaching of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (Part II, nn. 12-16).

Marriage and the family are not in fact a chance sociological construction, the product of particular historical and financial situations. On the other hand, the question of the right relationship between the man and the 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.

In other words, it cannot be separated from the ancient but ever new human question: Who am I? What is a human being? And this question, in turn, cannot be separated from the question about God: Does God exist? Who is God? What is his face truly like?

The Bible gives one consequential answer to these two queries: the human being is created in the image of God, and God himself is love. It is therefore the vocation to love that makes the human person an authentic image of God: man and woman come to resemble God to the extent that they become loving people.

This fundamental connection between God and the person gives rise to another: the indissoluble connection between spirit and body: in fact, the human being is a soul that finds expression in a body and a body that is enlivened by an immortal spirit.

The body, therefore, both male and female, also has, as it were, a theological character: it is not merely a body; and what is biological in the human being is not merely biological but is the expression and the fulfilment of our humanity.

Likewise, human sexuality is not juxtaposed to our being as person but part of it. Only when sexuality is integrated within the person does it successfully acquire meaning.

Thus, these two links, between the human being with God and in the human being, of the body with the spirit, give rise to a third: the connection between the person and the institution.

Indeed, the totality of the person includes the dimension of time, and the person's "yes" is a step beyond the present moment: in its wholeness, the "yes" means "always", it creates the space for faithfulness. Only in this space can faith develop, which provides a future and enables children, the fruit of love, to believe in human beings and in their future in difficult times.

The freedom of the "yes", therefore, reveals itself to be freedom capable of assuming what is definitive: the greatest expression of freedom is not the search for pleasure without ever coming to a real decision; this apparent, permanent openness seems to be the realization of freedom, but it is not true. The true expression of freedom is the capacity to choose a definitive gift in which freedom, in being given, is fully rediscovered.

In practice, the personal and reciprocal "yes" of the man and the woman makes room for the future, for the authentic humanity of each of them. At the same time, it is an assent to the gift of a new life.

Therefore, this personal "yes" must also be a publicly responsible "yes", with which the spouses take on the public responsibility of fidelity, also guaranteeing the future of the community. None of us, in fact, belongs exclusively to himself or herself: one and all are therefore called to take on in their inmost depths their own public responsibility.

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 and of the depths of the human person.

Today, the various forms of the erosion of marriage, such as free unions and "trial marriage", and even pseudo-marriages between people of the same sex, are instead an expression of anarchic freedom that are wrongly made to pass as true human liberation. This pseudo-freedom is based on a trivialization of the body, which inevitably entails the trivialization of the person. Its premise is that the human being can do to himself or herself whatever he or she likes: thus, the body becomes a secondary thing that can be manipulated, from the human point of view, and used as one likes. Licentiousness, which passes for the discovery of the body and its value, is actually a dualism that makes the body despicable, placing it, so to speak, outside the person's authentic being and dignity.

The truth about marriage and the family, deeply rooted in the truth about the human being, has been actuated in the history of salvation, at whose heart lie the words: "God loves his people". The biblical revelation, in fact, is first and foremost the expression of a history of love, the history of God's Covenant with humankind.

Consequently, God could take the history of love and of the union of a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage as a symbol of salvation history. The inexpressible fact, the mystery of God's love for men and women, receives its linguistic form from the vocabulary of marriage and the family, both positive and negative: indeed, God's drawing close to his people is presented in the language of spousal love, whereas Israel's infidelity, its idolatry, is designated as adultery and prostitution.

In the New Testament God radicalizes his love to the point that he himself becomes, in his Son, flesh of our flesh, a true man. In this way, God's union with humankind acquired its supreme, irreversible form.

Thus, the blue-print of human love is also definitely set out, that reciprocal "yes" which cannot be revoked: it does not alienate men and women but sets them free from the different forms of alienation in history in order to restore them to the truth of creation.

The sacramental quality that marriage assumes in Christ, therefore, means that the gift of creation has been raised to the grace of redemption. Christ's grace is not an external addition to human nature, it does not do violence to men and women but sets them free and restores them, precisely by raising them above their own limitations. And just as the Incarnation of the Son of God reveals its true meaning in the Cross, so genuine human love is self-giving and cannot exist if it seeks to detach itself from the Cross.

Dear brothers and sisters, this profound link between God and the human being, between God's love and human love, is also confirmed in certain tendencies and negative developments that have weighed heavily on us all. In fact, the debasement of human love, the suppression of the authentic capacity for loving, is turning out in our time to be the most suitable and effective weapon to drive God away from men and women, to distance God from the human gaze and heart.

Similarly, the desire to "liberate" nature from God leads to losing sight of the reality of nature itself, including the nature of the human being, reducing it to a conglomeration of functions so as to have them available at will to build what is presumed to be a better world and presumed to be a happier humanity. Instead, the Creator's design is destroyed, and so is the truth of our nature.

Even in the begetting of children marriage reflects its divine model, God's love for man. In man and woman, fatherhood and motherhood, like the body and like love, cannot be limited to the biological: life is entirely given only when, by birth, love and meaning are also given, which make it possible to say yes to this life.

From this point it becomes clear how contrary to human love, to the profound vocation of the man and the woman, are the systematic closure of a union to the gift of life and even more, the suppression or manipulation of newborn life.

No man and no woman, however, alone and single-handed, can adequately transmit to children love and the meaning of life. Indeed, to be able to say to someone "your life is good, even though I may not know your future", requires an authority and credibility superior to what individuals can assume on their own.

Christians know that this authority is conferred upon that larger family which God, through his Son Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, created in the story of humanity, that is, upon the Church. Here they recognize the work of that eternal, indestructible love which guarantees permanent meaning to the life of each one of us, even if the future remains unknown.

For this reason, the edification of each individual Christian family fits into the context of the larger family of the Church, which supports it and carries it with her and guarantees that it has, and will also have in the future, the meaningful "yes" of the Creator. And the Church is reciprocally built up by the family, a "small domestic church", as the Second Vatican Council called it (Lumen Gentium LG 11 Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 11), rediscovering an ancient Patristic expression (cf. St John Chrysostom, In Genesim Serm. VI, 2; VII, 1).

In the same sense, Familiaris Consortio affirms that "Christian marriage... constitutes the natural setting in which the human person is introduced into the great family of the Church" (n. 15).

There is an obvious consequence to all this: the family and the Church - in practice, parishes and other forms of Ecclesial Community - are called to collaborate more closely in the fundamental task that consists, inseparably, in the formation of the person and the transmission of the faith.

We know well that for an authentic educational endeavour, communicating a correct theory or doctrine does not suffice. Something far greater and more human is needed: the daily experienced closeness that is proper to love, whose most propitious place is above all the family community, but also in a parish, movement or ecclesial association, in which there are people who care for their brothers and sisters because they love them in Christ, particularly children and young people, but also adults, the elderly, the sick and families themselves. The great Patron of educators, St John Bosco, reminded his spiritual sons that "education is something of the heart and that God alone is its master" (Epistolario, 4, 209).

The central figure in the work of educating, and especially in education in the faith, which is the summit of the person's formation and is his or her most appropriate horizon, is specifically the form of witness. This witness becomes a proper reference point to the extent that the person can account for the hope that nourishes his life (cf. 1P 3,15) and is personally involved in the truth that he proposes.

On the other hand, the witness never refers to himself but to something, or rather, to Someone greater than he, whom he has encountered and whose dependable goodness he has sampled. Thus, every educator and witness finds an unequalled model in Jesus Christ, the Father's great witness, who said nothing about himself but spoke as the Father had taught him (cf. Jn 8,28).

This is the reason why prayer, which is personal friendship with Christ and contemplation in him of the face of the Father, is indispensably at the root of the formation of the Christian and of the transmission of the faith. The same is, of course, also true for all our missionary commitment, and particularly for the pastoral care of families: therefore, may the Family of Nazareth be for our families and our communities the object of constant and confident prayer as well as their life model.

Dear brothers and sisters, and especially you, dear priests, I am aware of the generosity and dedication with which you serve the Lord and the Church. Your daily work forming the new generations in the faith, in close connection with the sacraments of Christian initiation, as well as marriage preparation and offering guidance to families in their often difficult progress, particularly in the important task of raising children, is the fundamental way to regenerating the Church ever anew, and also to reviving the social fabric of our beloved city of Rome.

Continue, therefore, without letting yourselves be discouraged by the difficulties you encounter. The educational relationship is delicate by nature: in fact, it calls into question the freedom of the other who, however gently, is always led to make a decision. Neither parents nor priests nor catechists, nor any other educators can substitute for the freedom of the child, adolescent or young person whom they are addressing. The proposal of Christianity in particular challenges the very essence of freedom and calls it to faith and conversion.

Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own "ego".

With such a relativistic horizon, therefore, real education is not possible without the light of the truth; sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting in the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common.

Consequently, it is clear that not only must we seek to get the better of relativism in our work of forming people, but we are also called to counter its destructive predominance in society and culture. Hence, as well as the words of the Church, the witness and public commitment of Christian families is very important, especially in order to reassert the inviolability of human life from conception until its natural end, the unique and irreplaceable value of the family founded on marriage and the need for legislative and administrative measures that support families in the task of bringing children into the world and raising them, an essential duty for our common future. I also offer you my heartfelt thanks for this commitment.

I would like to entrust to you a last message concerning the care of vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life: we all know the Church's great need of them!

First of all, prayer is crucial in order that these vocations be born and reach maturity, and that those called will always continue to be worthy of their vocation; prayer should never be lacking in any family or Christian community.

However, the life witness of priests and men and women religious and their joy in having been called by the Lord is also fundamental.

Equally so is the essential example that children receive in their own family and the conviction of families themselves that for them too, the vocation of a child of theirs is a great gift from the Lord. Indeed, the choice of virginity for the love of God and the brethren, which is required for priesthood and for consecrated life, goes hand in hand with the estimation of Christian marriage: both, in two different and complementary ways, make visible in a certain way the mystery of God's Covenant with his people.

Dear brothers and sisters, I consign these thoughts to you as a contribution to your work in the evening sessions of the Convention, and later, during the coming pastoral year. I ask the Lord to give you courage and enthusiasm, so that our Church of Rome, each parish, religious community, association or movement, may participate more intensely in the joy and labours of the mission; thus, each family and the entire Christian community will rediscover in the Lord's love the key that opens the door of hearts and makes possible a true education in the faith and people's formation.

My affection and my Blessing go with you today and in the future.


Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome to the Vatican a delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations.

Our meeting takes place during this year which marks the fortieth anniversary of the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council, whose teaching has served as the basis of the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people since then. The Council affirmed the Church’s conviction that, in the mystery of the divine election, the beginnings of her faith are already to be found in Abraham, Moses and the Prophets. On the basis of this spiritual patrimony and the teaching of the Gospel, it called for greater mutual understanding and esteem between Christians and Jews and deplored all manifestations of hatred, persecution and antisemitism (Nostra Aetate NAE 4). At the very beginning of my Pontificate, I wish to assure you that the Church remains firmly committed, in her catechesis and in every aspect of her life, to implementing this decisive teaching.

In the years following the Council, my predecessors Pope Paul VI and, in a particular way, Pope John Paul II, took significant steps towards improving relations with the Jewish people. It is my intention to continue on this path. The history of relations between our two communities has been complex and often painful, yet I am convinced that the “spiritual patrimony” treasured by Christian and Jews is itself the source of the wisdom and inspiration capable of guiding us toward “a future of hope” in accordance with the divine plan (cf. Jer Jr 29,11). At the same time, remembrance of the past remains for both communities a moral imperative and a source of purification in our efforts to pray and work for reconciliation, justice, respect for human dignity and for that peace which is ultimately a gift from the Lord himself. Of its very nature this imperative must include a continued reflection on the profound historical, moral and theological questions presented by the experience of the Shoah.

During the past thirty-five years the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations has met with delegations of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews eighteen times, including the most recent meeting, in Buenos Aires in July 2004, devoted to the theme “Justice and Charity.” I give thanks to the Lord for the progress which has been made in these years, and I encourage you to persevere in your important work, laying the foundations for continued dialogue and the building of a reconciled world, a world ever more in harmony with the Creator’s will. Upon all of you and upon your loved ones I cordially invoke the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.


Dear Brother Bishops,

1. "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity" (Ps 133,1). In this spirit of harmony I welcome you, the Bishops of South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho, with joy and affection. Through you I extend my warm greetings to the clergy, religious and laity in your countries. In this year dedicated to the Eucharist you are blessed to make your solemn visit ad limina apostolorum."The Eucharist, the heart of Christian life and the source of the Church's evangelizing mission, cannot but constitute the permanent centre and source of the Petrine Ministry" (Message at the Missa Pro Ecclesia, 20 April 2005, 4). Likewise, it must always be at the heart of your Episcopal ministry and an inspiration to those who assist you in your sacred task.

2. Communion with Christ is the unfailing source of every element of ecclesial life - "first of all communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardour of love for all, especially the poorest and lowliest" (ibid.). Catholics in your region constitute a minority. This presents many challenges which require dedication on the part of the Church to tend the flock effectively and, at the same time, remain faithful to her missionary commitment. For this reason it is essential that the bishops promote the crucial work of catechesis in order to ensure that God's people are truly prepared to witness by word and deed to the authentic teaching of the Gospel. As I look at the Church in Africa, and at all that has been accomplished there over the last century, I give thanks to our Heavenly Father for the many priests, religious and lay men and women who have given their lives to this noble task. Bishops have a particular responsibility to ensure that these "irreplaceable evangelizers" are provided with the necessary spiritual, doctrinal and moral preparation (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ).

3. Even though your region still needs more priests, one cannot help but thank God for the large number of vocations to the priesthood you are currently witnessing in Sub-Saharan Africa. As Shepherds of Christ's flock, it is your grave responsibility to help them develop into men of the Eucharist. Priests are called to leave everything and become ever more devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, leading men and women to this mystery and the peace it brings (cf. Homily Pentecost Sunday 2005). I encourage you, therefore, in your ongoing efforts to select conscientiously candidates for the priesthood. Likewise these young men should be formed with great concern to guarantee that they are prepared for the many challenges they will face, helping them manifest in word and deed the peace and joy of our Lord and Saviour. A world filled with temptations needs priests who are totally dedicated to their mission. Accordingly, they are asked in a very special way to open themselves fully to serving others as Christ did by embracing the gift of celibacy. Bishops should assist them by ensuring that this gift never becomes a burden but always remains life-giving. One of the ways this can be achieved is by bringing ministers of word and sacrament together for continuing education, retreats and days of recollection.

4. Family life has always been a unifying characteristic of African society. In fact, it is within the "domestic Church", "built on the solid cultural pillar and noble values of the African tradition of the family", that children first learn of the centrality of the Eucharist in Christian life (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). It is of great concern that the fabric of African life, its very source of hope and stability, is threatened by divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraceptive mentality, all of which contribute to a breakdown in sexual morality. Brother Bishops, I share your deep concern over the devastation caused by AIDS and related diseases. I especially pray for the widows, the orphans, the young mothers and all those whose lives have been shattered by this cruel epidemic. I urge you to continue your efforts to fight this virus which not only kills but seriously threatens the economic and social stability of the Continent. The Catholic Church has always been at the forefront both in prevention and in treatment of this illness. The traditional teaching of the Church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. For this reason, "the companionship, joy, happiness and peace which Christian marriage and fidelity provide, and the safeguard which chastity gives, must be continuously presented to the faithful, particularly the young" (Ecclesia in Africa ).

5. Dear Brothers, as we continue to celebrate a year devoted to the Holy Eucharist, I pray that you will be sustained by the Lord's promise - "I am with you always" (Mt 28,19). May your witness as men filled with Eucharistic hope help your flocks to arrive at an ever-greater appreciation of this Mystery. To each of you and to all those under your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of New Zealand to the Holy See. I thank you for the gracious words of greeting and I would ask you to convey to the Government and people of New Zealand my sincere best wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

The people of your country, I know, are very conscious of the duty to promote peace and solidarity in our world. Last year your Prime Minister, accompanied by a group of veterans, visited the historic site of Monte Cassino to honour the countless young men who courageously sacrificed their lives to defend fundamental universal values being threatened by false nationalist ideologies. Still today, this readiness to protect and promote the values of justice and peace, which transcend cultural or national boundaries, is a well-recognized and laudable trait of your people. Tangible expressions of this are found in your nation’s participation in aid projects and peace-keeping operations extending from the Solomon Islands to Afghanistan and the Middle East, as well as the willingness to champion the causes of sustainable development and environmental protection. At its most significant level, this generosity elicits a recognition of the essential nature of human life as a gift and of our world as a family of persons.

The desire to uphold the common good is founded on the belief that man comes into the world as a gift of the Creator. It is from God that all men and women - made in his image - receive their common inviolable dignity and their summons to responsibility. Today, when individuals often forget their origin and thus lose sight of their goal, they easily fall prey to whimsical social trends, the distortion of reason by particular interest groups, and exaggerated individualism. Confronted with this “crisis of meaning” (cf. Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, 81), civic and religious authorities are called to work together encouraging everyone, including the young, to “direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them” (ibid., 5). Sundered from that universal truth, which is the only guarantee of freedom and happiness, individuals are at the mercy of caprice and slowly lose the capacity to discover the profoundly satisfying meaning of human life.

New Zealanders traditionally have recognized and celebrated the place of marriage and stable domestic life at the heart of their society and indeed continue to expect social and political forces to support families and to protect the dignity of women, especially the most vulnerable. They appreciate that secular distortions of marriage can never overshadow the splendour of a life-long covenant based on generous self-giving and unconditional love. Correct reason tells them that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family” (Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio FC 86) which offers society a secure foundation for its aspirations. I therefore encourage the people of Aotearoa, through you Mr Ambassador, to continue to take up the challenge of forging a pattern of life, both individually and as a community, in relation to God’s plan for all humanity.

The disquieting process of secularization is occurring in many parts of the world. Where the Christian foundations of society risk being forgotten, the task of preserving the transcendent dimension present in every culture and of strengthening the authentic exercise of individual freedom against relativism becomes increasingly difficult. Such a predicament calls for both Church and civil leaders to ensure that the question of morality is given ample discussion in the public forum. In this regard, there is a great need today to recover a vision of the mutual relationship between civil law and moral law which, as well as being proposed by the Christian tradition, is also part of the patrimony of the great juridical traditions of humanity (cf. Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 71). Only in this way can the multiple claims to‘rights’be linked to truth and the nature of authentic freedom be correctly understood in relation to that truth which sets its limits and reveals its goals.

For her part the Catholic Church in New Zealand continues to do all she can to uphold the Christian foundations of civic life. She is much involved in the spiritual and intellectual formation of the young, especially through her schools. Additionally her charitable apostolate extends to those living on the margins of society and I am confident that, through her mission of service, she will respond generously to new social challenges as they arise.

Your Excellency, I know that your appointment will serve to strengthen further the bonds of friendship which already exist between New Zealand and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


Your Excellency,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Holy See. On this auspicious occasion I would ask you kindly to convey my cordial greetings to His Excellency President Aliev, and to the Government and people of your noble land. Assure them of my gratitude for their good wishes and of my prayers for the nation’s peace and well-being.

The Church’s diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. Her engagement with civil society is anchored in the conviction that the task of building a more just world must acknowledge and consider man’s supernatural vocation. The Holy See strives therefore to promote an understanding of the human person who “receives from God his essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness” (Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, 38). From this foundation the Church applies the universal values which safeguard the dignity of every person and serve the common good to the vast array of cultures and nations that constitute our world.

The people of Azerbaijan know only too well that, if the spiritual dimension of persons is repressed or even denied, the soul of a nation is crushed. During the tragic epoch of intimidation in eastern European history, while the supremacy of force prevailed, the monotheistic faith communities present for centuries in your country preserved a hope for justice and freedom, a future in which the supremacy of truth would prevail. Today, they propose this anew. In fact, when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II met last November with Religious Leaders of Azerbaijan representing the Muslim, Russian Orthodox and Jewish communities, he commented that the gathering was a symbol for the world of how tolerance between faith communities prepares the ground for a broader human, civil, and social development in greater solidarity.

As Azerbaijan continues to engage in the delicate task of forging its national character, it is to faith communities that political and civic authorities can turn for a determined commitment to shaping the social order in accordance with the common good. Such commitment demands that religious freedom, which preserves the singularity of each faith community, be sanctioned as a fundamental civil right and afforded protection by a robust framework of juridical norms which respect the laws and duties proper to religious communities (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae DH 2). Such practical support of religious freedom by political leaders becomes a sure means for authentic social progress and peace. In this regard, I acknowledge with thanks the role of President Aliev and your Government in facilitating the reconstruction of the Catholic Church in Bakù together with the foundation of a home for the needy.

Mr Ambassador, sound economic development has been a long-standing aspiration of all Azerbaijan’s citizens. It is also a right which carries the corresponding duty to contribute, according to one’s ability, to the genuine progress of the community. The priority of promoting social and commercial projects capable of creating a more equitable society represents a difficult though stimulating challenge for all who regulate and work in the business sector.

Your country has already taken some steps towards ensuring the fundamental rights of its citizens and promoting democratic practices. Much, however, remains to be achieved. Only in respecting the inviolable dignity of the human person and promoting the corresponding individual liberties can a civil society be constructed which contributes to the prosperity of all its citizens. Be assured that the Catholic Church community, though few in number in Azerbaijan, will, for its part, continue to contribute selflessly to the promotion of justice and the protection of the poor.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the already fruitful relations existing between the Holy See and your country. Please know that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family and all the people of Azerbaijan, abundant divine blessings.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guinea to the Holy See.

I am touched by your courteous words remembering my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, and I thank you for the cordial good wishes that you have conveyed to me from H.E. General Lansana Conté, President of the Republic, as well as from the Government and the Guinean People. I reciprocate by asking you to kindly assure the President of my good wishes for happiness and prosperity, for himself and for all the People of Guinea.

Mr Ambassador, you have informed me of your Country's attachment to the ideals of peace and brotherhood, particularly among the peoples of your region, so sorely tried in recent years. Indeed, it is only by trusting in dialogue that it is possible to defuse tensions and conflicts, for the benefit and well-being of all.

In order to respond effectively to the people's aspirations for true peace, a gift that comes to us from God, it is also our duty to commit ourselves to building it on the firm foundations of truth, justice and solidarity.

Among the consequences of the violence your region is suffering, we are unfortunately also witnessing the development of the tragedy of displaced populations, which creates humanitarian emergencies. Your Country has generously responded to this distress, in particular by offering hospitality to a large number of refugees, often at the price of great sacrifices. This is first and foremost a tragedy of men and women whose sufferings must be alleviated and to whom new hope must be given.

It is the causes of these tragedies, however, that must be uprooted, for they are seriously affecting the human dignity of beings whom God has created. I hope that the national Governments will not forget the refugees in several African countries who are impatiently waiting for the Government to pay attention to their plight, and for the international community to commit itself with firm determination to furthering peace and justice.

In each country, the establishment of peace begins with the quest for friendly relations and cooperation between the different ethnic, cultural and religious communities. Authentic faith cannot give rise to violence; on the contrary, it encourages peace and love.

Despite the difficulties, the Catholic Church is committed to pursuing her efforts to encourage understanding and respect among the believers of the different religious traditions.

I rejoice, therefore, to know that in Guinea, Christians and Muslims are working together for the common good of society. In developing relations of trust, with respect for the legitimate rights of each community, believers, in union with all people of good will, contribute to building a society that is free from every kind of moral and social degradation, so that each one can live in dignity and solidarity.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I would like to greet with affection the Catholic faithful of Guinea and their Bishops. I warmly encourage them to advance generously on the paths of peace and brotherhood with all their compatriots. Strengthened by the help of God's Spirit, may they be signs of hope for their people and ardent witnesses of the Lord's love!

Your Excellency, at the time when you are beginning your mission to the Apostolic See, I offer you my best wishes for the noble task that awaits you. With my collaborators, you will always find the attentive welcome and cordial understanding you may need.

I wholeheartedly invoke upon you, Your Excellency, upon your collaborators, upon your family, upon the Guinean people and its leaders, an abundance of divine Blessings.


Your Excellency,

As I accept the Letters accrediting you as the Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I offer you a warm welcome to the Vatican. I ask you kindly to convey to President Mugabe my greetings and prayerful good wishes for your nation and all its people.

With the elections of 31 March 2005, Zimbabwe made a new beginning in confronting the grave social problems which have affected the nation in recent years. It is my fervent hope that the elections will not only contribute to the immediate goals of pacification and economic recovery, but will also lead to the moral rebuilding of society and the consolidation of a democratic order committed to enacting policies dictated by genuine concern for the common good and the integral development of each individual and every social group. At this important hour in the history of your country, particular concern must be shown for the poor, the disenfranchised and the young, who have been most affected by the political and economic instability and who demand genuine reforms aimed at meeting their basic needs and opening before them a future of hope. The great challenge of national reconciliation also demands that while past injustices be recognized and addressed, every effort must be made in the future to act with justice and respect for the dignity and rights of others.

In this regard, I can only second the observations made by Zimbabwe’s Bishops on the eve of the recent elections about the urgent need for “a responsible and accountable leadership” marked by truthfulness, a spirit of service to others, honest management of public goods, commitment to the rule of law and the promotion of the right and duty of all citizens to participate in the life of society. The noble goal of attaining the common good through an ordered social life can only be attained if political leaders are devoted to ensuring the welfare of individuals and groups in a spirit of integrity and fairness. Looking towards Africa’s future role in the international community, my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, insisted that “a better world will come about only if it is built on the foundation of sound ethical and spiritual principles” (Ecclesia in Africa ).

I appreciate Your Excellency’s kind reference to the religious, educational and charitable apostolate of the Church in your country, and I assure you of the desire of the nation’s Catholics to support the legitimate aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe. Through her network of educational institutions, hospitals, dispensaries and orphanages the Church stands at the service of people of all religions. She seeks to offer a specific contribution to the future of the nation by educating people in the practical skills and the spiritual values which will serve as the foundation for social renewal. For her part, the Church asks only for the freedom to carry out her proper mission, which serves the coming of God’s Kingdom through her prophetic witness to the Gospel and her inculcation of its moral teaching. The Church thus works for the building of a harmonious and just society, while at the same time respecting and encouraging the freedom and responsibility of citizens to participate in the political process and in the pursuit of the common good.

Your Excellency, as you undertake your mission of representing the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Holy See, I offer my good wishes for the success of your work. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Roman Curia to assist and support you in the fulfilment of your high responsibilities. Upon you and your family, and upon all your fellow-citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Swiss Confederation to the Holy See, and I thank you for your kind words. I would be most grateful if you would kindly convey to the President of the Swiss Confederation and to the Federal Council my gratitude for their courteous greetings, and reciprocate by expressing to them my cordial good wishes for all the inhabitants of Switzerland.

How could I fail to mention, at the beginning of our meeting, the Visit of my Predecessor Pope John Paul II to your Country and his memorable meeting with the young people, a sign of hope for all Swiss Catholics?

At the same time, I am delighted with the cordial diplomatic relations that exist between your Country and the Holy See. I am equally pleased with the open dialogue between the representatives of the Swiss Confederation and the Country's Bishops, in an attempt to find satisfactory solutions, for both the Confederation and the Cantons, to any difficulties in their mutual relations that might still exist.

After the example of most Western European countries, Swiss society has experienced a considerable evolution in its customs and, under the combined pressures of technological progress and the wishes of a part of public opinion, new laws have been proposed in various sectors that affect respect for life and for the family. This concerns the delicate questions of the transmission of life, of sickness and of the end of life, but also the place of the family and respect for marriage.

On all these issues that are related to the fundamental values, the Catholic Church has clearly expressed herself through the voices of her Pastors and will continue to do so as long as necessary, to recall ceaselessly the inalienable greatness of human dignity that demands respect for human rights and, first and foremost, of the right to life.

I would like to encourage Swiss society to remain open to the surrounding world, to retain its place in the world and in Europe, and to put its talents at the service of the human community, especially in the poorest countries that will not be able to develop without this assistance.

Likewise, I hope that your Country will continue to be open to those who arrive in search of work or protection, convinced that its wealth also lies in the welcome it offers to others.

In a world where many conflicts are still in progress, it is important that the dialogue between cultures does not only involve the national leaders, but that it involve one and all, in families, in the places of education, in the world of work and in social relations, in order to build a true culture of peace.

Your Excellency, may I greet through you the Pastors and faithful of the Catholic Church who live in Switzerland. I know that they are concerned with preserving the vital link of communion with the Successor of Peter and harmoniously living with their Christian brothern of other traditions.

As you observed, Your Excellency, your young compatriots of the Pontifical Swiss Guard exemplify this connection between Switzerland and the Holy See, witnessing to a great sense of service.

At the time when you are inaugurating your mission, Mr Ambassador, please accept my very best wishes, and the assurance that you will always find welcome and understanding among my collaborators. Upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family, upon your collaborators and upon the entire Swiss People, I invoke an abundance of God's Blessings.


Mr Ambassador,

I have the pleasure of welcoming you in the initial phase of my service on the Chair of Peter: welcome! Today you are presenting to me the Letters with which the President of the Republic of Malta accredits you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See.

As I greet you, I address a thought of gratitude to the President of the Republic for the kind words that he has addressed to me through you, and that witness to the solid bond that has united the Community of Malta to the Church of Rome since the times of St Paul the Apostle.

Mr Ambassador, please be kind enough to convey to the President and his family my sentiments of friendship and spiritual closeness, together with my fervent good wishes for the entire Nation.

I feel close to the Maltese People. Down the centuries they have always shown their special, deep attachment to the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the universal Church.

I am well acquainted with the fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church, Mr Ambassador, which are features of the Christians in the Country that you represent. Consistent with their Christian roots, they feel the importance of their mission also in this delicate phase of European and world history. The Maltese People know that it is an integral part of the large expanse known as Europe.

Moreover, in keeping with the noble spiritual and cultural traditions that have marked it down the centuries, it wishes to do its utmost to prevent the European Community in the third millennium from losing the patrimony of cultural and religious values of its past. Indeed, it is only on this condition that it will be possible to build a future of solidarity and peace with firm hope.

To give life to a united and supportive Europe is a commitment of all its peoples. Indeed, Europe must be able to combine the legitimate interests of each nation with the requirements of the common good of the whole Continent.

I am grateful to you, Mr Ambassador, for expressing the renewed desire of your Country to play the lead in this new phase of the Continent's history, by helping to reinforce its capacity for dialogue, for the defence and promotion of the family founded on marriage, for the Christian traditions and for openness to and an encounter with the different cultures and religions.

Mr Ambassador, these are some of the reflections that spontaneously rise in my heart at our first meeting. I assure you of the complete and sincere readiness of my collaborators to carry on a constructive dialogue with you, in order to facilitate the fulfilment of your lofty mission.

Lastly, allow me to express once again my high esteem for the citizens of Malta, a Country as dear to my venerable Predecessors as it is to me. I express fervent good wishes for the well-being of the entire population, which I accompany with a special Apostolic Blessing strengthened by prayer for you, for the Authorities, for your loved ones and for all the citizens of your illustrious Nation.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the Holy See. Thank you for conveying to me the greetings of H.E. Mr Paul Kagamé, President of the Republic. I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate by expressing to him my best wishes for his mission and for the entire Rwandan People.

You emphasize, Mr Ambassador, your Government's willingness to continue developing the relations that exist between the Republic of Rwanda and the Holy See; the 40th anniversary of these established relations was celebrated in 2004. This collaboration is based on the common desire, with respect for the prerogatives of each one, that all the inhabitants, without exception, be offered conditions of coexistence that will enable them to take an ever greater part in the human and spiritual progress of their Country, scarred by its recent history.

Ceremonies to commemorate the genocide took place last year, reminding Rwandans and the whole world of the terrible tragedy that occurred in 1994, which rent the social, economic, cultural and family fabric of the country. Today, we must feel called to work without respite for peace and reconciliation, to prepare a serene future for the present and future generations!

This implies, first of all, a conscientious self-examination regarding the profound causes of this tragedy, to plant in memories and in hearts the imperative duty of learning to live as brothers and sisters and rejecting barbarity in all its forms. This also requires the guarantee of conditions of security that allow the democratic institutions to function harmoniously. Likewise, it is important to guarantee to all citizens their basic rights. They must be given access to an equitable justice that serves the truth and banishes fear, revenge, impunity and inequality in the near future.

It is to be hoped that the efforts being made to establish real, reconciliatory justice will consolidate national unity and determine political, economic and social decisions that will encourage the ongoing development of the Country, the recovery of dignity for all its inhabitants and an increase in stability for the Great Lakes Region.

I was moved by your words, Your Excellency, stressing the positive role played by the Catholic Church in the process of national reconstruction. The Church, in fact, is deeply involved in the process of reconciliation and forgiveness, through the statements of her Bishops, whom I met here recently, through her numerous institutions in the areas of charitable aid, education and health care, as well as through her pastoral care that is dedicated to healing hearts and helping people rediscover the joy of living together as brothers and sisters.

In this Year of the Eucharist, the faithful and their Pastors are particularly focused on their ability to celebrate the Sacrament of unity on Sunday. Here, they find new strength to become artisans of communion and hope.

As I reminded the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, the Church "asks no privileges for herself but only the legitimate conditions of freedom to carry out her mission" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 12 May 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 May 2005, p. 2). It is to be hoped that dialogue, followed-up with the Authorities of your Country, will help people perceive more and more clearly the desire of the Catholic Church to take an active part in the human and spiritual development of all Rwandans.

These bonds of trusting collaboration are necessary to the Church if she is to exercise her mission ever more effectively and work for brotherhood and peace, with respect for the specific features of the human and religious communities that make up the Nation. The organization of Congresses on education and health care witness to the common concern to build a more united Nation, with respect for the mission of each one, in which there is greater solidarity.

At the time when you are inaugurating your mission to the Holy See, I offer you my very best wishes for its success. You may rest assured that with my collaborators you will always find the attentive and understanding welcome you may need.

Your Excellency, I wholeheartedly invoke upon you, your family, your collaborators and all the Rwandan People and their Leaders, an abundance of divine Blessings.


Your Excellencies,

I am pleased to welcome you for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors of your respective countries: Azerbaijan, Guinea, Malta, New Zealand, Rwanda, Switzerland and Zimbabwe. I ask you to thank your Heads of State for their courteous messages and to convey my greetings and esteem to them.

Through you, I would like to offer a fraternal greeting to all the Peoples whom you represent and to whom I would like to express my warmest, most fervent good wishes, repeating to all the men and women of all your Countries that I am close to them and that I am praying for them. I ask them to commit themselves to creating a humanity that is more and more brotherly with renewed attention to all, especially to the poorest and those marginalized by society.

In this regard, our world is facing numerous challenges that it must successfully confront so that the human person may always triumph over technology. A just future for peoples must be the primary concern of those who have undertaken to manage public affairs, not in their own interest but with a view to the common good. Our heart cannot be at peace while we see our brothers and sisters suffering from lack of food, work, a home or the other fundamental goods.

To make a concrete response to the appeal of our brothers and sisters in humanity, we must come to grips with the first of these challenges: solidarity among generations, solidarity between countries and entire continents, so that all human beings may share more equitably in the riches of our planet. This is one of the essential services that people of good will must render to humanity. The earth, in fact, can produce enough to nourish all its inhabitants, on the condition that the rich countries do not keep for themselves what belongs to all.

The Church will never tire of reminding everyone that they must take pains to create a human brotherhood that consists of concrete gestures on the part of individuals and of Governments and international Institutions.

For her part, having made sharing the heart of her life since apostolic times, the Church will continue on all the continents to go to the aid of their populations with the support of the local communities and of all people of good will, especially in the areas of education, health care and the basic goods. I know that as diplomats, you are particularly sensitive to this aspect of life in society and that diplomacy has an important role to play.

At the time when you are beginning your mission to the Apostolic See, I offer you my very best wishes and invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you yourselves as well as upon your families, your co-workers and upon the Nations you represent.


Dear General Secretary,

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ph 1,2). With these words of Saint Paul, I gladly welcome you and the members of the delegation from the World Council of Churches. After your installation as General Secretary you had planned to visit my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II. Though this hope was never realized, I thank you for representing the World Council of Churches at his funeral, and I express my gratitude for the message which you sent to me on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my own ministry as Bishop of Rome.

Relations between the Catholic Church and the World Council developed during the Second Vatican Council, where two observers from Geneva were present at all four sessions. This led in 1965 to the establishment of the Joint Working Group as an instrument of ongoing contact and cooperation, which would keep in mind the common task of unity in answer to the Lord’s own prayer, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17,21). Next November an important consultation on the future of the Joint Working Group will be held to mark the fortieth anniversary of its founding. My hope and prayer is that its purpose and working methodology will be further clarified for the sake of ever more effective ecumenical understanding, cooperation and progress.

In the very first days of my Pontificate I stated that my “primary task is the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ’s followers.” This requires, in addition to good intentions, “concrete gestures which enter hearts and stir consciences… inspiring in everyone that inner conversion that is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress” (Missa pro ecclesia, 5).

Pope John Paul II often recalled that the heart of the search for Christian unity is “spiritual ecumenism”. He saw its core in terms of being in Christ: “To believe in Christ means to desire unity; to desire unity means to desire the Church; to desire the Church means to desire the communion of grace which corresponds to the Father's plan from all eternity. Such is the meaning of Christ's prayer: “Ut unum sint” (Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, 9).

It is my hope that your visit to the Holy See has been fruitful, strengthening the bonds of understanding and friendship between us. The commitment of the Catholic Church to the search for Christian unity is irreversible. I therefore wish to assure you that she is eager to continue cooperation with the World Council of Churches. Again, I offer a special word of encouragement to you, Mr General Secretary, to the members of the Central Committee and to the entire staff, as you work to lead and renew this important ecumenical body. Please know that you are in my prayers and that you have my unfailing goodwill. “May grace and peace be yours in abundance” (2P 1,2).


Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I greet you with joy while you are making your ad limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and thereby expressing your communion with the Apostolic See. I thank the President of your Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Fulgence Rabeony of Toliara, for presenting the situation of the Church in your Country. I hope that the entire Malagasy people will live in God's peace and courageously persevere in building a society that is ever more respectful of the human being and his dignity!

The celebration of Christ's Paschal Mystery has a central place in the life and ministry of the Bishop. In this Year of the Eucharist, I invite you in particular to renew your attachment to Christ who never ceases to give himself to us in this sacrament. By your exemplary life and by your teaching, actively collaborating with one another, lead the faithful towards friendship with Christ, encouraging them to be more and more generously charitable to their brethren! You will thus support the commitment of the lay people of your dioceses to public life, in fidelity to the vocation they have received. Indeed, by working to establish a more just society, fighting corruption, insecurity and all forms of exploitation of the poorest persons, they express the Church's concern for the true good of man.

Our episcopal ministry demands that we help the faithful in our care to acquire an enlightened faith that is rooted in an intimate encounter with Christ. It is he who must be the measure of all things, making it possible to discern where truth is found so that we may confront the problems of our day with authentic fidelity to his teaching.

In this perspective, the inculturation of the faith in the Malagasy culture remains an important goal. The acceptance of modernity does not exclude these Christian roots; on the contrary, it requires them. Relying on an enlightened faith is indispensable if genuine progress is to be made in the search for the unity of Christ's disciples. However, the creation of trusting, brotherly relations with each other must also provide for the requirements of the Catholic identity in truth, avoiding any gesture that not only might distress the faithful but also accommodate religious relativism.

In your ministry, priests are your closest collaborators. Although they sometimes live in difficult conditions, many are generous and close to the people. It is your responsibility to sustain them in their difficulties, to be a father and a demanding guide for each one.

Gospel proclamation requires high quality priests, from the intellectual as well as the spiritual and moral viewpoints, who bear witness throughout their lives to an unreserved attachment to Christ and his Church. I strongly urge you, therefore, to give priority to serious formation in your seminaries and to seek to develop the means for the ongoing formation of your priests.

As we come to the end of our meeting, I ask you to greet with affection the priests, men and women religious, catechists and all the faithful of your dioceses. I warmly encourage them in the witness of faith and charity which they render to Christ in conditions that are often very difficult, and I also appreciate the missionaries' generous work. May the Spirit of the Lord be their hope and obtain that each one contribute to the proclamation of the Gospel, in accordance with his or her vocation! As I entrust you to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary and to the prayers of your compatriot, Blessed Victoire Rasoamanarivo, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Your Beatitude,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Members and Friends of ROACO,

I am pleased to welcome you all today when you are gathered in Rome for the Annual Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO). I offer each one of you a cordial welcome. I greet Cardinal Ignace Moussa I Daoud, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, with Archbishop Antonio Maria Vegliò, Secretary, and the Collaborators of the Dicastery. I extend a special greeting to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Lviv, and to all those who are members of ROACO because of the attention it gives to the territories, communities and institutions of the Eastern Churches.

Since Christ was first proclaimed, the poor and needy Christian communities have been supported in various ways by the more fortunate. In our day, all too often marked by incentives to individualism, it is more necessary than ever that Christians offer the witness of a solidarity that crosses every border to build a world in which all feel welcomed and respected. Those who carry out this mission personally or as a community sow the seeds of authentic love, love that sets the heart free and brings everywhere that joy "that no one can take away" because it comes from the Lord. I would like to thank you, dear friends of ROACO, for all you are doing for your brothers and sisters in difficulty, and in particular, for your efforts to make tangible that charity which binds together Christians of the Latin and of the Eastern traditions. Strengthening these bonds is a valuable service to the universal Church. Persevere, therefore, in this admirable task, and indeed, extend the horizons of your action even further.

In these days you have examined in particular the situation of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine whose continuous development, following the sad winter of the Communist regime is a cause of joy and hope, also because the ancient and noble spiritual heritage, preserved by the Greek Catholic community, is a true treasure for the progress of the entire Ukrainian People. I therefore tell you: support its ecclesial journey and foster all that encourages reconciliation and brotherhood among the Christians of beloved Ukraine.

During your meeting you also reflected on the formation of priests, seminarians and Religious who belong to the various Eastern Catholic Churches and who are studying either in Rome or in their Homeland. The presence beside the Chair of Peter of about 500 Eastern rite students of the Catholic Churches is an opportunity to utilize. At the same time, you rightly realize that it is necessary to take the greatest care in upgrading the institutions for formation that are open in the Eastern Churches: in addition to providing material aid, it is also necessary to give an impetus to formation activities which, on the one hand deepen the genuine local tradition, duly taking into account the organic development of the Eastern Churches (cf. Orientalium Ecclesiarum OE 6) and on the other, bring to completion the authentic renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council, which ended 40 years ago.

Dear ROACO members, Jerusalem and the Holy Land, to which all Christians have an unforgettable obligation (cf. Rom Rm 15,27), have always enjoyed your praiseworthy concern. Information about certain positive signs in recent months strengthen the hope that the day of reconciliation between the various communities working in the Holy Land will not be long in coming; for this let us unceasingly pray with trust.

To conclude, I would like once again to express my gratitude to you for the appreciated work you carry out. May the divine help and maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, be with you constantly in your daily activities. As I assure you of my special remembrance in prayer, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, and willingly extend it to the Ecclesial Bodies you represent, and to your families.
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