Speeches 2005-13 71




TO CONSECRATED MEN AND WOMEN Vatican Basilica Friday, 2 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am glad to meet you at the end of the Eucharistic Celebration that has gathered you in this Basilica this year too, on an occasion so meaningful for you who belong to Congregations, Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life and New Forms of Consecrated Life; you constitute a particularly important element of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Today's liturgy recalls the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the feast chosen by my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, as the "Day of Consecrated Life".

With great pleasure I address my cordial greetings to each one of you present here, beginning with Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of your Dicastery, to whom I am grateful for his kind words on your behalf. I then greet the Secretary and all the members of the Congregation which looks after a vital sector of the Church. Today's celebration is especially appropriate for asking the Lord for the gift of an ever more consistent and incisive presence of men and women religious and consecrated persons in the Church journeying along the roads of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Feast day we are celebrating reminds us that your Gospel witness, to be truly effective, must stem from a response without reserve to the initiative of God who has consecrated you to him with a special act of love.

Just as the elderly Simeon and Anna longed to see the Messiah before they died and spoke of him "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (cf. Lc 2,26) so also in our time, especially among young people, there is a widespread need to encounter God.

Those who are chosen by God for the consecrated life make this spiritual longing their own in a definitive way. In it, in fact, they have one expectation: the Kingdom of God: that God reign in our will, in our hearts, in the world. In them burns a unique thirst for love which can be quenched by the Eternal One alone.

By their example they proclaim to a world which is often bewildered but, in fact, increasingly in search of meaning, that God is the Lord of life and that his "steadfast love is better than life" (Ps 63[62]: 4[3]).

By choosing obedience, poverty and chastity for the Kingdom of Heaven, they demonstrate that any attachment or love for people and things is incapable of definitively satisfying the heart; that earthly existence is a longer or shorter period of waiting for the "face-to-face" encounter with the divine Bridegroom, an expectation to be lived with an ever vigilant heart, to be ready to recognize and welcome him when he comes.

Consecrated life, therefore, is by its nature a total and definitive, unconditional and passionate response to God (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 17). And so, when one renounces everything to follow Christ, when one gives to him all that one holds most dear, braving every sacrifice as did the divine Teacher, the consecrated person who follows in Christ's footsteps necessarily also becomes "a sign of contradiction", because his/her way of thinking and living is often in opposition to the logic of the world, as it is almost always presented in the media.

Indeed, in choosing Christ we let ourselves be "conquered" by him without reserve. How many people thirsting for the truth are struck by this courage and attracted by those who do not hesitate to give their life, their own life, for their belief.

Is not this the radical evangelical fidelity to which every consecrated person is called in our time too? Let us give thanks to the Lord so that many Religious men and women in all the corners of the earth may continue to offer a supreme and faithful witness of love to God and to the brethren, a witness that is often marked by the blood of martyrdom. Let us also thank God so that these examples may continue to inspire in the souls of many young people the desire to follow Christ always in an intimate and total way.

Dear brothers and sisters, never forget that the consecrated life is a divine gift and that it is the Lord in the first place who ensures its success in accordance with his plans. This certainty that the Lord leads us to a successful conclusion despite our weakness; this certainty must be a comfort to you, protecting you from the temptation of discouragement in the face of the inevitable difficulties of life and the many challenges of the modern epoch. Indeed, in the difficult period in which we live many Institutes may feel a sense of dismay at the failings they discover within them and the many obstacles they encounter in carrying out their mission.

Today that Child Jesus who is presented at the Temple is alive among us and invisibly supports us so that we may cooperate faithfully with him in the work of salvation, and he does not abandon us.

Today's liturgy is particularly evocative because it is marked by the symbol of light. The solemn procession with candles which you made at the beginning of the celebration points to Christ, the true light of the world who shines in the night of history and illumines every seeker of the truth. Dear consecrated men and women, burn with this flame and make it radiant with your life so that a gleam of the brightness that shone from Jesus, the splendour of the truth, may shine everywhere.

By dedicating yourselves exclusively to him (cf. Vita Consecrata VC 15), you witness to the fascination of the truth of Christ and the joy that derives from love for him. In contemplation and in activity, in solitude and in fraternity, in service to the poor and the lowly, in personal guidance and in the modern areopaghi, be ready to proclaim and to witness that God is Love and that to love him is sweet.

May Mary, the Tota Pulchra, teach you to transmit to men and women today this divine fascination that must transpire from your words and actions. As I express to you my grateful appreciation for the service you render to the Church, I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer and I warmly bless you all.


Dear Brothers and Sisters

I am pleased to be with you today, members of Secular Institutes whom I am meeting for the first time since my election to the Chair of the Apostle Peter. I greet you all with affection. I greet Cardinal Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and I thank him for his words of filial devotion and spiritual closeness, also on your behalf. I greet Cardinal Cottier and the Secretary of your Congregation.

I greet the President of the World Conference of Secular Institutes, who has expressed the sentiments and expectations of all of you who have gathered here from different countries, from all the continents, to celebrate an International Symposium on the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia.

Sixty years have passed, as has already been said, since that 2 February 1947, when my Predecessor Pius XII promulgated this Apostolic Constitution, thereby giving a theological and juridical basis to an experience that matured in the previous decades and recognizing in Secular Institutes one of the innumerable gifts with which the Holy Spirit accompanies the Church on her journey and renews her down through all the ages.

That juridical act was not the goal but rather the starting point of a process that aimed to outline a new form of consecration: the consecration of faithful lay people and diocesan priests, called to live with Gospel radicalism precisely that secularity in which they are immersed by virtue of their state of life or pastoral ministry.

You are here today to continue to mark out that path plotted 60 years ago, which sees you as increasingly impassioned messengers in Jesus Christ of the meaning of the world and of history.

Your fervour is born from having discovered the beauty of Christ and of his unique way of loving, healing and meeting the needs of life and of enlivening and comforting it. And your lives aim to sing the praise of this beauty so that your being in the world may be a sign of your being in Christ.

Indeed, it is the mystery of the Incarnation that makes your integration in human events a place of theology: ("God so loved the world that he gave his only Son", Jn 3,16). The work of salvation was not wrought in opposition to the history of humankind but rather in and through it.

In this regard, the Letter to the Hebrews notes: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (1: 1-2a).

This redeeming act was itself brought about in the context of time and history, and implies obedience to the plan of God inscribed in the work that came from his hands.

It is once again this same text from the Letter to the Hebrews, an inspired text, which points out: "When he said, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings' - these are offered according to the law -, he then added, "Lo I have come to do your will'" (He 10,8-9).

These words of the Psalm and the Letter to the Hebrews, expressed through intra-Trinitarian dialogue, are words of the Son who says to the Father: "I have come to do your will". Thus, the Incarnation comes about: "Lo, I have come to do your will". The Lord involves us in his words which become our own: here I am, Lord, with the Son, to do your will.

In this way, the process of your sanctification is clearly marked out: self-sacrificing adherence to the saving plan manifested in the revealed Word, solidarity with history, the search for the Lord's will inscribed in human events governed by his Providence.

And at the same time, the characteristics of the secular mission are outlined: the witness to human virtues such as "righteousness and peace and joy" (Rm 14,17), the "good conduct" of which Peter speaks in his First Letter (cf. 2: 12), echoing the Teacher's words: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven" (Mt 5,16).

Also part of the secular mission is the commitment to build a society that recognizes in the various environments the dignity of the person and the indispensable values for its total fulfilment: from politics to the economy, from education to the commitment to public health, from the management of services to scientific research.

The aim of every specific reality proper to and lived by the Christian, his own work and his own material interests that retain their relative consistency, is found in their being embraced by the same purpose for which the Son of God came into the world.

Therefore, may you feel challenged by every suffering, every injustice and every search for truth, beauty and goodness. This is not because you can come up with the solution to all problems; rather, it is because every circumstance in which human beings live and die is an opportunity for you to witness to God's saving work. This is your mission.

On the one hand, your consecration highlights the special grace that comes to you from the Spirit for the fulfilment of your vocation, and on the other, it commits you to total docility of mind, heart and will to the project of God the Father revealed in Jesus Christ, whom you have been called to follow radically.

Every encounter with Christ demands a profound change of attitude, but for some, as it was for you, the Lord's request is particularly demanding: you are asked to leave everything, because God is all and will be all in your lives. It is not merely a question of a different way of relating to Christ and of expressing your attachment to him, but of an option for God that requires of you constant, absolute and total trust in him.

Conforming your own lives to the life of Christ by entering into this words, conforming your own life to the life of Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels, is a fundamental and binding feature which, in its specificity, demands the concrete and binding commitment of "mountaineers of the spirit", as venerable Pope Paul VI called you (Address to Participants in the First International Congress of Secular Institutes, 26 September 1970; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 8 October, p. 5).

The secular nature of your consecration brings to the fore, on the one hand, the means you use to fulfil it, that is, the means proper to every man and woman who live in ordinary conditions in the world, and on the other, the form of its development, that is, a profound relationship with the signs of the times which you are called to discern personally and as a community in the light of the Gospel.

Your charism has been authoritatively recognized several times precisely in this discernment in order for you to be a workshop of dialogue with the world, that "experimental workshop in which the Church ascertains practical ways for her relations with the world" (Pope Paul VI, Address to the Council of the Sacred Congregation for Religious and the International Union of Male and Female Superiors General, 6 November 1976; cf. ORE, 18 November, p. 3).

The enduring timeliness of your charism derives precisely from this, for this discernment must not take place from outside reality but from within it, through full involvement. This takes place in the daily relationships that you can weave in family and social relations, in professional activity, in the fabric of the civil and ecclesial communities.

The encounter with Christ and the act of following him, which impels and opens people, "must necessarily be reflected "ad extra' and expand naturally" in an encounter with one and all, for if God fulfils himself only in communion, it is also only in Trinitarian communion that human beings are fulfilled.

You are not called to establish special forms of living, of apostolic commitment or social intervention, but rather, forms that can come into being through personal relations, a source of prophetic riches. May your lives be like the yeast that leavens all the dough (cf. Mt 13,33), sometimes silent and hidden, but always with a positive and encouraging outreach capable of generating hope.

The place of your apostolate is therefore the whole human being, not only within the Christian community - where the relationship materializes in listening to the Word and in sacramental life from which you draw to sustain your baptismal identity - I say the place of your apostolate is the human being in his entirety, both within the Christian community and in the civil community, where relationships are formed in the search for the common good, in dialogue with all, called to witness to that Christian anthropology which constitutes a sensible proposal in a society bewildered and confused by its multicultural and multireligious profile.

You come from different countries and the cultural, political and even religious situations in which you live, work and grow old are different. In all of these situations, may you be seekers of the Truth, of the human revelation of God in life. We know it is a long journey, distressing at the present time, but its outcome is certain. Proclaim the beauty of God and of his creation.

Following Christ's example, be obedient to love, be men and women of gentleness and mercy, capable of taking to the highways of the world, doing only good. May yours be a life that is focused on the Beatitudes, that contradicts human logic to express unconditional trust in God, who wants human beings to be happy.

The Church also needs you to give completeness to her mission. Be seeds of holiness scattered by the handful in the furrows of history. Rooted in the freely given and effective action with which the Lord's Spirit guides human events, may you bear fruits of genuine faith, writing with your life and your witness trajectories of hope, writing them with the actions suggested by "creativity' in charity" (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 50).

With these hopes, as I assure you of my constant prayers in support of your apostolic and charitable projects, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you.


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am happy to welcome you to this special Audience and cordially greet all of you who have come from different nations of the world. I also address a particular thought to those who are here with us and belong to other Churches.

Some of you participate annually in this appointment of Bishop-Friends of the Focolare Movement, which has the theme: "Christ Crucified and abandoned, light in the cultural night".

I welcome this occasion to send Chiara Lubich my wishes and my Blessing, which I extend to all the members of the Movement she founded.

Others are taking part in the Ninth Convention of Bishop-Friends of the Sant'Egidio Community, addressing the topic so pertinent today: "The globalization of love". I greet Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, and with him, Professor Andrea Riccardi and the entire Community, who, on the anniversary of its founding, will gather this evening in the Basilica of St John Lateran for a solemn Eucharistic celebration.

I do not have all your names here, but naturally I greet all my dear Brothers, Bishops, Cardinals and all you dear Brothers of the Orthodox Church, all of you from my heart.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I would first like to tell you that your closeness to the two Movements, while emphasizing the vitality of these new aggregations of faithful, also manifests that communion among charisms which constitutes a typical "sign of the times".

It seems to me that these encounters of the charisms of the unity of the Church in the diversity of gifts are a very encouraging and important sign.

The Post-Synodal Exhortation Pastores Gregis recalls that: "The relationships of exchange between Bishops... go well beyond their institutional meetings" (n. 59). It is what occurs also in conventions such as yours, where not only collegiality is experienced, but an episcopal fraternity that draws from the sharing of the ideals promoted by the Movements a stimulus to render more intense the communion of hearts, to make stronger the reciprocal support and a more active commitment to show the Church as a place of prayer and charity, a home of mercy and peace.

My venerable Predecessor, John Paul II, has presented the Movements and New Communities which have come into being in these years as a providential gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, in order to respond in an effective way to the challenges of our time. And you know that this is also my conviction.

When I was still a professor and then Cardinal, I had the occasion to express my conviction that Movements are really a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. And precisely as the encounter of the charisms, they also show the richness of both gifts and unity in the faith.

For example, could one forget last year's extraordinary Pentecost Vigil that witnessed the joint participation of many Movements and Ecclesial Associations? The emotion I felt in participating in St Peter's Square in such an intense spiritual experience is still alive in me.

I repeat to you what I said then to the faithful gathered from every part of the world, and that is, that the multiplicity and the unity of the charisms and ministries are inseparable in the life of the Church.

The Holy Spirit wants the multiformity of the Movements at the service of the one Body, which is the Church. And this comes about through the ministry of those he has placed to sustain the Church of God: the Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter.

This unity and multiplicity which comprises the People of God in some way also makes itself manifest today, with many Bishops being gathered here with the Pope, near to two different Ecclesial Movements, characterized by a strong missionary dimension.

In the rich Western world, where even though a relativistic culture is present, at the same time a widespread desire for spirituality is not missing, and your Movements witness the joy of the faith and the beauty of being Christian in great ecumenical openness.

In the vast depressed areas of the earth, they communicate the message of solidarity and draw near to the poor and the weak with that human and divine love that I wished to repropose to the attention of all in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.

The communion between Bishops and Movements, therefore, provides a valid impulse for a renewed commitment by the Church in announcing and witnessing to the Gospel of hope and charity in every corner of the world.

The Focolare Movement, precisely beginning from the heart of its spirituality which is Jesus crucified and abandoned, emphasizes the charism and the service of unity, which is realized in various social and cultural environments as, for example, the economic with the "economy of communion", and through the ways of ecumenism and of interreligious dialogue.

The Sant'Egidio Community, placing prayer and liturgy at the centre of its existence, wants to draw near to those who experience situations of hardship and social marginalization.

For the Christian, man, however distant, is never a stranger. Together it is possible to face with greater effort the challenges that summon us in a pressing way at the beginning of the third millennium: I think in the first place of the search for justice and peace and of the urgency of building a more fraternal and united world, beginning precisely with the countries from which some of you come and that are tried by bloody conflicts.

I refer especially to Africa, the Continent that I carry in my heart and that I hope will finally know a time of stable peace and true development. The next Synod of African Bishops will surely be an opportune moment to show the great love that God has for the beloved African population.

Dear friends, the original fraternity that exists between you and the Movements you befriend, bids you to carry together "one another's burdens" (Ga 6,2), as the Apostle recommends, especially concerning evangelization, love for the poor and the cause of peace.

May the Lord render your spiritual and apostolic initiatives ever more effective. I accompany you with prayer and gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you present here, to the Focolare Movement and the Sant'Egidio Community, and to the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive from your hands the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Colombia to the Holy See.

I offer you my most cordial welcome at this meeting at which you are beginning your mission. I thank you for the kind words you have addressed to me and for the respectful greeting that President Álvaro Uribe Vélez has wished to convey to me through you, as an expression of the spiritual closeness to the Pope of the Colombian People.

Your Excellency, you have come to represent to the Holy See a Nation which has been distinguished for its Catholic identity throughout its history.

Your words reminded me of the Colombians' deep affection for and filial devotion to the Successor of Peter, and enabled me to feel them once again. They are, as it were, the fruit of a deeply-rooted experience of the Christian faith that is also expressed in the faithful's appreciation of the Bishops and their fellow workers, who endeavour to keep alive the traditions and virtues inherited from their ancestors.

Your Country's important efforts for peace and reconciliation, together with its commitment to encouraging progress and more stable democratic institutions, have not passed unnoticed by the world.

The goals achieved for greater security and social stability, as well as in the fight against poverty, are praiseworthy. The constant concern in the area of education and the facilitation of access to school and university courses for all citizens should also be highlighted, since education lays the foundations of a more human and supportive society.

Nevertheless, in your Country, as you have said, there continue to be complex situations in the political and social fields. I am aware of the challenges involved in a dialogue of peace, necessary despite the many difficulties that arise in the process.

In society, moreover, other problems persist that undermine the dignity of the person, the unity of the family, fair economic development and a proper standard of living.

Mindful of the achievements as well as of the problems, I encourage all Colombians to persevere in their efforts to reach a common accord and obtain the harmonious growth of the Nation. These aspirations can only be totally fulfilled when God is held to be the centre of human life and history.

I therefore appreciate, Your Excellency, the emphasis you placed on the Catholic Church's important work for national reconciliation.

Indeed, in addition to the direct participation of several Bishops, priests and Religious in peace-building initiatives, your voice has also been heard at decisive moments in Colombia's life, recalling the indispensable foundations of true human progress and peaceful coexistence and urging Catholics and people of good will to take the path of forgiveness and joint responsibility in order to establish justice.

As Pastor of the universal Church, I cannot refrain from expressing to Your Excellency my anxiety for the laws that concern those very sensitive issues such as the transmission and defence of life, sickness, the identity of the family and respect for marriage. On these topics and in the light of natural reason and the moral and spiritual principles that derive from the Gospel, the Catholic Church will continue ceaselessly to proclaim the inalienable greatness of human dignity.

It is also necessary to appeal to the responsibility of the lay people present in legislative bodies, in the Government and in the administration of justice to ensure that laws always express principles and values that are in conformity with natural law and that foster the authentic common good.

The beginning of your mission to the Holy See also affords me an opportunity to recall what I already said in the past in my Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.

In speaking of various countries, I mentioned "notably Colombia, where the long internal conflict has provoked a humanitarian crisis, especially as far as displaced persons are concerned. Every effort must be made to bring peace to the Country, to return to families their loved ones who have been kidnapped, to restore security and normal life to millions of people. Such signs will give confidence to everyone, including those who have been implicated in the armed struggle" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 8 January 2007; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 17 January, p. 7).

I ardently long for an end to the cruel scourge of kidnappings in your Country which represent a serious attack on people's dignity and rights. I accompany with my prayers all who are unjustly deprived of freedom and express my closeness to their families, confident that they will be released before long.

In this regard, the many institutions dedicated to charity, in line with the pastoral programmes of the Bishops' Conference and the Dioceses, are called to provide humanitarian aid to the neediest and especially to the displaced persons who are so numerous in Colombia, as well as to the victims of violence.

Thus, they also witness to the efforts of the Church, which is an artisan of communion and hope within the province of her own mission and in the circumstances of the Nation.

At the end of this meeting, I would like to express to you once again my desire that in your Homeland the deeply desired peace as well as reconciliation be reinforced. I ask God the Father to grant success to all efforts made to achieve this aim.

I also invoke the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquirá for the beloved Colombian People, for the President and the other Government Leaders, and especially for you, Your Excellency, and for your distinguished family, as I wish you great success in the fulfilment of the lofty mission that has been entrusted to you.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you, the finance ministers of Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada and Russia, as well as other ministers, distinguished international leaders and important international figures, including the Queen of Jordan and the President of the World Bank. I thank Minister Tommaso Padoa Schioppa for his courteous words of greeting offered on your behalf. Our meeting today is a most welcome one, since it takes place as part of the launching of a pilot programme aimed at developing and producing vaccines against pandemic diseases, and making them available to poorer countries. This worthy initiative, entitled Advance Market Commitment, is meant to help resolve one of the most pressing challenges in preventative healthcare, one which particularly affects nations already suffering from poverty and serious needs. It has the further merit of bringing together public institutions and the private sector in an effort to find the most effective means of intervening in this area.

Our gathering takes place just before the World Day of the Sick, held annually on 11 February, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is an occasion for the Church to call public attention to the plight of the suffering, and this year it focuses on those with incurable diseases, many of whom are in the terminal stage. In this context, I wholeheartedly encourage your efforts for this new programme and its goal of advancing scientific research directed to the discovery of new vaccines. Such vaccines are urgently needed to prevent millions of human beings, including countless children, from dying each year of infectious diseases, especially in those areas of our world at greatest risk. In this era of globalized markets, we are all concerned about the growing gap between the standard of living in countries enjoying great wealth and a high level of technological development, and that of underdeveloped countries where poverty persists and is even increasing.

The creative and promising initiative launched today seeks to counter this trend, since it aims to create “future” markets for vaccines, primarily those capable of preventing infant mortality. I assure you of the Holy See’s full support of this humanitarian project, which is inspired by that spirit of human solidarity which our world needs in order to overcome every form of selfishness and to foster the peaceful coexistence of peoples. As I said in my Message for this year’s World Day of Peace, every service rendered to the poor is a service rendered to peace, for “at the origin of many tensions that threaten peace are surely the many unjust inequalities still tragically present in our world” (No. 6).

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I will pray for each of you that Almighty God will assist your endeavours to accomplish this important work. Upon you and your loved ones, I cordially invoke his blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.


Mr Permanent Secretary,
Your Eminence,
Dear Academic Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

With pleasure, I welcome you today, members of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences. First, I thank Mr Michel Albert, Permanent Secretary, for the words with which he has expressed your delegation's sentiments, and also for the medal that recalls my entry as a Foreign Associate Member of your noble Institution.

The Academy of Moral and Political Sciences is a place of exchange and debate, which proposes reflections to help all citizens and legislators to "find the forms of political organization most favourable to the public good and to the development of the individual".

In fact, the reflections and actions of the Authorities and of the citizens must be centred on two elements: respect for each human being and the quest for the common good.

In today's world it is more than ever urgent to invite our contemporaries to a renewed attention to these two elements. In effect, the development of subjectivism, which makes each one tend to consider himself as the only point of reference and to hold that what he thinks has the character of truth, exhorts us to form consciences on fundamental values that cannot be mocked without putting man and society itself in danger, and upon the objective criteria of a decision that presupposes an act of reason.

As I emphasized during my Conference on The New Covenant held before your Academy in 1995, the human person is "constitutively a being in relationship", called to consider himself ever more responsible to his brothers and sisters in humanity.

The question asked by God from the very first text of Scripture must resound constantly in the heart of everyone: "What have you done [for]... your brother?".

The sense of fraternity and solidarity and the sense of the common good are founded on the vigilant respect of one's brethren and on the organization of society, granting a place to everyone so that they can live in dignity, have a roof and what is necessary for their own existence and for that of the family for which they are responsible.

It is in this spirit that one must understand the motion that you approved last October regarding the rights of man and freedom of expression, which are part of the fundamental rights, being careful never to mock the fundamental dignity of the person and of human groups and to respect their religious beliefs.

Allow me to recall to your attention the figure of Andreï Dimitrijevitch Sakharov, whom I succeeded in the Academy. This outstanding personality reminds us that it is necessary, in private and public life, to have the courage to say the truth and to follow it, to be free with respect to the surrounding world that often tends to impose its viewpoint and the behaviour to adopt.

True freedom consists in proceeding along the way of truth according to one's vocation, knowing that each person must render an account of his own life to his Creator and Saviour.

It is important that we know how to propose to youth a similar path, reminding them that true development is not at whatever cost, and inviting them not to be content to follow every trend presented to them. Hence, they will be able to discern with courage and tenacity the way of freedom and happiness, which presupposes fulfilling a certain number of requirements made with effort, sacrifice and the necessary renunciation so as to act well.

One of the challenges for our contemporaries, and in particular for youth, consists in not accepting to live merely in exteriority, in appearance, but in the development of the interior life, the unifying environment of being and acting, the place of recognizing our dignity as sons and daughters of God called to freedom, not separating ourselves from the font of life but remaining connected to it.

What gladdens man's heart is the recognition of being a son or daughter of God; it is a beautiful and good life under the gaze of God, as are also the victories obtained over evil and against deceit. By permitting each person to discover that life has a sense and that he or she is responsible for it, we open the way to a maturation of the person and to a reconciled humanity that seeks the common good.

The Russian intellectual Sakharov is an example of this; while his exterior freedom was obstructed during the Communist period, his interior freedom, which no one could touch, authorized him to speak out firmly in defence of his compatriots in the name of the common good.

It is important also today that man does not allow himself to be hampered by exterior chains such as relativism, the search for power and profit at any cost, drugs, disordered relationships, confusion in regard to matrimony and the non-recognition of the human person in all phases of his or her existence from conception to its natural end, which suggests that there can be periods when the human being would not really exist.

We must have the courage to remind our contemporaries what man is and what humanity is. I invite the civil Authorities and the people with a role in the transmission of values to always uphold the truth about man.

At the conclusion of our meeting, permit me to hope that through your works, the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, together with other institutions, can always help people to build a better life and to build up a society where it is beautiful to live as brothers and sisters. This is the wish, united to prayer, that I raise to the Lord for you, your families and all the members of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences.


Dear friends of Misericordie d'Italia,

I am happy to receive you and address my welcome to all of you present here, grateful for this visit that offers me the occasion to know you better.

I greet the President of your Confederation and I thank dear Cardinal Antonelli for the kind words he has addressed to me in the name of all of you.

The Misericordie - it is only right to emphasize - are the most ancient form of organized voluntary service in the world.

In fact, they go back to the initiative of St Peter Martyr of Verona, who in 1244, in Florence, gathered some citizens of every age and social condition desiring to "honour God with works of mercy to one's neighbour", in a totally free, unobtrusive way.

Today, the Confederation of the Misericordie d'Italia embodies some 700 confraternities - as you eloquently call them - especially centred around Tuscany but present throughout the national territory, in particular in the central and southern regions.

To this, the numerous groups of blood donors called "Fratres" must be added. So more than 100,000 belong to your beneficent organization; they are committed in a permanent way in the social health-care field.

The variety of your input, besides being a response to the emerging needs of society, is a sign of zeal, of a "creativity" in charity that stems from a beating heart whose "motor" is love for humankind in difficulty.

This is exactly why you merit appreciation: with your presence and action you contribute to the spreading of the Gospel of God's love for all people.

In fact, how can we not recall the impressive Gospel passage where St Matthew calls us to encounter the Lord definitively? Then, as Jesus himself said, the Judge of the world will ask us if in the course of our existence we have given the hungry to eat, the thirsty to drink; if we have welcomed the foreigner and opened the door of our hearts to the needy.

In a word, at the Last Judgment God will ask us if we have loved, not in an abstract way, but concretely, with deeds (cf. Mt 25,31-46).

Reading anew these lines, it always truly touches my heart that Jesus, the Son of Man and final Judge, precedes us with this act, making himself man, making himself poor and thirsty, and lastly, he embraces us, drawing us to his Heart. And so God does what he wants us to do: to be open to others and to live love, not with words, but in practice. At the end of his life, St John of the Cross loved to repeat that we will be judged on love.

What is necessary even today, indeed, especially in this our epoch marked by so many human and spiritual challenges, is for Christians to proclaim with their works the merciful love of God!

Every baptized person must "live the Gospel". In fact, many people who do not welcome Christ and his exigent teachings easily are nevertheless sensitive to the witness of those who communicate his message through the concrete witness of charity.

Love is a language that directly reaches the heart and opens it to trust. I exhort you, then, as St Peter did to the first Christians, to be ever ready to reply to anyone who asks you the reason "for the hope that is in you" (1P 3,15).

I would then like to add another reflection: the reality of your association constitutes a typical example of the importance that your "Christian roots" have in Italy and in Europe. Your confraternities, the Misericordie, are a very realistic living and viable manifestation of these Christian roots.

Nowadays, the Misericordie are not an ecclesial aggregation, but their historic roots remain unequivocably Christian. The very name "Misericordie" expresses it, and it is also manifested by the fact, already recalled, that at your origins are the initiative of a Saint.

Now, for the roots to continue to bring forth fruit, they must stay alive and well. For this reason you opportunely propose to your members regular periods of qualification and formation, to increasingly deepen the human and Christian motivation of your activity.

The risk, in effect, is that volunteerism can turn into simple activism. If, instead, the spiritual side remains alive, it can communicate to others more than the materially necessary things: it can offer one's neighbour in difficulty a loving look that is needed (cf. Deus Caritas Est ).

Lastly, I would like to show you a third reason why you are appreciated. Together with other volunteer associations, you carry out an important educational role, such as contributing to keep alive the sensitivity to noble values such as fraternity and disinterested help to whoever finds himself in difficulty.

In particular, youth can benefit from the experience of volunteer work because, if it is done well, it can become a "school of life" for them that helps them to give their own existence a meaning and higher and more prolific value.

May the Misericordie help them to grow in the dimension of service to one's neighbour and to discover a great Gospel truth: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac 20,35 cf. Deus Caritas Est ).

Dear friends, tomorrow, 11 February, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick reaches its 15th anniversary. This year our attention is addressed in a special way to persons afflicted with incurable diseases. To many of them, you also, dear friends, dedicate your service.

May the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, watch over your confraternity, indeed, watch over each member of the Misericordie d'Italia. May she help you to fulfil your mission with authentic love, thus contributing to the spread of God's love in the world, the source of life for every human being.

To you present here, to the whole Misericordie d'Italia, and to the blood donors Fratres I impart my heartfelt Blessing.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you at this Audience for the presentation of the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Costa Rica to the Holy See.

I am deeply grateful for your friendly words at this solemn ceremony which marks the beginning of the mission entrusted to you by your Government. Please express my respectful greeting to H.E. Mr Óscar Arias, President of the Republic, in reciprocation for his greeting which you conveyed to me, expressing the Costa Rican People's closeness to and affection for the Successor of Peter.

The faith of the People reflects the religious hallmark deeply impressed upon the Country more than five centuries after the first evangelization of Costa Rica. In this regard, true to her mission to bring the message of salvation to all and in line with her social doctrine, the Catholic Church endeavours to foster integral human development and the defence of human dignity, thereby helping to strengthen the fundamental values so that society may enjoy stability and harmony in keeping with its great aspiration to live in peace, freedom and democracy.

Motivated by their desire to keep the Gospel message alive, the various Ecclesial Communities cooperate in such important sectors as teaching, assistance to the most deprived, health-care services and promotion of the person in his condition as a citizen and child of God.

The Bishops of Costa Rica, therefore, are following with close attention and concern the social circumstances in the Country today such as the increase in poverty, public insecurity and family violence, as well as the great wave of immigrants from neighbouring countries.

In the face of situations that can at times be conflictual and in order to defend the common good, the Bishops offer to cooperate with projects that foster understanding and reconciliation, lead to the promotion of justice and solidarity and encourage the necessary national dialogue between Leaders responsible for the public well-being.

On the other hand, Your Excellency, as you pointed out, this dialogue must exclude all the different forms of violence and help in building a more human future with the collaboration of all.

In this regard, it is appropriate to recall that social improvements are not only achieved by applying the necessary technical means but also by promoting reforms that take into account an ethical consideration of the person, the family and society.

It is consequently necessary to cultivate moral values such as honesty, discipline and responsibility for the common good. In this way it will be possible to avoid personal and collective selfishness in every context, as well as corruption which hinders every form of progress.

It is well known that the future of a nation must be based on peace, the harvest of righteousness (cf. Jas Jc 3,18), building the kind of society which, starting with those in charge of politics, parliament, administration and the law, encourages concord, harmony and respect for individuals as well as the defence of their fundamental rights.

In this regard, the policies that the Government of Costa Rica has implemented in the international arena to promote peace and human rights in the world, and its traditional closeness to the positions maintained by the Holy See in various international forums on matters as important as the defence of human life and the promotion of marriage and the family, deserve praise.

All Costa Ricans with their distinguishing qualities must be the protagonists and architects of the Country's progress, cooperating in a political stability that enables all to take part in public life. Each one, according to his ability and personal possibilities, is required to make his own contribution to the good of the Homeland based on a fairer, more participatory social order.

With this in view, the Church's moral teachings offer some values and guidelines which, taken into consideration especially by those who work at the service of the nation, are of great help in dealing appropriately with the needs and aspirations of citizens.

The regrettable and widespread problem of poverty, which has serious consequences in the areas of education, health care and housing, is a pressing challenge to government Leaders and public Authorities in view of the Nation's future. A deeper awareness of the current situation is essential to make it possible to deal with all its dimensions in a true spirit of commitment to the common good.

The poor, as they do everywhere, lack the basic commodities and indispensable means for their advancement and integral development. This especially applies to immigrants in search of a better standard of living.

The Church, in the light of her social doctrine, responds by supporting initiatives aimed at overcoming the marginalization that affects so many needy brethren. Moreover, concern for social assistance is part of her evangelizing action (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41).

Mr Ambassador, before concluding this meeting, I would like to express my best wishes for the success of the mission you are beginning today. I ask you once again to express my sentiments and hopes to the President of the Republic and the other Authorities of your Country, as I invoke God's Blessing and the protection of Our Lady of the Angels, your Patroness, upon you, your distinguished family and your collaborators, and above all on the beloved sons and daughters of Costa Rica.


TO THE SICK AT THE CONCLUSION OF MASS Vatican Basilica Sunday, 11 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sister,

It is with great joy that I meet you here in the Vatican Basilica on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the annual World Day of the Sick, at the end of the Eucharistic celebration presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini.

To him, first of all, I address my greeting, which I extend to all of you present here: to the Archpriest of the Basilica, Archbishop Angelo Comastri, to the other Bishops, the priests and Religious. I greet the heads and members of the UNITALSI, who dedicate themselves to the transportation and care of the sick on pilgrimage and in other meaningful events.

I greet the heads and pilgrims of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi and those who will take part in this 15th Theological-Pastoral National Convention, both from Italy and abroad. I further greet the delegation of representatives of Cammini d'Europa [European Ways].

But my most cordial greeting is directed to you, dear sick people, to your families and the volunteers who care for you and accompany you with love today. Together with all of you I want to unite myself with those who today take part in the various events of the World Day of the Sick held in Seoul, South Korea. There, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, presides at the celebrations in my name.

Today is the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, who a little less than 150 years ago appeared to a simple youth, St Bernadette Soubirous, showing herself as the Immaculate Conception.

Also in that apparition the Blessed Mother has shown herself as a tender mother to her children, recalling that the little, the poor are the beloved of God and to them the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven is revealed.

Dear friends, Mary, who with her faith accompanied her Son beneath the Cross, she who by a mysterious plan was associated to the sufferings of Christ her Son, never tires to exhort us to live and share with serene trust the experience of sorrow and sickness, offering it with faith to the Father, thus completing in our flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ (cf. Col Col 1,24).

In this regard, I recall the words with which my venerable Predecessor Paul VI concluded the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus: "Contemplated in the episodes of the Gospels and in the reality which she already possesses in the City of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary offers a calm vision and a reassuring word to modern man, torn as he often is between anguish and hope, defeated by the sense of his own limitations and assailed by limitless aspirations, troubled in his mind and divided in his heart, uncertain before the riddle of death, oppressed by loneliness while yearning for fellowship, a prey to boredom and disgust. She shows forth the victory of hope over anguish, of fellowship over solitude, of peace over anxiety, of joy and beauty over boredom and disgust, of eternal visions over earthly ones, of life over death" (n. 57).

They are words that shine light on our way, even when the sense of hope and the certainty of healing seem to vanish; they are words that I would like to be of special comfort to those who are struck by grave illnesses and pain.

And it is precisely to these our particularly tried brothers that today's World Day of the Sick is dedicated with special attention. We would like them to feel the material and spiritual closeness of the entire Christian community.

It is important not to leave them abandoned and in solitude while they try to face a very delicate moment in their life. Praiseworthy are those who with patience and love place their professional skills and human warmth at their service.

I think of doctors, nurses, health-care workers, volunteers, Religious and priests who without sparing themselves stoop down to them like the Good Samaritan, not considering their social condition, skin colour or religious affiliation, but only their needs. In the face of every human being, and still more if tried and disfigured by sickness, shines the Face of Christ, who said: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40).

Dear brothers and sisters, in a short while, this evening, a meaningful candlelight procession will reawaken the atmosphere that is created among pilgrims and those devoted to Lourdes. Our thought goes to the grotto of Massabielle, where human sorrows and hopes, fears and trust, meet.

How many pilgrims, comforted by the gaze of their Mother, find at Lourdes the strength to accomplish more easily the will of God even when it costs renunciation and pain, aware that, as the Apostle Paul affirms, all works to the good of those who love the Lord (cf. Rom Rm 8,28).

May the candle that you hold alight in your hands be for you, dear brothers and sisters, the sign of a sincere desire to walk with Jesus, refulgence of peace, who shines in the darkness and urges us in our turn to be light and support for those near to us.

May no one, especially those who find themselves in the difficult situation of suffering, feel alone and abandoned.

I entrust you all this evening to the Virgin Mary. She, after having known unspeakable suffering, was assumed into Heaven, where she awaits us and where we too hope to be able to share one day the glory of her Divine Son, the joy without end.

With these sentiments I impart my Blessing to all of you present here and to those dear to you.


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Esteemed Professors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you at the beginning of the Congress' work in which you will be engaged in the following days on a theme of considerable importance for the present historical moment, namely, the natural moral law.

I thank Bishop Rino Fisichella, Rector Magnificent of the Pontifical Lateran University, for the sentiments expressed in the address with which he has introduced this meeting.

There is no doubt that we are living in a moment of extraordinary development in the human capacity to decipher the rules and structures of matter, and in the consequent dominion of man over nature.

We all see the great advantages of this progress and we see more and more clearly the threat of destruction of nature by what we do.

There is another less visible danger, but no less disturbing: the method that permits us to know ever more deeply the rational structures of matter makes us ever less capable of perceiving the source of this rationality, creative Reason. The capacity to see the laws of material being makes us incapable of seeing the ethical message contained in being, a message that tradition calls lex naturalis, natural moral law.

This word for many today is almost incomprehensible due to a concept of nature that is no longer metaphysical, but only empirical. The fact that nature, being itself, is no longer a transparent moral message creates a sense of disorientation that renders the choices of daily life precarious and uncertain.

Naturally, the disorientation strikes the younger generations in a particular way, who must in this context find the fundamental choices for their life.

It is precisely in the light of this contestation that all the urgency of the necessity to reflect upon the theme of natural law and to rediscover its truth common to all men appears. The said law, to which the Apostle Paul refers (cf. Rom Rm 2,14-15), is written on the heart of man and is consequently, even today, accessible.

This law has as its first and general principle, "to do good and to avoid evil". This is a truth which by its very evidence immediately imposes itself on everyone. From it flows the other more particular principles that regulate ethical justice on the rights and duties of everyone.

So does the principle of respect for human life from its conception to its natural end, because this good of life is not man's property but the free gift of God. Besides this is the duty to seek the truth as the necessary presupposition of every authentic personal maturation.

Another fundamental application of the subject is freedom. Yet taking into account the fact that human freedom is always a freedom shared with others, it is clear that the harmony of freedom can be found only in what is common to all: the truth of the human being, the fundamental message of being itself, exactly the lex naturalis.

And how can we not mention, on one hand, the demand of justice that manifests itself in giving unicuique suum and, on the other, the expectation of solidarity that nourishes in everyone, especially if they are poor, the hope of the help of the more fortunate?

In these values are expressed unbreakable and contingent norms that do not depend on the will of the legislator and not even on the consensus that the State can and must give. They are, in fact, norms that precede any human law: as such, they are not subject to modification by anyone.
The natural law, together with fundamental rights, is the source from which ethical imperatives also flow, which it is only right to honour.

In today's ethics and philosophy of Law, petitions of juridical positivism are widespread. As a result, legislation often becomes only a compromise between different interests: seeking to transform private interests or wishes into law that conflict with the duties deriving from social responsibility.

In this situation it is opportune to recall that every juridical methodology, be it on the local or international level, ultimately draws its legitimacy from its rooting in the natural law, in the ethical message inscribed in the actual human being.

Natural law is, definitively, the only valid bulwark against the arbitrary power or the deception of ideological manipulation. The knowledge of this law inscribed on the heart of man increases with the progress of the moral conscience.

The first duty for all, and particularly for those with public responsibility, must therefore be to promote the maturation of the moral conscience. This is the fundamental progress without which all other progress proves non-authentic.

The law inscribed in our nature is the true guarantee offered to everyone in order to be able to live in freedom and to be respected in their own dignity.

What has been said up to this point has very concrete applications if one refers to the family, that is, to "the intimate partnership of life and the love which constitutes the married state... established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws" (Gaudium et Spes GS 48).

Concerning this, the Second Vatican Council has opportunely recalled that the institution of marriage has been "confirmed by the divine law", and therefore "this sacred bond... for the good of the partner, of the children and of society no longer depends on human decision alone" (ibid.).

Therefore, no law made by man can override the norm written by the Creator without society becoming dramatically wounded in what constitutes its basic foundation. To forget this would mean to weaken the family, penalizing the children and rendering the future of society precarious.

Lastly, I feel the duty to affirm yet again that not all that is scientifically possible is also ethically licit.
Technology, when it reduces the human being to an object of experimentation, results in abandoning the weak subject to the arbitration of the stronger. To blindly entrust oneself to technology as the only guarantee of progress, without offering at the same time an ethical code that penetrates its roots in that same reality under study and development, would be equal to doing violence to human nature with devastating consequences for all.

The contribution of scientists is of primary importance. Together with the progress of our capacity to dominate nature, scientists must also contribute to help understand the depth of our responsibility for man and for nature entrusted to him.

On this basis it is possible to develop a fruitful dialogue between believers and non-believers; between theologians, philosophers, jurists and scientists, which can offer to legislation as well precious material for personal and social life.

Therefore, I hope these days of study will bring not only a greater sensitivity of the learned with regard to the natural moral law, but will also serve to create conditions so that this theme may reach an ever fuller awareness of the inalienable value that the lex naturalis possesses for a real and coherent progress of private life and the social order.

With this wish, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for you and for your academic commitment to research and reflection, while I impart to all with affection the Apostolic Blessing.


Venerable Brothers,

I am very pleased to welcome you at the end of your meeting in preparation for the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopal Council [CELAM]. I offer a cordial greeting to each one of you, starting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, whom I thank for his words expressing your common sentiments.

I thank the Cardinal Presidents of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate and the Heads of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia who have contributed to your work.

In particular, I take this opportunity to express once again to you, the Apostolic Nuncios present and all Papal Representatives, my appreciation of the important ecclesial service that you carry out, often among numerous difficulties due to the distance from your homeland, your frequent travels and also at times the social and political tensions in the places where you work. In carrying out your sensitive task, which is of course motivated by a deep spirit of faith, may each one of you feel accompanied by the esteem, affection and prayers of the Pope.

Every Apostolic Nuncio is called to consolidate the bonds of communion between the particular Churches and the Successor of Peter. Together with the Pastors and the entire People of God, he is entrusted with responsibility for promoting dialogue and collaboration with civil society in order to achieve the common good.

Papal Representatives are the presence of the Pope, who through them makes himself close to all those he is unable to meet personally and especially to those who live in conditions of hardship and suffering. Your ministry, dear Brothers, is a ministry of ecclesial communion and a service to peace and harmony in the Church and among peoples. Always be aware of the importance, grandeur and beauty of this mission of yours and strive tirelessly to carry it out with generous dedication.

Divine Providence has called you who are present here to carry out your service in Latin America, described by our beloved John Paul II - who visited it several times - as the "Continent of hope", as has already been said.

Please God, I will have the joy of coming into contact personally with the situation in those countries when I speak, God willing, at the opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in the coming month of May.

In a certain sense, this Assembly sums up and is a continuation of the previous General Conferences, while it is enriched by the many "post-conciliar" gifts of the Papal Magisterium - in particular the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America springs to mind - as well as the other fruit of the Catholic Church's synodal process.

The Assembly proposes to define the important priorities and to give a new impetus to the Church's mission at the service of the Latin American peoples in the concrete circumstances at the beginning of the 21st century.

This recapitulation refers to the Catholic tradition which, thanks to an extraordinary missionary epic, took shape and impressed its hallmark upon the cultural structure that has so far been a feature of the Latin American identity. This was the original vocation - as my late Predecessor John Paul II said at Santo Domingo - of "peoples whom the same geography, Christian faith, language and culture have joined together definitively in the course of history" (Address at CELAM's Fourth General Conference, 12 October 1992, n. 15; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 October, p. 8).

Starting with the theme of this important meeting: "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ so that our people may have life in him", you too have had the opportunity in these days to highlight certain challenges which the Church encounters in the vast area of Latin America, inserted into world dynamics and conditioned increasingly by the effects of globalization.

In the face of these challenges, the nations that make up Latin America seek in different ways to affirm their identity and their weight in the historical process of the contemporary world; they seek, all too often among numerous difficulties, to consolidate domestic peace within their own nation. Feeling like "sisters", they also aim to become a community united in peace and in cultural and economic development.

The Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1), naturally finds herself in tune with every legitimate aspiration of the peoples for greater harmony and cooperation, and makes her own contribution: that of the Gospel.

She hopes that in Latin American nations where constitutional Charters are limited to "granting" freedom of belief and worship but do not yet "recognize" religious freedom, reciprocal relations based on principles of autonomy and a healthy and respectful collaboration can be worked out as soon as possible.

This will enable Ecclesial Communities to develop their full potential for the benefit of society and of every individual human person, created in the image of God. A correct juridical formulation of these relations cannot but take into account the historical, spiritual, cultural and social role played by the Catholic Church in Latin America.

This role continues to be paramount, partly thanks to the fortunate blending of the old and rich sensitivity of the indigenous peoples with Christianity and the modern culture. Some sectors, as we know, point to the contrast between the wealth and depth of the pre-Colombian cultures and the Christian faith that is presented as imposed externally from outside or as alienating for the peoples of Latin America.

In fact, the encounter between these cultures and faith in Christ was a response inwardly expected by these cultures. This encounter, therefore, is not to be denied but deepened, and has created the true identity of the peoples of Latin America. Indeed, the Catholic Church is the institution which is the most respected by the Latin American population.

She is active in the life of the people, esteemed for the work she carries out in the sectors of education, health care and solidarity to the needy. Help for the poor and the fight against poverty are and remain a fundamental priority in the life of the Churches in Latin America. The Church also actively intervenes with her mediation, often requested on the occasion of internal conflicts.

Today, however, among other things, this consolidated presence must deal with the proselytism of sects and the growing influence of post-modern hedonistic secularism. If we are to find the right answers, we must think seriously about what makes the sects attractive. In the face of the challenges of this time in history, our communities are called to strengthen their adherence to Christ in order to witness to a mature and joyful faith, and - despite all the problems - the potential is truly enormous.

And the spiritual potential that Latin America has to draw on is truly enormous, where the mysteries of the faith are celebrated with fervent devotion and confidence in the future is nourished by the increase in the number of vocations to the priestly and Religious life.

It is of course necessary to accompany the young on the path of their vocation with great care, and to help priests and men and women religious to persevere in their vocation. Furthermore, an immense missionary and evangelizing potential is offered by the young who account for more than two thirds of the population, whereas family "feeling [is] a primordial trait of your Latin American culture", as my venerable Predecessor John Paul II said at the meeting in Puebla, Mexico, in January 1979 (Homily, Palafoxiano Seminary, Puebla, 28 January 1979; Puebla and Beyond, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1979, p. 78).

The family institution deserves priority attention; it is showing signs of breaking up under the pressure of lobbies that can have a negative effect on legislative processes. Divorce and de facto unions are on the rise, while adultery is viewed with unjustifiable tolerance.

It is necessary to reassert that marriage and the family are based on the deepest nucleus of the truth about man and his destiny; only on the rock of faithful and permanent conjugal love between a man and woman is it possible to build a community worthy of the human being.

I would like to highlight other religious and social topics on which you have been able to reflect.
I shall limit myself to mentioning the phenomenon of migration, closely linked to the family; the importance of school education and attention to values and to the conscience, to train mature lay people who can make a high-quality contribution to social and civil life; the education of the young with an appropriate vocation policy to accompany in particular seminarians and aspirants to the consecrated life in their formation process; the commitment to informing public opinion properly about the great ethical issues in accordance with the principles of the Church's Magisterium and an effective presence in the area of the media, also in order to respond to the challenge of the sects.
Ecclesial movements certainly constitute a valid resource for the apostolate, but they should be helped to stay in line with the Gospel and the Church's teaching, also when they work in the social and political realms. In particular, I feel it is my duty to reassert that it is not the task of ecclesiastics to head social or political groups, but of mature lay people with a professional training.

Dear Brothers, in these days you have reflected and discussed together. Above all you have prayed together. Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, to grant that the fruits of this meeting and of the upcoming General Conference of the Latin American Bishops benefit the entire Church.

I thank you again for your work. On returning to your countries, please convey my cordial sentiments to the Pastors and the Christian Communities, the Governments and the peoples. Please assure your collaborators, the women religious and all who cooperate in the smooth functioning of the offices at your Nunciatures of the Pope's spiritual closeness. I cordially impart to one and all a special Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 2005-13 71