Speeches 2005-13 24048


ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI Paul VI Audience Hall Thursday, 24 April 2008

Mr President,
Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of this splendid concert, I am pleased to address a cordial greeting to all of you who have taken part: Civil and Military Authorities, distinguished Figures and friends who have come to share this moment of high cultural value. I would especially like to express my deep gratitude to the Honourable Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, who on the occasion of the third anniversary of my Pontificate has wished to offer me this gift, accompanying it with courteous words which I much appreciated. Thank you, Mr President, for this respectful and caring gesture which I welcomed with deep pleasure! I see it as a further sign of the great affection the Italian People have for the Pope. I extend my greeting to your gracious wife and to your collaborators.

Certain of interpreting the sentiments of everyone present, I address my heartfelt congratulations to the "Giuseppe Verde" Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Milan, beautifully conducted by Mr Oleg Caetani, who have played and sung with extraordinary talent and effectiveness. I likewise extend my appreciation to the conductor of the Choir, Ms Erina Gambarini. I express a cordial thought of gratitude to the directors of the praiseworthy "Giuseppe Verdi" Foundation, encouraging them to continue on the prestigious path of art and culture on which they have set out, whose value, as I know, is also enhanced by their commitment to bring music to alleviate situations of human difficulty, such as those that occur in hospitals and prisons. My gratitude is naturally addressed to all who have contributed to the organization and realization of this evocative event, supporting it in different ways.

We have had the joy of listening with attentive participation to demanding compositions by Luciano Berio, Johannes Brahms and Ludwig van Beethoven. I would like to emphasize that the music of Brahms enriched with religious trust Hölderlin's "Song of Destiny". This factor introduces consideration of the spiritual value of the art of music, uniquely called to instil hope in the human spirit, so scarred and sometimes wounded by the earthly condition. There is a mysterious and deep kinship between music and hope, between song and eternal life: not for nothing does the Christian tradition portray the Blessed in the act of singing in a choir, in ecstasy and enraptured by the beauty of God. But authentic art, like prayer, is not foreign to everyday reality although it requires us to "water" it and make it germinate if it is to bring forth the fruit of goodness and peace.

The masterful interpretations we have heard also remind us of the value and universal importance of the artistic heritage. I am thinking especially of the young generations, who can approach this heritage with ever new inspiration in order to build the world in accordance with works of justice and solidarity at the service of humanity, by employing the multiform expressions of world culture. I am also thinking of the importance for young peoples' formation of education in authentic beauty. Art overall helps to refine their minds and orients them to building a society open to spiritual ideals.
In this regard, Italy, with its exceptional artistic heritage, can play an important role in the world: in fact, the quantity and quality of the monuments and artworks it possesses make it a universal "messenger" of all the values that art expresses and at the same time promotes. The festivity of song and music are likewise a constant invitation to believers and people of good will to commit themselves to giving humanity a future rich in hope.

Mr President of the Republic, thank you again for the wonderful present you have wished to offer me and for the sentiments that have accompanied it. I reciprocate them, assuring you of my remembrance in prayer that the Lord may protect you, your gracious wife, the Authorities and the entire People of Italy. With these wishes which I entrust to the intercession of Our Lady of Good Counsel, I invoke God's Blessing on all those present and on their respective families. Thank you and good evening to you all!



Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you with great joy at the end of this ad limina visit which has brought you to the tombs of the Apostles St Peter and St Paul to strengthen even more the bonds of communion which have always been a feature of the Cuban Bishops' relationship with this Apostolic See. It is a special cause of joy to me to meet you, dear Brothers who look after a Church to which I feel very close in spirit, as I have already had the opportunity to tell you in the Message I sent through the Cardinal Secretary of State during his recent visit to Cuba.

I warmly thank Archbishop Juan García Rodríguez of Camagüey, President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba, for his friendly words of support and sincere affection on behalf of you all and of your diocesan communities.

I am familiar with the vitality of the Church in your beloved Country, as well as your unity and the gift of yourselves to Jesus Christ. Ecclesial life in Cuba has undergone a profound change, especially since the celebration of the National Ecclesial Meeting of Cuba which took place more than 20 years ago, and most especially with the historic Visit to Cuba of my Venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II. Intense pastoral work has been carried out; despite the many difficulties and limitations, this has helped to strengthen the missionary spirit in all the Cuban ecclesial communities. I therefore invite you to persevere with your daring and generous evangelizing efforts which bring Christ's light to all contexts and places.

In this historical period the Church in your Country is called to offer the one true hope to Cuban society as a whole: Christ our Lord, who triumphed over sin and death (cf. Spe Salvi ). This hope is the force that has kept Cuban believers unswervingly on the path of faith and love.

All this requires that the development of spiritual life have a central place in your aspirations and your pastoral projects. Only on the basis of a personal experience of encounter with Jesus Christ and with a sound doctrinal preparation rooted in the ecclesial community can Christians become the salt and light of the world (cf.
Mt 5,13-14) and thus appease the thirst for God that is increasingly felt among your fellow citizens.

Priests play a fundamental role in these tasks. I know of the dedication and pastoral zeal with which they give themselves to their brethren, although they are few, even in the midst of great difficulty. I would therefore like to express to all the priests my gratitude and appreciation for their fidelity and their tireless service to the Church and the faithful. I am also confident that the increase in vocations and at the same time the adoption of the proper means in this area will soon enable the Cuban Church to rely on a sufficient number of priests, as well as on the churches and places of worship necessary to carry out her strictly pastoral and spiritual mission. Do not cease to guide and encourage them, for they bear the burden of the day and the scorching heat (cf. Mt 20,12). Help them too, so that with personal meditation, with praying the Liturgy of the Hours, with the daily celebration of the Eucharist as well as with an adequate continuing formation, they may keep ever alive the gift received with the imposition of hands (cf. II Tm 1: 6).

The increase of priestly vocations is a source of hope. Nevertheless, it is necessary to continue promoting a specific vocations ministry which is not afraid to encourage youth to follow in the footsteps of Christ, the only One who can satisfy their longing for love and happiness. At the same time, care of and attention to the Seminary must always occupy a privileged place in the heart of the Bishop (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5) who must allocate to seminaries the best possible human and material means of his diocesan communities, assuring seminarians, through the competence and dedication of chosen formators, the best possible spiritual, intellectual and human formation so that identifying with the sentiments of the Heart of Christ, they may face the demands of the priestly ministry which they must carry out.

I cannot fail to mention and to acknowledge the exemplary work of so many men and women religious, and I encourage them to continue to enrich the fabric of ecclesial life with the treasure of their own charisms and their generous self-giving.

I would also like to thank in particular the many missionaries who offer the gift of their consecration to the entire Church in Cuba.

One of the priority goals of the Pastoral Plan you have worked out is precisely the promotion of a committed laity, conscious of its vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. I therefore ask you to promote in your particular Churches an authentic process of education in the faith at the various levels, with the help of properly trained catechists. Ensure that all have time for reading and prayerful meditation on the Word of God as well as the frequent reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thereby, strengthened with an intense spiritual life and relying on a sound religious preparation, especially with regard to the Church's social teaching, the lay faithful will be able to offer a convincing witness of their faith in all the contexts of society, to enlighten them with the light of the Gospel (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 38). In this regard, I express the hope that the Church in Cuba, in conformity with your legitimate aspirations, may avail herself of normal access to the social communications media.

In a special way I would like to entrust the pastoral care of marriage and the family to you. I know how concerned you are about the situation of the family whose stability is threatened by divorce and its consequences, the practice of abortion or financial difficulties, as well as the break-up of families caused by emigration or other reasons. I encourage you to redouble your efforts so that all, especially the young, may understand better and feel increasingly attracted by the beauty of the authentic values of marriage and the family. Likewise, it is necessary to encourage and to offer the appropriate means to ensure that families can exercise their responsibility and fundamental right to the religious and moral education of their children.

I have noticed with joy the generosity with which the Church in your beloved Nation dedicates herself to serving the poorest and most deprived people, for which she receives esteem and gratitude from all Cubans. I warmly urge you to continue to take to all the needy, the sick, the elderly and prisoners, a visible sign of God's love for them, aware that "the best defence of God and man consists precisely in love" (Deus Caritas Est ). In this way, you offer the whole of Cuba the witness of a Church which shares deeply in its joys, hopes and sufferings.

Dear Brothers, I would like to thank you for all the work you are doing to strengthen the little flock of Cuba and to ensure that it produces increasingly abundant fruits of Christian life, like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth (cf. Jn 12,24). May the upcoming beatification of the Servant of God Fr José Ola-llo Valdés give a new impetus to your service to the Church and the Cuban People, so that it may be at every moment a leaven of reconciliation, justice and peace.

I ask you to convey my affectionate greeting and spiritual closeness to all, and in particular to the Bishops emeritus, to the priests, permanent deacons, religious communities, seminarians and lay faithful, and tell them that the Pope is praying for them while he encourages them to grow in holiness so as to give the best of themselves to God and others.

As you are preparing to celebrate the fourth centenary of the discovery of her venerated image, I entrust you and your intentions to Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre and ask her to protect you and give you strength, while at the same time I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.


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

I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you as you gather for the fourteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Over the last two decades, the Academy has offered a valuable contribution to the deepening and development of the Church’s social doctrine and its application in the areas of law, economics, politics and the various other social sciences. I thank Professor Margaret Archer for her kind words of greeting, and I express my sincere appreciation to all of you for your commitment to research, dialogue and teaching, so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may continue to shed light on the complex situations arising in a rapidly changing world.

In choosing the theme Pursuing the Common Good: How Solidarity and Subsidiarity Can Work Together, you have decided to examine the interrelationships between four fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 160-163). These key realities, which emerge from the living contact between the Gospel and concrete social circumstances, offer a framework for viewing and addressing the imperatives facing mankind at the dawn of the twenty-first century, such as reducing inequalities in the distribution of goods, expanding opportunities for education, fostering sustainable growth and development, and protecting the environment.

How can solidarity and subsidiarity work together in the pursuit of the common good in a way that not only respects human dignity, but allows it to flourish? This is the heart of the matter which concerns you. As your preliminary discussions have already revealed, a satisfactory answer can only surface after careful examination of the meaning of the terms (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Chapter 4). Human dignity is the intrinsic value of a person created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by Christ. The totality of social conditions allowing persons to achieve their communal and individual fulfilment is known as the common good.Solidarity refers to the virtue enabling the human family to share fully the treasure of material and spiritual goods, and subsidiarity is the coordination of society’s activities in a way that supports the internal life of the local communities.

Yet definitions are only the beginning. What is more, these definitions are adequately grasped only when linked organically to one another and seen as mutually supportive of one another. We can initially sketch the interconnections between these four principles by placing the dignity of the person at the intersection of two axes: one horizontal, representing "solidarity" and "subsidiarity", and one vertical, representing the "common good". This creates a field upon which we can plot the various points of Catholic social teaching that give shape to the common good.

Though this graphic analogy gives us a rudimentary picture of how these fundamental principles imply one another and are necessarily interwoven, we know that the reality is much more complex. Indeed, the unfathomable depths of the human person and mankind’s marvellous capacity for spiritual communion – realities which are fully disclosed only through divine revelation – far exceed the capacity of schematic representation. The solidarity that binds the human family, and the subsidiary levels reinforcing it from within, must however always be placed within the horizon of the mysterious life of the Triune God (cf. Jn 5,26 Jn 6,57), in whom we perceive an ineffable love shared by equal, though nonetheless distinct, persons (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 42).

My friends, I invite you to allow this fundamental truth to permeate your reflections: not only in the sense that the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity are undoubtedly enriched by our belief in the Trinity, but particularly in the sense that these principles have the potential to place men and women on the path to discovering their definitive, supernatural destiny. The natural human inclination to live in community is confirmed and transformed by the "oneness of Spirit" which God has bestowed upon his adopted sons and daughters (cf. Ep 4,3 1P 3,8). Consequently, the responsibility of Christians to work for peace and justice, their irrevocable commitment to build up the common good, is inseparable from their mission to proclaim the gift of eternal life to which God has called every man and woman. In this regard, the tranquillitas ordinis of which Saint Augustine speaks refers to "all things": that is to say both "civil peace", which is a "concord among citizens", and the "peace of the heavenly city", which is the "perfectly ordered and harmonious enjoyment of God, and of one another in God" (De Civitate Dei, XIX, 13).

The eyes of faith permit us to see that the heavenly and earthly cities interpenetrate and are intrinsically ordered to one another, inasmuch as they both belong to God the Father, who is "above all and through all and in all" (Ep 4,6). At the same time, faith places into sharper focus the due autonomy of earthly affairs, insofar as they are "endowed with their own stability, truth, goodness, proper laws and order" (Gaudium et Spes GS 36). Hence, you can be assured that your discussions will be of service to all people of good will, while simultaneously inspiring Christians to embrace more readily their obligation to enhance solidarity with and among their fellow citizens, and to act upon the principle of subsidiarity by promoting family life, voluntary associations, private initiative, and a public order that facilitates the healthy functioning of society’s most basic communities (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 187).

When we examine the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity in the light of the Gospel, we realize that they are not simply "horizontal": they both have an essentially vertical dimension. Jesus commands us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (cf. Lc 6,31); to love our neighbour as ourselves (cf. Mat Mt 22,35). These laws are inscribed by the Creator in man’s very nature (cf. Deus Caritas Est ). Jesus teaches that this love calls us to lay down our lives for the good of others (cf. Jn 15,12-13). In this sense, true solidarity – though it begins with an acknowledgment of the equal worth of the other – comes to fulfilment only when I willingly place my life at the service of the other (cf. Ep 6,21). Herein lies the "vertical" dimension of solidarity: I am moved to make myself less than the other so as to minister to his or her needs (cf. Jn 13,14-15), just as Jesus "humbled himself" so as to give men and women a share in his divine life with the Father and the Spirit (cf. Ph 2,8 Mt 23,12).

Similarly, subsidiarity – insofar as it encourages men and women to enter freely into life-giving relationships with those to whom they are most closely connected and upon whom they most immediately depend, and demands of higher authorities respect for these relationships – manifests a "vertical" dimension pointing towards the Creator of the social order (cf. Rom Rm 12,16). A society that honours the principle of subsidiarity liberates people from a sense of despondency and hopelessness, granting them the freedom to engage with one another in the spheres of commerce, politics and culture (cf. Quadragesimo Anno, 80). When those responsible for the public good attune themselves to the natural human desire for self-governance based on subsidiarity, they leave space for individual responsibility and initiative, but most importantly, they leave space for love (cf. Rom Rm 13,8 Deus Caritas Est ), which always remains "the most excellent way" (cf. 1Co 12,31).

In revealing the Father’s love, Jesus has taught us not only how to live as brothers and sisters here on earth; he has shown us that he himself is the way to perfect communion with one another and with God in the world to come, since it is through him that "we have access in one Spirit to the Father" (cf. Ep 2,18). As you strive to articulate the ways in which men and women can best promote the common good, I encourage you to survey both the "vertical" and "horizontal" dimensions of solidarity and subsidiarity. In this way, you will be able to propose more effective ways of resolving the manifold problems besetting mankind at the threshold of the third millennium, while also bearing witness to the primacy of love, which transcends and fulfils justice as it draws mankind into the very life of God (cf. Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace).

With these sentiments, I assure you of my prayers, and I cordially extend my Apostolic Blessing to you and your loved ones as a pledge of peace and joy in the Risen Lord.


Basilica of Saint Mary Major Saturday, 3 May 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the conclusion of this moment of Marian prayer, I would like to address my cordial greeting to all of you and thank you for your participation. In particular I greet Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Archpriest of this stupendous Basilica of St Mary Major. In Rome this is the Marian temple par excellence, in which the people of the City venerate the icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani with great affection. I gladly welcomed the invitation addressed to me to lead the Holy Rosary on the First Saturday of the month of May, according to the beautiful tradition that I have had since my childhood. In fact, in my generation's experience, the evenings of May evoke sweet memories linked to the vespertine gatherings to honour the Blessed Mother. Indeed, how is it possible to forget praying the Rosary in the parish or rather in the courtyards of the houses and in the country lanes?

Today, together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the centre, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what he did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ's mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can "water" society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each "Hail Mary".

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God who has allowed us to live such a beautiful hour this evening, and in the following evenings of this Marian month, even if we will be far away, each in their own family and community, may we, just the same, feel close and united in prayer. Especially in these days that prepare us for the Solemnity of Pentecost, let us remain united with Mary, invoking for the Church a renewed effusion of the Holy Spirit. As at the origins, Mary Most Holy helps the faithful of every Christian community to form one heart and soul. I entrust to you the most urgent intentions of my ministry, the needs of the Church, the grave problems of humanity: peace in the world, unity among Christians, dialogue between all cultures. And thinking of Rome and Italy, I invite you to pray for the pastoral goals of the Diocese, and for the united development of this beloved Country. To the new Mayor of Rome, Honourable Gianni Alemanno, who I see present here, I address the wish of a fruitful service for the good of the city's entire community. To all of you gathered here and to those who are linked to us by radio and television, in particular the sick and the infirm, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing.



St. Peter's Square Sunday, 4 May 2008

Dear Children, Young People and Adults of Catholic Action,

It is a great joy to me to welcome you here today in St Peter's Square where in the past your praiseworthy Association has frequently met the Successor of Peter. Thank you for your visit. I greet with affection all of you who have come from every part of Italy, as well as the members of the International Forum who come from 40 Countries of the world. In particular, I greet Prof. Luigi Alici, your National President, whom I thank for his cordial words addressed to me, Mons. Domenico Sigalini, your Assistant General, and the national and diocesan leaders. I also thank you for the special gift you have desired to offer to me through your representatives which testifies to your solidarity with the neediest. I express deep gratitude to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference who has celebrated Holy Mass for you.

You have come to Rome in the spiritual company of your numerous Saints, Blesseds, Venerables and Servants of God: men and women, young people and children, educators and priest chaplains, rich in Christian virtues, who have grown up in the ranks of Catholic Action which is celebrating its 140th anniversary in these days. The magnificent crown of faces that symbolically embraces St Peter's Square is a tangible witness of a holiness rich in light and love. These witnesses, who followed Jesus with all their strength, who spared no efforts for the Church and for the Kingdom of God, represent your most authentic identity card. Is it not still possible today for you boys and girls, young people and adults, to make your life a witness of communion with the Lord that is transformed into a genuine masterpiece of holiness? Is this not your Association's purpose? This will certainly be possible if Catholic Action continues to be faithful to its own deep roots of faith, nourished by full adherence to the Word of God, by unconditional love for the Church, a vigilant participation in civil life and a constant commitment to formation. Dear friends, respond generously to this call to holiness in accordance with the ways that best suit your secular condition! Continue to let yourselves be inspired by the three great "consignments" that my Venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, entrusted to you at Loreto in 2004: contemplation, communion and mission.

Catholic Action is born as a particular association of lay faithful marked by a special and direct bond with the Pope, which quickly becomes a precious form of "collaboration of the laity in the hierarchical apostolate", "most earnestly" recommended by the Second Vatican Council, and which identifies its indispensable "characteristics" (cf. Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity in the Church, Apostolicam Actuositatem, AA 20). This vocation of yours is still valid today. I encourage you, therefore, to persevere with generosity in your service to the Church. By adopting its general apostolic goal in a spirit of intimate union with the Successor of Peter and hard-working co-responsibility with Pastors, you incarnate a ministerial role in a fruitful balance between the universal Church and the local Church, which requires you to make a ceaseless and irreplaceable contribution to communion.

This broad ecclesial dimension which identifies your association's charism is not the sign of an uncertain or outdated identity; rather, it attributes great responsibility to your lay vocation: illumined and sustained by the action of the Holy Spirit and constantly rooted in the journey of the Church, you are challenged to courageously seek ever new syntheses between the proclamation of Christ's salvation to the people of our time and the promotion of the integral good of the person and of the entire human family.

In my intervention at the Fourth National Ecclesial Convention held in Verona in October 2006, I recognized that the Church in Italy "is a lively reality - and we see it! -, which conserves a capillary presence in the midst of people of every age and level. "Christian traditions often continue to be rooted and to produce fruit, while a great effort of evangelization and catechesis is taking place, addressed particularly to the new generations, but now even more so to families" (Address to Fourth National Ecclesial Convention, Verona, 19 October 2006). How can we fail to see in this capillary presence also a discreet and tangible sign of Catholic Action? In fact, the beloved Italian Nation has always been able to count on men and women formed in your Association who are prepared to serve the cause of the common good disinterestedly, to build up a just ordering of society and the State. May you, therefore, be able to live up to your Baptism which immersed you in the death and Resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of every person whom you meet, and of a world that is thirsting for peace and truth. Be "worthy citizens of the Gospel" and "ministers of Christian wisdom for a more human world": this is the theme of your Assembly and this is the commitment you assume today before the Italian Church, represented here by you, by your priest chaplains, by the Bishops and by their President.

In a missionary Church, placed before an educational emergency such as that which is found in Italy today, may you who love and serve her be tireless heralds and trained and generous educators; in a Church called to give even very demanding proof of fidelity and tempted by adaptation, be courageous witnesses and prophets of Gospel radicalism; in a Church which is confronted daily by the relativist, hedonist and consumerist mentality, may you be able to extend the spaces of rationality in the sign of a faith that befriends intelligence, both in the context of a popular and widespread culture and in a more elaborated and thought-out research; in a Church that calls for the heroism of holiness, respond without fear, always trusting in God's mercy.

Dear friends of Italian Catholic Action you are not alone on the path that lies ahead of you: your saints accompany you. Other figures too have played significant roles in your Association: I am thinking for example, among the others of Giuseppe Toniolo and Armida Barelli. Inspired by these examples of Christianity lived out, you have embarked on an extraordinary year, a year that we could qualify by holiness, in which you strive to translate the Gospel teachings into practical life. I encourage you in this resolution. Intensify your prayer, reform your conduct on the eternal values of the Gospel, letting yourselves be guided by the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. The Pope accompanies you with constant remembrance before the Lord, while he warmly imparts the Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here and to the entire Association.


Dear Commandant,
Dear Swiss Guards and Relatives,

On the occasion of the swearing-in ceremony which will take place tomorrow, I am pleased to be able to meet you all together, to offer my best wishes to the new recruits and to renew the expression of my affection and gratitude to the entire Corps of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. I greet in particular the Commandant and the Chaplain and I assure them of my prayers for their demanding service; I also gladly extend my thoughts to the Swiss Authorities and to your numerous relatives, who, with their presence, gladden your little quarters in the Vatican, dear Guards. I am especially glad to welcome so many children, who are the most beautiful flowers of your families and recall Jesus' special love for little ones.

Two years ago, in 2006, the fifth centenary of your Corps' foundation was celebrated with important events. It was a favourable occasion for seeing your history in perspective, noting the profound changes in the social context in which, in the course of the centuries, the Holy See was required to live and work in accordance with the mandate that Christ entrusted to the Apostle Peter. It was precisely what did not change that stood out against the background of this impressive development: namely the identity of your small but qualified Corps, destined to watch over the safety of the Roman Pontiff at his Residence. Five centuries later, the spirit of faith that impels young Swiss men to leave their beautiful Country to come to serve the Pope in the Vatican has remained unchanged. They have equal love for the Catholic Church, to which you bear witness in person rather than with your words, and thanks to your characteristic uniform you are easy to recognize at the entrances to the Vatican and at Papal Audiences. Your historical uniforms speak to pilgrims and tourists from every part of the world of something that in spite of all does not change, in other words they speak of your commitment to serve God by serving the "Servant of his servants".

I am addressing you, the new halberdiers, in particular. Above all may you assimilate the Christian and ecclesial spirit which is the foundation and driving force of all the activities you will carry out. Never cease to develop your prayer and your spiritual life, making the most of your Chaplain's valuable presence in order to do so. Be open, simple and loyal. May you also appreciate the differences of personality and character among yourselves because, beneath the uniform each one of you is a unique person called by God to serve his Kingdom of love and peace. As you know, the Swiss Guard is also a school of life and during their experience in the Vatican many of your predecessors discovered their vocation: to Christian marriage, to the priesthood or to the consecrated life. It is a cause of praise to God but also of appreciation for your Corps.

Dear friends, I thank you all for the generosity and dedication with which you work at the Pope's service. May the Lord reward you and endow you with abundant heavenly favours. I entrust you to the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, whom we venerate with special devotion in this month of May. I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to each one of you, to the Authorities, to the important Figures present, to your relatives and to all your loved ones.


Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends!

Another high-quality musical performance sees us gathered once again in the Paul VI Audience Hall. For me and for all of us here, it takes on a particular value and meaning. Since it is offered and performed by the China Philharmonic Orchestra and the Shanghai Opera House Chorus, it puts us in touch, as it were, with the living reality of the world of China. I thank the choir and orchestra for this generous tribute and I congratulate the organizers and the artists for their skilful, refined and elegant performance of a musical work that forms part of the artistic heritage of all humanity. In a group of such accomplished artists, we see represented the great cultural and musical tradition of China, and this performance helps us to understand better the history of the Chinese people, their values and their noble aspirations. Heartfelt thanks for this gift! Thanks also for the music that is about to be performed! I extend sincere thanks not only to the promoters and the artists, but to all those who, in different ways, took part in arranging this truly unique event.

It is worth emphasizing that this performance by Chinese artists of one of Mozart’s greatest works brings together their own musical talent and Western music. Conductor Long Yu, with his orchestra, the soloists and the Shanghai Opera House Chorus have comfortably risen to the challenge. Music, and art in general, can serve as a privileged instrument for encounter and reciprocal knowledge and esteem between different populations and cultures; a means attainable by all for valuing the universal language of art.

There is another aspect that I wish to emphasize. I note with pleasure the interest shown by your orchestra and choir in European religious music. This shows that it is possible, in different cultural settings, to enjoy and appreciate sublime manifestations of the spirit such as Mozart’s Requiem which we have just heard, precisely because music expresses universal human sentiments, including the religious sentiment, which transcends the boundaries of every individual culture.

I should also like to say a word regarding this place where we have come together this evening. It is the great hall in which the Pope receives his guests and meets those who come to visit him. It is like a window opening onto the world, a place where people from all over the world often meet, with their own personal stories and their own culture, all of them welcomed with esteem and affection. In greeting you this evening, dear Chinese artists, the Pope intends to reach out to your entire people, with a special thought for those of your fellow citizens who share faith in Jesus and are united through a particular spiritual bond with the Successor of Peter. The Requiem came into being through this faith as a prayer to God, the just and merciful judge, and that is why it touches the hearts of all people, as an expression of humanity’s universal aspirations. Finally, as I thank you once again for this most welcome tribute, I send my greetings, through you, to all the people of China as they prepare for the Olympic Games, an event of great importance for the entire human family.

(in Chinese)

I thank you all and I offer you my best wishes.


Your Beatitude,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Sons and Daughters of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church,

I am happy to meet you on your pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostles. I greet in particular H.B. Gregorios III, whom I thank for his kind words expressing the vitality of the Melkite Church despite the difficult social and political situation in your region. I also address my fraternal greeting to the Bishops present, and to you, dear friends, who have come from various countries of the Middle East and the Melkite Diaspora across the world, where in your own way you express the universality of the Catholic Church.

With the approach of the year I have chosen to dedicate to St Paul, I cannot forget that your Patriarchate's headquarters are based in the city of Damascus, on the road to which the Apostle experienced the event that transformed his life and opened the doors of Christianity to all the nations. Thus I encourage you on this occasion so that an intense pastoral outreach may awaken in your dioceses, in each one of your parishes and among all the faithful, a new impetus for an ever more intimate knowledge of Christ, thanks to a renewed reading of the Pauline writings. This will permit a fruitful witness among people today. Such an impetus will also be able to guarantee the Melkite Church a flourishing future.

In this perspective, to assure the evangelical dynamism and unity of the communities as well as the smooth functioning of ecclesial affairs in the Patriarchal Churches the role of the Synod of Bishops has a fundamental importance. Thus it would be appropriate, each time that the law requires it and especially when it is a question of matters that concern the Bishops themselves, to give this venerable institution and not only the Permanent Synod, its own proper place.

I know of the ecumenical activity of the Melkite Catholic Church and of the brotherly relations you have established with your Orthodox Brethren and I am delighted. Indeed, the commitment to the search for the unity of all Christ's disciples is an urgent obligation which stems from the ardent desire of the Lord himself. We must therefore do our utmost to break down the walls of division and distrust that prevent us from achieving it. Nevertheless, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the quest for unity is a task that concerns not only a particular Church, but the entire Church, with respect for her nature. Moreover, as the Encyclical Ut Unum Sint stresses, unity is not the fruit of human activity, it is first and foremost a gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us therefore pray the Spirit, whose descent upon the Apostles we shall be celebrating in a few days, to help us all to work together in the quest for unity.

Your Beatitude, dear Brothers and Sisters, I also appreciate the good relations you have with Muslims, with their leaders and their institutions, as well as the efforts you have made to solve, in a spirit of fraternal, sincere and objective dialogue, the problems that can arise. I rejoice, therefore, to note that along the lines of the Second Vatican Council, the Melkite Church has been committed, with Muslims, to sincerely seeking mutual understanding as well as to promoting and defending together social justice, moral values, peace and freedom for the benefit of all.

Lastly, in accomplishing her mission in the turbulent and sometimes dramatic context of the Middle East, the Church finds herself facing situations in which politics play a role that may concern her. Thus it is important that she keep in touch with the Political Authorities, the institutions and the different parties. Nevertheless, it does not behove the clergy to be involved in politics. This is the task of the laity. Yet the Church must propose the light of the Gospel to people so that all may engage to serve the common good; that justice always prevail and the path of peace unfold before the peoples of this beloved region.

Your Beatitude, in concluding this meeting, I entrust the Melkite Greek Catholic Church to the intercession of the Virgin Mary and to the protection of all the Saints of the East. While I ask God to give your Patriarchal Church strength and enlightenment so that she may persevere with her mission in peace and serenity, I impart to you as well as to the Bishops and all the faithful of your Patriarchate an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.


Clementine Hall Friday, 9 May 2008
Your Holiness,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with heartfelt joy that I welcome Your Holiness, and the distinguished delegation accompanying you. I cordially greet the prelates, priests and lay-people who represent the worldwide family of the Catholicosate of All Armenians. We come together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who promised his disciples that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18,20). May the spirit of brotherly love and service, which Jesus taught to his disciples, enlighten our hearts and minds, as we exchange our greetings, hold our conversations and gather in prayer.

I gratefully recall the visits of Catholicos Vasken I and Catholicos Karekin I to the Church of Rome, and their cordial relations with my venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Their striving for Christian unity opened a new era in relations between us. I recall with particular joy Your Holiness’ visit to Rome in 2000 and your meeting with Pope John Paul II. The ecumenical liturgy in the Vatican Basilica, celebrating the gift of a relic of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was one of the most memorable events of the Great Jubilee in Rome. Pope John Paul II returned that visit by travelling to Armenia in 2001, where You graciously hosted him at Holy Etchmiadzin. The warm welcome you gave him on that occasion further increased his esteem and respect for the Armenian people. The Eucharist celebrated by Pope John Paul II on the great outdoor altar, within the enclosure of Holy Etchmiadzin, was a further sign of growing mutual acceptance, in expectation of the day when we will be able to celebrate together at the one table of the Lord.

Tomorrow evening, each of us, in our respective traditions, will begin the liturgical celebration of Pentecost. Fifty days after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will pray earnestly to the Father, asking him to send his Holy Spirit, the Spirit whose task it is to maintain us in divine love and lead us into all truth. We will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. On Pentecost day, it was the Holy Spirit who created from the many languages of the crowds assembled in Jerusalem one single voice to profess the faith. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about the Church’s unity. The path towards the restoration of full and visible communion among all Christians may seem long and arduous. Much remains to be done to heal the deep and painful divisions that disfigure Christ’s Body. The Holy Spirit, however, continues to guide the Church in surprising and often unexpected ways. He can open doors that are locked, inspire words that have been forgotten, heal relations that are broken. If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father’s plan, in conformity with the will of Christ.

The recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colours of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual re-birth. Your Holiness and the members of your delegation have personally lived through these contrasting experiences in your families and in your own lives. The restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all. An immense task of rebuilding the Church has been laid on your shoulders. I cannot but voice my great esteem for the remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time, both in Armenia and abroad, for the Christian education of young people, for the training of new clergy, for building new churches and community centres, for charitable assistance to those in need, and for promoting Christian values in social and cultural life. Thanks to your pastoral leadership, the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more. Of course, you are still facing many challenges on the social, cultural and spiritual levels. In this regard, I must mention the recent difficulties suffered by the people of Armenia, and I express the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in their search for justice and peace and the promotion of the common good.

In our ecumenical dialogue, important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us, particularly over questions of Christology. During the last five years, much has been achieved by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which the Catholicosate of All Armenians is a full member. I thank Your Holiness for the support given to the work of the Joint Commission and for the valuable contribution made by your representatives. We pray that its activity will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist. Until that day, the bonds between us are best consolidated and extended by agreements on pastoral issues, in line with the degree of doctrinal agreement already attained. Only when sustained by prayer and supported by effective cooperation, can theological dialogue lead to the unity that the Lord wishes for his disciples.

Your Holiness, dear friends: in the twelfth century, Nerses of Lambron addressed a group of Armenian Bishops. He concluded his famous Synodal Discourse on the restoration of Christian unity with visionary words, that still affect us today:“You are not wrong, Venerable Fathers: it is meritorious to weep over days past in discord. However, today is the day that the Lord has made, a day of gladness and joy (…) Let us then pray in order that our Lord give tenderness, sweetness in greater abundance still, and that He develop on earth, by the dew of the Holy Spirit, this seed; perhaps, thanks to His power may we also produce fruits; so that we may restore the peace of the Church of Christ today in intention, tomorrow in fact”. This is also my prayerful wish on the occasion of your visit. I thank you most warmly and assure you of my deep affection in the Lord.

TO THE BISHOPS OF HUNGARY ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT Clementine Hall Saturday, 10 May 2008

Dear and Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

I greet you all with great joy, Pastors of the Church in Hungary, on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. I greet you with affection and I am grateful to Cardinal Péter Erdö for his words to me on behalf of the Bishops' Conference as a whole. In addition to expressing your fraternal sentiments to me, for which I warmly thank you, he has clearly outlined the salient characteristics of the Catholic Community and the society of your Country, summarizing the knowledge that I have been able to gain at the meetings with each one of you. Thus, dear Brothers, the people entrusted to you are now spiritually before you with their joys and plans, their sorrows, problems and hopes. And we pray first of all that through the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul, and with the help of this Apostolic See which presides in charity, the faithful may find the strength to persevere on their way toward the fullness of the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately, the long period of the Communist regime has so deeply scarred the Hungarian people that the consequences are still being felt today: in particular, many show a certain difficulty in trusting others, typical of those who have lived for a long time in an atmosphere of suspicion. Moreover, the feeling of insecurity, is accentuated by the difficult economic situation, which heedless consumerism does not help to improve. People, including Catholics, generally feel the "weakness" of thought and will that is very common in our day. As you yourselves have noted, today it is often difficult to initiate a serious theological and spiritual deepening because, on the one hand the necessary intellectual training is lacking and on the other, the objective reference to the truth of faith. In this context the Church must certainly be a teacher, but must always show herself first and foremost to be a mother, so as to foster growth in mutual trust and to encourage hope.

Unfortunately the family, which is going through a serious crisis in Hungary too, is the first to suffer from the widespread secularization. Its symptoms are the considerable decrease in the number of marriages and the striking rise in divorces, that are also very often premature. The so-called "de facto couples" are proliferating. You rightly criticized the public recognition of homosexual unions, because they are not only contrary to the Church's teaching but also to the Hungarian Constitution itself. This situation, together with the lack of subsidies for large families, has led to a drastic fall in the birth rate, made even more dramatic by the widespread practice of abortion. The family crisis is of course an enormous challenge to the Church. Conjugal fidelity and more in general the values on which society is founded are called into question. It is therefore obvious that after families it is youth who are affected by this problem. In the cities they are attracted by new forms of entertainment and in the villages are often left to themselves. I therefore express my deepest appreciation of the many initiatives that the Church promotes, even with the limited means at her disposal, to animate the world of youth with periods of formation and friendship that awaken their sense of responsibility. I am thinking, for example, of the activities of choirs, which fit into the praiseworthy commitment of parishes to encourage the spread of sacred music. Again, in the perspective of attention to the new generations, you offer praiseworthy support to Catholic schools, and in particular to the Catholic University of Budapest which I hope will always be able to preserve and develop its original identity. I encourage you to persevere in your efforts for the pastoral care of schools and universities, as well as, more generally, for the evangelization of culture which in our day also avails itself of the media; in this sector your Church has recently made important progress.

Venerable Brothers, to keep the people's faith alive you justly seek to develop and update traditional initiatives, such as pilgrimages and expressions of devotion to Hungarian Saints, particularly St Elizabeth, St Emeric and, of course, St Stephen. With regard to pilgrimages, while I appreciate the fact that the custom of pilgrimages to the See of Peter has endured (significantly, there is an evocative Hungarian Chapel in the Basilica dedicated to the Apostle), I learned with pleasure of the increasing number of pilgrimages to Mariazell, Czestochowa, Lourdes, Fatima and the new Shrine of Divine Mercy at Krakow, where your Bishops' Conference also recently erected a "Hungarian Chapel". In the 20th century, there has been no lack of heroic witnesses of faith in your Community: I urge you to keep their memory alive, so that the Christian spirit with which they faced suffering may continue to inspire courage and fidelity in believers and in all who work for truth and justice.

There is another concern that I share with you: the lack of priests and the resulting excessive burden of pastoral work on the Church's ministers today. This is a problem in many European Countries. Nonetheless, it is necessary to ensure that priests nourish their spiritual life adequately so that despite the problems and the pressing work they do not lose sight of the centre of their existence and their ministry, and are consequently able to discern the essential from the secondary, identifying the proper priorities in their daily activity. It is only right to reaffirm that joyful adherence to Christ, witnessed by the priest among his faithful, remains the most effective incentive to reawakening in young people sensitivity to a possible call from God. In particular, it is fundamental that the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance be received regularly with the greatest devotion first of all by the priests themselves and then generously administered by them to the faithful. The exercise of presbyteral brotherhood is likewise indispensable, to avoid any dangerous isolation. It is equally important to encourage positive and respectful relations between priests and the lay faithful, in accordance with the teaching of the Conciliar Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis. The good relations existing between the clergy and religious also deserve to be increased further. In this regard I would like to address my encouragement to the women's Religious Congregations, which with humble discretion carry out precious activities among the poorest.

Venerable Brothers, in spite of secularization, the Catholic Church continues to be the Religious Community to which many Hungarians belong, or, at least, an important reference point. Thus it is particularly desirable that relations with State Authorities be marked by respectful collaboration, also by means of bilateral Agreements whose correct implementation should be overseen by a special Joint Commission. This will not fail to benefit the whole of Hungarian society, particularly in the fields of education and culture. And if the Church, thanks to her commitment in schools and in social service, is to make a considerable contribution to the civil community, how can one fail to hope that her activities will be seconded by public institutions, especially for the benefit of the less privileged classes? On the ecclesial side, despite the general financial difficulty at this time, the commitment to serve those in situations of need will not be lacking.

Lastly, venerable Brothers, how could I fail to tell you that the unity which characterizes you in following the Church's teachings is a source of serenity and comfort to me? May it always continue and develop! I am also pleased that you have recently increased your contact with the Bishops' Conferences of the neighbouring Countries, especially Slovakia and Romania, where Hungarian minorities are present. I warmly applaud this line of action, motivated by a sincere Gospel spirit and, at the same time, by a wise concern for harmonious coexistence. Tensions are of course far from easy to overcome, but the direction the Church has taken is right and promising. For this and for all your other pastoral projects I assure you of my support. In particular, I am thinking at this moment of the "Year of the Bible", which you have very appropriately promoted in 2008 to coincide with the upcoming Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. This is also an excellent opportunity for you to deepen relations with your Christian brethren of other denominations. In thanking God for his constant help, I invoke upon you and upon your ministry the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy. For my part, I accompany you with prayers, while I impart to you with affection the Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your Diocesan Communities and to the entire Hungarian Nation.


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you with great pleasure at the conclusion of your Congress which has involved you in reflecting on an old and ever new problem: responsibility and respect for human life from its conception. I greet in particular Archbishop Rino Fisichella, Rector Magnificent of the Pontifical Lateran University, which organized this International Congress, and I thank him for his words of welcome. I then extend my greeting to the distinguished Speakers, the Lecturers and all the participants who have enriched these busy days of work with their contributions. Your papers fittingly contribute to the broader output on this topic - so controversial, yet so crucial for humanity's future - which has increased in the course of the decades.

In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council was already addressing scientists, urging them to join forces to achieve unity in knowledge and a consolidated certainty on the conditions that can favour "the proper regulation of births" (n. 52). My Predecessor of venerable memory, the Servant of God Paul VI, published his Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae on 25 July 1968. The Document very soon became a sign of contradiction. Drafted to treat a difficult situation, it constitutes a significant show of courage in reasserting the continuity of the Church's doctrine and tradition. This text, all too often misunderstood and misinterpreted, also sparked much discussion because it was published at the beginning of profound contestations that marked the lives of entire generations. Forty years after its publication this teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated. In fact, conjugal love is described within a global process that does not stop at the division between soul and body and is not subjected to mere sentiment, often transient and precarious, but rather takes charge of the person's unity and the total sharing of the spouses who, in their reciprocal acceptance, offer themselves in a promise of faithful and exclusive love that flows from a genuine choice of freedom. How can such love remain closed to the gift of life? Life is always a precious gift; every time we witness its beginnings we see the power of the creative action of God who trusts man and thus calls him to build the future with the strength of hope.

The Magisterium of the Church cannot be exonerated from reflecting in an ever new and deeper way on the fundamental principles that concern marriage and procreation. What was true yesterday is true also today. The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change; on the contrary, precisely in the light of the new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more timely and elicits reflection on the intrinsic value it possesses. The key word to enter coherently into its content remains "love". As I wrote in my first Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united.... Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves" (n. 5). If this unity is removed, the value of the person is lost and there is a serious risk of considering the body a commodity that can be bought or sold (cf. ibid). In a culture subjected to the prevalence of "having' over "being', human life risks losing its value. If the practice of sexuality becomes a drug that seeks to enslave one's partner to one's own desires and interests, without respecting the cycle of the beloved, then what must be defended is no longer solely the true concept of love but in the first place the dignity of the person. As believers, we could never let the domination of technology invalidate the quality of love and the sacredness of life.

It was not by chance that Jesus, in speaking of human love, alluded to what God created at the beginning of the Creation (cf. Mt 19,4-6). His teaching refers to a free act with which the Creator not only meant to express the riches of his love which is open, giving itself to all, but he also wanted to impress upon it a paradigm in accordance with which humanity's action must be declined. In the fruitfulness of conjugal love, the man and the woman share in the Father's creative act and make it clear that at the origin of their spousal life they pronounce a genuine "yes" which is truly lived in reciprocity, remaining ever open to life. This word of the Lord with its profound truth endures unchanged and cannot be abolished by the different theories that have succeeded one another in the course of the years, and at times even been contradictory. Natural law, which is at the root of the recognition of true equality between persons and peoples, deserves to be recognized as the source that inspires the relationship between the spouses in their responsibility for begetting new children. The transmission of life is inscribed in nature and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which all must refer. Any attempt to turn one's gaze away from this principle is in itself barren and does not produce a future.

We urgently need to rediscover a new covenant that has always been fruitful when it has been respected; it puts reason and love first. A perceptive teacher like William of Saint-Thierry could write words that we feel are profoundly valid even for our time: "If reason instructs love and love illumines reason, if reason is converted into love and love consents to be held within the bounds of reason, they can do something great" (De Natura et dignitate amoris, 21, 8). What is this "something great" that we can witness? It is the promotion of responsibility for life which brings to fruition the gift that each one makes of him or herself to the other. It is the fruit of a love that can think and choose in complete freedom, without letting itself be conditioned unduly by the possible sacrifice requested. From this comes the miracle of life that parents experience in themselves, as they sense the extraordinary nature of what takes place in them and through them. No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as the sign of a greater mystery which (as protagonists and sharers in creation) sees them playing the lead and sharing in creation.

Unfortunately, more and more often we see sorrowful events that involve adolescents, whose reactions show their incorrect knowledge of the mystery of life and of the risky implications of their actions. The urgent need for education to which I often refer, primarily concerns the theme of life. I sincerely hope that young people in particular will be given very special attention so that they may learn the true meaning of love and prepare for it with an appropriate education in sexuality, without letting themselves be distracted by ephemeral messages that prevent them from reaching the essence of the truth at stake. To circulate false illusions in the context of love or to deceive people concerning the genuine responsibilities that they are called to assume with the exercise of their own sexuality does not do honour to a society based on the principles of freedom and democracy. Freedom must be conjugated with truth and responsibility with the force of dedication to the other, even with sacrifice; without these components the human community does not grow and the risk of enclosing itself in an asphyxiating cycle of selfishness is always present.

The teaching expressed by the Encyclical Humanae Vitae is not easy. Yet it conforms with the fundamental structure through which life has always been transmitted since the world's creation, with respect for nature and in conformity with its needs. Concern for human life and safeguarding the person's dignity require us not to leave anything untried so that all may be involved in the genuine truth of responsible conjugal love in full adherence to the law engraved on the heart of every person. With these sentiments I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words, and I ask you to convey to President Shimon Peres my respectful greetings and the assurance of my prayers for the people of your country.

Once again I offer cordial good wishes on the occasion of Israel’s celebration of sixty years of statehood. The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled, and hopes soon to see a time of even greater rejoicing when a just peace finally resolves the conflict with the Palestinians. In particular, the Holy See values its diplomatic relations with Israel, established fifteen years ago, and looks forward to developing further the growing respect, esteem and collaboration that unites us.

Between the State of Israel and the Holy See there are numerous areas of mutual interest that can be profitably explored. As you have pointed out, the Judeo-Christian heritage should inspire us to take a lead in promoting many forms of social and humanitarian action throughout the world, not least by combating all forms of racial discrimination. I share Your Excellency’s enthusiasm for the cultural and academic exchanges that are taking place between Catholic institutions worldwide and those of the Holy Land, and I too hope that these initiatives will be developed further in the years ahead. The fraternal dialogue that is conducted on an international level between Christians and Jews is bearing much fruit and needs to be continued with commitment and generosity. The holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem represent a source of faith and wisdom of central importance for Western civilization, and in consequence, the links between Israel and the Holy See have deeper resonances than those which arise formally from the juridical dimension of our relations.

Your Excellency, I know that you share my concern over the alarming decline in the Christian population of the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration. Of course Christians are not alone in suffering the effects of insecurity and violence as a result of the various conflicts in the region, but in many respects they are particularly vulnerable at the present time. I pray that, in consequence of the growing friendship between Israel and the Holy See, ways will be found of reassuring the Christian community, so that they can experience the hope of a secure and peaceful future in their ancestral homelands, without feeling under pressure to move to other parts of the world in order to build new lives.

Christians in the Holy Land have long enjoyed good relations with both Muslims and Jews. Their presence in your country, and the free exercise of the Church’s life and mission there, have the potential to contribute significantly to healing the divisions between the two communities. I pray that it may be so, and I invite your Government to continue to explore ways of harnessing the good will that Christians bear, both towards the natural descendants of the people who were the first to hear the word of God, and towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who have lived and worshipped for centuries in the land that all three religious traditions call “holy”.

I do realize that the difficulties experienced by Christians in the Holy Land are also related to the continuing tension between Jewish and Palestinian communities. The Holy See recognizes Israel’s legitimate need for security and self-defence and strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism. It also maintains that all peoples have a right to be given equal opportunities to flourish. Accordingly, I would urge your Government to make every effort to alleviate the hardship suffered by the Palestinian community, allowing them the freedom necessary to go about their legitimate business, including travel to places of worship, so that they too can enjoy greater peace and security. Clearly, these matters can only be addressed within the wider context of the Middle East peace process. The Holy See welcomes the commitment expressed by your Government to carry forward the momentum rekindled at Annapolis and prays that the hopes and expectations raised there will not be disappointed. As I observed in my recent address to the United Nations in New York, it is necessary to explore every possible diplomatic avenue and to remain attentive to “even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation” if long-standing conflicts are to be resolved. When all the people of the Holy Land live in peace and harmony, in two independent sovereign states side by side, the benefit for world peace will be inestimable, and Israel will truly serve as ??? ????? (“light to the nations”, Is 42,6), a shining example of conflict resolution for the rest of the world to follow.

Much work has gone into formulating the agreements which have been signed thus far between Israel and the Holy See, and it is greatly hoped that the negotiations regarding economic and fiscal affairs may soon be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Thank you for your reassuring words concerning the Israeli Government’s commitment to a positive and expeditious resolution of the questions that remain. I know that I speak on behalf of many when I express the hope that these agreements may soon be integrated into the Israeli internal legal system and so provide a lasting basis for fruitful cooperation. Given the personal interest taken by Your Excellency in the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, which is greatly appreciated, I know you understand the difficulties caused by continuing uncertainties over their legal rights and status, especially with regard to the question of visas for church personnel. I am sure you will do what you can to facilitate the resolution of the problems that remain in a manner acceptable to all parties. Only when these difficulties are overcome, will the Church be able to carry out freely her religious, moral, educational and charitable works in the land where she came to birth.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that exist between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of the State of Israel, God’s abundant blessings.

TO THE MEMBERS OF ITALY'S PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT Hall of Blessings Monday, 12 May 2008

Speeches 2005-13 24048