Speeches 2005-13 12058

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With deep pleasure I welcome you today and I offer each one of you my cordial greeting. In the first place, I greet Bishop Michele Pennisi of Piazza Armerina, and the priests present. I address a special greeting to Hon. Carlo Carsini, President of the Pro-Life Movement and I warmly thank him for his kind words to me on your behalf. I greet the members of the National Management Committee and the Executive Board of the Pro-Life Movement, the Presidents of the Centres for Help to Life and those in charge of the various services, the "Progetto Gemma", the "Telefono Verde", "SOS Vita" and "Telefono Rosso". I also greet the representatives of the Pope John XXIII Association and several European pro-life movements. Through you who are present here I extend my affectionate thoughts to those who, although they are unable to be here in person are united with us in spirit. I am thinking in particular of the many volunteers who, with self-denial and generosity share with you the noble ideal of promoting and defending human life from its conception.

Your visit is taking place 30 years since the legalization of abortion in Italy and you are intending to suggest a profound reflection on the human and social effects this law has produced in the civil and Christian communities during this period. Looking at the past three decades and considering the current situation, it is impossible not to recognize that in practice defending human life today has become more difficult because a mindset has developed, entrusted to the opinion of the individual, which has gradually debased its value. One result of this has been the decrease in respect for the human person, a value at the root of all civil coexistence, over and above the faith professed.

The causes that lead to such painful decisions as abortion are of course many and complex. If, on the one hand, faithful to her Lord's commandment, the Church never tires of reaffirming that the sacred value of every human being's life originates in the Creator's plan, on the other hand, she encourages the promotion of every initiative in support of women and families in order to create the favourable conditions in which to welcome life, and the protection of the family institution founded on the marriage between a man and a woman. Not only has permitting recourse to the termination of pregnancy not solved the problems that afflict many women and a fair number of families, but it has also made another wound in our society, unfortunately, already burdened by deep suffering.

In recent years, there has been great dedication, and not only on the Church's part, in order to meet the needs and difficulties of families. However, we cannot conceal from ourselves that various problems continue to gnaw at today's society, preventing space from being given to the desire of so many young people to marry and to form a family, because of the unfavourable situation in which they live. The lack of steady employment, legislation that frequently does not provide for the protection of motherhood, the impossibility of guaranteeing adequate support for children, are some of the obstacles that seem to stifle the requirement of fertile love, while they open the door to a growing sense of distrust in the future. It is necessary, therefore, to join forces so that different Institutions may once again focus their action on the defence of human life and give priority attention to the family, in whose heart life is born and develops. It is necessary to help the family with every legislative means to facilitate its formation and its task of education in the difficult social context of today.

For Christians, in this fundamental context of society, an urgent and indispensable field for the apostolate and for Gospel witness is always open: to protect life with courage and love in all its stages. For this, dear brothers and sisters, I ask the Lord to bless the activity which, as the Centro di Aiuto alla Vita and the Movimento per la Vita, you carry out to prevent abortion, also in the case of difficult pregnancies, working at the same time in the contexts of education, culture and political debate. It is necessary to witness concretely that respect for life is the first form of justice to apply. For those who have the gift of faith this becomes a mandatory imperative, because the disciple of Christ is called to be increasingly a "prophet" of a truth that can never be eliminated: God alone is the Lord of life. Every person is known and loved, wanted and guided by him. Here alone lies the deepest and greatest unity of humanity: in the fact that every human being puts into practice God's one plan, originates in God's same creative idea. One thus understands why the Bible says: whoever profanes man, profanes the property of God (cf. Gn
Gn 9,5).

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights whose merit is to have enabled different cultures, juridical forms and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence, of rights. As I recently recalled during my Visit to the United Nations Organization to the members of the U.N., "Human rights, then, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of the legislators.... The promotion of human rights remains the most effective strategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, and for increasing security" (Address to U.N. General Assembly, New York, 18 April 2008). For this reason your commitment in the political arena, as a help and an incentive for Institutions so that proper recognition be given to the words "human dignity", is truly laudable. Your initiative with the Commission for Petitions of the European Parliament, in which you assert the fundamental values of the right to life from conception, of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, of the right of every human being conceived to be born and brought up in a family by his parents, further confirms the solidity of your commitment and your full communion with the Magisterium of the Church, which has always proclaimed and defended these values as "non-negotiable".

Dear brothers and sisters, in meeting you on 22 May 1998, John Paul II urged you to persevere in your commitment of love and the defence of human life, and recalled that thanks to you, numerous children were able to experience the joy of the most precious gift of life. Ten years later, it is I who thank you for the service you have rendered to the Church and to society. How many human lives you have saved from death! Continue on this path and, in order that the smile of life may triumph on the lips of all children and their mothers, do not be afraid. I entrust each one of you, and the many people whom you meet at the Centres of help for life, to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the family, and while I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I warmly bless you and all those who belong to the Pro-Life Movements in Italy, in Europe and throughout the world.


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

I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I greet in particular Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President, whom I thank for the words with which he introduced our Meeting, illustrating the various facets of the interesting topic you have addressed in these days. I also greet Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, Secretary, the Undersecretary, the Officials and the Experts, the Members and the Consultors, I address a cordial thought of gratitude to all for the work achieved and for their dedication in putting into practice what has been discussed and planned in these days for the good of all families.

During my recent Visit to the United States of America, I was able to encourage that great Country to continue in its commitment to welcoming the brothers and sisters who arrive there, usually from poor countries. I pointed out in particular the serious problem of family reunion, a subject I had already treated in my Message for the 93rd World Day of Migrants and Refugees, dedicated precisely to the theme. I wish to recall here that on various occasions I have presented the icon of the Holy Family as a model for migrant families, referring to the image presented by my Venerable Predecessor, Pope Pius XII, in the Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia, which constitutes the magna carta of the pastoral care of migrants (cf. AAS 44, 1952, p. 649; Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, n. 20; ORE, 26 May 2004, p. I). Moreover, in his Messages of 1980, 1986 and 1993, my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II intended to stress that ecclesial commitment is not only in favour of the individual migrant but also of his family, a community of love and a factor of integration.

First of all, I am pleased to reaffirm that the Church's concern for migrant families in no way diminishes her pastoral involvement with those on the move. Indeed, this commitment to preserving unity of vision and action between the two "wings" (migration and vagrancy) can help one understand the magnitude of the phenomenon, and at the same time be an incentive to all for a specific pastoral approach, encouraged by the Supreme Pontiffs and hoped for by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (cf. Christus Dominus
CD 18), and appropriately upheld by documents drafted by your Pontifical Council as well as by Congresses and Meetings. One must not forget that the family, even the migrant family and the itinerant family, constitutes the original cell of society which must not be destroyed but rather defended with courage and patience. It represents the community in which from infancy the child has been taught to worship and love God, learning the grammar of human and moral values and learning to make good use of freedom in the truth. Unfortunately, in many situations it is difficult for this to happen, especially in the case of those who are caught up in the phenomenon of human mobility.

Furthermore, in its action of welcome and dialogue with migrants and itinerant people, the Christian community has as a constant reference point, the Person of Christ our Lord. He has bequeathed to his disciples a golden rule to abide by in one's own life: the new commandment of love. Through the Gospel and the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, Christ continues to transmit to the Church the Love that he lived, even to death and death on a Cross. It is very significant, in this regard, that the Liturgy provides for the celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage in the heart of the Eucharistic celebration. This points to the profound bond that unites the two Sacraments. The spouses, in their daily life, must draw inspiration for their behaviour from the example of Christ who "loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Ep 5,25): this supreme act of love is represented in every Eucharistic celebration. It will thus be appropriate for the pastoral care of the family to stress this important sacramental fact as its fundamental reference point. Those who attend Mass - and it is also necessary to make the celebration of it easier for migrants and itinerant people - find in the Eucharist a very strong reference to their own family, to their own marriage, and are encouraged to live their situation in the perspective of faith, seeking in divine grace the necessary strength to succeed.

Lastly, it escapes no one that in today's globalized world human mobility represents an important frontier for the new evangelization. I encourage you, therefore, to persevere in your pastoral task with renewed zeal while, for my part, I assure you of my spiritual closeness. I accompany you with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will make your every initiative fruitful. To this end I invoke the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of the Way, so that she may help every man and every woman to know her Son Jesus Christ and to receive from him the gift of salvation. With this hope, I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and your loved ones, as well as to all the migrants and itinerant people in this vast world and to their families.



Very Dear Sisters,

I greet and welcome with joy each one of you, consecrated with the "solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus Christ " (Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World [RCV], n. 17), on the occasion of the International Pilgrimage and Congress of the Ordo Virginum, for which you are gathered in Rome during these days. In particular, I greet and thank Cardinal Franc Rodé for his cordial greeting and his dedication to this initiative, while I address my heartfelt thanks to the Organizing Committee. In choosing the theme for these days you were inspired by one of my affirmations which sums up what I have already had the opportunity to say concerning your state as women who live consecrated virginity in the world: A gift in the Church and for the Church. In this light I would like to strengthen you in your vocation and invite you to develop, from day to day, your understanding of a charism that is as luminous and fruitful in the eyes of the faith as it is obscure and futile in those of the world.

"Imitate the Mother of God; desire to be called and to be handmaids of the Lord" (RCV, n. 16). The Order of Virgins is a special expression of consecrated life that blossomed anew in the Church after the Second Vatican Council (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata
VC 7). Its roots, however, are ancient; they date back to the dawn of apostolic times when, with unheard of daring, certain women began to open their hearts to the desire for consecrated virginity, in other words, to the desire to give the whole of their being to God, which had had its first extraordinary fulfilment in the Virgin of Nazareth and her "yes". In the thought of the Fathers Mary was the prototype of Christian virgins and their perception highlighted the newness of this new state of life, to which a free choice of love gave access.

"They have chosen you [Lord] above all things; may they find all things in possessing you" (cf. RCV, n. 24). Your charism must reflect the intensity but also the freshness of its origins. It is founded on the simple Gospel invitation: "He who is able to receive this, let him receive it" (Mt 19,12), and on St Paul's recommendations of virginity for the Kingdom (1Co 7,25-35). Yet the whole of the Christian mystery shines out in it. When your charism came into being it did not take shape in accordance with specific ways of life. Rather, it was institutionalized little by little until it became a true and proper solemn, public consecration, conferred by the Bishop in an evocative liturgical rite which made the consecrated woman the sponsa Christi, an image of the Church as Bride.

Dearest friends, your vocation is deeply rooted in the particular Church to which you belong: it is your Bishops' task to recognize the charism of virginity in you, to consecrate you and, possibly, to encourage you on your way, in order to teach you fear of the Lord, as they commitment themselves to do during the solemn liturgy of consecration. From the sphere of the Diocese with its traditions, its Saints, its values, its limits and its problems you broaden your horizons to the universal Church, sharing above all in her liturgical prayer, which is also entrusted to you so that "the praise of our heavenly Father be always on your lips; pray without ceasing ", (RCV, n. 28). In this way your prayerful "I" will gradually be enlarged, until there is no longer anything except a great "we" in the prayer. This is ecclesial prayer and the true liturgy. May you open yourselves in your dialogue with God to a dialogue with all creatures, for whom you will find you are mothers, mothers of the children of God (cf. RCV, n. 28).

However, your ideal, truly lofty in itself, demands no special external change. Each consecrated person normally remains in her own life context. It is a way that seems to lack the specific characteristics of religious life, and above all that of obedience. For you, however, love becomes the sequela: your charism entails a total gift to Christ, an assimilation of the Bridegroom who implicitly asks for the observance of the evangelical counsels in order to keep your fidelity to him unstained (cf. RCV, n. 26). Being with Christ demands interiority, but at the same time opens a person to communicating with the brethren: your mission is grafted on this. An essential "rule of life" defines the commitment that each one of you assumes, with the Bishop's consent, at both the spiritual and existential levels. These are personal journeys. There are among you different approaches and different ways of living the gift of consecrated virginity and this becomes much more obvious in the course of an international meeting such as this, which has gathered you together during these days. I urge you to go beyond external appearances, experiencing the mystery of God's tenderness which each one of you bears in herself and recognizing one another as sisters, even in your diversity.

"That your whole life may be a faithful witness of God's love and a convincing sign of the kingdom of heaven" (RCV, n. 17). Take care always to radiate the dignity of being a bride of Christ, expressing the newness of Christian existence and the serene expectation of future life. Thus, with your own upright life you will be stars to guide the world on its journey. The choice of virginal life, in fact, is a reference to the transient nature of earthly things and an anticipation of future rewards. Be witnesses of attentive and lively expectation, of joy and of the peace that characterizes those who abandon themselves to God's love. May you be present in the world, yet pilgrims bound for the Kingdom. Indeed, the consecrated virgin is identified with that bride who, in unison with the Spirit, invokes the coming of the Lord: "The Spirit and the Bride say "Come'" (Ap 22,17).

As I take my leave of you I entrust you to Mary; and I make my own the words of St Ambrose, who sung the praises of Christian virginity, addressing them to you: "May there be in each one the soul of Mary to magnify the Lord; may there be in each one the Spirit of Mary to exult in God. If there is only one Mother of Christ according to the flesh, Christ on the other hand, according to the faith, is the fruit of all, since every soul receives the Word of God so that, immaculate and immune to vice, she may preserve her chastity with irreproachable modesty" (Comment on St Lc 2,26, PL 15, 1642).

With this heartfelt wish, I bless you.


Dear Brother Bishops,

“Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth” (cf.
Ps 104,30). With these words of the Pentecost antiphon I cordially welcome you, the Bishops of Thailand. I thank Bishop Phimphisan for the kind sentiments expressed on your behalf. I warmly reciprocate them and assure you of my prayers for yourselves and all those entrusted to your pastoral care. Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum is an occasion to strengthen your commitment to make Jesus increasingly visible within the Church and known in society through witness to the love and truth of his Gospel.

The great feast of Pentecost which we have recently celebrated reminds us that the Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world and prompts us to bring Christ to all peoples. In your country this mission of the small Catholic community is undertaken within the context of relationships, most especially with Buddhists. In fact, you have readily expressed to me your great respect for the Buddhist monasteries and the esteem you have for the contribution they make to the social and cultural life of the Thai people.

The coexistence of different religious communities today unfolds against the backdrop of globalization. Recently I observed that the forces of globalization see humanity poised between two poles. On the one hand there is the growing multitude of economic and cultural bonds which usually enhance a sense of global solidarity and shared responsibility for the well-being of humanity. On the other there are disturbing signs of a fragmentation and a certain individualism in which secularism takes a hold, pushing the transcendent and the sense of the sacred to the margins and eclipsing the very source of harmony and unity within the universe.

The negative aspects of this cultural phenomenon, which cause dismay to yourselves and other religious leaders in your country, in fact point to the importance of interreligious cooperation. They call for a concerted effort to uphold the spiritual and moral soul of your people. In concordance with Buddhists, you can promote mutual understanding concerning the transmission of traditions to succeeding generations, the articulation of ethical values discernable to reason, reverence for the transcendent, prayer and contemplation. Such practices and dispositions serve the common well-being of society and nurture the essence of every human being.

As shepherds of small and scattered flocks, you draw comfort from the sending of the Paraclete, who advocates, counsels and protects (cf. Jn 14,16). Encourage the faithful to embrace all that begets the new life of Pentecost! The Spirit of truth reminds us that the Father and the Son are present in the world through those who love Christ and keep his word (cf. Jn 14,22-23), becoming disciples sent forth to bear fruit (cf. Jn 15,8). The outpouring of the Spirit is therefore both a gift and a task; a task which in turn becomes itself an epiphanic gift: the presentation of Christ and his love to the world. In Thailand, that gift is encountered particularly through the Church’s medical clinics and social works as well as through her schools, for it is there that the noble Thai people may come to recognize and know the face of Jesus Christ.

Dear Brothers, you have rightly noted that Catholic schools and colleges make a remarkable contribution to the intellectual formation of numerous young Thais. They should also make an outstanding contribution to the spiritual and moral education of the young. Indeed, it is for these crucial aspects of the formation of the person that parents – whether Catholic or Buddhist – turn to Catholic schools.

In this regard, I wish to appeal to the many men and women religious who diligently serve in Catholic institutions of learning in your Dioceses. Theirs should not primarily be a role of administration but of mission. As consecrated persons they are called to be “witnesses of Christ, epiphany of the love of God in the world”, and require “the courage of testimony and the patience of dialogue” serving “the dignity of human life, the harmony of creation, and the peaceful existence of peoples” (Consecrated Persons and their Mission in Schools, 1-2). It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that Religious remain close to the students and their families, most especially through their classroom teaching of the catechism for Catholics and others interested, and through moral formation and care for the spiritual needs of all in the school community. I encourage Congregations in their commitment to the education apostolate, confident that fee structures will be fair and transparent, and trusting that schools will become increasingly accessible to the poor who so often long for the faithful embrace of Christ.

A fine example of the proclamation of the mighty works of God (cf. Ac 2,11) is the service undertaken in your communities by catechists. They have embraced with great zeal and generosity Saint Paul’s burning conviction: “woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1Co 9,16). This task cannot, however, be left to them alone. It is the ministry of your priests to “announce the divine word to all” and to “labour in preaching and teaching” (Rite of Ordination, no. 102). This fundamental priestly role which, to be effective, requires a sound philosophical and theological formation, cannot be delegated to others. Rather, when well-trained catechists work together with their parish priests the branches of the vine bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15,5). To this end, your own reports allude to various kerygmatic tasks requiring attention, including the formation of spouses who are not Catholic and pastoral solicitude for the many Catholic individuals and families who in moving from rural parts to the cities risk losing contact with parish life.

Lastly, dear Brothers, I wish to express my appreciation for the efforts of the entire Catholic community of Thailand to uphold the dignity of every human life, especially the most vulnerable. Of particular concern to you is the scourge of the trafficking of women and children, and prostitution. Undoubtedly poverty is a factor underlying these phenomena, and in this regard I know much is being achieved through the Church’s development programmes. But there is a further aspect which must be acknowledged and collectively addressed if this abhorrent human exploitation is to be effectively confronted. I am speaking of the trivialization of sexuality in the media and entertainment industries which fuels a decline in moral values and leads to the degradation of women, the weakening of fidelity in marriage and even the abuse of children.

With fraternal affection I offer these reflections, wishing to affirm you in your desire to receive the Spirit’s flame so that you may with one voice proclaim the Good News of Jesus! To you all, and to your priests, religious, seminarians and lay faithful, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your visit which enables me to know the activities that your praiseworthy Associations carry out as part of the Forum of Family Associations and the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations. I offer a cordial greeting to each one of you who are present here and in the first place to Mr Giovanni Giacobbe, President of the Forum, to whom I am grateful for his kind words on your behalf. This meeting is taking place on the occasion of the annual celebration of the International Day of the Family which was yesterday, 15 May. To emphasize the importance of the occasion, you have wished to organize a special Congress with a timely theme: "Alliance for the family in Europe: Associations in the leading role", in order to address the experiences of various forms of family associations and to sensitize government leaders and the public opinion concerning the central and irreplaceable role carried out by the family in our society.

In fact, as you rightly point out, any political policy that looks well into the future cannot fail to make the family the focus of its attention and planning. This year, as you know well, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae and the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Charter of the Rights of the Family, presented by the Holy See on 22 October 1983. These two Documents share a common inspiration since the former strongly reasserts the quality of spousal love, courageously going against the tide of the prevalent culture, selfless and open to life, the latter highlights those inalienable rights that permit the family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, to be the natural cradle of human life. The Charter of the Rights of the Family in particular, addressed primarily to Governments, offers all those who are invested with responsibility regarding the common good a model and a reference point for the elaboration of a sound legislation for family policies.

At the same time, the Charter is addressed to all families, inspiring them to join forces in the defence and promotion of their rights. And in this regard your associations are particularly well-adapted to implement the spirit of the above-mentioned Charter of the Rights of the Family in the best way.
The beloved Pontiff, John Paul II, also known and rightly so as the "Pope of the family", repeated that the "future of humanity passes by way of the family" (Familiaris Consortio
FC 86). He often emphasized the irreplaceable value of the family institution, in accordance with the plan of God the Creator and Father. Precisely at the beginning of my Pontificate, on 6 June 2005, in opening the Convention of the Diocese of Rome, dedicated specifically to the family, I too reaffirmed that the truth about marriage and the family is deeply rooted in the truth about the human being and comes to fulfilment in salvation history, at whose heart lie the words: "God loves his people". Indeed, biblical revelation is above all an expression of a love story, the story of God's Covenant with humankind. This is why the story of the union of life and love between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage was used by God as a symbol of salvation history. For this very reason, the union of life and love based on the marriage between a man and a woman, which constitutes the family, is an indispensable good for society as a whole and must not be confused or likened to other types of union.

We are well aware of the many challenges facing families today, and we know how difficult it is, in current social conditions, to achieve the ideal of fidelity and solidarity in conjugal love, to bring up children, and to preserve the harmony of the family unit. While on the one hand - thanks be to God - there are shining examples of good families, open to the culture of life and love, on the other hand, sadly, an increasing number of marriages and families are in crisis. From so many families, in a worryingly precarious state, we hear a cry for help, often an unconscious one, which clamours for a response from civil authorities, from ecclesial communities and from the various educational agencies. Accordingly, there is an increasingly urgent need for a common commitment to support families by every means available, from the social and economic point of view, as well as the juridical and spiritual. In this context, I am pleased to recommend and encourage certain initiatives and proposals that have emerged in the course of your Conference. I am thinking, for example, of the laudable commitment to mobilize citizens in support of the initiative for "Family-friendly fiscal policy", urging Governments to promote family-related policies that give parents a real possibility of having children and bringing them up in the family.

For believers, the family, the cell of communion on which society is founded, resembles a "domestic church in miniature" called to reveal God's love to the world. Dear brothers and sisters, help families to be a visible sign of this truth, to defend the values inscribed in human nature itself, and therefore common to all humanity, that is: life, the family and education. These are not principles that derive from a confession of faith but rather from the application of justice that respects every person's rights. This is your mission, dear Christian families! May you never lack trust in the Lord and communion with him in prayer and in the constant reference to his Word. Thus, you will be witnesses of his Love, not merely relying on human resources, but firmly based on the rock that is God, enlivened by the power of his Spirit. May Mary, Queen of the Family, as a bright Star of hope guide the journey of all humanity's families. With these sentiments, I very gladly bless you who are present here and all who belong to the various Associations that you represent.

Speeches 2005-13 12058