Speeches 2005-13 126

126 January 2008



Friday, 4 January 2008

Dear Friends,

I have come to pay you a Visit at the beginning of the new year while we are still breathing the family atmosphere of Christmas, and I immediately take this opportunity to express to you all my most fervent and cordial good wishes. I greet with affection those of you present here together with those in the other rooms of this House, which is called "Gift of Mary", who are watching us and are joining in by means of television link-up. For many years, when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I would spend several hours of the day near your praiseworthy institution, desired by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, and entrusted by him to Bl. Teresa of Calcutta. Thus, I was able to appreciate the generous service of Gospel charity which the Missionaries of Charity have been carrying out for almost 20 years now with the help and collaboration of many people of good will. I am here with you today to renew my gratitude to the Sisters, the volunteer workers and the various collaborators. I am here above all to express my spiritual closeness to you, dear friends, who in this House find a loving welcome, attention, understanding and daily support, both material and spiritual. I am here to tell you that the Pope loves you and is close to you. I thank the Superior of the Missionaries of Charity who is ending her service and has expressed your common sentiments, addressing kind words of welcome to me on behalf of all. I greet the new Superior who is taking on responsibility for the House with that style of docile availability which is typical of the spiritual daughters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

When this House was founded, Bl. Mother Teresa desired to call it "Gift of Mary", hoping, as it were, that it might always be possible to experience in it the love of the Blessed Virgin. For anyone who knocks at the door, it is in fact a gift of Mary to feel welcomed by the loving arms of the Sisters and volunteers. The presence of those who are ready to listen to people in difficulty and serve them with that very attitude which impelled Mary to go straightaway to St Elizabeth is another gift of Mary. May this style of Gospel love always seal and distinguish your vocation so that, in addition to material aid, you may communicate to all whom you meet daily on your path that same passion for Christ and that shining "smile of God" which enlivened Mother Teresa's life.

Mother Teresa used to like to say: it is Christmas every time we allow Jesus to love others through us. Christmas is a mystery of love, the mystery of Love. The Christmas season, re-presenting the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem for our contemplation, shows us the infinite goodness of God who, by making himself a Child, desired to satisfy the needs of human poverty and loneliness; he accepted to dwell among us, sharing our daily difficulties; he did not hesitate to bear with us the burden of existence with its effort and anxiety. He was born for us in order to stay with us and to offer to each one who opens to him the door of his or her heart the gift of his joy, his peace, his love. Since he was born in a grotto, because there was no room for him elsewhere, Jesus experienced the hardships that many of you yourselves experience. Christmas helps us understand that God never abandons us and always comes to meet our needs. He protects us and is concerned with each one of us, because every person, especially the lowliest and most defenceless, is precious in the eyes of the Father, rich in tenderness and mercy. For us and for our salvation he sent into the world his Son, whom we contemplate in the mystery of Christmas as the Emmanuel, God-with-us. With these sentiments, I renew to you all my most fervent good wishes for the new year which has just begun, assuring you of my daily remembrance in prayer. And as I invoke the motherly protection of Mary, Mother of Christ and our Mother, I affectionately impart my Blessing to you all.




Dear Sisters and Dear Brothers,

I greet you with affection and I thank you for your warm welcome. Please convey my most cordial greeting to Sr Nirmala and assure her of my prayers for you and for the Congregation. I am happy to meet together the Superior Generals of the two male branches of the family founded by Bl. Mother Teresa, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers and the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative Brothers. I also greet with warm cordiality the lay collaborators and guests present here, extending my appreciation to all those who offer their service in this place to ensure that the guests may feel as though they were at home. All together, you form a chain of Christian charity without which this House, like any voluntary work, could neither exist nor continue to serve so many forms of hardship and need. I therefore express my gratitude and encouragement to each and every one of you, for I know that all you do here for every brother and sister, you do for Christ himself.

The Visit I wanted to make today comes in continuation with the numerous Visits of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II. He was very eager to have this House to welcome the poorest of the poor precisely here where the centre of the Church is located, beside Peter who served, followed and loved the Lord Jesus. Our Meeting is taking place almost 20 years after the construction and inauguration of this Home within the Leonine Walls. Indeed, it was on 21 May 1988 that beloved John Paul II inaugurated this "Gift of Mary". How many gestures of sharing, of concrete charity, have been made in these years within these walls! They are a sign and an example for Christian communities so that they may pledge to be communities that are always welcoming and open.

At the beginning of the new year, the beautiful name of this House, "Gift of Mary", invites us to make a tireless gift of our lives. May the Virgin Mary, who offered the whole of herself to the Almighty and was filled with every Grace and Blessing with the coming of the Son of God, teach us to make our existence a daily gift to God the Father at the service of our brethren as we listen to his Word and his will. And just as the holy Magi came from afar to adore the Messiah-King, may you too go forth on the highways of the world, dear brothers and sisters, following Mother Teresa's example, always witnessing joyfully to the love of Jesus, especially for the least and for the poor, and may your Blessed Foundress accompany and protect you from Heaven. I warmly renew the Apostolic Blessing to you who are present here, to the guests of the House and to all your collaborators.


Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I extend cordial greetings to your Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, and I thank him for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. To each of you I offer respectful greetings, particularly to those who are present at this meeting for the first time. Through you, I express my fervent prayers for the peoples and governments that you represent with such dignity and competence. Your community suffered a bereavement some weeks ago: the Ambassador of France, Monsieur Bernard Kessedjian, ended his earthly pilgrimage; may the Lord welcome him into his peace! My thoughts today go especially to the nations that have yet to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See: they too have a place in the Pope’s heart. The Church is profoundly convinced that humanity is a family, as I wanted to emphasize in this year’s World Day of Peace Message.

2. It was in a family spirit that diplomatic relations were established last year with the United Arab Emirates. In the same spirit, I was also able to visit certain countries that I hold dear. The enthusiastic welcome that I received from the Brazilians continues to warm my heart! In that country, I had the joy of meeting the representatives of the great family of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, gathered at Aparecida for the Fifth General Conference of CELAM. In the economic and social sphere, I was able to note eloquent signs of hope for that continent, as well as certain reasons for concern. We all look forward to seeing increasing cooperation among the peoples of Latin America, and, within each of the countries that make up that continent, the resolution of internal conflicts, leading to a consensus on the great values inspired by the Gospel. I wish to mention Cuba, which is preparing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the visit of my venerable Predecessor. Pope John Paul II was received with affection by the authorities and by the people, and he encouraged all Cubans to work together for a better future. I should like to reiterate this message of hope, which has lost none of its relevance.

3. My thoughts and prayers are directed especially towards the peoples affected by appalling natural disasters. I am thinking of the hurricanes and floods which have devastated certain regions of Mexico and Central America, as well as countries in Africa and Asia, especially Bangladesh, and parts of Oceania; mention must also be made of the great fires. The Cardinal Secretary of State, who went to Peru at the end of August, brought me a first-hand account of the destruction and havoc caused by the terrible earthquake, but he spoke also of the courage and faith of the peoples affected. In the face of tragic events of this kind, a strong joint effort is needed. As I wrote in my Encyclical on hope, “the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society” (Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 38).

4. The international community continues to be deeply concerned about the Middle East. I am glad that the Annapolis Conference pointed towards the abandonment of partisan or unilateral solutions, in favour of a global approach respectful of the rights and legitimate interests of all the peoples of the region. I appeal once more to the Israelis and the Palestinians to concentrate their energies on the implementation of commitments made on that occasion, and to expedite the process that has happily been restarted. Moreover, I invite the international community to give strong support to these two peoples and to understand their respective sufferings and fears. Who can remain unmoved by the plight of Lebanon, amid its trials and all the violence that continues to shake that beloved country? It is my earnest wish that the Lebanese people will be able to decide freely on their future and I ask the Lord to enlighten them, beginning with the leaders of public life, so that, putting aside particular interests, they will be ready to pledge themselves to the path of dialogue and reconciliation. Only in this way will the country be able to progress in stability and to become once more an example of the peaceful coexistence of different communities. In Iraq too, reconciliation is urgently needed! At present, terrorist attacks, threats and violence continue, especially against the Christian community, and the news which arrived yesterday confirms our concern; it is clear that certain difficult political issues remain unresolved. In this context, an appropriate constitutional reform will need to safeguard the rights of minorities. Important humanitarian aid is necessary for the peoples affected by the war; I am thinking especially of displaced persons within the country and refugees who have fled abroad, among whom there are many Christians. I invite the international community to be generous towards them and towards their host countries, whose capacities to absorb them have been sorely tested. I should also like to express my support for continued and uninterrupted pursuit of the path of diplomacy in order to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, by negotiating in good faith, adopting measures designed to increase transparency and mutual trust, and always taking account of the authentic needs of peoples and the common good of the human family.

5. Turning our gaze now towards the whole of Asia, I should like to draw your attention to some other crisis situations, first of all to Pakistan, which has suffered from serious violence in recent months. I hope that all political and social forces will commit themselves to building a peaceful society, respectful of the rights of all. In Afghanistan, in addition to violence, there are other serious social problems, such as the production of drugs; greater support should be given to efforts for development, and even more intensive work is required in order to build a serene future. In Sri Lanka it is no longer possible to postpone further the decisive efforts needed to remedy the immense sufferings caused by the continuing conflict. And I ask the Lord to grant that in Myanmar, with the support of the international community, a season of dialogue between the Government and the opposition will begin, ensuring true respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

6. Turning now to Africa, I should like first of all to reiterate my deep anguish, on observing that hope seems almost vanquished by the menacing sequence of hunger and death that is unfolding in Darfur. With all my heart I pray that the joint operation of the United Nations and the African Union, whose mission has just begun, will bring aid and comfort to the suffering populations. The peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo is encountering strong resistance in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, especially in the Eastern regions, while Somalia, particularly Mogadishu, continues to be afflicted by violence and poverty. I appeal to the parties in conflict to cease their military operations, to facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid and to respect civilians. In recent days Kenya has experienced an abrupt outbreak of violence. I join the Bishops in their appeal made on 2 January, inviting all the inhabitants, especially political leaders, to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue, based on justice and fraternity. The Catholic Church is not indifferent to the cries of pain that rise up from these regions. She makes her own the pleas for help made by refugees and displaced persons, and she pledges herself to foster reconciliation, justice and peace. This year, Ethiopia is marking the start of the third Christian millennium, and I am sure that the celebrations organized for this occasion will also help to recall the immense social and apostolic work carried out by Christians in Africa.

7. And finally, focussing upon Europe, I rejoice at the progress that has been made in various countries of the Balkan region, and I express once again the hope that the definitive status of Kosovo will take account of the legitimate claims of the parties involved and will guarantee security and respect for the rights of all the inhabitants of this land, so that the spectre of violence will be definitively removed and European stability strengthened. I should like also to mention Cyprus, recalling with joy the visit of His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos II last June. It is my earnest wish that, in the context of the European Union, no effort will be spared in the search for a solution to a crisis that has already lasted too long. Last September, I made a visit to Austria, partly in order to underline the essential contribution that the Catholic Church is able and willing to give to European unification. On the subject of Europe, I would like to assure you that I am following attentively the new phase which began with the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. This step gives a boost to the process of building the “European home”, which “will be a good place to live for everyone only if it is built on a solid cultural and moral foundation of common values drawn from our history and our traditions” (Meeting with the Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps, Vienna, 7 September 2007) and if it does not deny its Christian roots.

8. From this rapid overview it appears clearly that the security and stability of the world are still fragile. The factors of concern are varied, yet they all bear witness to the fact that human freedom is not absolute, but is a good that is shared, one for which all must assume responsibility. It follows that law and order are guarantees of freedom. Yet law can be an effective force for peace only if its foundations remain solidly anchored in natural law, given by the Creator. This is another reason why God can never be excluded from the horizon of man or of history. God’s name is a name of justice, it represents an urgent appeal for peace.

9. This realization could help, among other things, to give direction to initiatives for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. These ever increasing initiatives can foster cooperation on matters of mutual interest, such as the dignity of the human person, the search for the common good, peace-building and development. In this regard, the Holy See attaches particular importance to its participation in high-level dialogue on understanding among religions and cultures and cooperation for peace, within the framework of the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations (4-5 October 2007). In order to be true, this dialogue must be clear, avoiding relativism and syncretism, while at the same time it must be marked by sincere respect for others and by a spirit of reconciliation and fraternity. The Catholic Church is deeply committed to this goal. It is a pleasure for me to recall once again the letter that was addressed to me, on 13 October last, by 138 Muslim Religious Leaders, and to renew my gratitude for the noble sentiments which were expressed in it.

10. Our society has rightly enshrined the greatness and dignity of the human person in various declarations of rights, formulated in the wake of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted exactly sixty years ago. That solemn act, in the words of Pope Paul VI, was one of the greatest achievements of the United Nations. In every continent the Catholic Church strives to ensure that human rights are not only proclaimed but put into practice. It is to be hoped that agencies created for the defence and promotion of human rights will devote all their energies to this task and, in particular, that the Human Rights Council will be able to meet the expectations generated by its creation.

11. The Holy See for its part never tires of reaffirming these principles and rights, founded on what is essential and permanent in the human person. The Church willingly undertakes this service to the true dignity of human persons, created in the image of God. And on the basis of these considerations, I cannot but deplore once again the continual attacks perpetrated on every continent against human life. I would like to recall, together with many men and women dedicated to research and science, that the new frontiers reached in bioethics do not require us to choose between science and morality: rather, they oblige us to a moral use of science. On the other hand, recalling the appeal made by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the Jubilee Year 2000, I rejoice that on 18 December last the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling upon States to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and I earnestly hope that this initiative will lead to public debate on the sacred character of human life. I regret, once again, the disturbing threats to the integrity of the family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. Political leaders, of whatever kind, should defend this fundamental institution, the basic cell of society. What more should be said? Even religious freedom, “an essential requirement of the dignity of every person [and] a cornerstone of the structure of human rights” (Message for the 1988 World Day of Peace, Preamble) is often undermined. There are many places where this right cannot be fully exercised. The Holy See defends it, demands that it be universally respected, and views with concern discrimination against Christians and against the followers of other religions.

12. Peace cannot be a mere word or a vain aspiration. Peace is a commitment and a manner of life which demands that the legitimate aspirations of all should be satisfied, such as access to food, water and energy, to medicine and technology, or indeed the monitoring of climate change. Only in this way can we build the future of humanity; only in this way can we facilitate an integral development valid for today and tomorrow. With a particularly felicitous expression, Pope Paul VI stressed forty years ago in his Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, that “development is the new name for peace”. Hence, in order to consolidate peace, the positive macroeconomic results achieved by many developing countries during 2007 must be supported by effective social policies and by the implementation of aid commitments by rich countries.

13. Finally, I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security. A joint effort on the part of States to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective. I welcome the agreement reached on the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, and I encourage the adoption of suitable measures for the reduction of conventional weapons and for dealing with the humanitarian problems caused by cluster munitions.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

14. Diplomacy is, in a certain sense, the art of hope. It lives from hope and seeks to discern even its most tenuous signs. Diplomacy must give hope. The celebration of Christmas reminds us each year that, when God became a little child, Hope came to live in our world, in the heart of the human family. Today this certainty becomes a prayer: May God open the hearts of those who govern the family of peoples to the Hope that never disappoints! With these sentiments, I offer to each one of you my very best wishes, so that you, your staff, and the peoples you represent may be enlightened by the Grace and Peace which come to us from the Child of Bethlehem.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to receive you at the beginning of the New Year for our traditional exchange of greetings. I thank you for coming here and offer my respectful and cordial greeting to the President of the Regional Board of Lazio, Hon. Mr Pietro Marrazzo, to the Mayor of Rome, Hon. Mr Walter Veltroni, to Hon. Mr Enrico Gasbarra, President of the Province of Rome, to whom I wish to express sentiments of deep gratitude for their kind words to me, also on behalf of the Boards they head. With them, I greet the Presidents of the respective Council Assemblies and all of you who are gathered here.

This annual meeting gives us the opportunity to reflect on some subjects of common interest and of great importance and timeliness which closely affect the life of the populations of Rome and Lazio. Through you, I address to them, to each person and each family, an affectionate thought of encouragement and pastoral attention, expressing those sentiments and bonds that have united the Successors of the Apostle Peter to the City of Rome, to its Province and to the entire Region of Lazio. Times and situations change but the Pope's love and concern for all who live in these regions, so deeply marked by the great and living heritage of Christianity, never weaken.

A fundamental criterion on which we may easily agree in carrying out our different tasks is that of the centrality of the human person. As the Second Vatican Council said, "man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake" (Gaudium et Spes GS 24). My beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, rightly wrote in turn in his Encyclical Centesimus Annus that "man's principal resource is man himself" (n. 32). An obvious consequence of all this is the crucial importance of the person's education and training, first and foremost in the first phase of life but also throughout the whole of his existence. Yet, if we look at the reality of our situation, we cannot deny that we are facing a true and large-scale "educational emergency", as I emphasized last 11 June, speaking to the Convention of the Diocese of Rome (L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 20 June 2007, p. 3). Indeed, it seems ever more difficult to convincingly propose solid certainties and criteria on which the new generations can build their lives. This is well known to both parents and teachers, who for this reason are all too often tempted to abdicate their own educational duties. Moreover, in the contemporary social context permeated by relativism as well as nihilism, they themselves have trouble in finding reliable reference points to sustain and guide them in their role as educators and in the way they lead their life as a whole.

Such an emergency, distinguished Representatives of the Boards of Rome and Lazio, cannot leave either the Church or your Boards indifferent. Clearly at stake, in fact, with the formation of individuals, are the actual foundations of coexistence and of society's future. The Diocese of Rome, for its part, is paying truly special attention to this difficult task being carried out in the different educational contexts, from the family and school to the parishes, associations and movements, oratories, cultural initiatives, sports and free time. In this context, I express deep gratitude to the Lazio Region for its support of oratories and other centres for children organized by parishes and Ecclesial Communities, as well as for its contribution to building new parish complexes in the areas of Lazio that are still without them. However, I wish above all to encourage a converging, widescale commitment in order to enable civil institutions, each in its own capacity, to redouble their efforts to face the various dimensions of the current educational emergency, constantly inspired by the guiding criterion of the centrality of the human person.

It is clear here that respect and support for the family founded on marriage are imperative. As I wrote in the recent Message for the World Day of Peace, "The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes "the primary place of "humanization" for the person and society', and a "cradle of life and love'" (ORE, 19/26 December 2007, p. 8, n. 2). Unfortunately, we see every day how insistent and threatening are the attacks on marriage and the misunderstandings of this fundamental human and social reality. Thus, it is especially necessary that public administrations do not support these negative trends but, on the contrary, offer families convinced and concrete support, in the certainty that they are thereby acting for the common good.

Another emergency that is becoming ever more acute is that of poverty: it is increasing above all in the great urban suburbs but is also beginning to be felt in other contexts and situations which seemed to be safe from it. The Church participates wholeheartedly in the effort to alleviate poverty. She willingly collaborates with civil institutions but the cost of life, especially the price of housing, the persistent pockets of unemployment and also the frequently inadequate salaries and pensions truly make the living conditions of numerous people and families difficult.

One tragic event, such as the killing of Giovanna Reggiani in Tor di Quinto has also brusquely confronted our citizens not only with the problem of security but also with the very serious degradation of certain Roman neighbourhoods: here especially, constant and concrete interventions are required that go far beyond the emotion of the moment, which has the twofold and inseparable purpose of guaranteeing the safety of citizens and assuring everyone, particularly immigrants, of at least the minimum indispensable for an honest and dignified life. Through Caritas and many other voluntary associations, the Church, animated by lay people and men and women religious, is doing all she can also on this difficult front where the responsibilities and possibilities for the public Authorities' intervention are obviously indispensable.

Another concern that regards both the Church and your Boards is the plight of the sick. We well know the grave difficulties that the Lazio Region must face but we must also note that the situation of Catholic health-care structures is often dramatic, even very prestigious ones of recognized national excellence. I cannot, therefore, refrain from asking that they not be penalized in the distribution of resources, not because of the Church's own interest but in order not to jeopardize an indispensable service to our peoples.

Distinguished Authorities, as I thank you once again for your kind and appreciated visit, I assure you of my cordial closeness and my prayers for you and for the lofty responsibilities entrusted to you. May the Lord sustain your commitment and enlighten your good resolutions. With these sentiments, I warmly impart to each one of you the Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your families and to all who live and work in Rome, in its Province and throughout Lazio.


Dear Friends,

The meeting with you who belong to the General Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican has become an event that is awaited and looked forward to at the beginning of the New Year. While I welcome you with pleasure and greet you with affection, I make the most of this opportunity to renew to you the expression of my esteem and gratitude for the service you carry out daily. In the first place I greet the Prefect, Salvatore Festa, the Questore of Rome, Marcello Fulvi, and Dr Vincenzo Caso, whom I thank for their courteous words and to whom I express my gratitude for the work they have done in these years as Directors of the Inspectorate. I also address a special respectful thought to the Chief of Police, Prefect Antonio Manganelli. I then address in friendship the other members of the Inspectorate of the State Police assigned to Vatican City who are unable to be with us today but join us in spirit on this most happy occasion. To each and every one I am pleased to express every good wish for the year that has just begun, and I extend these good wishes to your respective families.

This year, when I was drafting my Message for the World Day of Peace celebrated on 1 January, I was thinking precisely of families. In this text, whose theme is The human family, a community of peace, I recalled that "the natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes the primary place for the "humanization' of the person and society, the "cradle of life and love'. The family, therefore, is rightly defined as the first natural society, "a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order" (n. 2).

Dear Officers and Agents, you come across many families in the task of vigilance which you carry out daily. They come here from every part of the world to pay homage to the Apostles and in particular to St Peter, on whose faith Christ founded the Church. They come to renew together the profession of this faith, to visit and to make contact with the various realities of the Vatican, and to take part in the Audiences and celebrations at which the Successor of the Apostle Peter presides. I am grateful to you for your service, marked by diligence and professionalism, by constant attention to people and to the purposes that motivate them, and at the same time by your availability, patience and spirit of sacrifice. Thus, with the collaboration of the Authorities responsible for making the city of Rome ever more beautiful and welcoming, you also contribute to the fruitful meeting and serene coexistence with one another of the citizens of Rome as well as her guests, who come from various countries of the world!

How many are the pilgrims you happen to meet throughout the year! I would like to ask you to see in each one of them the face of a brother or sister whom God sets on your path, a friendly albeit unknown person to be welcomed and helped with patient listening in the knowledge that we all belong to the one great human family. Is it not true, as I wrote in the Message cited above, that we do not all live alongside one another purely by chance? Are we not all on the same journey as human beings and hence, as brothers and sisters? For this reason, then, it is essential that each person strives to live his or her own life in an attitude of responsibility before God, recognizing him as the original source of his or her and everyone else's existence. Indeed, it is precisely by returning to this supreme Principle that one is enabled to perceive the unconditional value of every human being; it is thanks to this knowledge that the foundations for building a peaceful humanity can be laid. Let it be very clear: without the transcendent foundation which is God, society risks becoming a mere agglomeration of neighbours; it ceases to be a community of brothers and sisters, called to form one great family (cf. ibid., n. 6).

Dear friends, may the Lord help you to carry out your profession, ever faithful to those ideals that must constantly inspire you. Society stands in need of people who do their duty, in the knowledge that every job, every service, carried out conscientiously contributes to building a more just and truly free society. I entrust you to the Blessed Virgin and as I renew to each one of you my sincere thanks for your kind visit, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.


The following is the Address that the Holy Father intended to give during a Visit to La Sapienza University in Rome on Thursday, 17 January:

Magnificent Rector,
Political and Civil Authorities,
Distinguished Teachers, Technical and Administrative Staff,
Dear Young Students,

It is a cause of deep joy for me to meet the community of La Sapienza, the University of Rome, on the occasion of the inauguration of the academic year. For centuries this University has been a part of the story and the life of the city of Rome, harvesting the fruits of the best intellects in every field of knowledge. Both in the past, when the institution depended directly on ecclesiastical authority (having been founded at the behest of Pope Boniface VIII), and in its more recent history, when the Studium Urbis became an institution of the Italian State, your academic community has maintained a high scientific and cultural standard which places it among the world’s most prestigious universities. The Church of Rome has always looked with affection and admiration at this university centre, recognizing its dedication, often arduous and demanding, to research and to the formation of generations of young people. There have been important instances of collaboration and dialogue in recent years. I would like to recall in particular the World Meeting of Rectors on the occasion of the Jubilee of Universities, when your community not only hosted and organized the event, but above all took responsibility for the prophetic and complex proposal to elaborate a “new humanism for the third millennium”.

On this occasion, I am happy to express my gratitude to you for your invitation to give a lecture at your university. With this prospect in view, I first of all asked myself the question: what can and should a Pope say on such an occasion? In my lecture at Regensburg I did indeed speak as Pope, but above all I spoke in my capacity as a former professor of my old university, seeking to link past memories with the present. However, it is as Bishop of Rome that I am invited to La Sapienza, Rome’s ancient university, so it is as such that I must speak. Of course, La Sapienza was once the university of the Pope. Today, however, it is a secular university with that autonomy which, in keeping with the vision inspiring their foundation, has always been part of the nature of universities, which must be tied exclusively to the authority of the truth. It is in their freedom from political and ecclesiastical authorities that the particular function of universities lies – a function that serves modern society as well, which needs institutions of this kind.

To return to my initial question: what can and should the Pope say at a meeting with the university in his city? As I pondered this question, it seemed to me that it included two others, and the answer should follow naturally from an exploration of these. We need to ask ourselves this: What is the nature and mission of the Papacy? And what is the nature and mission of the university? I have no wish to detain you or myself with an extended discussion on the nature of the Papacy. Let a brief comment suffice. The Pope is first and foremost the Bishop of Rome and as such – as Successor to the Apostle Peter – he has an episcopal responsibility for the whole of the Catholic Church. In the New Testament, the word “bishop” – episkopos –, the immediate meaning of which indicates an “overseer”, had already been merged with the Biblical concept of Shepherd: the one who observes the whole landscape from above, ensuring that everything holds together and is moving in the right direction. Considered in such terms, this designation of the task focuses the attention first of all within the believing community. The Bishop – the Shepherd – is the one who cares for this community; he is the one who keeps it united on the way towards God, a way which, according to the Christian faith, has been indicated by Jesus – and not merely indicated: He himself is our way. Yet this community which the Bishop looks after – be it large or small – lives in the world; its circumstances, its history, its example and its message inevitably influence the entire human community. The larger it is, the greater the effect, for better or worse, on the rest of humanity. Today we see very clearly how the state of religions and the situation of the Church – her crises and her renewal – affect humanity in its entirety. Thus the Pope, in his capacity as Shepherd of his community, is also increasingly becoming a voice for the ethical reasoning of humanity.

Here, however, the objection immediately arises: surely the Pope does not really base his pronouncements on ethical reasoning, but draws his judgements from faith and hence cannot claim to speak on behalf of those who do not share this faith. We will have to return to this point later, because here the absolutely fundamental question must be asked: What is reason? How can one demonstrate that an assertion – especially a moral norm – is “reasonable”? At this point I would like to describe briefly how John Rawls, while denying that comprehensive religious doctrines have the character of “public” reason, nonetheless at least sees their “non-public” reason as one which cannot simply be dismissed by those who maintain a rigidly secularized rationality. Rawls perceives a criterion of this reasonableness among other things in the fact that such doctrines derive from a responsible and well thought-out tradition in which, over lengthy periods, satisfactory arguments have been developed in support of the doctrines concerned. The important thing in this assertion, it seems to me, is the acknowledgment that down through the centuries, experience and demonstration – the historical source of human wisdom – are also a sign of its reasonableness and enduring significance. Faced with an a-historical form of reason that seeks to establish itself exclusively in terms of a-historical rationality, humanity’s wisdom – the wisdom of the great religious traditions – should be valued as a heritage that cannot be cast with impunity into the dustbin of the history of ideas.

Let us go back to our initial question. The Pope speaks as the representative of a community of believers in which a particular wisdom about life has evolved in the course of the centuries of its existence. He speaks as the representative of a community that preserves within itself a treasury of ethical knowledge and experience important for all humanity: in this sense, he speaks as the representative of a form of ethical reasoning.

Now, however, we must ask ourselves: “What is the university? What is its task?” This is a vast question to which, once again, I can only endeavour to respond in an almost telegraphic style with one or two comments. I think one could say that at the most intimate level, the true origin of the university lies in the thirst for knowledge that is proper to man. The human being wants to know what everything around him is. He wants truth. In this perspective, once can see Socratic questioning as the impulse that gave birth to the western university. I am thinking, for example – to mention only one text – of the dispute with Euthyphro, who in debate with Socrates defended the mythical religion and cult. Socrates countered with a question: “Do you believe that the gods are really waging war against each other with terrible feuds and battles? … Must we effectively say, Euthyphro, that all this is true?” (6 b-c). The Christians of the first centuries identified themselves and their journey with this question which seems not particularly devout – but which in Socrates’ case derived from a deeper and purer religious sensibility, from the search for the true God. They received their faith not in a positivistic manner, nor as a way of escape from unfulfilled wishes; rather, they understood it as dispelling the mist of mythological religion in order to make way for the discovery of the God who is creative Reason, God who is Reason-Love. This is why reasoned enquiry concerning the truly great God, and concerning the true nature and meaning of the human being, did not strike them as problematic, as a lack of due religious sentiment: rather, it was an essential part of their way of being religious. Hence they did not need to abandon or set aside Socratic enquiry, but they could, indeed were bound to accept it, and recognize reason’s laborious search to attain knowledge of the whole truth as part of their own identity. In this way, within the context of the Christian faith, in the Christian world, the university could come into being – indeed it was bound to do so.

Now it is necessary to take a further step. Man desires to know – he wants truth. Truth in the first instance is something discerned through seeing, understanding, what Greek tradition calls theoría. Yet truth is never purely theoretical. In drawing a parallel between the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and the gifts of the Spirit listed in Isaiah 11, Saint Augustine argued that there is a reciprocity between scientia and tristitia: knowledge on its own, he said, causes sadness. And it is true to say that those who merely see and apprehend all that happens in the world end up being saddened. Yet truth means more than knowledge: the purpose of knowing the truth is to know the good. This is also the meaning of Socratic enquiry: What is the good which makes us true? The truth makes us good and the good is true: this is the optimism that shapes the Christian faith, because this faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, of creative Reason which, in God’s incarnation, revealed itself as the Good, as Goodness itself.

In medieval theology there was a detailed disputation on the relationship between theory and practice, on the proper relationship between knowledge and action – a disputation that we need not explore here. De facto, the medieval university with its four faculties expresses this correlation. Let us begin with the faculty which was understood at the time to rank as the fourth – the faculty of medicine. Even if it was considered more as an “art” than a science, the inclusion of medicine within the ambit of the universitas clearly indicated that it was placed within the realm of rationality, that the art of healing was under the guidance of reason and had been removed from the realm of magic. Healing is a task that always requires more than plain reason, but this is precisely why it depends on the connection between knowledge and power, it needs to belong to the sphere of ratio. Inevitably the question of the relationship between praxis and theory, between knowledge and action, also arose in the faculty of jurisprudence. Here it was a matter of giving the correct form to human freedom, which is always a freedom shared with others. Law is the presupposition of freedom, not its opponent. At this point, however, the question immediately arises: How is it possible to identify criteria of justice that make shared freedom possible and help man to be good? Here a leap into the present is necessary. The point in question is: how can a juridical body of norms be established that serves as an ordering of freedom, of human dignity and human rights? This is the issue with which we are grappling today in the democratic processes that form opinion, the issue which also causes us to be anxious about the future of humanity. In my opinion, Jürgen Habermas articulates a vast consensus of contemporary thought when he says that the legitimacy of a constitutional charter, as a basis for what is legal, derives from two sources: from the equal participation of all citizens in the political process and from the reasonable manner in which political disputes are resolved. With regard to this “reasonable manner”, he notes that it cannot simply be a fight for arithmetical majorities, but must have the character of a “process of argumentation sensitive to the truth” (wahrheitssensibles Argumentationsverfahren). The point is well made, but it is far from easy to put it into practice politically. The representatives of that public “process of argumentation” are – as we know – principally political parties, inasmuch as these are responsible for the formation of political will. De facto, they will always aim to achieve majorities and hence will almost inevitably attend to interests that they promise to satisfy, even though these interests are often particular and do not truly serve the whole. Sensibility to the truth is repeatedly subordinated to sensibility to interests. I find it significant that Habermas speaks of sensibility to the truth as a necessary element in the process of political argument, thereby reintroducing the concept of truth into philosophical and political debate.

At this point, though, Pilate’s question becomes unavoidable: What is truth? And how can it be recognized? If in our search for an answer we have recourse to “public reason”, as Rawls does, then further questions necessarily follow: What is reasonable? How is reason shown to be true? In any case, on this basis it becomes clear that in the search for a set of laws embodying freedom, in the search for the truth about a just polity, we must listen to claims other than those of parties and interest groups, without in any way wishing to deny the importance of the latter. Let us return now to the structure of the medieval university. Besides the faculty of jurisprudence, there were faculties of philosophy and theology, which were entrusted with the task of studying the human being in his totality, thus safeguarding sensibility to the truth. One might even say that this was the permanent and true purpose of both faculties: to be custodians of sensibility to the truth, not to allow man to be distracted from his search for the truth. Yet how could the faculties measure up to this task? This is a question which must be constantly worked at, and is never asked and answered once and for all. So, at this point, I cannot offer a satisfactory answer either, but only an invitation to continue exploring the question – exploring in company with the great minds throughout history that have grappled and researched, engaging with their answers and their passion for the truth that invariably points beyond each individual answer.

Theology and philosophy in this regard form a strange pair of twins, in which neither of the two can be totally separated from the other, and yet each must preserve its own task and its own identity. It is the historical merit of Saint Thomas Aquinas – in the face of the rather different answer offered by the Fathers, owing to their historical context – to have highlighted the autonomy of philosophy, and with it the laws and the responsibility proper to reason, which enquires on the basis of its own dynamic. Distancing themselves from neo-Platonic philosophies, in which religion and philosophy were inseparably interconnected, the Fathers had presented the Christian faith as the true philosophy, and had emphasized that this faith fulfils the demands of reason in search of truth; that faith is the “yes” to the truth, in comparison with the mythical religions that had become mere custom. By the time the university came to birth, though, those religions no longer existed in the West – there was only Christianity, and thus it was necessary to give new emphasis to the specific responsibility of reason, which is not absorbed by faith. Thomas was writing at a privileged moment: for the first time, the philosophical works of Aristotle were accessible in their entirety; the Jewish and Arab philosophies were available as specific appropriations and continuations of Greek philosophy. Christianity, in a new dialogue with the reasoning of the interlocutors it was now encountering, was thus obliged to argue a case for its own reasonableness. The faculty of philosophy, which as a so-called “arts faculty” had until then been no more than a preparation for theology, now became a faculty in its own right, an autonomous partner of theology and the faith on which theology reflected. We cannot digress to consider the fascinating consequences of this development. I would say that Saint Thomas’s idea concerning the relationship between philosophy and theology could be expressed using the formula that the Council of Chalcedon adopted for Christology: philosophy and theology must be interrelated “without confusion and without separation”. “Without confusion” means that each of the two must preserve its own identity. Philosophy must truly remain a quest conducted by reason with freedom and responsibility; it must recognize its limits and likewise its greatness and immensity.

Theology must continue to draw upon a treasury of knowledge that it did not invent, that always surpasses it, the depths of which can never be fully plumbed through reflection, and which for that reason constantly gives rise to new thinking. Balancing “without confusion”, there is always “without separation”: philosophy does not start again from zero with every thinking subject in total isolation, but takes its place within the great dialogue of historical wisdom, which it continually accepts and develops in a manner both critical and docile. It must not exclude what religions, and the Christian faith in particular, have received and have given to humanity as signposts for the journey. Various things said by theologians in the course of history, or even adopted in practice by ecclesiastical authorities, have been shown by history to be false, and today make us feel ashamed. Yet at the same time it has to be acknowledged that the history of the saints, the history of the humanism that has grown out of the Christian faith, demonstrates the truth of this faith in its essential nucleus, thereby giving it a claim upon public reason. Of course, much of the content of theology and faith can only be appropriated within the context of faith, and therefore cannot be demanded of those to whom this faith remains inaccessible. Yet at the same time it is true that the message of the Christian faith is never solely a “comprehensive religious doctrine” in Rawls’ sense, but is a purifying force for reason, helping it to be more fully itself. On the basis of its origin, the Christian message should always be an encouragement towards truth, and thus a force against the pressure exerted by power and interests.

Up to this point, I have spoken only of the medieval university, while seeking nonetheless to indicate the unchanging nature of the university and its task. In modern times, new dimensions of knowledge have opened up, which have been explored within the university under two broad headings: first, the natural sciences, which have developed on the basis of the connection between experimentation and the presumed rationality of matter; second, the historical and human sciences, in which man, contemplating his history as in a mirror and clarifying the dimensions of his nature, seeks to understand himself better. In this process, not only has an immense quantity of knowledge and power been made available to humanity, but knowledge and recognition of human rights and dignity have also evolved, and for this we can only be grateful. Yet the human journey never simply comes to an end; and the danger of falling into inhumanity is never totally overcome, as is only too evident from the panorama of recent history! The danger for the western world – to speak only of this – is that today, precisely because of the greatness of his knowledge and power, man will fail to face up to the question of the truth. This would mean at the same time that reason would ultimately bow to the pressure of interests and the attraction of utility, constrained to recognize this as the ultimate criterion. To put it from the point of view of the structure of the university: there is a danger that philosophy, no longer considering itself capable of its true task, will degenerate into positivism; and that theology, with its message addressed to reason, will be limited to the private sphere of a more or less numerous group. Yet if reason, out of concern for its alleged purity, becomes deaf to the great message that comes to it from Christian faith and wisdom, then it withers like a tree whose roots can no longer reach the waters that give it life. It loses the courage for truth and thus becomes not greater but smaller. Applied to our European culture, this means: if our culture seeks only to build itself on the basis of the circle of its own argumentation, on what convinces it at the time, and if – anxious to preserve its secularism – it detaches itself from its life-giving roots, then it will not become more reasonable or purer, but will fall apart and disintegrate.

This brings me back to my starting-point. What should the Pope do or say at the university? Certainly, he must not seek to impose the faith upon others in an authoritarian manner – as faith can only be given in freedom. Over and above his ministry as Shepherd of the Church, and on the basis of the intrinsic nature of this pastoral ministry, it is the Pope’s task to safeguard sensibility to the truth; to invite reason to set out ever anew in search of what is true and good, in search of God; to urge reason, in the course of this search, to discern the illuminating lights that have emerged during the history of the Christian faith, and thus to recognize Jesus Christ as the Light that illumines history and helps us find the path towards the future.

From the Vatican, 17 January 2008.



Distinguished Friends from Finland,

I am pleased to greet your ecumenical delegation as you make your traditional yearly visit to Rome on the occasion of the feast of Saint Henrik, Patron of Finland. I extend a warm welcome to Bishop Makinen and Bishop Wróbel, and to all members of your group.

Your visit coincides with the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In fact, this year marks the hundredth anniversary of its inauguration, by Father Paul Wattson, as the “Church Unity Octave”.

In some sense, the Week of Prayer traces its origins to the eve of Jesus’ suffering and death, when he prayed for his disciples: “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17,21). Christian unity is a gift from above, stemming from and growing towards loving communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The joint prayer of Lutherans and Catholics from Finland is a humble but faithful sharing in the prayer of Jesus, who promised that every prayer raised to the Father in his name would be heard (cf. Jn 15,7). This indeed is the royal door of ecumenism: such prayer leads us to look at the Kingdom of God and the unity of the Church in a fresh way; it reinforces our bonds of communion; and it enables us to face courageously the painful memories, social burdens and human weaknesses that are so much a part of our divisions.

The appeal to “pray without ceasing” (1Th 5,17), which stands at the heart of the readings for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, also reminds us that authentic life in communion is possible only when doctrinal agreements and formal statements are constantly guided by the light of the Holy Spirit. We must be grateful for the fruits of the Nordic Lutheran-Catholic theological dialogue in Finland and Sweden concerning central matters of the Christian faith, including the question of justification in the life of the Church. May the ongoing dialogue lead to practical results in actions which express and build up our unity in Christ and therefore strengthen relationships between Christians.

Last year, Finland commemorated the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of the theologian Mikael Agricola, whose translation of the Bible had an immense impact on Finnish language and literature. This occasion emphasized anew the importance of Scripture for the Church, for individual Christians and for the whole of society. Truly, the Word of God is the foundation for our life; as Saint Jerome said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Jesus Christ” (Comm. in Isaias, Prol.). Encountering the Word of God, especially as it resounds in the Church and in her liturgy, is also important for our ecumenical journey. As the Second Vatican Council stated, “By this Word sacred theology is most firmly strengthened and constantly rejuvenated, as it searches out, under the light of faith, the full truth stored up in the mystery of Christ” (Dei Verbum DV 24).

Dear friends, it is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will bring you much joy as you recall the witness of the first Christians, and particularly the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the founding apostles of the Church of Rome. Saint Henrik followed in their footsteps, bringing the Gospel message and its saving power to the lives of the Nordic peoples. In the new and challenging circumstances of Europe today, and within your own country, there is much that Lutherans and Catholics can do together in the service of the Gospel and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

With these sentiments, and with affection in the Lord, I invoke upon you and your loved ones God’s blessings of joy and peace.


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

I am pleased to welcome you while you are making your ad limina visit, thus strengthening your communion with the Successor of Peter as well as with the local Churches whose Pastors you are. I warmly thank His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, Patriarch of Jerusalem for Latins and President of your Bishops' Conference, for his presentation of the salient features of the Church's life in your Countries. May your pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostles be an opportunity based on Christ's Person for the spiritual renewal of your communities. The Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Region covers a great diversity of situations. Frequently, the faithful who come from numerous countries are grouped together in small communities, in societies composed of a majority of believers of other religions. Tell them how spiritually close the Pope is to them, and that he shares in their anxieties and their hopes. I address my affectionate wishes to everyone so that they may live in serenity and peace.

I would first like to tell you again of the importance I attach to the witness of your local Churches, reminding you of the Message I addressed to Catholics in the Middle East on 21 December 2006, expressing the solidarity of the universal Church (cf. L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 January 2007, p. 10). In your Region, the endless outbursts of violence, insecurity and hatred make coexistence extremely difficult for everyone, sometimes even giving rise to fear for the life of your communities. This poses a serious challenge to your pastoral service. It impels you to strengthen the faith and sense of brotherhood of the faithful so that all may live with a hope based on the certainty that the Lord never abandons those who turn to him, for he alone is our true hope by virtue of which we can face our present (cf. Spe Salvi ). I warmly invite you to remain close to the people entrusted to your ministry, supporting them in trials and always showing them the way of authentic fidelity to the Gospel while they do their duty as disciples of Christ. In the difficult situations with which they are familiar, may they all have the strength and courage to live as ardent witnesses of Christ's charity.

It is understandable that circumstances sometimes force Christians to leave their homeland in search of a welcoming country that enables them to live in dignity. Nevertheless, it is essential to give firm support and encouragement to those who choose to remain faithful to their homeland in order to prevent it from becoming an archaeological site deprived of ecclesial life. By developing a solid fraternal life, they will find support in their trials. I therefore give my full support to the initiatives you are taking to contribute to the creation of social and financial conditions that help the Christians who remain in their country, and I appeal to the entire Church to wholeheartedly support these efforts.

The vocation of Christians in your Countries has an essential importance. As artisans of peace and justice, they are a living presence of Christ, who came to reconcile the world with the Father and to gather together all his dispersed children. Thus, authentic communion and serene and respectful collaboration among Catholics of different rites needs to be increasingly affirmed and developed. These are in fact eloquent signs for other Christians and for society as a whole. In addition, Christ's prayer in the Upper Room "that they may all be one" is a pressing invitation to strive ceaselessly for unity among Christ's disciples. I am therefore pleased to know that you are placing importance on deepening fraternal relations with the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. They are a fundamental element on the path to unity and a witness borne to Christ "so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21). Obstacles on the paths to unity must never extinguish enthusiasm for creating the conditions for a daily dialogue, which is a prelude to unity.

Meeting with members of other religions, Jews and Muslims, is a daily reality for you. In your Countries, the quality of relations between believers acquires a very special meaning, since it is at the same time a witness borne to the one God and a contribution to establishing more brotherly relations between people and between the various components of your societies. A better mutual knowledge is therefore necessary in order to foster ever greater respect for human dignity, the equality of rights and duties of people and renewed attention to the needs of each one, particularly those who are the poorest. Moreover, I firmly hope that authentic religious freedom may be effective everywhere and that the right of each individual to practise his or her religion freely, or to change it, may not be hindered. This is a primordial right of every human being.

Dear Brothers, the support of Christian families who are facing numerous challenges such as religious relativism, materialism and all the threats to the social moral values of the family, must continue to be one of your priorities. I ask you in particular to pursue your efforts to give a sound formation to young people and adults in order to help them strengthen their Christian identity and face courageously and serenely the situations they encounter, with respect for those who do not share their own convictions.

I know of your communities' commitment in the fields of education, health care and social assistance, appreciated by both the Authorities and populations of your Countries. In the conditions in which you live, by developing the values of solidarity, brotherhood and mutual love, you proclaim in your societies God's universal love, especially for the poorest of the poor and the least privileged.
Indeed, "a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love" (Deus Caritas Est ). I also acknowledge the courageous commitment of priests and men and women religious to accompanying your communities in their daily life and witness. Human and spiritual support for them must be an essential concern of their Pastors, whom you are.

Lastly, I would like to express to you once again my closeness to all those in your region who suffer from many forms of violence. You may count on the solidarity of the universal Church.

In addition, I appeal to the wisdom of all people of good will, especially those who hold responsible positions in public life, so that by giving priority to dialogue between all parties, violence may cease, true and lasting peace may be built and relations of solidarity and collaboration may be established. As I entrust each one of your Countries and your Communities to the maternal intercession of Mary, I implore God for the gift of peace for everyone. I wholeheartedly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you, as well as to the priests, men and women religious and all the faithful of your Dioceses.


Your Eminence,
Dear Superiors and Students of the Almo Collegio Capranica,

This year, I again have the pleasure of meeting you on the occasion of the Feast of St Agnes, your heavenly Patronness. I offer each one of you my most cordial greeting. First of all, I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini and thank him for his courteous expressions interpreting your sentiments. I greet the Rector and those who assist him in the direction of the community; I address a special greeting to you, dear students, and to everyone present, as I also extend my thoughts to the alumnae of the Capranica, who exercise their ministry at the service of the Church and souls in various parts of the world.

After celebrating its 550th anniversary in 2007, the Almo Collegio, which boasts an age-old history and a long tradition of fidelity to the Church and to her supreme Pastor, will commemorate in August the actual anniversary of the death of Cardinal Domenico Capranica (14 August 1458), who did a great deal for the birth of the Collegium pauperum scholarium, destined for the formation of well-trained men for the priestly ministry. In approaching this anniversary, I gladly remember the exemplary and far-sighted figure of this Cardinal, who with determination and a practical sense knew how to support the desire for reform that was also beginning to make itself felt in Rome, and, a century later, was to contribute to determining the orientation and decisions of the Council of Trent. He had the gift of clearly intuiting that the hoped-for reform was not solely to concern ecclesiastical structures, but mainly the life and decisions of those in the Church who were called to be guides and pastors of the People of God at any level.

Convinced of the importance of the spiritual dimension in the formation of future ministers of the altar and in the Church's mission, Cardinal Capranica not only did his utmost to establish the College, but he also desired to endow it with Constitutiones that fully regulate the various aspects the young students' formation. Thus, he showed his attention to the primacy of the spiritual dimension as well as his awareness that the depth and consequent perseverance of a sound priestly formation crucially depend on a complete and organic educational programme. These decisions have even greater prominence today, given the many challenges that priests and evangelizers must face in their mission. In this regard, on various occasions I have reminded seminarians and priests to cultivate a profound inner life, personal and constant contact with Christ in prayer and contemplation, and a sincere longing for holiness. Indeed, without true friendship with Jesus, it is impossible for a Christian, especially a priest, to fulfil the mission the Lord entrusts to him. For the priest, this certainly also entails a serious cultural and theological training which you, dear students, are acquiring during these years of study in Rome.

Actually, I would say that your formation process can receive a decisive impulse precisely from your stay in this City. The levels of experience and the contacts that it is possible to have here are in fact a providential gift and a unique incentive. The presence of the Chair of Peter, the work of the people and organizations that help the Bishop of Rome to preside in charity, a more direct knowledge of certain particular churches, especially the Diocese of Rome, are important elements that help a young man called to the priesthood to prepare himself for his future ministry. Moreover, your Pastors have sent you to the City of the Successor of Peter in the hope that you will return later enriched by a pronounced Catholic spirit and with a fuller ecclesial sensibility of universal breadth. The experience of communal life at the Capranica College among students from various regions of Italy and from countries of the whole world, enables each one of you, dear friends, to be thoroughly acquainted with the interweaving of cultures and mentalities that is typical of contemporary life. Furthermore, the presence of several who belong to the Russian Orthodox Church gives a further impetus to dialogue and brotherhood and nourishes ecumenical hope.

Dear students, make the most of the possibilities that Providence offers you during these years of your stay in Rome. Above all, foster an intimate relationship with the Immaculate Lamb, imitating St Agnes who followed him faithfully even to the point of sacrificing her life. Thanks to the intercession of this holy Virgin and Martyr, and above all to constant recourse to the motherly protection of Mary Virgo Sapiens, may the Lord help you to prepare yourselves with constant care for future ministry. As I thank you once again for your visit, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you who are here and to your loved ones.


Dear and Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am pleased to welcome you while you are participating at the meeting of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in preparation for the General Ordinary Assembly, convoked for this coming 5-26 October. I greet and thank Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, Secretary General, for his kind words; and I extend my grateful sentiments to all members of both the General Secretariat of the Synod and the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat. I greet all and each of you with sincere affection.

In the recent Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi on Christian hope, I wished to underline the "social character of hope" (n. 14). "Being in communion with Jesus Christ", I wrote, "draws us into his "being for all'; it makes it our own way of being. He commits us to live for others, but only through communion with him does it become truly possible to be there for others", since there exists a "connection between the love of God and responsibility for others" (ibid., n. 28) that enables one to avoid falling into the individualism of salvation and hope. I believe that one can discover this fruitful principle effectively applied in the synodal experience, where the encounter becomes communion and solicitude for all the Churches (cf. II Cor 11: 28) emerges in the concern for all.

The next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will reflect on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church".Among the Ecclesial Community's many and great duties in today's world, I emphasize evangelization and ecumenism. They are centred on the Word of God and at the same time are justified and sustained by it. As the Church's missionary activity with its evangelizing work is inspired and aims at the merciful revelation of the Lord, ecumenical dialogue cannot base itself on words of human wisdom (cf. 1Co 2,13) or on neat, expedient strategies, but must be animated solely by constant reference to the original Word that God consigned to his Church so that it be read, interpreted and lived in communion with her. In this area, St Paul's doctrine reveals a very special power, obviously founded on divine revelation but also on his own apostolic experience, which confirmed anew the awareness that not wisdom and human eloquence, but only the power of the Holy Spirit builds the Church in the faith (cf. 1Co 1,22-24 1Co 2, 4ff. ).

By a happy coincidence, St Paul will be particularly venerated this year, thanks to the celebration of the Pauline Year. The next Synod taking place on the Word of God will therefore offer to the Church's contemplation, and principally to her Pastors' contemplation, the witness also of this great Apostle and herald of God's Word. To the Lord, whom he first persecuted and then to whom he consecrated his entire being, Paul remains faithful even to death. May his example be an encouragement for all to accept the Word of salvation and translate it into daily life through the faithful following of Christ. The various ecclesial organisms consulted in view of the Assembly next October have dedicated their attention to the Word of God. The Synod Fathers will focus on it once they have become familiar with the preparatory documents, the Lineamenta and Instrumentum laboris, which you yourselves in the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops have contributed to creating. Thus, they will be able to discuss among themselves, but above all, gathered in collegial communion, to listen to the Word of life which God has entrusted to the loving care of his Church, so that it is courageously and convincingly proclaimed, with the parresia of the Apostles, to those near and far. Indeed, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, everyone is given the possibility to encounter the living Word that is Jesus Christ.

Dear and venerable Brothers, as members of the Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, you render a praiseworthy service to the Church, since the synodal organism constitutes a qualified institution to promote the truth and unity of pastoral dialogue within the Mystical Body of Christ. Thank you for what you do, and not without sacrifice. May God reward you! Let us continue to pray together so that the Lord will make the Synodal Assembly fruitful for the whole Church. With this wish, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to the Communities entrusted to your pastoral care, invoking the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of the Lord and of Sts Peter and Paul, who in the Liturgy, together with the other Apostles, we call the "pillars and foundation of the city of God".


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

Thank you for your visit which you are making on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Catholic Education: my cordial greeting to each one of you. I greet in the first place Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of your Dicastery, and together with him, the new Secretary and other Officials and Collaborators. I extend special thanks to you, Your Eminence, for your words to me, presenting the various topics on which the Congregation intends to reflect on in these days. They are subjects of great interest and timeliness to which, especially at this moment in history, the Church addresses her attention.

The education sector is particularly dear to the Church, called to make her own the concern of Christ, who, the Evangelist recounts, in seeing the crowds, took "compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things" (Mc 6,34). The Greek word that expresses this attitude of "compassion" calls to mind the depths of mercy and refers to the profound love that the Heavenly Father feels for man. Tradition has seen teaching - and more generally, education - as a concrete manifestation of spiritual mercy, which constitutes one of the first works of love which is the Church's mission to offer to humanity. It is particularly appropriate that people in our time are reflecting on how to make current and effective this apostolic task of the Ecclesial Community, entrusted to Catholic universities and in a special manner to ecclesiastical faculties. I therefore rejoice with you that you have chosen a theme of such great interest for your Plenary Meeting, just as I also believe it will be useful to make a careful analysis of the projects for reform that are currently being studied by your Dicastery concerning the above-mentioned Catholic universities and ecclesiastical faculties.

In the first place, I refer to the reform of ecclesiastical studies of philosophy, a project which has now reached the last stages of its elaboration, in which the metaphysical and sapiential dimensions of philosophy, mentioned by John Paul II in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio (cf. n. 81), will certainly be emphasized. It would likewise be useful to assess the expediency of a reform of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana. Desired by my venerable Predecessor in 1979, it constitutes the magna carta of ecclesiastical faculties and serves as a basis for formulating criteria for evaluating the quality of these institutions, an evaluation required by the Bologna Process which the Holy See joined in 2003. Today, the ecclesiastical disciplines, especially theology, are subjected to new questions in a world tempted on the one hand by rationalism which follows a falsely free rationality disconnected from any religious reference, and on the other, by fundamentalisms that falsify the true essence of religion with their incitement to violence and fanaticism.

Schools should also question themselves on the role they must fulfil in the contemporary social context, marked by an evident educational crisis. The Catholic school, whose primary mission is to form students in accordance with an integral anthropological vision while remaining open to all and respecting the identity of each one, cannot fail to propose its own educational, human and Christian perspective. Here then, a new challenge is posed which globalization and increasing pluralism make even more acute: in other words, the challenge of the encounter of religions and cultures in the common search for the truth. The acceptance of the cultural plurality of pupils and parents must necessarily meet two requirements: on the one hand, not to exclude anyone in the name of his or her cultural or religious membership; on the other, once this cultural and religious difference has been recognized and accepted, not to stop at the mere observation of it. This would in fact be equivalent to denying that cultures truly respect one another when they meet, because all authentic cultures are oriented to the truth about man and to his good. Therefore, people who come from different cultures can speak to one another and understand one another over and above distances in time and space, because in the heart of every person dwells the same great aspirations to goodness, justice, truth, life and love.

Another theme being studied at your Plenary Assembly is the question concerning the reform of the Ratio fundamentalis institutionis sacerdotalis for seminaries. The basic document, dated 1970, was updated in 1985, especially subsequent to the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law in 1983. In the decades that followed, various texts of special importance were promulgated, in particular the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (1992). The present atmosphere in society, with the massive influence of the media and the expansion of the phenomenon of globalization, is profoundly changed. It would thus seem necessary to question oneself on the expediency of the reform of the Ratio fundamentalis, which should emphasize the importance of a correct articulation of the various dimensions of priestly formation in the perspective of the Church-communion, following the instructions of the Second Vatican Council. This implies a solid formation in the faith of the Church and true familiarity with the revealed Word given by God to his Church. The formation of future priests, moreover, must offer useful guidelines and directions for carrying on a dialogue with the contemporary cultures. Human and cultural formation should therefore be significantly reinforced and sustained, also with the help of the modern sciences, since certain destabilizing social factors that exist in the world today (for example, the plight of so many broken families, the educational crisis, widespread violence, etc.) render the new generations fragile.
At the same time, an adequate formation in the spiritual life, which makes Christian communities and especially parishes ever more aware of their vocation and able to respond satisfactorily to the question of spirituality that comes especially from young people, must take place. This requires that the Church not lack well-qualified and responsible apostles and evangelizers. Consequently, the problem of vocations arises, especially to the priesthood and the consecrated life. While in some parts of the world vocations are visibly flourishing, elsewhere the number is dwindling, especially in the West. The care of vocations involves the whole Ecclesial Community: Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and also families and parishes. The publication of the Document on the vocation to the presbyteral ministry which you are preparing will certainly be a great help to your pastoral action.

Dear brothers and sisters, I recalled earlier that teaching is an expression of Christ's charity and is the first of the spiritual works of mercy that the Church is called to carry out. Those who enter the offices of the Congregation for Catholic Education are welcomed by an icon that shows Jesus washing his disciples' feet during the Last Supper. May the One who "loved [us] to the end" (cf. Jn 13,1) bless your work at the service of education and, with the power of his Spirit, make it effective. For my part, I thank you for all you do daily with competence and dedication, and while I entrust you to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, the Wise Virgin and Mother of Love, I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you, the members of the Joint Working Group between the World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church, as you gather in Rome to begin a new phase of your work. Your meeting takes place in this City where the Apostles Peter and Paul bore supreme witness to Christ and shed their blood in his name. I greet you warmly in the words which Paul himself addressed to the first Christians in Rome: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm 1,7).

The World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church have enjoyed a fruitful ecumenical relationship dating back to the time of the Second Vatican Council. The Joint Working Group, which began in 1965, has worked assiduously to strengthen the “dialogue of life” which my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, called the “dialogue of charity” (Ut Unum Sint UUS 17). This cooperation has given vivid expression to the communion already existing between Christians and has advanced the cause of ecumenical dialogue and understanding.

The centenary of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity offers us an opportunity to thank Almighty God for the fruits of the ecumenical movement, in which we can discern the presence of the Holy Spirit fostering the growth of all Christ’s followers in unity of faith, hope and love. To pray for unity is itself “an effective means of obtaining the grace of unity” (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8), since it is a participation in the prayer of Jesus himself. When Christians pray together, “the goal of unity seems closer” (Ut Unum Sint UUS 22), for the presence of Christ in our midst (cf. Mt 18,20) fosters a profound harmony of mind and heart: we are able to look at each other in a new way, and to strengthen our resolve to overcome whatever keeps us apart.

On this day, then, we think back with gratitude to the work of so many individuals who, over the years, have sought to spread the practice of spiritual ecumenism through common prayer, conversion of heart and growth in communion. We also give thanks for the ecumenical dialogues which have borne abundant fruit in the past century. The reception of those fruits is itself an important step in the process of promoting Christian unity, and the Joint Working Group is particularly suited to studying and encouraging that process.

Dear friends, I pray that the new Joint Working Group will be able to build on the commendable work already done, and thus open the way to ever greater cooperation, so that the Lord’s prayer “that they all may be one” (Jn 17,21) will be ever more fully realized in our time.

With these sentiments, and with deep appreciation for your important service to the ecumenical movement, I cordially invoke upon you and your deliberations God’s abundant blessings.


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

It gives me great joy to welcome you, dear Pastors of the Church in Slovenia, as your visit ad limina Apostolorum is drawing to a close. I greet you with affection and I am grateful to Archbishop Alojzij Uran, Metropolitan Archbishop of Ljubljana and President of your Episcopal Conference, for the courteous words he has just addressed to me.

Since your previous ad limina visit in April 2001, your Country has experienced changes of considerable importance at the level of civil institutions. First of all, on 1 May 2004, Slovenia became a member of the European Union and the Bishops addressed a Pastoral Letter to all the faithful for the occasion. Then, on 1 January 2007, the Country adopted the single European currency. Lastly, at the end of last year, it was integrated into the context of the Schengen Treaty for free circulation. As if to crown this development, the presidency of the European Union has been entrusted to Slovenia for this six-month term.

These important events which I am pleased to recall are not of an ecclesial nature, yet they concern the Church because they concern the life of the people, in particular the horizon of values in Europe, as the above-mentioned Pastoral Letter of 23 April 2004 emphasized. This Letter may appear a bit overly optimistic today. It naturally proposed an evaluation of the positive aspects but did not neglect to mention the problems and dangers. Four years after Slovenia's entry into the European Union, it seems to me to have preserved all its value, as you said: if Europe wishes to remain and to become increasingly a land of peace, preserving respect for the dignity of the human person as one of its fundamental values, it cannot deny the principal component - at the spiritual and ethical level - of its foundations: in other words, Christianity. Not all forms of humanism are equal nor are they equivalent from the moral viewpoint. I am not referring here to the religious aspects but limit myself to the ethical and social dimensions. In fact, the consequences for civil coexistence differ according to the anthropological vision adopted. If, for example, man conceives of himself, in accordance with a trend that is widespread today, in an individualistic manner, how can the effort to build a just and supportive community be justified? In this regard I would like to return to a statement in your Letter mentioned above: "Christianity is the religion of hope: hope in life, in unending happiness, in creating brotherhood among all human beings". This is true for every continent and is also true in a Europe where many intellectuals still find it hard to accept the fact that "reason and faith need each other in order to fulfil their true nature and their mission" (Encyclical Spe Salvi ).

Here we recognize the principal challenge which the Church in Slovenia must contend with today. Secularism with a Western stamp, different from and perhaps more subtle than the Marxist brand, is showing us very worrying signs. Only think, for example, of the unbridled search for material goods, the reduced birth rate, and further, the dwindling religious practice, together with a tangible decrease in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. The Slovene Ecclesial Community has already been dedicated for some time to responding to the challenges of secularism at different levels and in various directions. I am pleased first of all to recall the National Plenary Council which you held between 1999 and 2000, whose theme echoed the words Moses addressed to the People of Israel as it was about to enter the Promised Land: "Choose life" (Dt 30,19). Every generation is called to renew this choice between "life and good, death and evil" (cf. Dt Dt 30,15). And we Pastors are duty-bound to point out the path of life to Christians, so that they in turn may be salt and light in society. I therefore encourage the Church in Slovenia to respond to the materialistic and selfish culture with a consistent evangelizing action which begins in the parishes: indeed, it is from parish communities rather than from other structures that initiatives can and must come, as well as from concrete acts of Christian witness. This is facilitated by the restructuring of the ecclesiastical circumscriptions which I organized in 2006, creating three new dioceses and raising Maribor to the rank of a Metropolitan See, in order to ensure that Bishops might be closer to their priests and faithful and accompany them more effectively on their journey of faith, as well as in their apostolic commitment.

Dear and venerable Brothers, you have convoked a National Eucharistic Congress for the spring of 2009 and have also invited me to visit your Country on this occasion. As I thank you for your courteous gesture and entrust this project to the Lord, I must praise you from this moment for your initiative of convoking the entire Community around the Eucharistic Mystery, source and summit of the Church's life and mission (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1,11). My venerable Predecessor John Paul II ended his long Pontificate by encouraging us to turn our hearts to the Eucharist. I accepted his invitation and, following the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist celebrated in October 2005, I wrote the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis.
You therefore have a great wealth of teachings on which to draw for the preparation of your Congress, an ecclesial event which I am sure will be a propitious opportunity for your Communities to take up the conclusions of the recent Slovene Plenary Council and carry forward their implementation.

The Eucharist and the Word of God - the upcoming Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated to the latter - are the Church's true treasure. Faithful to Jesus' teaching, every community must use earthly goods simply as a service to the Gospel and consistently with Gospel dictates. In this regard, the New Testament is very rich in teachings and normative examples so that, in every age, Pastors can correctly present the delicate problem of temporal goods and their appropriate use. In the Church in every period the testimony of evangelical poverty has been an essential element of evangelization as it was in the life of Christ. It is therefore essential for everyone, Pastors and faithful alike, to be committed to personal and communal conversion in order that ever greater fidelity to the Gospel in the administration of Church property may offer to all the witness of a Christian people determined to be in tune with Christ's teachings.

Venerable and dear Brothers, I thank the Lord who in these days has granted us to revive the bonds of communion, both your own and those of your Churches, with the See of Peter. May Bl. Anton Martin Slomsek and the other Saints who are particularly venerated in your Communities protect and support you. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church, always watch over your ministry and obtain abundant heavenly graces for you. For my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.

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