Speeches 2005-13 25018



Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Professors, Legal Professionals and All who Promote Canon Law,

I am delighted to be present at these last moments of the Study Congress organized by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Code of Canon Law. You have reflected on: "Canon law in the life of the Church. Investigations and perspectives in keeping with the recent Papal Magisterium". I cordially greet each one of you and in particular the President of the Pontifical Council, Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, whom I thank for his courteous words to me on behalf of you all and for his reflections on the Code and on Church law. I likewise extend my thanks to the entire Pontifical Council, with its Members and Consultors, for the valuable collaboration it has offered to the Pope in the juridical and canonical context: in fact, the Dicastery is watchful in order to ensure that the Church's legislation is complete, current and consistent. I take pleasure in recalling with deep gratitude to the Lord that I too contributed to the drafting of the Code, having been appointed by the Servant of God John Paul II, while I was Archbishop of Munich and Freising, a member of the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, at whose promulgation on 25 January 1983 I was present.

The Congress that is being celebrated on this important anniversary treats a theme of great interest because it highlights the close link that exists between canon law and Church life in accordance with the desire of Jesus Christ. On this occasion I am therefore anxious to reaffirm a fundamental concept that imbues canon law. The ius ecclesiae is not only a body of norms formulated by the Ecclesial Legislator for this special people who form the Church of Christ. It is, in the first place, the authoritative declaration on the part of the Ecclesial Legislator of the duties and rights that are based in the sacraments and are therefore born from the institution by Christ himself. This series of juridical realties treated by the Code forms a wonderful mosaic in which are portrayed the faces of all the faithful, lay people and Pastors and all the communities, from the universal Church to the particular Churches. I am pleased here to quote Bl. Antonio Rosmini's truly incisive words: "The human person is the essence of law" (Filosofia del diritto, Part I, bk
1Ch 3). What this great philosopher said with profound insight of human law, we must with all the more reason reassert for canon law: the essence of canon law is the Christian person in the Church.

Moreover, the Code of Canon Law contains the norms formulated by the Ecclesial Legislator for the good of the person and of the communities of the whole Mystical Body which is the Holy Church. As my beloved Predecessor John Paul II said in promulgating the Code of Canon Law on 25 January 1983, the Church is constituted as a social and visible structure; as such: The Church "must also have norms: in order that her hierarchical and organic structure be visible; in order that the exercise of the functions divinely entrusted to her, especially that of sacred power and of the administration of the sacraments, may be adequately organized; in order that the mutual relations of the faithful may be regulated according to justice based upon charity, with the rights of individuals guaranteed and well defined; in order, finally, that common initiatives undertaken for an ever more perfect Christian life may be sustained, strengthened and fostered by canonical norms" (Apostolic Constitution Sacrae disciplinae leges, 1983). The Church thus recognizes in her laws the nature as well as the means and pastoral function for pursuing her own end, which - as is well known - is the achievement of the "salus animarum". "Canon law is thus shown to be related to the Church's very nature; it is essential for the proper exercise of the munus pastorale..." (John Paul II, At the 10th Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Code of Canon Law, CIC 23 April 1993, n. 6; ORE, 28 April, p. 2).

If canon law is to fulfil this invaluable service it must first of all be a well-structured law. In other words, on the one hand it must be bound to the theological foundation that gives it reasonableness and is an essential title of ecclesial legitimacy; on the other, it must keep up with the changing circumstances of the historical reality of the People of God. Furthermore, it must be formulated clearly, without ambiguity, and must always be in harmony with the rest of the Church's laws.
It is therefore necessary to abrogate norms that prove antiquated; to modify those in need of correction; to interpret - in light of the Church's living Magisterium - those that are doubtful, and lastly, to fill possible lacunae legis. As Pope John Paul II said to the Roman Rota: "The very many expressions of that flexibility which has always marked canon law, precisely for pastoral reasons, must be kept in mind and applied" (Address to the Roman Rota, 18 January 1990, n. 4). It is your task in the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts to ensure that the work of the various bodies in the Church that are required to dictate norms for the faithful always reflects, all together, the unity and communion that are proper to the Church.

Since canon law outlines the rules necessary for the People of God to orient themselves effectively to their own end, one understands how important it is that this law be loved and observed by all the faithful. Church law is first and foremost lex libertatis: a law that sets us free to adhere to Jesus. It is therefore necessary to be able to present to the People of God, to the new generations and to all who are called to make canon law respected, its concrete bond with the life of the Church, in order to safeguard the delicate interests of the things of God and to protect the rights of the weakest, of those who have no other means by which to make their presence felt, and also in defence of those delicate "goods" which every member of the faithful has freely received - the gift of faith, of God's grace, first of all -, which the Church cannot allow to be deprived of adequate protection on the part of the Law.

In the overall scheme outlined here, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts is required to be of assistance to the Roman Pontiff, the Supreme Legislator, in his task as the principal upholder, guarantor and interpreter of the Church's law. In the fulfilment of this important office of yours, you can count on the Pope's confidence as well as his prayers as he accompanies your work with his affectionate Blessing.

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN ROTA Clementine Hall Saturday, 26 January 2008

Dear Prelate Auditors,
Officials and Collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota,

The occurrence of the first centenary of the restoration of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, ratified by St Pius X in 1908 with his Apostolic Constitution Sapienti Consilio, has just been recalled in the cordial words of your Dean, Bishop Antoni Stankiewicz. This circumstance enhances the sense of appreciation and gratitude with which I am meeting you, already for the third time. I offer my cordial greeting to each and every one of you. I see personified in you, esteemed Prelate Auditors, and in all those who take part in various capacities in the work of this Tribunal, an institution of the Apostolic See whose roots, embedded in canonical tradition, have proven an inexhaustible source of vitality. It is your task to keep this tradition alive, in the conviction that you are thereby rendering an ever timely service to the overall administration of justice in the Church.

This centenary is a favourable opportunity for reflecting on a fundamental aspect of the Rota's activity: the value of rotal jurisprudence in the ensemble of the administration of justice in the Church. It is a dimension highlighted in the very description of the Rota given by the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus: "The Roman Rota is a court of higher instance at the Apostolic See, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church; it fosters unity of jurisprudence, and, by virtue of its own decisions, provides assistance to lower tribunals" (art. 126). In their annual Discourses, my beloved Predecessors frequently spoke with appreciation and trust of the Roman Rota's jurisprudence, both in general and with reference to practical matters and especially matrimonial topics.

If it is only right and proper to remember the ministry of justice exercised by the Rota during its centuries-old existence - and especially in the last 100 years - it is also appropriate on this occasion to endeavour to examine the meaning of this service, the annual volume of whose decisions demonstrate that it is a practical instrument. We might wonder in particular why rotal sentences possess a juridical importance that exceeds the immediate context of the causes in which they are issued. Regardless of the formal value that every ordinary juridical process can attribute to previous proceedings, there is no doubt that in a certain way, its individual decisions concern the whole of society. Indeed, they continue to determine what all can expect from the tribunals, which undoubtedly influences the tenor of social life. Any legal system must seek to offer solutions in which, as well as the prudential evaluation of individual cases, the same principles and general norms of justice are applied. Only in this way is a trusting atmosphere created in the tribunals' activity and the arbitrary nature of subjective criteria avoided. Furthermore, within each judicial organization the hierarchy that exists between the various tribunals is such that possible recourse to higher tribunals in itself provides for the unity of jurisprudence.

The above-mentioned considerations are also perfectly applicable to ecclesiastical tribunals. Indeed, since canonical processes concern the juridical aspects of salvific goods or of other temporal goods which serve the Church's mission, the requirement of unity in the essential criteria of justice and the need to be able to reasonably foresee the direction that judicial decisions will take becomes a public ecclesial good of particular importance for the People of God's internal life and its institutional witness in the world. In addition to the intrinsic value of reasonableness inherent in the work of a Tribunal that usually decides cases in the last instance, it is clear that the value of the Roman Rota's jurisprudence is dependent upon its nature as a higher instance which can appeal to the Apostolic See. The legal measures which recognize this value (cf. can. 19, Code of Canon Law; Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, art. 126) do not create, but rather, declare this value. It derives ultimately from the need to administer justice in accordance with equal parameters in all that is precisely in itself essentially equal.

As a result, the value of rotal jurisprudence is not a factual sociological issue since it has a properly juridical character, placed at the service of substantial justice. It would therefore be improper to admit to any opposition between rotal jurisprudence and the decisions of local tribunals that are called to play an indispensable role in rendering the administration of justice immediately accessible, and in being able to investigate and resolve practical cases at times linked to peoples' culture and mentality. In any case, all rulings must always be based on the principles and common norms of justice. This requirement, common to any juridical order, has specific significance in the Church to the extent that the requirements of communion are at stake. This involves the protection of what is common to the universal Church, entrusted in a particular way to the Supreme Authority and to the bodies that participate ad normam iuris in its sacred authority.

In the matrimonial context, rotal jurisprudence has carried out very conspicuous work in the past 100 years. In particular, it has made significant contributions that are expressed in the codification in force. In this light, one cannot think that the importance of the jurisprudential interpretation of law by the Rota has diminished. Indeed, the application of current canon law requires precisely that it reflect the true sense of justice, linked first of all to marriage's very essence. The Roman Rota is constantly called to carry out an arduous task which has a strong influence on the work of all tribunals: that of understanding the existence or non-existence of the matrimonial reality, which is intrinsically anthropological, theological and juridical. For a better understanding of the role of jurisprudence, I would like to insist on what I said to you last year concerning the "intrinsic juridical dimension of marriage" (cf. Address to Roman Rota, 27 January 2007). Law cannot be reduced to a mere collection of positive rules that tribunals are required to apply. The only way to give a solid foundation to the jurisprudential task is to conceive of it as a true exercise of prudentia iuris. This prudence is quite the opposite of arbitrariness or relativism, for it permits events to reveal the presence or absence of the specific relationship of justice which marriage is, with its real human and saving meaning. Only in this way do jurisprudential maxims acquire their true value without becoming a compilation of abstract and repetitive rules, exposed to the risk of subjective or arbitrary interpretations.

The objective assessment of the facts in the light of the Magisterium and the law of the Church thus constitutes a very important aspect of the Roman Rota's activity and exercises great influence on ministers of justice of the tribunals of local Churches. Rotal jurisprudence should be seen as exemplary juridical wisdom carried out with the authority of the Tribunal permanently constituted by the Successor of Peter for the good of the whole Church. Thanks to this work, the concrete reality in causes of matrimonial nullity is objectively judged in light of criteria that constantly reaffirm the reality of matrimonial indissolubility, open to every man and woman in accordance with the plan of God, Creator and Saviour. Constant effort is needed to attain that unity of the criteria of justice which essentially characterizes the notion of jurisprudence itself and is a fundamental presupposition for its activity. In the Church, precisely because of her universality and the diversity of the juridical cultures in which she is called to operate, there is always a risk that "local forms of jurisprudence" develop, sensim sine sensu, ever more distant from the common interpretation of positive law and also from the Church's teaching on matrimony. I hope that appropriate means may be studied to make rotal jurisprudence more and more manifestly unitive as well as effectively accessible to all who exercise justice, in order to ensure its uniform application in all Church tribunals.

The value of interventions of the Ecclesiastical Magisterium on matrimonial and juridical issues, including the Roman Pontiff's Discourses to the Roman Rota, should also be seen in this realistic perspective. They are a ready guide for the work of all Church tribunals, since they authoritatively teach the essential aspects of the reality of marriage. In his last Address to the Rota, my venerable Predecessor John Paul II put people on guard against the positivistic mentality in the understanding of law, which tends to make a distinction between laws and jurisprudential approaches and the Church's doctrine. He affirmed: "In fact, the authentic interpretation of God's Word, exercised by the Magisterium of the Church, has juridical value to the extent that it concerns the context of law, without requiring any further formal procedure to become juridically and morally binding. "For a healthy juridical interpretation, it is indispensable to understand the whole body of the Church's teachings and to place every affirmation systematically in the flow of tradition. It will thus be possible to avoid selective and distorted interpretations and useless criticisms at every step" (John Paul II, Address to Roman Rota, 29 January 2005).

This centenary is destined to go beyond the formal commemoration. It will become an opportunity for a reflection that must temper your commitment, enlivening it with an ever deeper ecclesial sense of justice which is a true service to saving communion. I encourage you to pray daily for the Roman Rota and for all who work in the sector of the administration of justice in the Church, with recourse to the motherly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Speculum iustitiae. This invitation might seem merely devotional and somewhat extrinsic to your ministry; but we must not forget that everything in the Church is brought about through the force of prayer, which transforms our entire existence and fills us with the hope that Jesus brings to us. This prayer, inseparable from daily commitment that is serious and competent, will bring light and strength, faithfulness and authentic renewal to the life of this venerable Institution through which, ad normam iuris, the Bishop of Rome exercises his primatial solicitude for the administration of justice throughout the People of God. Therefore, may my Blessing today, full of affection and gratitude, embrace both you who are present here and all those worldwide who serve the Church and all the faithful in this field.



Mr Chancellors,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Academician Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I greet you with pleasure at the end of your Colloquium, which is concluding here in Rome after taking place at the Institut de France in Paris and has focused on the theme: "The changing identity of the individual". First of all, I thank Prince Gabriel de Broglie for the tribute with which he wished to introduce our meeting. I would also like to greet the members of all the institutions under whose aegis this Colloquium has been organized: the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, the Academy of Sciences and the Catholic Institute of Paris. I rejoice that it has been possible for the first time to establish an interacademic collaboration of this kind, paving the way to ever more rewarding and extensive multidisciplinary research.

Whereas the exact, natural and human sciences have progressed prodigiously in the knowledge of man and his universe, there is a strong temptation to seek to isolate the identity of the human being and to enclose this identity in the knowledge that can derive from it. In order to avoid moving in this direction it is important to support anthropological, philosophical and theological research which allows the appearance and preservation in man of his own mystery, for no science can say who man is, where he comes from or where he is going. Anthropology thus becomes the most vital science of all. This is what John Paul II said in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio: "We face a great challenge... to move from phenomenon to foundation, a step as necessary as it is urgent. We cannot stop short at experience alone; even if experience does reveal the human being's interiority and spirituality, speculative thinking must penetrate to the spiritual core and the ground from which it rises" (n. 83). Man is always more than what is seen or perceived of him through experience. Failing to ask questions about man's being would lead inevitably to refusing to seek the objective truth about being as a whole, and hence, to no longer be able to recognize the basis on which human dignity, the dignity of every person, rests from the embryonic stage to natural death.

During your Colloquium you have recognized that the sciences, philosophy and theology can be mutually helpful for perceiving the human identity which is constantly developing. Starting with questions on the new being derived from cellular fusion and who bears a new and specific genetic patrimony, you have brought to the fore some essential elements of the mystery of man, marked by otherness: a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and is made to love. As a human person, man is never closed in on himself; he is always a bearer of otherness and from the very first moment of his existence interacts with other human beings, as the human sciences increasingly bring to light. How is it possible not to recall here the marvellous meditation of the Psalmist on the human being, knit together in the secret of his mother's womb and at the same time known in his identity and mystery to God alone, who loves and protects him (cf. Ps 139[138]: 1-16)?

Man is neither the result of chance nor of a bundle of convergences nor of forms of determinism nor physio-chemical interaction; he is a being who enjoys freedom, which, while taking his nature into account, transcends it and symbolizes this mystery of otherness that dwells within him. It is in this perspective that the great thinker Pascal said: "Man is infinitely more than man". This freedom which is a distinctive feature of the being called man enables him to orient his life towards an end which he can direct with his actions toward the happiness to which he is called for eternity. This freedom reveals that human existence has meaning. In the exercise of his authentic freedom, the person fulfils his vocation; it is completed and gives shape to his profound identity. It is also by putting his freedom into practice that the person exercises his own responsibility for his actions. In this sense, the special dignity of the human being is both a gift of God and the promise of a future.

Man bears within himself a specific capacity for discerning what is good and right. Affixed in him as a seal by the Creator, synderesis urges him to do good. Impelled by it, the human being is required to develop his conscience by forming and using it in order to direct his life freely based on the essential laws which are natural law and moral law. In our day, when the development of the sciences attracts and seduces with the possibilities they offer, it is more important than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries in order to prevent science from becoming the criterion of good and to ensure that man is respected as the centre of creation and not made the object of ideological manipulation, arbitrary decisions or the abuse of the weaker by the stronger. These are some of the dangers we have experienced in human history, especially during the 20th century.

Every scientific approach must also be a loving approach, called to be at the service of the human being and of humanity and to make its contribution to forming the identity of individuals. Indeed, as I emphasized in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time.... Love is indeed "ecstasy'", that is, "a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery" (n. 6). Love brings one out of oneself in order to discover and recognize the other; in opening himself to otherness it also affirms the identity of the subject, for the other reveals me to myself. This is the experience made by numerous believers throughout the Bible, beginning with Abraham. The model of love par excellence is Christ. It is in the act of giving his life for his brethren, in giving himself totally, that his profound identity is expressed and we have the key to interpreting the unfathomable mystery of his being and his mission.

As I entrust your research to the intercession of St Thomas Aquinas, whom the Church honours today and who remains "an authentic model for all who seek the truth" (Fides et Ratio FR 78), I assure you of my prayers for you, your families and your collaborators, and I impart to you all with affection the Apostolic Blessing.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear and Faithful Collaborators,

It gives me great joy to meet you on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly. I can thus express to you my sentiments of deep gratitude and cordial appreciation for the work that your Dicastery carries out at the service of the ministry of unity, entrusted in a special way to the Roman Pontiff. It is a ministry expressed primarily in terms of the unity of faith, resting on the "sacred deposit" whose principal custodian and defender is the Successor of Peter (cf. Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus ). I thank Cardinal William Levada for expressing your common sentiments and for recalling the themes that have been the subject of some Documents published by your Congregation in recent years, as well as the topics that are still under examination by the Dicastery.

Last year, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published two important Documents which offered doctrinal clarification on essential aspects of the Church's teaching and on evangelization. These clarifications are necessary if the ecumenical dialogue with the world's religions and cultures is to progress as it should. The first Document is entitled "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church" (29 June 2007). In its formulation and language, it reproposes the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, in full continuity with the doctrine of Catholic Tradition. Thus, it confirms that the one and only Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed, has its subsistence, permanence and stability in the Catholic Church, and that therefore, the unity, indivisibility and indestructibility of Christ's Church is in no way annulled by the separations and divisions of Christians. Alongside this fundamental doctrinal definition, the Document reproposes the correct linguistic use of some ecclesiological terminology that risks being misunderstood. To this end, it calls attention to the difference that still endures among the different Christian denominations with regard to the understanding of being Church in the proper theological sense. Far from preventing authentic ecumenical commitment, this difference will encourage a realistic and fully informed discussion of the issues that still separate the Christian denominations; it will also encourage joyful recognition of the truths of faith professed in common and the need to pray without ceasing for a more deeply committed advance towards greater and ultimately full Christian unity. The consequence of fostering a theological vision which holds the unity and identity of the Church to be gifts "hidden in Christ", reconcilable only in an eschatological perspective, would be that the Church in history would exist de facto in multiple ecclesial forms, and ultimately hinder and paralyze ecumenism itself.

The Second Vatican Council's assertion that the true Church of Christ "subsists in the Catholic Church" (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium LG 8), does not exclusively concern the relationship with the Churches and Christian Ecclesial Communities but also extends to the definition of relations with the religions and cultures of the world. In the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae on Religious Liberty, the Second Vatican Council affirmed that "this one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the task of spreading it among all men" (n. 1). The Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization - the other Document, published by your Congregation in December 2007 -, confronted by the risk of persistent religious and cultural relativism, reaffirms that in the age of interreligious and intercultural dialogue the Church does not dispense with the need for evangelization and missionary activity for peoples, nor does she cease to ask men and women to accept the salvation offered to them all. Recognition of elements of truth and good in the world's religions and the seriousness of their religious endeavours, together with dialogue and a spirit of collaboration with them for the defence and promotion of the person's dignity and the universal moral values, cannot be understood as a limitation of the Church's missionary task, which involves her in ceaselessly proclaiming Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14,6).

I also ask you, dear friends, to pay special attention to the difficult and complex issues of bioethics.
In fact, new biomedical technologies, do not only involve certain specialized doctors and researchers but are disseminated through the modern means of social communication, giving rise to expectations and questions in ever broader sectors of society. The Church's Magisterium certainly cannot and ought not address every scientific innovation, but has the task of reaffirming the important values at stake and of suggesting to the faithful and to all people of good will the ethical and moral principles and guidelines for new and important issues. The two fundamental criteria for moral discernment in this field are: a) unconditional respect for the human being as a person from conception to natural death; b) respect for the originality of the transmission of human life through the acts proper to spouses. After the publication in 1987 of the Instruction Donum Vitae which spelled out these criteria, many levelled criticism at the Magisterium of the Church for being an obstacle to science and to the true progress of humanity. However, the new problems associated, for example, with the freezing of human embryos, with embryonic reduction [selective abortion of medically implanted embryos], with pre-implantational diagnosis, with research on embryonic stem cells and with attempts at human cloning, clearly show that with extra-corporeal artificial fertilization, the barrier that served to protect human dignity has been violated. When human beings, in the weakest and most defenceless stage of their lives are selected, abandoned, killed or used as mere "biological material", how can it be denied that they are no longer being treated as "someone" but rather as "something", hence, calling into question the very concept of human dignity?

Of course, the Church appreciates and encourages the progress of the biomedical sciences which open up unprecedented therapeutic prospects until now unknown, for example, through the use of somatic stem cells, or treatment that aims to restore fertility or cure genetic diseases. At the same time, she feels duty-bound to enlighten all consciences to the only authentic progress, namely, that scientific progress truly respect every human being, whose personal dignity must be recognized since he is created in the image of God. The study of these themes, which has involved your Assembly in a special way in these days, will certainly help to encourage the formation of the consciences of a large number of our brethren, in accordance with what the Second Vatican Council stated in the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae: "In forming their consciences the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth. It is her duty to proclaim and teach with authority the truth which is Christ and, at the same time, to declare and confirm by her authority the principles of the moral order which spring from human nature itself" (n. 14).

As I encourage you to persevere in your demanding and important work, on this occasion I also express my spiritual closeness to you and I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all, as a pledge of affection and gratitude.

                                                            February 2008


Your Beatitude,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

I am very pleased to meet you today, at the end of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. Serious and objective reasons have prevented you from making this pilgrimage together to the See of Peter. The last ad limina visit of the Greek Catholic Bishops dates back to 1937. Now that your respective Churches have rediscovered full freedom, you are here representing reborn communities, vibrant with faith, which have never stopped feeling in full communion with the Successor of Peter. Welcome, Dear Brothers to this house in which intense and unceasing prayers have always been raised for the beloved Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine. Through venerable Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc, whom I thank for his moving expressions of affection on your behalf, through the Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Mukacheve for Byzantines, and through all of you, I am pleased to greet your respective communities, the tireless priests, consecrated men and women and all those who carry out with dedication their pastoral ministry at the service of the People of God.

From the reports on the situation of your eparchies and exarchates I have been able to note your great commitment to constantly fostering, consolidating and ensuring unity and collaboration within your communities, to be able to face together the challenges that call you into question as Pastors and are at the centre of your concerns and your pastoral programmes. Thus, I admire the generous work and tireless witness that you offer to your People and to the Church. In this pastoral and missionary effort, the priests whom the Good Shepherd has placed beside you as your collaborators are a necessary help. I gladly make the most of this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation of their daily apostolic action. Encourage them, Venerable Brothers, in the various initiatives of renewal, not to pursue mundane trends but to offer society those responses that Christ alone can give to the expectations of justice and peace in the human heart. For this reason an adequate intellectual and spiritual training is essential. It must entail a continuing course of formation, begun at the seminaries, where discipline and spiritual life must always be promoted. Subsequently, it must be continued in the course of the years in the ministry. The vocation seed-bed, which is precisely what seminaries are, stand in need of qualified educators and formation teachers who are competent in the human, scientific, doctrinal, ascetic and pastoral fields, to help future priests grow in their personal relationship with Christ, thanks to a gradual identification with him. Only in this way will they be able to assume, in a spirit of authentic ecclesial service, the pastoral responsibilities that the Bishop assigns to them.

With this in view I urge you to increase the number of courses of spiritual exercises, formation and theological and pastoral renewal for your priests, if possible also in collaboration with the Latin-rite Bishops, each one respecting its own traditions. It cannot be denied that such cooperation between the two Rites will give rise to greater harmony in the hearts of those who serve the one Church. Moreover, I am sure that with this inner disposition, it will be easier to ease possible misunderstandings, in the knowledge that both Rites belong to the one Catholic Community and both have full and equal citizenship in the one Ukrainian People. In this light, it would seem useful, venerable Brothers, for you to meet regularly, for example, once a year, with the Latin Bishops.

The consecrated life has special importance in the eparchies and exarchates entrusted to you and, with you, I thank God for this. However you have told me that certain difficulties exist in this regard, especially in the area of formation, concerning the responsible obedience of men and women religious and their cooperation in the Church's needs. With the magnanimity of Pastors and the patience of Fathers, you should exhort these brothers and sisters to defend the "non secular" character of their own specific vocation tirelessly. Help them cultivate the spirit of the Beatitudes and faithfully observe the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, with fidelity to the Gospel, so that in the Church they may bear the specific witness that is asked of them.

A further concern you have at heart is ecumenical commitment. It is necessary to recognize humbly that practical and objective obstacles remain in this field. However, one must not feel discouraged in the face of difficulties but rather continue along the way on which you have set out with prayer and with patient charity. Indeed, Orthodox and Catholics in Ukraine have sought for centuries to build up a daily, humble and serene dialogue that embraces the many aspects of life. The failures which should always be taken into account, must not slacken the enthusiasm for pursuing the objective desired by the Lord "that they may all be one" (Jn 17,21). Some time ago, meeting the Fathers of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, I noted that, "In any case, what should be encouraged first of all is the ecumenism of love, which directly descends from the new commandment that Jesus left to his disciples. Love accompanied by consistent behaviour creates trust and opens hearts and eyes. "The dialogue of charity by its nature nourishes and enlightens the dialogue of truth: indeed, the definitive encounter to which the Spirit of Christ leads us will take place in the full truth" (Address to participants in the Christian Unity Council's Plenary Assembly, 17 November 2006). The Catholic University of Ukraine will certainly be able to offer effective support for ecumenical action.

It is also important to involve the lay faithful increasingly in the Church's life so that they can make their own specific contribution to the common good of Ukrainian society. On your part this demands constant care of their formation through initiatives adapted to their lay vocation: thus, they will be able to actively contribute in the Church's mission and be living Gospel "leaven" in the various social milieus.
Venerable Brothers, today's meeting which is taking place over 70 years after the previous one, enables us to raise heartfelt thanks to God together for the rebirth of your Church after the tragic period of her persecution. On this occasion I want to assure you that the Pope carries you all in his heart, accompanies you with affection and sustains you on your far from easy mission. Please convey my cordial greeting to the priests, your first collaborators, to the men and women religious, as well as to the entire Christian people, particularly children, youth, families, the sick and all who are in difficulty. I assure each and every one of my remembrance in prayer, as I invoke upon all the constant protection of the heavenly Mother of God and of your holy Patrons. Lastly, I impart with affection a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your communities and to the beloved population of Ukraine. VISIT TO THE ROMAN MAJOR SEMINARY
Speeches 2005-13 25018