Speeches 2005-13 213






Paul VI Audience Hall Thursday, 30 April 2009

Mr President of the Republic,
Your Eminences,
Honourable Ministers,
Venerable Brothers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In extending my cordial greeting to all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the President of the Italian Republic, Hon. Giorgio Napolitano, who, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the beginning of my Pontificate, has offered me this excellent musical homage. Thank you, Mr President, also for the courtesy of the words you addressed to me a moment ago, and a warm greeting also to your gracious wife. I am pleased to greet the Ministers and other Authorities of the Italian State, as well as the Ambassadors and other figures that honour us with their presence.

I greatly enjoyed the return of the Orchestra and "Giuseppe Verdi" Chorus from Milan which we also much appreciated one year ago. Therefore, while I thank the homonymous Foundation and all those who in various ways collaborated in the organization, I renew my congratulations to all members of the Orchestra and Choir, especially to the conductor, Miss Zhang Xian, to the Choir director, Miss Erina Gambarini, and to the three soloists. The skill and enthusiasm of each one contributed to a performance which truly gave new life to the musical excerpts, works of three outstanding Authors: Vivaldi, Haydn and Mozart. I found the choice of compositions quite appropriate for the liturgical season which we are living: the season of Easter. Haydn's 95th Symphony which we heard first seems to contain within itself an itinerary which we could call "paschal".

It begins, in fact, in the key of C minor, and, following a route which is always perfectly balanced yet also dramatic, reaches its conclusion in C major. This makes one think of the journey of the soul towards peace and serenity, represented in particular by the cello. Immediately after, Mozart's 35th Symphony reaches a point which amplifies and crowns the victory of life over death, of joy over sadness. Indeed, in it, a sense of celebration decisively prevails. The movement is very dynamic, even overwhelming, in its finale and here the orchestral virtuosos have made us understand how strength can be harmonized with grace. This is what happens at the highest level in God's love, if I may allow myself this approach, in which power and grace coincide.

Next, the human voices the choir entered onto the scene, as if to give word to what the music had already sought to express. And it is not by chance that the first word was "Magnificat".Coming from Mary's heart predestined by God for her humility this word became the daily song of the Church, precisely in this hour of vespers, the hour which invites us to meditate upon the meaning of life and history. Clearly, the Magnificat presupposes the Resurrection, that is, the victory of Christ: in him, God fulfilled his promises, and his mercy revealed itself in all of its paradoxical strength. Up until now we have spoken about the "word". And Vivaldi's music? It is worth noting, first of all, the fact that the soloists' arias he composed expressly for certain student singers of his in the Pietà Hospital of Venice: five orphans gifted with extraordinary singing skills. How can one not think of the humility of the young Mary, through whom God accomplished "great things"? Thus, it is as if these five "soloists" represent the voice of the Virgin, while the choral sections represent the Church community. Both Mary and the Church are united in the unique song of praise to the "Holy One", to God who, with the power of his love, realizes his just designs in history. And to conclude, the chorus gave voice to that sublime masterpiece which is Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus. Here meditation gives way to contemplation: the gaze of the soul upon the Blessed Sacrament, recognizing the Corpus Domini, that Body which was truly sacrificed on the cross and from which the source of universal salvation flowed. Mozart composed this motet shortly before his death, and in it one may say that music truly becomes prayer, abandon of the heart to God, with a profound sense of peace.

Mr President, your gracious and generous homage broadly enabled not only the gratification of an aesthetic sense but also the simultaneous nourishment of our spirit, and for this I am doubly grateful. I express my best wishes for the execution of your important mission, willingly extending them to all the Authorities present. Dear friends, thank you for coming! Remember me in your prayers, so that I may always accomplish my ministry as the Lord wishes. May he, who is our peace and our life, bless each of you and your families. Good evening to all!

                                                            May 2009


Dear Cardinal Bevilacqua,
Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to greet the members of the Papal Foundation once again, on your annual visit to Rome. In this Pauline Year I welcome you with the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm 1,7).

Saint Paul reminds us of how the entire human race yearns for God’s grace of peace. Today’s world is truly in need of his peace, especially as it faces the tragedies of war, division, poverty and despair. In just a few days I will have the privilege of visiting the Holy Land. I go as a pilgrim of peace. As you are well aware, for more than sixty years, this region — the land of our Lord’s birth, death and Resurrection; a sacred place for the world’s three great monotheistic religions — has been plagued by violence and injustice. This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear – often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. As I prepare for this significant journey I ask in a special way that you join me in prayer for all the peoples of the Holy Land and the region. May they receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope and peace.

Our meeting this year occurs during a time when the entire world is struggling with a very worrying economic situation. At moments such as these it is tempting to overlook those without a voice and think only of our own difficulties. As Christians we are aware, however, that especially when times are difficult we must work even harder to ensure that the consoling message of our Lord is heard. Rather than turning in on ourselves, we must continue to be beacons of hope, strength and support for others, most especially those who have no one to watch over or assist them. For this reason I am pleased to have you here today. You are examples of good Christian men and women who continue to meet the challenges we face with courage and trust. Indeed, the Papal Foundation itself, through the great generosity of many, enables valuable assistance to be carried out in the name of Christ and his Church. For your sacrifice and dedication I am most grateful to you: by means of your support the Easter message of joy, hope, reconciliation and peace is more widely proclaimed.

Entrusting all of you to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she who remains always in our midst as our Mother, the Mother of Hope, (cf. Spe Salvi ), I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your families as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Savior.


Consistory Hall Monday, 4 May 2009

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

As you gather for the fifteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you and to express my encouragement for your mission of expounding and furthering the Church’s social doctrine in the areas of law, economy, politics and the various other social sciences. Thanking Professor Mary Ann Glendon for her cordial words of greeting, I assure you of my prayers that the fruit of your deliberations will continue to attest to the enduring pertinence of Catholic social teaching in a rapidly changing world.

After studying work, democracy, globalisation, solidarity and subsidiarity in relation to the social teaching of the Church, your Academy has chosen to return to the central question of the dignity of the human person and human rights, a point of encounter between the doctrine of the Church and contemporary society.

The world’s great religions and philosophies have illuminated some aspects of these human rights, which are concisely expressed in “the golden rule” found in the Gospel: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lc 6,31 cf. Mt 7,12). The Church has always affirmed that fundamental rights, above and beyond the different ways in which they are formulated and the different degrees of importance they may have in various cultural contexts, are to be upheld and accorded universal recognition because they are inherent in the very nature of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God. If all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, then they share a common nature that binds them together and calls for universal respect. The Church, assimilating the teaching of Christ, considers the person as “the worthiest of nature” (St. Thomas Aquinas, De potentia, 9, 3) and has taught that the ethical and political order that governs relationships between persons finds its origin in the very structure of man’s being. The discovery of America and the ensuing anthropological debate in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe led to a heightened awareness of human rights as such and of their universality (ius gentium). The modern period helped shape the idea that the message of Christ – because it proclaims that God loves every man and woman and that every human being is called to love God freely – demonstrates that everyone, independently of his or her social and cultural condition, by nature deserves freedom. At the same time, we must always remember that “freedom itself needs to be set free. It is Christ who sets it free” (Veritatis Splendor VS 86).

In the middle of the last century, after the vast suffering caused by two terrible world wars and the unspeakable crimes perpetrated by totalitarian ideologies, the international community acquired a new system of international law based on human rights. In this, it appears to have acted in conformity with the message that my predecessor Benedict XV proclaimed when he called on the belligerents of the First World War to “transform the material force of arms into the moral force of law” (“Note to the Heads of the Belligerent Peoples”, 1 August 1917).

Human rights became the reference point of a shared universal ethos – at least at the level of aspiration – for most of humankind. These rights have been ratified by almost every State in the world. The Second Vatican Council, in the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, as well as my predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, forcefully referred to the right to life and the right to freedom of conscience and religion as being at the centre of those rights that spring from human nature itself.

Strictly speaking, these human rights are not truths of faith, even though they are discoverable – and indeed come to full light – in the message of Christ who “reveals man to man himself” (Gaudium et Spes GS 22). They receive further confirmation from faith. Yet it stands to reason that, living and acting in the physical world as spiritual beings, men and women ascertain the pervading presence of a logos which enables them to distinguish not only between true and false, but also good and evil, better and worse, and justice and injustice. This ability to discern – this radical agency – renders every person capable of grasping the “natural law”, which is nothing other than a participation in the eternal law: “undelex naturalis nihil aliud est quam participatio legis aeternae in rationali creatura” (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, I-II 91,2). The natural law is a universal guide recognizable to everyone, on the basis of which all people can reciprocally understand and love each other. Human rights, therefore, are ultimately rooted in a participation of God, who has created each human person with intelligence and freedom. If this solid ethical and political basis is ignored, human rights remain fragile since they are deprived of their sound foundation.

The Church’s action in promoting human rights is therefore supported by rational reflection, in such a way that these rights can be presented to all people of good will, independently of any religious affiliation they may have. Nevertheless, as I have observed in my Encyclicals, on the one hand, human reason must undergo constant purification by faith, insofar as it is always in danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by disordered passions and sin; and, on the other hand, insofar as human rights need to be re-appropriated by every generation and by each individual, and insofar as human freedom – which proceeds by a succession of free choices – is always fragile, the human person needs the unconditional hope and love that can only be found in God and that lead to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others (cf. Deus Caritas Est , and Spe Salvi ).

This perspective draws attention to some of the most critical social problems of recent decades, such as the growing awareness – which has in part arisen with globalisation and the present economic crisis – of a flagrant contrast between the equal attribution of rights and the unequal access to the means of attaining those rights. For Christians who regularly ask God to “give us this day our daily bread”, it is a shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still goes hungry. Assuring an adequate food supply, like the protection of vital resources such as water and energy, requires all international leaders to collaborate in showing a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the natural law and promoting solidarity and subsidiarity with the weakest regions and peoples of the planet as the most effective strategy for eliminating social inequalities between countries and societies and for increasing global security.

Dear friends, dear Academicians, in exhorting you in your research and deliberations to be credible and consistent witnesses to the defence and promotion of these non-negotiable human rights which are founded in divine law, I most willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.



Egregious Commandant,
Reverend Chaplain,
Dear Swiss Guards and
your dearest families,

I am glad to be able to welcome you all here in the Apostolic Palace on the occasion of the swearing in of the new Swiss Guard recruits. In particular, I offer my welcome to the new guards and their parents, relatives and friends. I extend a warm greeting to the new commandant Oberts Anrig and I thank him very much for his responsible commitment to the Successor of Peter and to the Church. At the same time, I also thank the chaplain of the guards Mons. de Raemy, who, with deep involvement follows the daily lives of the guards as well as the path of each one's faith.

Dear guards, your service, rendered day and night in the Apostolic Palace and at the external posts to the Vatican City, is highly visible and with certainty also collectively. You will quickly learn the three dimensions that are formed within you like concentric circles: you have the task of protecting the Successor of the Apostle Peter. You carry it out mainly in the Pope's home. You do so in Rome, a city that since the beginning has always been called "the eternal city". Here close to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, where the Pope lives is the heart of the Catholic Church and, where there are the heart and the core, there is also the entire world.

Let us consider first of all the home of the Pope, the Apostolic Palace. You must watch over this home, not only the building itself and its prestigious apartments but more so over the people you will meet and to whom you will do well to treat with courtesy and care. This counts as much for the Pope himself, for the people who live with him and for his collaborators in the Palace, as it does for his guests. This therefore also applies to the common life with your comrades, those with whom you share your service and who have the same goal, that is, to serve the Pontiff "honourably, loyally and in good faith" and to give, if necessary, your life for him.

We now turn our attention to Rome, the eternal city, that distinguishes itself by its rich history and its culture. Our admiration is not only for the witnesses of Antiquity. In this city, in a certain sense, the faith itself and the prayer of many centuries have evolved into stones and structures. These places welcome us and inspire us to take up the example of countless saints who have lived here. Thanks to them, we may progress in our life of faith.

In the hope that your stay here in Rome may be spiritually and humanly edifying, I assure you of my prayers and I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of your Patrons, the Saints Martin and Sebastian, as well as to the Patron Saint of your homeland Brother Klaus Saint Nicholas of Flüe. I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, your families, your friends and to all those who have come to Rome for the occasion of the swearing-in ceremony.



Father Lombardi:

Your Holiness, thank you very much for giving us the opportunity once again for a meeting with you at the beginning of such an important and demanding journey. Among other things, it allows us to wish you a good journey and to assure you that we will play our part in spreading the messages that you wish to convey to us. As usual, the questions I am about to ask are the result of a collection of questions proposed by my colleagues here present. I shall put these questions to you myself, purely for ease of logistics, but they were in fact produced by a joint effort.

Q. Your Holiness, this journey is taking place at a very delicate moment for the Middle East: there are strong tensions – at the time of the crisis in Gaza, there was even speculation that you might decide not to come. At the same time, a few days after your journey, the principal political leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority will also be meeting President Obama. Do you think you can offer a contribution to the peace process that now seems to have become deadlocked?

A. Good morning! First I should like to thank all of you for the work that you do, and let us all wish one another a good journey, a good pilgrimage, a good return journey. As for the question, certainly I shall seek to contribute to peace not as an individual but in the name of the Catholic Church, and of the Holy See. We are not a political power, but a spiritual force, and this spiritual force is a reality that can contribute to advances in the peace process. I see three levels. First, as believers we are convinced that prayer is a real force: it opens the world to God. We are convinced that God listens and that he can act in history. I think that if millions of people – millions of believers – all pray, this is truly a force that influences and can contribute to moving forward the cause of peace. Second: we are seeking to assist in the formation of consciences. The conscience is the human capacity to perceive the truth, but this capacity is often impeded by particular interests. And to break free from these interests, to open up more to the truth, to true values, is a major undertaking: it is a task of the Church to help us to know true criteria, true values, and to free us from particular interests. And so – in third place – we also speak – no doubt about it – to reason: precisely because we are not a political force, we can perhaps more easily, and in the light of the faith, see the true criteria, we can assist in understanding what contributes to peace and we can appeal to reason, we can support positions that are truly reasonable. This we have already done and we wish to do so again now and in the future.

Q. Thank you, Your Holiness. The second question. As a theologian, you have reflected particularly on the common roots shared by Christians and Jews. How is it that, despite the efforts towards dialogue, misunderstandings often occur? How do you see the future of dialogue between the two communities?

A. The important thing is that we really do have the same roots, the same books of the Old Testament, a Book which – both for the Jews and for us – conveys Revelation. Yet of course, after two thousand years of distinct, not to say separate, histories, it is no wonder if misunderstandings arise, because very different traditions of interpretation, language and thought have been formed, there is so to speak a very different “semantic cosmos”, such that the same words used in the two traditions mean different things; and with this use of words that, in the course of history have acquired different meanings, misunderstandings obviously arise. We must each do all we can to learn the language of the other, and it seems to me that we are making great progress here. Today it is possible for young people, future teachers of theology, to study in Jerusalem, at the Hebrew University, and Jews have academic contacts with us: thus an encounter is taking place between one “semantic cosmos” and the other. Let us learn from one another and let us go forward along the path of true dialogue, let us each learn from the other, and I am sure and convinced that we will make progress. And this will also help peace, indeed it will help mutual love.

Q. Your Holiness, this journey has two essential dimensions of inter-religious dialogue – with Islam and with Judaism. Are the two directions completely separate from one another, or will there also be a common message concerning the three Abrahamic religions?

A. Certainly there is also a common message and there will be opportunities to highlight it. Notwithstanding our diverse origins, we have common roots because, as I have already said, Christianity is born from the Old Testament and the Scripture of the New Testament would not exist without the Old, because it makes constant reference to “the Scriptures”, that is, to the Old Testament. Islam too was born in a world where both Judaism and the various branches of Christianity: Judeo-Christianity, Antiochene Christianity, and Byzantine Christianity were all present, and all these circumstances are reflected in the Koranic tradition, with the result that we have much in common in terms of our origins and our faith in the one God. So it is important on the one hand to have bilateral dialogues – with the Jews and with Islam – and then also trilateral dialogue. I myself was the Co-Founder of a foundation for dialogue among the three religions, at which leading figures like Metropolitan Damaskinos and the Chief Rabbi of France René Samuel Sirat and others came together, and this foundation also issued an edition of the books of the three religions: the Koran, the New Testament and the Old Testament. So the trilateral dialogue must go forward, it is extremely important for peace and also – let us say – for living one’s own religion well.

Q. One final question. Your Holiness, you have often spoken of the problem of the declining number of Christians in the Middle East and especially in the Holy Land. It is a phenomenon with various causes of a political, economic and social character. What can be done in practice to assist the Christian presence in the region? What contribution do you hope to make with your journey? Is there hope for these Christians in the future? Do you have a particular message for the Christians in Gaza who will come to meet you in Bethlehem?

A. Certainly there is hope, because while this is a difficult moment, as you have mentioned, it is also a time of hope for a new beginning, for a new impetus along the path to peace. We wish above all to encourage the Christians in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East to remain, to offer their contribution in their countries of origin: they are an important component of the life and culture of these regions. In practice, what the Church brings – in addition to words of encouragement and common prayer – are chiefly schools and hospitals. In this sense, we have thoroughly practical establishments here. Our schools educate a generation that will be able to make its presence felt in life today, in public life. The Catholic Church is opening a University in Jordan, which strikes me as an important setting in which young people – both Muslims and Christians – will meet, will learn together, and where a Christian intelligentsia can be formed that is suitably prepared to work for peace. But in general, our schools provide a very important opportunity that opens up a future for the Christians, and the hospitals make our presence visible. Moreover, there are many Christian associations that help Christians in different ways, and with practical assistance they encourage them to stay. So I hope that the Christians really will find the courage, the humility, the patience to remain in these lands, and to offer their contribution to the future of these lands.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you, Your Holiness, with these replies you have helped us to put our journey in context from a spiritual point of view, and from a cultural point of view. Once more I express to you my own good wishes, and those of all my colleagues on this flight, including the others who are flying to the Holy Land at this time, in order to take part and to assist, through their reporting, in attaining a positive outcome for this demanding mission of yours. May you and all your collaborators have a good journey, and to my colleagues I say: Buon lavoro!

WELCOMING CEREMONY "Queen Alia" International Airport of Amman Friday, 8 May 2009

Your Majesties,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Friends,

It is with joy that I greet all of you here present, as I begin my first visit to the Middle East since my election to the Apostolic See, and I am pleased to set foot upon the soil of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a land so rich in history, home to so many ancient civilizations, and deeply imbued with religious significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims. I thank His Majesty King Abdullah II for his kind words of welcome, and I offer my particular congratulations in this year that marks the tenth anniversary of his accession to the throne. In greeting His Majesty, I extend heartfelt good wishes to all members of the Royal Family and the Government, and to all the people of the Kingdom. I greet His Beatitude Fouad Twal and His Beatitude Theophilus III and also other Patriarchs and Bishops here present, especially those with pastoral responsibilities in Jordan. I look forward to celebrating the liturgy at Saint George’s Cathedral tomorrow evening and at the International Stadium on Sunday together with you, dear Bishops, and so many of the faithful entrusted to your care.

I come to Jordan as a pilgrim, to venerate holy places that have played such an important part in some of the key events of Biblical history. At Mount Nebo, Moses led his people to within sight of the land that would become their home, and here he died and was laid to rest. At Bethany beyond the Jordan, John the Baptist preached and bore witness to Jesus, whom he baptized in the waters of the river that gives this land its name. In the coming days I shall visit both these holy places, and I shall have the joy of blessing the foundation stones of churches that are to be built at the traditional site of the Lord’s Baptism. The opportunity that Jordan’s Catholic community enjoys to build public places of worship is a sign of this country’s respect for religion, and on their behalf I want to say how much this openness is appreciated. Religious freedom is, of course, a fundamental human right, and it is my fervent hope and prayer that respect for all the inalienable rights and the dignity of every man and woman will come to be increasingly affirmed and defended, not only throughout the Middle East, but in every part of the world.

My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community, and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by His Majesty the King in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam. Now that some years have passed since the publication of the Amman Message and the Amman Interfaith Message, we can say that these worthy initiatives have achieved much good in furthering an alliance of civilizations between the West and the Muslim world, confounding the predictions of those who consider violence and conflict inevitable. Indeed the Kingdom of Jordan has long been at the forefront of initiatives to promote peace in the Middle East and throughout the world, encouraging inter-religious dialogue, supporting efforts to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, welcoming refugees from neighboring Iraq, and seeking to curb extremism. I cannot let this opportunity pass without calling to mind the pioneering efforts for peace in the region made by the late King Hussein. How fitting that my meeting tomorrow with Muslim religious leaders, the diplomatic corps and University rectors should take place in the mosque that bears his name. May his commitment to the resolution of the region’s conflicts continue to bear fruit in efforts to promote lasting peace and true justice for all who live in the Middle East.

Dear Friends, at the Seminar held in Rome last autumn by the Catholic-Muslim Forum, the participants examined the central role played in our respective religious traditions by the commandment of love. I hope very much that this visit, and indeed all the initiatives designed to foster good relations between Christians and Muslims, will help us to grow in love for the Almighty and Merciful God, and in fraternal love for one another. Thank you for your welcome. Thank you for your attention. May God grant Your Majesties happiness and long life! May he bless Jordan with prosperity and peace!


Your Beatitudes,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

I am very happy to be here with you this afternoon, and to greet each of you and your family members, wherever they may be. I thank His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal for his kind words of welcome and in a special way I wish to acknowledge the presence among us of Bishop Selim Sayegh, whose vision and labours for this Centre, together with those of His Beatitude Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah, are today honored through the blessing of the new extensions which has just taken place. I also wish to greet with great affection the Central Committee members, the Comboni Sisters and the dedicated lay staff, including those who work in the Centre’s many community branches and units. Your reputation for outstanding professional competence, compassionate care and resolute promotion of the rightful place in society of those with special needs is well known here and throughout the Kingdom. To the young people present, I thank you for your moving welcome. It is a great joy for me to be with you.

As you know, my visit to the Our Lady of Peace Centre here in Amman is the first stop along my journey of pilgrimage. Like countless pilgrims before me it is now my turn to satisfy that profound wish to touch, to draw solace from and to venerate the places where Jesus lived, the places which were made holy by his presence. Since apostolic times, Jerusalem has been the primary place of pilgrimage for Christians, but earlier still, in the ancient Near East, Semitic peoples built sacred shrines in order to mark and commemorate a divine presence or action. And ordinary people would travel to these centres carrying a portion of the fruits of their land and livestock to offer in homage and thanksgiving.

Dear friends, every one of us is a pilgrim. We are all drawn forward, with purpose, along God’s path. Naturally, then, we tend to look back on life – sometimes with regrets or hurts, often with thanksgiving and appreciation – and we also look ahead – sometimes with trepidation or anxiety, but always with expectation and hope, knowing too that there are others who encourage us along the way. I know that the journeys that have led many of you to the “Regina Pacis” Centre have been marked by suffering or trial. Some of you struggle courageously with disabilities, others of you have endured rejection, and some of you are drawn to this place of peace simply for encouragement and support. Of particular importance, I know, is the Centre’s great success in promoting the rightful place of the disabled in society and in ensuring that suitable training and opportunities are provided to facilitate such integration. For this foresight and determination you all deserve great praise and encouragement!

At times it is difficult to find a reason for what appears only as an obstacle to be overcome or even as pain – physical or emotional – to be endured. Yet faith and understanding help us to see a horizon beyond our own selves in order to imagine life as God does. God’s unconditional love, which gives life to every human individual, points to a meaning and purpose for all human life. His is a saving love (cf.
Jn 12,32). As Christians profess, it is through the Cross that Jesus in fact draws us into eternal life, and in so doing indicates to us the way ahead – the way of hope which guides every step we take along the way, so that we too become bearers of that hope and charity for others.

Friends, unlike the pilgrims of old, I do not come bearing gifts or offerings. I come simply with one intention, a hope: to pray for the precious gift of unity and peace, most specifically for the Middle East. Peace for individuals, for parents and children, for communities, peace for Jerusalem, for the Holy Land, for the region, peace for the entire human family; the lasting peace born of justice, integrity and compassion, the peace that arises from humility, forgiveness and the profound desire to live in harmony as one.

Prayer is hope in action. And in fact true reason is contained in prayer: we come into loving contact with the one God, the universal Creator, and in so doing we come to realize the futility of human divisions and prejudices and we sense the wondrous possibilities that open up before us when our hearts are converted to God’s truth, to his design for each of us and our world.

Dear young friends, to you in particular I wish to say that standing in your midst I draw strength from God. Your experience of trials, your witness to compassion, and your determination to overcome the obstacles you encounter, encourage me in the belief that suffering can bring about change for the good. In our own trials, and standing alongside others in their struggles, we glimpse the essence of our humanity, we become, as it were, more human. And we come to learn that, on another plane, even hearts hardened by cynicism or injustice or unwillingness to forgive are never beyond the reach of God, can always be opened to a new way of being, a vision of peace.

I exhort you all to pray every day for our world. And today I want to ask you to take up a specific task: please pray for me every day of my pilgrimage; for my own spiritual renewal in the Lord, and for the conversion of hearts to God’s way of forgiveness and solidarity so that my hope – our hope – for unity and peace in the world will bear abundant fruit.

May God bless each of you and your families, and the teachers, caregivers, administrators and benefactors of this Centre and may Our Lady, Queen of Peace, protect you and guide you along the pilgrim way of her Son, the Good Shepherd. Thank you for your attention.

Speeches 2005-13 213