Speeches 2005-13 20108


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you at this special Audience on the occasion of the National Congress of the Italian Surgery Society. I address my cordial greeting to each and every one of you, with a special word of thanks to Prof. Gennaro Nuzzo for his words expressing your common sentiments and describing the Congress' work on a theme of fundamental importance. Indeed, your National Congress is focused on this promising and demanding declaration: "For surgery that respects the patient". Today, in a time of great technological progress, there is rightly talk of the need to humanize medicine, developing those aspects of the doctor's approach that best correspond to the dignity of the patient under treatment. The specific mission that qualifies your medical and surgical profession consists in fulfilling three objectives: to cure the patient or at least endeavour to intervene effectively to prevent the development of the disease, to alleviate the painful symptoms that accompany it, especially in the advanced stages and to attend to all the sick person's human expectations.

In the past, it sufficed to alleviate the suffering of the sick person since it was impossible to prevent the disease from running its course and even less to cure it. In the past century, the developments of science and surgical technology have made it possible to intervene ever more successfully in the sick person's case. Thus today a cure, which in many cases had previously been only a marginal possibility, is usually an achievable prospect to the point that it attracts the almost exclusive attention of contemporary medicine. However, this situation has created a new risk: that of abandoning the patient as soon as the impossibility of obtaining appreciable results becomes apparent. On the other hand, it remains true that even when a cure can no longer be hoped for much can be done for the patient. His suffering can be alleviated, and above all, it is possible to accompany him on his way, improving the quality of his life as much as possible. This is not something to be underestimated, because every individual patient, even one who is incurable, bears an inherent unconditional value, a dignity to be honoured, that constitutes the indispensable basis of every medical intervention. Respect for human dignity, in fact, demands unconditional respect for every individual human being, born or unborn, healthy or sick, whatever his condition.

In this perspective the relationship of mutual trust that is built up between the doctor and the patient is of prime importance. It is thanks to this relationship of trust that the doctor, listening to the patient, can reconstruct his clinical history and understand how he copes with his illness. Furthermore, it is in the context of this relationship based on reciprocal esteem and the sharing of realistic goals to be pursued that a therapeutic programme can be defined: a plan that can lead to daring life-saving interventions or to the decision to abide by the ordinary means that medicine offers. What the doctor communicates to the patient, directly or indirectly, verbally or non-verbally, comes to exercise a significant influence over him. It can motivate, sustain or mobilize him and even strengthen his physical and mental resources; or on the contrary, it can weaken him and frustrate his efforts and thus even reduce the effectiveness of the treatments he is undergoing. The aim must be a real therapeutic partnership with the patient, based on the specific clinical practice that permits the doctor to perceive the most appropriate means of communication suited to the individual patient. This strategy for communication will aim above all to sustain also with respect for the truth hope, an essential element in the therapeutic context. It is good not to forget that it is these human qualities, in addition to professional competence in the strict sense, which the patient appreciates in his doctor. The patient wishes to be seen in a kindly manner, not merely examined; he wants to be listened to, not merely subjected to sophisticated diagnoses; he wants to be certain that he is in the mind and heart of the doctor treating him.

The insistence with which today the patient's individual autonomy is emphasized must also be geared to promoting an approach to the sick person which, rightly, does not consider him an antagonist but rather an active and responsible collaborator in his treatment. Any attempt to intrude from the outside in this delicate doctor-patient relationship must be viewed with suspicion. On the one hand, it is undeniable that the patient's self-determination should be respected, but without forgetting that the individualistic exaltation of autonomy ends by leading to a non-realistic and certainly impoverished interpretation of human reality. On the other, the physician's professional responsibility should lead him to suggest a treatment that strives for the true good of the patient, in the awareness that in his professional capacity he is usually able to evaluate the situation better than the patient himself.

Illness, on the other hand, is manifested within a precise human history and casts a shadow on the future of the patient and his family milieu. In the context of today's advanced technology the patient risks being to some extent "confiscated". Indeed, he finds himself overwhelmed by rules and practices that are often completely foreign to his way of being. In the name of the requirements of science and technology and the organization of health-care assistance, his habitual lifestyle is turned upside down. It is very important instead not to exclude from the therapeutic relationship the patient's normal environment and, in particular, his family. For this, it is essential to encourage in his relatives a sense of responsibility with regard to their family member: this is an important element in order to avoid the further alienation which the latter almost inevitably suffers if he is entrusted to highly technological medical treatment devoid of sufficient human feeling.

Therefore, dear surgeons, you are charged with the considerable responsibility for offering surgery that is truly respectful of the sick person. This in itself is a fascinating task but at the same time very demanding. Precisely because of his mission as Pastor the Pope is close to you and supports you with his prayers. With these sentiments, as I wish you every success in your work, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to your loved ones.


Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. I reciprocate the warm greetings which you have graciously extended to me on behalf of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and I would ask you to convey my own best wishes for her well-being and that of all your fellow citizens.

The Filipino people are renowned for their warm generosity and the high value they place on friendship and family life. The Catholic faithful in your country-through their hunger for prayer, their lively devotion, and their eagerness to serve others-demonstrate a firm trust in God’s loving providence. I am grateful for the unique contribution they have made and continue to make to the life of the local and universal Church, and I encourage all men and women of goodwill in your nation to devote themselves to forging bonds of peace and social harmony within your borders and across the globe.

For its part, and in a special way through its diplomatic activity, the Holy See seeks to engage the world in dialogue so as to promote the universal values that flow from human dignity and advance mankind on the road to communion with God and one another. The Catholic Church is eager to share the richness of the Gospel’s social message, for it enlivens hearts with a hope for the fulfilment of justice and a love that makes all men and women truly brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. She carries out this mission fully aware of the respective autonomy and competence of Church and State. Indeed, we may say that the distinction between religion and politics is a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions. The Church is equally convinced that State and religion are called to support each other as they together serve the personal and social well-being of all (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). This harmonious cooperation between Church and State requires ecclesial and civic leaders to carry out their public duties with undaunted concern for the common good. By cultivating a spirit of honesty and impartiality, and by keeping justice their aim, civil and ecclesial leaders earn the trust of the people and enhance a sense of the shared responsibility of all citizens to promote a civilization of love. All should be motivated by the desire to serve rather than to gain personally or to benefit a privileged few. Everyone shares in the task of strengthening public institutions so as to safeguard them from the corruption of factionalism and elitism. In this regard, it is encouraging to see the many initiatives undertaken at various levels of Filipino society to protect the weak, especially the unborn, the sick and the elderly.

Your Excellency, I appreciate the concern you have expressed on behalf of your Government for the well-being of Filipino migrant workers. Indeed, the Meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development hosted in Manila clearly attests to the Philippines’ solicitude for all who leave their homeland in search of employment in a foreign land. Initiatives such as the Global Forum are fruitful when they recognize immigration as a resource for development rather than as an obstacle to it. At the same time, government leaders face numerous challenges as they strive to ensure that immigrants are integrated into society in a way that acknowledges their human dignity and affords them the opportunity to earn a decent living, with adequate time for rest and a due provision for worship. The just care of immigrants and the building up of a solidarity of labour (cf. Laborem Exercens LE 8) requires governments, humanitarian agencies, peoples of faith and all citizens to cooperate with prudence and patient determination. Domestic and international policies aimed at regulating immigration must be based on criteria of equity and balance, and particular care is needed to facilitate the reunification of families. At the same time, conditions that foster increased work opportunities in peoples’ places of origin are to be promoted as far as possible (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 66).

In this regard, Madam Ambassador, the leaders of your nation have passed legislation for comprehensive land reform with the aim of improving the living conditions of the poor. Carefully planned agrarian reforms can benefit a society by instilling a sense of common responsibility and stimulating individual initiative, making it possible for a nation both to feed its own and expand its participation in international markets so as to enhance opportunities for growth in the process of globalization. I pray that by implementing measures that foster the just distribution of wealth and the sustainable development of natural resources, Filipino farmers will be granted greater opportunities for increasing production and earning what they need to support themselves and their families.

Your Excellency, it is encouraging to see that your nation will continue to participate actively in international forums for the advancement of peace, human solidarity and interreligious dialogue. You have indicated how these noble goals are intimately related to human development and social reform. In light of the Gospel, the Catholic Church has always been convinced that the transition from less humane to more humane conditions is not limited to merely economic or technological dimensions, but implies for each person the acquisition of culture, respect for the life and dignity of others, and acknowledgment of “the highest good, the recognition of God Himself, the author and end of these blessings” (Populorum Progressio PP 21). I am confident that the Republic of the Philippines will continue to offer this holistic vision of the human person in world forums, and I join all Filipinos in praying that the peace of God may reign in the hearts and homes of all people.

Madam Ambassador, your presence here today is a pledge that the bonds of friendship and cooperation between your nation and the Holy See will continue to grow stronger in the years ahead. I assure you that the various agencies and dicasteries of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Offering you my best wishes and prayers for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon Your Excellency, your family and the beloved people of the Philippines.


Your Eminence, Cardinal Secretary of State,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to be able to share with you this act of tribute to Bl. John XXIII, my beloved Predecessor, on the anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter. I congratulate you on the initiative and thank the Lord who has granted us to relive the announcement of great joy (gaudium magnum) that rang out 50 years ago on this day and at this time from the Loggia of the Vatican Basilica. It was a prelude and prophecy of the experience of fatherhood that God was to offer us in abundance through the words, acts and ecclesial service of the Good Pope. God's grace was preparing a demanding and promising season for the Church and society, and in the docility to the Spirit that distinguished the entire life of John XXIII it found the good soil in which concord, hope, unity and peace would germinate for the good of all of humanity. Pope John pointed to faith in Christ and belonging to the Church, Mother and Teacher, as a guarantee of a fruitful Christian witness in the world. Thus, in the strong contrasts of his time, the Pope was a man and pastor of peace who was able to open in the East and in the West unexpected horizons of brotherhood between Christians and of dialogue with all.

The Diocese of Bergamo is celebrating and could not miss a spiritual encounter with her most illustrious son, "a brother who became father through the will of Our Lord" as he himself said. His venerable mortal remains repose beside the Confessio of the Apostle Peter. From this place dear to all the baptized, he repeats: "I am Joseph, your brother". You have come to reaffirm your common ties and the faith that opens them to a truly catholic dimension. For this reason you have wished to meet the Bishop of Rome, as universal Father. You are led by your Pastor, Bishop Roberto Amadei, accompanied by the Auxiliary Bishop. I am grateful to Bishop Amadei for his kind words on behalf of all and to each one I extend the expression of my gratitude for the affection and devotion that enliven you. I feel encouraged by your prayers, as I urge you to follow the example and teaching of the Pope, your fellow-citizen. The Servant of God John Paul ii beatified him, recognizing that the traces of his holiness as father and pastor were continuing to shine before the whole human family.

At the Holy Mass at which the Cardinal Secretary of State presided, the Word of God welcomed you and led you in the perfect grace of Christ to the Father. In him we encounter the Saints and Blesseds and all those who have preceded us in the sign of faith. Their heritage is placed in our hands. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was a truly special gift, offered to the Church by John XXIII, who decided, prepared and inaugurated it. We are all committed to accepting this gift appropriately, continuing to meditate on its teachings and applying its active guidelines in life. You yourselves have endeavoured to do this in these years, as individuals and as a diocesan community. In particular, you have recently been engaged in the Diocesan Synod on the parish: in it you returned to the Conciliar sources to draw from them that extra light and warmth that is proving necessary in order to restore the parish to a living and dynamic structure of the diocesan community. It is in the parish that one learns to actually live out one's faith. This makes it possible to keep alive the rich tradition of the past and to re-propose its values in a secularized social milieu that is frequently hostile or indifferent. Thinking precisely of such situations, Pope John said in his Encyclical Pacem in terris: the believer "must be a glowing point of light in the world, a nucleus of love, a leaven of the whole mass. He will be so in proportion to his degree of spiritual union with God" (n. 164). This was the great Pontiff's life programme and it can become the ideal of every believer and every Christian community that knows how to draw from the Eucharistic celebration, from the fount of the gratuitous, faithful and merciful love of the Risen Crucified One.

Allow me to place a special emphasis on the family, the central subject of ecclesial life, the womb of education in the faith and the irreplaceable cell of social life. In this regard the future Pope John wrote in a letter to his relatives: "The education that leaves the deepest traces is always that provided at home. I have forgotten much of what I have read in books but I still remember very clearly all that I learned from my parents and from the elderly" (20 December 1932). In particular, in the family's daily life one learns to live the fundamental Christian precept of love. This is precisely why the Church counts on the family, whose mission it is to express everywhere, through her children, "the fullness of Christian charity, than which nothing is more effective in eradicating the seeds of discord, nothing more efficacious in promoting concord, just peace and the brotherly unity of all" (Gaudet Mater Ecclesia).

To conclude, returning to the parish, the theme of your Diocesan Synod, you are acquainted with Pope John XXIII's solicitude for this body that is so important in ecclesial life. With great confidence Pope Roncalli entrusted to the parish, the family of families, the task of nourishing sentiments of communion and brotherhood among the faithful. Formed by the Eucharist, the parish will be able to become he thought a leaven of healthy restlessness in the widespread consumerism and individualism of our time, reawakening solidarity and opening in faith the eye of the heart to recognize the Father, who is love freely given and who desires to share his own joy with his children.

Dear friends, the image of Our Lady that Pope John received as a gift on his visit to Loreto, a few days before the opening of the Council, has accompanied you to Rome. He wanted the statue to be set in his home diocese's Diocesan Seminary, named after him. I am glad to see there are many seminarians who are enthusiastic about their vocation. I willingly entrust to the Mother of God all the families and parishes, proposing to them the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth: may they be the first seminary and know how to develop in their own milieus vocations to the priesthood, to the mission, to religious consecration and to family life according to the Heart of Christ. In a famous Visit during the first months of his Pontificate, the Blessed asked those listening to him what they thought the meaning of the meeting was and he proceeded to answer his own question: "The Pope's eyes have met yours and he has placed his heart beside your heart" (On his first Christmas as Pope, 1958). I pray Pope John to grant us to experience the closeness of his gaze and his heart, so that we may truly feel like God's family.

With these hopes, I willingly impart my affectionate Blessing to the pilgrims from Bergamo, particularly to those from Sotto il Monte, the native town of the Blessed Pontiff, which I once had the joy to visit years ago, as well as to the Authorities, the Roman and Eastern faithful who are present here, and to all your loved ones.


Madam Ambassador,

With joy I welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to the Holy See. I thank you for the warm greetings you have conveyed to me on behalf of Her Excellency, the Governor-General of Canada. I should be grateful to you if you could reciprocate my cordial wishes for her person and for the entire people of Canada, with the hope that the new legislature which is starting in your country can serve to promote the common good and consolidate an ever more fraternal society.

The trusting dialogue which you, your Excellency, have the duty to hold between Canada and the Holy See has a long history, since, as you have observed, in a few months we shall be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of our Diplomatic Relations. The ties between the Apostolic See and your country go back several centuries. These relations have conferred a special tone both to the presence of the Church as well as to the attention that the Holy See pays to your Country. Indeed it is significant that Pope John Paul II made three Apostolic Journeys to Canada, the last of which took place in 2002 on the occasion of the 17th World Youth Day to the success of which you contributed personally. I now wish to recall what my venerable Predecessor said on his arrival in Toronto addressing the Prime Minister: "Canadians are heirs to an extraordinarily rich humanism, enriched even more by the blend of many different cultural elements. But the core of your heritage is the spiritual and transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation which gave vital impetus to your development as a free, democratic and caring society, recognized throughout the world as a champion of human rights and human dignity" (Address on Arrival at Toronto International Airport, 23 July 2002). In this perspective I am particularly pleased to see the strengthening of the bonds of understanding between the Catholic Church and the indigenous communities of Canada, a very positive sign of which was the visit of one of their representatives at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I am also pleased at the country's commitment to develop multilateral cooperation to solve the numerous problems that challenge humanity in our time. Canada's participation in the international community's efforts to seek and consolidate peace and reconciliation in various regions of the planet represents an important contribution to establishing a more just and solidary world where every human person is respected in his fundamental vocation. In this regard we may mention Canada and the Holy See's, as well as other countries', commitment to support the application of the Convention for the ban of anti-personnel landmines and to promote it worldwide. This Convention which is an international instrument has registered a success seldom matched in recent times in the sphere of disarmament, demonstrating, as Pope John Paul ii said, that "when States join forces in a climate of understanding, mutual respect and cooperation to combat a culture of death and confidently build a culture of life, the cause of peace gains ground in individual consciences and in the whole of humanity" (Message for the First Conference on the Anti-Personnel Landmine Ban Treaty, n. 3, dated 22 November 2004). In the same way Canada and the Holy See, together with other countries, are endeavouring to contribute to the stability, peace and development of the Great Lakes Region in Africa.

As you have observed, Madam Ambassador, thanks to the institutions that it has created and the culture it has promoted, Catholicism has constituted one of the essential keys in building Canadian society. Yet, in our times, profound changes have taken place and will continue to take place. The signs of these transformations are visible in different environments and are worrisome at times even to the point of making us ask ourselves whether they do not mark a regression in the conception of the human being. They regard, above all, the areas of defence and the promotion of life and of the family founded on natural matrimony. Being well known, it is not necessary to dwell at length on these points.

In this context, I would rather like to encourage all Canadians, men and women, to profoundly reflect on the path that Christ invites us to tread. It is luminous and full of truth. A culture of life could refresh the entire personal and social existence of Canadians. I know that it is possible and that your country is capable of it. To contribute to it I think it is necessary to redefine the meaning of the exercise of freedom, an expression all too often invoked to justify certain excesses. Ever increasingly, in fact, its exercise is perceived only as an absolute value an inalienable right of the individual thus ignoring the importance of the divine origins of freedom and of its communal dimensional, which is necessary to edify it. According to this interpretation, the individual alone could decide and choose the features, characteristics and purpose of life, death and matrimony. True freedom is founded and develops ultimately in God. It is a gift that can be welcomed as a seed and brought to maturation in a responsible way that truly enriches the person and society. The exercise of this freedom means reference to a natural moral law, universal in character, which precedes and unites all rights and duties. In this prospective, I wish to lend my support to the initiatives of Canadian Bishops in favour of family life, and therefore to promote the dignity of the human person.

Among the ecclesial institutions of your country, Your Excellency, the Catholic schools play an important role in human and spiritual education of youth and thus they render a service of great value to your nation. Religious teaching must therefore occupy the position it is due, with respect for every student's conscience. In fact, it is an inalienable right of parents to guarantee religious education to their own children. The teaching of religion, for the specific contribution it can offer, represents a fundamental and indispensable resource for an education that has among its principal objectives the construction of the student's character and the development of his or her capacity, integrating the mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Contributing in this way to the transmission of faith to new generations and preparing them to dialogue with the various members of the nation, Catholic schools respond to the constant demand of the Church's mission, for the good of all, and they enrich the whole of Canadian society.

Madam Ambassador, signs of hope are not lacking today. Along these lines, I am delighted at the complete success of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress that concluded in your country last 22 June. With this important ecclesial meeting, we could discern an encouraging sign from the fact that the old roots of the tree of Catholicism are still alive in Canada and that they can make it blossom again. Many pilgrims were able to benefit from the generous hospitality of your people. I wish to warmly thank the authorities of your country for the efforts made to promote this event. Faithful to a long tradition, notwithstanding the difficulties of our age, Canada has remained a welcoming land. I encourage the men and women of Canada to generously follow this fine tradition of openness, above all in regard to the most fragile people.

I welcome the occasion, Your Excellency, to ask you to warmly greet the Catholic community of your country. In the often complex context in which the Church is called to carry out her mission, I encourage the Bishops and the faithful to continue to place their own hope in the Word of God and to fearlessly witness to the power of divine love among their fellow citizens. May the work of Christians in the life of society always be an expression of love that seeks the integral good of humankind!

As you begin your mission, rest assured that you will always find a welcome among my colleagues. I offer you, Madam Ambassador, my cordial wishes for the felicitous fulfilment of your office, so that the harmonious relations existent between Canada and the Holy See may continue and deepen. Upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family and your colleagues, and also upon the authorities and inhabitants of Canada, I wholeheartedly invoke the abundance of divine Blessings.


Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome this delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. For over thirty years your Committee and the Holy See have had regular and fruitful contacts, which have contributed to greater understanding and acceptance between Catholics and Jews. I gladly take this occasion to reaffirm the Church’s commitment to implementing the principles set forth in the historic Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council. That Declaration, which firmly condemned all forms of antisemitism, represented both a significant milestone in the long history of Catholic-Jewish relations and a summons to a renewed theological understanding of the relations between the Church and the Jewish People.

Christians today are increasingly conscious of the spiritual patrimony they share with the people of the Torah, the people chosen by God in his inexpressible mercy, a patrimony that calls for greater mutual appreciation, respect and love (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 4). Jews too are challenged to discover what they have in common with all who believe in the Lord, the God of Israel, who first revealed himself through his powerful and life-giving word. As the Psalmist reminds us, God’s word is a lamp and a light to our path; it keeps us alive and gives us new life (cf. Ps 119,105). That word spurs us to bear common witness to God’s love, mercy and truth. This is a a vital service in our own time, threatened by the loss of the spiritual and moral values which guarantee human dignity, solidarity, justice and peace.

In our troubled world, so frequently marked by poverty, violence and exploitation, dialogue between cultures and religions must more and more be seen as a sacred duty incumbent upon all those who are committed to building a world worthy of man. The ability to accept and respect one another, and to speak the truth in love, is essential for overcoming differences, preventing misunderstandings and avoiding needless confrontations. As you yourselves have experienced through the years in the meetings of the International Liaison Committee, dialogue is only serious and honest when it respects differences and recognizes others precisely in their otherness. A sincere dialogue needs both openness and a firm sense of identity on both sides, in order for each to be enriched by the gifts of the other.

In recent months, I have had the pleasure of meeting with Jewish communities in New York, Paris and here in the Vatican. I thank the Lord for these encounters, and for the progress in Catholic-Jewish relations which they reflect. In this spirit, then, I encourage you to persevere in your important work with patience and renewed commitment. I offer you my prayerful good wishes as your Committee prepares to meet next month in Budapest with a delegation of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, in order to discuss the theme: "Religion and Civil Society Today".

With these sentiments, dear friends, I ask the Almighty to continue to watch over you and your families, and to guide your steps in the way of peace.


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

For me, this traditional meeting with the Roman ecclesiastical universities at the beginning of the academic year is always a reason for joy. I greet you all with great affection, beginning with His Eminence Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, who presided at the Holy Mass and who I thank for the words with which he expressed your sentiments. I am pleased to greet the other Cardinals and Bishops, and equally so the rectors, professors, directors and superiors of the seminaries and colleges, and naturally you, dear students, who have come from various countries to complete your studies.

In this year, in which we celebrate the bi-millennial jubilee of the birth of the Apostle Paul, I would like to pause briefly together with you on one aspect of his message that seems to me particularly suitable for you, students and academics, and on which I also spoke yesterday in the catechesis during the General Audience. I am referring, then, to what St Paul writes on Christian wisdom, in particular in his First Letter to the Corinthians, a community in which rivalries had broken out among the disciples. The Apostle confronts the problem of these divisions within the community, pointing out a sign of false wisdom among them, or of a mentality that is still immature because it is carnal and not spiritual (cf. 1Co 3,1-3). Referring next to his own experience, Paul reminds the Corinthians that Christ sent him to preach the Gospel "not with worldly "wisdom', however, lest the cross of Christ be rendered void of its meaning" (1: 17).

From here he takes up a reflection on the "wisdom of the Cross", or, it is worth saying, the wisdom of God, which opposes the wisdom of this world. The Apostle insists on the existent contrast between the two wisdoms, only one of which is true the divine while the other is in reality "foolishness". Now, the stupefying news, which must always be rediscovered and received, is the fact that divine wisdom, in Christ, has been given to us, has made us participants. At the end of the second chapter of the aforementioned Letter, there is an expression that summarizes this news and for just this reason never ceases to surprise. St Paul writes: "But we have the mind of Christ
(2: 16). This contrast of the two wisdoms is not to be identified with the difference between theology, to one side, and philosophy and science, to the other. It actually concerns two fundamental attitudes. The "wisdom of this world" is a way of living and of viewing things apart from God and following dominant opinions, according to the criteria of success and power. "Divine wisdom" consists in following the mind of Christ it is Christ who opens the eyes of our heart to follow the path of truth and love.

Dear students, you have come to Rome to deepen your knowledge in the theological field, and even if you study other material different from theology, for example law, history, humanities, art, etc., still spiritual formation according to the mind of Christ remains fundamental for you and this is the prospect of your studies. Therefore these words of the Apostle Paul and those that we read immediately after, still in the First Letter to the Corinthians, are important for you: "Who, for example, knows a man's innermost self but the man's own spirit within him? Similarly no one knows what lies at the depths of God but the Spirit of God. The Spirit we have received is not the world's spirit but God's Spirit, helping us to recognize the gifts he has given us" (2: 11-12). Here we are still within the sphere of contrast between human wisdom and that which is divine. In order to know and understand spiritual things it is necessary to be spiritual men and women, because if one is of the flesh one inevitably falls into foolishness, even if one studies much and becomes "scholarly" and a "master of worldly argument" (cf. 1: 20).

In this Pauline text we can see an approach as meaningful as the Gospel verses that tell of Jesus' blessing of God the Father, because the Lord says "you have hidden these things from the wise and clever and revealed them to babes" (Mt 11,25). The "wise" of which Jesus speaks are those which Paul calls the "wise of this world". Meanwhile, the "babes" are those who the Apostle calls "foolish", "weak", "low and despised" (1: 27-28), but who in reality, if they accept "the word of the Cross" (1: 18), become truly wise. This is why Paul exhorts those who consider themselves wise according to worldly criteria to "become a fool", to become truly wise before God (3: 18). This is not an anti-intellectual attitude; it is not in opposition to recta ratio. Paul following Jesus is opposed to the type of arrogant intellectualism, in which a man, even if he knows a great deal, loses sensitivity to truth and the freedom to open himself to the newness of divine action.

Thus dear friends, this Pauline reflection does not at all wish to lead to an undervaluing of the human effort necessary for knowledge, but instead it places it on another level: Paul cared to emphasize and he does so without compromise what it is that truly counts for salvation and what instead can bring division and ruin. The Apostle thus denounces the poison of false wisdom, that is, human pride. It is not in fact knowledge in itself that can do harm, but the presumption, the "bragging" over what one has come or presumes to have come to know. It is precisely here that divisions and disagreements originate in the Church and, analogously, in society. Thus it entails a cultivation of wisdom not according to the flesh, but rather according to the Spirit. We know well that St Paul with the words "flesh, carnal" does not refer to the body, but to a way of living only for oneself and according to worldly standards. Therefore, according to Paul, it is always necessary to purify one's own body of the poison of pride, present in each one of us. We too, with St Paul, must raise the cry: "Who will free us?" (cf. Rm Rm 7,24). And we too can receive with him the response: the grace of Jesus Christ, that the Father has given us through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rm Rm 7,25). The "mind of Christ", which through grace we have received, purifies us of false wisdom. And this "mind of Christ" welcomes us through the Church and into the Church, taking us to the river of her living tradition. The iconography that depicts Jesus-Wisdom in the womb of Mother Mary, symbol of the Church, expresses this very well: In gremio Matris sedet Sapientia Patris; in Mary's womb sits the Wisdom of the Father, that is, Christ. Remaining faithful to that Jesus who Mary offers us, to the Christ whom the Church presents to us, we can commit ourselves intensely to intellectual work, internally free from the temptation of pride and boasting always and only in the Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the wish that I extend to you at the beginning of the academic year, invoking upon all of you the maternal protection of Mary, Sedes Sapientiae, and of the Apostle Paul. My affectionate Blessing goes with you, as well.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to greet you, the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly, and I thank Professor Nicola Cabibbo for the words he has kindly addressed to me on your behalf.

In choosing the topic Scientific Insight into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life, you seek to focus on an area of enquiry which elicits much interest. In fact, many of our contemporaries today wish to reflect upon the ultimate origin of beings, their cause and their end, and the meaning of human history and the universe.

In this context, questions concerning the relationship between science’s reading of the world and the reading offered by Christian Revelation naturally arise. My predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II noted that there is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences. Philosophy in its early stages had proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world. This genesis was not seen as a creation, but rather a mutation or transformation; it involved a somewhat horizontal interpretation of the origin of the world. A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being. In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence.

To state that the foundation of the cosmos and its developments is the provident wisdom of the Creator is not to say that creation has only to do with the beginning of the history of the world and of life. It implies, rather, that the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously. Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation. It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q.45, a. 3).

To “evolve” literally means “to unroll a scroll”, that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose “writing” and meaning, we “read” according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos. Notwithstanding elements of the irrational, chaotic and the destructive in the long processes of change in the cosmos, matter as such is “legible”. It has an inbuilt “mathematics”. The human mind therefore can engage not only in a “cosmography” studying measurable phenomena but also in a “cosmology” discerning the visible inner logic of the cosmos. We may not at first be able to see the harmony both of the whole and of the relations of the individual parts, or their relationship to the whole. Yet, there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities: in the inorganic world, between microstructure and macrostructure; in the organic and animal world, between structure and function; and in the spiritual world, between knowledge of the truth and the aspiration to freedom. Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles. And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

The distinction between a simple living being and a spiritual being that is capax Dei, points to the existence of the intellective soul of a free transcendent subject. Thus the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that “every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal” (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 366). This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought.

Distinguished Academicians, I wish to conclude by recalling the words addressed to you by my predecessor Pope John Paul II in November 2003: “scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine Truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God’s Revelation about man, a Revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ. For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful”.

Upon you and your families, and all those associated with the work of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom and peace.


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

I am very pleased to address my cordial welcome to all of you and I thank you for paying this visit to me on the occasion of the Second International Meeting of Bishops who accompany the new Communities of the Catholic Charismatic Movement, of the International Council of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships and, lastly, of the 13th International Conference held in Assisi on the theme: "We preach Christ crucified, power and wisdom of God" (cf. 1Co 1,23-24), at which the principal Communities of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the world are taking part. I greet you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, and all of you who work at the service of the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities. I address a special greeting to Prof. Matteo Calisi, President of the Catholic Fraternity, who has been the interpreter of your sentiments.

As I have been able to affirm in other circumstances, the Ecclesial Movements and New Communities which blossomed after the Second Vatican Council, constitute a unique gift of the Lord and a precious resource for the life of the Church. They should be accepted with trust and valued for the various contributions they place at the service of the common benefit in an ordered and fruitful way. Your current reflection on the centrality of Christ in preaching is very interesting as well as on the importance of "Charisms in the life of the particular Church", referring to Pauline theology, the New Testament and the experience of the Charismatic Renewal. What we learn in the New Testament on charism, which appeared as visible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, is not a historical event of the past, but a reality ever alive. It is the same divine Spirit, soul of the Church, that acts in every age and those mysterious and effective interventions of the Spirit are manifest in our time in a providential way. The Movements and New Communities are like an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in contemporary society. We can, therefore, rightly say that one of the positive elements and aspects of the Community of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is precisely their emphasis on the charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit and their merit lies in having recalled their topicality in the Church.

In various Documents the Second Vatican Council makes reference to the Movements and new Ecclesial Communities, especially in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, where we read: "Whether these charisms be very remarkable or more simple and widely diffused, they are to be received with thanksgiving and consolation" (n. 12). Later the Catechism of the Catholic Church also emphasized the value and importance of new charisms in the Church, whose authenticity however is guaranteed by their openness to subject themselves to the discernment of the ecclesiastic authority (cf. n. 2003). Precisely because we are assisting at a promising flowering of Movements and Ecclesial Communities, it is important that Pastors exercise prudent and wise discernment in their regard. I sincerely hope that dialogue between Pastors and Ecclesial Movements intensifies at all levels: parish, diocesan and with the Apostolic See. I know that opportune ways are being studied to give Pontifical recognition to the New Movements and Ecclesial Communities and many have already received it. This fact the recognition or establishment of international associations on the part of the Holy See for the universal Church Pastors, especially Bishops, cannot fail to take it into account in their dutiful discernment that lies within their competence (cf. Congregation for Bishops, Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Apostolorum Successores, ch. 4, 8).

Dear brothers and sisters, among these new ecclesial realities recognized by the Holy See is listed also your Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships, International Association of the faithful that carries out a specific mission in the heart of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (cf. Decree of the Pontifical Council for Laity, 30 November 1990, protocol 1585/5-6/B-50). One of its objectives, conforming to the indications of my venerable Predecessor John Paul ii is to safeguard the Catholic identity of Charismatic Communities and to encourage them to maintain a strict bond with the Bishops and with the Roman Pontiff (cf. Autograph Letter to the Catholic Fraternity, 1 June 1998). Also I was pleased to learn that the Constitutions propose to establish a Permanent Formation Centre for the members and leaders of Charismatic Communities. This would allow the Catholic Fraternity to better appreciate its own ecclesial mission oriented to evangelization, to the liturgy, to adoration, to ecumenism, to the family, to youth and to vocations of special consecration. It is a mission that will be further assisted by the transfer of the International Headquarters of the Association to Rome, with the possibility of being in close contact with the Pontifical Council for Laity.

Dear brothers and sisters, safeguarding the fidelity to the Catholic and ecclesial identity on the part of each one of your communities will permit you to render everywhere a living and active witness of the profound mystery of the Church. And it will be this indeed that promotes the capacity of the various communities to attract new members. I entrust the work of your respective conventions to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, living Temple of the Holy Spirit, and to the intercession of Sts Francis and Clare of Assisi, examples of holiness and spiritual renewal, while I affectionately impart to you and to all your communities a special Apostolic Blessing.

November 2008


Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you, Your Excellency, and to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings you have conveyed to me on behalf of H.E. Mr Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, President of the Republic, and the First Lady, Madam Suzanne Mubarak, whom you have served for several years. I should be grateful if you would reciprocate my best wishes for them and for the entire people of Egypt.

Egypt is a land of ancient civilization known worldwide for its monuments, arts and ancestral wisdom. Your Excellency, on your land, well known for its wisdom and balance, peoples and cultures met a mix of different religions who forged the identity of your people over the course of millennia. It accounts for the wealth of your culture which is able still today to absorb novelties while conserving its specific character.

Your Excellency, you have rightly recalled the good relations which exist between Egypt and the Holy See since the establishment of Diplomatic Relations over 60 years ago. I can only thank God who has allowed and favoured them. Egypt was already advanced in seeking to build bridges between peoples and religions. Such relations are certainly based on deep mutual respect for each one's identity, but also and above all, the real common wish to promote unity and peace both within the national boundaries and in the heart of the international milieu so as to develop dialogue and cooperation among the members of the diverse cultures and religions.

Your Excellency, you have mentioned the numerous and grave international problems which are ever and always unresolved, unfortunately often violent situations in Africa and Asia, especially in the Middle East. Egypt's efforts to foster peace, harmony and just solutions which respect the states and individuals are countless and meet those of the Holy See which is also endeavouring to foster and promote them. A climate of dialogue and rapprochement could engender a culture of peace; the day must come and succeed in eliminating or at least curtailing nationalism and tempering private or public interests. Religions can and must be peacemakers. However, unfortunately, they may be misunderstood and instrumentalized to provoke violence or death. Respect for the sensitivity and history of each country or each human and religious community, frequent consultations and multilateral meetings and especially the authentic will to seek peace favours the reconciliation of peoples and peaceful coexistence among all. This is what the Holy See sincerely desires and it is what it also desires of Egypt. In this context, I wish to praise all the efforts undertaken by this country and its governments to reach this noble objective little by little. Egypt has always been known as a land of hospitality for many refugees, Muslims and Christians, who have sought security and peace in its territory. May this noble tradition continue for the good of all! A guest welcomed is a holy storehouse entrusted by God who will know how to remember it an the opportune time.

I have just recalled the fundamental role of religions in establishing harmony among peoples, cultures and individuals. For decades the annual meetings between the Permanent Committee for Dialogue among Monotheistic Religions of the Al-Azhar al Sharif Institute and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue seek to open a way toward reciprocal understanding and respect between Islam and Christianity. Part of the journey has already been run but the rest remains to be travelled.

This dialogue, Your Excellency, is an opportunity for the world, an occasion offered by God that must be welcomed up front and lived as best as possible. Above all it is important to promote a good reciprocal knowledge that cannot be limited to a restricted circle at the moment of dialogue, but must be spread, little by little to its boarders, to individuals who day after day, in cities and in villages, must develop a mentality of mutual respect that should bring a reciprocal esteem. The individual and humanity would benefit, as would religions. The research institutes of the Dominican and Franciscan communities present in Egypt also offer a space of interreligious encounter. Their presence and their activity show that it is possible to live as brothers in a united and serene nation.

I ask you also to transmit, Madam Ambassador, my greetings to the Catholic community in your country. Although they are not numerous, they manifest the great diversity that exists in the heart of our Church and the possibility for a harmonious coexistence among the great Christian traditions of the East and West. Its social and historical commitment among the Egyptian people in the areas of education, health care and charitable works witness to gratuitous love without religious exclusion. It is well known and appreciated by the entire Egyptian society. The Catholic Church also desires to reach the many Catholic tourists that visit it and who wish to practice their own religion. I am convinced that they will soon be given the possibility to pray to God properly in adequate places of cult in the new tourist centres that have developed in these last years. This would be a beautiful sign that Egypt would give to the world, favouring friendly and fraternal relations among religions and peoples in full harmony with its ancient and noble tradition.

While you begin your mission as representative to the Holy See, I assure that you will always find a kind welcome and the attentive understanding of my collaborators. I extend, Madam Ambassador, my cordial wishes for your happy fulfilment, so that the harmonious relations that exist between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Holy See can continue and deepen. Upon you, Your Excellency, your family, upon your collaborators and also upon its leaders and upon all the inhabitants of Egypt, I warmly invoke an abundance of Blessings from the All Powerful One.


Dear Friends,

I am pleased to receive you this morning and I greet all of you most cordially. I thank especially Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as well as Shaykh Mustafa Ceri and Mr Seyyed Hossein Nasr for their words. Our meeting takes place at the conclusion of the important Seminar organized by the “Catholic-Muslim Forum” established between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who signed the Open Letter to Christian leaders of 13 October 2007. This gathering is a clear sign of our mutual esteem and our desire to listen respectfully to one another. I can assure you that I have prayerfully followed the progress of your meeting, conscious that it represents one more step along the way towards greater understanding between Muslims and Christians within the framework of other regular encounters which the Holy See promotes with various Muslim groups. The Open Letter “A Common Word between us and you” has received numerous responses, and has given rise to dialogue, specific initiatives and meetings, aimed at helping us to know one another more deeply and to grow in esteem for our shared values. The great interest which the present Seminar has awakened is an incentive for us to ensure that the reflections and the positive developments which emerge from Muslim-Christian dialogue are not limited to a small group of experts and scholars, but are passed on as a precious legacy to be placed at the service of all, to bear fruit in the way we live each day.

The theme which you have chosen for your meeting – “Love of God, Love of Neighbour: The Dignity of the Human Person and Mutual Respect” – is particularly significant. It was taken from the Open Letter, which presents love of God and love of neighbour as the heart of Islam and Christianity alike. This theme highlights even more clearly the theological and spiritual foundations of a central teaching of our respective religions.

The Christian tradition proclaims that God is Love (cf. 1Jn 4,16). It was out of love that he created the whole universe, and by his love he becomes present in human history. The love of God became visible, manifested fully and definitively in Jesus Christ. He thus came down to meet man and, while remaining God, took on our nature. He gave himself in order to restore full dignity to each person and to bring us salvation. How could we ever explain the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption except by Love? This infinite and eternal love enables us to respond by giving all our love in return: love for God and love for neighbour. This truth, which we consider foundational, was what I wished to emphasize in my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, since this is a central teaching of the Christian faith. Our calling and mission is to share freely with others the love which God lavishes upon us without any merit of our own.

I am well aware that Muslims and Christians have different approaches in matters regarding God. Yet we can and must be worshippers of the one God who created us and is concerned about each person in every corner of the world. Together we must show, by our mutual respect and solidarity, that we consider ourselves members of one family: the family that God has loved and gathered together from the creation of the world to the end of human history.

I was pleased to learn that you were able at this meeting to adopt a common position on the need to worship God totally and to love our fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence. For Christians, the love of God is inseparably bound to the love of our brothers and sisters, of all men and women, without distinction of race and culture. As Saint John writes: “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1Jn 4,20).

The Muslim tradition is also quite clear in encouraging practical commitment in serving the most needy, and readily recalls the “Golden Rule” in its own version: your faith will not be perfect, unless you do unto others that which you wish for yourselves. We should thus work together in promoting genuine respect for the dignity of the human person and fundamental human rights, even though our anthropological visions and our theologies justify this in different ways. There is a great and vast field in which we can act together in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage. Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike – only on the basis of this recognition, can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralized.

My hope, once again, is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere. Political and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The discrimination and violence which even today religious people experience throughout the world, and the often violent persecutions to which they are subject, represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God. God’s name can only be a name of peace and fraternity, justice and love. We are challenged to demonstrate, by our words and above all by our deeds, that the message of our religions is unfailingly a message of harmony and mutual understanding. It is essential that we do so, lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our dialogue, but also of our religions themselves.

I pray that the “Catholic-Muslim Forum”, now confidently taking its first steps, can become ever more a space for dialogue, and assist us in treading together the path to an ever fuller knowledge of Truth. The present meeting is also a privileged occasion for committing ourselves to a more heartfelt quest for love of God and love of neighbour, the indispensable condition for offering the men and women of our time an authentic service of reconciliation and peace.

Dear friends, let us unite our efforts, animated by good will, in order to overcome all misunderstanding and disagreements. Let us resolve to overcome past prejudices and to correct the often distorted images of the other which even today can create difficulties in our relations; let us work with one another to educate all people, especially the young, to build a common future. May God sustain us in our good intentions, and enable our communities to live consistently the truth of love, which constitutes the heart of the religious man, and is the basis of respect for the dignity of each person. May God, the merciful and compassionate One, assist us in this challenging mission, protect us, bless us and enlighten us always with the power of his love.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from President Valdas Adamkus. Please convey to him my respectful good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for all the people of your nation.

I am particularly heartened by your comments concerning the need for modern Europe to draw upon the tradition that flows from the teaching of the Gospel. Your country has a long and noble Christian history, reaching back to the days of Saint Casimir and beyond. In recent centuries, the faith of the Lithuanian people has sustained them through periods of foreign domination and oppression, and has helped them to preserve and consolidate their identity. Now that the Republic has regained its independence, it can offer moving testimony to the values which enabled its people to survive those difficult years. As my predecessor Pope John Paul II knew from his personal experience, shared faith is a wonderful source of strength and unity in the midst of adversity. Communities that have lived under such circumstances acquire a deep conviction that true happiness is to be found in God alone. They know that any society which denies the Creator inevitably begins to lose its sense of the beauty, truth and goodness of human life.

As Your Excellency has observed, however, a new generation has now grown up in the former Eastern bloc countries, a generation which did not share in that experience of totalitarian government, and tends therefore to take its political freedom for granted. In consequence of this, there is a risk that some of the fruits which matured in testing times may begin to be lost. Your Excellency understands well the dangers facing today’s society which, although free, suffers increasingly from fragmentation and moral confusion. In this context, it is vitally important that Lithuania, and indeed the whole of Europe, cultivates the memory of the history that shaped it, in order to preserve its true identity and thus to survive and flourish in the world of the twenty-first century.

It is both a paradox and a tragedy that in this era of globalization, when the possibilities of communication and interaction with others have increased to a degree that earlier generations could scarcely have imagined, so many people feel isolated and cut off from one another. This gives rise to many social problems which cannot be resolved on the political plane alone, since even the best structures “function only when the community is animated by convictions capable of motivating people to assent freely to the social order” (Spe Salvi ). The Church has a vital part to play here, through the message of hope that she proclaims. She seeks to build a civilization of love by teaching that “God is love”, and exhorting people of good will to enter into a loving relationship with him. Since “love of God leads to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others” (ibid., 28), the practice of Christianity leads naturally to solidarity with one’s fellow citizens and indeed with the whole of the human family. It leads to a determination to serve the common good and to take responsibility for the weaker members of society, and it curbs the desire to amass wealth for oneself alone. Our society needs to rise above the allure of material goods, and to focus instead upon values that truly promote the good of the human person.

The Holy See values its diplomatic links with your country, marked as it is by centuries of Christian witness. Working together, we can help to forge a Europe in which priority is given to the defence of marriage and family life, to the protection of human life from conception to natural death, and to the promotion of sound ethical practices in medical and scientific research: practices which are truly respectful of the dignity of the human person. We can promote effective solidarity with the poor, the sick, the vulnerable, and all those on the margins of society. These values will strike a chord with all those, especially the young, who are seeking answers to their profound questioning about the meaning and purpose of life. They will resonate with all who are anxious to discover the truth that is so often obscured by the superficial messages propagated by post-modern society. They will appeal to all who are discriminating enough to reject the world-view built upon relativism and secularism, and who aspire instead to live in a manner befitting the true nobility of the human spirit.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Lithuania. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all your fellow citizens abundant blessings of peace and prosperity. May God bless Lithuania!


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Organ donation is a peculiar form of witness to charity. In a period like ours, often marked by various forms of selfishness, it is ever more urgent to understand how the logic of free giving is vital to a correct conception of life. Indeed, a responsibility of love and charity exist that commits one to make of their own life a gift to others, if one truly wishes to fulfil oneself. As the Lord Jesus has taught us, only whoever gives his own life can save it (cf. Lc 9,24). In greeting all those present, with a particular thought for Senator Maurizio Sacconi, Minister of Labour, Health and Social Policies, I thanks Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, for the words he has addressed to me illustrating the profound meaning of this meeting and presenting the synthesis of the Congress' works. Together with him I also thank the President of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Director of the Centro Nazionale Trapianti, underlining my appreciation of the value of the collaboration of these Organizations in an area like that of organ transplants which, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, has been the object of your days of study and debate.

Medical history clearly shows the great progress that it has been possible to accomplish to ensure to each person who suffers an ever more worthy life. Tissue and organ transplants represent a great victory for medical science and are certainly a sign of hope for many patients who are experiencing grave and sometimes extreme clinical situations. If we broaden our gaze to the entire world it is easy to identify the many and complex cases in which, thanks to the technique of the transplantation of organs, many people have survived very critical phases and have been restored to the joy of life. This could never have happened if the committed doctors and qualified researchers had not been able to count on the generosity and altruism of those who have donated their organs. The problem of the availability of vital organs to transplant, unfortunately, is not theoretic, but dramatically practical; it is shown by the long waiting lists of many sick people whose sole possibility for survival is linked to the meagre offers that do not correspond to the objective need.

It is helpful, above all in today's context, to return to reflect on this scientific breakthrough, to prevent the multiple requests for transplants from subverting the ethical principles that are at its base. As I said in my first Encyclical, the body can never be considered a mere object (cf. Deus Caritas Est ); otherwise the logic of the market would gain the upper hand. The body of each person, together with the spirit that has been given to each one singly constitutes an inseparable unity in which the image of God himself is imprinted. Prescinding from this dimension leads to a perspective incapable of grasping the totality of the mystery present in each one. Therefore, it is necessary to put respect for the dignity of the person and the protection of his/her personal identity in the first place. As regards the practice of organ transplants, it means that someone can give only if he/she is not placing his/her own health and identity in serious danger, and only for a morally valid and proportional reason. The possibility of organ sales, as well as the adoption of discriminatory and utilitarian criteria, would greatly clash with the underlying meaning of the gift that would place it out of consideration, qualifying it as a morally illicit act. Transplant abuses and their trafficking, which often involve innocent people like babies, must find the scientific and medical community ready to unite in rejecting such unacceptable practices. Therefore they are to be decisively condemned as abominable. The same ethical principle is to be repeated when one wishes to touch upon creation and destroy the human embryo destined for a therapeutic purpose. The simple idea of considering the embryo as "therapeutic material" contradicts the cultural, civil and ethical foundations upon which the dignity of the person rests.

It often happens that organ transplantation techniques take place with a totally free act on the part of the parents of patients in which death has been certified. In these cases, informed consent is the condition subject to freedom, for the transplant to have the characteristic of a gift and is not to be interpreted as an act of coercion or exploitation. It is helpful to remember, however, that the individual vital organs cannot be extracted except ex cadavere, which, moreover, possesses its own dignity that must be respected. In these years science has accomplished further progress in certifying the death of the patient. It is good, therefore, that the results attained receive the consent of the entire scientific community in order to further research for solutions that give certainty to all. In an area such as this, in fact, there cannot be the slightest suspicion of arbitration and where certainty has not been attained the principle of precaution must prevail. This is why it is useful to promote research and interdisciplinary reflection to place public opinion before the most transparent truth on the anthropological, social, ethical and juridical implications of the practice of transplantation.
However, in these cases the principal criteria of respect for the life of the donator must always prevail so that the extraction of organs be performed only in the case of his/her true death (cf. Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 476). The act of love which is expressed with the gift on one's vital organs remains a genuine testimony of charity that is able to look beyond death so that life always wins. The recipient of this gesture must be well aware of its value. He is the receiver of a gift that goes far beyond the therapeutic benefit. In fact, what he/she receives, before being an organ, is a witness of love that must raise an equally generous response, so as to increase the culture of gift and free giving.

The right road to follow, until science is able to discover other new forms and more advanced therapies, must be the formation and the spreading of a culture of solidarity that is open to all and does not exclude anyone. A medical transplantation corresponds to an ethic of donation that demands on the part of all the commitment to invest every possible effort in formation and information, to make the conscience ever more sensitive to an issue that directly touches the life of many people. Therefore it will be necessary to reject prejudices and misunderstandings, widespread indifference and fear to substitute them with certainty and guarantees in order to permit an ever more heightened and diffuse awareness of the great gift of life in everyone. With these sentiments, while I wish each one to continue in his/her own commitment with the due competence and professionalism, I invoke the help of God on the Congress' works and I impart to all my warm Blessing.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of China to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from President Ying-jeou Ma. Please convey to him my cordial good wishes on his recent election, as well as the assurance of my prayers for him, the first Catholic to be elected President of the Republic, and for all the people in Taiwan.

The Government in Taipei has a keen sense of belonging to a world community, a global human family. This is expressed in many ways, not least in the generosity with which aid and emergency relief is supplied to poorer nations. In this regard, your country makes a valuable contribution to the building of a more secure and stable world. The Holy See is pleased to work together with all those who seek to promote peace, prosperity and development, and appreciates the Republic of China’s commitment to that noble cause.

Although Catholics in the Republic of China represent little more than one per cent of the population, they are eager to play their part in building up a society that is humane, just, and marked by genuine concern for the welfare of the weaker members of the community. It is part of the Church’s mission to share her “expertise in humanity” with all people of good will in order to contribute to the well-being of the human family. Characteristically, it is in the fields of education, healthcare and charitable assistance that she offers this contribution. Your Government’s firm commitment to freedom of religion has made it possible for the Church to carry out her mission of love and service, and to express herself openly through worship and the proclamation of the Gospel. On behalf of all the Catholics in Taiwan, I would like to express my appreciation of this freedom that the Church enjoys.

Thanks to their “innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom” (Ecclesia in Asia ), there is great religious vitality and capacity for renewal among the peoples of Asia. Hence the ground is particularly fertile for interreligious dialogue to take root and grow. Asians continue to demonstrate a “natural openness to the mutual enrichment of peoples in the midst of a plurality of religions and cultures” (ibid.). How important it is in today’s world for different peoples to be able to listen to one another in an atmosphere of respect and dignity, conscious that their shared humanity is a bond far deeper than the cultural variations that seem to divide them! Such growth in mutual understanding offers a much-needed service to society at large. By bearing clear witness “to those moral truths which they hold in common with all men and women of good will, religious groups … exert a positive influence on the wider culture” (Address to Representatives of Other Religions, Washington, 17 April 2008).

Frank and constructive dialogue is also the key to the resolution of the conflicts that threaten the stability of our world. In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the recent positive developments in relations between Taiwan and mainland China. Indeed the Catholic Church is eager to promote peaceful solutions to disputes of whatever kind, “giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation” (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 18 April, 2008). In this way, she wishes to support the efforts of Governments to become “staunch champions of human dignity and courageous builders of peace” (Message for the 2007 World Day of Peace, 16).

Your Excellency, I assure you of my good wishes and prayers for the success of the diplomatic mission which you begin today. At all times you will find that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With sentiments of sincere esteem, I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon you, your family, and all the people in Taiwan.


Speeches 2005-13 20108