Speeches 2005-13 183



Chapel of Palazzo Borromeo Saturday, 13 December 2008

Mr Undersecretary of the
Prime Minister's Office,
Dear Friends,

On my brief visit to the Embassy of Italy, the first meeting is taking place in this beautiful chapel which has just been restored and renovated. And I am happy to meet, precisely here, you who constitute the vital working community of this Embassy. I greet you all with affection, together with your relatives. I address a special greeting to the Undersecretary of the Prime Minister's Office who has conveyed the Prime Minister's greeting to me and a warm welcome, expressing your sentiments. He recalled that this chapel, blessed a few days ago by the Cardinal Secretary of State, is dedicated to a Saint whose name is indissolubly linked to this building: St Charles Borromeo. He and his brother Federico received this dwelling as a gift from their uncle, the Pontiff Pius iv, with whom Charles, created a Cardinal at a very young age, collaborated in the government of the universal Church. It was immediately after the death of his elder brother that the Pontiff's young nephew began a process of spiritual development which led him to a profound conversion, marked by a decisive choice of evangelical life. Having become a Bishop, he devoted all his care to the Archdiocese of Milan. His biography clearly reveals the zeal with which he carried out his episcopal ministry, promoting the reform of the Church in accordance with the spirit of the Council of Trent, whose directives he employed in an exemplary manner, showing a constant closeness to the population, especially during the years of the plague, so that he became known as "the angel of the plague victims" precisely for his generous dedication. The human and spiritual experience of St Charles Borromeo shows how divine grace may transform the human heart and render it capable of love for the brethren, even to the point of sacrifice of self.

Dear brothers and sisters, I entrust each one of you present here with your relatives to the protection of St Charles, so that you too may advance the mission God entrusts to you at the service of your neighbour in accordance with your various offices. Lastly, I take this opportunity to wish you a happy and holy Christmas, while I warmly bless you all.




Hall of Flags, Palazzo Borromeo Saturday, 13 December 2008

Mr Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Mr Undersecretary of the Prime Minister's Office,
Mr Ambassador to the Holy See,
Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps to the Holy See,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am truly delighted today to have been able to accept the kind invitation extended to me to visit this historic building, the headquarters of the Embassy of Italy to the Holy See. I cordially greet everyone, starting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs whom I thank for the respectful words he has just addressed to me. I greet the other Ministers, the Authorities present and especially Ambassador Antonio Zanardi Landi. I warmly thank you for your courteous welcome, accompanied by a pleasant musical interlude.

As has been mentioned, this historic palace has received Visits from three of my Predecessors: the Servants of God Pius XII on 2 June 1951, Paul VI on 2 October 1964, and John Paul II on 2 March 1986. On today's solemn and at the same time informal occasion, my recent meetings with the President of the Republic spring to mind: last 24 April, on the occasion of the concert he offered to me for the anniversary of the solemn beginning of my service on the Chair of Peter; then at the Quirinal Palace on 4 October and, last Wednesday, in the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican on the occasion of the concert for the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, which, Mr Minister of Foreign Affairs, you mentioned. As I address a respectful and grateful greeting to the President of the Republic, I would like to repeat precisely what I said during my Visit to the Quirinal: "that the Italian State and the Apostolic See coexist peacefully and collaborate fruitfully in the city of Rome" (Address on Official Visit to H.E. Mr Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic, Quirinal Palace, 4 October 2008).

The special attention the Pontiffs have shown for this diplomatic seat would suffice to demonstrate the recognition of the important role that the Embassy of Italy has played and still plays in the relations between the Holy See and the Italian Republic, as well as in the relations of mutual collaboration between the Church and the State in Italy. We shall certainly have an opportunity to demonstrate this important dual order of diplomatic, social and religious ties in the coming month of February on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pacts and the 25th anniversary of the Agreement on the Modification of the Concordat. A reference to this anniversary has already been made, to highlight rightly the fruitful relationship that exists between Italy and the Holy See. It entails a particularly important and significant agreement in the current world situation, in which the persistent conflicts and tensions among peoples are rendering collaboration among all who share the same ideals of justice, solidarity and peace ever more necessary. Furthermore, taking up what you yourself said, Mr Minister of Foreign Affairs, I cannot fail to mention with deep gratitude the daily collaboration between the Embassy of Italy and my Secretariat of State, and in this regard I cordially greet those Mission Heads at Palazzo Borromeo both current and recently succeeded who have kindly graced us with their presence.

This brief Visit is a favourable opportunity for me to reassert that the Church is well aware that "fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22,21), in other words, the distinction between Church and State" (Deus caritas est ). Not only does the Church recognize and respect this distinction and this autonomy but she rejoices in it as being a great progress of humanity and a fundamental condition for her own freedom and the fulfilment of her universal mission of salvation among all peoples. At the same time the Church feels it is her task, following the dictates of her own social doctrine, to declare "on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being" (ibid.), to reawaken moral and spiritual forces in society, helping to open "mind and will" to the authentic demands of the common good. Thus, recalling the value not only for private but also and especially for public life of certain fundamental ethical principles, the Church contributes de facto to guaranteeing and promoting the dignity of the person and the common good of society. It is in this sense that true and proper cooperation desired between State and Church is brought about.

Now allow me also to mention gratefully the precious contribution that both this Diplomatic Representation and the Italian Authorities in general generously offer to enable the Holy See to freely carry out its universal mission and therefore, also to engage in diplomatic relations with a great many of the world's countries. In this regard, I greet and thank the Dean and those representatives of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who are taking part in our encounter. I am sure that they share in this appreciation for the valuable services that Italy contributes to their delicate and specialized mission.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is truly significant that since 1929 the headquarters of the diplomatic representation of Italy to the Holy See have been based in the building in which St Charles Borromeo lived as a young man. He was then carrying out the office of collaborator of the Roman Pontiff in the Roman Curia, and directing what is normally defined as the diplomacy of the Holy See. Those who work here can thus discover in this Saint a constant protector and, at the same time, a model from whom to draw inspiration while engaging in their daily duties. I entrust to his intercession all who are gathered here today and I express to each one my sincere good wishes for every good. While the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus is approaching I extend these good wishes to the Italian Authorities, starting with the President of the Republic, and to the entire beloved people of this well loved Peninsula. My wishes for peace then embrace all the countries of the earth, whether officially represented at the Holy See or not. They are wishes for light and for authentic human progress, for prosperity and for harmony, all realities to which we may aspire with trusting hope, because they are gifts that Jesus brought into the world when he was born in Bethlehem. May the Virgin Mary, whom we venerated a few days ago as the Immaculate Conception, obtain these gifts for us and every other true good desired for Italy and for the whole world, from her Son, the Prince of Peace, whose Blessing I warmly invoke upon all of you and upon your loved ones.


Your Excellency,

As you present the Letters accrediting you as the Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Malawi to the Holy See, I offer you a cordial welcome. I ask you kindly to convey my greetings to the President, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, together with my prayerful good wishes that Almighty God will bless the nation and its people with prosperity and peace.

I thank you for your gracious mention of the Church’s contribution to Malawi’s spiritual and economic development, especially through her apostolates in the areas of education, charitable assistance and health care. This mission has its source and inspiration in the Church’s desire to bear witness to the love of God (cf. Deus Caritas Est ); as such, it knows no boundaries of race or creed, but seeks to enable each human person to develop fully as an individual and as a member of a society marked by solidarity and genuine concern for the needs of others. The recent foundation of the Catholic University in Blantyre is a sign of the Church’s commitment to the intellectual and human formation of those young people who will become the leaders of the next generation, with responsibility for shaping the future of your country and that of the greater continent of which it is a part.

Africa in fact is increasingly aware of the urgent need for unity and cooperation in facing the challenges of the future and ensuring sound and integral development for its people. This demands wise and far-sighted policies, the prudent stewardship of resources, and a resolve to curb corruption and injustice, as well as to promote civic responsibility and fraternal solidarity at every level of society (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). In a special way, political leaders must have a deep sense of their duty to advance the common good, and thus be firmly committed to dialogue and readiness to transcend particular interests in the service of the whole body politic. Like many of its neighbours, Malawi has experienced the difficulties and struggles born of the effort to build a free, modern and democratic society. It is my hope that the important steps currently being taken by your country’s religious and social leaders to help open broader avenues of communication and greater cooperation in the nation’s political life will bear fruit in a renewed determination to tackle together the critical issues facing Malawi at the present time.

Indeed, the struggle against poverty, the need to ensure food security, and the continuing efforts to combat disease, especially the scourge of AIDS, represent development priorities which cannot be deferred. Authentic development, in addition to its necessary economic aspect, must contribute to the intellectual, cultural and moral advancement of individuals and peoples. The Church is convinced that the Gospel confirms and ennobles whatever is true and good in the traditional wisdom and values of the peoples whom she encounters (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 2). For this reason, she is concerned to promote models of integral development, while resisting models of progress which run counter to those traditional values. As Malawi seeks to foster a sound economic growth, it is necessary that meeting basic human needs and ensuring a dignified standard of living, especially for the most indigent strata of the population, continue to be essential priorities. Similarly, economically and ethically sound models of development must include a specific commitment to respect the natural environment, which is a treasure entrusted to all humanity to be responsibly cultivated and protected for the good of future generations (cf. Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7).

I have noted with appreciation your reference to the religious tolerance which marks your nation’s life, and to the importance for society of respectful and harmonious relations between the followers of the various religions. The freedom of religion guaranteed by Malawi’s constitution has enabled the Church to proclaim her message without coercion or interference, and to carry out her works of education and charity. It has also allowed the Catholic community to participate freely in civic life, to contribute to the formation of consciences, and to bring out the moral dimension of the various social, political and economic issues affecting national life. In carrying out her activities, the Church in Malawi seeks no privileges for herself, but only the autonomy needed to fulfil her mission in the service of God and man. Since respect for conscience and religious freedom are the cornerstone of the whole structure of human rights (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps Attached to the Holy See, 7 January 2008), the sure guarantee of those rights must be seen as an essential condition for the building of a truly just, free and fraternal society.

Your Excellency, as you prepare to take up your mission in the service of Malawi and its people, I offer you my prayerful good wishes, while assuring you that the various offices of the Holy See are prepared to assist you in the fulfilment of your high duties. I trust that your mission will serve to consolidate the good relations existing between the Holy See and the Republic of Malawi. Upon you and your family, and upon all your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke Almighty God’s blessings of joy and peace.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Sweden to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from King Carl XVI Gustaf. Please convey to His Majesty my cordial greetings and assure him of my continued prayers for all the people of your nation.

The Holy See values its diplomatic links with Sweden, now more than a quarter of a century old. Since the recent relocation to Stockholm of the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio to the Nordic countries, relations between Sweden and the Holy See have been taken a stage further. Moreover, your country’s Catholic population has grown considerably in the last few years, not least because of the large numbers of refugees from all over the world who have been so generously welcomed. It is particularly appreciated that thousands of Christian refugees from Iraq have been admitted to Sweden. As you know, the plight of Christians in the Middle East is of great concern to me, and while I pray daily for an improvement in conditions in their homelands that would allow them to remain, at the same time I acknowledge with gratitude the welcome given to those who have been forced to flee. The opportunity to worship in accordance with their own traditions has been an important element in enabling them to feel at home, and your Government has shown wisdom in recognizing the key role played in this regard by the various Churches to which they belong.

Openness to immigration inevitably brings with it the challenge of maintaining harmonious relations between diverse elements in the population. Your Government has made prudent efforts to promote integration, and the Catholic community is keen to offer its own contribution by building up social cohesion and providing an education in the virtues. In the area of commitment to the dignity of the human person and the defence of human rights and individual freedoms, there is much common ground between the Church and the Swedish authorities, as Your Excellency has observed. It will be important to build further on this in the years ahead.

Maintaining a balance between competing freedoms represents one of the most delicate moral challenges faced by the modern State. Some of the dilemmas that arise are of particular concern to the Holy See. For example, every liberal society has to assess carefully to what extent freedom of speech and expression can be allowed to ignore religious sensibilities. The question is of particular importance when the harmonious integration of different religious groups is a priority. Furthermore, the right to be defended against discrimination is sometimes invoked in circumstances that place in question the right of religious groups to state and put into practice their strongly held convictions, for example, concerning the fundamental importance for society of the institution of marriage, understood as a lifelong union between a man and a woman, open to the transmission of life. And even the right to life itself, in the case of the unborn, is often denied the unconditional legal protection that it deserves. This year’s sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights urges us to consider to what extent our society guarantees the legitimate rights of all its members, especially the weakest and most vulnerable. The Holy See is eager to engage with all interested parties in the continuing debate that surrounds these questions in today’s world.

On an international level, Sweden makes many important contributions to the maintenance of peace and the fight against poverty. Always eager to encourage humanitarian and peace-keeping initiatives in troubled parts of the world, the Holy See welcomes the contributions made by your country to help resolve conflicts, for example in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Afghanistan. It is opportune to pay tribute to the work of many of your countrymen and women, like Count Folke Bernadotte, Dag Hammarskjöld and countless others, who have dedicated their lives to peace missions around the world. Among the more affluent countries, Sweden stands out for its assistance to development projects for the benefit of poorer nations. Sweden’s active role in promoting the good of humanity is eloquently expressed in the prestigious awards that she grants to men and women of outstanding achievement in the arts, the sciences and in peace-making. In acknowledging all these worthy activities, I would like to put on record the Holy See’s appreciation for the action of the Swedish Government in conferring the Per Anger Prize on Archbishop Gennaro Verolino in 2004, in recognition of his work for human rights during the years when he was stationed at the Nunciature in Budapest during the Second World War.

Your Excellency, in offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Kingdom of Sweden, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.


Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic. Please convey to him my gratitude and my personal congratulations and good wishes as he guides the country in his capacity as Head of State. I would also ask you kindly to convey my greetings and good wishes to the members of the Government, the civil authorities and to all your fellow citizens.

Mr Ambassador, your country’s return to peace and stability, after many years of conflict, is a great sign of hope for Africa and for the world. Indeed, the recent elections manifested the people’s desire for a lasting peace and a solid democracy. The smooth transition from one government to another speaks well of the country’s political representatives and their desire to serve their constituencies. It is edifying to see how these events have inaugurated a new chapter in your national history after so many destructive years of violence. I join my hopes with those of others as I pray that the nation will continue along the path of building ever stronger democratic institutions, fostering justice and strengthening the common good.

As your people engage in this delicate mission of nation building, all the more arduous since it must be undertaken against the background of a troubled international economic climate, your Government is rightly emphasizing the priority to revive agriculture and industry in accordance with the needs of the population and with due respect for the environment and the well-being of future generations. This kind of sustained development, which fosters proper management of the country’s resources, can only be effectively achieved in today’s globalized economy by concerted cooperation between the private and public sectors, and by open dialogue with other countries and international bodies. If the young people of your country, who are willing to play their part in the progress of the nation, are provided with adequate training and conditions favourable to greater employment opportunities, then the entire nation will benefit. I have no doubt that these initiatives, taken together with the present climate of social stability, will provide an incentive to those wishing to participate in your nation’s economic development. For her part, the Catholic Church is confident that the services she provides in health care, social programmes and education will continue to have an increasingly positive impact on the struggle against disease, poverty and underdevelopment. Indeed she sees her mission, as a task intimately associated with the promotion of integral human development (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ).

Mr Ambassador, your Government has given priority to the sensitive task of healing the moral fibre of society and is convinced that the eradication of corrupt practices in politics is a key issue in this process. Experience has shown that nations can make steady progress only when the majority of their citizens are properly nourished, well educated and respectful towards others. The Church will continue to cooperate in the promotion of a moral climate of hope for the future. Indeed, she is pleased to contribute to this important task especially in the field of education, where new generations of young people are formed so as to become active and responsible members of society. This mission is all the more successful and fulfilling for all involved when educational institutions, inspired by religious values and principles, can enjoy a sufficient and acceptable degree of institutional autonomy and initiative.

Your Excellency, Sierra Leone is blessed to be free from ethnic or religious conflict. Diversity, in language and customs, represents a richness that must be valued. Moreover religion teaches its adherents to consider others as brothers and sisters who are called together in the great human family to build up a common home in peace and cooperation. The Catholic Church in Sierra Leone will continue to encourage mutual understanding and good will among different ethnic and religious groups by opposing prejudice and supporting cooperation (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). By engaging in interreligious dialogue, she is confident that the example of a close, respectful relationship among religious leaders will bring believers to consolidate their attitudes of mutual understanding and peaceful cooperation.

Mr Ambassador, these are some of the reflections that the present situation of Sierra Leone has suggested. I wish you every success in your mission and I invite you to avail yourself of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant and lasting blessings of well-being and peace!


Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Iceland to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed. I would ask you kindly to convey to His Excellency President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, to the civil authorities and to all the people of Iceland, my prayerful good wishes.

Your presence here today, Madam Ambassador, is another milestone in that common journey of understanding and cooperation between Iceland and the Holy See which we have together undertaken since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1976. The visit which my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, paid to your country in 1989 was an eloquent expression of the closeness of that relationship. Indeed, the cordial reception he received, and the warmth of his words and gestures were, in a sense, a symbolic renewal of mutual appreciation and the desire to continue to work together in respectful collaboration. Iceland and the Holy See have many areas of common concern in the international arena, among which I would mention healthcare and the environment, freedom of conscience and religion, the promotion of peace and dialogue, and the search for an ever more just and equitable international order. I am confident that the responsibility which you are now assuming will continue to consolidate the promotion of these and other shared values.

Your Excellency’s mission may also draw inspiration from that special event in the life and identity of the nation, when Christianity was accepted by the people of Iceland at your national Parliament more than a thousand years ago. Christians in your country can look back with gratitude to that moment and recall the truths, principles and values enshrined in your society’s institutions, laws and customs which continue to nurture and educate the population. My venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in naming Saint Thorlac the Patron Saint of Iceland, rightly underlined the formative presence of the faith in your land. I personally had an opportunity to appreciate this heritage when His Excellency Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde kindly presented to me a copy of the new Icelandic translation of the Bible during his visit to the Vatican. It is my fervent hope that the people of Iceland, as individuals and as a nation, will continue to draw inspiration from this rich tradition. I pray that it will enlighten them as they defend and promote human rights at home and abroad while encouraging respect for all religions and the legitimate exercise of freedom.

Catholics in Iceland, though a numerically small community, are committed to religious and human service of all their brothers and sisters, both nationals and immigrants. This task has been made easier thanks to the relationship developed over the years between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland and the Catholic Church. Mature democracies, as such, tend to educate people in tolerance and mutual acceptance, in respectful dialogue and collaboration for the common good. The positive effects of this social and political environment are enriched when Christians receive and practise the gift of charity that is expressed through dialogue and practical collaboration. I trust that in your country the members of the Catholic Church and all who search for Christian unity and for the wider good of society will continue to grow in mutual knowledge, respect and cooperation. As they seek to promote together an ever more dignified and humane society, I pray that they will be enriched by the gift of love, knowing that “a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love” (Deus Caritas Est ).

On the global scene, the Holy See appreciates the interest your country has shown in favouring a greater involvement of the international community in the promotion of peace through the defence of human rights and the rule of law, in the struggle against poverty and especially in the protection of the environment. Your country’s experience and technological expertise in the use of alternative energies can be of great service to other populations and contribute to mankind’s desire to be better stewards of God’s creation. I likewise cannot fail to commend Iceland’s concern for those who suffer the effects of war and underdevelopment which has made your population generously open in receiving refugees and, among other initiatives, eager to see international trade established on a more equitable basis.

In your address, Madam Ambassador, you mentioned difficulties experienced by your fellow citizens as a result of recent financial hardships. People worldwide are surveying with apprehension the present period of international economic instability. The Holy See is concerned for its negative effects on countries and individuals, and follows with particular attention the proposals to consolidate national and international financial institutions on more prudent and morally responsible foundations. I pray that political and economic leaders will be guided in their decisions by wisdom, foresight and appreciation of the common good. I am confident that the people of Iceland, noted for their resilience and courage, will overcome this time of turbulence and that, with the Lord’s good favour, through wise political decisions and with the help of the nation’s many professionally qualified and competent sons and daughters, they will once again enjoy economic stability.

Your Excellency, please receive these reflections as an expression of the Holy See’s attentive consideration and appreciation of your country. I wish you every success in your new mission and I invite you to count on the cooperation of the different Departments of the Roman Curia. Once again I am pleased to renew my good wishes to His Excellency President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, and to the Government and people of your country. May Almighty God bestow upon the nation abundant and lasting blessings of well-being, stability and peace!


Mr Ambassador,

I am happy to greet you, Your Excellency, on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to the Holy See. I thank you, Mr Ambassador, for your cordial words. I would be grateful if you would kindly express to His Royal Highness Grand Duke Henri my cordial good wishes for himself and for the Grand Ducal family, as well as for the happiness and success of the people of Luxembourg. I pray God to accompany the efforts and initiatives of all those who are concerned for the common good.

The festivities in honour of the 1,350th anniversary of the birth of St Willibrord, the second patron of your nation, are coming to an end with the end of this year. It is thanks to him, a tireless missionary amid great political turmoil, that the seed of the Gospel was scattered in your land, thrived, bore fruit and made a deep imprint on your country's history. Still today, the Catholic community takes an active part in the social and political life of your nation, seeking to make a useful contribution to the well-being of the entire population and to participate effectively in the resolution of the problems that effect the lives of men and women.

It is, in particular, a pressing common duty of all to protect human dignity from the assaults it undergoes as a result of conditions of poverty which exist even in the heart of the most developed nations like your own. This attention must be shown at various levels: in local action but also on a national scale and without forgetting international cooperation. However, may the current financial crisis that has given rise to so many worries not divert your country from the efforts it is making for solidarity and for development aid. I hope that your country may likewise be able to reassert to the other developed nations with which it has close relations that the rich countries cannot forget their responsibilities, in the first place, for the destiny of the poorest peoples. May the prosperity which your nation fortunately enjoys impose upon it the duty of exemplification.

Paradoxically, the financial context is an invitation to seek the true treasure of existence and to be attentive to the balances that make harmonious social life possible. Respect for Sunday is certainly one of the elements that contribute to this. Over and above this day's religious significance, its uniqueness reminds each citizen that he possesses a lofty dignity and that his work is not servile. Sunday is offered to all so that the human being is not reduced to being merely the member of a work force or a consumer but rather that he may rest and devote some time to the most important of human realities: family life, free encounters with others, spiritual activities and the worship of God. It is important not to lose, in a vain and dangerous race for profit, that which is not only a social acquisition but also and especially a mark of profound humanist wisdom.

Mr Ambassador,

I would also like to take the opportunity of our meeting to express to you my very deep concern about the text of the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide that is currently being discussed in Parliament. In practice, this text accompanied moreover and in a contradictory manner by another bill which contains felicitous legal measures for developing palliative care to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to encourage the appropriate humane care for the patient legitimizes the possibility of putting an end to life. Political leaders, who have the grave duty of serving the good of the human being, and likewise doctors and families, must remember that "the deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit" (Encyclical Evangelium vitae EV 57). In truth, love and true compassion take a different path. The request that rises from the human heart, especially when a person is tempted to cede to discouragement and has reached the point of wishing to disappear, is above all a request for company and an appeal for greater solidarity and support in trial. This appeal may seem demanding but it is the only one worthy of the human being and gives access to new and deeper forms of solidarity which, ultimately, enrich and strengthen family and social ties. On this path of humanization all people of good will are asked to cooperate and the Church, for her part, is determined to commit to it all her resources of attention and service. Faithful to their Christian and human roots and to the constant concern to further the common good, may every member of the population of Luxembourg always have at heart to reaffirm the greatness and inviolable character of human life!

To conclude, Mr Ambassador, I am pleased to greet, through you, Archbishop Fernand Franck of Luxembourg, the priests, deacons and all the faithful who form the Catholic community of the Grand Duchy.

As I have emphasized, I know that they are concerned with building, together with other citizens, a social life in which each one may find the ways to personal and collective fulfilment. May God strengthen these good intentions!

Your Excellency, at the time when you are officially inaugurating your duties at the Holy See, I express my best wishes to you for the successful accomplishment of your task. You may be sure, Mr Ambassador, that you will always find cordial attention and understanding with my collaborators. As I invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St Willibrord, I pray the Lord to bestow generous Blessings upon you, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the authorities and the people of Luxembourg.


Mr Ambassador,

I receive you with pleasure today and welcome you at the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Madagascar to the Holy See. Please thank H.E. Mr Marc Ravalomanana, President of the Republic, for his cordial wishes. To reciprocate I ask you kindly to convey to him my respectful wishes for himself and for his lofty mission at the service of his citizens. I would also like to greet through you all the beloved Malagasy people.

I am touched, Mr Ambassador, by the courteous words you have addressed to me and I thank you for them. This year the "Great Island" has not been spared by natural disasters. Cyclones have destroyed numerous homes, bridges and roads, and the paddy fields and flocks have been seriously damaged.

Some people have died, others have been injured and yet others have lost their possessions. I would like to assure the entire Malagasy people of my closeness in concern and prayer. May God, in his goodness, take pity on his people and hear the voices of those who call him (cf. Ps 5,3) and implore his aid! And with the Psalmist I say: "Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted" (Ps 9b[10]: 12). In this context it is fortunate that the Solidarity and Development 2008 Prize of the St Matthew Foundation in memory of Cardinal Francis Xavier Van Thuan was awarded last 13 November, on the occasion of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the AKAMASOA project for small houses for the homeless in Antananarivo.

Two years ago, the President of the Republic presented and began to implement the "Madagascar Action Plan" (MAP) and "Fihavanana" (Fraternity in Solidarity), destined to develop the country, especially the rural zones, to build roads and to protect nature, as well as to encourage social harmony and peace. Scholarization, measures to diminish infant mortality and the fight against pandemics were also promoted. I hope for Madagascar that these projects and achievements will meet with the renewed favour of the international community so that it may continue to show great generosity and avoid exploiting the financial crisis that is rocking world and national economies as a pretext to reduce or suppress aid.

In July next year, Your Excellency, your country will be hosting the Summit of the African Union and the following year, the Summit of the French-speaking communities. These two events will direct international attention to Madagascar and enable it to work for harmony and peace among peoples, especially in the African continent, tortured by countless conflicts civil conflicts or wars between States and by the human tragedies that afflict a defenceless population that is all too often obliged to fight for its human and material survival. These international meetings, which must be encouraged, not only foster dialogue between different partners but also and above all open doors to various kinds of cooperation that permit reciprocal exchange, in dignity, goods and values that will enrich the respective populations and attenuate the social and economic imbalances that exist between the north and south of the planet. When these goods and values are fully used in conformity with the Lord's design, the whole of humanity will be greater. Lastly, as my venerable Predecessor said to the previous Ambassador, these international meetings tell the world that Madagascar desires to be increasingly committed "to the path of good government and respect for human rights" (Address to H.E. Mr Jean-Pierre Razafy-Andriamihaingo, Ambassador of Madagascar, 13 December 2002).

As you know, Mr Ambassador, the Catholic Church desires to make her own contribution. She has been present in Madagascar for centuries and is predominantly Malagasy. Malagasy Catholics, lay people and members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy share the sufferings and hopes of the people. They work, in accordance with their means, for the common good and the development of the Malagasy people. They desire to contribute to building a society founded on justice and peace. Their intention is to do their utmost to serve the Church and the people whose children they are, in this their nation.

They are therefore concerned with the whole of national life and the laws that regulate it, as well as the bills of law that must perfect the citizens' daily life. The long, rich tradition of the Church makes a positive contribution to the gradual construction of the nation. The Church does not seek to interfere in a domain that is not her own and is strictly political; quite simply, by virtue of her own nature, she desires to participate in the building and consolidation of national life.

Mr Ambassador, I would like for you also to kindly convey my greetings to the Catholic community in your country. It participates in the development and growth of the entire nation and you know the role it plays in the areas of education and health care, especially for the least privileged people whose plight it endeavours to relieve. The Church has contributed some important figures, as their charity and love for Madagascar has demonstrated. I am thinking in particular of Bl. Victoria Rasoamanarivo and of Venerable Bro. Raphael-Louis Rafiringa, whose Cause is progressing. I am sure that the young generations will find in them ever relevant models to follow and to imitate.

At the time when your mission of representation to the Holy See is officially beginning, I offer you, Mr Ambassador, my cordial good wishes for the success of your noble task and I would like to assure you that you will always meet with a warm welcome and attentive understanding from my collaborators, so that the harmonious relations that exist between the Republic of Madagascar and the Holy See may continue and be deepened.

I wholeheartedly invoke upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family and upon your collaborators, as well as upon the Nation's leaders and the entire Malagasy people, an abundance of God's Blessings.

TO H.E. Mr. OSCAR AYUSO NEW AMBASSADOR OF BELIZE TO THE HOLY SEE Clementine Hall Thursday, 18 December 2008

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of Belize. I am grateful for the greetings which you have brought from the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, and I ask you to convey to them my own cordial greetings and good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers for you and your fellow-citizens.

I very much appreciate your kind reference to the contribution made by the Church to the development of your nation, especially through her well-established educational and social apostolates. A history of fruitful cooperation with the civil authorities and respectful relations with other religious groups has, in fact, enabled the Church freely to carry out her proper religious and cultural mission in Belize. The support traditionally given by the state to Catholic schools, and to the religious education of the young, has not only benefited the Church, but has also helped to strengthen the fabric of society as a whole.

Young people everywhere are entitled to a sound education which can allow them to integrate the intellectual, human and religious dimensions of life within a coherent synthesis (cf. Gravissimum Educationis GE 1). Belizeans are rightly proud of their rich history, the diversity of their cultural and religious traditions, and the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation which has long characterized relations between various groups within society. That impressive legacy cannot be taken for granted, but needs to be constantly reappropriated and consciously handed down to the younger generation at every level of education and community life.

This task is particularly urgent today, when the values which have traditionally shaped Belize’s national life and identity are being challenged by the importation of certain cultural models which, tragically, sap the very energies and gifts which young people bring to society: their idealism, generosity, joy, hope and enthusiasm. By fostering a climate of cynicism and alienation, they facilitate the spread of a counter-culture of violence and escapism, and the search for false utopias through alcohol and drug abuse. The latter phenomenon, which has proved destructive of so many lives and hopes, is a source of particular concern for all those committed to the welfare, not only of the young, but of society as a whole. The Church, for her part, wishes to help meet these challenges by assisting young people to discern, in the light of the Gospel, the lasting truths which are the foundation of an authentic and truly fulfilling life, and the basis of a peaceful and humane social community.

Essential to the future of any society are its families. In my Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, I emphasized the unique role of the family as “the foundation of society and the first and indispensable teacher of peace” (No. 3). Strong families have long been a hallmark of your national life, and the Catholic community in Belize is committed to work with all people of good will in meeting responsibly the growing threats to the institutions of marriage and the family, especially by upholding the nature of marriage based on the life-long union of a man and woman, protecting the specific rights of the family, and respecting the inviolable dignity of all human life, from the moment of conception to natural death. This witness, aimed at informing public opinion and fostering wise, far-sighted family policies, is meant to contribute to the common good by defending an institution which has been, and continues to be, “an essential resource in the service of peace” and social progress (cf. ibid., 5).

Within the global community your nation has sought to consolidate its ties with other countries and to engage in programmes of international cooperation. On the basis of its past history, its relatively recent experience of independence, and the stability of its political life, Belize can serve as an encouragement and a point of reference not only within the Caribbean and Central America, but to young democracies in other parts of the world. Through such solidarity, people of good will can unite their efforts to create a social order embodying the values of freedom, respectful dialogue and cooperation in the service of the common good, the safeguarding of human dignity, and the fostering of effective concern for the poor and the disadvantaged.

With these sentiments, Mr Ambassador, I now offer you my prayerful good wishes for the mission which you have undertaken in the service of your country, and I assure you of the readiness of the various offices of the Holy See to assist you in the fulfilment of your responsibilities. I am confident that your representation will help to strengthen the good relations existing between the Holy See and Belize. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved people of your nation, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.


Madam Ambassador,

I welcome you with pleasure at the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Tunisia to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings from H.E. Mr Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Republic. I would be grateful if you would kindly convey to him my gratitude, as well as my cordial wishes for himself and for the whole of the Tunisian people.

To enable each person and likewise each family to enjoy the well-being necessary for their full development, economic and social progress are essential. I am therefore delighted to learn that in recent years your country has experienced tangible progress in these areas. In the difficult financial situation that the world is undergoing today authentic solidarity must be established, both within each country and between nations, so that the poorest people will not be even further penalized. In fact, economic growth achieved at the expense of human beings, entire populations or social groups, condemning them to indigence, is unacceptable (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 332).

Economic progress must also go hand in hand with the development of the person's human and spiritual formation. Indeed, human life cannot be reduced to a material dimension. I acknowledge the efforts that Tunisia has made for the education of youth.

In the face of the difficulties and uncertainties of life and sometimes too a certain erosion of reference points that give it meaning, the younger generations need to receive a sound education to help them confront the rapid transformations of society. Special attention to cultural and religious differences will enable them to be better integrated in a world increasingly marked by the intermingling of cultures and religions, as well as to help in building a more fraternal world with greater solidarity.

Intercultural and interreligious dialogue is indeed an unavoidable necessity in our day if we are to be able to act together for peace and stability in the world and to further authentic respect for the person and for fundamental human rights. Moreover, recognition of the central place of the person and the dignity of each human being, as well as respect for life that is a gift of God, hence sacred, are a common foundation on which to build a more harmonious world that better accepts legitimate differences. The construction of a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized also implies respect for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion for each one, for the expression of authentic religious beliefs is the truest manifestation of human freedom.

Tunisia's location in the Maghreb invites it to play an important international role, particularly in the Mediterranean and in Africa. The establishment of good neighbourly relations between nations cannot fail to contribute to a clearer awareness of our common membership in one human family. International cooperation and exchanges are therefore to be encouraged, not only to guarantee the right to development to all but also to establish an authentic community of brothers and sisters, called to form one large family.

For this reason, beyond the narrow logic of market relations, social life must be based on the solid foundation of common spiritual and ethical values in order to respond to the needs of the common good and to preserve the rights of the weakest.

Madam Ambassador, the Catholic Church expresses her presence in Tunisian society mainly through her educational institutions and also in the health care sector as well as attention to the disabled. It is through her commitments to serving the people, regardless of their origin or religion, that she intends to contribute in her own way to the common good. The respect and kindness shown to these institutions of the Church are a sign of the trust they enjoy on the part of the Authorities and of the population. I can only rejoice in this.

In fact, as you know, the Catholic community in Tunisia which I would be grateful if you would greet warmly on my behalf is linked to an ancient tradition that has marked the cultural and spiritual life of your country. Saints such as Cyprian, Perpetua and Felicity and many others bore witness there to the one God to the point of giving their lives. I therefore ask Catholics, in profound communion with their Bishop, to manifest enthusiastically to those around them, in the image of their Fathers in the faith, the love of God which motivates them to be radiant witnesses of the hope they bear within them.

At the time when you are inaugurating your mission to the Holy See, Madam Ambassador, I offer you my cordial good wishes for its success so that the harmonious relations between the Holy See and Tunisia may continue to develop, and I assure you that you will always find an attentive welcome with my collaborators.

Upon you, Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the Authorities and all the inhabitants of Tunisia, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of the Almighty's Blessings.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive Your Excellency at the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Holy See and I warmly thank you for conveying to me the courteous message from H.E. Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic.

I would be grateful if you would kindly convey to him in return my best wishes for him, as well as for the civil and religious authorities and for the whole Kazakh people.

Kazakhstan occupies a geographical position that puts it in contact with important geopolitical entities: Europe, Russia, China and the countries with a Muslim majority. Its diversified population includes people with very different languages and cultural traditions. These two elements, combined with the natural riches that your country possesses, are a gift of God which it is necessary to manage well. This gift offers great possibilities and unfolds prospects that can concern the future of the human being and contribute to the affirmation of his dignity. Your President has wished to make your land a place for meeting and dialogue, a sort of laboratory in which one seeks to live a respectful coexistence of cultural and religious diversity, a space that can show other peoples and nations that it is possible for men to live in dignity, peace and respect for the belief and particular nature of each one. I could not sufficiently encourage all the initiatives taken both within your frontiers and outside them for interpersonal, intercultural and interreligious dialogue. The world is thirsting for peace and God desires it to grow and develop in harmony. In this regard, I acknowledge the courageous and open approaches of dialogue your country has taken that will bear fruit within your own nation and consolidate stability in the region.

You know, Mr Ambassador, the positive role that religions can play in society, with respect for one another and collaborating to achieve common aims. It is certainly the State's role to guarantee full religious freedom but also to learn to respect the religious dimension and not to interfere in matters of faith or in the citizen's conscience. There is a great temptation for every State to leave the definition of the political and religious areas vague thus risking to fail to recognize what is outside its authority. Every State is consequently required to be watchful in order to avoid the negative effects of interference in the area of religion and its abuse as well as to respect the individual religious dimension which only asks to be simply and freely expressed without hindrance. Many are attentively observing Kazakhstan and its new approach in managing relations between religion and the State in order to learn from it. It is a unique opportunity offered to your country which should not be missed but willingly accepted. The Holy See supports all initiatives and activities to further peace and friendship among nations because they encourage mutual respect and human fulfilment.

Human nature, desired by God to be holy and noble, is not immune to defiance and the human heart is undermined by selfishness and falsity, as well as by his lack of inclination to solidarity and compassion. The various religious traditions that coexist in your nation will be able to suggest positive approaches in order to contribute successfully to its construction and development. They will not fail to help their faithful to conform to God's will and to work for the common good. Solidarity is essential in both interpersonal and interstate relations. Your country, on which the Most High has lavished human and natural riches, will be able to find the means to enable its own citizens and those nations which, less well endowed, still need various forms of assistance to benefit. The fair sharing of goods is becoming an imperative not only because it encourages political, national and international stability but because it responds to the divine will to create humankind as brothers and sisters to one another.

The Catholic community, which I ask you kindly to greet on my behalf, Mr Ambassador, has long been present in your country and has lived through many turbulent events in history. It has remained faithful, thanks to the self-denial of its priests, its men and women religious and thanks to the flame of faith that is still burning in believers' hearts (cf. Ad limina visit of the Bishops of Central Asia, 2 October 2008). These Catholic Kazakhs want to live their faith sincerely and to be able to continue to practise it serenely for their own personal perfection, of course, but also for the spiritual enrichment of your country through their own religious contribution. By its presence, its prayers and its actions the Catholic community participates in the stability and religious harmony of the noble Kazakhi society as a whole. The Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Kazakhstan, that was signed and came into being 10 years ago, guarantees the rights and duties of Catholics in your country and the rights and obligations of your State to them. As an epilogue to your address, Your Excellency, you described our bilateral relations as exemplary because, you said, they are based on "full reciprocal understanding and trust". You were right to emphasize this and I gladly congratulate you. May God bless this mutual trust and strengthen it increasingly!

At the time when you are beginning your noble mission, Mr Ambassador, certain that you will always find an attentive welcome from my collaborators, I offer you my best wishes for its success and for the continuation and development of harmonious relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Kazakhstan. I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family and upon all the Embassy staff, as well as upon the President of the Republic, upon the other leaders and upon all the inhabitants of your nation.


Mr Ambassador,

It is with great joy that I welcome you to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the Holy See. I thank you for the kind words you have addressed to me and for the greetings and the invitation you have conveyed to me from His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah. In return, please assure him of my best wishes for him and for the inhabitants of the Kingdom that they may all live in peace and prosperity.

The visit His Majesty paid to me at Castel Gandolfo last July, as well as your appointment, Your Excellency, as the first Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain, are signs of the good relations that your country wishes to pursue with the Holy See. I am truly delighted and hope that they will become even deeper.

The developments in the Kingdom in recent years express its constant anxiety to advance towards establishing a society open to the world and for increasingly fraternal relations with other nations, while remaining faithful to its legitimate traditional values. The participation of the greatest possible number in the guidance and management of the country's life can only help to maintain unity and solidarity among the various members of society, as well as encourage the common good.

I would like to acknowledge your country's commitment, which you emphasized, Mr Ambassador, to promoting a policy of peace and dialogue. Indeed, the Kingdom of Bahrain has a long tradition of tolerance and hospitality. In particular, it accepts numerous foreign workers who take part in the country's development. When they are far from their countries of origin and their families, which can only render their lives more difficult, may they feel at home in your country, thanks to the welcome they are given!

Among these foreign workers, a large number are Catholic. I would like here to thank the Authorities of the Kingdom for the welcome offered to them and for the possibility they are given to practise their religion. I am, moreover, glad to recall that the church built in 1939, on a piece of land donated by the Emir of that time, was the first church to be built in the Gulf States. Nevertheless, all are aware that today, with the increase in the number of Catholics, it would be desirable for them to have other places of worship at their disposal.

Respect for religious freedom which is one of the rights guaranteed by your country's Constitution is of the utmost importance because it affects the most profound and sacred dimension of man: his relationship with God. Religion provides the response to the question of the true meaning of life in the personal and social domains. Religious freedom that enables each one to live his belief alone or with others, in private or in public, also requires the possibility for the person to change his religion should his conscience so require. Moreover, at the time of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church solemnly stressed the obligation that man has to follow his conscience in all circumstances and that no one be forced to act contrary to his conscience (cf. Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis humanae DH 3).

Your country is also concerned to contribute to establishing an authentic dialogue between cultures and between the members of the different religions. Indeed, it is indispensable that an increasingly sincere understanding between people and among civil and religious groups develop, in order to establish increasingly fraternal relations. This begins with listening to one another respectfully on the basis of reciprocal esteem. While recognizing the divergences that separate us, Christians and Muslims, as well as our different approaches on many points, it is important that we collaborate in the world today to defend and promote the essential values of life and the family that enable man to live in fidelity to the one God and enable society to establish itself in peace and solidarity.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I would also like to greet the Catholic community in your country very warmly, as well as its Vicar Apostolic. I ask God to support them in their faith and to help them to be authentic witnesses of the hope that enlivens them. In the Kingdom of Bahrain, as in all countries, Catholics seek to contribute to the good of society. Thus, the Sacred Heart School run by Carmelite women religious who provide high quality teaching for the young, regardless of their origin or religion, has for many years been an eloquent sign of this commitment.

In this perspective I hope that the local Church and her institutions may always make their own contribution to the good of all society, in trusting dialogue and in effective collaboration with the country's Authorities.

Mr Ambassador, at the time when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I address my cordial good wishes to you for its success and I assure you of the availability of my collaborators among whom you will always find understanding and support so that it may develop smoothly.

Upon you, your family and your collaborators, as well as on all the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Bahrain and their leaders, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of Blessings from the Most High.


Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Fiji Islands to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from President Ratu Josefa Iloilo and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Please convey my greetings to each of them and assure them of my continued prayers for all the people of the Fiji Islands.

The Holy See is always encouraged to see signs of progress towards greater peace and stability, and hopes very much that the steps being taken towards re-establishing a democratically elected form of government in Fiji, drawing on the talents and energies of all the inhabitants, will bear fruit. Indeed, one of the key principles of the Christian view of social and political organization is the virtue of solidarity, through which the different elements of society work together to achieve the common good of all, thereby producing what my predecessor Pope Paul VI so beautifully described as a “civilization of love” (Homily for the close of the Holy Year 1975). For this reason the Church values the democratic system, as one which gives a voice to all the different sectors of society and encourages shared responsibility. It remains the case, however, that “the moral well-being of the world can never be guaranteed simply through structures alone, however good they are” (Spe Salvi ): democracy on its own is not enough, unless it is guided and enlightened by values rooted in the truth about the human person (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 46).

It is here that the Holy See’s diplomatic relations with States can make an important contribution to the common good. While governments take responsibility forthe political ordering of the State, the Church unceasingly proclaims her vision of the God-given dignity and rights of the human person. It is on this basis that she urges political leaders to ensure that all their people can live in peace and freedom, without fear of discrimination or injustice of any kind. She urges civil authorities to guarantee the most fundamental of all rights, namely the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death. Following on from this is the right to live in a united family and a moral environment conducive to personal growth, the right to seek and know the truth through education, the right to work and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour, the right to establish a family and rear children responsibly. The synthesis of all these rights is found in religious freedom, understood as “the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person” (Centesimus Annus CA 47).

The Catholic community in Fiji is eager to play its part in promoting the respect due to the human person, especially through commitment to education and charitable activity. Indeed, the proper formation of the young and the service of the needy is integral to the Church’s mission in the world, and both are key elements in her contribution to the common good of society. Owing to the presence of Christians from different traditions, as well as members of other religions, Fiji provides fertile ground for the development of ecumenical initiatives and inter-religious dialogue. The Catholic Church is pleased to contribute her expertise in these areas, and to cooperate with all men and women of good will so as to offer a common witness to the values that must underpin a “civilization of love”. In particular, it behoves those who worship God to champion the cause of the poor, the lowly and the defenceless, those who have always been recognized as especially close to him.

Mr Ambassador, as you know, the Pacific region faces many challenges at this time, not least the effects of climate change, especially on island populations, and the need to preserve natural resources. The beauty of God’s creation is especially evident to those who live in the South Pacific. It is my earnest hope that through regional and global cooperation, agreement can be reached on “a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances” (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7). In this way, future generations of Pacific islanders will still be able to enjoy the wonders of God’s creative genius and to live in true peace and harmony with nature.

Your Excellency, in offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Republic of the Fiji Islands, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.


Your Excellencies,

I receive you with joy this morning, for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See: Malawi, Sweden, Sierra Leone, Iceland, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Republic of Madagascar, Belize, Tunisia, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Republic of the Fiji Islands. I thank you for the courteous words that you have kindly addressed to me on behalf of your Heads of State. I would be grateful if you would reciprocate by conveying to them my cordial greetings and my respectful good wishes for themselves and for their lofty mission at the service of their countries and their peoples. I would also like to greet through you all the civil and religious authorities of your nations, as well as your compatriots.

My prayers and thoughts also go especially to the Catholic communities established in your countries where they are anxious to live the Gospel and to bear witness to it in a fraternal spirit of collaboration.

The diversity of the places you come from enables me to thank God for his love as Creator and for the multiplicity of his gifts that never cease to give rise to wonder in men. It is a lesson. Diversity is sometimes frightening, which is why people actually prefer the monotony of uniformity. Political and economic systems that had a religious matrix or that have declared themselves such have affected humanity too long and have sought to standardize it with demagogy and violence. They have reduced and, unfortunately, are still reducing the human being to an unworthy slavery at the service of a single ideology or an inhumane and pseudo-scientific economy. We all know that an ideal, singular political model to be realized absolutely does not exist and that political philosophy evolves in time and in its expression with the refinement of human intelligence and the lessons drawn from political and economic experience. Each people has its own genius as well as "its own demons". Each people advances through its own childbirth, at times painful, toward a future it hopes will be luminous. Thus my hope is that every people may cultivate its genius, which it will do its best to enrich for the good of all, and that it may cleanse itself from its "demons" which it also does its best to control, to the point of eliminating them by transforming them into positive values, creating harmony, prosperity and peace, in order to defend the greatness of human dignity!

In reflecting on the ambassador's beautiful mission, one of the essential aspects of the ambassador's activity spontaneously springs to my mind: the search for and the promotion of peace, which I have just recalled. It is fitting to mention here the Beatitude spoken by Christ in his Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God" (Mt 5,9).

The ambassador can and must be a peacemaker. The builder of peace, which is in question here, is not only the person with a calm and reconciliatory temperament who desires to live in good understanding with all and, to avoid, if possible, conflicts but also the person who devotes himself entirely to the service of peace and is actively engaged in building it, sometimes even to the point of giving his life. History abounds with examples. Peace does not only imply the political or military state of not being at war; it refers globally to the overall conditions which permit harmony among all, and the personal development of each. Peace is desired by God who proposes it to human beings and offers it to them as a gift. This divine intervention in humanity is called the "covenant of peace" (Is 54,10). When Christ calls peacemakers "sons of God" he means that they participate and are consciously or unconsciously active in God's work and in his mission, and that they prepare the conditions necessary for welcoming peace from on high. Your mission, Your Excellencies, is lofty and noble. It demands all the energies that you will be able to call on to attain this exalted ideal that will honour yourselves, your governments and your respective countries.

You know, as I do, that authentic peace is only possible when justice reigns. Our world is thirsting for peace and justice. Moreover, the Holy See published on the eve of the Doha Conference that ended a few days ago a Note on the current financial crisis and its repercussions on society and on individuals. It presents several ethical aspects that must support relations between finance and development, both to encourage governments and economic actors to seek lasting solutions in solidarity for the common good and, more specifically, for those who are most exposed to the dramatic consequences of the crisis. Justice, to return to the topic, does not only have a social or even ethical value. It does not only refer to what is equitable or in conformity with the law. The Hebrew etymology of the term "justice" refers to something that has been "adjusted". God's justice is thus expressed through his justness. It puts everything in its right place, everything in order, so that the world may be in conformity with God's plan and with his order (cf. Is Is 11,3-5). The ambassador's noble task, therefore, consists in using his art so that all may be "adjusted" in order that the nation he serves may not only live in peace with other countries but also in accordance with the justice that is expressed by equity and solidarity in international relations, and so that citizens, enjoying social peace, may live their beliefs freely and serenely and thus join in the "justice" of God.

Madam and Mister Ambassadors, you are beginning your mission to the Holy See. I once again offer you my most cordial good wishes for the success of the most delicate role that you are called to carry out. I implore the Almighty to support you and to guide you, your dear ones, your collaborators and all your compatriots, so that you may contribute to the coming of a world that is more peaceful and more just. May God fill you with an abundance of his Blessings!

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