Speeches 2005-13 8019

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS Sala Regia Thursday, 8 January 2009


Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The mystery of the incarnation of the Word, which we re-live each year on the Solemnity of Christmas, invites us to reflect on the events marking the course of history. And it is precisely in the light of this hope-filled mystery that this traditional meeting takes place with you, the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See – a meeting which, at the beginning of this new year, offers us a fitting occasion to exchange cordial good wishes. I express my gratitude to His Excellency Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza for the good wishes he has kindly offered me, for the first time as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. My respectful greeting also goes to each of you, along with your families and staff, and, through you, to the peoples and governments of the countries which you represent. For everyone I ask God to grant the gift of a year rich in justice, serenity and peace.

At the dawn of this year 2009, I think with affection of all those who have suffered – whether as a result of grave natural catastrophes, particularly in Vietnam, Myanmar, China and the Philippines, in Central America and the Caribbean, and in Columbia and Brazil; or as a result of violent national or regional conflicts; or again as a result of terrorist attacks which have sown death and destruction in countries like Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Algeria. Despite so many efforts, the peace we so desire still remains distant! Faced with this reality, we must not grow discouraged or lessen our commitment to a culture of authentic peace, but rather redouble our efforts on behalf of security and development. In this regard, the Holy See wished to be among the first to sign and ratify the “Convention on Cluster Munitions”, a document which also has the aim of reaffirming international humanitarian law. On the other hand, while noting with concern the signs of crisis appearing in the area of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, the Holy See has continued to reaffirm that peace cannot be built when military expenses divert enormous human and material resources from projects for development, especially the development of the poorest peoples.

It is towards the poor, the all too many poor people on our planet, that I would like to turn my attention today, taking up my Message for the World Day of Peace, devoted this year to the theme: “Fighting Poverty To Build Peace”. The insightful analysis of Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio has lost none of its timeliness: “Today we see people trying to secure a sure food supply, cures for disease, and steady employment. We see them trying to eliminate every ill, to remove every obstacle which offends man’s dignity. They are constantly striving to exercise greater personal responsibility; to do more, to learn more and to have more, in order to be more. And yet, at the same time, so many people continue to live in conditions which frustrate these legitimate desires” (No. 6). To build peace, we need to give new hope to the poor. How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water? There is an urgent need to adopt an effective strategy to fight hunger and to promote local agricultural development, all the more so since the number of the poor is increasing even within the rich countries. In this perspective, I am pleased that the recent Doha Conference on financing development identified some helpful criteria for directing the governance of the economic system and helping those who are most in need. On a deeper level, bolstering the economy demands rebuilding confidence. This goal will only be reached by implementing an ethics based on the innate dignity of the human person. I know how demanding this will be, yet it is not a utopia! Today more than in the past, our future is at stake, as well as the fate of our planet and its inhabitants, especially the younger generation which is inheriting a severely compromised economic system and social fabric.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we wish to combat poverty, we must invest first and foremost in the young, setting before them an ideal of authentic fraternity. During my apostolic visits in the past year, I was able to meet many young people, especially in the extraordinary context of the celebration of the Twenty-third World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. My apostolic journeys, beginning with my visit to the United States, also allowed me to assess the expectations of many sectors of society with regard to the Catholic Church. In this sensitive phase of the history of humanity, marked by uncertainties and questioning, many people expect the Church to exercise clearly and courageously her mission of evangelization and her work of human promotion. It was in this context that I gave my address at the headquarters of the United Nations Organization: sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I wished to stress that this document is founded on the dignity of the human person, which in turn is based on our shared human nature, which transcends our different cultures. A few months later, during my pilgrimage to Lourdes for the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the appearances of the Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette, I sought to emphasize that the message of conversion and love which radiates from the grotto of Massabielle remains most timely, as a constant invitation to build our own lives and the relations between the world’s peoples on the foundation of authentic respect and fraternity, in the awareness that this fraternity presupposes that all men and women have a common Father, God the Creator. Moreover, a society which is “secular” in a healthy way does not ignore the spiritual dimension and its values, since religion – and I thought it helpful to repeat this during my pastoral visit to France – is not an obstacle but rather a solid foundation for the building of a more just and free society.

Acts of discrimination and the very grave attacks directed at thousands of Christians in this past year show to what extent it is not merely material poverty, but also moral poverty, which damages peace. Such abuses, in fact, are rooted in moral poverty. As a way of reaffirming the lofty contribution which religions can make to the struggle against poverty and the building of peace, I would like to repeat in this assembly, which symbolically represents all the nations of the world, that Christianity is a religion of freedom and peace, and it stands at the service of the true good of humanity. To our brothers and sisters who are victims of violence, especially in Iraq and in India, I renew the assurance of my paternal affection; to the civil and political authorities, I urgently request that they be actively committed to ending intolerance and acts of harassment directed against Christians, to repairing the damage which has been done, particularly to the places of worship and properties; and to encouraging by every means possible due respect for all religions, outlawing all forms of hatred and contempt. I also express my hope that, in the Western world, prejudice or hostility against Christians will not be cultivated simply because, on certain questions, their voice causes disquiet. For their part, may the disciples of Christ, in the face of such adversity, not lose heart: witness to the Gospel is always a “sign of contradiction” vis-à-vis “the spirit of the world”! If the trials and tribulations are painful, the constant presence of Christ is a powerful source of strength. Christ’s Gospel is a saving message meant for all; that is why it cannot be confined to the private sphere, but must be proclaimed from the rooftops, to the ends of the earth.

The birth of Christ in the lowly stable of Bethlehem leads us naturally to think of the situation in the Middle East and, in the first place, in the Holy Land, where, in these days, we have witnessed a renewed outbreak of violence provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian population. This situation further complicates the quest for a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, something fervently desired by many of them and by the whole world. Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned. I express my hope that, with the decisive commitment of the international community, the ceasefire in the Gaza strip will be re-established – an indispensable condition for restoring acceptable living conditions to the population –, and that negotiations for peace will resume, with the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms. It is very important that, in view of the crucial elections which will involve many of the inhabitants of the region in coming months, leaders will emerge who can decisively carry forward this process and guide their people towards the difficult yet indispensable reconciliation. This cannot be reached without the adoption of a global approach to the problems of these countries, with respect for the legitimate aspirations and interests of all parties. In addition to renewed efforts aimed at the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I have just mentioned, wholehearted support must be given to dialogue between Israel and Syria and, in Lebanon, to the current strengthening of institutions; this will be all the more effective if it is carried out in a spirit of unity. To the Iraqis, who are preparing again to take full control of their future, I offer a particular word of encouragement to turn the page and to look forward in order to rebuild without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic group or religion. As far as Iran is concerned, tireless efforts must be made to seek a negotiated solution to the controversy concerning the nation’s nuclear programme, through a mechanism capable of satisfying the legitimate demands of the country and of the international community. This would greatly favour détente in the region and in the world.

Looking to the great continent of Asia, I note with concern that, while in certain countries acts of violence continue, and in others the political situation remains tense, some progress has been made, enabling us to look to the future with greater confidence. I think for example of the new negotiations for peace in Mindanao, in the Philippines, and the new direction being taken in relations between Beijing and Taipei. In this same context of the quest for peace, a definitive solution of the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka would also have to be political, since the humanitarian needs of the peoples concerned must continue to receive ongoing attention. The Christian communities living in Asia are often numerically small, yet they wish to contribute in a convincing and effective way to the common good, stability and progress of their countries, as they bear witness to the primacy of God which sets up a healthy order of values and grants a freedom more powerful than acts of injustice. The recent beatification, in Japan, of 188 martyrs brought this eloquently to mind. The Church, as has often been said, does not demand privileges, but the full application of the principle of religious freedom. In this perspective, it is important that, in central Asia, legislation concerning religious communities guarantee the full exercise of this fundamental right, in respect for international norms.

In a few months, I will have the joy of meeting many of our brothers and sisters in the faith and in our common humanity who dwell in Africa. In anticipation of this visit, which I have so greatly desired, I ask the Lord to open their hearts to welcome the Gospel and to live it consistently, building peace by fighting moral and material poverty. A very particular concern must be shown for children: twenty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, they remain very vulnerable. Many children have the tragic experience of being refugees and displaced persons in Somalia, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are waves of migration involving millions of persons in need of humanitarian assistance and who above all have been deprived of their elementary rights and offended in their dignity. I ask political leaders on the national and international levels to take every measure necessary to resolve the current conflicts and to put an end to the injustices which caused them. I express my hope that in Somalia the restoration of the State will finally make progress, in order to end the interminable sufferings of the inhabitants of that country. In Zimbabwe, likewise, the situation remains critical and considerable humanitarian assistance is needed. The peace agreement in Burundi has brought a glimmer of hope to the region. I ask that it be applied fully, and thus become a source of inspiration for other countries which have not yet found the path of reconciliation. The Holy See, as you know, follows with special attention the continent of Africa and is pleased to have established diplomatic relations with Botswana in the past year.

In this vast panorama embracing the whole world, I wish likewise to dwell for a moment on Latin America. There too, people desire to live in peace, liberated from poverty and able freely to exercise their fundamental rights. In this context, the needs of emigrants need to be taken into consideration by legislation which would make it easier to reunite families, reconciling the legitimate requirements of security with those of inviolable respect for the person. I would also like to praise the overriding commitment shown by some governments towards re-establishing the rule of law and waging an uncompromising battle against the drug trade and political corruption. I am pleased that, thirty years after the start of the papal mediation between Argentina and Chile concerning their dispute over the southern territories, those two countries have in some way sealed their desire for peace by raising a monument to my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II. I hope, moreover, that the recent signing of the Agreement between the Holy See and Brazil will facilitate the free exercise of the Church’s mission of evangelization and further strengthen her cooperation with the civil institutions for an integral human development. For five centuries the Church has accompanied the peoples of Latin America, sharing their hopes and their concerns. Her Pastors know that, to favour the authentic progress of society, their proper task is to enlighten consciences and to form lay men and women capable of engaging responsibly in temporal affairs, at the service of the common good.

Turning lastly to the nations which are nearer at hand, I wish to greet the Christian community of Turkey, while recalling that, during this special Holy Year marking the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle Paul, numerous pilgrims are making their way to Tarsus, his native city, a fact which once more indicates how closely this land is linked to the origins of Christianity. The hope of peace is alive in Cyprus, where negotiations for a just solution to problems associated with the division of the Island have resumed. As for the Caucasus, I wish to affirm once more that the conflicts involving the states of the Region cannot be settled by recourse to arms; and, in thinking of Georgia, I express my hope that all the commitments subscribed to in the ceasefire of last August – an agreement concluded thanks to the diplomatic efforts of the European Union – will be honoured, and that the return of the displaced to their homes will be provided for as quickly as possible. Finally, with regard to the Southeast of Europe, the Holy See pursues its commitment to stability in the region, and hopes that conditions will continue to be created for a future of reconciliation and of peace between the populations of Serbia and Kosovo, with respect for minorities and commitment to the preservation of the priceless Christian artistic and cultural patrimony which constitutes a treasure for all humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, at the conclusion of this overview which, due to its brevity, cannot mention all the situations of suffering and poverty close to my heart, I return to my Message for the celebration of this year’s World Day of Peace. There I recalled that the poorest human beings are unborn children (No. 3). But I cannot fail to mention, in conclusion, others who are poor, like the infirm, the elderly left to themselves, broken families and those lacking points of reference. Poverty is fought if humanity becomes more fraternal as a result of shared values and ideals, founded on the dignity of the person, on freedom joined to responsibility, on the effective recognition of the place of God in the life of man. In this perspective, let us fix our gaze on Jesus, the lowly infant lying in the manger. Because he is the Son of God, he tells us that fraternal solidarity between all men and women is the royal road to fighting poverty and to building peace. May the light of his love illumine all government leaders and all humanity! May that light guide us throughout this year which has now begun! I wish all of you a happy New Year.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great joy I welcome you who have come in such large numbers today, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Neocatechumenal Way in Rome, which currently numbers a good 500 communities. My cordial greeting to you all. In a special way I greet the Cardinal Vicar Agostino Vallini, as well as Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who has followed the process for the approval of your Statutes with dedication. I greet those in charge of the Neocatechumenal Way: Mr Kiko Argüello, whom I cordially thank for his words expressing all of your sentiments, I greet Mrs Carmen Hernández and I greet Fr Mario Pezzi. I greet the communities who set out to the neediest suburbs of Rome to do mission work, those who depart for the "missio ad gentes" on the five continents, the 200 new itinerant families and the 700 itinerant catechists responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way in the various nations. Thank you to all. May the Lord accompany you.

Significantly, this meeting of ours is taking place in the Vatican Basilica, built on the tomb of the Apostle Peter. It was he himself, Prince of the Apostles who, in response to the question that Jesus addressed to the Twelve concerning his identity, fervently confessed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16,16). You are gathered here today to renew this same profession of faith. Your presence, so numerous and so lively, testifies to the miracles worked by the Lord in the past four decades. It also demonstrates the commitment with which you intend to persevere on the journey you have begun, a journey of following Christ faithfully and of courageous witness to his Gospel, not only here in Rome but wherever Providence leads you a way of docile adherence to the Pastors' directives and of communion with all the other members of the People of God. You intend to do this being well aware that helping the people of our time to encounter Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, is what constitutes the mission of the Church and of every baptized person. The "Neocatechumenal Way" fits into this ecclesial mission as one of the many ways inspired by the Holy Spirit with the Second Vatican Council for the new evangelization.

It all began here in Rome, 40 years ago, when the first communities of the Neocatechumenal Way were established in the Roman Parish of the Holy Canadian Martyrs. How can we not praise the Lord for the spiritual fruits that it has been possible to gather in these years through your method of evangelization? How many fresh apostolic energies have been inspired, among both priests and lay people! How many men and women and how many families who had drifted away from the ecclesial community or had abandoned the practice of Christian life through the proclamation of the kerygma and the process of the rediscovery of Baptism have been helped to rediscover the joy of faith and the enthusiasm of Gospel witness! The recent approval of the Statutes of the Way by the Pontifical Council for the Laity has sealed the esteem and benevolence with which the Holy See follows the work that the Lord has inspired through your Initiators. The Pope, Bishop of Rome, thanks you for the generous service you offer to the evangelization of this City and for the dedication with which you work to bring the Christian proclamation into every environment thanks to all of you.

Your apostolic action, already very praiseworthy, will be all the more effective to the extent that you strive to constantly cultivate that yearning for unity which Jesus communicated to the Twelve during the Last Supper. As we have heard in the first song, before the Passion our Redeemer prayed intensely that his disciples all would be one so that the world would be impelled to believe in him (cf. Jn 17,21) because this unity can come only by the power of God. It is this unity, a gift of the Holy Spirit and a ceaseless quest of believers, which makes each community a living structure that is well integrated into the Mystical Body of Christ. The unity of the Lord's disciples is part of the very essence of the Church and is an indispensable condition for its evangelizing action to be both fruitful and credible. I know with how much zeal the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way are working in at least 103 Roman parishes. As I encourage you to continue in this commitment, I urge you to intensify your adherence to all of the directives of the Cardinal Vicar, my direct collaborator in the pastoral government of the Diocese. Thank you for your "yes" that obviously comes from the heart. The organic insertion of the "Way" into the pastoral work of the Diocese and its unity with other ecclesial realities will prove beneficial to the entire Christian people and make the Diocese's effort for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in this our city more effective. Actually today a vast missionary movement is necessary. It must involve the different ecclesial bodies which, while each retains the originality of its own charism, work in harmony, seeking to achieve that "integrated pastoral action" which has already made significant results possible. And you, placing yourselves at full disposal to the Bishop's service as your Statutes recall will be able to serve as an example for many local Churches that rightly look to that of Rome as a reference model.

There is another spiritual fruit that has matured in these 40 years for which I would like to thank Divine Providence together with you: it is the large number of priests and consecrated people which the Lord as Kiko has mentioned has inspired in your communities. Many priests are engaged in the parishes and in other fields of the diocesan apostolate, and many are the itinerant missionaries in various nations. They are carrying out a generous service to the Church of Rome and the Church of Rome renders an invaluable service to evangelization in the world. It is a true "springtime of hope" for the diocesan community of Rome and for the universal Church! I thank the Rector and his collaborators in Rome's Redemptoris Mater Seminary for their educational work. Their task is far from easy but is very important for the Church's future. I therefore encourage them to continue with this mission, adopting the formational approaches proposed both by the Holy See and by the Dioceses. The goal of all formators should be to prepare priests who are well integrated into the diocesan presbyterate and into both parochial and diocesan pastoral ministry.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Gospel passage that has been proclaimed has reminded us of the challenges and conditions of the apostolic mission. Jesus' words, recorded by the Evangelist St Matthew, resound as an invitation not to be discouraged in the face of difficulties, not to seek human success and not to fear misunderstandings or even persecutions. Rather, they are an encouragement to place one's trust in Christ's power, to take up one's "own cross" and to follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer who, in this Christmas Season now nearing its end, appeared to us in the humility and poverty of Bethlehem. May the Holy Virgin, model of every disciple of Christ and a "house of blessing" as you have sung, help you to carry out joyfully and faithfully the mandate that the Church confidently entrusts to you. As I thank you for your service to the Church of Rome, I assure you of my prayers and I warmly bless you who are present here and all the communities of the Neocatechumenal Way scattered in all the world.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the beginning of the new year the Pope's welcoming at his home of the administrators of the Municipality of Rome, the Province of Rome and the Region of Lazio for a cordial exchange of good wishes is a good tradition. This meeting is taking place this morning in an atmosphere of esteem and sincere friendship. I therefore thank you for your appreciated presence. I address a respectful greeting in the first place to the President of the Regional Administrative Board of Lazio, Mr Pietro Marrazzo, to the Mayor of Rome, Hon. Mr Gianni Alemanno, and to the President of the Province of Rome, Mr Nicola Zingaretti. I thank them for their courteous words, also on behalf of their respective Boards. I extend my greeting to the Presidents of the various conciliar Assemblies and to each one of you present here, to your families and to the beloved populations whom you represent in spirit.

In the speeches that have just been delivered, I discerned both hopes and anxieties. The world community is undoubtedly experiencing a serious economic crisis but it is also connected with a crisis in structures, culture and values. The difficult situation which is increasingly affecting the world economy brings with it inevitable consequences and thus also affects Rome, its Province and the cities and towns of Lazio. In the face of this demanding challenge which your words also made clear the desire to react must be unanimous, overcoming divisions and orchestrating strategies which, if on the one hand deal with today's emergencies, on the other aim to draw up a coordinated strategic policy for the years ahead, inspired by those principles and values that are part of the spiritual patrimony of Italy and, more specifically, of Rome and Lazio. At difficult times in their history, the population has been able to rediscover unity of will and courage under the wise guidance of enlightened administrators whose fundamental concern has been the good of all.

Dear friends, it was clear from your speeches that the Administrative Boards you direct appreciate the presence and activity of the Catholic community. Here I am eager to reaffirm that it neither requests nor boasts of privileges but desires that its own spiritual and social mission may continue to meet with appreciation and cooperation. I thank you for your availability; indeed, I remember that Rome and Lazio play a special role for Christianity. Catholics here feel encouraged to bear a lively Gospel witness and an industrious action for human advancement, especially today, as we face the difficulties with which we are all too familiar. In this regard, although the diocesan branches of Caritas, parish communities and Catholic associations are sparing no effort to provide help to those in need, giving practical responses to people's growing needs, synergy among all the Institutions is becoming indispensable. I am thinking here of families, especially those with small children who have the right to a serene future, and of the elderly, many of whom live alone in conditions of hardship; I am thinking of the housing emergency; of the lack of employment and of the unemployment among the young; of the difficult coexistence between different ethnic groups; of the urgent question of immigration and itinerant people.

If the implementation of appropriate economic and social policies is the task of the State, the Church, in the light of her social doctrine, is required to make her contribution, stimulating reflection and forming the consciences of the faithful and of all citizens of goodwill. Perhaps, never so much as today, civil society is realizing that it is only with lifestyles inspired by moderation, solidarity and responsibility that it is possible to build a more just society and a better future for all. It is part of the institutional duty of public authorities to guarantee to all inhabitants their proper rights, bearing in mind that the duties of each one should be clearly defined and properly implemented. This is why a priority that cannot be postponed is the inculcation of respect for the law, the assumption of one's own responsibilities and the structuring of life in such a way as to reduce individualism and the defence of personal interests in order to strive together for the common good, with special concern for the expectations of the weakest members of the population, who must not be considered a burden but a resource to advance.

In this perspective, with an intuition that I would call prophetic, the Church has been focusing her efforts on the issue of education for years. I would like here to express my gratitude for the collaboration established between your Administrative Boards and the ecclesial communities with regard to after school recreation and prayer centres and the building of new parish complexes in districts with none. I feel that this mutual support with respect for the reciprocal competences, will be further strengthened in the future, bearing in mind that in addition to providing for the practice of the fundamental right of the human person which is religious freedom the Church's structures in the heart of a neighbourhood are actually places for gathering and for formation in the values of sociability, peaceful coexistence, brotherhood and peace.

How is it possible not to think especially of the children and young people who are our future? Every time that the news reports episodes of violence perpetrated by youth, every time that the press covers road accidents in which many young people are killed, I remember the issue of the educational emergency which today demands the broadest possible collaboration. Especially among young people the natural and Christian values that give meaning to daily life and teach people to have a view of life that is open to hope are being eroded. Transient wishes and short-lived expectations surface that in the end breed boredom and failure. The negative outcome of all this is the affirmation of tendencies to trivialize the value of life itself, to seek refuge in transgression, drugs or alcohol, which for some people have even become a regular weekend rite. Even love risks being reduced to a "mere "thing' to be bought and sold", indeed "man himself becomes a commodity" (Deus caritas est ). In the face of the nihilism that increasingly pervades the world of youth, the Church asks everyone to devote themselves to young people seriously and not to leave them at their own mercy, exposed to the school of "bad teachers", but rather to involve them in serious initiatives that enable them to understand the value of life in a stable family founded on marriage. Only in this way are they given the possibility to plan their future with trust. As for the ecclesial community, it should make itself even more available to help the new generations of Rome and Lazio to plan their future responsibly. Above all, it introduces them to the love of Christ, the only love that can provide fulfilling answers to the deepest questions of our hearts.

Lastly, allow me to make a brief reflection on the world of health care. I am aware of how demanding the task of guaranteeing adequate health-care assistance to all in the area of both physical and mental diseases is, and of the enormous costs that must be met. In this sector too, as moreover in the education sector, the ecclesial community heir to a long tradition of assistance to the sick continues to offer its activities, with many sacrifices, in hospitals and treatment centres that are inspired by Gospel principles. In the year that has just ended, on the part of the Lazio Region, even amid the difficulties of the current situation, positive signs could be seen in providing for the needs of Catholic health-care structures also. I am confident that by persevering in the current efforts this collaboration will be appropriately encouraged, in such a way that people continue to avail themselves of the precious service that these recognized structures carry out with competence, professionalism, perspicacity in their financial management and caring concern to the sick and their families.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the task that the citizens have entrusted to you is not an easy one: you must contend with numerous and complex situations that always more frequently require interventions and decisions that are not simple and are sometimes unpopular. May you find encouragement and comfort in the knowledge that while you are rendering an important service to contemporary society you are also helping to build a truly human world for the new generations. The most important contribution of which the Pope assures you, and he does so with great affection, are his daily prayers that the Lord may enlighten you and make you always worthy servants of the common good. With these sentiments, I invoke the motherly intercession of Our Lady, venerated in so many places in Lazio, and of the Apostle Paul, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we are commemorating, and I implore God's Blessing upon you, upon your families and upon all who live in Rome, in its Province and throughout the Region.


Dear Friends of the Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican,

The new year has begun just recently and it is a true pleasure for me to be able to meet you once again and to wish each one of you warm wishes which I cordially extend to your families and to those dear to you. The family atmosphere of this traditional meeting, dear to me, offers me the opportunity to address you a personal greeting and to express to you my deepest and grateful appreciation for the work that you carry out daily with recognized professionalism and great devotion. I warmly greet you, whom the State of Italy has assigned to a special police and vigilance service, linked to my mission as Pastor of the Universal Church.

My greetings and my wishes go, first of all, to Dr Giulio Callini, recently appointed Director General, whom I thank for the words with which he has interpreted your common sentiments, as well as to Prefect Salvatore Festa. With equal affection I greet all the other members of the Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican who are not able to be present. I offer my respectful greeting to Chief of Police, Prefect Antonio Manganelli; the Assistant Chief of Police, Prefect Francesco Cirillo; to the Quaestor of Rome, Dr Giuseppe Caruso and the other Directors and officers of the State Police for their meaningful presence.

Considering the work that you are called to carry out I remember that I always met one or another of you when, as a Cardinal, I crossed St Peter's Square each day I think of the sacrifices your duty requires of you. Sacrifices that you must make, but that also your family is called to share due to the work shifts to continuously guard the places adjacent to St Peter's Square and the Vatican. For this reason today I would also like to include your families in my thanks, with a special thought for those of you who married recently or who are preparing to take this step. I cordially remember each and every one of you in prayer.

A new year begins and we have many expectations and hopes. However, we cannot ignore that on the horizon not a few shadows are looming that worry humanity. However, we must not feel discouraged; rather we must always keep the flame of hope alight in us. For us Christians, the true hope is Christ, gift of the Father to all of humanity. This proclamation is for all men: it is found in the heart of the Gospel message; in fact Jesus is born, died and risen for all. The Church continues to proclaim it today and to all of humanity, so that each person and each human situation can experience the power of God's saving grace, that alone can transform evil into good. Only Christ can renew the heart of man and make it an "oasis" of peace; only Christ can help us to build a world where justice and love reign.

Dear officers and policemen, in the light of this solid hope, our daily work, whatever it is, assumes a different meaning and value because we anchor it to these perennial human and spiritual values, that render our existence more serene and useful to our brethren. This is why, for example, your work of surveillance can be lived as a mission. It is a service to neighbour, concerning order and security and, at the same time, a personal ascesis so to speak, a constant interior vigilance that demands a discipline in harmony with cordiality, self-control and the discerning welcoming of pilgrims and tourists who come to the Vatican. And this service performed with love becomes prayer, prayer even more pleasing to God when your work is not very gratifying, when it is monotonous and tiring, especially in the night hours or on the days the weather is oppressive. And it is in doing your duty well that each baptized person fulfils his/her own vocation to holiness.

Dear friends, while I renew my most cordial wishes for this new year, I assure you of my spiritual closeness, and I gladly impart to each one of you a special Apostolic Blessing, that I warmly extend to your relations and to those dear to you.


Dear and Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you this morning with joy and affection. I greet in particular Archbishop Ramzi Garmou of Tehran for Chaldeans and President of the Iranian Bishops' Conference, who has just delivered a beautiful address to me on your behalf. You are the Ordinaries of the Armenian, Chaldean and Latin Rite Churches. You thus represent, dear Brothers, the riches of unity in diversity that exists in the heart of the Catholic Church and to which you bear a daily witness in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I take this opportunity to express my cordial greetings to the whole Iranian people, which you will convey to your communities on my behalf. Today, as in the past, the Catholic Church does not cease to encourage all who have at heart the common good and peace among nations. Nor will Iran, the bridge between the Middle East and sub-continental Asia, for its part, fail to fulfil this vocation.

Above all I am very glad to be able to express to you personally my warm appreciation of the service you carry out in a land where the Christian presence is ancient and where it developed and was maintained during the various vicissitudes of Iranian history. I also extend my gratitude to the priests and the men and women religious who work in this vast and beautiful country. I know how necessary their presence is and how precious is the spiritual and human assistance that they guarantee to the faithful through direct daily contact, and how they offer a beautiful witness to all.

I am thinking in particular of their care for the elderly and the assistance they give to specific social categories that are particularly in need. I also greet through you all those who are involved in Church institutions. I would like further to recall the fine contribution made by the Catholic Church, particularly through Caritas, to the task of reconstruction after the terrible earthquake that hit the Bam region. I wish to remember all the Catholic faithful whose presence in the land of their ancestors evokes the biblical image of the leaven in the dough (cf. Mt 13,33) which causes bread to rise, giving it taste and consistency. Through you, dear Brothers, I would like to thank them all for their constancy and perseverance and also to encourage them to remain faithful to the faith of their fathers and to stay connected to their land in order to collaborate in the nation's development.

Although your various communities live in different contexts, they have certain problems in common. They must develop harmonious relations with the public institutions that with God's grace will gradually deepen their knowledge and permit the Catholic communities to carry out their mission as Church in mutual respect and for the good of all. I encourage you to promote all initiatives that foster better reciprocal knowledge. Two paths may be explored: that of cultural dialogue, a treasure of Iran that has existed for several thousand years, and that of charity.

The latter will illuminate the former and be its driving force. "Love is patient and kind... love bears all things... love never ends..."(1Co 13,4 and 8). To achieve this goal and especially for the spiritual progress of your respective faithful you need labourers to sow and to gather in the harvest: priests and men and women religious. Your communities, reduced in number, do not permit the development of numerous local vocations which, nevertheless, must be encourage. Moreover, the difficult mission of priests and religious obliges them to travel to reach the different Christian communities scattered throughout the country. To overcome this practical difficulty and others, the constitution of a bilateral commission with your authorities is being studied to permit the development of relations and mutual knowledge between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Catholic Church.

I would like to mention another aspect of your daily life. Christians in your communities sometimes seek more favourable opportunities elsewhere for their professional life and the education of their children. This legitimate desire is found among the inhabitants of numerous countries and is anchored in the human condition which always seeks a better future. The situation spurs you, as Pastors of your flock, to offer special help to those members of the faithful who remain in Iran and to encourage them to keep in touch with their family members who have chosen a different destiny.

The latter will also be able to preserve their identity and the faith of their ancestors. You have a long way to go. The journey demands great perseverance and patience. The example of God who is merciful and patient with his people will be your model and will help you to cover the necessary ground for dialogue.

Your Churches are heirs to a noble tradition and a long Christian presence in Iran. They have contributed, each in her own way, to the life and edification of the country. They wish to continue their work of service in Iran, keeping their own identity and living their faith freely. I do not forget your country and the Catholic communities present on the territory in my prayers, and I ask God to bless and to help them.

Dear Brothers in the episcopate, I would like to assure you of my affection and my support. I would be grateful if, on your return to Iran, you would tell your priests, your men and women religious, as well as your faithful that the Pope is close to them and is praying for them. May the Virgin Mary's motherly tenderness accompany you in your apostolic mission and may the Mother of God present to her divine Son all the intentions, all the anxieties and all the joys of the faithful of your different communities! I invoke a special Blessing upon you in this Year dedicated to St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.
Speeches 2005-13 8019