Speeches 2005-13 186





Sistine Chapel Saturday, 17 January 2009

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in
the Priesthood,
Esteemed Bishop Gerhard Ludwig,
Most Honoured Guests
from Regensburg,
Appreciated Musicians and
Dear Cathedral Choir,
Dear Georg,
Dear Italian-speaking Friends,

Having just heard Mozart's Mass in C minor, I remember the time, long ago in 1941, when on the initiative of my beloved brother Georg we went to the Salzburg Festival together. We were able to go to some wonderful concerts and among them, one in the Basilica of St Peter's Abbey at which the C minor Mass was performed. It was an unforgettable moment, I would say the spiritual peak of that cultural trip. For this very reason it has been a cause of special joy to us on the happy occasion of my brother's birthday to be able once again to hear this magnificent and profound sacred composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the great son of the city of Salzburg. On behalf of my brother too, I thank you for this wonderful gift that has enabled us to relive moments of extraordinary spiritual and artistic intensity.

Dear Georg, dear friends, almost 70 years have passed since on your initiative we went to Salzburg together, and in the splendid Abbey Church of St Peter heard Mozart's Mass in C minor. Even if I was only a simple youth at the time, I realized, with you, that we had experienced something other than a mere concert: it was music in prayer, a divine office in which we had felt the magnificence and beauty of God himself and were moved by it. After the war we returned several times to Salzburg to hear the C minor Mass and this is why it is deeply engraved in our joint inner biography. Tradition claims that Mozart composed this Mass to fulfil a vow in thanksgiving for his marriage to Constanze Weber. This also explains the important soprano solos which Constanze was to interpret as expressions of gratitude and joy gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam gratitude for God's goodness which had transported him. From a strictly liturgical viewpoint some might object that these great solos are somewhat removed from the sobriety of the Roman liturgy; yet on the other hand we may also ask: do we not perhaps hear in them the voice of the Bride, the Church, of which Bishop Gerhard Ludwig has just spoken? Is it not the Bride's voice that actually resounds in these solos both with her joy at being loved by Christ and with his own love, and thus brings us before God as a living Church in her gratitude and joy? To the grandeur of this music and this Mass, which go far beyond any individuality, Mozart entrusted his most personal gratitude. At this time, dear Georg, we have thanked God together in the harmony of this Mass for the 85 years of life that he has granted you. In the programme prepared for this concert, Professor Hommes has strongly emphasized that the gratitude expressed in this Mass is not a superficial gratitude impressed upon it lightly by a man of the Rococo age but, rather, that the full intensity of his inner strife was expressed in this Mass, his search for forgiveness, for God's mercy and then joy in God rises from these depths, more radiant than ever.

The 85 years of your life have not always been easy. You were born just after the inflation was over and people, including our parents, had lost all their savings. Then came the world financial crisis, the Nazi dictatorship, the war, prison. Later, with new hope and joy, in a Germany destroyed and drained of its blood, we set out on our way. And there was no lack of difficult, steep rock faces and dark passages but we always perceived the goodness of God who called and guided you. This double vocation, to music and to the priesthood, to the one that embraced the other, was manifest in you from the start, from very early on. And thus God guided your footsteps and you followed your path until Providence gave you the position in Regensburg with the Regensburger Domspatzen in which you were able to serve music as a priest and transmit to the world and to humanity joy in God's existence amid the beauty of music and song. There too you had troubles enough every trial calls for an effort, as we can guess and as we know further efforts were in store.... Then, however, when the choir was singing brilliantly and bringing God's joy and beauty to the world, everything was once again great and beautiful. Today, let us thank the good Lord, together with you, for this, for his Providence, and then let us thank you, for you have responded with all your strength, your discipline, your joy, your imagination and your creativity in these 30 years with the Regensburger Domspatzen, leading us ever anew to God.

Of course and above all we are also glad at this moment because although this choir the oldest church choir in the world, that has sung God's praise for more than 1,000 years without interruption in the Cathedral of Regensburg uninterruptedly built up in this way, is still young and with youthful strength and beauty has sung praise of God for us and continues to exist. A cordial "Vergelt's Gott", to you, dear Domspatzen [choir members], to the choirmaster, to you all, and especially to the orchestra and soloists who have restored to us the original sound of Mozart's time. My cordial thanks to you all!

And because human life is always incomplete while we journey on, in all human gratitude there is always also expectation, hope and prayer; and thus let us pray the good Lord today, dear Georg, that he may grant you more good years in which you may continue to live the joy of God and the joy of music and in which you may continue to serve men and women as a priest. And let us pray him to grant all of us, one day, to enter the heavenly concert, to experience God's joy for ever.

As I also renew on behalf of the Italian-speaking guests my fervent thanks to the sponsors and organizers of this most beautiful initiative, I express the hope that the splendid music we have heard in the unique context of the Sistine Chapel may contribute to deepening our relationship with God and serve to revive in our hearts the joy that flows from faith, so that each one may become a convinced witness of it in the context of his own daily life. And of course, a big "thank you" to the Bishop and the Cathedral Chapter, and to all who contributed to arranging this concert. With these sentiments I impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all with affection.



Sunday, 18 January 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I warmly greet you all at the end of this solemn Eucharistic celebration with which the Sixth World Meeting of Families in Mexico City is ending. I thank God for the many families who, sparing no effort, have gathered together around the altar of the Lord.

I particularly greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, who has presided at this celebration as my Legate. I would like to express my affection and gratitude to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, and likewise to the members of the Pontifical Council for the Family of which he is President, to Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop and Primate of Mexico, and the Central Commission that has overseen the organization of this Sixth World Meeting. I extend my gratitude to all who with their self-sacrificing dedication and devotion made the Meeting possible. I also greet the Cardinals and Bishops present at the celebration, especially the members of the Mexican Bishop's Conference, and to the Authorities of this beloved nation, who have generously hosted this important event and made it possible.

You Mexicans know well that you are very close to the Pope's heart. I think of you and offer to God the Father your joys and your hopes, your plans and your anxieties. In Mexico the Gospel has put down deep roots, forging its traditions, its culture and the identity of its noble people. It is necessary to guard this rich patrimony so that it may continue to be a source of the moral and spiritual energy needed to face today's challenges with courage and creativity, and may be handed on as a precious gift to the new generations.

With joy and interest I have participated in this World Meeting, above all with my prayers, giving specific guidance and attentively following its preparation and development. Today, through the means of communication, I have come on a spiritual pilgrimage to this Marian Shrine, the heart of Mexico and of all America, to entrust all the world's families to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

This World Meeting of Families has aimed to encourage Christian homes so that their members may be people who are free and rich in human and Gospel values, on their way towards holiness; that is the best service that we Christians can offer contemporary society. The Christian response to the challenges that confront the family and human life in general must face consists in reinforcing trust in the Lord and the vigour that derives from faith itself, which is nourished in attentive listening to the Word of God.

How beautiful it is to gather as a family to let God speak to the hearts of its members through his living and effective Word. In prayer, especially in the recitation of the Rosary, as it was recited yesterday, the family contemplates the mysteries of the life of Jesus, interiorizes the values on which it meditates and feels called to embody them in its life.

The family is an indispensable foundation for society and for peoples, just as it is an irreplaceable good for children, whose coming into the world as the fruit of love, of the total and generous gift of their parents, deserve to be born. As Jesus demonstrated by honouring the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, the family occupies a fundamental role in a person's upbringing. It is a true school of humanity and perennial values. No one has given life to himself.

From others we received life, which develops and matures with the truths and values that we learn in our relationship and communion with others. In this regard, the family founded on the indissoluble matrimony of a man and a woman is the expression of the relational, filial and communal dimensions. It is the setting in which men and women can be born with dignity, and can grow and develop in an integral manner (cf. Homily at Holy Mass for the Fifth World Meeting of Families, Valencia, 9 July 2006).

However, this educational task is complicated by a deceptive concept of freedom, in which caprice and the subjective impulses of the individual are exalted to the point of leaving each person locked within the prison of his own self. The true freedom of the human being derives from his creation in the image and likeness of God. For this reason freedom must be exercised responsibly, always opting for the authentic good so that it may become love, a gift of self. For this reason, more than theories, the intimacy and love that are characteristic of the family community are needed. It is at home that people truly learn to live, to value life and health, freedom and peace, justice and truth, work, harmony and respect.

Today more than ever the witness and public commitment of all the baptized is necessary to reaffirm the dignity and the unique, irreplaceable value of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman open to life, and also of human life in all of its stages.

Legal and administrative measures must be promoted that support families with their inalienable rights, necessary if they are to continue to carry out their extraordinary mission. The witnesses given at yesterday's celebration show that today too the family can stand firm in the love of God and renew humanity in the new millennium.

I wish to express my closeness and to assure my prayers for all the families that bear witness to fidelity in especially difficult circumstances. I encourage the many families who, at times living in the midst of setbacks and misunderstandings, set an example of generosity and trust in God, in the hope that they will not lack the assistance they need. I am also thinking of the families who are suffering because of poverty, sickness, marginalization or emigration and, most especially, of Christian families that are being persecuted for their faith. The Pope is very close to all of you and accompanies you in your daily efforts.

Before concluding this meeting, I am pleased to announce that the Seventh World Meeting of Families will take place, God willing, in Italy, in the city of Milan in the year 2012, on the theme: "The family, work and celebration". I am deeply grateful to Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, for his kindness in accepting this important commitment.

I entrust all the families of the world to the protection of the Most Holy Virgin, so widely venerated in the noble land of Mexico under the title of Guadalupe. To her, the one who always reminds us that our happiness lies in doing Christ's will (cf. Jn 2,5), I now say:

Most Holy Mother of Guadalupe,
who have shown your love
and your tenderness to the peoples of the American continent,
fill with joy and hope all the peoples and families of the world.

We entrust to you,
who go before us and guide us on our journey of faith
towards the eternal Homeland,
the joys, the plans, the anxieties and
the desires of all families.

O Mary,
to you we turn, trusting in your tenderness as Mother.
Do not ignore the prayers we address to you
for the whole world's families
in this crucial period in history;
instead, welcome us all in your heart as Mother
and guide us on our way towards the heavenly Homeland.



Dear distinguished Friends from Finland,

It is with great joy that I welcome all of you on this annual visit to Rome for the feast of your patron, Saint Henrik, and I thank Bishop Gustav Björkstrand for the kind words addressed to me on your behalf.

These pilgrimages are an occasion for shared prayer, reflection and dialogue in the service of our quest for full communion. Your visit is taking place during the Week of Prayer of Christian Unity whose theme this year is taken from the Book of Ezekiel: “That they may become one in your hand” (Ez 37,15-23). The prophet’s vision is that of two pieces of wood, symbolizing the two kingdoms into which God’s people had been divided, being brought together again into one (Ez 37,15-23). In the context of ecumenism, it speaks to us of God who constantly draws us into deeper unity in Christ, by renewing us and liberating us from our divisions.

The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland and Sweden continues to consider the Joint Declaration on Justification.This year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of this significant statement, and the Commission is now studying its implications and the possibility of its reception. Under the theme Justification in the Life of the Church, the dialogue is taking ever fuller account of the nature of the Church as the sign and instrument of the salvation brought about in Jesus Christ, and not simply a mere assembly of believers or an institution with various functions.

Your pilgrimage to Rome takes place within the Pauline Year - the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Nations, whose life and teaching were tirelessly committed to the unity of the Church. Saint Paul reminds us of the marvellous grace we have received by becoming members of Christ’s body through baptism (cf. 1Co 12,12-31). The Church is this mystical Body of Christ, and is continuously guided by the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of the Father and the Son. It is only based on this incarnational reality that the sacramental character of the Church as communion in Christ can be understood. A consensus with regard to the profoundly Christological and pneumatological implications of the mystery of the Church would prove a most promising basis for the Commission’s work.

From Paul we also learn that the unity we seek is nothing less than the manifestation of our full incorporation into the Body of Christ, whereby “all you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Ga 3,27-28). To this end, dear friends, it is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will further strengthen the ecumenical relations between Lutherans and Catholics in Finland, which have been so positive for many years. Together, let us thank God for all that has been achieved to date in Catholic-Lutheran relations, and let us pray that the Spirit of truth will guide us towards ever greater unity, in the service of the Gospel.

With these sentiments of affection in the Lord, and at the beginning of this new year, I invoke upon you and your families God’s gifts of joy and peace.




Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Your Excellency,
Dear Bishop Kapellari,
Dear Mr Mayor,
Dear Fr Karl,
Dear Friends,

I cannot manage to name all those whom I ought to list the Ambassador, of course.... At this moment I succeed only in simply saying a heartfelt "thank you" and respond with a "Vergelt's Gott" (God bless you). I am glad to be a citizen of Mariazell and to be able to live so close to the Mother of God. The two visits that you mentioned obviously spring to mind: in 2004, with the European notaries when we enjoyed splendid weather. Together we discerned what Europe is capable of building, where all the elements of its identity come from and how Europe could always return to being herself anew: through the encounter with the Lord to whom his Mother leads us. Through the Mother we feel God was made man. And thus we perceived the joy of being together, the strength of our roots and with this strength, also the possibility of a new future together.

Instead, during the Pastoral Visit, it rained; but I found that the rain itself brought us to be even more connected and close, and gave us this sensation of being "together" and moreover, "together with the Lord and with his Mother". At the time Bishop Kapellari coined the expression "Catholics are rain-proof". We were then able to note how true that is and in the rain joy was born. We realized that it can sometimes be positive to be in a downpour, that rain can be a grace the Editor-in-Chief of L'Osservatore Romano in turn coined the phrase "shower of graces" (editor's note: in Italian in his speech). It was a rain of graces; we realized that at times, in history, it can be useful "to be in the rain" because we come to find ourselves in the right place to do the right thing.

Mariazell is far more than a "place": it is the actualization of the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer throughout the centuries and in this pilgrimage through centuries of prayer a pilgrimage that is formally, physically perceived there are not only the prayers and invocations of men and women but the reality of a response is also present. We feel that the response exists, that we are not reaching out our hand to something unknown but to what God is, and that through his Mother he wants to be particularly close to us. This sentiment of gratitude comes over and unites us and for this reason I am happy to be at home in my heart, and henceforth also legally so to speak in Mariazell.

According to human predictions, I shall no longer succeed in going on pilgrimage there physically in this life but now I truly live there and in this sense I am ever present. As I stroll through the scenery of memory, I always return to make a stop in Mariazell precisely because I feel that our Mother, here, comes to meet us and gathers us all together. Our Lady of Mariazell has imposing names Magna Mater Austriae, Domina Magna Hungarorum, Magna Mater Gentium Slavorum and these great titles express that wherever human beings come to their Mother and to their Father, it is there that they become brothers and sisters, there that unity is born; it can be seen that this emanates a power that creates unity and that on this basis it is possible to build communion. And above all: she is the Magna Mater, but her greatness is manifested precisely in the fact that she addresses the little ones and is present for the little one, that we may turn to her at any time without having to buy an entrance ticket, simply by bringing her our heart. Let us learn from her, in this way, what is truly "great": not the fact of being "unapproachable", not external majesty but precisely the goodness of the heart that opens to all the experience of what "being together" means.

So to conclude, once again I warmly say "Vergelt's Gott" to you, and thank you so much for having made me a citizen of Mariazell: this will remain deeply rooted in my heart. Dear Bishop Kapellari, dear Professors, perhaps I should also have said something about the book, but Our Lady is so great that in her we have also included the book! Thank you so much for everything!


Your Eminence,
Your Beatitudes,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you with joy and extend a warm welcome to each one of you, thanking Our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the Synod of the Church of Antioch for Syrians which has elected her new Patriarch.

I first address a very warm greeting to Patriarch Ignace Youssif Younan, who has just been elected, as I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon him. May the Lord grant you, Your Beatitude, "the grace of the apostolate" so that you may be able to serve the Church and glorify his Holy Name before the world.

I greet Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, to whom I entrusted the chairmanship of your Synod, and warmly thank him.

I likewise greet H.B. Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, and H.B. Ignace Pierre Abdel-Ahad, Patriarch emeritus, as well as all of you who have come to Rome to carry out the most important act for which the Synod is responsible. From the origins of Christianity, the Apostles Peter and Paul were closely connected with Antioch where Jesus' disciples were first given the name "Christians" (Ac 11,26). We cannot forget your illustrious Fathers in the faith. In the first place, St Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, from whom Syrian Antiochian Patriarchs traditionally take their name at the moment when they accept the patriarchal office; and St Ephrem, commonly called "the Syrian", whose spiritual light continues to shine brightly in the universal Church. With them, other great saints, sons and Pastors of your Church, have shown the mystery of salvation admirably and, more than once, with the sublime eloquence of martyrdom.

The new Patriarch is the first custodian of this heritage; however, each one, as a brother and member of the Synod, must likewise contribute to this responsibility in a spirit of authentic episcopal collegiality. I place in the hands of the new Patriarch and of the Syrian-Catholic Episcopate above all else the task of unity among the Pastors and in the heart of the ecclesial communities.

Your Beatitude, on this happy occasion, in conformity with the sacred Canons you have requested the ecclesiastica communio which I have most willingly granted to you, fulfilling an aspect of the Petrine service particularly dear to me. Communion with the Bishop of Rome, Successor of the Blessed Apostle Peter, established by the Lord himself as a visible foundation of unity in faith and in charity, guarantees the bond with Christ the Good Shepherd. It also inserts the particular Churches into the mystery of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

You were born and grew up in Syria, Your Beatitude, and are very well-acquainted with the Middle East, the cradle of the Syrian Catholic Church. However, you have carried out your episcopal service in America as the first Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance in Newark, for the Syrian faithful who live in the United States and in Canada. You also took on the office of Apostolic Visitator in Central America. The Eastern diaspora has thus contributed to offering the Syrian Church her new Patriarch. This will strengthen ties with the Mother Country which so many of the Eastern rite faithful have been forced to leave in order to seek a better life. My desire is that in the East, from which the proclamation of the Gospel came, Christian communities may continue to live and witness to their faith as they have done down the centuries. At the same time, I hope that adequate pastoral care will be provided for those who have settled elsewhere, so that they may remain fruitfully linked to their religious roots. I ask the help of the Lord for each Eastern rite community, wherever it is, so that it may be integrated into its new social and ecclesial context without losing its own identity, and may bear the mark of Eastern spirituality in such a way that by using "words of the East and of the West", the Church can speak effectively of Christ to contemporary man. In this way Christians will face the most urgent challenges of humanity and build peace and universal solidarity and witness to the "great hope" of which they are unflagging messengers.

I express my fervent and joyful good wishes to you, Your Beatitude, and to the Syrian Catholic Church.

I pray the Prince of Peace to sustain you as "Caput et Pastor", as well as all your brothers, sisters and your children, so that you may be sowers of peace first of all in the Holy Land, in Iraq and in Lebanon, where the Syrian Church's historical presence is much appreciated.

As I entrust you all to the Most Holy Mother of God, I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing to the new Patriarch and to each one of you, as well as to the communities you represent.


Your Beatitude,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you with great joy as you fulfil your visit ad limina Apostolorum, you who are the Pastors of the Chaldean Church, with your Patriarch, H.B. Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, whom I thank for the kind words that he has addressed to me in your name. This visit is an important moment since it allows you to consolidate the bonds of faith and communion with the Church of Rome and with the Successor of Peter. It also gives me the opportunity to greet you very cordially and, through you, to greet all the faithful of your venerable Patriarchal Church, and to assure you of my ardent prayers and of my spiritual closeness, in these difficult moments that your region and Iraq in particular are experiencing.

Allow me to recall with emotion the victims of violence in Iraq in the course of these last years. I am thinking of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mossul, of Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni, and of the many other priests and faithful of your patriarchal Church. Their sacrifice is the sign of their love for the Church and for their own country. I pray to God so that the men and women longing for peace in this beloved region unite their efforts to stop the violence and thus to permit all to live in security and reciprocal harmony! In this context, it is with emotion that I receive the gift of the cope used by Archbishop Faraj Rahho in the daily celebration of Mass and the stole used by Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni. This gift bespeaks their supreme love for Christ and the Church.

The Chaldean Church, whose origins date back to the first century of the Christian era, have a long and venerable tradition that expresses her rootedness in the Eastern region, in which she is present from her beginnings, and also for her irreplaceable contribution to the universal Church, especially her theologians and spiritual masters. Her history also demonstrates how she has always participated in an active and fruitful way in the life of your nations.

Today the Chaldean Church, which holds an important place among the diverse components of your country, must continue this mission at the service of their human and spiritual development. To reach this goal, it is necessary to promote a high cultural level among the faithful, especially the youth. A good formation in the various fields of knowledge, both religious and lay, is a precious investment for the future.

By maintaining cordial relations with members of other communities, the Chaldean Church is called to carry out a fundamental role as moderator in view of the edification of a new society in which each one can live in harmony and reciprocal respect. I know that the coexistence between the Muslim and Christian communities has always been uncertain. Christians, who have always lived in Iraq, are its rightful citizens, with the rights and duties of all, without religious discrimination. I wish to offer my support for the efforts for understanding and good relations that you have chosen as the common path to live in the same land that is holy for all.

To fulfil her mission, the Church must strengthen her bonds of communion with her Lord who gathers her and sends her out among the people. This communion must first of all be lived in the Church, so that her witness is credible, as Jesus himself affirmed: "that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be [one] in us, that the world may believe that you sent me" (Jn 17,21). Therefore, may the Word of God always be at the centre of your plans and of your pastoral work! It is on the fidelity to this Word that unity among all the faithful is built, in communion with their Pastors. In this perspective, the orientations of the Second Vatican Council on the liturgy will give everyone the possibility to welcome with ever greater success the gifts made by the Lord to his Church in the liturgy and in the sacraments.

Furthermore, in your patriarchal Church, the Synodal Assembly is an undeniable wealth that must be a privileged instrument to contribute to making her bonds of communion more solid and efficacious and to live interepiscopal charity. It is the context in which joint responsibility is effectively reached, thanks to an authentic collaboration among its members and well-prepared regular encounters that allow for planning common pastoral directives. I ask the Holy Spirit to ever increase among you reciprocal unity and trust so that the pastoral service that has been entrusted to you is fully accomplished for the greatest good of the Church and her members. On the other hand, above all in Iraq, the Chaldean Church, which is the majority, has a particular responsibility in promoting the communion and unity of the Mystical Body of Christ. I encourage you to continue meeting with the Pastors of the various Churches sui juris and also with the leaders of the other Christian Churches, to give impetus to ecumenism.

In each Eparchy, the various pastoral, administrative and economic structures foreseen by the law are also a precious help for you in order to realize communion within the community in an effective way and to favour collaboration.

Among the urgent matters that you must confront, there is the situation of the faithful who must face violence every day. I honour their courage and their perseverance before the trials and the threats to which they are subject, above all in Iraq. The witness they render to the Gospel is an eloquent sign of their lively faith and of the strength of their hope. I ardently encourage you to support the faithful to overcome the current difficulties and to strengthen their presence, appealing in particular to the Authorities responsible for the recognition of their human and civil rights. I exhort them also to love the land of their ancestors, to which they are profoundly attached.

The number of faithful in the diaspora has continued to increase, above all after the recent events. I thank each person who participates in giving a fraternal welcome, in various countries, to those who have unfortunately had to leave Iraq for a period of time. It would be good if the Chaldean faithful who live beyond the national borders were to maintain and intensify their bonds with their own Patriarchate, so that they would not be cut off from their centre of unity. It is indispensable that the faithful keep their own cultural and religious identity and that their youngest members discover and appreciate the rich patrimony of their patriarchal Church. In this perspective, parish priests, in a fraternal relationship with the Bishops of the local Churches, must carefully take into consideration the spiritual and moral assistance that the faithful scattered throughout the world need. They will also be careful to ensure that the future priests, including those formed in the diaspora, appreciate and strengthen their bonds with their patriarchal Church.

Lastly, I wish to affectionately greet the priests, deacons, seminarians, the men and women religious and all those who, together with you, dedicate themselves to the proclamation of the Gospel. May all, under your paternal guidance, bear a living testimony of their unity and of the fraternity that unites them!

I know of their attachment to the Church and of their apostolic zeal. I invite them to deepen ever more their attachment to Christ and to courageously continue in their commitment to serve the Church and her mission. May your priests be fathers, brothers and friends, particularly concerned with offering them a solid initial and permanent formation, and I invite them through your words and your example to stay close to the people in need or in difficulty, to the sick and suffering.

The witness of the Church's selfless charity for all those who are in need, without distinction of their origin or religion, cannot fail to favour the expression of the solidarity of all the people of good will. Therefore, it is important to develop works of charity, so that the greatest number of faithful can concretely commit themselves to the service of the poorest. I know that in Iraq, notwithstanding the terrible moments that you have experienced and which you are still living, little works of extraordinary charity have developed which do honour to God, the Church and the Iraqi people. Your Beatitude, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I wish you to continue your mission of service to the People of God that has been entrusted to you with courage and hope. Prayer and the help of your brothers and sisters in the faith and the many people of good will throughout the world accompany you so that the face of God's love can continue to shine upon the Iraqi people who are experiencing much suffering. To the eyes of the believer, this suffering, united to Christ's sacrifice, becomes an element of union and hope. In the same way, the blood of the martyrs of this land is an eloquent intercession before God. Bring to your diocesan faithful the greeting and the affectionate encouragement of the Successor of Peter. Entrusting each one of you to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the priest, deacons, consecrated persons and all the faithful of the Chaldean Church.


Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you, Your Excellency, on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the French Republic to the Holy See. First of all, I would be grateful if you would convey my greetings to His Excellency Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic, and express to him my cordial wishes for him, for his work at the service of your country and also for all the French people.

My joy at having been able to go to Paris and to Lourdes to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous last year still resonates within me. I would like to repeat my thanks to the President of the Republic for his invitation, as well as to all the political, civil and military authorities who ensured the complete success of that journey. My gratitude also goes to the Pastors and to the Catholic faithful who made those large gatherings possible. They witnessed to the capacity of the faith to tranquilly keep open the interior space that exists in man and to bring together great crowds of very diverse men and women fraternally and joyfully.

Those moments have shown, in case there were need to do so, that the Catholic community is one of the living strengths in your country. The faithful have well understood and have welcomed with interest and appreciation the words of your President, who stressed that the contribution of the great spiritual families constitute a "great wealth" for the life of the nation that it would be "foolish" to ignore. The Church is ready to respond to this invitation and is ready to work in view of the common good.

Next year in France a great debate will be held on bioethics.

I am pleased that the parliamentary mission on the questions relating to the end of life have until now offered wise conclusions, full of humanity, proposing an intensification of the efforts to provide better assistance to the sick. I hope that this same wisdom that recognizes the inviolable character of every human life will be at work during the revision of the laws on bioethics. The Pastors of the Church in France have worked tirelessly and are ready to offer a quality contribution to the public debate that will be held. Recently, the Magisterium of the Church, on her part, has wished to emphasize, through the Document Dignitas personae published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, how much strong scientific progress must be guided by the concern to serve the good and the inalienable dignity of the human being.

As everywhere in the world, today your country's government must face the economic crisis. I hope that the proposed measures will especially seek to favour social cohesion, by protecting the most vulnerable populations and above all by once again providing the greatest possible number of people with the opportunity to become actors in an economy that is a true creator of services and genuine wealth. These difficulties are a painful source of worry and suffering for many, but they are also an opportunity to heal financial mechanisms, in order to help the economy to function and to progress towards a greater attention to man and to reduce the old and new forms of poverty (cf. Address at the Elysée palace, 12 September 2008).

The Church wishes to witness to Christ, placing herself at the service of every man. This is why I am pleased with the Accord that you yourself mentioned earlier and that has just been signed between France and the Holy See on the recognition of diplomas awarded by the Pontifical universities and Catholic institutes. Numerous French and foreign students will benefit from this Accord, which falls within the framework of the Bologna Process.

It highlights the great contribution, above all in the field of education, of the Church's concern for the formation of youth. This contribution has as its aim that they may acquire the adequate technical competence to demonstrate their capabilities later, and also receive a formation that prepares them to be vigilant in facing the ethical dimension of every responsibility.

A short time ago, the French authorities had yet again expressed their determination to set up mechanisms for discussion and for the representation of faiths. In this regard, during my Visit to France, I was able to congratulate them on their enactment of official proceedings for dialogue between the French Government and the Catholic Church. Furthermore, I am aware of the continuous concern of French Bishops to create conditions for a serene and permanent dialogue with all the religious communities and all lines of thought. I thank them for assuring in this way the foundations of an intercultural and interreligious dialogue in which the different religious communities have the opportunity to show that they are builders of peace. In fact, as I emphasized from the platform of the United Nations, by recognizing the transcendent value of every human being far from setting men against each other religious communities favour the conversion of heart "which then leads to a commitment to resist violence, terrorism and war, and to promote justice and peace" (Holy Father's Address, 18 April 2008).

In this regard, you, Mr Ambassador, mentioned the many crises that mark the international scene today. It is well-known and I have had the opportunity to recall it in my recent Discourse to the Diplomatic Corps that the Holy See follows situations of conflict and cases of violations of human rights with constant concern. It does not doubt that the international community, where France has an important role, can make an ever more just and effective contribution in favour of peace and harmony among nations and of the development of every country.

I wish to welcome the occasion of our meeting to cordially greet, through you, the communities of Catholic faithful who live in France. I know that this year they will have great joy in seeing the canonization of Bl. Jeanne Jugan, Foundress of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Many French people are in fact indebted to the humble and steadfast witness of charity given by the religious who have followed in her footsteps at the service of poor and elderly people above all.

This event will demonstrate, once again, how much a living faith abounds with good works and to what extent holiness is a soothing balsam for humanity's wounds.

As you start your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I wish to honour the memory of your predecessor, His Excellency Mr Bernard Kessedjian, by acknowledging the human qualities he has shown in his mission at the service of relations between France and the Holy See. I entrust him with gratitude, together with his loved ones, to the Lord's tenderness.

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my best wishes for the felicitous fulfilment of your mission. I am certain that you will always find among my collaborators the welcome and understanding that you may need. Upon you, Your Excellency, your family and your collaborators, as well as upon the entire French people and its leaders, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.


Distinguished Judges, Officials and Collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota,

The solemn inauguration of the judiciary activity of your Tribunal offers me once again this year the joy of receiving its distinguished members: Monsignor Dean, whom I thank for his gracious words of greeting, the College of Prelate Auditors, the Officials of the Tribunal and the Advocates of the Studium Rotale. I offer all of you my own cordial greetings, together with the expression of my appreciation for the important responsibilities which you carry out as faithful collaborators of the Pope and of the Holy See.

You are expecting from the Pope, at the beginning of your working year, a word of light and guidance in the fulfilment of your demanding work. There are any number of topics which we might discuss on this occasion, but now, some twenty years after the Addresses of Pope John Paul II regarding psychic incapacity in the causes of matrimonial nullity (5 February 1987, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 23 February 1987, p. 6 and 25 January 1988, ibid., 15 February 1988, p. 7), it seems fitting to question the extent to which these interventions have had an adequate reception in ecclesiastical tribunals.

This is not the moment to draw up a balance sheet, but no one can fail to see that there continues to be a concrete and pressing problem in this regard. In some cases, unfortunately, one can still perceive the urgent need to which my venerable Predecessor pointed: that of preserving the ecclesial community "from the scandal of seeing the value of Christian marriage being destroyed in practice by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity, in cases of the failure of marriage, on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness on the part of the contracting parties" (Address to the Roman Rota, 5 February 1987, n. 9).

In our meeting today, I wish to draw the attention of those engaged in the practice of law to the need to handle cases with the depth and seriousness required by the ministry of truth and charity proper to the Roman Rota. Indeed, responding to the need for procedural precision, the aforementioned Addresses provide, on the basis of the principles of Christian anthropology, fundamental criteria not only for the weighing of expert psychiatric and psychological reports, but also for the judicial settlement of causes. In this regard it is helpful to recall several clear-cut distinctions. First of all, the distinction between "the psychic maturity which is seen as the goal of human development" and, on the other hand, "the canonical maturity which is the basic minimum required for establishing the validity of marriage" (Address to the Roman Rota, 5 February 1987, n. 6). Second, the distinction between incapacity and difficulty, inasmuch as "incapacity alone, and not difficulty in giving consent and in realizing a true community of life and love, invalidates a marriage" (ibid., n. 7). Third, the distinction between the canonical approach to normality, which, based on an integral vision of the human person, "also includes moderate forms of psychological difficulty", and the clinical approach, which excludes from the concept of normality every limitation of maturity and "every form of psychic illness" (Address to the Roman Rota, 25 January 1988, n. 5). And finally, the distinction between the "minimum capacity sufficient for valid consent" and the ideal capacity "of full maturity in relation to happy married life" (ibid.).

Furthermore, based on the engagement of the faculties of the intellect and the will in the formation of matrimonial consent, Pope John Paul II, in the aforementioned Address of 5 February 1987, reaffirmed the principle that true incapacity "is to be considered only when an anomaly of a serious nature is present which, however it may be defined, must substantially vitiate the capacity to understand and/or to will" (Address to the Roman Rota, 5 February 1987, n. 7).

In this regard it seems fitting to recall that the norm of the Code of Canon Law regarding mental incapacity, so far as its application is concerned, was amplified and completed by the recent Instruction Dignitas Connubii of 25 January 2005. The Instruction requires that, for such incapacity to be established, at the time of the celebration of marriage there must already have been present a specific mental anomaly (art. 209 § 1) which seriously impairs the use of reason (art. 209 § 2, n. 1; Can. 1095, n. 1) or the critical and elective faculty with regard to making serious decisions, particularly concerning the free choice of a state of life (art. 209 § 2, n. 2; Can. 1095, n. 2), or which produces in the contracting party not only a serious difficulty but also the impossibility of fulfilling the duties inherent in the obligations of marriage (art. 209 § 2, n. 3; Can. 1095, n. 3).

On this occasion, however, I would like to reconsider the theme of the incapacity to contract marriage, as treated in Canon 1095, also in the light of the relationship between the human person and marriage, and to recall several fundamental principles which must guide those engaged in the practice of law.

First of all, there is a need for a new and positive appreciation of the capacity to marry belonging in principle to every human person by virtue of his or her very nature as a man or a woman. We tend in fact to risk falling into a kind of anthropological pessimism which, in the light of today’s cultural context, would consider marriage as practically impossible. Apart from the fact that this context is not uniform in the various parts of the world, genuine incapacity to consent cannot be confused with the real difficulties facing many people, especially the young, which lead them to conclude that marital union is, as a rule, inconceivable and impracticable. Rather, a reaffirmation of the innate human capacity for marriage is itself the starting point for enabling couples to discover the natural reality of marriage and its importance for salvation. Ultimately, what is at stake is the truth about marriage itself and its intrinsic juridical nature (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Rota, 27 January 2007), which is an indispensable premise for the ability to understand and e valuate the capacity required to marry.

Capacity in this sense has to be seen in relation to the essential nature of marriage as "the intimate partnership of life and conjugal love established by the Creator and endowed with its proper laws" (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes GS 48), and, in a particular way, with essential and inherent obligations which are to be accepted by the couple (Can. 1095, n. 3). This capacity is not calculated in relation to a specific degree of existential or actual realization of the conjugal union by the fulfillment of the essential obligations, but rather in relation to the effective will of each of the partners, which makes that realization possible and operative from the very moment that the marriage is contracted. To speak of capacity or incapacity, therefore, is meaningful to the extent that it concerns the act itself of contracting marriage, since the bond which comes into being by the will of the spouses constitutes the juridical reality of the biblical "one flesh" (Gn 2,24 Mc 10,8 Ep 5,31 cf. Ep 1061 §1), and its continuing validity does not depend on the subsequent conduct of the couple during their married life. In a very different way, a reductionist approach which disregards the truth about marriage sees the effective establishment of a genuine communion of life and love, idealized at the level of a purely human well-being, as essentially dependent on purely accidental factors, rather than on the exercise of human freedom sustained by grace. It is true that this freedom of human nature, "wounded in the natural powers proper to it", and "inclined to sin" (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 405), is limited and imperfect, but it is not thereby unauthentic and insufficient for carrying out that act of self-determination by the parties which is the conjugal covenant, which gives rise to marriage and to the family founded on it.

Obviously certain anthropological and "humanistic" currents of thought, aimed at self-realization and egocentric self-transcendence, so idealize the human person and marriage that they end up denying the psychic capacity of a great number of people, basing this on elements which do not correspond to the essential requirements of the conjugal bond. Faced with such conceptions, those engaged in the practice of ecclesial law cannot prescind from the healthy realism spoken of by my venerable Predecessor (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, 27 January 1997, n. 4), since capacity refers to the minimum needed for those marrying to give their being as a male person and a female person in order to establish that bond to which the vast majority of human beings are called. It follows that, as a matter of principle, causes of nullity due to psychic incapacity require the judge to employ the service of experts to ascertain the existence of a genuine incapacity (Can. 1680; art. 203 1), which is always an exception to the natural principle of the capacity needed to understand, decide for and carry out the mutual self-giving from which the conjugal bond arises.

This then, distinguished members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, is what I wished to present to you on this solemn occasion, which is always a pleasant one for me. I exhort you to persevere with deep Christian conscientiousness in the exercise of your office, whose great importance for the life of the Church is evident from all that I have said. May the Lord always assist you in your demanding work by the light of his grace, in pledge of which I impart to all of you, with deep affection, my Apostolic Blessing.


Dear brothers in Christ,

I extend a warm welcome to you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. At the end of this week of dedicated work we can give thanks together to the Lord for your steadfast commitment to the search for reconciliation and communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church.

Indeed, each of you brings to this task not only the richness of your own tradition, but also the commitment of the Churches involved in this dialogue to overcome the divisions of the past and to strengthen the united witness of Christians in the face of the enormous challenges facing believers today.

The world needs a visible sign of the mystery of unity that binds the three divine Persons and, that two thousand years ago, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, was revealed to us. The tangibility of the Gospel message is conveyed perfectly by John, when he declares his intention to express what he has heard and his eyes have seen and his hands have touched, so that all may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (cf. 1Jn 1,1-4). Our communion through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life that unites the Father and the Son has a perceptible dimension within the Church, the Body of Christ, “the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ep 1,23), and we all have a duty to work for the manifestation of that essential dimension of the Church to the world.

Your sixth meeting has taken important steps precisely in the study of the Church as communion. The very fact that the dialogue has continued over time and is hosted each year by one of the several Churches you represent is itself a sign of hope and encouragement. We need only cast our minds to the Middle East - from where many of you come - to see that true seeds of hope are urgently needed in a world wounded by the tragedy of division, conflict and immense human suffering.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has just concluded with the ceremony in the Basilica dedicated to the great apostle Paul, at which many of you were present. Paul was the first great champion and theologian of the Church’s unity. His efforts and struggles were inspired by the enduring aspiration to maintain a visible, not merely external, but real and full communion among the Lord’s disciples. Therefore, through Paul’s intercession, I ask for God’s blessings on you all, and on the Churches and the peoples you represent.


Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I receive you with great pleasure and cordially greet the members of the Administrative Board of the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions: in particular, I greet the General Secretary and thank him for his words on behalf of all. He has recalled that the cisl took its first steps precisely 60 years ago, playing an active part in the foundation of the free international union. He also mentioned that it contributed to the new foundation an anchorage in the principles of the Church's social doctrine and the practice of free and autonomous syndicalism, independent of political or party alignments. You wish today to reassert these same approaches, seeking to continue to draw inspiration for your activities from the social Magisterium of the Church, with the aim of protecting the interests of workers and pensioners in Italy. As the Secretary General has opportunely recalled, the great challenge and opportunity that the present disturbing economic crisis invites everyone to face is to find a new synthesis between the common good and the market, between capital and work. And in this area trade union organizations can make an important contribution.

With full respect for every institution's legitimate autonomy, the Church, an expert in humanity, never tires of offering the contribution of her teaching and experience to those who wish to serve the cause of the human being, work and progress, social justice and peace. In the course of the past century, the Church's attention to social problems has grown. For this very reason, my venerable Predecessors, attentive to the signs of the times, have not failed to provide appropriate instructions for believers and for people of good will, enlightening them on their commitment to safeguard human dignity and the real needs of society.

With the Encyclical Rerum novarum Pope Leo XIII offered a heartfelt defence of the inalienable dignity of workers at the dawn of the 20th century. The ideal directives contained in this document will contribute to strengthening the Christian animation of social life; may this be expressed, among other things, in the birth and consolidation of many initiatives of civil interest, such as social study centres, societies for workers, cooperatives and unions. There has even been a notable impetus towards employment legislation that respects the legitimate expectations of workers, especially women and minors, as well as a marked improvement in salaries and in working conditions. John Paul II wished to solemnize the 100th anniversary of this Encyclical which had "the privilege" of being commemorated subsequently in various papal documents with the Encyclical Centesimus annus, in which he remarks that especially in our period of history the Church's social doctrine contemplates the human being integrated within the complex network of relations that is typical of modern society. The human sciences, for their part, contribute to enabling the person to understand himself ever better as a social being. "However, man's true identity is only fully revealed to him through faith, and it is precisely from faith that the Church's social teaching begins", my venerable Predecessor noted. "While drawing upon all the contributions made by the sciences and philosophy, her social teaching is aimed at helping man on the path of salvation" (ibid., n. 54).

In his previous social Encyclical, Laborem exercens, in 1981 on the theme of work, Pope John Paul II had emphasized that the Church has never ceased to view work problems as part of a social issue which has gradually assumed global dimensions. Indeed, work should be seen as the essential key of the entire social question, he insists, because it conditions not only the economic but also the cultural and moral development of individuals, families, communities and all humanity (cf. n. 1). Again, in this important document, light is shed on the role and strategic importance of unions, which are described as an "indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies" (cf. n. 20).

A recurring element in the Magisterium of the 20th-century Popes is the call for solidarity and responsibility. We know that in order to overcome the economic and social crisis we are experiencing, a free and responsible effort on everyone's part is required. In other words, it is necessary to overcome private and sectorial interests and unite so as to confront together the difficulties assailing every social milieu, especially the world of work. Never before has this been as urgent as it is today; the difficulties afflicting the world of work call for closer and more effective collaboration among the many different elements of society. In the Bible too there are significant references to the appeal for collaboration. In the Book of Ecclesiastes we read: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up" (Qo 4,9-10). The hope, then, is that from the current global crisis there may emerge a shared desire to create a new culture of solidarity and of responsible participation, which are indispensable conditions if we are to build the future of our planet together.

Dear friends, may the celebration of your union's 60th anniversary be a reason to renew the enthusiasm of its origins and to rediscover your original charism even better. The world needs people who dedicate themselves disinterestedly to the cause of work, with full respect for human dignity and the common good. The Church, which appreciates the fundamental role of unions, is as close to you today as she was in the past and is ready to help you to carry out your task in society as well as possible. Lastly, on today's feast of St John Bosco I would like to entrust the activity and projects of your union to this Apostle of youth who with great social sensitivity made work a precious means for training and educating the new generations. I also invoke upon you and upon your families the protection of Our Lady and of St Joseph, a good father and skilled worker who cared every day for the family in Nazareth. For my own part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, as I bless with affection those of you present here and all the members of your Confederation.

                                                    February 2009


Your Excellency,

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

The Holy See’s reestablishment of full diplomatic relations with the countries of the former Eastern bloc, after the momentous events of 1989, opened up new horizons of hope for the future. In the twenty years that have passed since, Hungary has made great progress in establishing the structures of a free and democratic society, able and willing to play its part in an increasingly globalized world community. As you have observed, the forces that govern economic and political affairs in the modern world need to be properly directed – they need, in other words to be built upon an ethical foundation, giving priority always to the dignity and the rights of the human person and the common good of humanity. In view of its strong Christian heritage, stretching back over a thousand years, Hungary is well placed to assist in the promotion of these humane ideals within the European community and the wider world community, and it is my hope that our diplomatic relations will serve to support this vital dimension of your country’s contribution to international affairs.

The experience of newly gained freedom has, at times, brought with it the risk that those same Christian and human values, so deeply rooted in the history and culture of individual peoples, and indeed of the whole continent of Europe, can be supplanted by others, based on unsound visions of man and his dignity and harmful to the development of a truly flourishing society. In my 2008 World Day of Peace Message, I stressed the primordial importance of the family for building peaceful community relations at every level. In much of modern Europe the vital cohesive role that the family has to play in human affairs is being called into question and even endangered as a result of misguided ways of thinking that at times find expression in aggressive social and political policies. It is my earnest hope that ways will be found of safeguarding this essential element of our society, which is the heart of every culture and nation. One of the specific ways government can support the family is by assuring that parents are allowed to exercise their fundamental right as the primary educators of their children, which would include the option to send their children to religious schools when they so desire.

The Catholic Church in Hungary has lived with particular intensity the transition between the period of totalitarian government and the freedom that your country now enjoys. After decades of oppression, sustained by the heroic witness of so many Christians, she has emerged to take her place in a transformed society, able once more to proclaim the Gospel freely. She seeks no privileges for herself, but is eager to play her part in the life of the nation, true to her nature and mission. As the process continues of implementing the agreements between Hungary and the Holy See – I think of the recently signed memorandum on religious assistance for the armed forces and border police - I am confident that any outstanding questions affecting the life of the Church in your country will be resolved in the spirit of good will and fruitful dialogue which has characterized our diplomatic relations ever since they were so happily restored.

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

TO THE BISHOPS OF TURKEY ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT Small Throne Room Monday, 2 February 2009

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

I am glad to receive you this morning during your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, an eloquent sign of your communion with the Successor of Peter. I thank the President of your Bishops' Conference, Bishop Luigi Padovese, Vicar Apostolic of Anatolia, for his kind words to me on your behalf.

Through your presence, your communities with their many faces have also come to meet the Church of Rome, thereby expressing the deep unity that binds them. On your return, please greet affectionately the priests, the men and women religious and all the faithful of your dioceses on my behalf. Tell them that the Pope, who retains a vivid memory of his pilgrimage to Turkey in his heart, remains close to each one of them, to their worries and their hopes.

Your visit, which is providentially taking place during this year dedicated to St Paul, acquires special importance for you who are Pastors of the Catholic Church in Turkey, this land where the Apostle to the Gentiles was born and where he founded several communities.

As I said in the Basilica in which his tomb is located, that is why I chose to establish this special Pauline Year: “in order to listen to him and learn today from him, as our teacher, ‘the faith and the truth’ in which the reasons for unity among Christ's disciples are rooted” (First Vespers, Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, 28 June 2008).

I know that in your country you have sought to give this Jubilee Year special prominence and that numerous pilgrims are visiting the places dear to the Christian tradition. I hope that access to these important places for the Christian faith and the celebration of worship will be increasingly facilitated for pilgrims.

Furthermore, I am very glad about the ecumenical dimension that has been given to this Pauline Year, thereby demonstrating the importance of this initiative for other Churches and Christian communities. May this year make further progress possible on the journey towards the unity of all Christians!

The existence of your local Churches, in all their diversity, fits into the course of a rich history marked by the development of the first Christian communities. So many names, so dear to the disciples of Christ, are still linked to your land, beginning with St John, St Ignatius of Antioch, St Polycarp of Smyrna and a great many other distinguished Fathers of the Church, without forgetting the Council of Ephesus at which the Virgin Mary was proclaimed “Theotokos”.

More recently Pope Benedict XV and Bl. John XXIII have also contributed to the life of the nation and of the Church in Turkey. And I would also like to remember all the Christians, priests and lay people who have witnessed to the love of Christ, at times even to the point of making the supreme gift of their life, as did Fr Andrea Santoro.

May this prestigious history be for your communities – with whose strong faith and self-denial in trials I am acquainted – not only the memory of a glorious past but also an encouragement to continue generously on the path marked out, by witnessing among their brethren to God's love for every human being.

Dear Brothers, the Councils of Nicea and of Constantinople gave the Creed its final form. May this be for you and for your faithful a pressing incentive to deepen the faith of the Church and to live ever more enthusiastically the hope that derives from it. The people of God will find in authentic ecclesial communion an effective support for their faith and their hope.

In fact, “the Church is an organically structured community which finds expression in the coordination of different charisms, ministries and services for the sake of attaining the common end, which is salvation” (Pastores gregis ), and Bishops are primarily responsible for achieving this unity in practice.

The profound communion that must prevail among them, in the diversity of rites, is expressed mainly by genuine fraternity and by mutual collaboration that enables them to carry out their ministry in a collegial spirit and to strengthen the unity of the Body of Christ.

This unity's vital source is the Word of God whose importance in the Church's life and mission the recent Synod of Bishops highlighted anew. I therefore ask you to form the faithful of your dioceses so that Holy Scripture may not be a word of the past but may brighten their existence and truly open them to God.

In this context I am pleased to recall that the meditation on the Word of God by Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, was a key moment in this Synodal Assembly.

Allow me to greet the priests and religious who collaborate with you for the proclamation of the Gospel. As they come from a large number of different countries, their task is often demanding. I encourage them to be ever better integrated into the situation of your local Churches, so that they may be able to give all the members of the Catholic community the pastoral attention they need, without forgetting the weakest and loneliest. The small number of priests, often insufficient for the vast amount of work, cannot but impel you to develop a strong vocations ministry.

The pastoral care of youth is one of your major concerns. Indeed, it is important that young people acquire a Christian formation that helps them to consolidate their faith and to live it, in circumstances that are often difficult. In the same perspective, the formation of lay people must also enable them to take on competently and efficiently the responsibilities entrusted to them in the Church.

The Christian community in your country lives in a nation governed by a Constitution that upholds the secular character of the State while the majority of the population is Muslim. Thus it is very important that Christians and Muslims work together for the human being and for life, as well as for peace and for justice.

Moreover, the distinction between the civil and religious spheres is certainly a value that must be protected. Yet in this framework it behoves the State to guarantee effectively freedom of worship and religious freedom, both for citizens and for religious communities, rendering all violence to believers unacceptable, whatever their religion.

In this context, I know of your desire and your willingness for sincere dialogue with the authorities in order to find a solution to the various problems that your communities face, including the legal recognition of the Catholic Church and her property. This recognition can only have positive consequences for everyone. It is to be hoped that permanent contacts may be established, for example, through an intermediary bilateral commission, in order to examine the issues that have not yet been resolved.

Dear Brothers, at the end of our meeting I would like to repeat to you the words of hope addressed to the Churches of Ephesus and Smyrna in the Book of Revelation: “You are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary.... Do not fear what you are about to suffer.... Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Ap 2,3).

May the intercession of St Paul and the Theotokos obtain that you live in this hope which comes to us from Christ who is Risen and alive among us. I warmly impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you, as well as to the priests, the men and women religious and all the faithful of your dioceses.


Your Excellency,

I welcome you with pleasure on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federative Republic of Brazil to the Holy See.

This happy circumstance affords me the opportunity to note once again the sentiments of spiritual closeness that the Brazilian people nourish for the Successor of Peter; at the same time it allows me to express anew my sincere affection and the great esteem I feel for your noble nation.

I warmly thank you for your kind words. I thank you especially for the respectful thoughts and greeting that H.E. Mr Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of the Republic, has been pleased to convey to me. I ask you, Your Excellency, kindly to reciprocate my greeting, with my best wishes for his happiness and the assurance of my prayers for his country and people.

I take this opportunity to recall with appreciation the Pastoral Visit that Providence enabled me to make in Brazil in 2007 in order to preside at the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, as well as at the meetings with the Head of State, both in São Paulo and more recently here in Rome. May these circumstances testify, once again, to the close bonds of friendship and fruitful collaboration between your country and the Holy See.

Although their objectives differ the Church with her religious and spiritual mission and that of the State they converge on one point: the good of the human person and the common good of the nation. However, as my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul ii said on one occasion: "understanding and respect, mutual concern for independence and the principle of serving the human person in a better way, within a Christian conception, are factors which will produce a harmony for the benefit of the people themselves" (Address to the President of Brazil and members of the Government, Brasília, 14 October 1991, n. 2; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 28 October 1991, p. 2). Brazil is a country the vast majority of whose population professes the Christian faith handed down from the origin of her people, through the evangelization that began more than five centuries ago.

Thus I am pleased to consider the convergence of principles, of both the Apostolic See and your Government, concerning the threat to world peace, weakened by the absence of respectful consideration for the human dignity of one's neighbour. The recent conflict in the Middle East shows the need to support initiatives that aim at a peaceful solution of the divergences that exist. I express the hope that your Government will continue in this direction. Moreover I would like once again to express the hope that in conformity with the principles that protect human dignity which Brazil has always championed, the fundamental human values will continue to be promoted, especially when it is a matter of explicitly recognizing the sacred nature of family life and the need to safeguard the unborn child from the moment of conception until life's natural end. Likewise, with regard to biological experiments, the Holy See is constantly encouraging the defence of an ethic that does not disfigure but rather protects the life of embryos and their right to be born.

I see with pleasure that in an atmosphere of marked prosperity the Brazilian nation is becoming an example to other neighbouring areas and in various countries on the African continent. In a climate of solidarity and mutual understanding, the Government is seeking to support initiatives that aim to encourage the fight against poverty and technological backwardness at both the national and international levels.

On the other hand, the policy of the redistribution of domestic income has facilitated greater well-being among the population. In this regard, I hope that a better distribution of income will continue to be encouraged and that greater social justice for the good of the population will be reinforced. Nonetheless it is necessary to emphasize that alongside material poverty, moral poverty is spreading throughout the world and having a considerable effect even where there is no lack of material goods. The danger of consumerism and hedonism, together with the lack of sound moral principles to guide the ordinary citizen's life, are making the structure of the Brazilian society and family vulnerable. Thus there can never be enough insistence on the urgent need for a sound moral training at all levels, also in the political sphere, in the face of the constant threats that stem from the ever prevalent materialistic ideologies and, above all, from the temptation of corruption in the management of public and private funds. To this end, Christianity can make an effective contribution as I said recently because "Christianity is a religion of freedom and peace, and it stands at the service of the true good of humanity" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings, 8 January 2009). It is in line with these values that the Church continues to offer this service of profound evangelical importance that encourages the achievement of peace and justice among all peoples.

The recent Agreement that redefines the juridical civil status of the Catholic Church in Brazil and regulates topics of mutual interest between the parties is a significant sign of this sincere cooperation with the Brazilian Government that the Church desires to maintain within the province of her mission. In this regard, I express the hope that this Agreement, as I have already had the opportunity to point out, "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" (ibid.). Faith and adherence to Jesus Christ require the Catholic faithful, also in Brazil, to become instruments of reconciliation and brotherhood in truth, justice and love. Thus I hope to see this solemn Document ratified, so that the ecclesiastical organization of the life of Catholics may be facilitated and attain a high degree of effectiveness.

Mr Ambassador,

Before concluding this meeting, I renew the request to convey my best wishes for happiness and peace to the President of the Republic. I assure you, Your Excellency, that you will always find with the Holy See esteem, a warm welcome and support, as you carry out your mission. I hope it will be successful and bear an abundance of fruit and joy. At this time, I turn my thoughts to all Brazilians and to all those who guide their future. I wish them all happiness, with ever greater progress and harmony. I am sure, Your Excellency, that you will convey my sentiments and hopes to the Head of State. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, I implore for you, Your Excellency, for your mandate and for your relatives, as well as for all the beloved Brazilians, the abundant Blessings of Almighty God.


Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dear Sick People,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our meeting has a special value and significance: it is taking place on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick which occurs today, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. My thoughts turn to that Shrine which I too visited on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions to St Bernadette. And I have kept a vivid memory of that pilgrimage which was focused in particular on the contact I had with the sick gathered at the Grotto of Massabielle. I have come very gladly to greet you at the end of the Eucharistic celebration at which Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has presided. I address a cordial thought to him. Together with him I greet the Prelates present and the priests, men and women religious, volunteers, pilgrims and especially the beloved sick people and those who care for them daily. It is always moving to relive in this circumstance, here, in St Peter's Basilica, that typical atmosphere of prayer and Marian spirituality which characterizes the Shrine of Lourdes. Thank you, therefore, for this expression of your faith and love for Mary; I thank all those who have sponsored and organized this event, especially UNITALSI [the Italian National Union for Transporting the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines] and the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi [Roman Society for Pilgrimages].

This Day invites us to feel with greater intensity the spiritual closeness to the Church's sick which, as I wrote in the Encyclical Deus caritas est, is the family of God in the world within which no one must go without the necessities of life (cf. n. 25b). At the same time, today we are given the opportunity to reflect on the experience of illness, suffering, and more generally, on the meaning of life to be lived to the full even in suffering. In the Message for today's event, I wished to focus attention on sick children who are the weakest and most defenceless of creatures. It is true! If we are left speechless before an adult who is suffering, what can we say when illness affects an innocent child?

How is it possible to perceive the merciful love of God, who never abandons his children in trial, even in these difficult situations? Such questions are frequent and at times disturbing. Truly, they find no adequate answers on the merely human level since the meaning of pain, illness and death remains incomprehensible to the human mind. However, the light of faith comes to our aid. The Word of God reveals to us that even these ills are mysteriously "embraced" by the divine plan of salvation; faith helps us to consider human life beautiful and worthy of living to the full, even when it is undermined by evil. God created the human being for happiness and for life, while illness and death entered the world as a consequence of sin. However, the Lord has not left us to ourselves. He, the Father of life, is the physician of man par excellence who ever lovingly bends over suffering humanity. The Gospel shows Jesus who "cast out the spirits... and healed all who were sick" (Mt 8,16), pointing out the way of conversion and faith as conditions for obtaining healing of body and mind. With his passion and his death he took our weakness upon himself and totally transformed it. This is why according to what the Servant of God John Paul ii wrote in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris "To suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ" (n. 23).

Dear brothers and sisters, we are increasingly realizing that human life is not a disposable good but a precious coffer to be preserved and looked after with every possible attention, from the moment of its origin to its ultimate natural end. Life is a mystery that in itself demands responsibility, love, patience and charity, on the part of each and every one. It is especially necessary to surround those who are sick and suffering with care and respect. This is not always easy; yet we know where to find the courage and patience to face the vicissitudes of earthly existence, and in particular sickness and every kind of suffering. For us Christians, it is in Christ that the answer is found to the enigma of pain and death. By participating in Holy Mass, as you have just done, we are immersed in the mystery of his death and Resurrection. Every Eucharistic celebration is the perennial memorial of the Crucified and Risen Christ, who defeated the power of evil with the omnipotence of his love.
It is therefore at the "school" of the Eucharistic Christ that we are granted to learn and to love life always and to accept our apparent powerlessness in the face of illness and death.

My venerable Predecessor John Paul II wished the World Day of the Sick to coincide with the Feast of the Immaculate Virgin of Lourdes. In that sacred place, our heavenly Mother came to remind us that on this earth we are only passing through and that the human being's true and definitive dwelling place is Heaven. We must all strive for this goal. May the light that comes "from on High" help us to understand and to give meaning and value to the experience of suffering and death too. Let us ask Our Lady to turn her motherly gaze on every sick person and on his or her family, to help each one to carry the weight of the Cross with Christ. Let us entrust to her, the Mother of humanity, the poor, the suffering, the sick of the whole world, with a special thought for suffering children. With these sentiments, I encourage you to trust in the Lord always and I warmly bless you all.


Mr Ambassador,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce, and the Government and people of your nation my gratitude for their greetings. With vivid memories of my recent visit to your beautiful country, I assure you of my prayers for the country’s well-being and in particular I wish to send my condolences to the grieving individuals and families in Victoria who have lost loved ones in the recent bush fires.

Your Excellency’s appointment as Australia’s first residential Ambassador to the Holy See marks a welcome new stage in our diplomatic relations and provides an opportunity to deepen mutual understanding and to extend our already significant collaboration. The Church’s engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that human progress – whether as individuals or communities – is dependent upon the recognition of the supernatural vocation proper to every person. It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity (cf. Gen Gn 1,27) and the capacity to seek truth and goodness. Within this broad perspective we can counter tendencies to pragmatism and consequentialism, so prevalent today, which engage only with the symptoms and effects of conflicts, social fragmentation, and moral ambiguity, rather than their roots. When humanity’s spiritual dimension is brought to light, individuals’ hearts and minds are drawn to God and to the marvels of human life: being itself, truth, beauty, moral values, and other persons. In this way a sure foundation to unite society and sustain a vision of hope can be found.

World Youth Day was an event of singular importance for the universal Church and for Australia. Echoes of appreciation continue to resound within your own nation and across the globe. Above all, every World Youth Day is a spiritual event: a time when young people, not all of whom have a close association with the Church, encounter God in an intense experience of prayer, learning, and listening, thus coming to experience faith in action. Sydney residents themselves, as Your Excellency observed, were inspired by the sheer joy of the pilgrims. I pray that this young generation of Christians in Australia and throughout the world will channel their enthusiasm for all that is true and good into forging friendships across divides and creating places of living faith in and for our world, settings of hope and practical charity.

Mr Ambassador, cultural diversity brings much richness to the social fabric of Australia today. For decades that collage was tarnished by the injustices so painfully endured by the Indigenous Peoples. Through the apology offered last year by Prime Minister Rudd, a profound change of heart has been affirmed. Now, renewed in the spirit of reconciliation, both government agencies and aboriginal elders can address with resolution and compassion the plethora of challenges that lie ahead. A further example of your Government’s desire to promote respect and understanding among cultures is its laudable effort to facilitate inter-religious dialogue and cooperation both at home and in the region. Such initiatives help to preserve cultural heritages, nourish the public dimension of religion, and kindle the very values without which civic society’s heart would soon wither.

Australia’s diplomatic activity in the Pacific, Asia and more recently in Africa is multifaceted and growing. The nation’s active support of the Millennium Development Goals, numerous regional partnerships, initiatives to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and keen concern for just economic development are well known and respected. And as the shadows and lights of globalization cast their reach over our world in increasingly complex ways, your nation is showing itself ready to respond to a growing variety of exigencies in a principled, responsible and innovative manner. Not least of these are the menacing threats to God’s creation itself through climate change. Perhaps more than ever before in our human history the fundamental relationship between Creator, Creation and Creature needs to be pondered and respected. From this recognition we can discover a common code of ethics, consisting of norms rooted in the natural law inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being.

In my message this year for the World Day of Peace, I drew particular attention to the need for an ethical approach to the creation of positive partnerships between markets, civil society and States (cf. no. 12). In this regard I note with interest the Australian Government’s determination to establish relations of cooperation based on the values of fairness, good governance, and the sense of a regional neighbourhood. A genuinely ethical stance is at the heart of every responsible, respectful and socially inclusive development policy. It is ethics which render imperative a compassionate and generous response to poverty; they render urgent the sacrificing of protectionist interests for fair accessibility of poor countries to developed markets just as they render reasonable donor nations’ insistence upon accountability and transparency in the use of financial aid by receiver nations.

For her part, the Church has a long tradition within the healthcare sector where she brings to the fore an ethical approach to every individual’s particular needs. Especially in poorer nations, Religious Orders and church organizations – including many Australian missionaries – fund and staff a vast network of hospitals and clinics, often in remote areas where States have been unable to serve their own people. Of particular concern is the provision of medical care for families, including high-quality obstetrical care for women. How ironic it is, however, when some groups, through aid programmes, promote abortion as a form of ‘maternal’ healthcare: taking a life, purportedly to improve the quality of life.

Your Excellency, I am sure that your appointment will further strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist between Australia and the Holy See. As you exercise your new responsibilities you will find the broad range of offices of the Roman Curia ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your family together with your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome all of you today, and I thank Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Mr Alan Solow for the greetings they have addressed to me on your behalf. I well recall the various occasions, during my visit to the United States last year, when I was able to meet some of you in Washington D.C. and New York. Rabbi Schneier, you graciously received me at Park East Synagogue just hours before your celebration of Pesah. Now, I am glad to have this opportunity to offer you hospitality here in my own home. Such meetings as this enable us to demonstrate our respect for one another. I want you to know that you are all most welcome here today in the house of Peter, the home of the Pope.

I look back with gratitude to the various opportunities I have had over many years to spend time in the company of my Jewish friends. My visits to your communities in Washington and New York, though brief, were experiences of fraternal esteem and sincere friendship. So too was my visit to the Synagogue in Cologne, the first such visit in my Pontificate. It was very moving for me to spend those moments with the Jewish community in the city I know so well, the city which was home to the earliest Jewish settlement in Germany, its roots reaching back to the time of the Roman Empire.

A year later, in May 2006, I visited the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. What words can adequately convey that profoundly moving experience? As I walked through the entrance to that place of horror, the scene of such untold suffering, I meditated on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews, who had trodden that same path into captivity at Auschwitz and in all the other prison camps. Those children of Abraham, grief-stricken and degraded, had little to sustain them beyond their faith in the God of their fathers, a faith that we Christians share with you, our brothers and sisters. How can we begin to grasp the enormity of what took place in those infamous prisons? The entire human race feels deep shame at the savage brutality shown to your people at that time. Allow me to recall what I said on that sombre occasion: "The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm, ‘We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter’, were fulfilled in a terrifying way."

Our meeting today occurs in the context of your visit to Italy in conjunction with your annual Leadership Mission to Israel. I too am preparing to visit Israel, a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there. Indeed, the Church draws its sustenance from the root of that good olive tree, the people of Israel, onto which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (cf. Rom Rm 11,17-24). From the earliest days of Christianity, our identity and every aspect of our life and worship have been intimately bound up with the ancient religion of our fathers in faith.

The two-thousand-year history of the relationship between Judaism and the Church has passed through many different phases, some of them painful to recall. Now that we are able to meet in a spirit of reconciliation, we must not allow past difficulties to hold us back from extending to one another the hand of friendship. Indeed, what family is there that has not been troubled by tensions of one kind or another? The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra Aetate marked a milestone in the journey towards reconciliation, and clearly outlined the principles that have governed the Church’s approach to Christian-Jewish relations ever since. The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God’s forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer. I now make his prayer my own: "God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant" (26 March 2000).

The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the Holy Scriptures, according to which every human being is created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1,26-27). It is beyond question that any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable. Recently, in a public audience, I reaffirmed that the Shoah must be "a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all" (January 28, 2009).

This terrible chapter in our history must never be forgotten. Remembrance — it is rightly said — is memoria futuri, a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship. It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews. It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church’s irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance.

AT THE END OF THE PERFORMANCE OF HANDEL'S "MESSIAH" Paul VI Audience Hall Thursday, 12 February 2009

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