Speeches 2005-13 12029


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of this beautiful evening, I am glad to address a cordial greeting to all of you who have come to the concert organized on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Vatican City State. I greet the religious, civil and military authorities and the distinguished figures, with a special thought for the Prelates of the Roman Curia and those who collaborate with the various offices of the Governorate of the Vatican who, with this very initiative, have gathered here to commemorate this most important event. I would like above all to express my deep gratitude to Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, to whom I am also grateful for his words of affection and devotion at the beginning of the concert. I extend my greeting to the General Secretary, Bishop Renato Boccardo and to the other directors of the Governorate and, naturally, I express my gratitude to all who have cooperated in various ways in the organization and realization of this musical event.

Certain of interpreting the sentiments of all who are present, I wish to address a special word of thanks and appreciation to the RTÉ Concert Orchestra (the Orchestra of the Irish Radio and Television), to the singers of Our Lady's Choral Society of Dublin, to the conductor, Proinnsías Ó Duinn, to the choirmaster, Paul Ward, and to the soloists. I would like to offer a special greeting to the many faithful from Dublin who have accompanied their city's Choir.

We have been offered a performance of passages from George Frideric Handel's well-known Oratorio, the "Messiah", that is capable of creating an absorbing spiritual atmosphere thanks to its rich anthology of the sacred texts of the Old and New Testaments, which constitute, as it were, the support of the entire musical score. The orchestra and choir likewise succeeded in wonderfully evoking the figure of the Messiah, of Christ, in the light of the Old Testament prophesies. The wealth of musical counterpoint and the harmony of the singing thus helped us to contemplate the intense and arcane mystery of the Christian faith. It is once again clear that music and song, skilfully interwoven with faith, can acquire a lofty pedagogical value in the religious context. As an art music can be a particularly important way of proclaiming Christ because it succeeds in making his mystery perceptible with an eloquence all its own.

This concert, with which it is desired to commemorate a significant anniversary for Vatican City State, is part of the programme of the Congress organized for this occasion on the theme: "A small territory for a great mission". This is not, of course, the moment for a discourse on this historic event; various experts are contributing their competence on many aspects of it at the Congress. Moreover I shall have the opportunity to meet with and speak to those taking part in these study days next Saturday. On this occasion too, I wish to thank everyone who has contributed to solemnizing an event that is so important for the Catholic Church. In commemorating the 80th anniversary of Civitas Vaticana, the need is felt to acknowledge all those who were and are the protagonists of these eight decades of history of a small piece of land. In the first place I would like to remember the first person to play a lead role, my venerable Predecessor Pius XI. In announcing the signing of the Lateran Pacts and above all in establishing Vatican City State, he chose to mention St Francis of Assisi. He said that the new sovereign reality was for the Church, as it was for the Poverello, "enough body, to keep body and soul together" (cf. Address, 11 February 1929). Let us ask the Lord, who firmly guides the destiny of the "Barque of Peter" through the events of history that are not always tranquil, to continue to watch over this little State. Let us ask him above all to help the man at the helm of the Barque, the Successor of Peter, with the power of his Spirit so that he may carry out his ministry faithfully and effectively as a foundation of the unity of the Catholic Church which extends to the ends of the earth and whose visible centre is the Vatican. I entrust this prayer to the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Virgin and Mother of the Church and, as I repeat on behalf of all who are present a cordial "thank you" to those who planned this evening, to the talented members of the orchestra, to the singers and particularly to the soloists, I assure each one of my remembrance in prayer and implore God's Blessing upon all.

TO THE BISHOPS OF NIGERIA ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT Consistory Hall Saturday, 14 February 2009

Dear Brother Bishops,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Nigeria, on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. As the Successor of Peter I cherish this encounter which strengthens our bond of communion and fraternal love and allows us to renew together the sacred responsibility which we exercise in the Church. I thank Archbishop Job for the kind words which he addressed to me on your behalf. For my part, I am pleased to express my sentiments of respect and gratitude to you and to all the faithful of Nigeria.

Brothers, since your last Ad Limina visit Almighty God has blessed the Church in your country with generous growth. This is especially visible in the number of new Christians who have received Christ into their hearts and accept joyfully the Church as "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1Tm 3,15). The abundant priestly and religious vocations are also a clear sign of the work of the Spirit among you. For these graces I give thanks to God and express my appreciation to you and to the priests, religious and catechists who have laboured in the Lord’s vineyard.

Expansion in the Church calls for special care in diocesan planning and the training of personnel through ongoing activities of formation in order to facilitate the necessary deepening of the faith of your people (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). From your reports I see that you are well aware of the basic steps involved: teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance. From this foundation faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community. You yourselves, together with your priests must lead by humility, detachment from worldly ambitions, prayer, obedience to the will of God and transparency in governance. In this way you become a sign of Christ the Good Shepherd.

The celebration of the liturgy is a privileged source of renewal in Christian living. I commend you in your efforts to maintain the proper balance between moments of contemplation and external gestures of participation and joy in the Lord. To this end attention must be given to the liturgical formation of priests and the avoidance of extraneous excesses. Continue on this path keeping in mind that the dialogue of love and veneration of the Lord is greatly enhanced by the practice of eucharistic adoration in parishes, religious communities and other suitable places (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 67).

The coming Synod of Bishops for Africa will address among other themes the topic of ethnic unrest. The marvellous image of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the gathering of innumerable men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation who have been ransomed by the blood of Christ (cf. Ap 5,9), encourages you to confront the challenge of ethnic conflict wherever present, even within the Church. I express my appreciation to those of you who have accepted a pastoral mission outside the limits of your own regional or linguistic group and I thank the priests and people who have welcomed and supported you. Your readiness to adapt to others is an eloquent sign that, as the new family of all who believe in Christ (cf. Mc 3,31-35) there is no place in the Church for any kind of division. Catechumens and neophytes must be taught to accept this truth as they make their commitment to Christ and to a life of Christian love. All believers, especially seminarians and priests, will grow in maturity and generosity by allowing the Gospel message to purify and overcome any possible narrowness of local perspectives.

Wise and discerning selection of seminarians is vital to the spiritual well-being of your country. Their personal formation must be assured through regular spiritual direction, sacramental reconciliation, prayer and meditation on Sacred Scripture. In the word of God seminarians and priests will find the values that distinguish the good priest who is consecrated to the Lord in body and spirit (cf. 1Co 7,34). They will learn to serve with personal detachment and pastoral charity those entrusted to their care, strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (cf. 2Tm 2,1).

I would like to highlight the Bishop’s task of sustaining the important social and ecclesial reality of marriage and family life. With the cooperation of well prepared priests and lay people, experts and married couples, you will exercise with responsibility and zeal your solicitude in this area of pastoral priority (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 73). Courses for engaged couples, and general and specific catechetical teaching on the value of human life, marriage and the family will strengthen your faithful people for the challenges presented to them by changes in society. Likewise do not fail to encourage associations or movements that validly assist married couples in living their faith and marriage commitments.

As an important service to the nation, you have shown your commitment to interreligious dialogue especially with Islam, where with patience and perseverance, strong relations of respect, friendship and practical cooperation are being forged with other religious people. Through your efforts as diligent and untiring promoters of goodwill, the Church will become a clearer sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the whole human race (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1).

Your dedication to derive from Catholic principles enlightened comments on current national problems is greatly appreciated. The natural law, inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being (cf. World Day of Peace Message 2009, 8), and the Gospel, properly understood and applied to civic and political realities, do not in any way reduce the range of valid political options. On the contrary, they constitute a guarantee offered to all citizens of a life of freedom, with respect for their dignity as persons, and protection from ideological manipulation and abuse based on the law of the strongest (cf. Address to the Plenary Session of the International Theological Commission, 5 December 2008). With confidence in the Lord, continue to exercise your Episcopal authority in the struggle against unjust practices and corruption and against all causes and forms of discrimination and criminality, especially the degrading treatment of women and the deplorable practice of kidnapping. By promoting Catholic Social Doctrine you offer your loyal contribution to your country and assist in the consolidation of a national order based on solidarity and a culture of human rights.

My dear Brother Bishops, I exhort you with the words of the Apostle Paul: "be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong; let all that you do be done in love" (1Co 16,13-14). Please convey my greetings to your beloved people, especially to those many believers who bear witness to Christ in hope through prayer and suffering (cf. Spe Salvi and 36). My warm affection goes also to those who serve in the family, in parishes and mission stations, in education, health care and other spheres of Christian charity. Commending you and those entrusted to your pastoral care to the prayers of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi and to the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with genuine pleasure that I address my cordial greeting to all of you, the organizers, speakers and participants in the Study Congress organized to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Vatican City State. "A small territory for a great mission" is the theme on which you have focused your attention, reflecting together on the spiritual and civil value of this small sovereign State, placed entirely at the service of the important mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to the Apostle Peter and his Successors.
I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo not only for his greeting on your behalf, but also for the commitment which he and his collaborators in the Governorate have undertaken to solemnize the significant milestone of the 80 years of life and activity of Vatican State.

I express my deep pleasure at the celebrations and the various commemorative initiatives of these days that intend to provide a deeper and wider knowledge of the history and features of the Civitas Vaticana. Eighty years after its foundation, it constitutes a peacefully acquired reality, although the reasons for its existence and the many tasks it is called to carry out are not always properly understood. Those who work daily at the service of the Holy See or who live in the City take it for granted that there is a tiny sovereign State in the heart of Rome, but not everyone knows that this State is the result of a somewhat turbulent historical process which made its constitution possible, motivated by lofty ideals of faith and far-sighted knowledge of the objectives it would have to achieve. We could thus say that the event, the reason for our meeting today, is an invitation to look with keener awareness at what Vatican City State means and is.

When one recalls 11 February 1929, one cannot fail to remember with deep gratitude the person who was the first and principal author and protagonist of the Lateran Pacts, my venerable Predecessor Pius XI: he was the Pope of my childhood to whom we looked with such veneration and love. Rightly, in these days his name has resonated many times, for with his clear foresight and indomitable will, it was he who was the true founder and first architect of Vatican City State. Moreover, the current historical study of his Pontificate allows us to perceive ever better the greatness of Pope Ratti, who guided the Church in the difficult years between the two World Wars.
With a firm hand he gave a strong impetus to the multiple dimensions of the Church's action: let us think of her missionary expansion, of her care for the formation of ministers of God, of her promotion of the activity of the lay faithful in the Church and in society and of her intense relationship with the civil community. During his Pontificate, the "Librarian Pope" had to contend with the difficulties and persecution the Church faced in countries such as Mexico and Spain, and with the strife caused by the emergence and consolidation of totalitarianism national socialism and fascism in those years. His great Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge is not forgotten in Germany as a strong signal against nazism. One is filled with admiration for the wise and strong achievements of this Pontiff, who only wanted for the Church that freedom which would allow her to carry out her mission integrally. Vatican City State, which came into being subsequent to the Lateran Pacts and in particular the Treaty, was also considered by Pius XI as a means of guaranteeing the necessary independence from every human power in order to enable the Church and her Supreme Pastor to accomplish fully the mandate received from Christ the Lord. How useful and beneficial this small but complete State was to the Holy See, to the Church and to Rome and the whole world was seen just ten years later, at the outbreak of the Second World War, a war whose violence and suffering reached the Vatican gates.

Thus it may be said that throughout the eight decades of its existence, the Vatican State has proven itself a flexible instrument equal to the demands made on it and that continue to be made on it by the mission of the Pope, the needs of the Church and the ever mutating conditions of society. For this very reason, under the guidance of my venerable Predecessors from the Servant of God Pius XII to Pope John Paul II there has been, and still today there is, visible to all, a continuous adaptation of the norms, structures and the means of this unique State built around the tomb of the Apostle Peter. The significant anniversary which we are commemorating in these days is thus a motive for deep thanksgiving to the Lord who guides the destiny of his Church through often turbulent events in the sea of history, and helps his Vicar on earth in carrying out his office as Christianae religionis summus Antistes. My gratitude is extended to all those who in the past and today have been and are protagonists in the life of Vatican City State, some who are well known but many others whose humble and valuable work is unknown. I extend my grateful thoughts to the members of the present-day community of life and work of the Governorate and of the other structures of the State, thus interpreting the sentiments of the entire People of God. At the same time I would like to encourage those who are working in the various offices and Vatican services fulfilling their duties not only with honesty and professional skill, but also with an ever keener awareness that their work is an invaluable service to the cause of God's Kingdom.

The Civitas Vaticana is, in truth, an almost invisible point on the geographical maps of the world, a minute and defenceless State unequipped with dreaded armies, seemingly insignificant in the great international geo-political strategies. Yet this visible guarantee of the absolute independence of the Holy See was and is the centre of outreach of a constant action on behalf of solidarity and the common good. And is it not perhaps true that for this very reason this small piece of land is watched everywhere with great attention? Vatican State, which contains treasures of faith, history and art, preserves a precious patrimony for all humanity. From its heart, where the Pope lives close to the tomb of St Peter, a ceaseless message rises of true social progress, of hope, of reconciliation and of peace. Now, this State of ours, after solemnly commemorating the 80th anniversary of its foundation, continues on its way with greater apostolic zeal. May Vatican City increasingly be a true "city on the hill", which shines thanks to the convictions and generous devotion of all who work in it at the service of the ecclesial mission of the Successor of Peter. With this hope, as I invoke the maternal protection of Mary, the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul and of the other martyrs who hallowed this ground with their blood, I willingly impart my Blessing to all of you who are gathered here, extending it with affection to the great family of Vatican City State.


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Father Rector,
Superiors, Women Religious and
Students of the Pius Pontifical Latin American College of Rome,

I appreciate the kind words of Archbishop Carlos José Ñáñez of Córdoba, President of the Episcopal Commission for the Pius Pontifical Latin American College, on behalf of you all. I am pleased to receive you when you are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the foundation of this praiseworthy institution.

This College's fruitful role as a valuable formation centre began on 27 November 1858. At the start it was intended for seminarians and, since a little more than three decades ago, it has also catered for deacons and priests. Today, more than 4,000 alumni feel they are members of this great family. They all looked at this alma mater with deep affection, since it has been distinguished from the outset by an atmosphere of simplicity, welcome, prayerfulness and fidelity to the Magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff who made a powerful contribution to ensuring that the students increase in love for Christ and in the desire to serve the Church humbly, always seeking the greater glory of God and the good of souls.

Dear students of the Pius Latin American College, you are heirs to this rich human and spiritual patrimony which you must perpetuate and enrich by seriously cultivating the various ecclesiastical disciplines and with the joyful experience of the Church's universality. Here, in this city, the Apostles Peter and Paul boldly proclaimed the Gospel and laid solid foundations on which to disseminate it throughout the world, fulfilling the Teacher's mandate: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them in the name "of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Mt 28,19-20).

You yourselves are the fruit of this marvellous sowing of Christ's message of redemption in the course of history. In fact, you come from various countries in which more than 500 years ago several intrepid missionaries made Jesus, our Saviour, known. In this way, through Baptism those people opened themselves to the life of grace that made them God's children by adoption. Furthermore, they received the Holy Spirit which made their cultures fruitful, purifying them and developing the seeds that the Incarnate Word had planted in them, thereby guiding them along the paths of the Gospel (cf. Address at the opening session of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, 13 May 2007, n. 1).

Having gathered at the Chair of the Prince of the Apostles in Rome, you have a privileged opportunity to temper your hearts as true apostles, since all your being and your daily tasks are firmly anchored in the Lord. It is he who must always be the foundation, compass and goal of your efforts. Moreover, the College enables you to share your human and priestly experience in a fraternal way and offers you a favourable opportunity to be permanently open to the knowledge of other cultures and ecclesial expressions. This will help you to be authentic disciples of Jesus Christ and fearless missionaries of his word, with broadmindedness and greatness of soul. In this way you will be better qualified to be men of God who know him in depth, selfless workers in his vineyard and concerned stewards of the charity of Jesus Christ for those in greatest need.

Your Bishops have sent you to the Pius Pontifical Latin American College so that you may be filled with the wisdom of the Crucified Christ, so that returning to your dioceses you may make this treasure available to others in the various offices entrusted to you. This requires you to make the most of your stay in Rome. Beyond enabling you to explore the mysteries of the faith and the truth about man in the light of the Gospel and of the tradition of the Church, perseverance in study and rigorous research will nurture within you a spiritual life rooted in the Word of God and ever nourished by the incomparable richness of the sacraments.

Love for and adhesion to the Apostolic See is one of the most outstanding characteristics of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples. For this reason my meeting with you reminds me of the days I spent at Aparecida when I was moved to witness expressions of collegiality and fraternal communion in the episcopal ministry of the representatives of the Bishops' Conferences of those noble countries. Through my presence there, I sought to encourage the Bishops in their reflection on a fundamental aspect to revitalize the faith of the pilgrim Church in those beloved countries: to bring all our faithful to be "disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ so that our peoples may have life in him".

I ask you to join in this spirit enthusiastically, expressed in the dynamism with which all these dioceses have begun or are beginning the "continental mission" promoted at Aparecida, an initiative that will facilitate the implementation of catechetical and pastoral programmes destined for the formation and development of evangelized and missionary Christian communities.

Accompany these initiatives with your fervent prayers so that the faithful may know and increasingly dedicate themselves to imitating Jesus Christ, taking part frequently in the Sunday celebrations of each community and bearing witness to him in such a way that they become effective instruments of this "New Evangelization" to which my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II frequently convoked them.

At the end of this meeting, I would like to renew my cordial gratitude to all those present, in particular the Episcopal Commission for the College whose mission is to encourage its students and to strengthen their sense of communion and faithfulness to the Roman Pontiff and their Pastors. Likewise I wish to express through the College's Superiors my gratitude to the Society of Jesus, to which my Predecessor St Pius X entrusted the permanent management of this worthy institution, as well as the women religious and personnel who care for these young men with attention and joy. I am also thinking with gratitude of those who fund this work of the Church with their financial help and support it with their generosity and prayers.

I place in the hands of Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, each and every one of you, as well as your families and your home communities, so that her maternal protection may lovingly assist you in your tasks and help you to be more deeply rooted in her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the blessed fruit of her womb.

Many thanks.


Mr President of the Governing Council,
Governors, Permanent Representatives of the Member States,
Officials of the IFAD,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet all of you at the conclusion of the celebrations marking the Thirtieth Anniversary of the establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. I thank the outgoing President, Mr Lennart Båge, for his kind words and I offer congratulations and good wishes to Mr Kanayo Nwanze on his election to this high office. I thank all of you for coming here today and I assure you of my prayers for the important work that you do to promote rural development. Your work is particularly crucial at the present time in view of the damaging effect on food security of the current instability in the prices of agricultural products. This requires new and far-sighted strategies for the fight against rural poverty and the promotion of rural development. As you know, the Holy See fully shares your commitment to overcome poverty and hunger, and to come to the aid of the world’s poorest peoples. I pray that IFAD’s anniversary celebration will provide you with an incentive to pursue these worthy goals with renewed energy and determination in the years ahead.

Since its earliest days, the International Fund has achieved an exemplary form of cooperation and coresponsibility between nations at different stages of development. When wealthy countries and developing nations come together to make joint decisions and to determine specific criteria for each country’s budgetary contribution to the Fund, it can truly be said that the various Member States come together as equals, expressing their solidarity with one another and their shared commitment to eradicate poverty and hunger. In an increasingly interdependent world, joint decision-making processes of this kind are essential if international affairs are to be conducted with equity and foresight.

Equally commendable is the emphasis placed by IFAD on promoting employment opportunities within rural communities, with a view to enabling them, in the long term, to become independent of outside aid. Assistance given to local producers serves to build up the economy and contributes to the overall development of the nation concerned. In this sense the “rural credit” projects, designed to assist smallholder farmers and agricultural workers with no land of their own, can boost the wider economy and provide greater food security for all. These projects also help indigenous communities to flourish on their own soil, and to live in harmony with their traditional culture, instead of being forced to uproot themselves in order to seek employment in overcrowded cities, teeming with social problems, where they often have to endure squalid living conditions.

This approach has the particular merit of restoring the agricultural sector to its rightful place within the economy and the social fabric of developing nations. Here a valuable contribution can be made by Non-Governmental Organizations, some of which have close links with the Catholic Church and are committed to the application of her social teaching. The principle of subsidiarity requires that each group within society be free to make its proper contribution to the good of the whole. All too often, agricultural workers in developing nations are denied that opportunity, when their labour is greedily exploited, and their produce is diverted to distant markets, with little or no resulting benefit for the local community itself.

Almost fifty years ago, my predecessor Blessed Pope John XXIII had this to say about the task of tilling the soil: “Those who live on the land can hardly fail to appreciate the nobility of the work they are called upon to do. They are living in close harmony with Nature – the majestic temple of Creation… Theirs is a work which carries with it a dignity all its own” (Mater et Magistra MM 144-145). All human labour is a participation in the creative providence of Almighty God, but agricultural labour is so in a pre-eminent way. A truly humane society will always know how to appreciate and reward appropriately the contribution made by the agricultural sector. If properly supported and equipped, it has the potential to lift a nation out of poverty and to lay the foundations for increasing prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we give thanks for the achievements of the past thirty years, there is a need for renewed determination to act in harmony and solidarity with all the different elements of the human family in order to ensure equitable access to the earth’s resources now and in the future. The motivation to do this comes from love: love for the poor, love that cannot tolerate injustice or deprivation, love that refuses to rest until poverty and hunger are banished from our midst. The goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, as well as promoting food security and rural development, far from being over-ambitious or unrealistic, become, in this context, imperatives binding upon the whole international community. It is my fervent prayer that the activities of such organizations as yours will continue to make a significant contribution to the attainment of these goals. In thanking you and encouraging you to persevere in the good work that you do, I commend you to the constant care of our loving Father, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that is therein. May God bless all of you!


Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I warmly greet the Counsellors and Members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America which has reflected at its Plenary Assembly on "the current situation of priestly formation in seminaries" of that land. I am grateful for the words, on behalf of you all, of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, President of the Commission, who has presented to me the central themes of your work and the pastoral recommendations that have emerged at this meeting.

I thank God for the fruit that this Pontifical Commission has borne in the Church since its foundation in 1958, when Pope Pius XII saw the need to create a body of the Holy See in order to intensify and coordinate more closely the work developed for the Church in Latin America, in the face of the scarcity of its priests and missionaries. My venerable Predecessor John Paul II confirmed and strengthened this initiative, aiming to highlight the special pastoral concern of the Successor of Peter for the pilgrim Churches in those beloved countries. At this new milestone of the Commission, I cannot fail to mention with deep gratitude the work carried out for many years by Bishop Cipriano Calderón Polo, its Vice-President who died recently and whom the Lord will have rewarded for his self-denial and faithful service to the Church.

Last year I received many Bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean who were making their ad limina visit. I discussed with them the reality of the particular Churches entrusted to them and was thereby enabled to gain a better knowledge of the hopes and difficulties of their apostolic ministry. I accompany them all with my prayers that they may continue to exercise with faithfulness and joy their service to the People of God and give an impetus today to the "Continental Mission" that is being implemented as a fruit of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences (cf. Final Document, n. 362).

I treasure grateful memories of my stay at Aparecida when we lived an experience of intense ecclesial communion with the one desire of welcoming the Gospel with humility and disseminating it generously. The theme chosen: "Disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our peoples may have life in him", continues to direct the efforts of the Church's members in those beloved nations.

When I summarized my Apostolic Visit to Brazil for the members of the Roman Curia, I asked myself: "was Aparecida right to give priority to the discipleship of Jesus Christ and to evangelization in the quest for the life of the world? Might it have been an erroneous withdrawal into interiority?" I answered, with total certainty: "No! Aparecida decided correctly because it is precisely through the new encounter with Jesus Christ and his Gospel and only in this way that forces are inspired which enable us to give the right response to the challenges of the time" (Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, Friday, 21 December 2007). This personal encounter with the Lord, nourished by listening to his word and by participation in the Eucharist, as well as by the need to communicate our own experience of Christ with great enthusiasm, continues to be fundamental. As Bishops, successors of the Apostles, we are the first who must always keep alive the Lord's freely given loving call, like his call to the first disciples (cf. Mc 1,16-20). Like them we too have been chosen "to be with him" (cf. Mc 3,14), to welcome his word and to receive his strength, and thus to live like him, proclaiming to all the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

The period we spent at the seminary was a decisive time of discernment and preparation for us all. There, in profound dialogue with Christ, our desire to become deeply rooted in him was reinforced. In those years, we learned to feel at home in the Church, accompanied by Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our most beloved Mother, ever obedient to God's will. For this reason I am glad that this Plenary Assembly has focussed its attention on the current situation of seminaries in Latin America.

To succeed in becoming priests according to the Heart of Christ it is necessary to trust in the action of the Holy Spirit rather than in human strategies and calculations, and to ask the Lord, the "Lord of the Harvest", with great faith to send numerous holy vocations to the priesthood (cf. Lc 10,2), always joining to this supplication affection and closeness for those who are at the seminary with the intention of taking Holy Orders. On the other hand, the need for priests in order to face the challenges of the contemporary world must not lead to neglecting a careful discernment of the candidates, nor to relaxing the necessary and strict requirements in order that their formation process may help them become exemplary priests.

Consequently, the pastoral recommendations of this Assembly must be an essential reference point to illuminate the daily life of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops in this sensitive area of formation for the priesthood. Today, more than ever, it is necessary that seminarians with an upright intention and free of any other concern, aspire to the priesthood motivated solely by the desire to be authentic disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. In communion with their Bishops they must make him present in their ministry and in their witness of life. For this reason it is of paramount importance that care and attention be paid to their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation, as well as to the suitable choice of formation staff and professors. The latter must be distinguished by their academic ability, their priestly spirit and their fidelity to the Church, so that they are able to foster in the young men what the People of God need and what their pastors hope for.

I entrust to the maternal protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary the projects of this Plenary Assembly, imploring her to accompany all those who are preparing for the priestly ministry treading in the footsteps of her divine Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. With these sentiments I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you


Your Eminence,
Dear Friends,

It is always a great joy for me to be in my Seminary, to see the future priests of my Diocese, to be with you under the sign of Our Lady of Trust. With the one who helps and accompanies us, who gives us real certainty in being always assisted by divine grace, and we go forward!

Now we wish to see what St Paul tells us with this text: "You were called to freedom". Since the beginning and throughout all time but especially in the modern age freedom has been the great dream of humanity. We know that Luther was inspired by this passage from the Letter to the Galatians and that he concluded that the monastic Rule, the hierarchy, the Magisterium seemed to him as a yoke of slavery from which it was necessary to liberate oneself. Subsequently, the Age of Enlightenment was totally guided, penetrated, by this desire for freedom, which was considered to have finally been reached. But Marxism too presented itself as a road towards freedom.

We ask ourselves this evening: what is freedom? How can we be free? St Paul helps us to understand this complicated reality that is freedom, inserting this concept into fundamentally anthropological and theological context. He says: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love be servants of one another". The Rector has already told us that the "flesh" is not the body, but, in the language of St Paul, "flesh" is an expression of the absolutization of self, of the self that wants to be all and to take all for its own. The absolute "I" who depends on nothing and on no one seems to possess freedom truly and definitively. I am free if I depend on no one, if I can do anything I want. But exactly this absolutization of the I is "flesh", that is a degradation of man. It is not the conquest of freedom: libertinism is not freedom, but rather freedom's failure.

And Paul dares to propose a strong paradox: "Through love, be servants" (in Greek: douléuete). In other words freedom, paradoxically, is achieved in service. We become free if we become servants of one another. And so Paul places the whole matter of freedom in the light of the truth of man. To reduce oneself to flesh, seemingly elevating oneself to divine status "I alone am the man" leads to deception. Because in reality it is not so: man is not an absolute, as if the "I" can isolate itself and behave only according to its own will. It is contrary to the truth of our being. Our truth is that above all we are creatures, creatures of God, and we live in relationship with the Creator. We are relational beings. And only by accepting our relationality can we enter into the truth; otherwise we fall into deception and in it, in the end, we destroy ourselves.

We are creatures, therefore dependent on the Creator. In the Age of Enlightenment, to atheism especially this appeared as a dependence from which it was necessary to free oneself. In reality, however, it would be only a fatal dependence were this God Creator a tyrant and not a good Being only if he were to be like human tyrants. If, instead, this Creator loves us and our dependence means being within the space of his love, in that case it is precisely dependence that is freedom. In this way we are in fact within the charity of the Creator; we are united to him, to the whole of his reality, to all of his power. Therefore this is the first point: to be a creature means to be loved by the Creator, to be in this relationship of love that he gives us, through which he provides for us. From this derives first of all our truth, which is at the same time a call to charity.

Therefore, to see God, to orient oneself to God, know God, know God's will, enter into the will that is, into the love of God is to enter ever more into the space of truth. And this journey of coming to know God, of loving relationship with God, is the extraordinary adventure of our Christian life; for in Christ we know the face of God, the face of God that loves us even unto the Cross, unto the gift of himself.

But creaturely relationality implies a second type of relationship as well. We are in relationship with God, but together, as a human family, we are also in relationship with each other. In other words, human freedom is, in part, being within the joy and ample space of God's love, but it also implies becoming one with the other and for the other. There is no freedom in opposing the other. If I make myself the absolute, I become the enemy of the other; we can no longer live together and the whole of life becomes cruelty, becomes a failure. Only a shared freedom is a human freedom; in being together we can enter into the harmony of freedom.

And therefore this is another very important point: only in the acceptance of the other, accepting also the apparent limitations on my freedom that derive from respect for that of the other only by entering into the net of dependence that finally makes us a single family am I on the path to communal freedom.

Here a very important element appears: what is the measure of sharing freedom? We see that man needs order, laws, so that he can realize his freedom which is a freedom lived in common. And how can we find this correct order, in which no one is oppressed but rather each one can give his contribution to form this sort of concert of freedoms? If there is no common truth of man as it appears in the vision of God, only positivism remains and one has the impression of something imposed in an even violent manner. From this emerges rebellion against order and law as though it entails slavery.

But if we can find the order of the Creator in our nature, the order of truth that gives each one his place, then order and law can be the very instruments of freedom against the slavery of selfishness. To serve one another becomes the instrument of freedom, and here we could add a whole philosophy of politics according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, which helps us to find this common order that gives each one his place in the common life of humanity. The first reality meriting respect, therefore, is the truth: freedom opposed to truth is not freedom. To serve one another creates the common space of freedom.

And then Paul continues saying: "The whole law is fulfilled in one word, namely, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself'". Behind this affirmation appears the mystery of God Incarnate, appears the mystery of Christ who in his life, in his death, in his Resurrection becomes the living law. The first words of our Reading "You were called to freedom" alluded directly to this mystery. We have been called by the Gospel, we have truly been called in Baptism, in the participation in the death and Resurrection of Christ. In this way we have passed from the "flesh", from selfishness to communion with Christ. And thus we are in the fullness of the law.

You probably all know the beautiful words of St Augustine: "Dilige et fac quod vis Love and do what you will". What Augustine says is the truth, if we have well understood the word "love". "Love and do what you will" but we must really be in communion with Christ, penetrated by him, identifying ourselves with his death and Resurrection and united to him in the communion of his Body. By participating in the sacraments, by listening to the word of God truly the divine will the divine law enters into our will. Our will identifies with his, we become one single will and thus we can truly be freed; we can truly do what we want to do, because we want with Christ we want in the truth and with the truth.

Therefore, let us pray the Lord to help us in this journey that begun with Baptism, a journey of identification with Christ that is fulfilled ever anew in the Eucharist. In the Third Eucharistic Prayer we say: "That we... become one body, one spirit in Christ". It is a moment in which, through the Eucharist and through our true participation in the mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection, we become one spirit with him. We exist in this identity of will, and thus we truly reach freedom.

Behind these words the law is fulfilled behind this single statement that becomes reality in communion with Christ, there appear behind the Lord the figures of all the Saints who have entered into this communion with Christ. They appear in this unity of being, in this unity with his will. Our Lady appears foremost, in her humility, in her goodness, in her love. Our Lady gives us this trust, takes us by the hand, guides us, helps us along the path of becoming united to the will of God as she has been from her first moment, having expressed this union in her "Fiat".

And finally, after these beautiful things, once again in the Letter there is mention of a slightly sad situation in the Galatians' community, when Paul says: "If you bite and devour one another take care that you are not consumed by one another.... Walk by the Spirit". It seems to me that in this community which was no longer on the path of communion with Christ, but of the exterior law of the "flesh" polemics naturally surfaced also, and Paul says: "You have become wild beasts, one biting the other". Thus he alludes to the polemics that are born where faith degenerates into intellectualism and humility is substituted by the arrogance of being better than the other.

We see well that today too there are similar things where instead of entering into communion with Christ, in the Body of Christ that is the Church everyone wants to be better than everyone else, and with intellectual arrogance each wants to make it known that he/she is the best. And this leads to destructive polemics, born from a caricature of the Church that should be of one soul and one heart.

In this warning of St Paul we must also today find a reason for an examination of conscience: not to think ourselves above others, but to bring ourselves into Christ's humility, into Our Lady's humility, to enter into the obedience of faith. Precisely in this way does the great space of truth and freedom in love truly open before us too.

Lastly, we want to thank God because he has shown us his face in Christ, because he has given us Our Lady, he has given us the Saints; he has called us to be one body, one spirit with him. And we pray that he may help us to be ever more engaged in this communion with his will; thus to find ourselves within his freedom, love and joy.

After the dinner the Holy Father spoke extemporaneously:

They tell me that you are expecting another word from me. Perhaps I have already spoken too much, but I would like to express my gratitude, my joy at being with you. Now in speaking at table I have learned more about the history of the Lateran, beginning from Constantine, to Sixtus V, Benedict XVI and Pope Lambertini. Thus I have seen all the problems of the history and the ever new rebirth of the Church in Rome. And I have understood that in the discontinuity of the exterior events there is the great continuity of the unity of the Church in every age. And also in regard to the composition of the Seminary I have understood that it is an expression of the catholicity of our Church. From all the continents we are one Church and we have one common future. Let us only hope that there may be more vocations because, as the Rector said, we need labourers in the Lord's vineyard. Thank you all!


Your Excellencies,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Academicians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am particularly pleased to be able to receive you on the occasion of the 15th General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. In 1994, my venerable Predecessor Pope John Paul II instituted it under the presidency of Prof. Jerôme Lejeune, a scientist, interpreting with farsightedness the delicate task the it would carry out in the course of the years. I thank the President, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, for his words introducing this meeting which confirm the Academy's important commitment to the promotion and defence of human life.

Ever since the mid-19th century when the Augustinian Abbot, Gregor Mendel, discovered the laws of the heredity of characteristics, for which he is considered the founder of genetics, this science has truly taken giant steps in the understanding of that language which is at the foundation of biological information and determines the development of a living being. It is for this reason that modern genetics has a particularly important place in the biological disciplines that have contributed to the wonderful development of the knowledge of the invisible architecture of the human body and the cellular and molecular processes that dictate its multiple activities. Science today has succeeded in revealing both the different hidden mechanisms of human physiology and the processes linked to the appearance of certain defects inherited from the parents. It has also revealed processes that make some people more exposed to the risk of contracting a disease. This knowledge, the result of intelligence and the efforts of countless experts, has made possible not only a more effective and early diagnosis of genetic diseases but also treatment destined to relieve the sufferings of the sick and, in some cases even to restore the hope of recovering their health. Since the sequencing of the entire human genome became available, the difference between one person and another and between the different human populations has also become the object of genetic research. This has permitted us to glimpse the possibility of new achievements.

The context of research still remains very open today and every day new horizons, still largely unexplored, are disclosed. The efforts of the researcher in these most enigmatic and precious areas demand special support; for this reason, collaboration among the different sciences is a support that can never be lacking in order to achieve results that are effective and at the same time achieve authentic progress for all humanity. This complementarity allows one to avoid the risk of a widespread genetic reductionism which tends to identify the person exclusively in terms of genetic information and interactions with the environment. It must be stressed that man will always be greater than all the elements that form his body; indeed, he carries within him the power of thought which always aspires to the truth about himself and about the world. The words of Blaise Pascal a great thinker who was also a gifted scientist charged with significance spring to mind: "Man is only a reed, the most feeble thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and he knows the advantage that the universe has over him; the universe, instead, knows nothing" (Pensées, 347).

Every human being, therefore, is far more than a unique combination of genetic information that is transmitted by his or her parents. Human generation can never be reduced to the mere reproduction of a new individual of the human species, as happens with any animal. The arrival of each person in the world is always a new creation. The words of a Psalm recall this with profound wisdom: "For it was you who created my being; knit me together in my mother's womb... my body held no secret from you when I was being fashioned in secret" (Ps 139[138]: 13, 15). Consequently, if one wishes to enter into the mystery of human life, no branch of science must isolate itself, claiming to have the last word. Rather, it must participate in the common vocation to reach the truth, though with the different methodologies and subject matter proper to each science. Your Congress, however, analyzed not only the great challenges that genetics must tackle but also extended its Constitution to the risks of eugenics, certainly not a new practice and which in the past has been employed in unprecedented forms of authentic discrimination and violence. The disapproval of eugenics used with violence by a state regime or as the result of hatred for a race or a people is so deeply rooted in consciences that it was formally expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite this, still today disturbing manifestations of this odious practice that presents itself with various features are appearing. Of course, the eugenic and racial ideologies that humiliated man in the past and caused tremendous suffering are not being proposed again, but a new mentality is being introduced that tends to justify a different view of life and personal dignity founded on personal desires and individual rights. Hence there is a tendency to give priority to functional ability, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty to the detriment of life's other dimensions which are deemed unworthy. The respect that is due to every human being, even bearing a developmental defect or a genetic disease that might manifest itself during life, is thus weakened while children whose life is considered not worth living are penalized from the moment of conception.

It is necessary to reiterate that every form of discrimination practised by any authority with regard to persons, peoples or races on the basis of differences traceable to real or presumed genetic factors is an attack on the whole of humanity. What must be strongly reaffirmed is the equal dignity of every human being by the very fact that he has been born. A person's biological, mental and cultural development or state of health must never become a discriminatory factor. On the contrary, it is necessary to consolidate the culture of acceptance and love showing real solidarity toward those who suffer. It must break down the barriers that society often builds by discriminating against those who are disabled or affected by pathologies, or, worse, even reaching the selection and rejection of life in the name of an abstract ideal of health and physical perfection. If the human being is reduced to an object of experimental manipulation from the very earliest stages of his development this means that biotechnological medicine has surrendered to the will of the stronger. Trust in science must not make one forget the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake.

I am confident, dear friends, that your research in this sector may continue with the due scientific commitment and attention that the ethical factor demands on such important and crucial matters for the coherent development of personal existence. This is the hope with which I desire to conclude this meeting. As I invoke upon your work an abundance of heavenly light, I impart with affection a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Speeches 2005-13 12029