Speeches 2005-13 13119


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

I am pleased to greet each one of you, Members, Consultors and Officials of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum", gathered here for the Plenary Assembly during which the theme "Formative paths for Charity Workers" is being discussed. I greet Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, President of the Dicastery, and thank him for his courteous words to me also on your behalf. I express to all my appreciation for the invaluable service you offer to the Church's charitable activity. My thoughts are addressed in a special way to the numerous faithful who, in various capacities and in every part of the world, give their time and their energy, with generosity and dedication, to witnessing to the love of Christ, the Good Samaritan, who bends over the needy in body and in spirit. For, as I emphasized in my Encyclical Deus caritas est: "The Church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria), of celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia), and of exercising the ministry of charity (diakonia)" (cf. n. 25, a), charity is part of the Church's very being.

Working in this sphere of ecclesial life, you carry out a mission that is in constant tension between two poles: the proclamation of the Gospel with concern for human hearts and the environment in which human beings live. This year two special ecclesial events have highlighted this aspect: the publication of the Encyclical Caritas in veritate and the celebration of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on reconciliation, justice and peace. In different but converging perspectives, these events have emphasized how in her salvific proclamation the Church may not ignore the practical aspects of the life of the men and women to whom she is sent. The action to improve them concerns her own life and mission, for Christ's salvation is integral and concerns the human being in all his dimensions: physical, spiritual, social and cultural, earthly and heavenly. It is precisely from this awareness that many works and ecclesial structures came into being down the centuries whose aim was the promotion of people and peoples which made and continue to make an irreplaceable contribution to the growth and the harmonious and integral development of the human being. As I reaffirmed in the Encyclical Caritas in veritate, "Testimony to Christ's charity, through works of justice, peace and development, is part and parcel of evangelization, because Jesus Christ, who loves us, is concerned with the whole person" (n. 15).

The Church's commitment to the development of a more just society in which all the rights of the individual and of peoples are respected should be considered in this light (cf. n. 6). In this regard many of the lay faithful carry out useful activities in the economic, social, legislative and cultural fields, and promote the common good. They witness to the Gospel, helping to build a just order in society and participating personally in public life (cf. Deus caritas est ). Of course, it is not incumbent upon the Church to intervene directly in the affairs of States or in the construction of a just political framework (cf. ibid.). The Church by proclaiming the Gospel opens the human heart to God and to neighbour and awakens the conscience. Through the power of her proclamation she defends true human rights and works for justice. Faith is a spiritual force that purifies reason in the quest for a just order, freeing it from the ever present risk of being "dazzled" by selfishness, personal interest and power. Truly, as experience shows, caritas remains necessary even in the most advanced societies from the social viewpoint: the service of love never becomes superfluous not only because the human soul, material things apart, always needs love, but because situations of suffering, loneliness and need endure and demand personal dedication and practical assistance. When the Church offers human beings loving attention, she feels pulsating within her the fullness of love inspired by the Holy Spirit who, while he helps human beings to free themselves from material oppression, assures the soul refreshment and support and frees it from the evils afflicting it. The source of his love is God himself, infinite mercy and eternal love. Therefore anyone who serves within the ecclesial bodies that manage charitable initiatives and structures, cannot but have this principal aim: to make the merciful Face of the Heavenly Father known and felt for in the heart of God-Love lies the true response to the deepest expectations of every human heart.

How necessary it is for Christians to keep their gaze fixed on Christ's Face! In him alone, fully God and fully man, we may contemplate the Father (cf.
Jn 14,9) and experience his infinite mercy! Christians know that they are called to serve and love the world, even without being "of the world" (cf. Jn 15,19); to bring a word of integral salvation to man who cannot withdraw into the earthly horizon; to remain like Christ totally faithful to the Father's will even to the supreme gift of themselves, in order to perceive more easily the need for true love that exists in every heart. This is the path that anyone who wishes to witness to Christ's charity must take if he/she wishes to follow the logic of the Gospel.

Dear friends, it is important that the Church, placed among the events of history and human beings lives, make herself the channel of God's kindness and love. May this be so for you and for all who work in the vast sphere with which your Pontifical Council is concerned! With this hope, I invoke the motherly intercession of Mary upon your work and, as I renew my thanks for your presence and for the work you carry out, I very willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to each one of you and to your families.


Your Eminence,
Dear Archbishops
and Bishops of Brazil,

Today, during your visit ad limina Apostolorum, your have gathered in the House of the Successor of Peter who welcomes you all with open arms, beloved Pastors of the South 1 Region, in the State of São Paulo.

It is there that is located the important centre of hospitality and evangelization, the Shrine of Nossa Senhora Aparecida, which I had the joy of visiting in May 2007 for the inauguration of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences. I express the wish that the seed sown at that time may bear worthwhile fruit for the spiritual and social good of the population of this promising continent, of the beloved Brazilian nation and of your Federal State. "The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean have the right to a full life, proper to the children of God, under conditions that are more human: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence" (Address at the inaugural session of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, 13 May 2007). I would like to say "thank you" once again for all that was done with such great generosity and I wish to renew my cordial greeting to you and to your dioceses, especially recalling the priests, consecrated men and women and lay faithful who help you in the work of evangelization and the Christian animation of society.

Your people cherish in their hearts a great religious sentiment and noble traditions, rooted in Christianity, which they express in deep and genuine religious and civil demonstrations. This is a patrimony rich in values, which as your reports show and as Bishop Nelson Westrupp has just mentioned in his cordial greeting to me on your behalf you seek to maintain, defend, spread, deepen and enliven. As I warmly rejoice in all this, I urge you to persevere in your work of constant and methodical evangelization, aware that the authentic Christian formation of the conscience is crucial for a profound life of faith as well as for social development and for the real, balanced well-being of the human community.

In fact, if a human group is to deserve the title "community" its organization and aims must correspond with the fundamental aspirations of the human being. It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that an authentic social life begins in the conscience of each one. Since a properly formed conscience leads to achieving the true good of humankind, the Church, defining what this good is, enlightens the human being all through the whole of Christian life, seeks to educate the human conscience. The Church's teaching resounds with a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of every person believers and non-believers alike because it derives its origins from God; from its content, the truth; and from its foundation, the conscience. In practice, "the issue of life and its defence and promotion is not a concern of Christians alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity.... The "people of life' rejoices in being able to share its commitment with so many others. Thus may the "people for life' constantly grow in number and may a new culture of love and solidarity develop for the true good of the whole of human society" (Encyclical Evangelium Vitae EV 25 March 1995, n. 101).

Venerable Brothers, speak to your people's hearts, reawaken their consciences, reunite their wills in a common action against the rising tide of violence and contempt for human life. From being a gift of God accepted in the loving intimacy of marriage between a man and a woman, the human being has come to be regarded as a mere human product. "A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the supremacy of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question. In this most delicate and critical area, the fundamental question asserts itself forcefully: is man the product of his own labours or does he depend on God? Scientific discoveries in this field and the possibilities of technological intervention seem so advanced as to force a choice between two types of reasoning: reason open to Transcendence or reason closed within immanence" (Encyclical Caritas in Veritate June 2009, n. 74). Job, in a provocative way, calls irrational beings to bear witness themselves: "But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." (Jb 12,7-10). The conviction of right reason and the certainty of faith that human life, from its conception to natural death belongs to God and not to the human being, gives the human being that sacred character and personal dignity which the one legal and correct moral attitude inspires: profound respect. For the Lord of life said: "For your life-blood I will surely require a reckoning.... for God made man in his own image" (Gn 9,5-6).

Beloved and Venerable Brothers, we can never tire in our appeal to the conscience. We would not be faithful followers of our divine Teacher were we not to be able in all situations, even the most difficult, to remain steadfast "in hope... against hope" (Rm 4,18). Continue to work for the triumph of God's cause, not with the downcast heart of those who only see what is lacking and danger, but with the firm trust of those who know they can count on Christ's victory. Mary is ineffably united to the Lord, in full conformity with her Son, victorious over sin and death. Through the intercession of Nossa Senhora Aparecida, I implore from God light, comfort, strength, determination and success for you and for your most direct collaborators, and at the same time I cordially impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all the faithful of every diocesan community.



Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. I was very pleased to receive an invitation from Mr Jacques Diouf, Director General of FAO, to speak at the opening session of this World Summit on Food Security. I greet him warmly and I thank him for his kind words of welcome. I greet the distinguished authorities present and all the participants. Echoing the sentiments of my venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, I should like once more to express my esteem for the work of FAO, which the Catholic Church and the Holy See follow attentively, taking a keen interest in the day-to-day work that is carried out there. Thanks to your generous engagement, aptly expressed in your motto Fiat Panis, the development of agriculture and food security remain among the key priorities of international political action. I am confident that this same spirit will inform the decisions taken at the present Summit, and those that will follow later, in the common desire to win the battle against hunger and malnutrition in the world as quickly as possible.

2. The international community is currently facing a grave economic and financial crisis. Statistics bear witness to the dramatic growth in the number of people suffering from hunger, made worse by the rise in price of foodstuffs, the reduction in economic resources available to the poorest peoples, and their limited access to markets and to food – notwithstanding the known fact that the world has enough food for all its inhabitants. Indeed, while low levels of agricultural production persist in some regions, partly owing to climate change, sufficient food is produced on a global scale to satisfy both current demands and those in the foreseeable future. From these data we may deduce that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between population growth and hunger, and this is further demonstrated by the lamentable destruction of foodstuffs for economic gain. In the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate I pointed out that, “Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional. What is missing, in other words, is a network of economic institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food and water … and also capable of addressing the primary needs and necessities ensuing from genuine food crises …” I added, “The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. This can be done by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability over the long term as well” (no. 27). Hence the need to oppose those forms of aid that do grave damage to the agricultural sector, those approaches to food production that are geared solely towards consumption and lack a wider perspective, and especially greed, which causes speculation to rear its head even in the marketing of cereals, as if food were to be treated just like any other commodity.

3. The weakness of current mechanisms for food security and the need to re-examine them are confirmed, one might say, by the mere fact that this Summit has been convoked. Even though the poorest countries are more fully integrated into the world economy than in the past, movements in international markets make them more vulnerable and force them to seek the aid of intergovernmental institutions, which no doubt do valuable and indispensable work. The concept of cooperation, though, must be consistent with the principle of subsidiarity: it is necessary to involve “local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land” (ibid.). This is because integral human development requires responsible choices on the part of everyone and it demands an attitude of solidarity – meaning that aid or disaster relief should not be seen as opportunities to promote the interests of those who make resources available or of elite groups among the beneficiaries. With regard to countries that are in need of external support, the international community has the duty to assist with the instruments of cooperation, assuming collective responsibility for their development, “through the solidarity of … presence, supervision, training and respect” (ibid., 47). Within this overall context of responsibility, every country has the right to define its own economic model, taking steps to secure its freedom to choose its own objectives. In this way, cooperation must become an effective instrument, unbeholden to interests that can absorb a not insignificant part of the resources destined for development. Moreover, it is important to emphasize that an attitude of solidarity regarding the development of poor countries also has the potential to contribute to a solution of the current global crisis. Support given to these nations through financial plans inspired by solidarity, enabling them to provide for their own requirements of consumption and development, not only favours their internal economic growth, but can have a positive impact on integral human development in other countries (cf. ibid., 27).

4. In the current situation there is a continuing disparity in the level of development within and among nations that leads to instability in many parts of the world, accentuating the contrast between poverty and wealth. This no longer applies only to models of development, but also to an increasingly widespread perception concerning food insecurity, namely the tendency to view hunger as structural, an integral part of the socio-political situation of the weakest countries, a matter of resigned regret, if not downright indifference. It is not so, and it must never be so! To fight and conquer hunger it is essential to start redefining the concepts and principles that have hitherto governed international relations, in such a way as to answer the question: what can direct the attention and the consequent conduct of States towards the needs of the poorest? The response must be sought not in the technical aspects of cooperation, but in the principles that lie behind it: only in the name of common membership of the worldwide human family can every people and therefore every country be asked to practise solidarity, that is, to shoulder the burden of concrete responsibilities in meeting the needs of others, so as to favour the genuine sharing of goods, founded on love.

5. Nevertheless, while it is true that human solidarity inspired by love goes beyond justice – because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other – it is never without justice, which leads us to give the other what is “his”, what belongs to him by virtue of his being and acting. Indeed, I cannot “give” the other what is “mine”, without first giving him what belongs to him in justice (cf. ibid., 6). If the aim is to eliminate hunger, international action is needed not only to promote balanced and sustainable economic growth and political stability, but also to seek out new parameters – primarily ethical but also juridical and economic ones – capable of inspiring the degree of cooperation required to build a relationship of parity between countries at different stages of development. This, as well as closing the existing gap, could favour the capacity of each people to consider itself an active player, thereby confirming that the fundamental equality of all peoples is rooted in the common origin of the human family, the source of those principles of “natural law” that should inspire political, juridical and economic choices and approaches in international life (cf. ibid., 59). Saint Paul speaks eloquently on this subject: “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack’” (
2Co 8,13-15).

6. Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, in order to combat hunger and promote integral human development, it is necessary to understand the needs of the rural world, and likewise to ensure that any decline in donor support does not create uncertainties in the financing of activities of cooperation: any tendency towards a short-sighted view of the rural world as a thing of secondary importance must be avoided. At the same time, access to international markets must be favoured for those products coming from the poorest areas, which today are often relegated to the margins. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary to separate the rules of international trade from the logic of profit viewed as an end in itself, directing them towards the support of economic initiative in countries with greater need of development; once they have greater income at their disposal, these countries will be able to advance towards the self-sufficiency that leads to food security.

7. Nor must the fundamental rights of the individual be forgotten, which include, of course, the right to sufficient, healthy and nutritious food, and likewise water; these rights take on an important role in the realization of others, beginning with the primary one, the right to life. It is necessary, then, to cultivate “a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination” (Caritas in Veritate ). Much has been patiently accomplished in recent years by FAO in this regard: on the one hand it has favoured an enlargement of the objectives of this right over and above the mere guarantee of satisfying primary needs, and on the other it has emphasized the need for its adequate regulation.

8. Methods of food production likewise demand attentive analysis of the relationship between development and protection of the environment. The desire to possess and to exploit the resources of the planet in an excessive and disordered manner is the primary cause of all environmental degradation. Protection of the environment challenges the modern world to guarantee a harmonious form of development, respectful of the design of God the creator, and therefore capable of safeguarding the planet (cf. ibid., 48-51). While the entire human race is called to acknowledge its obligations to future generations, it is also true that States and international organizations have a duty to protect the environment as a shared good. In this context, the links between environmental security and the disturbing phenomenon of climate change need to be explored further, focusing on the central importance of the human person, and especially of the populations most at risk from both phenomena. Norms, legislation, development plans and investments are not enough, however: what is needed is a change in the lifestyles of individuals and communities, in habits of consumption and in perceptions of what is genuinely needed. Most of all, there is a moral duty to distinguish between good and evil in human action, so as to rediscover the bond of communion that unites the human person and creation.

9. As I pointed out in the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, it is important to remember that “the deterioration of nature is … closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits.” Indeed, “the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature.” And “the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society.” Therefore, “our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society” (ibid., 51).

10. Hunger is the most cruel and concrete sign of poverty. Opulence and waste are no longer acceptable when the tragedy of hunger is assuming ever greater proportions. Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Catholic Church will always be concerned for efforts to defeat hunger; the Church is committed to support, by word and deed, the action taken in solidarity – planned, responsible and regulated – to which all members of the international community are called to contribute. The Church does not wish to interfere in political decisions: she respects the knowledge gained through scientific study, and decisions arrived at through reason responsibly enlightened by authentically human values, and she supports the effort to eliminate hunger. This is the most immediate and concrete sign of solidarity inspired by charity, and it brooks neither delay nor compromise. Such solidarity relies on technology, laws and institutions to meet the aspirations of individuals, communities and entire peoples, yet it must not exclude the religious dimension, with all the spiritual energy that it brings, and its promotion of the human person. Acknowledgment of the transcendental worth of every man and every woman is still the first step towards the conversion of heart that underpins the commitment to eradicate deprivation, hunger and poverty in all their forms.

I thank you for your gracious attention and, as I conclude, I offer greetings and good wishes in the official languages of FAO, to all the Member States of the Organization.

God bless your efforts to ensure that all people are given their daily bread.

Que Dieu bénisse vos efforts pour assurer le pain quotidien à chaque personne.

Dios bendiga sus esfuerzos para garantizar el pan de cada día para cada persona.

Thank you.


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Rectors, Academic Authorities and Professors,
Dear Students, Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you with joy and thank you for gathering ad Petri Sedem, to be strengthened in your important and demanding task of teaching, study and research at the service of the Church and of society as a whole. I cordially thank Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski for his words to me introducing this meeting at which we are commemorating two special occasions: the 30th anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana, promulgated on 15 April 1979 by the Servant of God John Paul II, and the 60th anniversary of the recognition by the Holy See of the Statutes of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (FIUC).

I am pleased to commemorate with you these important anniversaries which give me the opportunity to highlight once again the irreplaceable role of ecclesiastical faculties and Catholic universities in the Church and in society. The Second Vatican Council clearly stressed this in the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis when it urged ecclesiastical faculties to promote research in the various sectors of the sacred sciences for an ever deeper understanding of Revelation, in order to explore the inheritance of Christian wisdom, to foster ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and to find answers to the problems that are emerging in the cultural context (cf. n. 11). The same conciliar Document recommended the promotion of Catholic universities, opening them throughout the various regions of the world and, above all, ensuring that they maintain a high standard in order to educate people steeped in knowledge, ready to witness in the world to their faith and to undertake the responsible duties of society (cf. n. 10). The Council's invitation has reverberated throughout the Church. Today, in fact, there are more than 1,300 Catholic universities and about 400 ecclesiastical faculties, spread throughout the continents, many of which have been founded in recent decades; they are proof of the increasing attention of particular Churches to the formation of clerics and lay people in culture and research.

From its very first words the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana, points out the urgent, ever timely need to bridge the gap between faith and culture. It calls for a greater commitment to evangelization in the firm conviction that Christian Revelation is a transforming force, destined to permeate mindsets, standards of judgement and behavioural norms. It is able to illuminate, purify and renew people's morals and culture (cf. Foreword, i, n. i), and must constitute the focal point of teaching and research, as well as the horizon that illumines the nature and objective of every ecclesiastical faculty. In this perspective, the duty of scholars of the sacred disciplines to achieve, through theological research, a more profound knowledge of the revealed truth is emphasized. At the same time, interactions with other fields of knowledge are encouraged for fruitful dialogue, especially in order to make a precious contribution to the mission the Church is called to carry out in the world. After 30 years, the fundamental lines of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana still retain all their timeliness. Indeed, in contemporary society where knowledge is becoming ever more specialized and compartmentalized but is profoundly marked by relativism, it is more necessary than ever to be open to the "wisdom" that comes from the Gospel. The human being, in fact, is incapable of fully understanding himself and the world without Jesus Christ. Christ alone illumines his true dignity, his vocation and his ultimate destiny and opens the heart to firm and lasting hope.

Dear friends, your commitment to serving the truth that God has revealed to us is part of the evangelizing mission that Christ has entrusted to the Church: it is therefore an ecclesial service. Sapientia Christiana cites in this regard the conclusion of the Gospel according to Matthew: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20). It is important for everyone, teachers and students alike, never to lose sight of the objective to be pursued, namely, that of being an instrument for proclaiming the Gospel. The years of advanced ecclesiastical studies can be compared to the experience that the Apostles lived with Jesus: in being with him they learned the truth, in order to become its heralds everywhere. At the same time, it is important to remember that the study of the sacred sciences must never be separated from prayer, from union with God, from contemplation as I recalled in my recent Catecheses on medieval monastic theology otherwise reflection on the mysteries risks becoming a vain intellectual exercise. Every sacred science, in the end, refers to the "knowledge of the saints", to their intuition of the mysteries of the living God, to wisdom, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit and the soul of the "fides quaerens intellectum" (cf. General Audience, 21 October 2009).

The FIUC came into being in 1924 at the initiative of several Rectors and was recognized 25 years later by the Holy See. Dear Rectors of Catholic universities, the 60th anniversary of the canonical erection of your Federation is an especially favourable opportunity to review its achievements and to plot the course of its future commitments.

Celebrating an anniversary means giving thanks to God who has guided our footsteps, but it is also drawing from our own history a further impetus to renew the will to serve the Church. In this regard, your motto is also a programme for the Federation's future: "Sciat ut serviat", to know in order to serve. In a culture which demonstrates: "a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis" (Encyclical Caritas in Veritate ), faithful to their own identity which makes Christian inspiration a defining feature, Catholic universities are called to promote a "new humanistic synthesis" (ibid., n. 21), knowledge that is "wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends" (ibid., n. 30), knowledge illumined by faith.

Dear friends, the service you carry out is precious for the Church's mission. As I express to all my sincere good wishes for the academic year that has just begun and for the complete success of the FIUC Assembly, I entrust each one of you and the institutions you represent to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom, and I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.


Speeches 2005-13 13119