Speeches 2005-13 27129



Dear Friends,

It is a moving experience for me to be with you, to be here in the family of the Community of Sant'Egidio, to be with Jesus' friends, because Jesus especially loves people who are suffering, people in difficulty, and wants them to become his brothers and sisters. Thank you for this possibility! I am very glad and I thank all those who prepared the meal, lovingly and competently I was truly aware of the good cooking, congratulations! and I also thank those who served the food so quickly that in an hour we had finished a large lunch! Thank you and well done! I address my cordial thoughts to the Vicegerent, Archbishop Luigi Moretti, and to Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni-Narni-Amelia. I greet with affection Prof. Andrea Riccardi, Founder of the Community a longstanding friend, as are Bishop Paglia and Bishop Spreafico and I thank him for his courteous and profound words. Together with Prof. Riccardi, I also greet the President, Prof. Marco Impagliazzo, and the chaplain, Mons. Matteo Zuppi, parish priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Lastly, I address a special thought to all the friends of Sant'Egidio and to each one of you here. At lunch I was able to learn a little of some of your histories that reflect current human situations. I heard of sorrowful events full of humanity and also stories of love rediscovered here at Sant'Egidio: the experiences of elderly, homeless or disabled people, emigrants, gypsies, individuals with financial problems or other difficulties who are all, in one way or another, sorely tried by life. I am here with you to tell you that I am close to you and love you, and that you and your affairs are not far from my thoughts but rather at the centre and in the heart of the Community of believers, hence also in my heart.

Through the loving actions of those who follow Jesus the truth becomes visible: that "(God) has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love" (Deus Caritas Est ). Jesus said: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (
Mt 25,35-36). And he concludes: "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (v. 40). Listening to these words, how is it possible not to feel truly friends of those in whom one recognizes the Lord? And not only friends but also relatives. I have come to you precisely on the Feast of the Holy Family because, in a certain way, you resemble it. In fact, the Family of Jesus, from his very first steps, encountered difficulties: it experienced the hardship of finding no hospitality and was forced by King Herod's violence to emigrate to Egypt. You know well what difficulty means, but here you have someone who loves and helps you, indeed, some of you have found your family thanks to the caring service of the Community of Sant'Egidio which offers a sign of God's love for the poor.

What happens at home is taking place here today: those who serve and help mingle with those who are helped and served and those in greatest need are given priority. The words of the Psalm spring to mind: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Ps 133 [132]: 1). The commitment to making those who are lonely or in need feel at home, so laudably practised by the Community of Sant'Egidio, is born from attentive listening to the Word of God and from prayer.
I would like to encourage everyone to persevere on this journey of faith. With the words of St John Chrysostom I would like to remind each one: "Consider you have become a priest of Christ, giving with your own hand not flesh but bread, and not Blood, but a cup of water" (Homily on the Gospel of Mt 42,3). What riches are offered to life by God's love expressed in real service to our brothers and sisters who are in need! Like St Lawrence, a Deacon of the Church of Rome, when the Roman magistrates of the time sought to intimidate him, to make him handover the Church's treasure, he pointed to the poor of Rome as the true treasure of the Church. We can make St Lawrence's gesture our own and say that you poor people really are the Church's treasure.

Loving and serving give the joy of the Lord who says to us: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac 20,35). In this time of particular financial difficulty may each person be a sign of hope and a witness of a new world for those who, locked into their own egoism and deluded into thinking they can be happy alone, live in sadness or in transient joy that leaves the heart empty.

A few days have passed since Holy Christmas: God made himself a Child, he made himself close to us to tell us that he loves us and needs our love. With affection, I wish everyone happy feast days and the joy of feeling God's love ever more deeply. I invoke upon you the protection of the Virgin of the Visitation, the one who teaches us to go "in haste" to meet the needs of the brethren, and I bless you all with affection.
* * *

Before leaving the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Holy Father spoke to the faithful gathered outside:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After taking part in the festive meal at the Soup Kitchen of the Sant'Egidio Community and greeting several students from the Community's school of language and culture, I address my warmest good wishes to you who, unable to enter, took part in this meeting outside the building. They tell me you have been here for an hour or two already. Thank you!

So many people from different countries, marked by need, meet here to seek a word, help and enlightenment for a better future. Strive, therefore, to ensure that no one is lonely, no one marginalized, no one forsaken.

There is one language that unites all things, over and above the different tongues: the language of love. As the Apostle Paul says: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1Co 13,1). It is also the language of this school, which we must learn and practise ever more often. It is taught by the Child Jesus, God, who out of love made himself one of us and speaks first of all with his presence, with his humility as a Child who makes himself dependent on our love. It is this language that will improve our cities and the world.

I bless each one of you with affection and gratitude for all that you do for the poor with a view to building the civilization of love. I thank you all. Happy feast days and a Happy New Year!



Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey to the Holy See. I thank you for your gracious words and for the greetings that you bring from your President, His Excellency Abdullah Gül. Please convey to him my own good wishes and assure him of my continuing prayers for the well-being and prosperity of all the citizens of your land.

As Your Excellency has observed, we are fast approaching the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and the Holy See, a fruit of the pontificate of my predecessor Pope John XXIII who had himself served as Apostolic Delegate in Istanbul and whose affection for the Turkish people is well known. Much has been achieved during the last fifty years in the areas of shared interest that you have indicated, and I am confident that these cordial relations will grow deeper and stronger as a result of continuing collaboration on the many important questions that currently arise in multilateral affairs.

I recall with great pleasure my own visit to your country in 2006, when I was able to pay my respects to the Turkish people and to members of your Government. I take this opportunity to renew my appreciation for the warm welcome that I received. One of the highlights of that visit was my meeting with Patriarch Bartholomaios I in the Phanar. Within the secular Republic of Turkey, alongside the predominantly Muslim population, the Christian communities are proud to play their part, conscious of their ancient heritage and of the significant contribution they have made to the civilization, not only of your land, but of the whole of Europe. During the recent celebrations of the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of Paul of Tarsus, that Christian heritage became a focus of particular attention throughout the world, and I should like to express the appreciation of Christians everywhere for the steps that were taken to facilitate pilgrimages and liturgical celebrations at the sites associated with the great Apostle.

My visit to Turkey also provided me with a welcome opportunity to greet members of the Muslim community. Indeed it was my first visit as Pope to a predominantly Islamic country. I was glad to be able to express my esteem for Muslims and to reiterate the commitment of the Catholic Church to carry forward inter-religious dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship, bearing joint witness to the firm faith in God that characterizes Christians and Muslims, and striving to know one another better so as to strengthen the bonds of affection between us (cf. Address, Meeting with the President of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Ankara, 28 November 2006). It is my fervent prayer that this process will lead to greater trust between individuals, communities, and peoples, especially in the troubled areas of the Middle East.

The Catholics in Turkey appreciate the freedom of worship that is guaranteed by the Constitution, and are pleased to be able to contribute to the well-being of their fellow citizens, especially through involvement in charitable activity and healthcare. They are rightly proud of the assistance provided for the poor by the La Paix and Saint Georges hospitals in Istanbul. In order that these worthy endeavours may flourish, I am sure your Government will continue to do what it can to see that they receive whatever support may be needed. Furthermore, the Catholic Church in Turkey is waiting for civil juridical recognition. This would help her to enjoy full religious freedom and to make an even greater contribution to society.

As a secular democratic state that straddles the boundary between Europe and Asia, Turkey is well placed to act as a bridge between Islam and the West, and to make a significant contribution to the effort to bring peace and stability to the Middle East. The Holy See appreciates the numerous initiatives that Turkey has already taken in this regard, and is eager to support further efforts to put an end to long-standing conflicts in the region. As history has so often shown, territorial disputes and ethnic rivalries can only be satisfactorily resolved when the legitimate aspirations of each party are duly taken into account, past injustices acknowledged and, when possible, repaired. Let me assure Your Excellency of the high priority that the Holy See gives to the search for just and lasting solutions to all the conflicts of the region and of its readiness to place its diplomatic resources at the service of peace and reconciliation.

In offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always pleased to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Republic of Turkey, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of the Almighty.



Venerable Brother,
General Commandant,
Commandant and dear Carabinieri of the "Compagnia Roma San Pietro",

I am pleased to receive you and to address to each one my cordial welcome. I greet Archbishop Vincenzo Pelvi, Military Ordinary for Italy, and the General Commandant of the Carabiniere Brigade, General Leonardo Gallitelli, as I thank him for the courteous words he has addressed to me on behalf of everyone present. With them I greet the other Generals and Officers, the Provincial Commandant of the Force, General Vittorio Tomasone, and the Commandant of the San Pietro Corps, Captain Gabriele De Pascalis. My thanks to you all, and particularly to you, dear Carabinieri, for the hard work you carry out with your watchful and discreet presence around the Vatican.

Your commitment helps to ensure safety and serenity to the pilgrims and visitors who come to the heart of the Catholic faith and permits them to enjoy the necessary spiritual recollection during their visit to the Tomb of the Apostle Peter and to the Basilica that contains it. It also creates a favourable atmosphere for the meeting with the Successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the task of confirming his brethren in the faith (cf.
Lc 22,31). As Bernini's majestic colonnade suggests, the house of Peter is ever open to welcoming, in an ideal embrace, believers and all people of good will, who receive from the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiffs light and encouragement to grow in faith and to become builders of peace and of a serene and civil coexistence. Of this peaceful and intense convergence of people of different ages, origins and cultures, you are witnesses, protectors and guarantors, silent and hard-working but also indispensable and valuable.

The Christmas celebrations which ended recently permitted a large number of people to appreciate your humble but essential work, so that for each visitor the pilgrimage to Rome might be a unique opportunity to experience the joy of faith and the values of brotherhood, acceptance and reciprocal respect, after the example of the One who, being God, became a Child out of love for us.

Thank you again, dear friends, for your collaboration! May the Lord reward you. I hope that your faith, the tradition of fidelity and generosity to which you are heirs, the ideals of your Corps, may help you find in this delicate service ever new reasons for satisfaction and positive experiences for your professional and personal life.

May Mary the Virgo fidelis, your Patroness, accompany you and the entire Corps, especially those who in various countries of the world are involved in sensitive peace-keeping missions, and may she accept your good resolutions, presenting them to her divine Son.

I would like to conclude this pleasant meeting by expressing to you and to your families my fervent good wishes for every grace desired and for prosperity in the Lord for the New Year. With these wishes, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all with all my heart.


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

At the end of the Christmas celebrations, during which we contemplated with the wonder of faith the mystery of Jesus' Birth, here we are gathered for this now familiar meeting. Welcome to the house of Peter!

I address my cordial thoughts to Prefect Antonio Manganelli, Chief of the Police, as well as to the Vice-Chiefs, Prefects Francesco Cirillo and Paola Basilone, to Prefect Salvatore Festa and to the Officer in Charge, Giuseppe Caruso. With them I greet the Directors and Officers who, at various levels, share the responsibilities of the State Police, the Agents, Collaborators, Chaplains and everyone present. I thank in particular Dr Giulio Callini, Director of the Inspectorate of the "Vatican" Public Security, who has addressed to me words of cordial esteem and good wishes on behalf of those present.

The work carried out every day to keep the public order in St Peter's Square and in the vicinity of the Vatican is particularly important for the mission carried out by the Roman Pontiff. Indeed, it permits the atmosphere of peaceful serenity that enables all who come to visit the heart of Christendom to have an authentic religious experience in touch with the fundamental testimonies of the Christian faith, such as the tomb of the Apostle Peter, the relics of a great number of Saints and the tombs of numerous Pontiffs, beloved and revered by the Christian people.

Thank you for this precious service which you render to the Pope and to the Church! May the Lord reward you for the frequently hidden sacrifices you make for the numerous believers and visitors, and in protecting the Pope's mission.

Commitment and great responsibility in doing your duty is asked of each one of you, but in the eyes of the faith it must constitute a special way of serving the Lord and thus, preparing the way for him, so that the experience lived at the heart of Christianity may be for each pilgrim and visitor a special occasion for meeting the Lord that change's their life.

On many occasions I have noted the cordial care and sensitivity that inspire your service, as well as your fidelity and dedication which are not exempt from the considerable sacrifices they entail. I am sure that they are also the fruit of your faith and love for the Church.

All that you are called to do makes you ever stronger and more consistent in faith and leads you not to fear out of human respect to express it in the context of your respective families, your work and everywhere that you are called to be.

I entrust you and your work to the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Jesus and Queen of every family. May she accept your intentions and strengthen them by presenting them to her Son.

As I exchange with you good wishes of serene prosperity for the New Year I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you, to your colleagues and to your loved ones.


Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

I am pleased to welcome the alumni of the Pontifical North American College, together with the Rector, faculty and students of the seminary on the Janiculum hill, and the student priests of the Casa Santa Maria dell’Umiltà. Our meeting comes at the conclusion of the celebrations marking the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the College’s establishment by my predecessor, Blessed Pius IX. On this happy occasion I willingly join you in thanking the Lord for the many ways in which the College has remained faithful to its founding vision by training generations of worthy preachers of the Gospel and ministers of the sacraments, devoted to the Successor of Peter and committed to the building up of the Church in the United States of America.

It is appropriate, in this Year for Priests, that you have returned to the College and this Eternal City in order to give thanks for the academic and spiritual formation which has nourished your priestly ministry over the years. The present Reunion is an opportunity not only to remember with gratitude the time of your studies, but also to reaffirm your filial affection for the Church of Rome, to recall the apostolic labors of the countless alumni who have gone before you, and to recommit yourselves to the high ideals of holiness, fidelity and pastoral zeal which you embraced on the day of your ordination. It is likewise an occasion to renew your love for the College and your appreciation of its distinctive mission to the Church in your country.

During my Pastoral Visit to the United States, I expressed my conviction that the Church in America is called to cultivate “an intellectual ‘culture’ which is genuinely Catholic, confident in the profound harmony of faith and reason, and prepared to bring the richness of faith’s vision to bear on the pressing issues which affect the future of American society” (Homily at Nationals Stadium, Washington, 17 April 2008). As Blessed Pius IX rightly foresaw, the Pontifical North American College in Rome is uniquely prepared to help meet this perennial challenge. In the century and a half since its foundation, the College has offered its students an exceptional experience of the universality of the Church, the breadth of her intellectual and spiritual tradition, and the urgency of her mandate to bring Christ’s saving truth to the men and women of every time and place. I am confident that, by emphasizing these hallmarks of a Roman education in every aspect of its program of formation, the College will continue to produce wise and generous pastors capable of transmitting the Catholic faith in its integrity, bringing Christ’s infinite mercy to the weak and the lost, and enabling America’s Catholics to be a leaven of the Gospel in the social, political and cultural life of their nation.

Dear brothers, I pray that in these days you will be renewed in the gift of the Holy Spirit which you received on the day of your ordination. In the College chapel, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady is portrayed in the company of four outstanding models and patrons of priestly life and ministry: Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Pius X, Saint John Mary Vianney and Saint Vincent de Paul. During this Year for Priests, may these great saints continue to watch over the students who daily pray in their midst; may they guide and sustain your own ministry, and intercede for the priests of the United States. With cordial good wishes for the spiritual fruitfulness of the coming days, and with great affection in the Lord, I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all the alumni and friends of the Pontifical North American College.



Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This traditional meeting at the beginning of the year, two weeks after the celebration of the birth of the Incarnate Word, is a very joyful occasion for me. As we proclaimed in the liturgy: “We recognize in Christ the revelation of your love. No eye can see his glory as our God, yet now he is seen as one like us. Christ is your Son before all ages, yet now he is born in time. He has come to lift up all things to himself, to restore unity to creation” (Preface of Christmas II). At Christmas we contemplated the mystery of God and the mystery of creation: by the message of the angels to the shepherds, we received the good news of man’s salvation and the renewal of the entire universe. That is why, in my Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, I urged all persons of good will – those same men and women to whom the angels rightly promised peace – to protect creation. In the same spirit of joy I am happy to greet each of you today, particularly those present for the first time at this ceremony. I thank you most heartily for the good wishes conveyed to me by your Dean, Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza, and I repeat how much I esteem your mission to the Holy See. Through you I send cordial greetings and good wishes for peace and happiness to the leaders and people of the countries which you worthily represent. My thoughts also go to all the other nations of the earth: the Successor of Peter keeps his door open to everyone in the hope of maintaining relations which can contribute to the progress of the human family. It is a cause for deep satisfaction that, just a few weeks ago, full diplomatic relations were established between the Holy See and the Russian Federation. The recent visit of the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was likewise very significant; Vietnam is a country close to my heart, where the Church is celebrating her centuries-long presence by a Jubilee Year. In this spirit of openness, throughout 2009 I met many political leaders from all over the world; I also visited some of them and would like to continue to do so, insofar as is possible.

The Church is open to everyone because, in God, she lives for others! She thus shares deeply in the fortunes of humanity, which in this new year continues to be marked by the dramatic crisis of the global economy and consequently a serious and widespread social instability. In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I invited everyone to look to the deeper causes of this situation: in the last analysis, they are to be found in a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature. Today I would like to stress that the same way of thinking also endangers creation. Each of us could probably cite an example of the damage that this has caused to the environment the world over. I will offer an example, from any number of others, taken from the recent history of Europe. Twenty years ago, after the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the materialistic and atheistic regimes which had for several decades dominated a part of this continent, was it not easy to assess the great harm which an economic system lacking any reference to the truth about man had done not only to the dignity and freedom of individuals and peoples, but to nature itself, by polluting soil, water and air? The denial of God distorts the freedom of the human person, yet it also devastates creation. It follows that the protection of creation is not principally a response to an aesthetic need, but much more to a moral need, in as much as nature expresses a plan of love and truth which is prior to us and which comes from God.

For this reason I share the growing concern caused by economic and political resistance to combatting the degradation of the environment. This problem was evident even recently, during the XV Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Copenhagen from 7 to 18 December last. I trust that in the course of this year, first in Bonn and later in Mexico City, it will be possible to reach an agreement for effectively dealing with this question. The issue is all the more important in that the very future of some nations is at stake, particularly some island states.

It is proper, however, that this concern and commitment for the environment should be situated within the larger framework of the great challenges now facing mankind. If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate, or even set at odds, the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn? It is in man’s respect for himself that his sense of responsibility for creation is shown. As Saint Thomas Aquinas has taught, man represents all that is most noble in the universe (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 29, a. 3). Furthermore, as I noted during the recent FAO World Summit on Food Security, “the world has enough food for all its inhabitants” (Address of 16 November 2009, No. 2) provided that selfishness does not lead some to hoard the goods which are intended for all.

I would like to stress again that the protection of creation calls for an appropriate management of the natural resources of different countries and, in the first place, of those which are economically disadvantaged. I think of the continent of Africa, which I had the joy of visiting last March during my journey to Cameroon and Angola, and which was the subject of the deliberations of the recent Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod Fathers pointed with concern to the erosion and desertification of large tracts of arable land as a result of overexploitation and environmental pollution (cf. Propositio 22). In Africa, as elsewhere, there is a need to make political and economic decisions which ensure “forms of agricultural and industrial production capable of respecting creation and satisfying the primary needs of all” (Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, No. 10).

How can we forget, for that matter, that the struggle for access to natural resources is one of the causes of a number of conflicts, not least in Africa, as well as a continuing threat elsewhere? For this reason too, I forcefully repeat that to cultivate peace, one must protect creation! Furthermore, there are still large areas, for example in Afghanistan or in some countries of Latin America, where agriculture is unfortunately still linked to the production of narcotics, and is a not insignificant source of employment and income. If we want peace, we need to preserve creation by rechanneling these activities; I once more urge the international community not to become resigned to the drug trade and the grave moral and social problems which it creates.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the protection of creation is indeed an important element of peace and justice! Among the many challenges which it presents, one of the most serious is increased military spending and the cost of maintaining and developing nuclear arsenals. Enormous resources are being consumed for these purposes, when they could be spent on the development of peoples, especially those who are poorest. For this reason I firmly hope that, during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to be held this May in New York, concrete decisions will be made towards progressive disarmament, with a view to freeing our planet from nuclear arms. More generally, I deplore the fact that arms production and export helps to perpetuate conflicts and violence, as in Darfur, in Somalia or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Together with the inability of the parties directly involved to step back from the spiral of violence and pain spawned by these conflicts, there is the apparent powerlessness of other countries and the international organizations to restore peace, to say nothing of the indifference, amounting practically to resignation, of public opinion worldwide. There is no need to insist on the extent to which such conflicts damage and degrade the environment. Finally, how can I fail to mention terrorism, which endangers countless innocent lives and generates widespread anxiety. On this solemn occasion, I would like to renew the appeal which I made during the Angelus prayer of 1 January last to all those belonging to armed groups, of whatever kind, to abandon the path of violence and to open their hearts to the joy of peace.

The grave acts of violence to which I have just alluded, combined with the scourges of poverty, hunger, natural disasters and the destruction of the environment, have helped to swell the ranks of those who migrate from their native land. Given the extent of this exodus, I wish to exhort the various civil authorities to carry on their work with justice, solidarity and foresight. Here I wish to speak in particular of the Christians of the Middle East. Beleaguered in various ways, even in the exercise of their religious freedom, they are leaving the land of their forebears, where the Church took root during the earliest centuries. To offer them encouragement and to make them feel the closeness of their brothers and sisters in faith, I have convened for next autumn a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to this point I have alluded only to a few aspects of the problem of the environment. Yet the causes of the situation which is now evident to everyone are of the moral order, and the question must be faced within the framework of a great programme of education aimed at promoting an effective change of thinking and at creating new lifestyles. The community of believers can and wants to take part in this, but, for it to do so, its public role must be recognized. Sadly, in certain countries, mainly in the West, one increasingly encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular. It is clear that if relativism is considered an essential element of democracy, one risks viewing secularity solely in the sense of excluding or, more precisely, denying the social importance of religion. But such an approach creates confrontation and division, disturbs peace, harms human ecology and, by rejecting in principle approaches other than its own, finishes in a dead end. There is thus an urgent need to delineate a positive and open secularity which, grounded in the just autonomy of the temporal order and the spiritual order, can foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility. Here I think of Europe, which, now that the Lisbon Treaty has taken effect, has entered a new phase in its process of integration, a process which the Holy See will continue to follow with close attention. Noting with satisfaction that the Treaty provides for the European Union to maintain an “open, transparent and regular” dialogue with the Churches (Art. 17), I express my hope that in building its future, Europe will always draw upon the wellsprings of its Christian identity. As I said during my Apostolic Visit last September to the Czech Republic, Europe has an irreplaceable role to play “for the formation of the conscience of each generation and the promotion of a basic ethical consensus that serves every person who calls this continent ‘home’ ” (Meeting with Political and Civil Authorities and with the Diplomatic Corps,, 26 September 2009).

To carry our reflection further, we must remember that the problem of the environment is complex; one might compare it to a multifaceted prism. Creatures differ from one another and can be protected, or endangered, in different ways, as we know from daily experience. One such attack comes from laws or proposals which, in the name of fighting discrimination, strike at the biological basis of the difference between the sexes. I am thinking, for example, of certain countries in Europe or North and South America. Saint Columban stated that: “If you take away freedom, you take away dignity” ( Attela, in S. Columbani Opera, Dublin, 1957, p. 34). Yet freedom cannot be absolute, since man is not himself God, but the image of God, God’s creation. For man, the path to be taken cannot be determined by caprice or willfulness, but must rather correspond to the structure willed by the Creator.

The protection of creation also entails other challenges, which can only be met by international solidarity. I think of the natural disasters which this past year have sown death, suffering and destruction in the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Taiwan. Nor can I pass over Indonesia and, closer to us, the Abruzzi region, hit by devastating earthquakes. Faced with events like these, generous aid should never be lacking, since the life itself of God’s children is at stake. Yet, in addition to solidarity, the protection of creation also calls for concord and stability between states. Whenever disagreements and conflicts arise among them, in order to defend peace they must tenaciously pursue the path of constructive dialogue. This is what happened twenty-five years ago with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Argentina and Chile, reached thanks to the mediation of the Apostolic See. That Treaty has borne abundant fruit in cooperation and prosperity which have in some way benefited all of Latin America. In this same area of the world, I am pleased by the rapprochement upon which Columbia and Ecuador have embarked after several months of tension. Closer to us, I am gratified by the agreement concluded between Croatia and Slovenia on arbitration regarding their sea and land borders. I am also pleased by the accord between Armenia and Turkey for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, and I express my hope that, through dialogue, relations will improve among all the countries of the southern Caucasus. In the course of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I urgently appealed to the Israelis and the Palestinians to dialogue and to respect each others’ rights. Once again I call for a universal recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and to enjoy peace and security within internationally recognized borders. Likewise, the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign and independent homeland, to live in dignity and to enjoy freedom of movement, ought to be recognized. I would also like to request the support of everyone for the protection of the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem, and of its cultural and religious heritage, which is of universal value. Only thus will this unique city, holy yet deeply afflicted, be a sign and harbinger of that peace which God desires for the whole human family. Out of love for the dialogue and peace which protect creation, I exhort the government leaders and the citizens of Iraq to overcome their divisions and the temptation to violence and intolerance, in order to build together the future of their country. The Christian communities also wish to make their own contribution, but if this is to happen, they need to be assured respect, security and freedom. Pakistan has been also hard hit by violence in recent months and certain episodes were directly aimed at the Christian minority. I ask that everything be done to avoid the reoccurrence of such acts of aggression, and to ensure that Christians feel fully a part of the life of their country. In speaking of acts of violence against Christians, I cannot fail to mention also the deplorable attack which the Egyptian Coptic community suffered in recent days, during its celebration of Christmas. Concerning Iran, I express my hope that through dialogue and cooperation joint solutions will be found on the national as well as the international level. I encourage Lebanon, which has emerged from a lengthy political crisis, to continue along the path of concord. I hope that Honduras, after a period of uncertainty and unrest, will move towards a recovery of normal political and social life. I desire the same for Guinea and Madagascar with the effective and disinterested aid of the international community.

Ladies and Gentlemen, at the end of this rapid overview which, due to its brevity, cannot mention every situation worthy of note, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, for whom “all creation groans and is in agony” and “we ourselves groan inwardly” (
Rm 8,20-23). There is so much suffering in our world, and human selfishness continues in many ways to harm creation. For this reason, the yearning for salvation which affects all creation is that much more intense and present in the hearts of all men and women, believers and non-believers alike. The Church points out that the response to this aspiration is Christ “the firstborn of all creation, for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created” (Col 1,15-16). Looking to him, I exhort every person of good will to work confidently and generously for the sake of human dignity and freedom. May the light and strength of Jesus help us to respect human ecology, in the knowledge that natural ecology will likewise benefit, since the book of nature is one and indivisible. In this way we will be able to build peace, today and for the sake of generations to come. To all I wish a Happy New Year!

Speeches 2005-13 27129