Speeches 2005-13 435



Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum a moment which is now sadly marked by the death of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil. Before you all, I wish again to give thanks to God for his able and willing service over many years to the whole of the Church in India. May our loving Saviour welcome his noble soul into paradise, and may he rest in peace in communion with all the saints.

Thank you for the sentiments of respect and esteem offered by Mar Bosco Puthur on your behalf and in the name of those whom you shepherd. Your presence is an eloquent expression of the deep spiritual bonds which unite the Syro-Malabar Church to the Church universal, in fidelity to Christ’s prayer for all his disciples (cf. Jn 17,21). You bring to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul the joys and hopes of the entire Syro-Malabar Church, which my predecessor the Venerable John Paul II happily raised to the status of a Major-Archiepiscopal Church in 1992. My greetings go to the priests, the women and men religious, the members of the lay movements, the families and in particular the young people who are the hope of the Church.

The Second Vatican Council taught that “Bishops have been designated by the Holy Spirit to take the place of the Apostles as pastors of souls and, together with the Supreme Pontiff and subject to his authority, they are commissioned to perpetuate the work of Christ, the eternal Pastor” (Christus Dominus CD 1). Today’s encounter thus forms an essential part of your pilgrimage ad Limina Apostolorum; it is also an occasion to intensify the awareness of the divine gift and responsibility received in the ordination by which you became members of the College of Bishops. I join you in seeking the intercession of the Apostles for your ministry. They, who were the first to receive the charge of caring for Christ’s flock, continue to guide and watch over the Church from their place in heaven and remain a model and inspiration to all Bishops by their holiness of life, teaching and example.

Your visit also provides a precious opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift of communion in the apostolic faith and in the life of the Spirit which unites you among yourselves and with your people. With divine inspiration and grace on the one hand, and with humble prayers and efforts on the other, this precious gift of fellowship with the Triune God and with one another will grow ever richer and deeper. Each Bishop, for his part, is called to be a minister of unity (cf. ibid., 6) in his particular church and within the universal Church. This responsibility is of special importance in a country like India where the unity of the Church is reflected in the rich diversity of her rites and traditions. I encourage you to do all you can to continue to foster the communion between yourselves and all Catholic Bishops throughout the world, and to be the living expression of that fellowship among your priests and faithful. Let the gentle command of Saint Paul continue to guide your hearts and your apostolic endeavours: “Let love be genuine, hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good, love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honour. Live in harmony with one another” (Rm 12,9-10,16). Thus will the unity of the Triune God be proclaimed and lived in the world, and thus will our new life in Christ be experienced always more profoundly, to the benefit of the entire Catholic Church.

Within this mystery of loving communion, a privileged expression of sharing in the divine life is through sacramental marriage and family life. The rapid and dramatic changes which are a part of contemporary society throughout the world bring with them not only serious challenges, but new possibilities to proclaim the liberating truth of the Gospel message to transform and elevate all human relationships. Your support, dear Brother Bishops, and that of your priests and communities for the sound and integral education of young people in the ways of chastity and responsibility will not only enable them to embrace the true nature of marriage, but will also benefit Indian culture as a whole. Unfortunately, the Church can no longer count on the support of society at large to promote the Christian understanding of marriage as a permanent and indissoluble union ordered to procreation and the sanctification of the spouses. Have your families look to the Lord and his saving word for a complete and truly positive vision of life and marital relations, so necessary for the good of the whole human family. Let your preaching and catechesis in this field be patient and constant.

At the heart of many of the works of education and charity exercised in your Eparchies are the various communities of men and women religious who devote themselves to the service of God and their neighbour. I wish to express the Church’s appreciation for the charity, faith and hard work of these religious, who by professing and living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience offer an example of complete devotion to the divine Master and thus help considerably to equip your faithful for every good work (cf. 2Tm 3,17). The vocation to religious life and the pursuit of perfect charity is attractive in every age, but it should be nourished by a constant spiritual renewal which is to be fostered by superiors who devote great care to the human, intellectual and spiritual formation of their fellow religious (cf. Perfectae Caritatis PC 11). The Church insists that preparation for religious profession is to be marked by long and careful discernment with the goal of ensuring, before final vows are made, that each candidate is firmly rooted in Christ, solid in his or her capacity for genuine commitment and joyful in the gift of self to Jesus Christ and his Church. Furthermore, by its nature, formation is never completed, but is ongoing and must be an integral part of the daily life of each individual and community. Much needs to be done in this area, utilizing the many resources available in your Church, above all through deeper training in the practice of prayer, the particular spiritual and liturgical traditions of the Syro-Malabar rite, and the intellectual demands of a solid pastoral practice. I encourage you, in close collaboration with religious superiors, to plan effectively for such a solid ongoing formation, so that religious men and women continue to be powerful witnesses to the presence of God in the world and to our eternal destiny, so that the complete gift of self to God through religious life may shine with all its beauty and purity before men.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I once again express my fraternal affection and esteem. Commending you to the intercession of Saint Thomas, Apostle of India, I assure you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care. To all I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.


Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I greet with affection the Counsellors and Members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, meeting in Rome for the Plenary Assembly. I greet in a special way Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of this Pontifical Commission. I warmly thank him for his words on behalf of all, and for presenting to me the results of these days of study and reflection.

The theme chosen for this meeting, “Impact of Popular Piety on the Process of Evangelization in Latin America”, directly addresses one of the most important aspects of the missionary task in which the particular Churches of the great Latin American region are engaged. The bishops who met in Aparecida for the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops’ Conferences, which I had the pleasure of opening on my Journey to Brazil in May 2007, presented popular piety as a means of encountering Jesus Christ and of expressing the faith of the Church.

This cannot, therefore, be considered as something secondary in Christian life, for it “would mean forgetting the primacy of the action of the Spirit and of the freely chosen project of God’s love” (Final Document, n. 263).

This simple expression of faith originates in the very first stages of evangelization in those lands. In fact, as Christ’s salvific message gradually enlightened and enlivened their cultures, the deep and rich popular piety characteristic of the lively faith of the Latin American peoples was gradually woven. As I said in my Address at the Opening Session of the Conference of Aparecida, it constitutes “the precious treasure of the Catholic Church in Latin America, and must be protected, promoted and, when necessary, purified” (n. 1).

To carry out the new evangelization in Latin America, in a process that permeates all which the Christian is and does, the many expressions of popular piety cannot be ignored. These forms of popular piety, well-channelled and properly supported, encourage a fruitful encounter with God, deep reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament, profound devotion to the Virgin Mary, the cultivation of affection for the Successor of Peter and an awareness of membership in the Church. May all this also be useful in evangelizing, in communicating faith, in bringing the faithful closer to the sacraments, and in strengthening the bonds of friendship and family and community union, as well as to increase solidarity and the exercise of charity.

If popular piety is not to be reduced to a mere cultural expression of a specific region, faith must consequently be its main source. Furthermore, it must be closely related to the sacred Liturgy which cannot be replaced by any other form of religious expression. In this respect, it cannot be forgotten, as is stated in the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, that “the Liturgy and popular piety are two forms of worship which are in mutual and fruitful relationship with each other. In this relationship, however, the Liturgy remains the primary reference point so as ‘clearly and prudently to channel the yearnings of prayer and the charismatic life’ which are found in popular piety. For its part, popular piety, because of its symbolic and expressive qualities, can often provide the Liturgy with important insights for inculturation and stimulate an effective dynamic creativity” (n. 58).

Many expressions of faith linked to the important celebrations of the liturgical year are to be found in popular piety. Through them the simple people of Latin America reaffirm the love they feel for Jesus Christ, in whom they find a manifestation of God’s closeness, of his compassion and of his mercy. Numerous shrines are dedicated to the contemplation of the mysteries of the childhood, Passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord. Multitudes of people go to them to place in his divine hands their sorrows and their joys, praying at the same time for an abundance of graces and imploring forgiveness for their sins.

The devotion to the Most Holy Virgin Mary of the Latin American and Caribbean peoples is also closely bound to Jesus. From the dawn of evangelization Mary has accompanied the children of this region and is an inexhaustible source of hope to them. For this reason, they turn to her as Mother of the Saviour, in order to constantly feel her loving protection under different names. The saints are likewise seen as bright stars that spangle the hearts of many of the faithful in these regions, edifying them by their example and protecting them with their intercession.

However, it is impossible to deny the existence of certain off-course forms of popular piety. These, rather than fomenting active participation in the Church, create confusion and can foster a religious practice that is merely superficial, detached from a firmly-rooted and inwardly lively faith. In this regard I would like to recall here what I wrote to seminarians last year: “Certainly, popular piety tends towards the irrational, and can at times be somewhat superficial. Yet it would be quite wrong to dismiss it. Through that piety, the faith has entered human hearts and become part of the common patrimony of sentiments and customs, shaping the life and emotions of the community. Popular piety is thus one of the Church’s great treasures. The faith has taken on flesh and blood. Certainly popular piety always needs to be purified and refocused, yet it is worthy of our love and it truly makes us into the ‘People of God’ ” (Letter to Seminarians, 18 October 2010, n. 4).

At the meetings I have had in the past few years on the occasion of the ad limina visits of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, I have always been informed of the happenings in their respective ecclesiastical circumscriptions in order to launch the continental Mission. With this Mission the Latin American episcopate has wished to relaunch the process of the new evangelization following Aparecida, and has invited all the Church’s members of the Church to adopt a permanent state of mission. This is a very important option, because of the desire to return to a fundamental aspect of the Church’s work, namely, to give primacy to the Word of God so that it may be the permanent nourishment of Christian life and the pivot of all pastoral action.

This encounter with the divine Word must lead to a profound change of life, a radical identification with the Lord and his Gospel in order to become fully aware that it is necessary to be solidly anchored in Christ, acknowledging that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est ).

In this regard I am glad to know that in the parishes and small ecclesial communities of Latin America the practice of lectio divina as an ordinary way to nourish prayer and by so doing to reinforce the spiritual life of the faithful is spreading. For “the Bible offers an inexhaustible source of inspiration to popular piety, as well as unrivalled forms of prayer and thematic subjects” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, n. 87).

Dear brothers, I thank you for your effective contributions to protect, promote and purify all that is related to the expression of popular piety in Latin America. To achieve this goal, it will be invaluable to continue to give an impetus to the Continental Mission. In it a special place must be assigned to all that constitutes a privileged way of enabling faith to be accepted in people’s hearts, all that touches people’s inmost feelings and is vigorously and actively expressed through charity (cf. Gal Ga 5,6).

At the end of this joyful meeting, while I invoke the sweet name of Mary Most Holy, the perfect disciple and teacher of evangelization, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of divine benevolence.


Your Eminences, Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to address a cordial greeting and my warm thanks to the producers and to those who have made this documentary on Venerable Pope John Paul II. I am glad to have seen it here in the Vatican and I express my deep appreciation of your work producing the film, joining in the applause already expressed by the Polish Bishops’ Conference and by some of my co-workers.

Because of its serious approach this film ranks among the most effective contributions offered to the public on the occasion of my Predecessor’s upcoming Beatification.

There is a wealth of audiovisual material on John Paul II, including various documentaries produced by television broadcasting stations. In the case of this film Jan Pawel II. Szukalem Was [The Pilgrim Dressed in White], various elements, for example, interviews with close collaborators, accounts of famous figures and the abundance of documentation make it stand out in the panorama of others.

All these elements aim to faithfully highlight both the personality of the Pope and his tireless action throughout his long Pontificate.

I would like once again to emphasize the two pillars of his life and ministry: prayer and missionary zeal. John Paul II was a great contemplative and a great apostle of Christ. God chose him for the Chair of Peter, where he remained for a long time ushering the Church into the third millennium. He guided all of us on this pilgrimage by his example, and now continues from Heaven to be with us.

I therefore thank all those who have collaborated in making this film which helps us to treasure the luminous witness of Pope John Paul II. With this sentiment of gratitude, I warmly bless all of you and your loved ones.


Mr Ambassador,

I am glad to welcome you on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Croatia to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words. I would be grateful if in reciprocation you would kindly express to H.E. Mr Ivo Josipovic, President of the Republic, whom I had the pleasure to meet recently, my cordial good wishes for him and for the happiness and peace of the Croatian people.

The beginning of your mission happily coincides with the 20th anniversary of Croatia’s Independence. And next year will be the 20th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between your country and the Holy See. Our relations are harmonious and serene. The Holy See has always had a special concern for Croatia. My distant Predecessor, Pope Leo X, seeing the beauty of your culture and the depth of your ancestors’ faith, described your country as the “scutum saldissimum et antemurale Christianitatis”. These ancient values are still dear to our contemporaries who have had to face, not so long ago, particular difficulties. To fortify the present generations it is right to explain clearly to them Croatia’s rich history and the Christian culture which has watered it deeply and on which your people has always relied in adversity.

I learned with pleasure that your Parliament has proclaimed this year “The Bošcovic Year”. This Jesuit was a physician, an astronomer, a mathematician, an architect, a philosopher and a diplomat. His life shows that it is possible to harmonize science and faith, service to the motherland and commitment to the Church. This Christian scholar said to young people that it is possible to be fulfilled in contemporary society and be happy in it while being a believer. Moreover, the monuments and the innumerable crucifixes that are scattered across your country are a clear demonstration of this felicitous symbiosis. In seeing this harmony, young people will be proud of their country, of its history and of its faith and will feel increasingly the heirs of a treasure that it is their task today to bring to fruition.

Croatia will soon be a full member of the European Union. The Holy See cannot but congratulate itself on seeing the European family completed by the inclusion of States which were historically part of it. This integration, Mr Ambassador, must be brought about with full respect for the specific Croatian features of the country’s religious life and culture. It would be an illusion to wish to deny its identity to link it with another, which came into being in circumstances so different from those which saw the birth and formation of Croatia.

In entering the European Union not only will your country be the recipient of an economic and juridical system which has its advantages and limitations, but it will also be able to make its own, typically Croatian, contribution. It must not be afraid to claim firmly respect for its history and its religious and cultural identity. Contentious voices are raised against with astonishing against regularity the reality of the religious roots of Europe. It has become fashionable to be amnesiac and to deny historical proofs. To say that Europe has no Christian roots is equivalent to claiming that a human being can live without oxygen and food. There is no shame in remembering and in supporting the truth, rejecting, if necessary, what is contrary to it. I am certain that your country will be able to defend its identity with conviction and pride, avoiding the new stumbling blocks which crop up and, which, under the pretext of a badly understood religious freedom, are contrary to the natural law, to the family and, quite simply, to morals.

I would also like to express my pleasure at the attention your country has shown to ensuring that Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina may play their proper role as one of the three constitutive peoples of the country. I likewise note that in a desire for peace and healthy collaboration with the countries of your geographical and political region, Croatia does not fail to make its specific contribution to facilitate dialogue and understanding between peoples with different traditions but which have lived together for centuries. I encourage you to continue on this path which will consolidate peace with respect for each one. Even within your national boundaries, the four Agreements signed by your country and the Holy See make it possible, with respect for each identity, to discuss matters of common interest. It will be necessary to continue in this direction for the good of the parties concerned. I am pleased to note that Croatia promotes religious freedom and respect for the Church’s particular mission.

For all these reasons, Mr Ambassador, I am profoundly glad to be able to visit your country in a few weeks. My Predecessor, Venerable John Paul II, visited it three times, and I myself, while I was still the head of a Roman Dicastery, have been there on several occasions. I gladly accepted the invitation of the Croatian Authorities and the invitations of the Bishops of your noble country. As you know, the theme chosen for the Visit will be: “Together in Christ!”. It is this “together” that I wish to celebrate with your people. Together, in spite of the innumerable human differences, together with these differences! And in Christ who has accompanied the Croatian people for centuries with goodness and mercy. Because of him I would like to encourage your country and to encourage the Church which is among and with you; she has accompanied with the same solicitude as Christ the destiny and progress of your nation since its origin. On this happy occasion I would also like to greet warmly the Bishops and faithful of the Catholic Church in Croatia.

At the moment when you are beginning your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, I address to you, Mr Ambassador, my best wishes for the successful accomplishment of your mission. You may be certain that you will always find with my co-workers the welcome and understanding you may need. As I entrust your country to the protection of the Mother of God, Our Lady of Marija Bistrica, as well as to the intercession of Bl. Alojzije Stepinac, I warmly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family and upon your co-workers, as well as upon the entire Croatian people and its leaders.


Your Beatitude,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Sons and Daughters of the Maronite Church,

This first visit to the Successor of Peter after your election to the Patriarchal See of Antioch for Maronites is a privileged event for the universal Church. I am delighted to receive you here with the Maronite Bishops, priests, consecrated people and faithful to solemnise the Ecclesiastica Communio which I granted to you by Letter on 24 March. Your election a few days after the Holy Year, promulgated to celebrate the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St Maron, appears as the most eminent fruit of the numerous graces he obtained for his Church.

I warmly greet all of you who have come to gather round your Patriarch for the great moment of the fraternal communion and the indefectible unity of the Maronite Church with the Church of Rome, underlining thereby the importance of the visible unity of the Church in her catholicity.

In the absence of Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, may I be permitted to express my affection and gratitude to him for having devoted 25 years of his life to guiding the Maronite Church as Patriarch through the upheavals of history.

This Ecclesiastical Communion will shortly find its most authentic expression in the Divine Liturgy where the one Body and Blood of Christ will be shared. Here is expressed the fullness of communion between the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and the 87th Successor of St Maron, Father and Head of the Church of Antioch for Maronites, this most prestigious Apostolic See where Christ’s faithful were called “Christians” for the first time! Your Patriarchal Church, her rich spiritual, liturgical and theological tradition, part of the Antiochian tradition, always adorns the whole Church with this treasure.

Because you are at the heart of the Middle East, you have an immense mission to human beings to whom the Love of Christ hastens to proclaim the Good News of salvation. At the recent Synod which I convoked in October 2010, the urgent need to propose the Gospel anew to people who are barely familiar with it or who have drifted away from the Church was frequently mentioned.

With all the living forces present in Lebanon and in the Middle East, I know, your Beatitude, that you will have at heart to proclaim, to witness and to live this word of life in communion in order to rediscover the fervour of the first faithful who “devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Ac 2,42).

This region of the world, which the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Christ himself blessed by their presence and their preaching, aspires to the enduring peace that the word of Truth can establish when it is welcomed and lived out.

You pursue this task through the human and spiritual, moral and intellectual education of young people, thanks to your scholastic and catechetical network whose quality I know. I ardently hope that your role in their formation may be ever better recognized by society so that it is possible to transmit the fundamental values to them without discrimination. May today’s young people thus become responsible men and women in their families and in society, to build greater solidarity and brotherhood among all the members of the nation. Please convey to all the young my esteem and affection, by reminding them that the Church and society are in need of their enthusiasm and hope.

I therefore I invite you to intensify the formation of the priests and numerous young people whom the Lord calls in your eparchies and religious congregations. By their teaching and their lives, may they be authentic witnesses of the Word of God to help the faithful to root their life and their mission in Christ!

Your Beatitude, I address my fraternal good wishes to you that the Holy Spirit may help you in the exercise of your office. May he comfort you in difficulties and procure for you the joy of seeing your Church grow in fervour and number!

At the dawn of your ministry, I would like to repeat to you these words that Christ said to his disciples: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Lc 12,32).

While I address my warm greetings to all the Lebanese people, I entrust you very specially to the Intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon — since you, Your Beatitude, are a son of the Maronite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary — and also to that of St Maron and all the Lebanese saints and blesseds. And I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you, and to the bishops and priests, to the men and women religious and to all the faithful of your Patriarchate.


Madam Ambassador,

In receiving the Letters of Credence which accredit you, Your Excellency, as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Spain to the Holy See, I cordially thank you for the words you have wished to address to me, as well as for the respectful greeting conveyed to me by Their Majesties the King and Queen, the Government and the Spanish people. I reciprocate with pleasure, expressing my best wishes for peace, prosperity and spiritual wellbeing for all, whom I keep very present in my memory and in prayer. I welcome you at the beginning of your important work in this Diplomatic Mission, which depends on centuries of brilliant history and on so many of your distinguished predecessors.

I recently visited Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona and I remember with gratitude the great care and the many expressions of closeness and affection shown by the Spanish people and their Authorities to the Successor of Peter. In these two symbolic places the spiritual attraction of the Apostle St James stands out, together with the presence of wonderful signs that invite one to look on high, even in the midst of a multifaceted and complex environment.

During my visit I saw many demonstrations of the liveliness of the Catholic faith in these lands which have seen the birth of so many saints and are scattered with cathedrals, centres for assistance and for culture, inspired by the deeply-rooted, fertile attachment and fidelity of the inhabitants to their religious beliefs. This also entails the responsibility for diplomatic relations between Spain and the Holy See. These relations must always seek to encourage, with mutual respect and collaboration within the legitimate autonomy in their respective fields, all that can procure the good of people and the authentic development of their rights and freedoms, which include the expression of their faith and their conscience, in both the public and private spheres.

Because of your important background in diplomatic service, Your Excellency, you know well that in her diplomatic activity the Church seeks the integral good of each nation and its citizens in carrying out her mission. She operates in the context of her competence and fully respects the autonomy of the civil authorities whom she appreciates and she asks God that they may exercise their service to society with generosity, honesty, success and justice.

Moreover this setting — in which the mission of the Church and the role of the State converge — has been forged in the bilateral agreements between Spain and the Holy See on the principal aspects of common interest. These agreements provide the necessary juridical support and stability for their respective action and initiatives to benefit all.

You are beginning your lofty responsibility, Madam Ambassador, in a situation of great global financial difficulty, which is also besetting Spain with truly disturbing results, especially in the area of unemployment. This gives rise to discouragement and frustration, especially among young people and the less privileged families. I keep all citizens present in my mind and I ask the Almighty to enlighten all who have public responsibilities so that they may bravely seek the path to a recovery that benefits the whole of society. In this regard, I would like to point out with pleasure the praiseworthy work of the Catholic institutions which provide prompt aid to the neediest, while I ask all for an increasing readiness in this commitment to solidarity.

By her work the Church demonstrates an essential characteristic of her being which is at the same time her most visible feature and is appreciated by many, believers and nonbelievers alike. However, she strives to go beyond mere external and material aid and aims for the heart of Christian charity, in which the neighbour is first and foremost a person, a child of God who is always in need of brotherhood, respect and acceptance, whatever his or her situation.

In addition, the Church offers something which is connatural to her and which benefits people and nations: she offers Christ, the hope that encourages and fortifies, as an antidote to the disappointment of other transient proposals and to hearts that lack values, that end by becoming so hard that they are no longer able to perceive the real meaning of life and the reason for things. This hope gives life to trust and collaboration, thereby changing the sombre present into strength of mind to face the future of both the person and of the family and society with hope.

Nevertheless, as I recalled in my Message for the World Day of Peace 2011, instead of living and organizing society in such a way that encourages an openness to transcendence (cf. n. 9), forms of hostility to the faith — often sophisticated — abound and “find expression in a denial of history and the rejection of religious symbols which reflect the identity and the culture of the majority of citizens” (n. 13).

The fact that in certain milieus there is a tendency to consider religion as a socially insignificant and even disturbing factor does not justify the attempt to marginalize it, sometimes through denigration, derision, discrimination and indifference to episodes of evident profanation. Since in this way the fundamental right to religious freedom inherent in the dignity of the human person is violated, which is “an authentic weapon of peace… which can change the world and make it better” (cf. n. 15).

In her concern for all human beings, in all their dimensions, the Church keeps watch over their fundamental rights in frank dialogue with all who help to make them effective and not to restrict them. She watches over the right to human life from its beginning to its natural end, because life is sacred and no one may arbitrarily dispose of it. She supervises protection and aid to the family, and supports financial, social and juridical measures, so that the man and woman who contract marriage and form a family may have the necessary support to fulfil their mission of being a shrine of love and life.

The Church also supports an education that integrates moral and religious values, in accordance with the beliefs of the parents, as is their right and as befits the integral development of young people; and for the same reason, the teaching of Catholicism at all the centres they may choose, as sanctioned in the proper juridical order.

Before concluding, I would like to mention my next visit to Spain this August to take part in the 26th World Youth Day in Madrid. I joyfully unite in the efforts and prayers of its organizers, who are carefully preparing this most important event, in the hope that it will yield abundant spiritual fruits for youth and for Spain.

I also note the willingness, cooperation and generous help that the Government of the Nation, as well as the autonomous and local Authorities, are expending for the greatest possible success of a project that will attract the whole world’s attention and will once again demonstrate the great heart and spirit of the Spanish people.

Madam Ambassador, I offer you my best wishes for the lofty mission that has been entrusted to you, in order that relations between Spain and the Holy See may be reinforced and progress. At the same time I assure you of the Pope’s deep appreciation of the ever beloved people of Spain.

I ask you kindly to express my sentiments to the King and Queen of Spain and to the other authorities of the nation, as I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings from the Most High upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family which has accompanied you today, as well as on your collaborators and the noble Spanish nation.
Speeches 2005-13 435