Speeches 2005-13 16092



Your Beatitudes, Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The liturgical celebration in which we have just taken part was an opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, held in October 2010 on the theme: The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness. “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (
Ac 4,32). I would like to thank all the Synod Fathers for their contribution. My gratitude also goes to the Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Eterovic, for the work achieved and for his words on your behalf.

Having signed the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, I am pleased now to present it to all the local churches through you, the Patriarchs and Bishops, both Eastern and Latin, of the Middle East. With the consigning of this document there now begins its study and appropriation by all the members of the Church, pastors, consecrated persons and lay people, so that everyone will find new joy in the pursuit of his or her mission, encouraged and fortified to put into action the message of communion and witness understood in the various human, doctrinal, ecclesiological, spiritual and pastoral aspects of this Exhortation. Dear brothers and sisters of Lebanon and the Middle East, I hope that this Exhortation will be a guide to follow the various and complex paths where Christ goes before you. May communion in faith, hope and charity be strengthened in your countries and in every community so as to make credible your witness to the Triune God, who has drawn close to each one of us.

Dear Church in the Middle East, draw from the source of salvation which became a reality in this unique and beloved land! Follow in the footsteps of your fathers in faith, who by tenacity and fidelity opened up the way for humanity to respond to the revelation of God! Among the wonderful diversity of saints who flourished in your land, look for examples and intercessors who will inspire your response to the Lord's call to walk towards the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will wipe away every one of our tears (cf. Rev Ap 21,4)! May fraternal communion be a support for you in your daily life and the sign of the universal brotherhood which Jesus, the firstborn of many, came to bring! Thus, in this region which saw his actions and heard his words, may the Gospel continue to resonate as it did 2,000 years ago, and may it be lived today and for ever! Thank you.

ECUMENICAL MEETING - REPLY OF THE HOLY FATHER DURING THE ECUMENICAL MEETING Hall of Honor of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate of Charfet Sunday, 16 September 2012


Your Holiness, Your Beatitude,
Venerable Patriarchs,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Representatives of other Churches and Protestant Communities,
Brothers and Sisters,

It is with great joy that I meet with you, in this monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance of Charfet, a place of great importance for the Syrian Catholic Church in Lebanon and the entire Middle East. I thank His Beatitude Ignace Youssef Younan, Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, for his warm words of welcome. I fraternally greet each one of you, who represent the diversity of the Church in the East, and in particular His Beatitude Ignace IV Hazim, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and His Holiness Mar Ignatius I Zakke Iwas, Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch and all the East. Your presence brings great solemnity to this meeting. I thank you with all my heart for being here with us. My thoughts also go to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt and to the Ethiopian Orthodox who have had the recent sadness of losing their respective Patriarchs. I wish to assure them of my fraternal closeness and of my prayers.

Allow me to acknowledge here the testimony of faith shown by the Syrian Antiochene Church in the course of its glorious history, a testimony to an ardent love for Christ, which has caused it to write some heroic pages of this history, right up to the present, by remaining committed to the faith even to the point of martyrdom. I encourage this Church to be for the peoples of the region a sign of the peace that comes from God as well as a light that keeps their hope alive. I extend this encouragement to all the Churches and ecclesial communities present in the region.

Dear brothers, our encounter this evening is an eloquent sign of our profound desire to respond to the call of Christ, “that all may be one” (
Jn 17,21). In these unstable times, so inclined to the violence which your region knows so well, it is even more necessary that Christ’s disciples give an authentic witness to their unity, so that the world may believe in their message of love, peace and reconciliation. This is a message that all Christians, and we in particular, have been commissioned to hand on to the world, a message of inestimable value in the present context of the Middle East.

Let us work without ceasing so that the love of Christ may lead us little by little into full communion with each other. In this regard, by means of common prayer and mutual commitment, we must constantly return to our one Lord and Saviour. For, as I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente which I have the pleasure of consigning to you, “Jesus draws into unity those who believe in and love him; he gives them the Spirit of his Father as well as Mary, his mother” (n. 15).

I entrust each one of you and all the members of your Churches and ecclesial communities to the Virgin Mary. May she intercede with her Son for us, so that we may be delivered from every evil and from all forms of violence, and so that the Middle East may at last know a time of reconciliation and peace. May the words of Jesus that I have so often cited during this journey, ?????? ???????? - My peace I give to you! (Jn 14,27), be for all of us the common sign that we will give in the name of Christ to the peoples of this beloved region, which longs to see those words fulfilled! Thank you!

FAREWELL CEREMONY Rafiq Hariri International Airport, Beirut Sunday, 16 September 2012


Mr President,
Messrs President of the Parliament and of the Council of Ministers,
Your Beatitudes, my brother Bishops,
Civil and religious authorities, dear Friends,

As the moment to depart draws near, I leave Lebanon with regret. I thank you for your words, Mr President, and for promoting along with the Government whose representatives I salute, the organization of the various events during my stay with you, assisted in a special way by the efficiency of the various services of the Republic and the private sector. I thank, too, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Raï, and all the Patriarchs present, as well as the Eastern and Latin Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, seminarians and faithful who came to receive me. In visiting you, it was as if Peter himself had come to you and you received him with the cordiality which characterizes your Churches and your culture.

My especial thanks go to the entire Lebanese people who form a beautiful and rich mosaic and who have shown the successor of Peter their enthusiasm by the efforts, both general and specific, of each community. I cordially thank our venerable sister Churches and the Protestant communities. I thank in particular representatives of the Muslim communities. Through my stay here, I have noticed how much your presence has contributed to the success of my journey. In these troubled times, the Arab world and indeed the entire world will have seen Christians and Muslims united in celebrating peace. It is a tradition in the Middle East to receive a guest with consideration and respect as you have done. I thank you all. But, to that consideration and respect, you added something else, which can be compared to one of those renowned oriental spices which enriches the taste of food: your warmth and your affection, which make me wish to return. I thank you for that especially. May God bless you for it!

During my all too brief stay, motivated principally by the signature and consigning of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, I have been able to meet various elements of your society. There were moments that were more official in character, others that were more intimate, moments of great religious importance and of fervent prayer, and others marked by the enthusiasm of young people. I give thanks to God for granting these occasions, for these meaningful encounters which I was able to have, and for the prayer offered by all and for all in Lebanon and the Middle East, whatever their origins or religious beliefs.

In his wisdom, Solomon asked Hiram of Tyre to build a house for the name of God, a sanctuary for all eternity (cf. Sir
Si 47,13). And Hiram, whom I mentioned at my arrival, sent wood taken from the cedars of Lebanon (cf. 1R 5,22). Cedar furnishings adorned the interior of the Temple, with garlands of sculpted flowers (cf. 1R 6,18). Lebanon was present in the sanctuary of God. May the Lebanon of today, and her inhabitants, also dwell in the sanctuary of God! May Lebanon continue to be a place where men and women can live in harmony and peace with each other, in order to give the world not only a witness to the presence of God, the primary theme of this past Synod, but also a witness to the communion between people, the second theme of the Synod, whatever their political, social, or religious standpoint.

I pray to God for Lebanon, that she may live in peace and courageously resist all that could destroy or undermine that peace. I hope that Lebanon will continue to permit the plurality of religious traditions and not listen to the voices of those who wish to prevent it. I hope that Lebanon will fortify the communion among all her inhabitants, whatever their community or religion, that she will resolutely reject all that could lead to disunity, and with determination choose brotherhood. These are blossoms pleasing to God, virtues that are possible and that merit consolidation by becoming more deeply rooted.

The Virgin Mary, venerated with devotion and tenderness by the faithful of the religious confessions here present, is a sure model for going forward in hope along the path of a lived and authentic brotherhood. Lebanon understood this well when, some time ago, she proclaimed 25 March as a holiday, thus allowing everyone to live more deeply their unity in serenity. May the Virgin Mary, whose ancient shrines are so numerous in your country, continue to accompany and inspire you!

May God bless Lebanon and all the Lebanese! May he never cease to draw them to himself so as to offer them a share in his eternal life! May he fill them with his joy, his peace and his light! May God bless all the Middle East! Upon all of you, I affectionately invoke abundant divine blessings. ?????????? ?????? ???????? – God bless you all!


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

The pilgrimage to the Tomb of St Peter which you have made during these days of reflection on your episcopal ministry is of particular importance this year. We are, in fact, on the eve of the Year of Faith, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and of the 13th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian faith”. These events, to which we must add the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are an opportunity to reinforce the faith, of which, dear Confrères, you are teachers and heralds (cf. Lumen Gentium
LG 25). I greet each one of you and I express my sincere gratitude for their courteous words to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and to Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.

This gathering in Rome at the start of your episcopal ministry is a good opportunity to experience in a practical way communication and communion among you and, in the encounter with the Successor of Peter, to foster a sense of responsibility for the entire Church. As members of the College of Bishops, you must always have a special concern for the universal Church, in the first place by promoting and defending the unity of the faith. Jesus Christ desired to entrust the mission of proclaiming the Gospel first of all to the body of Pastors who must work together and with the Successor of Peter (cf. ibid., n. 23), so that it may reach all people. This is particularly urgent in our time which requires you to be bold in inviting people of every state to encounter Christ and to consolidate their faith (cf. Christus Dominus CD 12).

Your main concern should be to promote and sustain a “stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 7). In this too you are called to foster and nourish communion and collaboration among the different situations in your dioceses. Evangelization, indeed, is not a work of specialists, but of the entire People of God under the guidance of their Pastors. Every member of the faithful, in and with the ecclesial community, must feel responsible for proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel. Blessed John XXIII, opening the great assembly of Vatican II foresaw: “a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of the conscience” and for this, he added, “it is necessary that this doctrine be certain and immutable, which must be faithful respected, that it must be deepened and presented in a way that responds to the needs of our time” (Discourse at the Opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 11 October 1962). We can say that the new evangelization started precisely with the Council, which Blessed John XXIII saw as a new Pentecost that would make the Church flourish in her interior richness and in the extension of her motherly mantle over every field of human activity (cf. Address at the Close of the First Session of the Council, 8 December 1962). The effects of this new Pentecost, despite the difficulties of the times, were extended reaching the life of the Church in every expression: from the institutional to the spiritual, from the participation of the lay faithful in the Church to the blossoming of charisms and holiness. In this regard we cannot but think of Blessed John XXIII himself and of Blessed John Paul II, of so many bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people, who have made the face of the Church beautiful in our time.

This legacy has also been entrusted to your pastoral care. Draw from this patrimony of doctrine, of spirituality and of holiness to form your faithful in the faith, that their testimony may be more credible. At the same time, your episcopal service asks you to “account for the hope that is in you” (1P 3,15) to those in search of faith or of the ultimate meaning of life, in whom “grace works in an unseen way. Christ died for all men and the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine” (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22). I encourage you, therefore, to commit yourselves so that all, according to their different ages and conditions of life, may be presented systematically and organically with the essentials of the faith, in order to respond to the questions posed by our globalized and technological world. The words of the Servant of God Paul VI are still relevant. He affirms: “to evangelize man's culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots)... always taking the person as one’s starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 20). Fundamental for this purpose is the Catechism of the Catholic Church — reliable norms for the teaching of the faith and the communion in the one creed. The reality in which we live demands that Christian have a solid formation!

The faith calls for credible witnesses, who trust in the Lord and entrust themselves to him to be “a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 15). The bishop, as the first witness of the faith, accompanies believers on their way, offering them the example of a life lived in trusting abandonment to God. Therefore, in order to be an authoritative teacher and herald of the faith, he must live in the presence of the Lord, as a man of God. Indeed he cannot be at the service of men without first being a servant of God. Your personal commitment to holiness sees that you absorb the Word of God in prayer every day and nourishes you with the Eucharist, to draw from these two tables the life-line of your ministry. May love urge you to be close to your priests, with that fatherly love which knows how to sustain, encourage and forgive; they are your primary and invaluable collaborators in carrying God to people and people to God. Likewise, the love of the Good Shepherd will make you attentive to the poor and the suffering, supporting and consoling them, and guiding those who have lost the meaning of life. Be particularly close to families: to parents, helping them to be the first educators of the faith for their children; to children and young people, that they may build their life on the solid rock of friendship with Christ. Take special care of seminarians, be concerned for their human, spiritual and pastoral formation so that communities may have mature and joyous Pastors and reliable leaders in the faith.

Dear Brothers, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace... the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2Tm 2,22-25). As I recall these words for me and for you, I warmly impart to each one of you my Apostolic Blessing, so that the Churches entrusted to you, impelled by the breath of the Holy Spirit, may grow in faith and proclaim it with new zeal on the paths of history.

TO A GROUP OF BISHOPS OF THE EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF FRANCE ON THEIR "AD LIMINA" VISIT Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, Hall of the Swiss Friday, 21 September 2012

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I thank you, Your Eminence, for your words. It is the first time we have met since my Apostolic Visit in 2008 to your beautiful country that is dear to my heart. At that time I chose to emphasize the Christian roots of France which welcomed the Gospel message from the very outset. This ancient heritage is a firm foundation. On it you can base your efforts to continue tirelessly to proclaim the word of God in the spirit that enlivens the new evangelization, which is the theme of the upcoming Synod Assembly. France has such a long spiritual and missionary tradition that Blessed John Paul II described as an “educator of peoples” (Homily, Le Bourget, 30 June 1980). Today the challenges of a broadly secularized society serve as an invitation to seek a response with courage and optimism by proposing the incorruptible newness of the Gospel with boldness and creativity.

It is in this perspective that I proposed the Year of Faith as an incentive to the faithful around the world in honour of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. “The Year of Faith is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world” (Porta Fidei, n. 6). The figure of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, goes in search of the one that is lost and loves them so much that he lays down his life for them is one of the most evocative scenes in the Gospel (cf. Jn 10). It applies in the first place to bishops, in their concern for all the Christian faithful, but equally to priests, their assistants. The mountain of work that burdens your priests constitutes a greater obligation “to take the greatest interest you are capable of in their welfare both temporal and spiritual” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7). For you have been made responsible for the sanctification of your priests, knowing well, as I said to you in Lourdes, that “their spiritual life is the foundation of their apostolic life” and, subsequently, the guarantee of the fruitfulness of their entire ministry. The diocesan bishop is therefore required to show special solicitude to his priests (cf. CIC, CIC 384) and especially to those who have recently been ordained or are in need or elderly.

I cannot but encourage you in your efforts never to tire of making them feel welcome, to have a father and mother’s heart for them and to “treat [them] as... sons and friends” (Lumen Gentium LG 28). You will take care to make available to them the means they need to keep up their spiritual and intellectual life and also to find support in fraternal life. I acknowledge the steps you have taken in this regard, which are, as it were, an extension of the Year for Priests, placed under the patronage of the Holy Curé d’Ars. The Year afforded an excellent opportunity to contribute to developing this spiritual aspect of the priest’s life. Persevering in this direction cannot but be of great benefit to the sanctification of the entire People of God. There is no doubt that in our day, the Gospel workers are few. Hence it is urgent to ask the Father to send more labourers to his harvest (cf. Lc 10,2). It is necessary to pray and to have prayers said for this intention and I encourage you to pay the greatest attention to the training of seminarians.

You wish that the regrouping you have set up in the parishes will guarantee the quality of celebrations and a rich community experience, while calling for a re-evaluation of Sunday. You pointed this out in your note on “Lay People in the Church’s Mission in France”. On various occasions I myself have had the opportunity to stress this essential point for all the baptized. Yet the solution of the pastoral problems that arise in the diocese must not be limited to organizational matters, however important these may be. There is a risk of putting the accent on the quest for efficiency, with a sort of “bureaucracy of pastoral work”, focusing on structures, organization and programmes. These can become “self-referential” for the exclusive use of the members of these structures and will then have little impact on the life of Christians who have drifted away from regular practice. Evangelization, on the contrary, needs to start from the encounter with the Lord in a dialogue founded on prayer. It must then focus on the witness we must bear in order to help our contemporaries to recognize and rediscover signs of God’s presence.

I also know that times for adoration are proposed to the faithful, more or less everywhere in your country. I rejoice deeply at this and I encourage you to make Christ’s presence in the Eucharist the source and summit of Christian life (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 11). Thus it is always necessary in pastoral reorganization to confirm the role of priests. “Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and rules his Body (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 2).

I applaud the generosity of lay people who qualify for admittance to ecclesial offices and functions (cf. CIC 228 § 1), thereby demonstrating an availability for which the Church is deeply grateful. It is nevertheless right to remember that the specific task of the lay faithful is the Christian animation of the temporal situations in which they act on their own initiative and autonomously, in the light of faith and of the Church’s teaching (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 43). It is therefore necessary to ensure respect for the difference between the common priesthood of all the faithful and the ministerial priesthood of those who have been ordained for the service of the community. This difference is not only in degree but also in nature (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 10). Moreover, it is necessary to preserve fidelity to the integral deposit of the faith as it is taught by the authentic Magisterium and professed by the whole Church. In fact, “profession of faith is an act both personal and communitarian. It is the Church that is the primary subject of faith” (Porta Fidei, n. 10). The loftiest expression of this profession of faith is in the liturgy. It is important that this cooperation always take place in the context of ecclesial communion around the bishop, who is its guarantor. It is a communion for which the Church shows herself as one, holy, catholic and apostolic.

This year you will be celebrating the sixth centenary of the birth of Joan of Arc. In speaking of her I emphasized that “one of the most original aspects of this young woman’s holiness was precisely this link between mystical experience and political mission. The years of her hidden life and her interior development were followed by the brief but intense two years of her public life: a year of action and a year of passion” (General Audience, 26 January 2011). In St Joan you have a model of secular holiness at the service of the common good.

I should also like to emphasize the interdependence that exists between “the progress of the human person and the advance of society itself” (Gaudium et Spes GS 25), since “the family... is the foundation of society” (ibid., n. 52). It is threatened in many areas, consequent on a conception of human nature that has proved defective. To defend life and the family in society is in no way old-fashioned; rather, it is prophetic, because it means promoting values that make possible the complete fulfilment of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen Gn 1,26). Here we have a real challenge to take up. Indeed, “the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 29).

Besides, the diocesan bishop “must protect the unity of the universal Church” (CIC 392 § 1) in the portion of the People of God entrusted to his care, even though different ways of understanding are legitimately expressed within it, which deserve to be the object of the same pastoral solicitude. The special expectations of each new generation need to be offered an appropriate catechesis so that they may find their proper place in the believing community. I was glad to meet a large number of young French men and women during the World Youth Day in Madrid, together with many of their Pastors, a sign of a new impetus of faith which opens the door to hope. I encourage you to continue in your commitment which is so promising, despite the difficulties.

To conclude, I would like once again to address my encouragement to you for the Diaconia 2013 initiative, through which you wish to stimulate your diocesan and local communities, as well as every member of the faithful to restore to the heart of ecclesial dynamism their service to their brethren, particularly the frailest. May the service of their brothers and sisters, rooted in the love of God, inspire in all the members of your dioceses the concern to contribute, each one in accordance with his/her own capacity, to making humanity one brotherly and supportive family in Christ!

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, I know of your love and of your service to the Church and I thank God for the effort you make every day to proclaim the word of life of the Gospel and make it effective in your communities. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of your beloved country, and of the Holy Co-Patronnesses, St Joan of Arc and St Thérèse of Lisieux, may God bless you and bless France!

TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE MEETING OF THE CHRISTIAN / CENTRIST DEMOCRAT INTERNATIONAL Hall of the Swiss, Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo Saturday, 22 September 2012

Mr President,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be able to receive you during the course of the work of the Executive Committee of the Christian/Centrist Democrat International. I would like, first of all, to address my cordial greetings to the numerous delegations from many countries around the world and, in particular, to your President, the Honourable Pier Ferdinando Casini, whom I thank for the courteous words he addressed to me in your name. Five years have passed since our last meeting, during which time the involvement of Christians in society has not ceased to enliven and improve human relations and living conditions. This commitment must not lessen or decrease; rather, it must be proffered with renewed vitality, in view of the persistence and, in some cases, the worsening of the problems we are facing.

The current economic situation is becoming increasingly serious, and its complexity and gravity rightly arouse concern. Yet, in the face of this situation, Christians are called to act and express themselves with a prophetic spirit - that is, a spirit capable of seeing in these transformations the unceasing and mysterious presence of God in history - and thus to shoulder their newly emerging responsibilities with realism, confidence and hope. «The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment ... [it] thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future» (Enc. Caritas in veritate ).

In this way, with confidence not resignation, civil and political activity must be given new incentives to seek solid ethical foundations, the lack of which in the economic field has helped to create the current global financial crisis (Address at Westminster Hall, London, 17 September 2010). Your political and institutional commitment must not, then, be limited to responding to the requirements of market logic. Rather, its central and indispensable goal must remain the search for the common good, correctly understood, and the promotion and protection of the inalienable dignity of the human person. The teaching of Vatican Council II that «the order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around» (Gaudium et Spes GS 26) is today more timely than ever. This order of persons «is founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love» (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1912), and it cannot be discerned without constant attention to the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church, especially by people such as you, who draw the inspiration for their activities from Christian principles and values.

Unfortunately the cursory, superficial and short-term responses to the most fundamental and profound human needs are numerous and strident. This makes the words of the Apostle sadly appropriate for our own time, when he warned Timothy of the day in which «people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths» (2Tm 4,3).

The areas in which this decisive discernment is to be exercised are those touching the most vital and delicate interests of the person, the place where the fundamental choices regarding the meaning of life and the search for happiness are made. These areas are not separate from one another but profoundly interconnected; they possess a manifest continuum which is constituted by respect for the transcendent dignity of human beings (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1929), rooted in the fact that they were made in the image of the Creator and are the ultimate goal of any authentically human social justice. The commitment to respecting life in all its phases from conception to natural death - and the consequent rejection of procured abortion, euthanasia and any form of eugenics - is, in fact, interwoven with respecting marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman and, in its turn, as the foundation for the community of family life. It is in the family, «founded on marriage and open to life» (Address to the Authorities, Milan, 2 June 2012), that human beings experience sharing, respect and gratuitous love, at the same time receiving - be they children, the sick or the elderly - the solidarity they need. The family, moreover, constitutes the principal and most significant place for the education of the person, thanks to the parents who place themselves at the service of their children in order to draw out («e-ducere») the best that is in them. Thus the family, the basic cell of society, is the root which nourishes not only the individual human being, but the very foundations of social coexistence. Blessed John Paul II was right, then, to include among human rights, «the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child's personality» (Enc. Centesimus annus CA 47).

The authentic progress of human society cannot forgo policies aimed at protecting and promoting marriage, and the community that derives therefrom. Adopting such policies is the duty not only of States but of the International Community as a whole, in order to reverse the tendency towards the growing isolation of the person, which is a source of suffering and atrophy for both individuals and for society.

Honourable ladies and gentlemen, if it is true that the defence and promotion of human dignity «have been entrusted to us by the Creator” as a duty that pertains strictly and responsibly to “men and women at every moment of history” (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1929), it is equally true that this responsibility particularly concerns those called to political office. They, especially if animated by Christian faith, must be «strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping» (Gaudium et Spes GS 31). In this sense, the warning contained in the Book of Wisdom to the effect that «severe judgement falls on those in high places» (Sg 6,5) is highly beneficial, a warning given not to frighten but to spur and encourage those in government, at all levels, to achieve all the good of which they are capable, in keeping with the mission the Lord entrusts to each one.

In the hope, then, that each of you will continue to fulfil your personal and public commitments with enthusiasm and determination, I assure you all of a remembrance in my prayers, and I invoke God’s blessings upon you and your families. Thank you for your attention.
Speeches 2005-13 16092