1. It is a joy for me to be able to meet you during this congress dedicated to reflecting on “The Consecrated Woman in the World of Health on the Threshold of the Third Millennium”. I extend a special thanks to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, which, in response to my wish, has organized this timely initiative and included it in its programme of preparation for the forthcoming Jubilee.I affectionately greet all of you present here, with a special thought for the President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, whom I thank for his cordial words.
In watchful expectation of the new millennium, you wish to reflect deeply on your mission to serve the suffering, by focusing more intently on Christ to draw from him the inspiration, courage and ability to be totally dedicated to those who critically experience the limitations of the human condition. Indeed, you know that what you do for the suffering acquires meaning and effectiveness insofar as your work is guided by the Holy Spirit and reflects the distinctive features of the divine Samaritan of souls and bodies.
The Church looks with admiration and gratitude to you, consecrated women, who, by caring for the sick and the suffering, are involved in an apostolate that is more important than ever. Your service helps to prolong in time the ministry of mercy carried out by Christ who “went about doing good and healing all” (Ac 10,38). A great number of your sisters, down the centuries, “have given their lives in service to victims of contagious diseases, confirming the truth that dedication to the point of heroism belongs to the prophetic nature of the consecrated life” (Vita consecrata VC 83). The loving dedication which urges you to assist the Lord’s suffering members confers a nobility on your apostolate which escapes neither God’s eyes nor human consideration.
2. Like the sisters who have gone before you, you too are called to adapt your care of the sick to the changing conditions of the times. Today in fact, the health-care structures in which you work are confronting you with rapid changes and unprecedented challenges. If, on the one hand, the progress of science and technology and the growth of the administrative disciplines have opened up new opportunities to the practice of medicine and the distribution of care, on the other, they have not failed to create serious ethical problems concerning birth, death and relations with the suffering. From the anthropological standpoint, if progress in the concept of health and sickness has advanced positively to the point that it recognizes the spiritual dimension of these existential experiences, this does not alter the fact that a secularized concept of health and sickness is spreading in many areas, with the sad result that people are prevented from experiencing their time of suffering as an important opportunity for human and spiritual growth.
These profound changes have altered the face of the world of suffering and health and call for a new Christian response. How can we harmonize technical and ethical imperatives? How can we triumph over the tendency to indifference, the lack of compassion, respect and appreciation of life in all its phases? How can we promote health that is humanly worthy? How can we provide a Christian presence which, in collaboration with the good elements already present in society, will help spread in the world of suffering and health authentic human values based on the Gospel, which give priority to the de- fence and support of the young and the poor?
These questions express as many challenges, which you and the whole Ecclesial Community are called to answer.
3. The first task of your consecrated life in the joyous and engaging experience of Christ is to remind the People of God and the world of the Lord's merciful face. Before the power of your charism can shine in your work and service goals, it must be resplendent in a newness of life that reproduces Jesus' distinctive features. Is it not true that the Church needs consecrated men and women who, through their persons and their lives, manifest the fruitful motherhood that distinguishes her? Now, the Church's fruitfulness is not dependent on the efficiency of her work, but on the authenticity of your dedication to Christ crucified.
Your entire life as consecrated women must therefore be imbued with God’s friendship, so that you can be the heart and hands of Christ for the sick, thus revealing that faith which enables you to recognize the Lord himself in the sick and becomes the well-spring of your spirituality.
4. Secondly, your presence in the world of suffering and health must express the richness of your feminine nature. It is undeniable, in fact, that women's vocation to motherhood makes you more sensitive to others' needs and talented in giving an appropriate response. When in addition to these natural gifts there is a conscious attitude of altruism and, especially, the power of faith and Gospel love, then true miracles of dedication are performed. The most important expressions of love — sensitivity, gentleness, gratitude, sacrifice, concern and the generous gift of self to the suffering — bear witness to the love of a God who is close, merciful and ever faithful. A hero of charity to the sick, Camillus de Lellis, invited people to ask the Lord first for the grace of motherly affection for one’s neighbour, in order to serve the sick with that loving care which a mother devotes to her only child when sick.
5. Awareness of the mission to which you are called of serving the sick and promoting health must spur you, dear sisters, to be faithful and innovative in exercising your apostolate of merciful love.
Far from clashing, these two attitudes — fidelity and creativity — must be harmonized through wise discernment. Just as barricading yourselves in outmoded positions would be contrary to the spirit of your founders and foundresses, so too abandoning, without necessary study, apostolates that have become difficult because of current sociocultural conditions would be just as opposed to the charisms of your institutes. For this reason, dear sisters, I invite you to remain faithfully at the side of those suffering in hospitals and other health-care institutions, invigorating your care of the sick with Gospel spirit.
May your decisions always give priority to care for the sick who are most neglected. May your vision and your work be generously extended to Third World countries deprived of the most basic resources for dealing with sickness and promoting health. May your participation in the new evangelization about health and sickness be expressed in a courageous proclamation of Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection enabled man to transform the experience of suffering into a moment of grace for himself and for others (cf. Salvifici doloris, nn. 25-27). May collaboration with the laity, based on an authentic sharing in your charisms, become an effective way to respond, in words and deeds inspired by the Gospel, to the old and new forms of poverty and disease which afflict the society of our time.
6. In carrying out your apostolate, may the Immaculate Virgin, revered as Health of the Sick, be an example to you. An image of God’s tenderness, she shows herself attentive to the needs of others, loving in her response to them and rich in compassion. Looking to her, always strive to be deeply sensitive, ready to make your presence a witness of tenderness and self-giving that reflects the provident goodness of God.
With these wishes, I cordially impart my Blessing to you, and willingly extend it to all the sisters of your congregations.
Dear Cardinal Mahony,
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. With joy and affection I welcome you, the Bishops of the Church in California, Nevada and Hawaii, on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. Your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul is a celebration of the ecclesial bonds linking your particular Churches to the See of Peter. Mindful that the Church throughout the world is preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I have chosen to devote this series of reflections with you and your Brother Bishops to the renewal of the Church’s life envisaged by the Second Vatican Council. The Council was a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and its full implementation is the best means of ensuring that the Catholic community in the United States enters the new millennium strengthened in faith and holiness, effectively contributing to a better society through its witness to the truth about man that is revealed in Jesus Christ (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 24). Indeed, the marvelous responsibility of the Church in your country is to spread this truth, which “enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord” (Veritatis Splendor, Proem).
We are coming to the end of a century which began with confidence in humanity’s prospects of almost unlimited progress, but which is now ending in widespread fear and moral confusion. If we want a springtime of the human spirit, we must rediscover the foundations of hope (cf. Address to the 50th General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, October 5, 1995, 16-18). Above all, society must learn to embrace once more the great gift of life, to cherish it, to protect it, and to defend it against the culture of death, itself an expression of the great fear that stalks our times. One of your most noble tasks as Bishops is to stand firmly on the side of life, encouraging those who defend it and building with them a genuine culture of life.
2. The Second Vatican Council was quite aware of the forces shaping contemporary society when it spoke out clearly in defense of human life against the many threats facing it (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 27). The Council also made a priceless contribution to the culture of life by its eloquent presentation of the full meaning of married love (cf. ibid., 48-51). Following the lead of the Council and expounding its teaching, Pope Paul VI wrote the prophetic Encyclical Humanae Vitae, the thirtieth anniversary of which we are celebrating this year, in which he addressed the moral implications of the power to cooperate with the Creator in bringing new life into the world. The Creator has made man and woman to complement one another in love, and their union is no less than a sharing in the creative power of God himself. Conjugal love serves life not only insofar as it generates new life but also because, rightly understood as the total gift of spouses to one another, it shapes the loving and caring context in which new life is wholeheartedly welcomed as a gift of incomparable value.
Thirty years after Humanae Vitae, we see that mistaken ideas about the individual’s moral autonomy continue to inflict wounds on the consciences of many people and on the life of society. Paul VI pointed out some of the consequences of separating the unitive aspect of conjugal love from its procreative dimension: a gradual weakening of moral discipline; a trivialization of human sexuality; the demeaning of women; marital infidelity, often leading to broken families; state-sponsored programs of population control based on imposed contraception and sterilization (cf. Humanae Vitae HV 17). The introduction of legalized abortion and euthanasia, ever increasing recourse to in vitro fertilization, and certain forms of genetic manipulation and embryo experimentation are also closely related in law and public policy, as well as in contemporary culture, to the idea of unlimited dominion over one’s body and life.
The teaching of Humanae Vitae honors married love, promotes the dignity of women, and helps couples grow in understanding the truth of their particular path to holiness. It is also a response to contemporary culture’s temptation to reduce life to a commodity. As Bishops, together with your priests, deacons, seminarians, and other pastoral personnel, you must find the right language and imagery to present this teaching in a comprehensible and compelling way. Marriage preparation programs should include an honest and complete presentation of the Church's teaching on responsible procreation, and should explain the natural methods of regulating fertility, the legitimacy of which is based on respect for the human meaning of sexual intimacy. Couples who have embraced the teaching of Pope Paul VI have discovered that it is truly a source of profound unity and joy, nourished by their increased mutual understanding and respect; they should be invited to share their experience with engaged couples taking part in marriage preparation programs.
3. Reflection on a very different anniversary serves to heighten the sense of the urgency of the pro-life task. In the twenty-five years which have passed since the judicial decision legalizing abortion in your country there has been a widespread mobilization of consciences in support of life. The pro-life movement is one of the most positive aspects of American public life, and the support given it by the Bishops is a tribute to your pastoral leadership. Despite the generous efforts of so many, however, the idea that elective abortion is a “right” continues to be asserted. Moreover, there are signs of an almost unimaginable insensitivity to the reality of what actually happens during an abortion, as evidenced in recent events surrounding so-called “partial-birth” abortion. This is a cause for deep concern. A society with a diminished sense of the value of human life at its earliest stages has already opened the door to a culture of death. As Pastors, you must make every effort to ensure that there is no dulling of consciences regarding the seriousness of the crime of abortion, a crime which cannot be morally justified by any circumstance, purpose or law (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 62).
Those who would defend life must make alternatives to abortion increasingly visible and available. Your recent pastoral statement, Lights and Shadows, draws attention to the need to support women in crisis pregnancies, and to provide counseling services for those who have had an abortion and must cope with its psychological and spiritual effects. Likewise, the unconditional defense of life must always include the message that true healing is possible, through reconciliation with the Body of Christ. In the spirit of the coming Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, American Catholics should be more than ever willing to open their hearts and their homes to “unwanted” and abandoned children, to young people in difficulty, to the handicapped and those who have no one to care for them.
4. The Church likewise offers a truly vital service to the nation when she awakens public awareness to the morally objectionable nature of campaigns for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Euthanasia and suicide are grave violations of God’s law (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 65 and 66); their legalization introduces a direct threat to the persons least capable of defending themselves and it proves most harmful to the democratic institutions of society. The fact that Catholics have worked successfully with members of other Christian communities to resist efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide is a very hopeful sign for the future of ecumenical public witness in your country, and I urge you to build an even broader ecumenical and inter-religious movement in defense of the culture of life and the civilization of love.
As ecumenical witness in defense of life develops, a great teaching effort is needed to clarify the substantive moral difference between discontinuing medical procedures that may be burdensome, dangerous or disproportionate to the expected outcome - what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “the refusal of 'over-zealous' treatment” (No. 2278; cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 65) - and taking away the ordinary means of preserving life, such as feeding, hydration and normal medical care. The statement of the United States Bishops' Pro-Life Committee, Nutrition and Hydration: Moral and Pastoral Considerations, rightly emphasizes that the omission of nutrition and hydration intended to cause a patient's death must be rejected and that, while giving careful consideration to all the factors involved, the presumption should be in favor of providing medically assisted nutrition and hydration to all patients who need them. To blur this distinction is to introduce a source of countless injustices and much additional anguish, affecting both those already suffering from ill health or the deterioration which comes with age, and their loved ones.
5. In a culture that has difficulty in defining the meaning of life, death and suffering, the Christian message is the good news of Christ's victory over death and the certain hope of resurrection. The Christian accepts death as the supreme act of obedience to the Father, and is ready to meet death at the "hour" known only to him (cf. Mk Mc 13,32). Life is a pilgrimage in faith to the Father, on which we travel in the company of his Son and the Saints in heaven. Precisely for this reason, the very real trial of suffering can become a source of good. Through suffering, we actually have a part in Christ’s redemptive work for the Church and humanity (cf. Salvifici Doloris, 14-24). This is so when suffering is “experienced for love and with love through sharing, by God's gracious gift and one's own personal and free choice, in the suffering of Christ crucified” (Evangelium Vitae EV 67).
The work of Catholic health care institutions in meeting the physical and spiritual needs of the sick is a form of imitation of Christ who, in the words of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, is "the doctor of the flesh and of the spirit" (Ad Ephesios, 7, 2). Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel deal with people in their time of trial, when they have an acute sense of life’s fragility and precariousness; just when they most resemble the suffering Jesus in Gethsemane and on Calvary. Health care professionals should always bear in mind that their work is directed to individuals, unique persons in whom God’s image is present in a singular way and in whom he has invested his infinite love. The sickness of a family member, friend or neighbor is a call to Christians to demonstrate true compassion, that gentle and persevering sharing in another’s pain. Likewise, the handicapped and those who are ill must never feel that they are a burden; they are persons being visited by the Lord. The terminally ill in particular deserve the solidarity, communion and affection of those around them; they often need to be able to forgive and to be forgiven, to make peace with God and with others. All priests should appreciate the pastoral importance of celebrating the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, particularly when it is the prelude to the final journey to the Father’s house: when its meaning as the sacramentum exeuntium is particularly evident (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1523).
6. An essential feature of support for the inalienable right to life, from conception to natural death, is the effort to provide legal protection for the unborn, the handicapped, the elderly, and those suffering from terminal illness. As Bishops, you must continue to draw attention to the relationship of the moral law to constitutional and positive law in your society: “Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings...are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law” (Evangelium Vitae EV 72). What is at stake here is nothing less than the indivisible truth about the human person on which the Founding Fathers staked your nation’s claim to independence. The life of a country is much more than its material development and its power in the world. A nation needs a “soul”. It needs the wisdom and courage to overcome the moral ills and spiritual temptations inherent in its march through history. In union with all those who favor a “culture of life” over a “culture of death”, Catholics, and especially Catholic legislators, must continue to make their voices heard in the formulation of cultural, economic, political and legislative projects which, "with respect for all and in keeping with democratic principles, will contribute to the building of a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and the lives of all are defended and enhanced" (Evangelium Vitae EV 90). Democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 70). In defending life you are defending an original and vital part of the vision on which your country was built. America must become, again, a hospitable society, in which every unborn child and every handicapped or terminally ill person is cherished and enjoys the protection of the law.
7. Dear Brother Bishops, Catholic moral teaching is an essential part of our heritage of faith; we must see to it that it is faithfully transmitted, and take appropriate measures to guard the faithful from the deceit of opinions which dissent from it (cf. Veritatis Splendor VS 26 and 113). Although the Church often appears as a sign of contradiction, in defending the whole moral law firmly and humbly she is upholding truths which are indispensable for the good of humanity and for the safeguarding of civilization itself. Our teaching must be clear; it must recognize the drama of the human condition, in which we all struggle with sin and in which we must all strive, with the help of grace, to embrace the good (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 13). Our task as teachers is to “show the inviting splendor of that truth which is Jesus Christ himself” (Veritatis Splendor VS 83). Living the moral life involves holding fast to the very person of Jesus, partaking of his life and destiny, sharing in his free and loving obedience to the will of the Father.
May your fidelity to the Lord and the responsibility for his Church which he has given you make you personally vigilant to ensure that only sound doctrine of faith and morals is presented as Catholic teaching. Invoking the intercession of Our Lady upon your ministry, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses.
Dear Friends in Christ,
It gives me great pleasure to meet the members of Legatus, on your annual pilgrimage of faith to the Eternal City, the place which preserves the memory of the supreme witness of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
You have come here to express and strengthen your ties of faith and love with the Successor of Peter, to whom has been entrusted, in the words of the Second Vatican
Council, the “mission to provide for the common good of the universal Church and for the good of the individual churches” (Christus Dominus CD 2). I am grateful to you for this, and for the practical support you give me in my ministry of service to God’s People throughout the world.
I hope and pray that your visit will indeed confirm you in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith. Our task, at the approach of the Third Millennium, is to live our spiritual heritage more fully and more deeply, and to communicate it whole and entire to the younger generation. May God pour out his gifts upon you and your families!
2 October 1998
Distinguished Members of the Government,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. The Providence of God allows me to stand once again upon Croatian soil, as I begin my second Pastoral Visit to this beloved land. In a sense, this Apostolic journey continues the one which I undertook in September 1994, when I visited only the Capital.
I am happy that I have been able to accept the various invitations which came to me: from the Bishops of the country, from the President of the Republic, from Members of the Government and the Croatian Parliament, and from ordinary citizens as well. I thank the President of the Republic for the very kind words of welcome which he has just addressed to me. I greet the members of the Government and the other distinguished persons who honour this meeting with their presence.
And I greet all of you most warmly, you who have come to welcome me: through you, my greeting goes out to all the people of this noble nation, so rich in faith and culture.
2. I come among you as a pilgrim of the Gospel, following in the footsteps of the first confessors of the faith. I come to gather the fruits of the courageous witness given by Pastors and faithful since the first centuries of Christianity. They are fruits which appear in all their richness most especially in troubled times: during the Roman persecutions of the beginning, then the Turkish invasion and occupation, and most recently the terrible period of Communist repression. How can we not stand in admiration before examples of faith such as the Bishop Saint Domnius, the Martyrs of Salona, Delminium, Istria, Sirmium, Siscia, right up to the Servant of God Alojzije Stepinac, who with other witnesses so brightly illumined this century which brings to a close the second Christian millennium?
In giving thanks to the Lord for the Church’s two thousand years in this region and for the rich history of Croatian Catholics, I come today to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith. I come to encourage their hope and to strengthen their love. This second Pastoral Visit to Croatia has two focal points: the beatification of the Servant of God Alojzije Stepinac as a martyr of the faith and the celebration of the seventeen hundredth anniversary of the City of Split. To these are linked two pilgrimages: to Marija Bistrica, the national Marian Shrine of Croatia, and to the Island of Solin to the first Marian shrine of Croatia – two places of great significance in the religious history of your region.
In this way the Croatian people’s devotion to the Mother of God will shape the itinerary of this Visit. As I begin, therefore, I wish to entrust my journey through your land to her who is hailed as Advocata Croatiae, fidelissima Mater. To her I raise my prayer, that she may continue to watch over the progress of the Croatian people. May she protect Croatia and sustain you in witness to Christ and his Gospel, pointing out to you down the paths of time the way of eternal salvation.
3. It is fundamentally important that the Croatian people remain faithful to their Christian roots, while at the same time they remain open to the demands of the present which, if it has its difficult problems, offers as well consoling reasons for hope. After the violent and brutal war in which it found itself involved, Croatia is finally experiencing a period of peace and freedom. Now all the population’s energies are dedicated to the gradual healing of the deep wounds of the conflict, to a genuine reconciliation among all the nation’s ethnic, religious and political groups, and to an ever greater democratization of society.
I rejoice at this and I urge you to persevere in that commitment with generous determination. The obstacles created by the consequences of war and by the mentality shaped by the Communist regime are many. It is essential that you not yield to them. With the cooperation of everyone, it will be possible in a reasonably short time to find appropriate solutions even to the most complex problems.
I hope most fervently that in this part of Europe there will never again be a repetition of the inhuman situations which we have repeatedly seen in this century. May the sorrowful and tragic experience of recent times serve as a lesson to enlighten the mind and strengthen the will, so that the future of this country, as in Europe and throughout the world, may be gladdened by increased understanding and cooperation between peoples of different language, culture and religion.
I begin my Visit to the dear land of Croatia with words of love and hope: may the Visit contribute to reconstruction on the basis of the enduring values of a country which is an integral part of Europe. My hope is that from the ancient Christian roots of this land there will come forth a powerful stream of life-giving sap which will ensure that, at the dawn of a new millennium, a true humanism will flourish for the generations to come. I trust especially that Christians will give a decisive impulse to the new evangelization, offering in all generosity their witness to Christ the Lord, the Redeemer of man.
Invoking divine assistance upon the entire Croatian nation, I bless you all from my heart.
2 October 1998
1. Dear people of Zagreb and of all Croatia, dear young people and families: peace be with you!
Here, before this majestic Cathedral, a monument of faith and art which preserves the remains of the Servant of God Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, I greet you in the name of the Risen Christ, the one Saviour of the world, and I embrace you all with great affection!
My thoughts go to all the beloved people of this country, to whose noble traditions of civilization I am pleased to pay homage. In a particular way, I address you Christians, who, according to the words of the Apostle Peter, must be “prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1P 3,15).
I thank Providence which has guided my steps and brought me back once more to Croatia. The words of one of your poets come spontaneously to my lips: “Here all are brothers to me / I feel really at home . . .” (D. Domjanic, Kaj). I would like to be able to greet personally all the people of this land, whatever their social condition: from farmers to manual workers, from housewives to professionals, from sailors and fishermen to office workers and people of culture and science; from the youngest to the elderly and the sick. My good wishes of peace and hope go to everyone!
2. With affection I turn particularly to you young people, who have come out in such great numbers to greet me upon my arrival in your country. I am especially pleased that my pilgrimage is starting off under the sign of young people.
Dear friends, in you I greet the future of this region and of the Church in Croatia. Today Christ is knocking at the door of your hearts: open the door to welcome him in! He has the complete answers to your expectations. With him, under the loving gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, you will be able to build your future creatively.
Draw inspiration from the Gospel! In the light of its teaching you will be able to cultivate a healthy critical spirit in the face of fashionable conformity, and you will succeed in bringing to your world the liberating newness of the Beatitudes. Learn to distinguish between good and evil, without being hasty in judging. This is the wisdom which must be the mark of every mature person.
3. The citizen, particularly the believer, has precise responsibilities with regard to his own homeland. Your country expects from you a significant contribution in the different areas of social, economic, political and cultural life. Its future will be better to the degree that each one of you makes a commitment to self-improvement.
Human life on this earth entails difficulties of various kinds: solutions to these are certainly not to be found by seeking refuge in hedonism, consumerism, drugs or alcohol. I exhort you to face adversities with courage, to look for answers to them in the light of the Gospel. You must rediscover the resources of faith, so that you can draw from them the strength to bear courageous and consistent witness.