Speeches 1998 - Friday, 9 October 1998



TO H.E. Dr Marián Servátka,


Friday, 9 October 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you as you present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Republic to the Holy See.

I ask you to express to Mr Vladimír Meèiar, the outgoing Prime Minister, my heartfelt gratitude for the courteous greeting you have conveyed. I, in turn, offer my best wishes for the newly elected Government, so that Slovakia may continue with renewed enthusiasm on the path to democracy, freedom and social justice.

If we look at events over the last decade, we can observe how the Holy See and the Slovak nation have gradually re-established and consolidated their mutual and ancient bonds. My pastoral visit to Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia in 1990; the establishment of diplomatic relations at the level of Embassy and Apostolic Nunciature with the newly independent Slovak Republic — and here my gratitude goes to your distinguished predecessor, Mr Anton Neuwirth, the first Ambassador to the Holy See; the unforgettable apostolic visit to Slovakia in 1995; the meetings with the Bishops and the weekly gatherings with Slovak pilgrims: all these events are steps on a providential journey in which the Successor of Peter has come to know the situation in Slovakia. For this we must thank the Lord.

2. Mr. Ambassador, I have listened with deep appreciation to what you said about my Predecessors who have taken historically significant decisions regarding the Slovak people. In thanking you for the sentiments expressed in this interesting historical retrospective, I wish to assure you that the Holy See will continue to offer its support to the beloved nation you represent, as it does to every people which peacefully struggles to affirm its legitimate aspirations for freedom and to make its contribution in the international community.

At this delicate historical moment, it is more necessary than ever for the Slovak people to remain faithful to their spiritual and cultural roots. These roots, in fact, need to be rediscovered and revitalized, especially by the new generations, whose duty is thus to follow the path of authentic progress in a changed and complex context such as that of today’s Europe. Even in the face of inevitable difficulties, we must always strive to make Europe a common home from the Atlantic to the Urals, rich in its many cultural traditions, open to the world and sympathetic towards developing peoples. In this context Slovakia offers the legacy of Sts Cyril and Methodius, of human values enriched by the Gospel and refined in the crucible of harsh trials and suffering.

3. The desired ethical and cultural renewal calls for efficient, professional formation at all levels, provided by suitably prepared teachers and professors. As you are well aware, this is one of the areas where the Church, during her 2,000-year journey, has spent great energy, driven by a passion for integral human advancement and by the many charisms involved in the specific field of education. I am pleased to see that in recent years the Slovak school system has resumed the teaching of religion and has given life back to Catholic schools. I sincerely hope that everyone has the opportunity to attend these schools, because the Church wishes to make the services offered by her institutions available to all. In this regard, I gladly second your hope that this process will soon be crowned with the opening of a Catholic university.

The foundation of all society is the family. I willingly take this occasion to invite the Government authorities to develop and encourage political and social action for families, not just in charitable terms but in structural ones as well, that is, by recognizing the central role which belongs to the family institution founded on the indissoluble bond of marriage and which it carries out, often at the cost of great sacrifice. In this area the Ecclesial Community will not fail to offer its constant support, primarily at the formative level, by fostering the birth and growth of solid, mature families; and then by encouraging among them that solidarity which, if it is the fruit and expression of Gospel newness, benefits the social fabric as a whole.

4. I am pleased, Mr Ambassador, that, as you emphasized, the Slovak nation feels deeply and actively involved in the path to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Although by its nature this Holy Year is a spiritual event for Catholics, for all Christians and, more generally, for every believer and every pilgrim on earth, it represents for all peoples a significant epochal milestone, a confirmation, as it were, of their historical vocation. This is eminently true for those nations — including Slovaks — which began their journey over 1,000 years ago under the sign of Christ and his Gospel.

Thus, the preparation for the Jubilee could be an opportunity for your country to see whether its political programmes effectively respect and promote the human person and his rights from the moment of conception; whether the process of democratizing society is making headway; whether the culture of life, reconciliation and solidarity is effectively promoted by opposing the facile tendency to individualism, consumerism and hedonism which, under the guise of false ideals of freedom, often results in heavy burdens for the weakest.

5. Mr Ambassador, I hope that during your mandate relations between the Holy See and the Slovak Republic will be positively strengthened. To this end, it will be very important, among other things, to conclude the negotiations on the bilateral agreements which will provide a precise juridical framework for relations between the Slovak State and the Catholic Church, permitting the latter to continue her mission of evangelization and social advancement with greater security and renewed commitment.

I wish you a tranquil and fruitful stay in Rome and I cordially bless you and the service you are preparing to render. I also impart my Blessing to your family, to your staff and to all the citizens of Slovakia, whom I entrust to the protection of their beloved and revered patroness, Our Lady of Sorrows.




Saturday, 10 October 1998

Dear Young People of America,

A most affectionate greeting to all young Americans! On the occasion of the First Continental Youth Meeting which is taking place on the theme: “The Holy Spirit will reveal all things to you”, I greet you most cordially from Rome. How I would like to have been in Santiago de Chile! Since it was not possible, I sent you the Cardinal Secretary of State as my Legate. And I would now like to be with you in spirit and express to you the firm hope I have in you so that Jesus Christ may be better known, better loved and better proclaimed in America.

This second year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. I would now like to remind you how Jesus, led by the Spirit, went to the synagogue of Nazareth. As he read from the Bible, he came across a passage from the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lc 4,17-19). Those listening to him were astonished when he said: “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lc 4,21). Today this Word has been fulfilled as well. The Holy Spirit wants to descend upon each one of you, as a new Pentecost, so that you will continue to carry out your mission as disciples of Christ.

Dear young people, let yourselves be guided by the Spirit of the Lord so that you may extend a hand to those who long for a different way of life! Do not be afraid! I know that your hearts are pounding with a deep desire for service to your neighbour and for solidarity. May America be a continent of brothers and sisters, equal in dignity, esteem and opportunities!

Young Americans, the Pope invites you to take the lead in the history of the third millennium. From one end of the continent to the other, may many young people rise up, who, with the example of the many American saints and blesseds, will be prepared to leave everything for the love of Christ, to follow him as missionaries of the Gospel. This is the day and the moment to say yes to Jesus Christ and to build with him the new history of America!

I entrust this Continental Youth Meeting to the Virgin Mary, who is invoked as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness and Empress of America. To her I entrust you all, so that she will open her heart to you, full of motherly love and missionary zeal.

I now extend a particular greeting to the young people of Chile who, with the help of their Pastors and the local authorities, have worthily prepared this important meeting in San- tiago. I again express my sincere affection to you all and give you my Apostolic Blessing: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.





Saturday, 10 October 1998

Your Eminences,

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am delighted to welcome you on the occasion of the 20th World Congress of the International Christian Union of Business Executives (UNIAPAC). Your presence symbolizes your Christian commitment and desire to work at putting the world economy truly at the service of the human person. You are faced with the challenge of ensuring the effectiveness and quality of production in a world marked by the spirit of competition, without ever losing sight of the economy’s human dimension.

The world economy is rapidly moving towards broader market interdependence. The consequences are far-reaching and very complex. As Christian business executives, your understanding of globalization cannot be limited simply to economic situations. Your congress is a special opportunity to affirm that economic globalization must not neglect the inalienable dignity of every human being, and that the goods of creation are destined for all. Individuals and human work must never become just two more elements in the production process. A recent document issued by the International Labour Organization, the Declaration on the Fundamental Principles and Rights of Work, establishes the basic criteria if we want workers’ rights to be respected everywhere. Christian executives are called to show the way, so that the criteria are followed fearlessly and identically in every country.

2. You are also responsible for promoting solidarity in all economic processes. Globalization must lead to wider participation and not to exclusion or marginalization, to greater sharing and not to impoverishing a large portion of the population for the benefit of a few. No one must be excluded from economic circulation; on the contrary, every individual must be able to benefit from technological and social progress, as well as from the fruits of creation.

By your reflections and by the decisions you will be able to take in your businesses with the co-operation of all your employees, you will develop new ways of showing that concern for the human being can go hand in hand with economic development. In this spirit, it is important that small and medium-sized businesses, which often represent the future of human communities in developing countries or in disadvantaged zones, become aware of the importance of their presence for the local people. Some projects are the only hope for young people in these regions. I am pleased that many of you, attentive to these issues, are already involved in this area. I invite you to continue working in this direction, so that each individual will recognize his responsibility for the economy and will carefully fulfil it for the sake of serving his brethren.

I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you and to your families.

3. I warmly welcome the English-speaking members of the International Christian Union of Business Executives. Be steadfast in bearing witness to the values of the Gospel in your professional lives. Never cease to promote the good of the human person by ensuring that the principles of justice and solidarity are respected in business enterprises and relations.

I extend a cordial greeting to the Spanish-speaking participants at this international congress, and I express my confidence that the historical and cultural wealth of their native countries will encourage their creative activity, so that economic progress will accompany the integral progress of individuals and peoples by putting itself at the service of the most important and irreplaceable value, which is the dignity of the human being.

4. I now turn to you, dear brothers and sisters who are taking part in the National Italian Convention of the St Vincent de Paul Society. I greet the General President, the Presidents of the Regional and Central Councils, and all of you whose presence reminds me of the discreet and productive good accomplished daily by the Vincentians in so many Italian regions.

I still cherish a vivid memory of the solemn celebration on 22 August last year when I had the joy of beatifying Ven. Frédéric Ozanam at the 12th World Youth Day in Paris. In this way I wanted to hold up to believers and especially to young people this splendid example of a lay Christian, father of a family and university teacher.

Given the scandal of old and new forms of poverty in today’s affluent societies, how can we live according to the teaching of Bl. Frédéric Ozanam? How can we answer the needs of those who are forced to leave their native land, of the refugees and illegal immigrants, of the families without rights and the essentials of life, of the many unem- ployed, of the lonely and abandoned elderly, of the sick and of people who are exploited and enslaved by greed and selfishness?

5. You have reflected on these questions during your meetings, seeking new ways to expand the boundaries of charity by proclaiming the Gospel in the language most accessible to all, that of love for the lowliest.

As I hope you will be worthy disciples who continue Frédéric Ozanam’s work in Italian society, I urge you to make prayer and the concrete practice of brotherhood the soul of your service to the poor. May your meetings not only be opportunities to know and serve your neighbour’s needs, but may they become moments of spiritual growth, through listening to the word of God, fervent prayer and fraternal dialogue. May your association share the full breadth of the Church's vision and, in total harmony with its Pastors, give the needy a love that is continuously measured by the charity of the One who, though he was rich became poor out of love (cf. 2Co 8,9).

With these wishes, as I encourage you in your good intentions, I entrust you to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin and, invoking upon all your members the protection of St Vincent de Paul and Bl. Frédéric Ozanam, I cordially give you a special Apostolic Blessing.






Sunday, 1 October 1998

1. Today, which has seen Teresa Benedicta of the Cross raised to the honours of the altar, has ended with a solemn Te Deum. We have had the joy of attending an extraordinary musical perfomance, which has helped us to meditate on and to contemplate God’s merciful work. As I think again of the melodies we have heard, something Edith Stein said comes to mind: “There are circumstances in which we understand each other more easily without words”. When music expresses the noble sentiments of the human spirit, it does not need words to be understood. It is a universal language, profound and deeply expressive. Today’s concert also shows that music can become praise to God. We thank the Lord for the beautiful experience he has given us this evening!

2. I thank the Symphony Orchestra and Choir of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk under the direction of Prof. Howard Arman for this wonderful gift. I am touched that my countryman, Krzysztof Penderecki, has come to Rome to conduct the Te Deum he composed and dedicated to me 20 years ago on the occasion of my election to the supreme pastoral ministry of the Church. I offer my heartfelt thanks to the musicians, performers and all who have contributed in any way to the concert’s success.

3. I extend a cordial greeting to all who have come this evening: political and ecclesiastical leaders, relatives and pilgrims. I extend a special greeting to the German-speaking pilgrims who have come to Rome for the canonization of their compatriot. On behalf of those involved in preparing this important event, I greet Cardinal Joachim Meisner and Bishop Karl Lehmann, President of the German Bishops’ Conference.

4. I wish to express my gratitude to the many Jewish people present here this evening, mainly from the United States of America. I warmly greet all of them. In particular, I welcome the many relatives of Edith Stein. They can be rightly proud of having in their family a woman who has given such a splendid example of intelligence and faith.

5. Dear brothers and sisters! God calls all of us to holiness and has a plan for each of us. At times it is difficult to discern God’s plan. You need patience and fidelity, stillness and a willingness to listen. By the way, you also need to listen attentively in order to enjoy a concert like the one kindly offered to us this evening.

Edith Stein is an example and a guide for us. At the start, she too heard from afar just “a few faint notes” of the melody of God’s mysterious plan. In the school of the Cross, these sounds were later harmonized and became a whole symphony.

Through her intercession, may your lives too be transformed into a harmonious symphony to the praise and glory of God. With these sentiments, I impart my heartfelt Blessing to you all.





Monday, 12 October 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. As I welcome you to the Vatican, I accept with great pleasure the Letters accrediting you to the Holy See as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Croatia.

Please convey my gratitude to the President of the Republic, Mr Franjo Tudjman, for the respectful and cordial greeting that he has expressed again through you on behalf of the entire nation, which has had relations with the Chair of Peter for centuries. I also thank you personally, Mr Ambassador, for the best wishes you have kindly offered me on the anniversary of my election to the Petrine ministry.

The presentation of your credentials takes place a few days after my Pastoral Visit to Croatia. I will never forget my intense feelings during the various meetings with the people, especially at the Holy Mass in which I had the joy of beatifying an illustrious son of Croatia and a faithful Pastor of the Church, Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. That is why I wished to congratulate the President personally at the end of the solemn liturgy in Marija Bistrica. Equally unforgettable are my impressions of the solemn Eucharist celebrated in Žnjan in honour of the 1,700th anniversary of the city of Split, and of the meetings in Zagreb and in Solin.

Once again the Croatian nation has shown not only its living faith and deep attachment to the Catholic Church, but also its dignity and the vitality of its culture, elements that made my apostolic journey highly significant. The authorities of Church and State, at all levels, did everything they could to facilitate the Successor of Peter's meeting with the people, helping to make my ministry bear fruit among my Croatian brothers and sisters. I gladly take this opportunity to express once again my gratitude to everyone.

2. After the suffering experienced in the years of the recent war, Croatia now enjoys the great gift of peace. I offer my best wishes so that this fundamental value will be constantly strengthened and will eventually extend to all the peoples of South-East Europe, who are called to live in reciprocal respect, sincere dialogue and mutual collaboration.

Now that communist totalitarianism has collapsed, your country and the other nations of Central and Eastern Europe are no longer isolated from the rest of the great family of European nations. The Lord of history, on the threshold of the third millennium, has restored the precious blessing of freedom to these peoples after decades of grievous suffering.

Therefore, it is understandable and legitimate that they should aspire to being involved again in the process of building a common home, at the same level as the other nations of the continent, and to make their own spiritual, moral and cultural contribution to this historic undertaking. To ensure that the building’s foundations are sound, it will be most important for them to be built on the firm rock of Christian values.

In this regard, I keenly hope that the legitimate expectations of the peoples of these countries will not be disappointed. Today they need sincere and generous support at the economic and social as well as at the cultural and political levels, if they are to overcome the problems bequeathed by past totalitarian regimes.

3. Today, after the long years of dictatorship and the painful experiences of violence to which the peoples of the region were subjected, an enormous effort is required to build a true democracy on a human scale. If it wants to be such a democracy, it cannot ignore the ethical presuppositions stemming from the truth about man as revealed in the searching of sound reason. In particular, it must consider every dimension of the human being, starting with the spiritual and religious. Only a democracy that puts the person at the centre of all political, economic, social and cultural concerns can claim that it fully respects the dignity of the human being. As such it cannot fail to promote the family, the basic institution of society, nor can it disregard the duties deriving from solidarity with the weakest classes. In short, the goal for which every society must strive is a democracy of responsibility and co-responsibility, which will further the well-being of all social classes, with clearly defined rights and duties for every citizen.

By taking this route, Croatia will be able to make its own particular contribution to the region’s democratic growth and stability, by encouraging constant human, civil and spiritual progress there and everywhere on the continent.

To meet today's difficult challenges, Mr Ambassador, may your country, one of Europe's ancient nations, seek to instil hope in its own people by concrete acts of solidarity towards the poor and marginalized. Indeed, this is the way to the future. I encourage everyone not to surrender before the difficulties inevitably encountered in such an undertaking.

4. The restoration of democracy in your country has fostered good relations between the State and the Church, confirmed also by the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of Croatia and by the signing of four specific Agreements, three of which were concluded in December 1996 and the other of which was signed last Friday. Without doubt, these Agreements will give a further impetus to understanding and will facilitate an ever more fruitful collaboration between State and Church institutions, according to each one's responsibility, to the benefit of all the citizens of Croatia.

The Church and the State, each in its own way, serve the same human being and work for his benefit. It is therefore necessary that, with full respect for each other’s autonomy and area of competence, they co-operate in common matters, seeking an understanding with each other so they can effectively meet the legitimate expectations of the citizens, most of whom are Catholic.

By walking together, civil society and the Church in Croatia will write important pages in the history of a people whose ancient roots are sunk in the fertile soil of Christian values.

5. Mr Ambassador, with this hopeful vision, I offer you my fervent wishes for the successful and fruitful fulfilment of your lofty mission to the Apostolic See, in the spirit of those always cordial relations between the Successor of Peter and the Croatian people to which you referred in your speech.

I accompany these wishes with my Apostolic Blessing, which I give to you, to your staff and family, and to all the citizens of beloved Croatia.





15 October 1998

Dear Friends,

I am pleased once again to greet the members of the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus on the occasion of your visit to Rome. I thank the Supreme Knight for his kind words of presentation. Our meeting today gives me yet another opportunity to express my gratitude for the witness of Christian faith, fraternal solidarity and firm commitment to the Church’s apostolate which has always been the hallmark of your Order.

An important aspect of this witness has been your desire, from your foundation, to support the pastoral ministry of the Bishop of Rome, who, by the will of Christ, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the Bishops and of the whole company of the faithful” (Lumen Gentium LG 23 Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 882). Rooted in a profound sense of Catholic unity with the Successor of Peter, this desire led to the establishment of the Vicarius Christi Fund as a means of assisting the Pope in a practical way in the fulfillment of his duties. In thanking you for your donation of the proceeds of the Fund for the past year, I ask you to convey to all the Knights my personal appreciation.

In particular, I wish to say a warm word of gratitude for your Order’s generous payment of the mortgage of the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations Organization. Thanks to this notable gift, the Mission is better able to carry out its important activity in representing the Church’s vision and concerns in the international community. As Christians throughout the world prepare to welcome the New Millennium as a time of hope and promise (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 46), I see in this gesture the readiness of the Knights of Columbus to be an effective part of the Church’s joyful proclamation of the liberating power of the Gospel to shape a world of ever greater justice, solidarity and peace.

Dear Friends, I encourage you to carry forward the fine tradition of the Knights of Columbus and, inspired by your Catholic faith, to continue your strenuous efforts for the pro-life cause. In a recent meeting with Bishops from the United States I urged Catholics to continue to make their voices heard in the formulation of cultural, economic, political and legislative projects which defend and enhance human life. A nation “needs the wisdom and courage to overcome the moral ills and spiritual temptations inherent in its march through history... Democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes” (Speech to Bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii, October 2, 1998). May the efforts of the Knights of Columbus bear much fruit.

To all of you and your families I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.




Thursday, 15 October 1998

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I offer my cordial welcome to all of you who are taking part in the 100th Congress of the prestigious Italian Surgical Society. Thank you for your visit! Your presence is particularly significant to me, not only because of your distinguished professional activity, but also because of your desire to inspire your daily work with fundamental ethical values.

I cordially greet your President, Prof. Giorgio Ribotta, and thank him for his courteous words on behalf of you all. With him, I greet the directors of the Surgical Societies of the European Community countries, as well as those of the other sister-societies and the presidents of the surgical societies established as an extension of general surgery.

2. During your meeting you have examined the complex tasks of surgery. You have also analyzed the new horizons created by the extraordinary progress made in the considerable increase of therapeutic possibilities, for example, in the removal and reconstruction of organs or in the vast area of transplants.

Your main concern is to improve the patient’s health, while respecting his physical, psychological and spiritual integrity. In showing deep satisfaction with this noble intention, I hope that it will be the constant concern of every doctor and surgeon. The humanization of medicine is not a secondary aspect, but rather it is the centre of a practical medical science that is prepared not to turn a deaf ear to the human being's expectations nor to disappoint them.

In your profession, you seek to be in the forefront of defending life, whose deficiencies and limitations due to disease you encounter, but without giving up your fight to overcome them or at least to reduce their most painful consequences. The Church is beside you as you fulfil this indispensable calling, since “the Church today lives a fundamental aspect of her mission in lovingly and generously accepting every human being, especially those who are weak and sick. This is made all the more necessary as a ‘culture of death’ threatens to take control” (Christifidelis laici, n. 38).

In recent years, I too, on more than one occasion, have experienced and shared the condition of patients, either by visiting them or by being obliged myself to be admitted to hospital. Thus I have been able to experience your professional expertise, always accompanied by attentive humanity. Today I am pleased to express my appreciation and thanks to you for all you do for those who are suffering. At this moment, I should like to express special gratitude to the late Prof. Francesco Crucitti, who embodied these most lofty qualities in a generous and exemplary way.

3. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I offer you my best wishes that the work of your congress will help open the field of surgery to ever more promising horizons in the areas of prevention, diagnostics, therapy and rehabilitation. Your activity as surgeons is an incomparable gift to society.

May God always help you remain faithful to the spirit of your profession and to serve lovingly those who are experiencing the trial of sickness and suffering. May he give you the strength always to practise it with great enthusiasm in a spirit of service.

Be teachers for the young surgeons, not only from a professional but also from a human standpoint, so that taught by you they will be able to care for health and life, giving priority to the ethical dimension which alone can fully guarantee that the person is authentically served.

I entrust the results of your congress to Mary, Health of the sick, and I assure you of my remembrance in prayer to the Lord, Physician and Saviour of souls and bodies, so that he may sustain you in your activity.

With these sentiments, I implore upon you, your families and your collaborators an abundance of heavenly favours, as a pledge of which I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.

Speeches 1998 - Friday, 9 October 1998