Speeches 1999




Mr János Martonyi
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary
Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

As the peoples of Europe began to rebuild their lives after the Second World War, that great conflict which ravaged the entire continent for six years, the desire to create a new European order found its first political and collegial expression in the establishment of the Council of Europe, the Charter of which was signed in London on 5 May 1949. The Council is thus the oldest among European institutions and was the first to be devoted to forging a new unity among the peoples of the continent, based on the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of the European peoples. The founding fathers of the Council of Europe affirmed that these values are "the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law" (Preamble to the Statute of the Council of Europe, 1949), thus establishing the foundation for a new European political project.

This noble vision was further strengthened and given concrete form in the drafting of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the safeguarding and implementation of which was entrusted to an independent European Court of Human Rights, the pan-European jurisdiction of which still remains an unprecedented principle, affirming that - in those cases envisaged by the Convention - respect for human rights transcends national sovereignty and cannot be subordinated to sociopolitical aims or compromised by national interests. The Court has demonstrated that the Convention remains an effective instrument in protecting the rights of the individual against the improper use of power by the State.

The spirit of European democracy was further enhanced by the establishment of the first Consultative Parliamentary Assembly in 1949, unique at that time, which brought together the elected representatives of the Parliaments of the Member States of the Council of Europe. I recall with special joy my visit to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in 1988. In the address which I gave there I paid tribute to the perceptive vision of the founding fathers of the European movement, who succeeded in surpassing national borders, old rivalries and historical animosities in order to launch a new political project where the nations of Europe would reach out and build a "common home", cemented by the indispensable values of forgiveness, peace, justice, cooperation, hope and brotherhood. How fitting it is for me to repeat now what I said on that occasion: Europe needs to rediscover and become conscious of the common values which shaped its identity and which form part of its historic memory. The focal point of our common European heritage - religious, juridical and cultural - is the singular and inalienable dignity of the human person. The Council of Europe, interpreting this rich historical heritage, has made the proclamation and the protection of human rights the basis of its political initiatives. In the Budapest Declaration, you commit yourselves to building this Greater Europe without borders by affirming "the primacy of the human person in the elaboration of [your] policies" (n. 3).

The Council of Europe has opened its doors to receive the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe. From an assembly of 21 States when last I directly addressed the members of the Council of Europe, your numbers have grown and today there are 41 Member States.

The 50th anniversary of the founding of the Council of Europe coincides with the 10th anniversary of the dramatic events of 1989 which opened the way to the reunification of this continent on the basis of the ideals and principles which are the common heritage of the States belonging to the European family. It was the "weapons of truth and justice" (Encyclical Letter Centesimus annus [1991], n. 23) - the truth about man and the justice to which all people aspire - promoted by peaceful protest, which brought about the downfall of the political systems which, built on an alien ideology, divided the peoples of Europe. The fundamental error of totalitarianism was anthropological in nature (cf. ibid., n. 13). The good of the individual was subordinated to the sociopolitical order, with the consequence that the human person as a moral subject vanished. From this mistaken concept of the person there arose a profound distortion of the purpose and function of law, which became an instrument of oppression rather than service. Through well-prepared programmes of assistance aimed at promoting the development and consolidation of democratic stability in the newly independent States over the last 10 years, the Council of Europe has helped to remedy this distortion and create the foundations for genuine democracy. Given the limitations of current models of society in bringing about political freedom, social equality and solidarity, it is my fervent hope that the Council of Europe will be able to help its member nations and the whole continent to meet creatively the new challenges facing them.

Just as I value the efforts made to remove the causes of political division, so I trust that you will appreciate my fervent desire and constant hope that the religious divisions in the European family might also be overcome, especially at a time when the Church is engaged in fruitful dialogue with other religious communities which have also made their contribution to the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of Europe.

I am fully aware of and share deeply in the anxiety of the Council of Europe before the tragic and violent events which have engulfed the Balkans, and Kosovo in particular. I urge you not to lose hope but to continue your praiseworthy efforts to help to bring an end to the violation of fundamental human rights and to the trampling of human dignity. It is necessary to find means respectful of law and history which will satisfy the conditions for building a positive future for the nations involved in the present conflict. I encourage you to persevere in your noble vocation of seeking to bring about a new European order based on the priority of human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. Once the ravages of war have ceased, the European institution most eminently equipped to create a new political culture in South-East Europe and to be a focus of reconciliation between peoples whose physical, moral and spiritual energies have been dissipated by violence and destruction is the Council of Europe.

To the President of the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, to the Foreign Ministers and Representatives of the Member States and Candidate States of the Council of Europe gathered in Budapest, as also to the Representatives of the Observer States and senior officials of the Council of Europe, I send my cordial greetings and pray that God may abundantly bless and reward your endeavours to strengthen and enhance the unity of the peoples of Europe.

From the Vatican, 5 May 1999.



Wednesday, 5 May 1999

Dear Commandant,
Dear Guards,
Dear Relatives and Friends of the Swiss Guards,

1. From the very beginning of the Pontifical Swiss Guard an unbroken tradition brings you together on this day which recalls your special commitment to the welfare and life of the Successor of Peter. Therefore it is a great joy for me to receive you this year as well in the Apostolic Palace, with your parents, relatives and friends. I extend a special welcome to the new recruits who will be admitted to your corps through the oath by which they commit themselves to devoting a few years of their life to a very honourable and responsible task in the heart of the universal Church.

2. Dear recruits, you have chosen to dedicate yourselves to a deeply ecclesial service and through it you would like to bear witness to the world. I sincerely thank you for this. You do not offer your service as individuals, but as a community. On a day of celebration like today, it is a blessing to be surrounded and supported by so many people. But to live this community every day is also a challenge. If young men — like the members of the Swiss Guard — are determined to walk a certain stretch of the road together, they should look on their own hopes and concerns, their expectations and their needs as reflected in the communities of the early Church.

Vital relationships between individuals, even between Jesus' disciples, were the same in biblical times as they are now. Sacred Scripture does not hide the fact that some people followed St Paul at the beginning, but later left him to go their own way. Perfect harmony did not always prevail because characters, temperaments and interests were so different. However, the disciples who served Jesus exerted a powerful and inviting attraction. Paul, who must have experienced as no one else that God can write straight on the crooked lines of life, always explained in his writings how God loved his people and never abandoned them in the ebb and flow of their history, in the tension between fidelity and denial. God has given us the definitive fulfilment of this abiding commitment to mankind through his Son, whom he sent into the world “as a Saviour, according to his promise” (cf. Acts Ac 13,23).

3. Dear Guards, I would like to encourage you to bear witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ with youthful joy and vigour. This witness is particularly expressed in two ways: in joining the Pontifical Swiss Guard, you show your intention to dedicate your service in a special way to the Holy Father, who has been entrusted with the pastoral care of the whole flock (cf. Jn Jn 21,16). In addition, through your commitment to the various tasks assigned to your corps, you testify to others who your Lord is and what motivates your work.

4. With this, I would also like to express a thought that is particularly dear to me. Your efforts regarding training and service regulations, technical skill and professional competence are important. It is also important that you use your stay in Rome as a unique chance to sharpen your image as Christians. I am thinking especially of your spiritual life: you must ask yourselves what God's plan is for each of you. At the same time, I call your attention to how important brotherly relations are between those who call themselves Christian, both on and off duty. Frank, fraternal conversation can sometimes be difficult and demanding, but if it takes place in an honest and trustful way, it allows those who take part to develop mature personalities.

5. I take this occasion, dear young guards, to wish you a happy time in the Eternal City. I invite the guards who have served a long time in the corps as senior officers to foster trusting relations which can support and encourage all the members of the Swiss Guard, even at difficult moments. I also hope that during your time of service in Rome you will stay in close contact with your parents, your relatives and all the friends you have in your country. Everyone will then rejoice with you over the extraordinary opportunity you have been given to have new experiences that will bear fruit.

As I invoke upon you the intercession of the Virgin Mary and of your holy patrons, Nicholas of Flüe, Martin and Sebastian, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to everyone who has come to be with you as you take your oath.



Thursday, 6 May 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. It is a great pleasure to welcome each of you, members of the Italian Armed Forces, who have wished to visit me in such large numbers at the end of the first Synod of the Military Ordinariate Church. I affectionately greet your Pastor, Archbishop Giuseppe Mani, and thank him for the kind words he expressed to me on behalf of those present. With him I greet the Military Ordinaries of other nations, who have shared this moment of sincere communion with you. My cordial thoughts also turn to the representatives of the various religious confessions involved in providing spiritual care for military personnel who have wished to enrich your Synod with their presence.

I next wish to thank the Minister of Defence, the Honourable Undersecretaries and Chiefs of the General Staff for their significant presence at such an important event for the Military Ordinariate Church. Finally, I am pleased to extend my affectionate greetings to the chaplains and women religious who offer their valuable moral and spiritual support to all who carry out such an important service to the national community. I also express my best wishes for peace and happiness in the risen Lord to all those who in different ways collaborate with the Armed Forces.

2. The spiritual care of Italian military personnel since the unification of Italy has always been a constant concern of the Church which, through the generous work of many priests, guaranteed that those committed to serving their country would not go without the Word of God and the sacraments. This presence became more widespread and better organized after the First World War, when the Holy See, in agreement with the authorities of the Italian State, provided spiritual assistance for the Armed Forces by establishing a Military Vicariate for Italy with a Military Ordinary.

Chaplains have played an irreplaceable spiritual and human role, sharing the life and problems of the Armed Forces and offering everyone the light of the Gospel and divine grace. In this service, which is often humble and hidden, there have been wonderful priests who have honoured the Church and the Armed Forces.

Among them I am pleased to recall Bl. Secondo Pollo, a zealous and esteemed teacher of young people. He ended his earthly life at only 33 years of age on 26 December 1941, on the Montenegro front, hit by machine-gun fire while helping his Alpine soldiers who had been wounded in an ambush. Let us ask of him, sacrificed in the violence of war in that same Balkan region where the tragic clash of arms echoes once again, to obtain for that tormented land the gift of a lasting peace in which the rights of every person are respected.

3. The providential efforts for sound renewal spurred by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, through the wise and generous work of the Military Ordinaries and the chaplains, found a ready welcome among Christian military people, creating a new awareness of the Church and a renewed commitment especially among the lay faithful. We have thus passed from a "Church service" offered to the Armed Forces, to a "Church of service" assembled among those in the military world who are called to exercise their baptismal priesthood by working for peaceful harmony among men and women, in union with those who by the sacrifice of their lives have given the supreme witness of love.

With the Apostolic Constitution Spirituali militum curae of 1986, I wished to encourage this promising development by structuring the Military Ordinariate Church as a particular, territorial and personal Church, whose very name expresses its theological nature, its organizational structure and its specific features. It is made up of baptized military personnel, their families and relatives, as well as their domestic staffs, and those who by law are employed in the service of the Armed Forces or are associated with them.

The first Synod of your particular Church ends with today's meeting. It was held on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. During these three years of prayer and reflection, under the guidance of your Pastor, you have had an opportunity to discern in the light of the Word of God the plan that the Lord has for your Ecclesial Community and to reflect on its identity as the People of God assembled among military personnel in the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As a result, you have asked yourselves how to proclaim the Gospel in the context of today's military life.

How many new prospects for evangelization and service are open to the Military Ordinariate Church on the threshold of the new Christian millennium!

4. In democratic societies there is a growing conviction that the Armed Forces are called to be instruments of peace and harmony among peoples and of support for the weakest. In this regard, how can we forget the numerous missions in which the Armed Forces were on the front lines in offering their generous help to peoples struck by natural calamities or humanitarian tragedies? How can we not admire the dangers and sacrifices that are faced by those who carry out peace-keeping missions in countries destroyed by senseless civil wars? With these interventions, the Armed Forces gain more and more credit as defenders of inalienable human values such as life, freedom, law and justice. This conception of military life is in harmony with the Gospel message that offers many pastoral opportunities for the Military Ordinariate Church. Every year in your ministry you meet most of the young, who are called to spend some months in the military. This is a characteristic that makes your Church seem like a family with many young sons and gives you an opportunity to come into contact with the world of youth, with its hopes and its disappointments.

The expectations and problems of young people, as well as the challenges that they represent for your Military Ordinariate Church, have received ample attention at this Synod. While expressing my appreciation for the work accomplished, I urge you to look with confidence at the world of young people, in the certainty that every word, every act of practical concern, every effort to open their hearts to Christ will yield generous and abundant good fruits in their spirit.

I also invite you to make every effort to be witnesses among them, even before being teachers, and living icons of the values you proclaim. Be reliable spiritual guides for them and support them each day by your prayer and example.

5. As your Archbishop recalled at the start, the military world, now and in the past, often appears as a vehicle of evangelization and a privileged place for reaching the height of holiness: I am thinking of the centurions of the Gospel, I am thinking of the first martyred soldiers and all who throughout history, by serving their sovereign land, learned how to become soldiers and witnesses of the one Lord, Jesus Christ.

My thoughts turn, in particular, to the Servant of God Brigadier Salvo D'Acquisto of the Carabinieri, who in very difficult circumstances knew how to demonstrate his fidelity to Christ and to his brothers by the gift of his life. May this marvellous host of believers and saints encourage you to continue in your apostolate. I hope that the celebration of the first Synod will arouse your enthusiasm and creativity so that you may become an ever more effective leaven of hope and salvation within the Armed Forces.

With these wishes, as I invoke the maternal protection of Mary, Queen of Peace, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to the Military Ordinariate Church, its Archbishop and each of you.



Thursday, 6 May 1999

Dear Professor Stephens,
Dear Friends,

In the love of the Most Holy Trinity, I welcome you and thank you for your kind words. More then ever in this Easter season, Christians look to the risen Lord, in whom we find the hope that leads us ever further in the search for Christian unity, which is both the will of Christ and the desire of our own hearts. Our meeting this morning is a sign of how far we have come in that search and how deeply we desire to go further. It is a moment to give thanks and to renew the hope that urges us on.

In its recent report "Revelation and Faith", the Joint Commission for Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council was inspired by the words of the Apostle John: "The Word of Life ... was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us" (1Jn 1,1-2). It is the Word himself who draws us into unity. It is only in hearing and seeing Jesus that we will find strength to bear common witness to the eternal life which the Father has given us in the Son. I pray therefore that ecumenical contacts betwen Catholics and Methodists will be a genuine experience of hearing and seeing the Word, so that our dialogue may enable us to be ever more convincing witnesses before the world.

With heartfelt thanks to God for all that you are doing in the service of ecumenical dialogue, I cordially invoke upon you and your fellow Methodists the joy and peace of the risen Lord.



Dear People of Romania,

In my thoughts and in my heart I am already among you, as I look forward to coming soon to your country and visiting a land illustrious for its civil and ecclesial traditions.

I rejoice as I think of meeting my dear and venerable brother, His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist and the Bishops of the Holy Synod, the priests, deacons, religious and all believers.

I also eagerly look forward to embracing the beloved sons and daughters of the Catholic Church, both Latins and Greek-Catholics, their beloved Pastors and all the faithful.

I take this opportunity to greet His Excellency the President and the authorities of the State, who have the challenging yet exciting responsibility of guiding the Romanian people to the conscious and mature exercise of the fundamental value of freedom.

All of you, men, women and children, the elderly, the sick and the young people of Romania, the Pope of Rome embraces you!

I shall come to you with a desire to proclaim once more, together with your Pastors, the Gospel message which has had, and continues to have, immense importance in the history, the culture and the religious life of the Romanian people. I come, not to propose empty and short lived illusions, utopias which cannot endure or sterile arguments about earthly power, but only Him who is God's Truth, Jesus Christ our Lord, who died and rose again for the salvation of the world. I look forward to seeing you soon!

From the Vatican, 6 May 1999





Friday, 7 may 1999

Mr President, Distinguished Government Representatives,
Patriarch Teoctist,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today I have come with great joy to Romania, a country very dear to me which I have wanted to visit for a long time. With deep emotion I kissed its soil, grateful first of all to almighty God, who in his wise goodness granted me to see this wish come true.

I also express my gratitude to you, Mr President, for your repeated invitation and the courteous words expressing the sentiments of your co-workers and of all the Romanian people. I deeply appreciated your cordial words of welcome and cherish them in my heart as I remember with gratitude the visit you made to me in 1993 as rector of the University of Bucharest and president of the Conference of University Rectors of Romania. I see all the citizens represented in you, the first citizen of this noble nation, and I have a great desire to give them a warm greeting of brotherhood and peace, from the residents of the capital to the inhabitants of the most remote villages.

2. In a special way I thank Your Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, for your fraternal remarks and for your kind invitation to visit the Romanian Orthodox Church, the Church to which the majority of the people in your country belong. It is the first time that divine Providence has offered me the opportunity to make an apostolic journey to a predominantly Orthodox nation and this certainly could not have happened without the willing and fraternal acquiescence of the Holy Synod of the venerable Romanian Orthodox Church and without the consent of Your Beatitude, with whom tomorrow and on Sunday I will have special and long-awaited meetings.

At this historic moment, I cannot fail to recall the visit you made to me at the Vatican 10 years ago, showing your firm intention to establish in a free way those friendly ecclesial relations which seemed beneficial to God's People. I trust that my visit will help heal the wounds inflicted on the relations between our Churches in the last 50 years and will open a season of trusting mutual collaboration.

3. Lastly, I warmly greet you, venerable Archbishop Lucian Mure(l-scedilla)an of F(l-abreve)g(l-abreve)ra(l-scedilla) and Alba Iulia and President of the Romanian Episcopal Conference, and all of you, Brother Bishops of the Byzantine-Romanian rite and the Latin rite, with a special greeting to Archbishop Ioan Robu of Bucharest. I again express all my gratitude to you for the kind insistence with which you invited me to visit you. I am truly happy that this dream has come true today, and I thank the Lord with you.

Here I am among you at last, a pilgrim of faith and hope. I embrace you all with affection and deep feeling, dear Catholic brothers and sisters from every community and Diocese, priests, consecrated persons and lay people, and I greet you in the words of the Apostle Paul: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1Co 1,3).

My visit is meant to strengthen those ties between Romania and the Holy See which were so important for the history of Christianity in the region. As you know, tradition has it that the faith was brought to these lands by Peter's brother, the Apostle Andrew, who sealed his untiring missionary work with martyrdom in Patras. Other eminent witnesses to the Gospel, such as Sabas the Goth, Nicetas of Remesiana from Aquileia, and Laurence of Novae continued the work, and during the persecutions of the first centuries many Christians suffered martyrdom: they are the Daco- Roman martyrs such as Zoticus, Attalus, Kamasis and Philip, whose sacrifice helped the Christian faith sink deep roots in your land.

The seed of the Gospel, fallen on fertile ground, produced abundant fruits of holiness and martyrdom during these two millenniums. I am thinking of St John Cassian and Dionysius Exiguus, who helped pass on the spiritual, theological and canonical treasures of the Greek East to the Latin West, to the holy King Stephen, “a true athlete of the Christian faith” as Pope Sixtus IV called him, and of so many other faithful servants of the Gospel, including the prince and martyr, Constantin Brâncoveanu and more recently, the numerous martyrs and confessors of the faith in the 20th century.

4. Dear brothers and sisters of Romania! In this century now drawing to a close your country has experienced the horrors of harsh totalitarian systems, sharing the sufferings that were the lot of many other European countries. The communist regime suppressed the Church of the Byzantine-Romanian rite united with Rome and persecuted Bishops and priests, men and women religious and lay people, many of whom paid with blood for their fidelity to Christ. Some survived the tortures and are still with us. My heartfelt thoughts turn to the worthy and beloved Cardinal Alexandru Todea, Archbishop emeritus of F(l-abreve)g(l-abreve)ra(l-scedilla) and Alba Iulia, who spent 16 years in prison and 27 under house arrest. As I pay homage to him, who in his illness, accepted with Christian patience from God's hands, is continuing his faithful service to the Church, I would also like to give due recognition to the members of the Romanian Orthodox Church and of other Churches and religious communities who suffered similar persecutions and grave restrictions. Death united our brothers and sisters in faith in the heroic witness of martyrdom: they have left us an unforgettable lesson of love for Christ and his Church.

5. Thanks be to God, after the harsh winter of communist domination came the springtime of hope. With the historic events of 1989 Romania too began a process of re-establishing a State governed by law with respect for freedom, including religious freedom. Although this process does not lack obstacles, it must be continued, while safeguarding the rule of law and consolidating democratic institutions. I hope that in this effort of social renewal, your nation will not lack the political and financial support of the European Union, to which Romania belongs by reason of its history and culture.

To heal the wounds of a recent bitter and painful past, one needs patience and wisdom, a spirit of initiative and honesty. This tiring but exalting task belongs to everyone; it is a challenge especially for you, dear young people, who are the future of this generous people. Do not be afraid to accept your responsibilities courageously and look to the future with confidence. For her part, the Catholic Church is ready to make her contribution, doing all she can to help form citizens who will be attentive to the true requirements of the common good.

Romania, bridge between East and West, crossroads between Central and Eastern Europe, Romania, traditionally called by the beautiful title: “Garden of Mary”, I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin. On the threshold of a new millennium, once again set your future firmly on the rock of the Gospel. With Christ's help you will play a leading role in a new season of enthusiasm and courage. You will be a prosperous nation, a fertile land of goodness, a united people and peacemakers.

May God protect you and bless you always!





Friday, 7 may 1999

1. “The God of peace be with you all!” (Rm 15,33).

Dear brothers and sisters, I wish to greet you in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, to show you my affection and the deep joy that I feel to be with you and His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist for the first time here in Romania. Thank you for your warm and festive welcome, which comes from faith in the One who is ever present where two or three are gathered in his name: Jesus Christ, our Lord (cf. Mt Mt 18,20).

2. Christ has always accompanied the history of the Romanian nation. Indeed, how can we forget that the evangelization and formation of the first Christian communities coincided with the very formation of your ancient and noble people? How can we not point out  with gratitude that the Gospel has deeply permeated its life and customs since its beginning, becoming a source of civilization and a principle of synthesis among the diverse inspirations of its culture?  Thanks to the Christian faith, this country, linked with the memory of Trajan and the Roman world and which by its very name recalls the Roman Empire, but is also marked by Byzantine civilization, down the centuries has become a bridge between the Latin world and Orthodoxy, between Greek civilization and the Slavic peoples.

The history of your faith is significantly portrayed by the paintings on many façades of your churches, which, despite the wind and rain, continue to proclaim God’s love for mankind. Romanians too, throughout the tragic events of their past and more recent history, have courageously preserved the gift of Christian faith, enduring violent persecutions and the insidious influences of a life without God.

In giving thanks to the Lord for all the shining testimonies that have flowered in Romania, I offer the wish that faith in Christ will become ever more rooted in your hearts and shine forth in your lives, to be passed on in its integrity to future generations.

3. Dear Romanians, may the Lord accompany the journey of your people into the third Christian millennium! May he inspire in your hearts good projects and hopes and give you the strength to build the civilization of love, based on justice, solidarity and commitment to the common good, for a truly fraternal society.

I particularly hope that a growing understanding between all who are honoured by the name Christian — Orthodox, Catholics of the various rites and Protestants of different denominations — may be a leaven of unity and harmony in your homeland and on the whole European continent.

The peace of Christ be with you always. Amen!

Speeches 1999