Speeches 1999 - 21 January 1999



Mexico City's international airport

Friday, 22 January 1999

Mr President of the Republic,
Your Eminences and Brothers in the Episcopate,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters of Mexico,

1. Today I have arrived in Mexico as I did 20 years ago, and it is a great joy for me to return to this blessed land where Our Lady of Guadalupe is venerated as a beloved Mother. As I did then and on my two subsequent visits, I come as an apostle of Jesus Christ and the Successor of St Peter to strengthen my brothers and sisters in the faith and to proclaim the Gospel to all people. On this occasion, moreover, this capital city is to be the place of a privileged and exceptional meeting for an historic event: tomorrow morning in the Basilica of Guadalupe, together with the Bishops of the entire American continent, I will present the results of the Synod held in Rome more than a year ago.

At that time, the Bishops of America described the essential features of their future pastoral activity which, on the basis of the faith we share, we hope will fully respond to God's saving plan and to the dignity of the human being within the framework of just, reconciled societies that are open to technological progress in conformity with the necessary moral progress. This is the experience of the Bishops and faithful who express their Catholic faith in Spanish, English, Portuguese, French or one of the many languages belonging to the indigenous cultures which represent the roots of this continent of hope.

At the Nunciature this afternoon I will have the joy of signing the Apostolic Exhortation in which I have incorporated the ideas and suggestions expressed by the Bishops of America. Through the new evangelization the Church wishes to reveal her identity more clearly: to be closer to Christ and to his Word; to demonstrate that she is authentic and free from worldly influences; to be of greater service to the human person from a Gospel perspective; to be a leaven of the unity and not the division of humanity, which is opening to new, broader and still emerging horizons.

2. I am pleased now to greet Mr Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, President of the United Mexican States, and I thank him for his kind words of welcome. In you, Mr President, I greet all the Mexican people, this noble and beloved people who work, pray and press on in search of an ever better future, on the vast plains of Sonoro or Chihuahua, in the tropical forests of Veracruz or Chiapas, in the bustling industrial centres of Nuevo León or Coahuila, at the feet of the great volcanos rising from the peaceful valleys of Puebla and Mexico City, in the friendly seaports of the Atlantic and the Pacific. I also greet the millions of Mexicans who live and work outside their national borders. Since this is a journey with a continental flavour, I also greet everyone who in one way or another is following these events.

I affectionately greet my Brothers in the Episcopate, in particular, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, Archbishop of Mexico City and Primate of Mexico; the President and members of the Mexican Episcopal Conference, as well as the other Bishops who have come from different countries to take part in the events of this Pastoral Visit, thus renewing and strengthening the close bonds of communion and affection between all the particular Churches on the American continent, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. In this greeting my heart also reaches out with great affection to the beloved priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists and faithful to whom I am indebted in the Lord. May God grant that this visit, which begins today, will encourage everyone in their generous effort to proclaim Jesus Christ with renewed zeal in view of the new millennium now close at hand.

3. Since the time they welcomed me 20 years ago with open arms and filled with hope, the Mexican people have accompanied me on many of the paths I have taken. I have met Mexicans at the Wednesday General Audiences and at the great events which the Church has celebrated in Rome and elsewhere in America and throughout the world. The greeting with which they always welcomed me still echoes in my ears: Mexico ever faithful and ever present!

I come to a country where the Catholic faith served as a foundation for the intermingling which transformed the ancient ethnic and antagonistic plurality into a fraternal unity and destiny. Nor is it possible to understand Mexico without the faith brought from Spain to these lands by the first 12 Franciscans, and later strengthened by Dominicans, Jesuits, Augustinians and others who preached Christ's saving word. In addition to the work of evangelization which made Catholicism an integral and fundamental part of the nation's soul, the missionaries left deep cultural imprints and marvellous works of art which today are a legitimate cause of pride for all Mexicans and a rich expression of their civilization.

I come to a country whose history is traversed by three realities which, like rivers that are sometimes hidden and plentiful, converge at times and at others reveal their complementary differences, without ever merging completely: the ancient and rich sensitivity of the indigenous peoples loved by Juan de Zum árraga and Vasco de Quiroga, whom many of these peoples continue to call fathers; Christianity, rooted in the Mexican soul; and modern rationality of the European kind, which wanted so much to exalt independence and freedom. I know that many far-sighted minds are working hard so that these currents of thought and culture can better combine their resources through dialogue, sociocultural development and the desire to build a better future.

I come to you, Mexicans of all social classes and conditions, and to you, my brothers and sisters of the American continent, to greet you in the name of Christ: the God who became man so that all human beings could hear his call to divine sonship in Christ. Together with my Brother Bishops of Mexico and all America, I come to kneel before the tilma of Bl. Juan Diego. I will ask Our Lady of Guadalupe, at the end of a prolific but tormented millennium, that the next millennium will be one in which secure ways of brotherhood and peace are opened in Mexico, America and the whole world. Brotherhood and peace, which can find in Jesus Christ a sure foundation and spacious paths of progress. With the peace of Christ, I wish Mexicans success in their quest for harmony, since they constitute a great nation which unites them all.

4. Since I already feel prostrate before the Morenita Virgin of Tepeyac, Queen of Mexico and Empress of America, from this moment I commend the destiny of this nation and of the whole continent to her motherly care. May the new century and the new millennium encourage a general rebirth under the gaze of Christ, our life and our hope, who always offers us the ways of brotherhood and of sound human fellowship. May Our Lady of Guadalupe help Mexico and America to walk together on these paths, safe and filled with light.


Adolfo López Mateos Hall of the Presidential Residence

Saturday, 23 January 1999

Mr President of the Republic,
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and Heads of Mission,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very grateful to President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León for his kind words introducing me to the Heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Mexico. Their presentation to the Pope in your official residence of Los Pinos is a respectful gesture which I warmly appreciate.

Within the context of this Pastoral Visit, I am very pleased to meet you who are responsible for the relations of your respective States with Mexico, reinforcing them with dialogue and cooperation, and testifying at the same time to this nation's importance in the world. You also represent the international community with which the Holy See maintains ancient and stable relations, confirming an age-old tradition that grows more vigorous each day.

2. We live in a world of both complexity and unity; the various communities of which it is composed are drawing closer together, and the financial and economic systems on which the integral development of humanity depends are more extensive and rapid. This growing interdependency leads to new stages of progress, but at the same time includes the risk of seriously limiting the personal and community freedom that belongs to all democratic life. Therefore, a social system must be promoted which allows all peoples to take an active part in furthering their integral progress; otherwise, many of these peoples could find themselves prevented from achieving it.

Contemporary progress, unparalleled in the past, must enable all human beings to see their dignity safeguarded and to be offered a deeper awareness of the greatness of their own destiny. However, at the same time it exposes human beings - both the strongest and those socially and politically weakest - to the danger of becoming just a number or a mere economic factor (cf. Centesimus annus CA 49). If this were the case, the human being could gradually lose the awareness of his transcendent value. This awareness - at times obvious, at others implicit - is what distinguishes man from all other beings in nature.

3. Faithful to the mission received from her Founder, the Church tirelessly proclaims that the human person must be the centre of every civil and social order, of every system of technological and economic development. Human history cannot go against man. This would be tantamount to opposing God, whose living image is the human being, even when he is disfigured by error or transgression.

This is the conviction that the Church would like to put on the table of the United Nations, or to express in the amicable dialogue she maintains with you, the members of the Diplomatic Corps, and with the authorities you represent in various parts of the world. From these principles can be deduced the important moral and civic values that were stressed by the Bishops of America meeting at the 1997 Synod in Rome.

4. Among these values, conversion of minds and effective solidarity between the various human groups stand out as essential elements for contemporary social life at the national and international level. International life requires a basis of common moral values and common rules of collaboration. Certainly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 50th anniversary we celebrated last year, and other documents of universal value offer important elements in the search for this moral foundation, common to all countries, or at least to a great many of them.

If we look at the world scene, we see that certain situations exist which are easy to note. The power of the developed countries is becoming increasingly burdensome to the developing countries. In international relations, priority is sometimes given to the economy over human values, and as they are weakened, freedom and democracy are affected. On the other hand, the arms race shows us that in many cases weapons are meant for defence, but in others, they are truly offensive and used in the name of ideologies that do not always respect human dignity. The phenomenon of corruption is regrettably making inroads into large areas of the social fabric of some nations, without those who suffer the consequences always having an opportunity to demand justice and accountability. Individualism is also marring international life, with the result that the powerful nations are able to grow more so each day, while the weaker ones become increasingly dependent.

5. In view of this situation, an appropriate conversion of minds and an effective, not merely theoretical, solidarity are required among persons and human groups. This is what the Latin American Episcopate, in union with the Pope, has been suggesting for decades. This is what the Bishops of the American continent asked for at the Synod. In this regard we should mention the many relief efforts for the peoples in neighbouring Central America affected by Hurricane Mitch, in which Mexico generously participated together with other nations, showing a shared sense of fraternity and solidarity.

America is a continent that includes large, technologically advanced nations and others which are relatively small, with varying levels of development. Even in the same country, very different social and human situations exist side by side, as in Mexico, situations which must always be treated with great respect and justice, with tireless recourse to dialogue and cooperation.

America forms a human and geographical unit that extends from the North Pole to the South. Although its past is rooted in ancestral cultures - such as the Mayan, Olmec, Aztec or Incan - from contact with the old continent and with Christianity for over five centuries, it has come to share a common destiny which is unique in the world. America in itself is a particularly suitable place for promoting shared values that can guarantee an effective conversion of minds, especially of those who have national and international responsibilities.

6. This continent could be the "Continent of Hope" if the human communities and their ruling classes which comprise it were to adopt a common ethical foundation. The Catholic Church and the other great religious confessions in America can contribute specific elements to this common ethic, elements which free consciences from being limited by ideas deriving from mere incidental consensus. America and all humanity need essential reference-points for all citizens and their political leaders. "Thou shalt not kill", "Thou shalt not lie", "Thou shalt not steal or covet thy neighbour's goods", "Respect the basic dignity of the human person" in his physical and moral dimensions: these are inviolable principles sanctioned in the Decalogue common to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and similar to the norms of other great religions. They are principles which bind every human being as well as the various societies.

These principles and others like them must form a bulwark against any attack on life, from its beginning to its natural end; against wars of expansion and the use of weapons as instruments of destruction; against corruption which erodes broad levels of society, sometimes with transnational dimensions; against the abusive invasion of the private sphere by authorities who approve obligatory sterilization or by laws restricting the right to life; against deceptive advertising campaigns that compromise the truth and determine the lifestyle of entire peoples; against monopolies that seek to block sound initiatives and to limit the growth of whole societies; against the spread of drug abuse which saps the strength of young people and even kills them.

7. Much has been done in this regard. International conventions aimed at limiting some of these abuses are numerous. Groups of nations join forces to create economic spaces where political, economic and social life may be properly oriented and better protected by principles that are more just and in greater conformity with the rights of each citizen, each people and each culture.

However, there is still much to be done. We are approaching the end of a century and a millennium which, despite the great achievements of science and technology, have left an obvious trail of scars that recall, sometimes tragically, the scant attention paid to the moral principles mentioned above. Rather than seeing them further violated, their ethical, morally binding force must be strengthened in the new century and the new millennium.

8. In sharing these thoughts with you, I am motivated by no other concern than to defend human dignity, and by no other authority than the divine Word. This Word is not mine, but comes from God, who became man so that human beings might become his children. With no special interests, I offer you these reflections today in the hope that they can help you in your diplomatic work and your personal life, in your desire to contribute to building a world more human and just than the one we have been offered by the century and millennium now drawing to close.

In the near future, may respect for the life, truth and dignity of every human being prevail! This is the urgent task that awaits us. May God bless the work you are accomplishing. May he bless Mexico and the countries you represent in this privileged city where America and the world meet and dialogue. Thank you very much for your attention!


Adolfo López Mateos Hospital

Sunday, 24 January 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. As I have done on other Pastoral Visits across the world, on this one, my fourth to Mexico, I also wanted to share with you, dear sick people hospitalized in this centre named after Adolfo López Mateos - and through you with all the other sick of the country - a few moments of prayer and hope. I would like to assure you of my affection and, at the same time, I join in your prayer and that of your loved ones, asking God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, for fitting health of body and soul, the full identification of your sufferings with those of Christ and the search for reasons which, based on faith, help us to understand the meaning of human suffering.

I feel very close to each one of those suffering, as well as to the doctors and other health-care professionals who offer their selfless service to the sick. I would like my voice to transcend these walls to bring Christ's voice to all the sick and to all health-care workers, and to offer in this way a word of comfort in their illness and of encouragement in the mission of assistance, recalling in particular the value of suffering within the framework of the Saviour's redemptive work.

To be with you, to serve you with love and skill, is not only a humanitarian and social work, but above all an eminently evangelical activity, since Christ himself invites us to imitate the Good Samaritan, who, on seeing the suffering man on the wayside, did not "pass by on the other side" but "had compassion and went to him and bound up his wounds ... and took care of him" (Lc 10,32-34). Many pages of the Gospel describe Jesus' meetings with those burdened by various illnesses. Thus St Matthew tells us that Jesus "went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them" (Mt 4,23-24). When St Peter, following in Christ's footsteps, reached the Beautiful Gate of the temple, he made a lame man walk (cf. Acts Ac 3,2-5), and when rumours of what had happened spread, "they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them" (ibid., 5:15-16). From the beginning, the Church, moved by the Holy Spirit, has wanted to follow the example of Jesus in this regard, and thus she considers it a duty and a privilege to stay beside the suffering person and to nurture a preferential love for the sick. I therefore wrote in the Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris: "Born of the mystery of Redemption in the Cross of Christ, the Church has to try to meet man in a special way on the path of his suffering. In this meeting man "becomes the way for the Church", and this way is one of the most important ones" (n. 3).

2. Man is called to joy and to a happy life, but everyday he experiences many forms of pain, and illness is the most frequent and common expression of human suffering. In the face of it we spontaneously wonder: "Why do we suffer? For what do we suffer? What does people's suffering mean? Can physical or moral pain be a positive experience? Each one of us has certainly asked these questions more than once, either from our bed of pain, during convalescence, before undergoing surgery, or whenever we have seen a loved one suffer.

For Christians these are not unanswerable questions. Suffering is a mystery, often inscrutable to reason. It is part of the mystery of the human person, which is only explained in Jesus Christ, the One who reveals to man his own identity. Only through him will we find the meaning of all that is human. "Suffering", as I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, "cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but from within.... However, this interior process does not always follow the same pattern.... Christ does not answer directly and he does not answer in the abstract this human questioning about the meaning of suffering. Man hears Christ's saving answer as he himself gradually becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ. The answer which comes through this sharing ... is above all a call: "Follow me!". Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross" (n. 26). This is why, when faced with the enigma of suffering, we Christians can say: "Your will be done, Lord", and repeat with Jesus: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26,39).

3. Man's greatness and dignity consist in being a child of God and being called to live in intimate union with Christ. This participation in his life brings with it a sharing in his pain. The most innocent of men - the God made man - was the great sufferer who took upon himself the weight of our failings and sins. When he announced to his disciples that the Son of Man had to suffer much, to be crucified and on the third day to rise again, he also warned that anyone who wanted to come after him would have to deny himself, take up his cross each day and follow him (cf. Lk 9:22ff.). Therefore there is a close relationship between Jesus' Cross - a symbol of supreme suffering and the price of our true freedom - and our pains, sufferings, afflictions, hardships and anguish which can weigh on our souls or take root in our bodies. Suffering is transformed and elevated, when in those moments we become aware of God's closeness and solidarity. This is the certainty that gives inner peace and spiritual joy to the person who suffers generously and offers his pain "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rm 12,1). The person who suffers in this way is not a burden to others, but by his own suffering contributes to the salvation of all.

Seen in this way, illness and the darker moments of human life acquire a profound dimension, even one of hope. We are never alone before the mystery of suffering: we are with Christ who gives meaning to all life: in moments of peace and joy, as well as in moments of affliction and sorrow. With Christ, everything has meaning, even suffering and death; without him, nothing can be fully explained, not even the legitimate pleasures God has joined to the various moments of human life.

4. The position of sick persons in the world and in the Church is not in any way passive. In this respect, I would like to recall the words which the Synod Father addressed to them at the end of the Seventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: "We need you to teach the whole world what love is. We will do everything we can so that you may find your rightful place in the Church and in society" (Per Concilii semitas ad Populum Dei Nuntius, n. 13; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 2 November 1987, p. 11). As I wrote in my Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici: "The Lord addresses his call to each and every one. Even the sick are sent forth as labourers into the Lord's vineyard: the weight that wearies the body's members and dissipates the soul's serenity is far from dispensing a person from working in the vineyard. Instead the sick are called to live their human and Christian vocation and to participate in the growth of the kingdom of God in a new and even more valuable manner.... Many of the sick can become bearers of the "joy inspired by the Holy Spirit in much afflictions" (1Th 1,6), and be witnesses to Jesus' Resurrection" (n. 53). In this regard, we should remember that those who live in sickness are not only called to unite their suffering with the Passion of Christ, but to play an active part in the proclamation of the Gospel, bearing witness by their own faith experience to the strength of the new life and happiness that come from encountering the risen Lord (cf. 2Co 4,10-11 1P 4,13 Rom 8:18ff. ).

With these thoughts, I have wished to inspire in each and every one of you the sentiments which enable us to undergo these present trials in a supernatural way, seeing them as an opportunity to discover God among the shadows and doubts and to glimpse the broad horizons that can be seen from the height of our daily crosses.

5. I would like to extend my greetings to all the sick in Mexico, many of whom are following this visit on radio or television; to their relatives, friends and all who help them during these moments of trial; to the medical and health-care staffs, who contribute their knowledge and care to overcoming or at least to lightening them; to the civil authorities concerned with the progress of hospitals and other treatment centres in the various states throughout the country. I would especially like to mention the consecrated persons who live their religious charism in the health-care field, as well as the priests and other pastoral workers who help them find comfort and hope in faith.

I cannot fail to express my gratitude for the prayers and sacrifices so many of you offer for me and my ministry as Pastor of the universal Church.

As I give this Message to Bishop José Lizares Estrada, Auxiliary of Monterrey and President of the Episcopal Commission for Health-Care Ministry, I again offer you my greetings and my affection in the Lord, and through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who said to Bl. Juan Diego, "Am I not your health?", thus revealing herself as the One we Christians call upon with the title "Salus infirmorum", I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

Mexico City, 24 January 1999.



Azteca Stadium

Monday, 25 January 1999

(First Part)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In a short time, an important century and millennium for the history of the Church and humanity will be drawing to a close. In this significant period you are called to become newly aware of having been entrusted with a rich human and religious tradition. It is your task to transmit this heritage of values to the new generations in order to nourish their vitality and hope, making them share in the Christian faith that shaped their past and must mark their future.

A thousand years ago, in the year 999 of our era, the fury of those who worshiped a violent god, calling themselves his representatives, did away with Quetzalcóatl, the prophet-king of the Toltecs, because he was against using force to settle human conflicts. As he neared death, he clutched in his hands a cross which symbolized for him and his followers the agreement of all ideas in the search for harmony. He passed on these lofty teachings to his people: "Good will always prevail over evil". "Man is the centre of all creation". "Weapons will never be companions of the word; it is the word that dispels the storm-clouds, so that we may be filled with divine light" (cf. Raúl Horta, El Humanismo en el Nuevo Mundo, chap. II). In these and in other teachings of Quetzalcóatl we can see a "preparation for the Gospel" (Lumen gentium LG 16), which many of your ancestors would have the joy of accepting 500 years later.

2. This millennium has seen the meeting of two worlds, marking a new path in humanity's history. For you it is the millennium of the encounter with Christ, of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac, of the first evangelization and the Church's consequent establishment in America.

The last five centuries have left a decisive mark on the identity and destiny of the continent: 500 years of shared history, interwoven with the indigenous peoples and those who came from Europe, later joined by those from Africa and Asia. Together with the characteristic phenomenon of intermingling it became evident that all races have equal dignity and a right to their own culture. Throughout this long and complex process, Christ has been constantly present on the American people's journey, giving them his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary as their own Mother, whom you love so deeply.

3. As suggested by the motto Mexico has chosen to welcome the Pope for the fourth time, "A millennium is born: Let us reaffirm our faith", the forthcoming new era must lead to a strengthening of America's faith in Jesus Christ. It is this faith, lived each day by many believers, which will motivate and inspire the necessary measures to overcome the deficiencies in the community's social progress, especially that of the rural and indigenous peoples; to overcome the corruption that affects so many institutions and citizens; to eliminate drug trafficking, which is based on a lack of values, on the desire for easy money and on the inexperience of young people; to end the violence that sets brothers and social classes against one another, leading to bloodshed. Only faith in Christ can give rise to a culture opposed to selfishness and death. Parents and grandparents present here: it is your task to pass on firmly-rooted convictions of faith, Christian practices and sound moral norms to the new generation; the teachings of the last Council will help you in this.

4. The Second Vatican Council, as a Gospel response to the world's recent development and the beginning of a new Christian springtime (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 18), has been providential for the 20th century. This century has seen two world wars and the horror of concentration camps, persecutions and massacres, but it has also witnessed developments full of hope for the future, such as the birth of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I am therefore pleased to note the benefits that have come from accepting the Council's teachings, such as the deep sense of communion and brotherhood among the Bishops of America in close union with the Pope, evidenced at the celebration of the Synod which I solemnly closed yesterday, the increasing commitment of the laity to building the Church, the growth of movements which promote the holiness of life and the apostolate of all her members, the increase in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, which can be seen in various places, including Mexico.

Four generations are present here and I ask them: is it true that the world we live in is both great and fragile, sublime but sometimes confused? Is this world advanced in some respects but backward in so many others? Yet this world - our world - needs Christ, the Lord of history, who sheds light on the mystery of man and guides him by his Gospel in the search for solutions to the chief problems of our time (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 10).

Since some of the powerful have turned their backs on Christ, the century now ending is impotently witnessing the death from starvation of thousands of human beings, although, paradoxically, agricultural and industrial production are on the rise; it no longer promotes moral values, which have been gradually eroded by phenomena such as drugs, corruption, unbridled consumerism and widespread hedonism; defenceless, it beholds the growing gap between poor indebted countries and others which are powerful and affluent; it continues to ignore the intrinsic perversion and terrible consequences of the "culture of death"; it promotes ecology, but ignores the fact that any attack on nature is deeply rooted in moral disorder and man's contempt for man.

5. America, land of Christ and Mary! You have an important role in building the new world that the Second Vatican Council wanted to promote. You must be committed to making the truth prevail over the many forms of deceit, so that good may triumph over evil, justice over injustice, honesty over corruption. Accept without reservation the Council's vision of the human being, created by God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. In this way, you will attain the full truth of moral values despite the illusion of temporary, precarious and subjective certitudes.

We who form the Church - Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity - feel committed to the saving message of Christ. By following his example, we do not want to impose his message but to offer it in full freedom, remembering that he alone has the words of eternal life, and trusting fully in the Holy Spirit's power and action in the depths of the human heart.

May you, Catholics of all the generations of the 20th century, be messengers and witnesses of the Church's great hope in all the circumstances to which God has sent you as seeds of faith, hope and boundless love for all your brothers and sisters!

(Second Part)

Last year I heard they were calling me "Carioca", but now you are telling me: "You're Mexican".

6. Next year we will celebrate the 2,000th year since "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1,14). The Son of God made man taught everyone to be authentic men and women, feeling compassion for the multitudes he found straying like sheep without a shepherd, and giving his life for our salvation. His presence and action continue on earth through the Church, his Mystical Body. This is why every Christian is called to proclaim Christ, to witness to him and to make him present everywhere in the various cultures and ages of history.

7. Evangelization, an essential task, the mission and vocation of the Church (cf. Evangelii nuntiandi EN 14), stems precisely from faith in the Word, who is the true light that enlightens every man coming into this world (cf. Jn Jn 1,9). I say to you who have joined the Pope today, here or through the media: take responsibility for spreading the light you have received!

A century and millennium will soon be ending in which, despite so many conflicts, the value of the person has been promoted over social, political and economic structures. In this regard, the new evangelization also contains the Church's response to this important change of historical perspective. Each of you, by your own way of life and Christian commitment, must bear witness throughout America and the world that Christ is the true champion of human dignity and of its freedom.

8. As followers of Christ, we long for unity and not division, for brotherhood and not antagonism, for peace and not war to prevail in the coming century. This is also an essential goal of the new evangelization. As the Church's children, you must work so that the coming global society is not spiritually impoverished or heir to the mistakes of the century now ending.

To do this, it is necessary to say yes to God and to engage with him in building a new society where the family can be an environment of generosity and love, where reason enters calmly into dialogue with faith, and freedom fosters a society marked by solidarity and participation. In fact, anyone who follows the Gospel as a guide and norm of life cannot remain passive, but must share and spread Christ's light, even to the point of self-sacrifice.

9. The new evangelization will be a seed of hope for the new millennium if you, today's Catholics, make the effort to transmit to future generations the precious legacy of human and Christian values which have given meaning to your life. As men and women who, with the passing years, have accumulated valuable lessons of life, it is your role to ensure that the new generations receive a sound Christian formation during their intellectual and cultural training, to prevent the powerful progress from closing them to the transcendent. Lastly, always present yourselves as tireless promoters of dialogue and peace in the face of the predominance of might over right, and of indifference to the tragedies of hunger and disease afflicting large numbers of the population.

10. For your part, young people and children who look to tomorrow with hearts full of hope, you are called to be the artisans of history and evangelization now and in the future. A sign that you did not receive this rich Christian and human heritage in vain will be your dedicated striving for holiness, both in the life of the families that many of you will start in a few years' time, and in the gift of yourselves to God in the priesthood or the consecrated life, if this is your calling.

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us that all the baptized, and not only a few privileged individuals, are called to incarnate Christ's life in their own lives, to have his very sentiments and to trust fully in the Father's will, giving themselves without reserve to his saving plan, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, in tireless generosity and love for their brethren, especially the most disadvantaged. The ideal which Jesus Christ holds up to you and teaches by his life is indeed exalted, but it is the only one that can give full meaning to life. Therefore beware of the false prophets who offer other goals that at times may seem more attractive but are always deceptive. Do not go along with them at all!

11. Christians of the 21st century also have an inexhaustible source of inspiration in the ecclesial communities of the early centuries. Those who lived with Jesus or listened directly to the Apostles' testimony, felt their lives transformed and flooded with a new light. However, they had to live their faith in an indifferent and even hostile world. To make the truth of the Gospel penetrate, to transform the numerous convictions and customs that denigrated human dignity, required huge sacrifices, firm perseverance and great creativity. Only with unshakeable faith in Christ, constantly nourished by prayer, by listening to God's word and by regular participation in the Eucharist, were the first Christian generations able to overcome those difficulties and make human history fruitful with the newness of the Gospel, even many times by shedding their blood. In the new era now unfolding, the era of informatics and powerful means of communication, on the verge of an increasingly fluid globalization of economic and social relations, dear young people, you and your contemporaries face the challenge of opening the minds and hearts of humanity to the newness of Christ and the graciousness of God. Only in this way can we avoid the risk of a world and a history without soul, overproud of its technological achievements, but lacking hope and deep meaning.

12. You young people of Mexico and America must ensure that the world, which will be in your hands one day, is oriented to God and that its political, scientific, financial and cultural institutions are put at the authentic service of the human being, without racial or social distinction. Thanks to you, our future society must know, by the joy which comes from fully living your Christian faith, that in God alone can the human heart find peace and complete happiness. As good Christians, you must also be exemplary citizens capable of working together with people of good will to transform nations and regions with the power of Jesus' truth and a hope that never wavers in the face of adversity. Try to put St Paul's advice into practice: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rm 12,21).

13. As a reminder and a pledge, I leave you Jesus' last words, which illumine the future and nourish our hope: "And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20).

In the Lord's name, go with determination and evangelize your surroundings, so that they may become more human, fraternal and united, more respectful of the nature entrusted to us. Share your faith and ideals of life with all the peoples of the continent, not by useless confrontations, but by the witness of your life. Show that Christ has the words of eternal life which can save people of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Reveal to your brothers and sisters the divine and human face of Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last of all creation and all history, even of the history you are writing with your own lives.

Before reciting the Our Father at the end of the meeting, the Holy Father recalled the victims of the earthquake which had struck Colombia earlier that day, and he prayed for the eternal repose of the deceased:

I learned today of the numerous victims and many injured caused by an earthquake in Colombia. Let us show our love in solidarity with these brothers and sisters who are suffering at this time. From here I would like to encourage those who are helping the earthquake victims. Let us pray for the eternal repose of all who have lost their lives.

Speeches 1999 - 21 January 1999