Speeches 1999




Dear Sisters,

1. I am pleased to offer you my cordial greeting, which I extend to all the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, as you hold the General Chapter of your institute.

You wished to begin your Chapter with a Eucharistic celebration at the tomb of your foundress, Mother Elisabetta Renzi, whom I had the joy of proclaiming blessed 10 years ago. Her spiritual presence among you and her heavenly intercession give your work the authentic inspiration that stems from your original charism. This reference to your roots will enlighten your discernment about the future progress of your congregation, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary on the threshold of the Year 2000.

"Towards the Third Millennium, with the Joy of the Risen One, to Build Unity in Diversity": this is the theme you have chosen for your General Chapter. For you too, as for the whole Church, the passage from the second to the third millennium suggests a new call from God, in whose hands lies the future of every human situation.

It is very significant that the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows are advancing towards the third millennium "with the joy of the Risen One". Who, in fact, better than Mary most holy, so intimately united with the mystery of the Crucified One, knew the joy of his Resurrection? And who better than she can communicate to you, her daughters, this joy, that it may fill your hearts and your witness?

2. This immersion in the dynamism of Easter is the fruit of contemplative prayer, which you rightly consider as the soul of your every action. It is from contemplation, that, together with the primordial gift of the Spirit, all gifts, and in particular the gift of the consecrated life, take their origin (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, VC 23).

Everyday in the Eucharistic celebration, you renew your communion with Christ crucified and risen, and in adoration you experience the joy of abiding in his love (cf. Jn Jn 15,9). Especially in these intense spiritual moments, you realize the longing of your foundress: "I would like my whole being to be silent and everything in me to adore, in order to enter more and more into Jesus and to be so full of him, that I can give him to those poor souls who do not know the gift of God".

3. Mission flows from contemplation. Before being distinguished by exterior works, it is carried out by making Christ present in the world through personal witness. This, dear sisters, is your primary task as consecrated persons! Even your life-style should manifest the ideal you profess, presenting itself as an eloquent, even if often silent, preaching of the Gospel.

When part of the founding charism, the witness of life and the works of the apostolate and of human advancement are equally necessary: both in fact reveal Christ and his saving action.

"Religious life, moreover, continues the mission of Christ with another feature specifically its own: fraternal life in community for the sake of the mission. Thus, men and women religious will be all the more committed to the apostolate the more personal their dedication to the Lord Jesus is, the more fraternal their community life, and the more ardent their involvement in the institute's specific mission" (Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, VC 72). The whole Church counts greatly on the testimony of communities filled "with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Ac 13,52).

4. At a time of profound change, Mother Elisabetta Renzi was led by divine Providence to perceive, with prophetic insight, some of the most acute needs in the society of her day. She thus realized that the Lord was giving her a new call. It was as if God himself had placed her close to the problems of the young girls of her land. Her rule of life was to abandon herself to God, so that he would decide the steps and times for the development of her work as he wished (cf. Homily for the beatification, 18 June 1989, n. 6; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 July 1989, p. 4). Your foundress felt strongly called to bear witness to God's preferential love for his smallest and most needy creatures: and she responded with prophetic understanding, becoming a mother, educator and care-giver.

The Church has always considered education to be an essential element of her mission, and the Synod on consecrated life strongly confirmed this. Therefore, I warmly invite you to treasure your founding charism and your traditions, knowing that preferential love for the poor finds a special application in the service of education and instruction (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, VC 97).

5. I was pleased to learn that your institute has sought the collaboration of many lay people, who share not only in your work but also in the motives and inspiration itself that underlie it. I willingly encourage these forms of communion and cooperation, which can give rise to the spread of a fruitful spirituality beyond the confines of the institute and, at the same time, promote an ever more intense cooperation between consecrated persons and the laity in view of the institute's mission (cf. ibid., n. 55).

6. "To Build Unity in Diversity". This objective summarizes your commitment on the threshold of the Year 2000, showing that it is in harmony with the whole Church. She, in fact, feels called to become a sign and instrument of unity in a world that increasingly brings different human realities into contact and dialogue. You experience this challenge within your own religious family, which in recent years has been enriched by the presence of persons from different countries and even from different continents.

This is a typical sign of the times in which we live, and you have decided to welcome it and to view it in terms of the Gospel as a call to a deeper and greater communion. "The more excellent way" (1Co 12,31) to be followed is always that of charity, which brings all differences into harmony and imbues them all with the strength of mutual support in the apostolic effort.

"Placed as they are within the world's different societies societies frequently marked by conflicting passions and interests, seeking unity but uncertain about the ways to attain it communities of consecrated life, where persons of different ages, languages and cultures meet as brothers and sisters, are signs that dialogue is always possible and that communion can bring differences into harmony" (Apostolic Exhortation, Vita consecrata, VC 51).

7. Dear sisters, as my final word I wish to echo the motto of your blessed foundress: "Ardere et Lucere". May every Sister of Our Lady of Sorrows, as well as the whole institute, burn and shine with divine love, so that they can transmit it to their brothers and sisters, especially those in greatest poverty, wherever Providence calls you to live and work.

May Our Lady of Sorrows constantly watch over you and obtain the fruits that you await from this Chapter. May you also be accompanied in your work by my Blessing, which I affectionately impart to all the sisters.

From Castel Gandolfo, 22 July 1999.


Message of the Holy Father to the Archbishop of

Ravenna-Cervia on the Occasion of the Celebrations

of the 1450 Anniversary of the Dedication of the

Basilica of St. Apollinaire in Classe

To my Venerable Brother
Luigi Amaducci Archbishop of Ravenna-Cervia

1. The renowned and ancient Archdiocese of Ravenna, which you lead with zeal and wisdom, is preparing to celebrate the 1,450th anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica of St Apollinaris in Classe, consecrated by Archbishop Maximian in 549, barely a year after the dedication of the Basilica of St Vitalis.
The event is especially important because the basilica, a church of rare beauty, is considered the cradle of the Christian faith in this region and preserves the body of its first Bishop, St Apollinaris, who evangelized Ravenna in the second half of the second century and later became patron of the city, the Diocese and the entire region.
During the celebration of this significant event, I would like to be united in spirit with the people of Ravenna, who are giving fervent thanks to the Lord for the countless benefits they have received throughout their long history of faith. The city, famous for its memories of a glorious past and for the splendid monuments that adorn it, owes its greatness to the skill and diligence of its children, who were and are the attentive and hard-working artisans of its civil and economic development. It also benefited from some particular circumstances which made it a very important political and cultural centre, open to dialogue with the East. From here shone the last rays of the Western Empire in the turbulent period of its tragic setting; from here came the providential fusion of young energy from the peoples of Northern Europe with the cultural riches of the Roman genius; from here the first witnesses to the Christian faith spread to the surrounding region. Among them St Apollinaris holds a significant place as the first Bishop of the Church of Ravenna, who, by his labour and suffering, laid the firm foundations of the city's Christian history.

2. As is well known, the famous sacred monument desired by Archbishop Ursicinus (534-538) and built under the supervision of Julian Argentarius, patron of Ravenna, where the important Roman port was located - hence the name "in Classe" - offers the visitor a view, framed by the triumphal arch, of Christ in the act of blessing, surrounded by the Evangelists; then in the apse vault stands a great jeweled cross with the face of the transfigured Christ in the centre, and below, among many symbolic figures, is an image of St Apollinaris in a gesture of priestly prayer. Thus the basilica's very structure, marked by a splendid series of columns, shows Christ as the centre of faith and God's response to the expectations of the restless human heart to every pilgrim who crosses its threshold in search of light and peace. The Church of Ravenna will not fail to offer anew this perennially valid response, taking her cue from the celebrations planned. They are providentially part of the preparations for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which will also be a renewed call for the people of Ravenna to follow Christ courageously and to listen to his words, as they continue to give the joyful and united response of faith which has always marked their history.
In this perspective I hope that the extraordinary synthesis of faith and beauty, which Gospel-inspired artists expressed so many centuries ago in the church's architectural lines and mosaic creations, will arouse in every visitor a deep desire to know the Lord, in order to bear witness to him in word and deed, after the example of the holy Bishop Apollinaris.

3. Down the centuries the basilica and its adjacent monastery became, in fact, an active centre of evangelization, thanks to the labours of authentic witnesses of Christ, including the monk St Romuald. In April 1001 he took part in the great assembly of Bishops and dignitaries which Pope Sylvester II held precisely at this church in Classe and which was also attended by Emperor Otto III. It was at that meeting that the evangelizing mission to the Slavs was planned and organized, in continuity with all that St Adalbert had accomplished. For this mission three of Romuald's monks were chosen, Bruno, Benedict and John. Sealing their service to the Gospel with martyrdom, they are now venerated as heavenly protectors in both Ravenna and Poland.
As your Church thanks God for the good she has spread over the centuries, she is motivated to have a renewed awareness of the ever pressing duty to proclaim the Good News of Christ to those who have not yet heard it. I hope that, through the intercession of the first Bishop and of his fellow-citizen saints who were apostles to the Slavs, numerous priestly and religious vocations will arise in this Church, so that the Word of the Lord will also bring joy and salvation to the men and women of today.

4. Venerable and dear Brother in the Episcopate, in times that were particularly trying and difficult the Church of Ravenna was able to enshrine in her monuments the marvellous greatness of the Gospel message. May her children today find new ways to communicate this message of peace and brotherhood which flow from faith in the one Father and in the one Redeemer. For over 14 centuries, the Basilica of St Apollinaris in Classe has transmitted in its splendid mosaics the eternal truth of the Gospel, whose radiant centre is the crucified and risen Christ. How can we not hope that this saving truth will be reflected with renewed vibrance in the Church of "living stones" in Ravenna, so that the new generations can find in Christ that peace which is a gift of God and an expression of his eternal love?
I entrust these wishes to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, so tenderly loved by Ravenna's faithful. May she be for one and all the Queen of peace and mercy!
With these sentiments, I impart the favour of my Apostolic Blessing to you, venerable Brother, successor of the Holy Bishop Apollinaris, to my Brother Bishops taking part in the celebrations, to the authorities, to the clergy, to the beloved people of Ravenna and to all the inhabitants of Emilia-Romagna.

From the Vatican, 23 July 1999.

August 1999



Courtyard of the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo

Sunday, 1 August 1999

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The hearts of all of us who have attended this concert are spontaneously filled with deep gratitude to those who in various ways made it possible and organized it. I first of all extend my heartfelt thanks to Mr Giuseppe Juhar, President of the Academia Musicae Pro Mundo Uno and the members of this esteemed institution. My grateful appreciation then goes to the conductor, Mr Alberto Lysy, who directed the performance perfectly, and to the musicians of the Camerata Lysy of Gstaad, Switzerland, who have shown themselves to be "architects of beauty".

The passages played which enabled us to enjoy the enchantment of evocative melodies, renewed in us the experience of wonder and amazement, opening our minds to horizons full of meaning and value. Indeed, as I wrote in my recent Letter to Artists, every genuine art form "is a path to the inmost reality of man and of the world" (n. 6). They invite the human person to rise to the contemplation of perfection, not to alienate himself from concrete life but to return to it, determined to make it truer and more noble, in a word, "more beautiful".

2. Art thus becomes a highly educational experience because, through sensitive forms, it points to a goal to reach, a path to follow, a discipline to practise. The joy it awakens within us is a sign of our deep thirst for beauty, our desire to overcome fear and anxiety, our aspiration to the loftiest ideals of truth and freedom.

May God, "beauty so old and so new", accompany you on your way through life towards the discovery of aesthetic and existential perfection, at the service of humanity, which today more than ever is in need of goodness and harmony.

With this hope, I invoke God's Blessings upon everyone.





To the Most Reverend Fr Giacomo Bini

Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor

1. The reopening of the Basilica and Chapel of the Porziuncola after completion of the repairs occasioned by the damage sustained in the earthquake of 1997, gives me a welcome opportunity to send warm greetings to you, beloved Brother, and to the Franciscan Community in Assisi. There you do a much-valued service to the Church in caring for the places dear to the memory of the Poverello of Assisi, as also in caring for the faithful and pilgrims who flock to the home of Francis and Clare to enjoy a deep spiritual experience. The faithful tread their way to the gates of Assisi, deservedly named the"special city of the Lord" because of the many wonders of compassion worked there.

Today the doors of the Porziuncola Chapel and the Patriarchal Basilica open once more to receive great numbers of people drawn by their yearning for God and the charm of his holiness, made abundantly plain in his servant Francis.

The Poverello knew well that "divine grace can be lavished on God's chosen ones in any place. Yet he also found that the location of St Mary of the Porziuncola was rich in more abundant graces ... and he was accustomed to say to the brethren: "This is a holy place, and the dwelling of Christ and his Virgin Mother" (Speculum perfectionis, 83).

The poor, humble little church had become for Francis an icon of the Holy Virgin, the "Virgin made Church" (Salutation of the BVM I) herself unassuming and a "tiny portion of the world" (1 Celano, XII, 18), yet the indispensable means by which the Son of God should become man. For this reason the saint addressed Mary as: Tabernacle, House, Vesture, Handmaid, and Mother of God (Salutation of the BVM I).

It was in the Chapel of the Porziuncola, restored by the work of his own hands, that Francis reached a decision on hearing the words of chapter 14 of Matthew's Gospel. He decided to abandon his brief period of eremitical life in order to preach in the midst of the people, "with simplicity of words and generosity of his heart" as his first biographer, Thomas of Celano, attests (1 Celano, I, 23). So began his characteristic itinerant ministry. It was at the Porziuncola that Clare received the religious habit, and thereby founded the Order of the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano". Again it was here that Francis begged Christ, through the intercession of the Queen of Angels, for the great pardon or "indulgence of the Porziuncola", confirmed by my revered Predecessor, Pope Honorius III, on 2 August 1216. Thence sprang the missionary activity that took Francis and his brothers to some of the Muslim countries and the many nations of Europe. And at the end, it was here that the saint greeted with song "our Sister bodily death" (Canticle of the Creatures, 12).

2. The little church of the Porziuncola preserves and hands on a message and a special grace deriving from the actual experiences of the Poverello of Assisi. Message and grace still continue, and form a powerful summons to any who will allow themselves to be drawn by his example. This is borne out by the witness of Simone Weil, a daughter of Israel who fell under the spell of Christ: "Alone in the tiny romanesque chapel of St Mary of the Angels, a unique wonder of purity in which Francis had often prayed, I experienced a force greater than myself that drove me, for the first time in my life, to my knees" (Spiritual Autobiography).

The Porziuncola is one of the most venerable Franciscan places, dear not only to the Order of Minors but to all Christians who find themselves overwhelmed by its wealth of historical memories, finding light and inspiration for a renewal of life, a deepening of faith and a more genuine love. I like to underline the specific message that comes from the Porziuncola and its indulgence. It is the message of pardon and reconciliation, that is, of the grace that God's goodness pours out on us when we are willing to receive it, because God is truly "rich in mercy" (Ep 2,4).

How could we fail to stir up in ourselves, every day, a humble and trusting prayer for the redeeming grace of God? How could we fail to be aware of the great gift he has given us in Christ "once for all time" (He 9,12) and continues to offer with unchanging goodness? It is the gift of free pardon that brings us to peace with him and with ourselves, inspiring new hope and new joy in living. In the light of all this it is not difficult to understand the austere life of penance embraced by Francis. We are encouraged to hear the call to a continuing conversion of life that detaches us from the pursuit of selfish aims and directs our spirit instead to God, who himself gives focus to our whole existence.

3. Being the Tent of Meeting of God with men, the sanctuary of the Porziuncola is a house of prayer. Having experienced it himself, Francis loved to repeat the saying: "Whoever prays here with devotion will receive what he asks for" (1 Celano, I, 106). Within the ancient walls of the tiny church anyone may taste the sweetness of prayer in company with Mary, Mother of Jesus (cf. Acts Ac 1,14) and know the power of her intercession.

In that sacred building restored by the work of his own hands, the new man Francis used to listen to Jesus' invitation to shape his own life "according to the form of the holy Gospel" (Testament, 14) and, in poverty and joy to go through the world proclaiming the kingdom of God and conversion. That holy place had become for Francis a Tent of Meeting with Christ himself, the living Word of salvation.

The Porziuncola is in a special way the meeting-place with the grace of forgiveness, deriving from a particular experience of Francis. St Bonaventure writes: "One day, while he wept bitterly over the memories of his past life, Francis felt himself overtaken by the joy of the Holy Spirit, from whom he received the assurance that all his sins were completely forgiven" (Legenda Major III, 6). He wanted everyone to enjoy such an experience of God's mercy, and so he requested and obtained a plenary indulgence for all who would come as pilgrims to the tiny church to receive remission of their sins and an abundance of divine grace (cf. Rom Rm 5,20).

4. It is my sincere wish that all those who follow in the footsteps of the Poverello of Assisi in an attitude of penance and reconciliation and duly receive the Porziuncola indulgence with the proper interior disposition, shall likewise know the joy of meeting God and the tenderness of his merciful love. This is the "spirit of Assisi", the spirit of reconciliation, of prayer, of mutual respect that I heartily wish may prove a stimulus driving each one to communion with God and with all brothers and sisters. It is the same spirit that marked the meeting of prayer for peace with the representatives of the world religions, called by me to the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels on 27 October 1986, a meeting of which I treasure a vivid and grateful memory.

With these sentiments I join in spiritual pilgrimage with today's celebration of the Porziuncola indulgence, taking place in the restored Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of heaven, as the great Jubilee of the incarnation of Christ looms near.

To Our Lady, chosen daughter of the Father, I entrust all those in Assisi and elsewhere throughout the world who wish to receive today the Pardon of Assisi, in order to make of their hearts a dwelling-place and Tent for the Lord who is coming.

To all, my blessing.

Given at Castel Gandolfo, 1 August 1999, in the 21st year of my Pontificate.




Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

Friday, 6 August 1999

Today, the Eucharist which we are preparing to celebrate takes us in spirit to Mount Tabor together with the Apostles Peter, James and John, to admire in rapture the splendour of the transfigured Lord. In the event of the Transfiguration we contemplate the mysterious encounter between history, which is being built every day, and the blessed inheritance that awaits us in heaven in full union with Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

We, pilgrims on earth, are granted to rejoice in the company of the transfigured Lord when we immerse ourselves in the things of above through prayer and the celebration of the divine mysteries. But, like the disciples, we too must descend from Tabor into daily life where human events challenge our faith. On the mountain we saw; on the paths of life we are asked tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel which illuminates the steps of believers.

This deep spiritual conviction guided the whole ecclesial mission of my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, who returned to the Father's house precisely on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 21 years ago now. In the reflection he had planned to give at the Angelus on that day, 6 August 1978, he said: "The Transfiguration of the Lord, recalled by the liturgy of today's solemnity throws a dazzling light on our daily life, and makes us turn our mind to the immortal destiny which that fact foreshadows".

Yes! Paul VI reminds us: we are made for eternity and eternity begins at this very moment, since the Lord is among us and lives with and in his Church.

As we commemorate my unforgettable Predecessor in the see of Peter with deep emotion, let us pray that every Christian will know how to draw courage and constancy from contemplating Christ, who "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature" (He 1,3), in order to proclaim and witness faithfully through his words and works.

May Mary, our tender and caring Mother, help us to be bright rays of the saving light of her Son Jesus.



8 August 1999

Dear Young People of Europe,

A very affectionate greeting to all young Europeans!

1. I address you who have gathered here in Santiago de Compostela for the European Youth Meeting at the tomb of the first Apostle who gave his life as a witness to the Lord. I greet you from Rome and express my great trust in you and my joy in this meeting, which I join in spirit as a pilgrim of faith. For days or weeks, on foot or in various ways, you have traveled the 'Way to Santiago', setting out from the different cities and countries of our beloved old continent. You represent the youth of all Europe: Mediterranean, Central and Northern, Anglo-Saxon and Slav Europe. You are the European youth who, motivated by faith in Jesus Christ, have set out in this Holy Year of Compostela, the gate to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

2. Dear young people, the Church looks to you with hope; she counts on you. You are the generation called to transmit the gift of faith to the new millennium. Do not fail Christ who, full of love, calls you to follow him and sends you out like the Apostle James to the ends of the earth. Take in your hands the pilgrim's staff - which is the word of God - and travel the roads of Europe, announcing with courage the Good News of Christ, the perfect Man, the new Man who reveals to the men and women of all times their greatness and dignity as children of God. This is the best service you can give society today: to offer the Gospel of Christ, incarnated in your life with all its radical newness. A newness that can win over the hearts of the young with its beauty, goodness and truth.

3. Young people of Europe: Let yourselves be renewed by Christ! The new evangelization - of which you must be protagonists - begins in oneself, through the conversion of the heart to Christ. Live in intimacy with him; discover the riches of his person and his mystery in prayer; turn to him when you are in need of the grace of forgiveness; seek him in the Eucharist, the source of life; serve him in the poor and needy who await his beneficial coming. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. The kingdom of heaven is for those who are determined to enter it (cf. Lk Lc 16,16 Mt 11,12). As I said 10 years ago here on this Mountain of Joy: Do not be afraid to be holy! Have the courage and humility to present yourselves to the world determined to be holy, since full, true freedom is born from holiness. This aspiration will help you discover genuine love, untainted by selfish and alienating permissiveness; it will make you grow in humanity through study and work; it will open you to a possible vocation to the total gift of self in the priesthood or the consecrated life; it will transform you from being 'slaves' of power, pleasure, money or a career, to being free young persons, 'masters' of your own life, ever ready to serve your needy brothers and sisters in the image of Christ the servant, to bear witness to the Gospel of love.

4. I entrust the spiritual fruits of the Jubilee Year of Compostela and of this European Youth Meeting to the Virgin Mary who, in the Gate of Glory of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, is portrayed with an expressive gesture, accepting the divine will. She who according to a pious tradition gave great support to the Apostle James, is now called as the Star of the new millennium to guide the evangelizing steps of the Lord's new apostles as they build a united and peace-loving Europe, faithful to its Christian roots and the authentic values which made its history glorious and its presence beneficial on other continents; a Europe still capable of being a beacon of civilization and of encouraging world progress.

5. Before ending this Message, I would also like to greet the Bishops, the beloved priests and men and women religious, and all those who work with them in the pastoral care of young people.

I invoke the 'great pardon' of God the Father, rich in mercy, upon all of you, pilgrims of Compostela, and as I entrust you to the powerful protection of St James, with deep affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.




To Archbishop …tienne NguyÍn Nhu ThÍ of HuÍ, ViÍt Nam

1. On the occasion of the closure of the Marian Year and the 25th three-yearly pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, I join through prayer the Vietnamese faithful and pilgrims who have entrusted themselves to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, asking this most holy Mother to guide the Catholic Church in ViÍt Nam on her journey to the Lord, and to help her in the witness she must bear on the threshold of the third millennium.

"For 2,000 years, the Church has been the cradle in which Mary places Jesus and entrusts him to the adoration and contemplation of all peoples" (Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Incarnationis mysterium, n. 11), who never tire of calling upon the Mother of all mercy. People always find shelter and courage under her protection. In fact, Mary "shines forth on earth ... a sign of certain hope and comfort to the pilgrim People of God" (Lumen gentium, LG 68) in the midst of the difficulties of this world. She is the mother of the pilgrim Church to which she continues to give birth, constantly inviting people to accept GodĶs promise as she did and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be Gospel missionaries.

2. By enrolling in her school, especially on the threshold of the Great Jubilee, when they will be called to an ever deeper conversion, the faithful will assert their faith, be more attentive to the Word of God and will be available for their brothers and sisters. For all ChristĶs disciples, Mary is the model par excellence of Christian life. She prepares our hearts to receive Christ, instructing us, just as she did the servants at the wedding at Cana, to do whatever he tells us (cf. Jn Jn 2,5). She invites us to reach out to those who need our help, as she herself did with her cousin Elizabeth (cf. Lc 1,39-45). Thus from our beloved Mother we receive a "taste" of the encounter with God and the mission among our brethren, which are the two aspects of Christian love.

When we turn to Mary our hope is revived. Indeed, she is a part of our humanity, and in her we contemplate the glory God promises to those who respond to his call. I therefore invite the faithful to put their trust in our common Mother, often invoked under the title Star of the Sea, so that, amid the storms of sin and the sometimes painful events of history, they will remain firmly anchored to Christ and bear witness to his love. "Following her, you will never lose your way; imploring her, you will never know despair; thinking of her, you will avoid all errors. With her support, you will not fall; with her protection, you will have nothing to fear; under her guidance, you will never be tired; thanks to her favour, you will reach the goal" (St Bernard, Second Homily on the Gospel passage: "The Angel Gabriel was sent").

3. In going to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, so dear to the hearts of the Vietnamese faithful, pilgrims entrust to her their joys and their sorrows, their hopes and their sufferings. In this way they turn to God and make themselves intercessors for their families and for their entire people asking the Lord to instil sentiments of peace, brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of all men and women, so that all the Vietnamese will be every day more closely united, in order to build a world in which it is pleasant to live, based on the essential spiritual and moral values and where each person can be recognized in his dignity as a child of God, and turn freely and with filial love to his Father in heaven who is "rich in mercy" (Ep 2,4).

4. I am particularly close to you in my thoughts at this time when the Church in your country is honouring the Mother of the Saviour; I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady of La Vang and cordially impart to you and all your pastors an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the pilgrims who will visit the shrine in the spirit of the Jubilee and to all the Catholic faithful in ViÍt Nam.

Speeches 1999