Speeches 2000 - Friday, 18 February 2000
4. In both these tasks the starting-point is always a gift from above. If artistic creation has need of "inspiration", the journey of the spirit has need of grace, which is the gift by which God communicates himself, surrounding our lives with his love, lighting our steps and knocking at our hearts until he can dwell in them and make them the temple of his holiness: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (Jn 14,23).
This dialogue with grace primarily involves the ethical level, but it touches all the dimensions of our lives and is particularly expressed in the exercise of artistic talent. God lets himself be glimpsed in your spirit through the fascination of beauty and your longing for it. Without doubt the artist has a special relationship to beauty, and it can be said that beauty is "the vocation bestowed on him by the Creator" (Letter to Artists, n. 3). If the artist can perceive a ray of the supreme beauty among the many manifestations of the beautiful, then art becomes a way to God and spurs the artist to combine his creative talent with his commitment to a life of ever greater conformity to the divine law. At times the encounter between the splendour of artistic achievement and the heaviness of one's heart can stir that salutary restlessness which makes one want to overcome mediocrity and to start a new life, generously open to the love of God and our brethren.
5. It is then that our humanity soars in an experience of freedom and, I would say, of the infinite, like the experience Michelangelo still inspires in us by his dome that both dominates and crowns this church. Viewed from the outside, it seems to outline the embrace of heaven over the community gathered in prayer, as if to symbolize God's love in drawing near to it. But when seen from the inside with its dizzying height, it suggests the fascination and effort required to rise to the full encounter with God.
Today's Jubilee celebration calls you, dear artists, precisely to rise in this way. It invites you to practise the wonderful "art" of holiness. If this should seem too difficult, may the thought that we are not alone on this journey give you comfort: grace also sustains us through that ecclesial companionship in which the Church becomes a mother to each of us, obtaining from her divine Bridegroom a superabundance of mercy and gifts. Is this not the meaning of the "mater Ecclesia" which Bernini powerfully depicted in the solemn embrace of the colonnade? Those majestic arms are always motherly arms reaching out to all humanity. Welcomed into them, every member of the Church can feel heartened on his pilgrim journey to our homeland.
Thus our reflection returns to its starting-point, to the splendour of the heavenly Jerusalem, for which we yearn as the pilgrim People of God.
I hope, dear artists, that you will always feel drawn by that splendour, and as a comfort to you in your efforts, I cordially give you my Blessing.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Deacons and your relatives,
1. It is a great joy for me to meet you at this significant Jubilee event. I greet Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, and his assistants who have organized these intense days of prayer and brotherhood. I greet the Cardinals and prelates gathered here. I especially greet you, dear permanent deacons, your families and everyone who has accompanied you on this pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles.
You have come to Rome to celebrate your Jubilee: I welcome you with affection! This is an excellent occasion to reflect on the meaning and value of your permanent and not transitory identity as those ordained not for the priesthood, but for the diaconate (cf. Second Vatican Council Lumen gentium LG 29). As ministers of God's People, you are called to work in liturgical service, in teaching and catechesis, and in the service of charity in communion with the Bishop and the presbyterate. And this extraordinary year of grace, which is the Jubilee, aims at helping you grasp even more radically the beauty of life in Christ. Life in the One who is the Holy Door!
2. In fact, the Jubilee is an important time for self-examination and inner purification, but also for recovering that missionary awareness inherent in the mystery of Christ and the Church. Whoever believes that Christ the Lord is the way, the truth and the life, whoever knows that the Church is his continuation in history, whoever has a personal experience of all this cannot fail, for this very reason, to become fervently missionary. Dear deacons, be active apostles of the new evangelization. Lead everyone to Christ! Through your efforts, may his kingdom also spread in your family, in your workplace, in the parish, in the Diocese, in the whole world!
This mission, at least in intention and zeal, must stir the hearts of sacred ministers and spur them to the total gift of themselves. Let nothing stop you, but persevere in fidelity to Christ, following the example of the deacon Laurence whose revered and celebrated relic you have wished to bring here for this occasion.
In our times too there are people whom God calls to the martyrdom of blood; far more numerous, however, are those believers who must endure the "martyrdom" of misunderstanding. Do not be upset by problems and conflicts but, on the contrary, have ever greater trust in Jesus who redeemed humanity through the martyrdom of the Cross.
3. Dear deacons, let us enter the new millennium with the whole Church, who urges her children to purify themelves, through repentance, of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency and slowness to act (cf. Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 33). The first to set the example must be the ordained ministers: Bishops, priests, deacons. This purification and this repentance are to be understood as referring especially to each one of us personally. Our consciences as sacred ministers working in this era are the first to be challenged.
Before the Holy Door we sense the need to "break away" from our selfish world, from our doubts, from our infidelities, and we hear the pressing invitation to "enter" the holy world of Jesus, which is the world of full fidelity to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The divine Teacher's words echo in our hearts: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11,28).
Dear deacons, perhaps some of you are tired because of the burden of your duties, because of frustration due to unsuccessful apostolic projects, because many misunderstand you. Do not lose heart! Throw yourselves into Christ's arms: he will refresh you. May this be your Jubilee: a pilgrimage of conversion to Jesus.
4. Faithful to Christ in all things, dear deacons, you will also be faithful to the various ministries the Church entrusts to you. How valuable is your service to the Word and to catechesis! And what can we say of the diakonia of the Eucharist, which brings you into direct contact with the altar of sacrifice in your liturgical service?
In addition, you rightly strive to live without separating your liturgical service from that of charity in its concrete forms. This shows that the sign of Gospel love cannot be reduced to categories of mere solidarity but follows as a logical consequence of the Eucharistic mystery.
By virtue of the sacramental bond that unites you with the Bishops and priests, you live ecclesial communio to the full. Although the diaconal brotherhood in your Diocese does not constitute a structural reality analogous to that of the priests, it spurs you to share the Pastors' concern. All the features of your specific spirituality, which is essentially a spirituality of service, clearly flow from your identity as deacons.
5. Dear friends, the Jubilee is an appropriate time to restore the original and authentic features of this identity and this spirituality, so that every apostolic energy can be interiorly renewed and mobilized.
Christ's question: "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lc 18,8) resounds with particular eloquence on this Jubilee occasion.
Faith must be passed on and communicated. It is also your task to share with the younger generation the one unchanging Gospel of salvation, so that the future will be filled with hope for everyone.
May the Blessed Virgin sustain you in this mission. I accompany you with my prayer, strengthened by a special Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to you, to your wives, to your children and to all the deacons who serve the Gospel in every part of the world.
With great pleasure I welcome to the Vatican the leaders of the World Christian Life Community, and in particular I greet your President, Mr José María Riera, the members of the Community’s Executive Committee and your Vice- Ecclesiastical Assistant, representing the Superior General of the Society of Jesus. You have wished to come here today so that during this Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 you might publicly proclaim your intention that Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary, should be the very centre of the apostolic life of your entire Community.
Yours is the long and rich tradition of the Marian Congregations, which trace their origins back to the sixteenth century, to the initiative of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and his companions. Down the centuries, Popes have supported and encouraged the apostolate of the Congregations, also through the publication of pontifical documents. In 1968, the Marian Congregations, united in a World Federation, asked Pope Paul VI to approve the new General Principles and Statutes of the Federation, and in 1971 the name of the Congregations was changed to “World Federation of Christian Life Communities”. More recently, in 1990, with the Apostolic See’s approval of the revised General Principles and Norms, you became the “World Christian Life Community”. Despite these changes in name and structure, the Community remains faithful to the common spiritual roots it shares with the Society of Jesus, and faithful to the Ignatian tradition which it has inherited.
You are now present in fifty-eight countries throughout the world as a united community of lay men and women bearing witness to Jesus Christ and working to build up his Kingdom. You draw inspiration and strength for this task from the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. The emphasis which you place on a thorough and complete Christian formation is of particular benefit in helping you to fulfil your apostolate. As members of the laity, you are called to be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ in all spheres of life: in your families, in your professional lives, in the worlds of politics and culture, in the local Church communities to which each of you belongs. And I am pleased to learn that, as leaders of the Christian Life Community, you have asked your individual groups to cooperate more closely during this Jubilee Year with their local Pastors and to strengthen the bonds of union with the Diocesan Bishops.
In obedience to the “power of God for salvation” (Rm 1,16), you endeavour to carry into the heart of human culture the teachings of the Church which enlighten and guide the quest for a more just and fraternal society. You are particularly sensitive to the need to bring the Gospel to bear on all human realities, for “the Good News of Christ constantly renews the life and culture of fallen man . . . never ceasing to purify and elevate the morality of peoples” (Gaudium et Spes GS 58). The ability to fulfil this challenging apostolate comes from your daily efforts to be conformed to Christ, living in his grace and having in yourselves the same attitudes as Christ (cf. Phil Ph 2,5). Through faithful adherence to these lofty goals your own lives of faith will be enriched and your witness to Jesus Christ in modern society will bear abundant fruit in the life of the Church.
I invite you to keep before your eyes your history and tradition, especially as embodied in the former Marian Congregations from which the present World Christian Life Community draws its spiritual inspiration. Renew your trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Mother. Her example of faith and prayer will lead you to ever higher levels of generous service of the Church and society. She is the most eloquent example of obedience to the Lord and acceptance of his will; with her as your model, Jesus will most certainly be at the centre of your lives and apostolate. Invoking upon all the members of the World Christian Life Community the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 21 February 2000.
1. I am pleased to greet you on the occasion of the Sixth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. I thank your President, Professor Edmond Malinvaud, and all of you, the Academy members, for your dedication and commitment to the work which you undertake for the good of the Church and of the human family.
As you are well aware, the Church’s social doctrine is meant to be a vehicle through which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is brought to bear on the different cultural, economic and political situations facing modern men and women. It is in this precise context that the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences makes a most important contribution: as experts in the various social disciplines and as followers of the Lord Jesus you enter into that dialogue between Christian faith and scientific methodology which seeks true and effective responses to the problems and difficulties which beset the human family. As my predecessor Pope Paul VI said, “all social action involves a doctrine” (Populorum Progressio PP 39), and the Academy helps to ensure that social doctrines do not ignore the spiritual nature of human beings, their deep longing for happiness and their supernatural destiny which transcends the merely biological and material aspects of life. The Church’s task — her right and her duty — is to enunciate the basic ethical principles governing the foundation and proper functioning of society, within which men and women make their pilgrim way to their transcendent destiny.
2. The theme chosen for the Academy’s Sixth Plenary Session, “Democracy — Reality and Responsibility”, represents a most important topic for the new millennium. While it is true that the Church offers no concrete model of government or economic system (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 43), she “values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility both of electing and holding accountable those who govern them, and of replacing them through peaceful means when appropriate” (ibid., 46).
At the dawning of the Third Millennium, a serious question confronts democracy. There is a tendency to see intellectual relativism as the necessary corollary of democratic forms of political life. In such a view, truth is determined by the majority and varies in accordance with passing cultural and political trends. From this point of view, those who are convinced that certain truths are absolute and immutable are considered unreasonable and unreliable. On the other hand, as Christians we firmly believe that “if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism” (Centesimus Annus CA 46).
Thus, it is important that Christians be helped to show that the defence of universal and unchanging moral norms is a service rendered not only to individuals but also to society as a whole: such norms “represent the unshakable foundation and solid guarantee of a just and peaceful human coexistence, and hence of genuine democracy” (Veritatis Splendor VS 96). In fact, democracy itself is a means and not an end, and “the value of a democracy stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes” (Evangelium Vitae EV 70). These values cannot be based on changeable opinion but only on the acknowledgment of an objective moral law, which ever remains the necessary point of reference.
3. At the same time the Church refuses to espouse that extremism or fundamentalism which, in the name of an ideology purporting to be scientific or religious, claims the right to impose on others its own concept of what is right and good. Christian truth is not an ideology. Rather it recognizes that changing social and political realities cannot be confined within rigid structures. What the Church does is constantly to reaffirm the transcendent dignity of the human person, and constantly to defend human rights and freedom. The freedom which the Church promotes attains its fullest development and expression only in openness to and acceptance of the truth. “In a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation and man is exposed to the violence of passion and to manipulation, both open and hidden” (Centesimus Annus CA 46).
4. There is no doubt that the new millennium will see the continuation of the phenomenon of globalization, that process by which the world moves ever closer to becoming a homogeneous whole. In this context it is important to remember that the “health” of a political community can be gauged in no small way by the free and responsible participation of all citizens in public affairs. In fact, such participation is a “necessary condition and sure guarantee of the development of the whole individual and of all people” (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 44). In other words, smaller social units — whether nations themselves, communities, ethnic or religious groups, families or individuals — must not be namelessly absorbed into a greater conglomeration, thus losing their identity and having their prerogatives usurped. Rather, the proper autonomy of each social class and organization, each in its own sphere, must be defended and upheld. This is nothing other than the principle of subsidiarity, which requires that a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its rightful functions; instead the higher order should support the lower order and help it to coordinate its activity with that of the rest of society, always with a view to serving the common good (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 48). Public opinion needs to be educated in the importance of the principle of subsidiarity for the survival of a truly democratic society.
The global challenges that the human family faces in the new millennium also serve to highlight another dimension of the Church’s social doctrine: its place in ecumenical and interreligious cooperation. The century just past has seen enormous progress in multilateral initiatives to defend human dignity and promote peace. The era upon which we are now embarking must see a continuation of such efforts: without the concerted and united action of all believers — indeed of all men and women of good will — little can be accomplished to make genuine democracy, value-based democracy, a reality for the men and women of the twenty-first century.
5. Distinguished and dear academicians, I express once more my appreciation of the valuable service which you render in bringing Christian enlightenment to those areas of modern social life where confusion about essentials often obscures and suffocates the lofty ideals planted in the human heart. With prayers for the success of your meeting I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to your families and your loved ones.
From the Vatican, 23 February 2000.
Your Holiness Pope Shenouda,
Your Beatitude Patriarch Stephanos,
Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi,
Dear People of Egypt,
As-salámu 'aláikum – Peace be with you!
1. For many years I have been looking forward to celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ by visiting and praying at the places specially linked to God’s interventions in history. My Jubilee pilgrimage brings me today to Egypt. Thank you, Mr President, for making it possible for me to come here and to go to where God revealed his name to Moses and gave his Law as a sign of his great mercy and kindness towards his creatures. I greatly appreciate your kind words of welcome.
This is the land of a five thousand-year-old civilization known throughout the world for its monuments and for its knowledge of mathematics and astronomy. This is the land where different cultures met and mingled, making Egypt famous for its wisdom and learning.
2. In Christian times, the City of Alexandria – where the Church was established by the disciple of Peter and Paul, the Evangelist Mark – nurtured renowned ecclesiastical writers like Clement and Origen, and great Fathers of the Church such as Athanasius and Cyril. The fame of Saint Catherine of Alexandria lives on in Christian devotion and in the name of many churches in all parts of the world. Egypt, with Saints Anthony and Pachomius, was the birthplace of monasticism, which has played an essential part in preserving the spiritual and cultural traditions of the Church.
The advent of Islam brought splendours of art and learning which have had a determining influence on the Arab world and on Africa. The people of Egypt have for centuries pursued the ideal of national unity. Differences of religion were never barriers, but a form of mutual enrichment in the service of the one national community. I well remember the words of Pope Shenouda III: “Egypt is not the native land in which we live, but the native land which lives in us”.
3. The unity and harmony of the nation are a precious value which all citizens should cherish, and which political and religious leaders must continually promote in justice and respect for the rights of all. Mr President, your own commitment to peace at home and throughout the Middle East is well known. You have been instrumental in advancing the peace process in the region. All reasonable men and women appreciate the efforts made so far, and hope that goodwill and justice will prevail, so that all the peoples of this unique area of the world will see their rights respected and their legitimate aspirations fulfilled.
My visit to Saint Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai will be a moment of intense prayer for peace and for interreligious harmony. To do harm, to promote violence and conflict in the name of religion is a terrible contradiction and a great offence against God. But past and present history give us many examples of such a misuse of religion. We must all work to strengthen the growing commitment to interreligious dialogue, a great sign of hope for the peoples of the world.
As-salámu 'aláikum – Peace be with you!
This is my greeting to you all. This is the prayer I offer up for Egypt and all her people.
May the Most High God bless your land with harmony, peace and prosperity.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!” (2Co 13,14).
Your Holiness Pope Shenouda,
Your Beatitude Patriarch Stephanos,
Distinguished Representative of His Holiness Petros,
Bishops and Dignitaries of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities of Egypt,
1. With the blessing of Saint Paul, which leads us directly to the heart of the mystery of Trinitarian communion, I greet all of you with deep affection and in the bonds of love which unite us in the Lord.
It is for me a great joy to be a pilgrim in the country which gave hospitality and protection to our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Family; as it is written in the Gospel of Saint Matthew: “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, 'Out of Egypt have I called my son'” (Mt 2,14-15).
Egypt has been home to the Church from the beginning. Founded upon the apostolic preaching and authority of Saint Mark, the Church of Alexandria soon became one of the leading communities in the early Christian world. Venerable bishops like Saint Athanasius and Saint Cyril bore witness to faith in the Triune God and in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, as defined by the first Ecumenical Councils. It was in the desert of Egypt that monastic life originated, in both its solitary and communal forms, under the spiritual fatherhood of Saint Anthony and Saint Pachomius. Thanks to them and to the great impact of their spiritual writings, monastic life became part of our common heritage. During recent decades that same monastic charism has flourished anew, and it irradiates a vital spiritual message far beyond the borders of Egypt.
2. Today we give thanks to God that we are ever more aware of our common heritage, in faith and in the richness of sacramental life. We also have in common that filial veneration of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, for which the Coptic and all the Eastern Churches are renowned. And “when we speak about a common heritage, we must acknowledge as part of it, not only the institutions, rites, means of salvation and the traditions which all the communities have preserved and by which they have been shaped, but first and foremost this reality of holiness” (Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, 84). For faithfully guarding and preaching this heritage, the Church in Egypt has undergone heavy sacrifices and continues to do so. How many martyrs appear in the venerable Martyrology of the Coptic Church, which dates back to the terrible persecutions of the years 283-284! They gave glory to God in Egypt, through their unfaltering witness unto death!
3. From the beginning, this common apostolic tradition and heritage has been transmitted and explained in various forms which take account of the specific cultural character of peoples. As far back as the fifth century however, theological and non-theological factors, combined with a lack of fraternal love and understanding, led to painful divisions in the one Church of Christ. Mistrust and hostility arose between Christians, in contradiction with the fervent desire of our Lord Jesus Christ who prayed “that they may all be one” (Jn 17,21).
Now, in the course of the twentieth century, the Holy Spirit has brought the Christian Churches and communities closer together in a movement of reconciliation. I recall with gratitude the meeting between Pope Paul VI and His Holiness Pope Shenouda III in 1973, and the Common Christological Declaration which they signed on that occasion. I give thanks for all those who contributed to that important achievement, especially the Pro Oriente Foundation in Vienna and the International Joint Commission between the Roman Catholic and the Coptic Orthodox Church. Please God, this International Joint Commission, and the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Church will soon function normally once more, especially in view of certain fundamental ecclesiological questions needing clarification.
4. I repeat what I wrote in my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, that whatever relates to the unity of all Christian communities clearly forms part of the concerns of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome (cf. No. 95). I therefore wish to renew the invitation to all “Church leaders and their theologians to engage with me in a patient and fraternal dialogue on this subject, a dialogue in which, leaving useless controversies behind, we could listen to one another, keeping before us only the will of Christ for his Church” (No. 96). With regard to the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, I ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek together the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned (cf. Homily, 6 December 1987, 3; Ut Unum Sint UUS 95). Dear Brothers, there is no time to lose in this regard!
5. Our communion in the one Lord Jesus Christ, in the one Holy Spirit and in one baptism already represents a deep and fundamental reality. This communion enables us to bear common witness to our faith in a whole range of ways, and indeed it demands that we cooperate in bringing the light of Christ to a world in need of salvation. This common witness is all the more important at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium which present enormous challenges to the human family. For this reason too, there is no time to lose!
As a basic condition for this common witness, we must avoid anything which might lead, once again, to distrust and discord. We have agreed to avoid any form of proselytism, or methods and attitudes opposed to the exigencies of Christian love and what should characterize the relationship between Churches (cf. Common Declaration of Pope Paul VI and Pope Shenouda III, 1973). And we recall that true charity, rooted in total fidelity to the one Lord Jesus Christ and in mutual respect for each one's ecclesial traditions and sacramental practices, is an essential element of this search for perfect communion (ibid.).
We do not know each other sufficiently: let us therefore find ways to meet! Let us seek viable forms of spiritual communion, such as joint prayer and fasting, or mutual exchanges and hospitality between monasteries. Let us find forms of practical cooperation, especially in response to the spiritual thirst of so many people today, for the relief of their distress, in the education of the young, in securing humane conditions of life, in promoting mutual respect, justice and peace, and in advancing religious freedom as a fundamental human right.
6. At the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, on 18th January, I opened the Holy Door of the Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls and crossed its threshold together with representatives of many Churches and Ecclesial Communities. Together with me, His Excellency Amba Bishoi of the Coptic Church, and representatives of the Orthodox Church and of the Lutheran Church raised the Book of the Gospels to the four cardinal points. This was a deeply symbolic expression of our common mission in the new millennium: together we have to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the saving message of life, love and hope for the world.
During that same liturgy, the Apostles Creed was proclaimed by three representatives of different Churches and Ecclesial Communities – the first part was proclaimed by the representative of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. Afterwards, we offered one another the sign of peace, and for me that joyful moment was a foreshadowing and a foretaste of the full communion which we are striving to achieve among all Christ’s followers. May the Spirit of God soon grant us the complete and visible unity for which we yearn!
7. I entrust this hope to the powerful intercession of the Theotokos, the Archetype of the Church. She is the all pure, all beautiful, all holy creature, able to “be the Church” as no other creature can ever be. Sustained by her maternal presence, we shall have the courage to admit our faults and hesitations, and seek the reconciliation which will enable us to “walk in love, as Christ loved us” (cf. Eph Ep 5,2). Venerable Brothers, may the third Christian millennium be the millennium of our full unity in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Speeches 2000 - Friday, 18 February 2000