1. With notable care, Your Eminence, this year you have again been responsible for organizing the usual course on the internal forum for seminarians soon to be ordained and for recently ordained priests, while extending a cordial invitation to older priests with ministerial experience.
I would like to express to you my satisfaction with this initiative, which is particularly significant in the Jubilee Year, for it is the year of great return and great pardon; as I noted in the Bull of Indiction Incarnationis mysterium, the sacrament of Penance has a primary role in this outpouring of divine mercy. The internal forum, moreover, is concerned with this sacrament and, in general, with matters of conscience that are ordinarily disclosed with trust to the Church in connection with the sacrament of Penance.
I gladly take this occasion to express my appreciation also to the prelates and officials of the Apostolic Penitentiary, whose valuable work is institutionally concerned with matters relating to the internal forum. I next extend my grateful esteem to the confessors of Rome's Patriarchal Basilicas, who live their priesthood in a continual commitment to the ministry of Reconciliation through a mission that is emphasized and heightened in this Holy Year. Lastly, I extend a particularly affectionate greeting to the young priests and candidates for the priesthood who are taking advantage of the Apostolic Penitentiary's timely initiative and are preparing in these days for the fruitful accomplishment of their future mission.
2. It is my intention that the gratitude and exhortation expressed here should reach all the priests of the world, to encourage and support them in their work dedicated to the salvation of their brothers and sisters through the ministry of confession, one of the most significant expressions of their priesthood.
Our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed us through the paschal mystery, whose heart, so to speak, is the moment of his bloody sacrifice. The priest, as the minister of forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance, acts in persona Christi: how could he not feel obliged to share Christ's sacrificial attitude with his whole life? This perspective, while firmly maintaining the value of the sacraments ex opere operato - regardless, that is, of the minister's holiness or worthiness - opens before him an immense ascetic wealth and offers him the loftiest reasons why he should be holy precisely in and through the exercise of his sacramental duties and find incentives and occasions for further sanctification in the very exercise of his ministry. The divine work of forgiving sins should thus be done with dispositions so elevated that one could say that this sublime ministry is carried out digne Deo, insofar as human limitations allow. This will certainly increase the trust of the faithful. The proclamation of the truth, especially in the moral-spiritual order, is all the more credible when the one who proclaims it is not only an academic teacher but, above all, an existential witness.
Consideration of the essentially sacrificial nature of the sacrament cannot fail to give the penitents themselves a demanding incentive to respond to the Lord's mercy with a holiness of life that unites them ever more closely to the One who became a Victim for our salvation.
3. If the paschal mystery is the reality of death - the sacrificial aspect -, it was ordained by God only for the life of the Resurrection. The sacrament of Penitence - a conformation to the dead and risen Jesus - also entails the restoration of the supernatural life of grace, or its increase in the case of venial sins. Therefore, the mystery of this sacrament can be fully understood only in relation to the parable of the Prodigal Son: "It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found" (Lc 15,32).
4. The sacramental minister of Penance is the teacher, the witness and, with the Father, the father of divine life restored and offered in its fullness. His teaching authority is the Church's, because, when acting in persona Christi, he does not proclaim himself, but Jesus Christ: "For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2Co 4,5).
His witness is entrusted to the humility of virtues practised but not paraded: "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you.... When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret" (Mt 6,2). In giving the life of grace, he fulfils Jesus' command to the Apostles on their first mission: "You received without pay, give without pay" (Mt 10,8).
5. In sacramental Reconciliation God's forgiveness is the source of spiritual rebirth and the effective principle of sanctification, to the very summit of Christian perfection.
If the sacrament of Reconciliation is received by the repentant sinner under the proper conditions, it not only gives him God's forgiveness, but also, through the Father's merciful love, special graces that help him to overcome temptations, to avoid repeating the sins he has repented of and, to some extent, to have a personal experience of that forgiveness. In this sense, there is a close connection between the sacrament of Penance and that of the Eucharist, in which, by recalling Jesus' Passion, "mens impletur gratia et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur".
Practically speaking, in fidelity to God's saving plan, as he in fact wished to fulfil it, "we must overcome the rather widespread tendency to reject any salvific mediation and to put the individual sinner in direct contact with God" (Audience to the Portuguese Bishops on an "ad limina" visit, 30 November 1999, n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 December 1999, p. 9).
Thus, "may one of the fruits of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 be the general return of the Christian faithful to the sacramental practice of Confession" (ibid.).
6. The merciful love of God, who invites us to return and is ready to forgive, knows no limits of time or place. Through the ministry of the Church, not only for Jerusalem, as Zechariah prophesied, but for the whole world there is always "an open fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness" (13: 1), pouring out upon all "a spirit of grace and petition" (12: 10).
The love of God, although not restricted in time and space, shines forth in a most special way during the Jubilee Year: to the essential gift of the restoration of grace, ordinarily given through the sacrament of Penance, and to the consequent remission of infernal punishment, the Lord, dives in misericordia, also adds, through the Church's ministry, the remission of temporal punishment by the gift of indulgences, obviously if gained with the proper dispositions of holiness or at least of striving for holiness. Indulgences, therefore, "far from being a sort of "discount' on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment" (General Audience, 29 September 1999, n. 5; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 6 October 1999, p. 15). A plenary indulgence, in fact, requires complete detachment from sin and reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist in hierarchical communion with the Church, expressed through prayer for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff.
7. I strongly urge priests to teach the faithful, with appropriate and intensive catechesis, to take advantage of the great good of indulgences according to the mind and heart of the Church. In particular, priest confessors could very usefully assign indulgenced practices to their penitents as sacramental penance, provided that the criteria of due proportion to the sins confessed are always observed.
If for no other reason than the ministry of forgiveness entrusted to him by the Lord, the priest's mission deserves to be lived in its fullness: the salvation of his brothers and sisters cannot fail to be a source of profound spiritual joy for him.
With this certainty, I raise my prayer to the merciful Lord for all the members of the Apostolic Penitentiary and for the young men preparing for their future priesthood, that he will grant them total generosity in offering themselves for the service of souls in the intimacy of the penitential dialogue, for it is especially then that the priest is "God's co-worker" in constructing "God's building" (cf. 1Co 3,9).
As a pledge of abundant heavenly favours, I send a special Apostolic Blessing to Your Eminence, to your collaborators, to the father confessors and to everyone attending the course on the internal forum.
From the Vatican, 1 April 2000.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am happy to have this opportunity to welcome you to the Vatican on the occasion of your International Congress. I thank Professor Cosmi for his kind words on your behalf, and I assure you of the interest with which the Holy See follows developments in your field of competence.
Let me first say how pleased I am with the Convention theme: "Fetus as a Patient".With its focus upon the fetus as the subject of medical intervention and therapy, your Congress considers the fetus in its full human dignity, a dignity which the unborn child possesses from the moment of conception.
2. In recent decades, when the sense of the humanity of the fetus has been undermined or distorted by reductive understandings of the human person and by laws which introduce scientifically unfounded qualitative stages in the development of conceived life, the Church has repeatedly affirmed and defended the human dignity of the fetus. By this we mean that "the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life" (Instruction Donum Vitae, 79; cf. Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, 60).
3. The fetal therapies now emerging in the medical, surgical and genetic fields offer new hope of saving the lives of those suffering from pathologies which are either incurable or very difficult to treat after birth. They thus confirm the teaching which the Church has upheld on the basis of both philosophy and theology. Faith in fact does not diminish the value and validity of reason; on the contrary, faith sustains and illuminates reason, especially when human weakness or negative psycho-social influences lessen its perspicacity.
In your work therefore, which should always be based upon scientific and ethical truth, you are called upon to reflect seriously on certain proposals and practices emerging in the technologies of artificial procreation. In my Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, I noted that the various techniques of artificial reproduction, apparently at the service of life, actually open the door to new attacks on life. Apart from the fact that they are morally unacceptable, since they separate procreation from the fully human context of the conjugal act, these techniques have a high rate of failure. And not just failure in relation to fertilization, but failure affecting the subsequent development of the embryo, which is exposed to the risk of death, generally within a very short space of time (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 14).
4. A case of special moral gravity, often deriving from these illicit procedures, is so-called "embryonic reduction", or the elimination of some fetuses when multiple conceptions take place at the one time. Such a procedure is gravely illicit when multiple conceptions occur in the normal course of marital relations, but it is doubly reprehensible when they are the result of artificial procreation.
Those who resort to artificial methods must be held responsible for illicit conception, but whatever the mode of conception – once it happens – the child conceived must be absolutely respected. The life of the fetus must be protected, defended and nurtured in the mother’s womb because of its inherent dignity, a dignity which belongs to the embryo and is not something conferred or granted by others, whether the genetic parents, the medical personnel or the State.
5. Distinguished guests, you are specialists in accompanying the wondrous and delicate beginnings of human life in the mother’s womb. Therefore, you know best how Catholic moral teaching strengthens and supports a natural ethic, based upon respect for the inviolability of every human life. Catholic moral teaching sheds a guiding light on questions connected with the delicate process of life’s dawning, so full of hope and rich in promise for later life, and a field now ripe for the marvelous discoveries of medical science. I trust that your work will always be inspired by a clear recognition of the dignity proper to every human being, each of whom is an incomparable gift of the creative love of God.
Today I wish to pay tribute to your scientific discoveries and the ways in which you apply them to protecting the life and health of the unborn child. I invoke upon you and your work the unfailing help of Almighty God, and as a pledge of divine assistance I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
I extend a cordial welcome to all those present. I am pleased to be able to host such a distinguished group of men of science led by the Minister for Education. I thank the Rector Magnificent for his kind words to me. I greet the Pro-Rectors, the Deans of the Faculties and all the professors, members of the Senate of the Academy of Mining and Metallurgy who have come here.
We listened to the "laudatio", for which I thank Prof. Ryszard Tadeusiewicz. My merits in the field of science and technology are certainly not as grand as would appear from the professor's speech. It is true, however, that I have always been convinced that humanistic disciplines such as philosophy, theology, history and literary criticism, those closest to my heart, could not fully describe this complex being that is man, or fully express the reality in which he exists and which he himself creates, without recourse to the natural sciences and technology. For this reason, from the beginning of my contacts with the academic centres of Kraków, I have also tried, as far as possible, to include these fields among my interests. Many well-disposed and patient people have helped me - students, teachers and professors - who have even created their own particular milieu committed to a deeper reflection on man within the broad context of advances in modern physics, chemistry, biology or technology. These contacts did not cease when I was called to the See of Peter. Every so often we meet at Castel Gandolfo.
When on those occasions I listen to the reports and discussions of the scholars, a special wonder about the wisdom of the Creator is aroused in me: this Creator who inscribed in the cosmos numerous laws of nature that are at the basis of its stability and, at the same time, of its continuous development. On the other hand, a meeting of this kind with the sciences, following their successes and their new perspectives and challenges, allows us to see how man is open to the infinite. It seems that precisely in the area of the natural sciences we see more clearly how the development of research techniques and methodological apparatus always creates new possibilities of knowledge, new possibilities too for going beyond the limits of human reason.
In a certain sense this consideration calls man to give glory to the Creator, who not only left a sign of his own infinity in the world, but also enabled man - after making him in his own image and likeness - to delve more and more deeply into this infinity through rational knowledge of the world, until he meets the Infinite himself. As St Paul writes: "What can be known about God is plain ... because God has shown it.... Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (cf. Rom Rm 1,19-20). In this sense, the sciences serve men not only as a source of technological development and unceasing improvement of the conditions of life on earth. They can also become bearers of the truth about God, the instrument of his self-revelation to man.
I thank the whole Kraków Academy of Mining and Metallurgy for its kindness in awarding me the degree of "Doctor honoris causa". My wish for all the professors and all the students is that their ever deeper knowledge of the world will also bring them joyously closer to the goodness and wisdom of God. I pray that the scientific successes of those who work at the Academy will make its name famous in the world and serve the growth of industry and of the entire economy in our homeland.
I cordially bless everyone here and the whole community of the Kraków Academy of Mining and Metallurgy.
Dear Brothers of Christian Instruction of Ploërmel,
I am happy to welcome you as you meet in Rome for your General Chapter. In particular I greet Bro. José Antonio Obeso Vega, Superior General, who has just been re-elected for a new term. In this Jubilee Year your reflections on the theme "Rediscovering and Living the La Mennais Charism with Creative Fidelity" has special significance. Indeed, the Jubilee period prompts us to conversion of heart and to lifting the eyes of our faith to new horizons in proclaiming the kingdom of God (cf. Bull of Indiction Incarnationis mysterium, n. 2).
To see God and to see God in everything is the motto that inspired the whole life of the Ven. Jean-Marie de La Mennais, your founder with Fr Gabriel Deshayes, and which he left as an inspiration for your mission as educators of youth: God alone. Many young people are formed in your institutes, which have been marked by these words that sum up your spirituality so well and also continue to be a source of dynamism in their Christian life. Dear brothers, continue to be men of prayer and contemplation, souls thirsting for God alone. "Detach yourselves from nothing, in order to attach yourselves to everything" (Mémorial, 90), through renunciation, poverty and humility. Then in abandonment to Providence, you will be able to dedicate yourselves enthusiastically to your educational work and to be authentic teachers of life for young people. In a world marked by frailty and social and family difficulties, it is important to prepare the future by offering young people an integral formation that will enable them to discover spiritual, moral and human principles for building their personality and participating actively in society.
In the apostolic spirit which Fr de La Mennais has passed on to you and which has grown throughout your history, I warmly encourage you to give an ever more vigorous impetus to your institute's missionary commitment. Today too, the proclamation of the Gospel through education is more necessary than ever. In pursuing your efforts to form the young, especially in disadvantaged social situations or among the most needy, courageously show that "the preferential love for the poor finds a special application in the choice of means capable of freeing people from that grave form of poverty which is the lack of cultural and religious training" (Vita consecrata VC 97). In your generous work undertaken each day among young people, be teachers who are totally dedicated to the glory of God and the service of his kingdom!
Your way of living these commitments invites you to find in community life a place of sanctification and inspiration, to discern the Father's will together in a union of mind and heart, and to carry out his plans in fidelity to the founding charism. May your communities, with the lay co-workers who share in a particular way in the institute's spirituality and mission, boldly arouse Gospel responses to the great questions in the world of young people!
In the joy of the Jubilee, I entrust you to the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, and warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, which I extend to all the Brothers of Christian Instruction of Ploërmel and their co-workers, as well as to the young people who benefit from your educational service.
Mr Secretary General,
1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all on the occasion of the meeting in Rome of the Administrative Committee on Coordination of the United Nations system. Recognizing the work undertaken by your Committee for the good of peoples around the world, I pray that God will give you and all taking part in your meeting the gift of wise discernment in your deliberations. Thank you, Mr Secretary General, for your kind words of presentation, and I am certain that your recent “Millennium Report” will serve as an excellent framework for the Committee’s work during these days.
As that report makes clear, the millennium just ended has left in its wake a series of unusual challenges. These challenges are unusual not because they are new — there have always been wars, persecutions, poverty, disasters and epidemics — but because the world’s increasing interdependence has given them a global dimension, which requires new ways of thinking and new types of international cooperation if they are to be effectively met. At the dawn of the new millennium, humanity has the means to do this. The United Nations, in fact, and the large family of specialized organizations represented by you are the natural forum for developing such a mentality and strategy of international solidarity.
In the task of formulating this new perspective, the Administrative Committee on Coordination has a fundamental role to play. It brings together the most senior members of the different specialized agencies, under the direction of the Secretary General, for the express purpose of coordinating the various policies and programmes. This is why your Committee has concentrated its reflections and efforts on the implications of globalization for development, on the socio- economic causes of humanitarian crises and of the persistent conflicts in Africa and other parts of the world, and on the institutional capacity of the United Nations system to respond to new international challenges.
2. The unbounded expansion of world commerce and the amazing progress in the fields of technology, communications and information exchange are all part of a dynamic process that tends to abolish the distances separating peoples and continents. However, the ability to exercise influence in this new global setting is not the same for all nations, but is more or less tied to a country’s economic and technological capacity. The new situation is such that, in many cases, decisions with worldwide consequences are made only by a small, restricted group of nations. Other nations either manage — often with great effort — to bring these decisions into line with what is in the interest of their citizens or — as happens with the weakest countries — they try simply to adjust to these decisions as best they can, sometimes with negative consequences for their people. The majority of the world’s nations, therefore, are experiencing a weakening of the State in its capacity to serve the common good and promote social justice and harmony.
Moreover, the globalization of the economy is leading to a globalization of society and culture. In this context, Non-Governmental Organizations, representing a very broad spectrum of special interests, are becoming ever more important in international life. And perhaps one of the best results of their action so far is the awareness which they are creating of the need to move from an attitude of defence and promotion of particular and competing special interests to a holistic vision of development. A case in point is their increasing success in creating a keener awareness in industrialized countries of their shared responsibility for the problems facing less developed countries. The campaign to reduce or cancel the foreign debt of the poorest nations is another example, though not the only one, of a growing sense of international solidarity.
3. The growth of this new awareness in society presents the United Nations system with a unique opportunity to contribute to the globalization of solidarity by serving as a meeting place for States and civil society and as a convergence of the varied interests and needs — regional and particular — of the world at large. Cooperation between International Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations will help to ensure that the interests of States – legitimate though they may be – and of the different groups within them, will not be invoked or defended at the expense of the interests or rights of other peoples, especially the less fortunate. Political and economic activity conducted in a spirit of international solidarity can and ought to lead to the voluntary limitation of unilateral advantages so that other countries and peoples may share in the same benefits. In this way the social and economic well-being of everyone is served.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the challenge is to build a world in which individuals and peoples fully and unequivocally accept responsibility for their fellow human beings, for all the earth’s inhabitants. Your work can do much to empower the multilateral system to bring about such international solidarity. The premise of all this effort is the recognition of the dignity and centrality of every human being as an equal member of the human family and, for believers, as God’s equal children. The task then is to ensure the acceptance at every level of society of the logical consequences of our shared human dignity, and to guarantee respect for that dignity in every situation.
4. In this regard, I must express my deep concern when I see that certain groups try to impose on the international community ideological views or patterns of life advocated by small and particular segments of society. This is perhaps most obvious in such fields as the defence of life and the safeguarding of the family. The leaders of Nations must be careful not to overturn what the international community and law have laboriously developed to preserve the dignity of the human person and the cohesion of society. This is a common patrimony which no one has the right to dissipate.
Invoking divine guidance upon every effort and undertaking of your Committee in its mission of coordinating the activities of the United Nations system, I pray that your work will be thoroughly pervaded by a generous and ambitious spirit of global solidarity. God bless you, Mr Secretary General, and all who are gathered with you at this meeting!
1. Dear pilgrims, welcome! I receive you with great affection. I first greet you, dear faithful from the Diocese of Aversa and, in a special way, your Bishop Mario Milano, whom I thank for his kind words. I greet Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe, your fellow countryman and my close collaborator in all that concerns the Great Jubilee. I also greet the priests, the consecrated persons and all the lay faithful gathered here.
Your pilgrimage is, in some way, a reciprocation of the visit that I had the joy of making to your land almost 10 years ago. I still cherish a vivid memory of that visit. Then, addressing the various ecclesial members, I asked the priests to be convinced and enthusiastic about the mission entrusted to them. I reminded consecrated persons how the People of God need to recognize in them their convinced fidelity to the radical evangelizing vocation. I invited the laity to assume courageously their particular responsibilities in the Church. I gladly take up these exhortations again today, almost as a continuation of a dialogue that has never been interrupted during these years.
2. Dear brothers and sisters, continue on the path of Gospel fidelity, in the certainty that Christ, the Living One, is with you yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb He 13,8). It is he who is the solid rock on which the unshakeable faith of his every disciple must rest. It is he who is the door to salvation, which you must pass through during this pilgrimage. You will return to your homes strengthened in your faith and motivated by the desire to serve the Gospel cause even more generously, by walking with courage in the footsteps of your ancestors and enriching with your contribution the precious heritage received from them.
May the example of St Paul, titular of your cathedral and a tireless apostle and missionary, be an effective example for you in this progress. Follow his example, dear friends, and make his sentiments and his apostolic strength your own. Always be united among yourselves and with your Bishop.
3. I know of your intense pastoral activity in every field of evangelization. I also know of your praiseworthy efforts to be close to the weakest and most forgotten members of society, especially with regard to youth unemployment and the situation of less well-off families. Be witnesses to solidarity. The prophetic mission, typical of the Christian community, cannot fail to spur you to be effective heralds in your environment; the noble mission commits you therefore to prepare, as far as your capacity and means permit, initiatives that can alleviate the sufferings caused by phenomena such as marginalization, unequal wages and social hardship.
In particular, look to young people. May "a Church for the young and with the young" be your community's goal. This involves an enlightened pastoral plan that looks to the future. It will also help you to strengthen your pastoral care of vocations, which has been taking place in the Diocese for some time. I would like to recall, in this regard, that even in times of crisis, your Diocese has never been without priests and religious, and that many of them are currently in the service of the Holy See. Thank you for your generosity.
The family also rightly holds an important place in your pastoral programme because the first transmission of faith takes place in it; it is in the family that the values and noble traditions of your land are perpetuated, starting with the defence of life, that most precious gift of God, love and respect for the elderly, and peaceful collaboration between old and new generations.
4. Dear faithful of Aversa, I entrust you all to the Mother of Christ, whom you love profoundly, as shown by the miniature "House of Loreto", enshrined in your cathedral; the Shrine of Casapesenna, whose foundation stone I blessed 15 years ago; the icon of Our Lady of Casaluce, co-patroness of the Diocese, before which princes, kings and emperors have prayed; the Shrine of Our Lady of the Annunciation visited by distinguished figures such as King Ludwig of Hungary and Queen Maria Casimira of Poland, and the Church of Our Lady of Briano. May it be she who guides your steps in your fidelity to Christ and his Gospel.
5. I now extend a cordial greeting to the pilgrims from the Dioceses of Gorizia, Cesena and Ischia, here with their Bishops. Dear brothers and sisters, the image that your diocesan communities are called to offer is one of well-structured and harmonious unity. The Church's various members, in fact, form one body, united in the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the love of the Father, who revealed himself in Christ, Our Lord.
One deposit of truth, unfailing hope, sincere love: these are the characteristics that must mark the Church's presence in the world. May it be your constant concern to bear witness to your love for Christ and to proclaim his Gospel with your words and example. In this way, you will always be ready to account for the hope that is in you (cf. 1P 3,15).
6. I also greet the superiors and seminarians of the Pontifical Regional Seminary of Molfetta, the faithful of the parishes of the Deanery of Val d'Elsa, of the Diocese of Siena, and the members of the Archconfraternity of the Most Holy Trinity of Naples.
Dear friends, let yourselves be formed by Christ, so that your lives, enriched by his grace, will be fervent testimonies of his love for all mankind. In passing through the Holy Door of the Jubilee, draw from him the strength necessary to be his faithful disciples. Dear seminarians, dear faithful, may you always be aware of the call to holiness which God asks of each of you. May you know how to respond to his grace, to give full meaning to your existence.
7. Lastly, I greet you, dear members of the Capitoline Camper Club, and you, dear members of the Cooperative Credit Bank of Cascia di Regello in the province of Florence. May you always be filled with sentiments of charity, which is the fullness of Christian law. Moved by solidarity, you will be able to start beneficial initiatives for alleviating the many forms of poverty of today's society.
May God help each one of you and render fruitful your every effort in the service of good.
I cordially bless you all.