Speeches 2000 - Thursday, 8 June 2000



Thursday 8 June 2000

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for this special concert which the Republic of Austria has wished to offer me for the Great Jubilee. It is a moment of great spiritual significance, which is part of the already rich artistic programme for the Holy Year 2000.

I am particularly grateful to Mr Strasser, the Republic of Austria's Interior Minister, whom I thank for coming here. I also greet the Cardinals, my Brother Bishops, the representatives of public life and the institutions, as well as the organizers who made this performance possible through their collaboration. I express my grateful appreciation to Maestro Riccardo Muti, who interpreted the full depth of the Mass in B Minor score with elegance and extraordinary sensitivity. This is also true of the soloists, the professors of the Vienna Philharmonic and the members of the Arnold Schönberg Chorus.

2. Through this splendid performance of the "Great Mass" by Johann Sebastian Bach, we were able to meditate with spiritual enjoyment on the Latin texts of the Eucharistic liturgy presented once again through the mysterious and universal language of music. Once again we could experience that artistic beauty offers privileged access to the Mystery and to the satisfaction of the interior need for light and peace.

I hope that revisiting the heritage left to us by past generations will encourage a new season of artistic creations which, by opening the minds and hearts of the people of the new millennium to the "Beautiful" and the "True", will help them to rediscover the greatness and dignity of their human vocation.

I entrust my wishes to God's fatherly Providence, as I affectionately impart my Blessing to each and every one.




Friday, 9 June 2000

Dear Brothers,
Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to receive you as you gather for your 43rd General Chapter and as your religious family celebrates the centenary of the canonization of St John Baptist de La Salle, as well as the 50th anniversary of his proclamation by Pope Pius XII as the special patron of all teachers of children and youth.

These various anniversaries are a particularly favourable opportunity for you to give renewed vitality to your various educational and evangelizing missions in accordance with your founder's charism, despite your diminishing numbers. I am especially pleased with your institute's willingness to respond, in close communion with the local Churches, to the new appeals of children and young people, especially of the very poor throughout the world who need to receive a human, moral, catechetical and scholastic education, so that they can become men and women capable of taking their share of responsibility in the Christian community and in future society. The theme of your work expresses this willingness: Associated for educational service to the poor as the La Salle response to the challenges of the 21st century. The Church is invited never to tire of offering young people this gift of education, which shows her attention to the realities and expectations of peoples who need support in their human development.

2. Your brothers have an incomparable role. Through their consecrated life, they are witnesses in the eyes of the world to the absolute primacy of God and to the happiness found in serving the Lord by serving human beings, especially children, whom God loves so much. Through their community life, they show that Christ is a very strong bond of fraternity among people, which opens them to fellowship, collaboration, peace and forgiveness. They are also close to everyone in the daily solidarity of the teacher who patiently and sensitively leads young people on the path to maturity and true freedom.

3. Your recent Chapters have enabled you to reflect on the participation of other religious congregations and the laity who wish to be associated with your missions and to live the La Salle charism in their own way. I am particularly sensitive to these forms of collaboration, which make it possible to join forces for great missionary effectiveness. The presence of lay people at your side is a significant sign of the more and more important place they are called to take in the Church's life, which I would strongly like to encourage, as I have already done in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata (cf. n. 56). It is your task to give the lay people who wish to be associate members the necessary formation for their spiritual life and their service. Relying on St John Baptist de La Salle's teaching and spirituality, they will then be able to find ways to pursue their spiritual journey according to their own state of life and with respect for the respective identities and particular features of consecrated life, so that they can put it into practice in the educational service that will be entrusted to them and strive to become model Christian teachers.

At the end of our meeting, I ask the Blessed Virgin and St John Baptist de La Salle to support your efforts and to make your General Chapter bear fruit. I cordially grant you an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 10 June 2000

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency as you present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador of France to the Holy See.

In your address, which particularly touched me, you show the trust that marks your country's relations with the Holy See. I thank you for speaking on behalf of the President of the French Republic, and I would be grateful if you would kindly convey my respectful greetings to him. I would like to greet all your compatriots, especially those who are experiencing personal, family or social hardships. In particular, I have not forgotten the many homes and businesses which are still suffering from the disasters that struck your national territory last winter. May everyone be assured of my spiritual closeness! Through you, I would like once again to extend a cordial and affectionate greeting to the pastors and faithful of your country's Catholic community. As I look forward to the next World Youth Day, I remember the efforts they made for the previous gathering, which bore many fruits; I encourage them to continue their spiritual mission and their involvement in society out of love for their brothers and sisters. For this they will be recognized as the servants of all, in that love which is characteristic of Christ's disciples.

2. In a few weeks your country will be assuming the presidency of the European Union for a six-month term in this year when we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the political agreement of 9 May 1950, an agreement desired by Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, your compatriots, and by Konrad Adenauer, which gave rise to a new situation in Europe. I appreciate the spirit which you mention and in which the French authorities wish to accomplish their mission at the service of Europe. It falls to your country to continue the direction of difficult work sites, to respond concretely to the concerns and immense expectations not only of the inhabitants of the European continent but also of all their partners in the world who need help for their own development. The European Union is both a venture and a challenge; it opens the door to a future of peace and solidarity and to ever closer collaboration between the continent's different countries and with the whole world. It is important that the institutions and invididuals called to exercise responsibility at every level always be concerned for the common good of the community of nations, by carrying out their mission as a service to their peoples, while respecting the rules of equity, justice and probity essential to every human being but especially to those who work for the res publica. In this way it will be possible to restrain the hidden networks which seek to profit from the great European market, in order to launder money from all kinds of trafficking unworthy of man, particularly from drugs, the arms trade and the exploitation of people, especially women and children. Resources, wealth and the fruits of development on the continent should be able to be allocated to the poorest people in the various countries, to the nations that are in need of further development and are still scarred today by the consequences of the economic recession and fluctuations in the financial markets.

These challenges, as well as the battle against unemployment and the protection of the environment, to mention but a few, imply that Europe must not be built primarily as a community of interests, but as one based on values and mutual trust, putting man at the centre of all struggles. All the vital forces of the nations are called to work for the good of all, taking care, in the different countries, to form the younger generation, which has high ideals as they showed in Paris at the last World Youth Day, so that when the time comes they can assume their share of responsibility. In this spirit, it is the duty of countries with a tradition of training in business management and civic life to offer their assistance to the nations emerging from a long period of isolation, to help their citizens acquire the political maturity indispensable to public life. It is also important to develop an ever greater European consciousness in our contemporaries which, mindful of peoples' roots, mobilizes them to form a community of destiny through a political will which seeks to unite them. This perspective will become reality only if greater importance is given to a global vision of man and society, which your country can promote by relying on its tradition, especially on the great thinkers and social leaders who have marked the 20th century and breathed a new spirit into it, thus helping to create a common culture.

3. You have just mentioned the question of human rights, to which your compatriots are very sensitive, thereby showing their attention to what is essential for individuals and for the national community. Human rights, in fact, are the foundation for the recognition of the human being and for social cohesion. It is first of all up to the public institutions to guarantee "effectively the rights of the human person, rights which flow directly from our natural dignity and, for this reason, are universal, inviolable and inalienable" (John XXIII, Encyclical Pacem in terris, n. IV). Among these rights, the right to life is essential, as is respect for life and the support of the family, the basic cell of society.

The lengthening of life also requires special attention for the elderly, so that they can live in decent conditions and benefit from the necessary care and support until the natural end of their lives. In fact, how could individuals in a nation trust one another, if they were not guaranteed what is everyone's most precious possession, i.e., his own life, which cannot be subjected simply to criteria of efficiency and profitability or to purely arbitrary decisions? In the name of human rights it is a country's duty and an honour for its institutions to support and defend every human being against whatever belittles his dignity and rights and to provide him with spiritual, human and material aid, so that everyone can have a happy and dignified life and no one will be marginalized. In this regard, I am aware of your compatriots' devotion to the defence and dignity of children. Many associations are working to that effect. I can only encourage them to continue their efforts, especially so that every child can be born, enjoy a family with a father and mother who will help him grow personally, form balanced and balancing human relationships and not be subject to shameful exploitation.

4. As for young people, it is important that their formation and education take place in a context which enables their personalities to develop. I wish to salute the work of the social services, teachers and educators who are patiently and persistently dedicated to guiding young people and creating the conditions that will make teaching accessible to all and control the scourges which mark modern society, such as violence and drugs. This service is essential to the nation, to which all educational institutions should make their contribution. You know the part played for many years in this area by the Church in France, in conjunction with all her partners, in the world of education, in trusting dialogue and mutual esteem, with the primary concern of serving individuals and the national community, while contributing her specific nature and characteristics and receiving the guarantees and support necessary to accomplish this task of national interest. She fervently hopes to pursue this mission, out of respect for her convictions, in order to give the young people and families who so desire, not only a quality education, but the philosophical, theological and spiritual perspectives that correspond to her vision of the human person and to the teaching of the Magisterium, while respecting the rules of secular society that give a juridical basis to the service of education and to freedom in your country, by permitting autonomy in earthly affairs and allowing religious denominations to carry out their mission. French law also guarantees this freedom by offering families the possibility of religious education for their children during free periods in their school schedule. All the partners should be concerned that possible changes in the school curriculum will allow this freedom in conformity with the laws in force, while respecting the schedules and rhythms of the children and their families. This perspective fulfils the wish that education not be a mere apprenticeship in scientific and technical knowledge but the transmission of know-how, savoir-vivre and values, based on a spiritual and moral outlook that allows the meaning of life to be perceived and, as you have stressed, are part of your country's heritage.

5. As I have often recalled, the first human right is religious freedom, in the full sense of the term. It means a freedom that is not limited to the private sphere. This freedom presupposes on the part of the authorities and the entire national community, especially the school and the media, which have an important role in transmitting ideas and in forming opinions, an express desire to give individuals and institutions the possibility to develop their religious life, to pass on their beliefs and values and to participate in the different levels of social life and in consultative bodies without being excluded for religious or philosophical reasons, according to the rules of a State governed by law. Ridiculing religious beliefs or discrediting this or that religious practice and the values held by a considerable number of people seriously injures the individuals who profess them, represents a form of exclusion contrary to respect for fundamental human values and seriously destabilizes society, where a certain form of pluralism in thought and action should exist, as well as an attitude of fraternal kindness. It can only create a climate of tension, intolerance, opposition and suspicion, hardly favourable to social peace. I therefore encourage all of society's leaders to be attentive to respect for individual freedoms. I invite the media especially to renew their vigilance in this area, and to deal fairly and objectively with the various religious confessions.

6. Among the many missions awaiting you and which you have just recalled, you must continue the work undertaken by your predecessor to accommodate French-speaking pilgrims during the Great Jubilee and to foster the development and vitality of the French community. In this regard, I would like to repeat to you how much I appreciate your embassy's involvement in the preparations for World Youth Day, to be held this coming August, and I salute the investments made so that the young people can derive much benefit from this important spiritual and ecclesial time. This action shows the attention that your country's authorities pay to France's active presence in Rome and throughout the world, in line with what has been done by your compatriots who down the centuries have actively spread culture and faith to all the continents.

As you officially begin your mission, I offer you, Mr Ambassador, my best wishes. I can assure you that my assistants will endeavour to give you and all the members of your embassy the help you may need. I ask God to support the people of France so that they will find true happiness and will continue to work generously for peace and understanding among their compatriots and among all peoples. I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to your loved ones and to all those who are called to work with you.



Saturday, 10 June 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I am pleased to be able to meet you this morning, the vigil of Pentecost. You come on pilgrimage from various localities to celebrate your Jubilee in Rome. Your presence in the Eternal City, where St Peter and St Paul bore their courageous witness to Christ by martyrdom, gives you the opportunity to reflect on our common Christian commitment. May your pause at the tombs of the Apostles strengthen your faith and spur you to continue with renewed enthusiasm on the way of holiness, in fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church's teaching.

I extend a special thought to the Sisters Servants of the Virgin Mother of God present here, and I do so in the language familiar to them.

2. Dear sisters, it is a great joy for me to meet you today at this audience in the Vatican. I offer you a cordial welcome. I also greet Archbishop Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, as well as the priests present here and those devoted to Bl. Edmund Bojanowski.

The large family of the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is formed of four congregations: the Servants of Debica, Stara Wies, Silesia and Great Poland. I greet the Superiors General of these congregations, the Provincials and all the sisters here, as well as the residents of Gostyn and Grabonóg, the birthplace of Bl. Edmund. I thank the Superior General who is also President of the Federation of the Sisters Servants for the words she has just addressed to me.

3. You have come to Rome, to the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to give thanks for the beatification of your founder, Edmund Bojanowski, who called your religious family into being 150 years ago. This pilgrimage is taking place in the Great Jubilee year and thus speaks with special eloquence. In my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente I wrote that "the primary objective of the Jubilee ... is ... to inspire ... a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer and of solidarity with one's neighbour, especially the most needy" (n. 42). For this Jubilee time and for every time, the Church calls you to imitate the example of your founder, whom I beatified in Warsaw on 13 June 1999, during my pilgrimage to our homeland. His beatification is a particular gift of divine Providence for your congregations and is permanently inscribed in your history. On the threshold of the third millennium, through this great apostle of the Polish people, a heroic witness to the Gospel, God wanted to show you your way to the future.

Bl. Edmund Bojanowski loved God and loved man. He was a man of prayer. His love for people, demonstrated by heroic deeds, was born of deep union with God through prayer. He drew from it the strength to serve man. That love grew in him on his knees and later bore fruit. Through prayer his whole life became a ceaseless service to the needy, especially children. For him, God's affairs were also human affairs, and love of God was love of man.

4. Dear sisters, in these days of pilgrimage, the life and works of Bl. Edmund must become a subject of special reflection. Through him, God wants to tell you that holiness, that striving for holiness, is the most important task of consecrated persons. It is the particular reason for the existence of all religious communities. You are called to bear a personal and community witness to holiness, which is the essential vocation of your life.

To bear fruit it is necessary to "live in Christ, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith" (cf. Col Col 2,7). He must become the fertile ground of your growth and the maturation of what was begun in holy Baptism. "For you have died", says St Paul, "and your life is hid in God. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, not things that are on earth" (cf. Col Col 3,3). Therefore imitate Christ himself, who submitted totally to the Father's will; imitate Jesus in his prayer, to which he devoted long hours; imitate Jesus in his love for the human person. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5,16).

The witness of your life offered genuinely and unreservedly to God and to your brethren is indispensable for making Christ present in the world and for bringing his Gospel to all human beings.

5. At this point I would like to emphasize your self-sacrificing service to the needy. You thus faithfully fulfil your founder's desire, expressed in the words: "The goal of the Servants of the Mother of God will be to serve the lowly and the poor for love of Christ". For 150 years, without interruption, you have been giving proof of this love not only in Poland but in dozens of countries on all the world's continents. You care for children, the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the poor. You work in hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, boarding schools and kindergartens. You devote yourselves to catechesis and to parish work.

Today's meeting gives me a special opportunity to offer you my gratitude for this apostolate of charity, which is the most effective proclamation of Christ in today's world and the practical expression of your religious charism.

I would also like to mention a very important matter, the large number of you who take part in the Church's missionary activity. You have responded to Christ's call: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15), on the continents of Africa and Latin America. Several years ago you also started working in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Moldova and recently in Siberia. This is an important contribution of your congregations to the new evangelization and to the mission among the nations.

6. I prayerfully join in this great thanksgiving to God for the beatification of your founder and for the 150 years of your presence in the Church. The Church is counting on your generous dedication, on your disinterested and self-sacrificing love. Be a clear sign of the Gospel for everyone. Be living witnesses to the new civilization of love! May the Holy Spirit constantly work through you and awaken in the hearts of many young girls an intention like yours - the desire to follow Christ. May Immaculate Mary keep and guard you under her protection. Imitate her, the One who was perfectly obedient to God's will. Listen to her when she reminds you of what she once said at Cana in Galilee: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5).

I pray God that the grace of your religious vocation will bear abundant spiritual fruits. I bless those of you here and all the sisters of your religious family, as well as those whom you bear in your hearts and embrace with your prayers.

7. My thoughts now turn to the other pilgrims present. I greet the faithful from the parishes of St Flavian in Torano Nuovo, St Anne in Chieti and Sacred Heart in San Marco Argentano. I fervently hope that your beloved parish communities will always be moved by apostolic zeal to spread the Gospel message by word and example, for it is a leaven of spiritual and social renewal.

I also greet the group of the elderly from Santa Maria del Cedro and the members of the Heart Transplant Association of Verona. I offer you my warmest encouragement, dear brothers and sisters, so that in the Lord's help you will find comfort in your trials and support in moments of difficulty.

Lastly, I invite everyone to keep their gaze constantly fixed on Christ, "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (cf. Jn Jn 14,6). Remain always united with him. In this Jubilee Year, be concerned in a special way to rediscover day by day the love God has for his children; open yourselves trustingly to his grace and you will thus be able to look to the future with sure hope. May the Mother of God, who intercedes for us, accompany and protect you. May she, the docile disciple of the Holy Spirit, help you to be ready to follow the divine Master in all things.

May you also be supported by the Blessing which I cordially impart to you and to your families.



Monday, 12 June 2000

Mr Ambassador,

I extend a warm welcome to you as you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to the Holy See. I take this opportunity to reaffirm my sentiments of esteem and friendship for the people of your country. I am grateful for the cordial greetings sent by President Abdurrachman Wahid and, with pleasant memories of his recent visit to Rome, I ask you to assure him of my prayers for his demanding mission and for the peace and well-being of the nation.

The friendliness and hospitality of the people of Indonesia struck me forcibly during my visit to your country in 1989. On that occasion, I experienced at first hand the great variety of religions, races and cultures which make up the mosaic of Indonesian society. This diversity is a great source of enrichment, since it brings together the complementary traits of different ethnic groups and through their interaction gives rise to a vibrant and productive national community. At the same time, this diversity also presents formidable challenges, as Indonesia strives to maintain its unity and build a future in which all citizens are able to contribute to the common good. In this regard, I repeat what I said in Jakarta in 1989: "The only firm foundation of national unity is respect for all: respect for the differing opinions, convictions, customs and values which mark Indonesia’s many citizens". Indeed "the most secure basis for lasting unity and development as a nation is a profound respect for human life, for the inalienable rights of the human person" (Address at the State Reception in Istana Negara Palace, 9 October 1989, No. 2).

In recent times, many important changes have taken place in your country. The Holy See is fully aware of the many positive aspects of those changes but also of the difficulties facing Indonesia along the path of reforms already begun and in its efforts to develop political and legal structures capable of satisfying the hopes and aspirations of all the peoples of the archipelago. I am hopeful that your country’s commitment to democracy and greater accountability in the organs of government and administration will contribute to the progress of the nation and the fostering of social harmony and reconciliation. Authentic democracy is based on recognition of the inalienable dignity of every human person, from which human rights and duties flow. Failure to respect this dignity leads to the various and often tragic forms of discrimination, exploitation, social unrest and national and international conflict with which the world is unfortunately too familiar. Only when the dignity of the person is safeguarded can there be genuine development and lasting peace.

Among fundamental human rights, religious freedom occupies a place of primary importance. The freedom of individuals and communities to profess and practise their religion is essential for peaceful human coexistence. Recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a travesty of the tenets of the major religions. Dialogue among the religions present in a territory is essential so that all may see that genuine religious belief inspires peace, encourages solidarity, promotes justice and upholds freedom (cf. Address at the Closing Celebration of the Interreligious Assembly, 28 October 1999, No. 3).

In accordance with the tenets of Pancasila, Indonesia has had great regard for religious freedom as essential to the common good, and this conviction has enabled people of different religious traditions to live side by side in harmony. It has enabled your Catholic fellow-citizens, who have always desired to work for the good of their country, to make a full contribution to the life of the nation, most especially at the time of independence. The Church has been able to be active in the area of health care and in the social field. Through her educational activities, she has contributed to the training of citizens of all backgrounds and walks of life with regard to their rights and duties as part of the national community. It is essential that the principles which have allowed this cooperation should always be proclaimed anew, lest their importance for the life of the nation be neglected or forgotten.

At the present time it is especially necessary to repeat this, given the rise of violence in parts of your country between those of different religious beliefs. My thoughts turn in particular to the Moluccas, where atrocities, massacres and destruction have taken place, again in recent days, and where persisting tensions continue to be a source of grave preoccupation. The international community looks to Indonesia to adopt the necessary measures to defuse tensions, to ensure that all citizens are treated as equal before the law, and to bring an immediate end to violence. I call on all involved to return to the path of dialogue and peaceful negotiation, in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerance. I urge everyone who has the true good of Indonesia at heart to work for a permanent cessation of conflict.

Your Excellency has referred to the question of East Timor. As you know, this has been a long-standing matter of concern to the Holy See, which is pleased that a global and internationally accepted solution for the future of the region has finally been reached. Despite the tragic events of last year, the people of that territory now have the possibility of pursuing a new path in accordance with their deepest aspirations. It is my earnest hope that the Authorities in Dili and Jakarta will make every effort to build a relationship of friendship and cooperation, based on principles of justice, mutual respect and solidarity. Together with the Authorities and the international organizations, all must devote their energies to identifying the means which can best serve in a practical way to relieve the plight of refugees in West Timor, a problem to which you yourself have referred. A just solution which respects the freedom of the refugees themselves and which guarantees the availability of humanitarian assistance calls for increased cooperation between the parties involved.

Your Excellency, in offering my best wishes at the beginning of your mission, I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you in your work. Upon yourself and all the citizens of the Republic of Indonesia I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Speeches 2000 - Thursday, 8 June 2000