Speeches 2000





To my Venerable Brother
The Most Reverend Mariano De Nicolò
Bishop of Rimini

On the occasion of the 21st Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, which will take place in Rimini as it does every year, I am pleased to send my warmest greetings to you, to the organizers and to the participants.

For the Meeting in this Holy Year, when the Church is celebrating the bimillenary Great Jubilee of Christ's birth, an appropriate theme was chosen: "2,000 years, an ideal without end". This was chosen to focus attention on the Christian event which was made manifest at Bethlehem and extended to the horizons of God's kingdom.

Jesus' birth, in fact, as I recalled in proclaiming the Jubilee, "is not an event which can be consigned to the past. The whole of human history in fact stands in reference to him: our own time and the future of the world are illumined by his presence" (Bull Incarnationis mysterium, n. 1) With the theme of this Meeting, with the discussions which throughout the week will explore its meaning, but especially with the reality of this annual gathering itself, you intend to make yourselves an explicit and conscious echo of the great mystery which the whole Church is reliving during the Jubilee Year: the Incarnation of the Son of God. This is a mystery which transcends man and history and, at the same time, deeply pervades them: Jesus is "the genuine newness which surpasses all human expectations"; and in the encounter with him, "every man discovers the mystery of his own life" (ibid.).

These words, which describe the essence of Christianity, open onto the horizon recalled by the meeting's theme: "an ideal without end".

In current language, "ideal" is often understood as something opposed to the "real", as something to aspire to, but at the level of thought or of "ideas", even at times without a concrete basis in reality.

On the other hand, in Christianity the ideal is an infinitely great objective, immensely beautiful and true, supremely right, a goal to which our hearts turn with all our strength, without our desire for it ever being exhausted; but at the same time, it is something which we already possess, or rather, something which possesses us and corresponds to our being and its expectations, laying a basis of solid realism for our hope in infinity.

Christians are aware of this because of their own experience, meditated upon in the light of Sacred Scripture and lived by following Christ. No event in the world's long history corresponds to the ideal as does the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Word. He, who is the first-born of us all (cf. Col Col 1,18) and contains in himself the fullness of every human dimension (cf. Col Col 1,19), has instilled in our hearts an insatiable longing for this fullness, which makes us seek it through the various experiences of life.

It is "an ideal without end" which forms an integral part of the Church's journey. The Church's history is therefore enticing, and today we are called to make our contribution to it: to show the men and women of our time the reasonableness of faith, the humanism of charity, the constructive energy of hope. For this to be possible, the Christian ideal must not be reduced to a dream, an ideology or a utopia, but must become more and more a proclamation, a witness and a way of life for believers.

In this we are guided and enlightened by the example of the saints, who found in Christ the light and daily support for their journey and for their commitment to the service of God's kingdom. Holiness is truly our common goal: it shows that Christ's ideal is an ideal without end. I hope that everyone taking part in this programme and all the friends of the Meeting will follow in the footsteps of the many men and women who for 2,000 years have been generous witnesses to this unchanged ideal, so that it will be a seed of hope in the furrows of the third millennium.

With these sentiments, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, venerable Brother, and to the entire "Meeting Family".

From the Vatican, 2 August 2000.



Friday, 25 August 2000

Dear Benedictine Sisters of Divine Providence!

1. I am pleased to greet you and to extend my cordial welcome to each one. I thank you for this visit, with which you intend to strengthen your fidelity to the Successor of Peter on the occasion of your 22nd General Chapter, while the memory of the 150th anniversary of your institute, celebrated last year, is still vivid.

I would like to express to you my appreciation of the good you do in many countries of the world and, especially, of the love with which you serve the Gospel, attentive to the expectations and needs of the lowly, the poor and the suffering. At the same time, I would like to reflect with you on the new frontiers the Lord is indicating to you so that, at the beginning of the new millennium, the experience matured by your Congregation during these long years can be the happy premise for an even more fruitful apostolic and missionary season.

Your institute was born like a tiny mustard seed in the city of Voghera, in the Diocese of Tortona, from the faith and generosity of the sisters, Maria and Giustina Schiapparoli, called by the Lord to become loving mothers of numerous children given to begging and exposed to a future burdened with material and moral dangers. They therefore decided to open their house to some abandoned little girls, so that they could be "formed in religion, virtue and work suited to their station" (Letter from Maria and Giustina Schiapparoli of 20 December 1860) and, as a means to provide for their daily needs, they chose to do "needlework", at which they were expert.

The Lord blessed the new institute which soon began to develop, thanks to the arrival of numerous young women attracted by the same apostolic ideal. In 1936, the year in which the Apostolic See approved and confirmed the congregation's Constitutions, it also began to spread its branches overseas. Today, your religious family is present, as well as in Italy, in Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Mexico, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Romania, Albania and India, as a "humble instrument of merciful charity", for "poor youth, maladjusted and in dangerous conditions" (Constitutions, 1 and 5).

2. In the context of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, richly blessed with grace and hope, you have chosen a very interesting theme for your General Chapter: "Refoundation of religious life as Benedictine Sisters of Divine Providence: mysticism, fraternal life and mission". You thus intend to revisit the spiritual sources of your institute with humility and courage, to obtain new vigour and to accept the challenges facing your apostolic enterprise at the start of the third Christian millennium. Looking at the foundresses' unique experience, you would like to bring about as it were a "refoundation" of your "style of life" by greater adherence to Christ, the cornerstone, who "is the same yesterday and today and for ever!" (He 13,8).

While this decision asks of each Benedictine Sister of Divine Providence a firm commitment to interior conversion and joyful availability to the Lord's call, it also demands creative fidelity to the charism and an attentive search for a style of religious life which can bring about "the harmonious convergence of the inner life with apostolic-charitable activity, understood as inseparable requirements of religious life" (Constitutions, 2). All this reflects the spirituality of St Benedict whose motto: "Ora et labora", stands out on your institute's coat of arms. In this way, you wish to propose once again the true face of your congregation to attract to the apostolic ideal which distinguishes it new young women, eager to encounter Christ and to recognize him in the often bewildered faces of so many weak and defenceless brothers and sisters.

3. To achieve your objective, in the course of the Chapter session you recognized mysticism, fraternal life and mission as the privileged paths to continue being a "presence of Providence", after your foundresses' example. You would like to carry out your mission particularly in the world of abandoned children, of small outcasts, of young people and of adolescents, conditioned by the modern consumerist mentality and who are often victims of every kind of violence.

You know well how any authentic project of renewal must be based on the deepening of fidelity to Christ in the Church. It is in this context that your consecration and mission should be rethought! You intend to do so by looking at the examples of Mary, the prayerful and faithful Virgin, and listening to the teachings of St Benedict, the great master of spiritual life. The Blessed Virgin has the keys of what God gives lovingly to human beings, and the saint of Norcia, your "special protector and father", guides you through the Rule, in which he recommends his sons not to put anything before love of Christ (cf. Rule of St Benedict, 4, 21).

Our Lady and the Holy Patriarch were the steadfast reference-points of the mystical experience of the Servants of God Maria and Giustina Schiapparoli, who lived in trusting abandonment to divine Providence to whom they entrusted their whole work. This trust led them to be simple and humble, embracing their hard daily chores with simplicity and joy. They loved and knew how to inculcate a genuine family spirit in their spiritual daughters, capable of also involving the little girls they had taken in.

4. Dear sisters, may the example of the foundresses remind you that the authentic mystical dimension should be expressed in fraternal life and in apostolic commitment. Here, in fact, love of God, trust in Providence and the spirit of poverty find their visibility and concrete form. The Constitutions remind you that "communion with the sisters entails the ability to accept and fraternally help one another, putting everything in common: joys, sorrows, ideas, prayers and work, and knowing how to use mercy with one another" (art. 63).

In this perspective, you strive to overcome the temptation of individualism, endeavouring to cultivate an authentic spirituality of communion. This is what will bring the individual religious and every community to live a renewed and conscious belonging to the universal and local Church as well as to their own religious family, and to be an ever more visible and welcoming image of divine Providence.

5. "Do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or "What shall we wear?' ... your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt 6,31-33). These words of the Gospel constituted the spiritual horizon and programme of life of the Servants of God Maria and Giustina Schiapparoli. They learned from contemplation of the heavenly Father to make their lives a continuous act of love for little ones, with an attitude of total abandonment to Providence. To their spiritual daughters they bequeathed the task of continuing on the same Gospel path. This mission, at the beginning of the 21st century, is particularly timely. Is it not true that in vast areas of the globe, children are unfortunately still victims of hunger, wars, appalling illnesses such as AIDS and the perversion of unscrupulous adults, which threaten their innocence and gravely jeopardize their future? It is impossible to face so many forms of poverty and need without great trust in divine Providence; this can be in some way extended by abandoning oneself to it, "in accordance with the requirements and circumstances of the times and places".

This is the challenge that confronts your Chapter! It requires a great heart filled with faith, capable of seeking the kingdom of God and his justice always, with prophetic daring and absolute trust in divine Providence. I warmly hope that renewed fidelity to the charism of the foundresses will help you in witnessing to the acceptance of the "lowliest", recognizing in them the true image of Christ, who asks to be honoured, accepted and reinstated.

6. Dear Sisters, be aware of your vocation and continue on the way you have taken. Your vocation as Benedictine Sisters of Divine Providence is a precious gift for the Church; be committed to living it in perennial harmony with the evangelizing mission of the entire ecclesial community. Called to be "an extension of divine Providence", be prepared to witness everywhere with constantly renewed zeal to the great values of prayer, fraternal communion, hard work and Gospel service to the little, the abandoned and the marginalized. May each of your communities be a concrete proclamation of the civilization of love, whose foundation and hope is in God's tender Providence.

I entrust the work of the Chapter meeting and your entire congregation to the heavenly protection of the Blessed Virgin and of St Benedict of Norcia. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for all your intentions, and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to Mother General, to the Chapter participants, to all the sisters, to those you take into your houses, and to everyone who collaborates with your mission.


Friday, 25 August 2000

Dear Brother Bishop,
Dear Friends from Guinea,

I am pleased to welcome you as you make your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, before going to the Holy Land, to the places where the Son of God took flesh from the Virgin Mary and became man 2,000 years ago.

The pilgrimage you are undertaking calls to mind every believer's personal journey in the footsteps of the Redeemer. May these privileged days enable you to advance on the path of Christian holiness through deep interior preparation and conversion of heart! By coming here as pilgrims, in fact, you have made a significant commitment to walk with renewed fidelity on the way that leads to Christ in a personal encounter with him, so that you can live in ever greater conformity with his Gospel.

Crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, which represents the person of Christ, thus becomes a sign of the passage that every Christian is called to make from the darkness of sin to the light of grace. By professing that Jesus is Lord, by strengthening their faith in order to live the new life they have been given, believers also show that Christ has brought them more deeply into his Church and enabled them to participate fully in her mission.

Dear friends, I invite you to make your Jubilee pilgrimage a time of spiritual renewal so that you can put Christ more effectively at the centre of your lives. When you return to your country, be ardent and generous witnesses throughout your lives to the Lord's unique and personal love for every human being! As you fulfil your responsibilities in society and in the Church, in collaboration with men and women of good will, endeavour tirelessly to build a world worthy of the human person and worthy of God, with concern for justice and solidarity! Be the artisans of peace and brotherhood! Walk in the footsteps of Christ, who calls you to a new life!

As I entrust you and your pilgrimage to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, I ask her to obtain for you an abundance of grace and mercy from her Son. I cordially grant you all my Apostolic Blessing.





To the Most Reverend Father José Agustín Orbegozo
Superior General of the Passionists

1. I am happy to send you my Message on the occasion of the 44th General Chapter of the Congregation of the Passion of Christ, being held at Itaici in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. I offer you my cordial greetings, which I affectionately extend to the Capitular Fathers working with you in reflection and important programming for the Passionist Spiritual Family.

The General Chapter is always a moment of grace and represents a forceful call to seek the authentic roots of the institute, thus guaranteeing fidelity to its own charism. For your congregation it is a question of studying how better to live today the precious heritage entrusted to all the sons of St Paul of the Cross. To do this, it is necessary to listen humbly to the Holy Spirit, with loving attention to the signs of the times, while examining, adapting and relaunching the singular gift that God has given the Church and the world through your holy founder.

2. Your Chapter is being held during the Great Jubilee of the Holy Year 2000. For the first time, it is being held on the Latin American continent, far from the General House of St John and Paul on the Caelian Hill, which my Predecessor Clement XIV entrusted to the Passionists in 1773. With this choice you have wanted to pay homage to the great continent during the 500th anniversary of its evangelization by stressing the universal and missionary nature of your congregation and, at the same time, by expressing solidarity with particular regions unfortunately marked by poverty and injustice. In addition, by this significant "pilgrimage of charity" you intend to respond to what I wrote in the Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee: "The coming of the third millennium prompts the Christian community to lift its eyes of faith to embrace new horizons in proclaiming the kingdom of God" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 2), and spurs Christ's disciples to embrace fervently "the missionary task of the Church in view of the demands of evangelization today" (ibid.).

How can we not emphasize that from its origins the Jubilees have represented for the Passionists significant phases of renewed dedication to the service of the Church? In the Holy Year of 1725, while on pilgrimage to Rome, your founder obtained the first verbal approbation of the new family from my venerable Predecessor Benedict XIII, and in the Holy Year of 1750, with several of his confrères, he fervently preached the Jubilee mission in the Roman Church of St John of the Florentines and received the praise of Pope Benedict XIV.

3. The theological reflection and spiritual atmosphere of this Jubilee, a year "to give glory to the Trinity" and an "intensely Eucharistic" year (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 55), offer your religious family a providential opportunity for spiritual enrichment. It was born in the Church "to promote the grateful remembrance of the blessed Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rule of St Paul of the Cross, 1775), the supreme and definitive revelation of the Trinitarian Mystery, and it draws from the Eucharist the necessary energy for its whole life to become a memory and a following of the One who was crucified and rose again.

This harmony with the Jubilee is clear even from the Chapter's theme: "Passion of Jesus Christ, Passion for Life", which intends to emphasize how, in the light of the Crucified One, the meaning of life is to make a gift of it in the service of others: "The Son of man has come to serve and give his life in ransom for many" (Mc 10,45).

The death of Christ on the Cross is the greatest expression of a life that is given. It opens the way to the fullness of endless life which the Father grants his Son in accepting his total sacrifice: "The Cross is the superabundance of God's love poured out upon this world" (Vita consecrata VC 24).
The life given for us on the Cross is offered to us in the Eucharist as food. It is human-divine life; it is the life which the Word took from the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Incarnation; it is the life glorified in the resurrection and ascension into heaven; it is the life which the Son received from the Father from all eternity.

By receiving the Father's life in faith, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is brought through the Eucharist into the very heart of the Trinitarian Mystery.

4. This is the profound reality of faith to which everyone of you, dear Passionists, will surely return in frequent prayer and meditation, in an attitude of humble conformity to the salvific will of Christ. In the Eucharist Christ calls every disciple to be, as he is and with his help, "bread broken" and "wine poured out" for his brethren, always keeping his gaze on the mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection.

From the beginning, in fact, Passionists have given the faithful the precious service of teaching them how to meditate on the Passion of Christ, which the revered founder defined as: "the greatest and most stupendous work of the love of God". Many of them have borne witness even to martyrdom, as the Bulgarian Bishop Eugene Bossilkov, Inocencio Canaura Arnau, Niceforo Díez and his 25 companions, whom I have had the joy of raising to the honour of the altars.

Considering the good you have done, how can I not ask you to continue being teachers of prayer and special witnesses to Christ crucified, drawing from the mystery of the Cross the strength to cultivate generously a passion for life, especially through dialogue and sharing in your communities? How can I not remind you that such a mission demands courage and joy in facing the problems of religious life in every particular historical moment? For the believer the lived moment always has the features of an "exodus journey", which "inevitably includes everything that pertains to the mysterium Crucis" (Vita consecrata VC 40).

The Crucified One has loved us "to the end" (13: 1), beyond the measure and possibilities of human love. This is the source from which the Passionist must draw his own spirituality in a very particular way: to love where it is most difficult to love; to love where love is most needed. Today's society offers endless areas for this special apostolate.

In this context the preaching of missions, an apostolic tradition of your congregation since the time of your founder, also finds its place. Through this extraordinary apostolic method you can spread devotion to the Passion of Christ among the people and in every setting. It is certainly necessary to think of new pastoral methods according to the various cultures and traditions; but your primary concern must always remain the proclamation of Christ, who from the Cross renews his invitation to people of every time to follow him with faithful and docile abandonment. Following the example of St Paul of the Cross, may the Passionist feel it his special duty to offer to the Christian people this exceptional opportunity for evangelization and conversion. Among other things, popular missions are most appropriate in the context of the Jubilee Year as well. Together with this commitment never omit, but rather intensify the spiritual exercises for the clergy and people, teaching them to cultivate a spirit of recollection and prayer. Let every one of your religious houses, which has been given the significant title of "retreat" since the beginning, be a place of contemplation and silence for fostering an encounter with Christ, our divine Redeemer.

5. In your Chapter work you have reserved special time for reflection on sharing your Passionist charism with the laity. This is "one of the fruits of the teaching on the Church as communion", which has grown in recent times and is "a new chapter, rich in hope, in the history of relations between consecrated persons and the laity" (Vita consecrata VC 54). It represents a sign of growing ecclesial vitality which should be welcomed and developed. I fervently hope that those whom the Holy Spirit calls to draw from the same sources of your charismatic spring can find in you brothers and, especially, guides who can not only share your charism with them, but, above all, form them in an authentic Passionist spirituality.

I gladly entrust your Chapter work and all your generous intentions to the Blessed Virgin, to St Paul of the Cross and to the many saints and blesseds who enrich the centuries-old history of your institute, that they will help you to repropose today your original charism, which is an effective leaven of evangelical fruitfulness in the contemporary world.

With these wishes, as I promise a remembrance in my prayer for each of you, for the entire Passionist Family and for those you encounter in your daily apostolic ministry, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.

From Castel Gandolfo, 21 August 2000.





To my Venerable Brother

Cardinal Marco Cé
Patriarch of Venice

1. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2Co 13,13)!

With these words of the Apostle Paul I extend my cordial greeting to you, Your Eminence, to the venerable Archbishops and Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Region of the Triveneto, and to the priests, religious and the faithful who have gathered on Monte Berico to celebrate the centenary of the crowning of Mary, Mother of Mercy. Since the first half of the 15th century, trusting multitudes of devout people in search of protection and peace have never ceased to turn to this revered image.

At the beginning of my Pastoral Visit to the city of Vicenza on 7-8 September 1991, I too had the joy of making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Monte Berico to venerate the Blessed Virgin, to ask her to bless the peoples of the Veneto and to show herself the tender and provident Mother of those who suffer and who long for justice and peace. I still have a vivid and grateful memory of the intense moments of prayer at her feet, as well as of the great popular devotion which marks the life of the shrine.

2. Today my thoughts naturally turn to 25 August 1900, when Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto, Patriarch of Venice, together with the Bishops of the Conciliar Region, climbed the slopes of Mount Berico to crown the image of Mary, Mother of Mercy, amid the exultation of the faithful. Three years later he was to be called by Providence to be Supreme Pontiff with the name of Pius X and is today venerated as a saint by the universal Church. There he laid his people's joys, hopes and troubles at the feet of the Lord's Mother with great piety and trust, and left "on deposit, as it were, the precious golden crown set with gems ... to the religious custody of the Servants of Mary".

That solemn celebration sealed and enriched with a new token of love the ceaseless prayer which down the centuries has been raised to the Mother of the Lord in the Basilica of Monte Berico, a providential beacon of Marian spirituality where countless people began or intensified the inner pilgrimage that leads the believer to the spiritual peaks of holiness. In this church, as I said during my apostolic pilgrimage to the Vicenza region, one experiences how Marian prayer teaches us ecclesial communion by listening to her who holds the highest place in the Church and is the closest to Christ. For us all, Mary is the model of active charity since, by embracing God's saving will with a full heart and being impeded by no sin, she devoted herself totally to the person and work of her Son, contributing, through him and with him, to the mystery of redemption (cf. Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XIV/2, p. 501).

3. A century after her solemn crowning, the Churches of the Triveneto Ecclesiastical Region are renewing their profession of faith in the divine Trinity through their respective Pastors and in the presence of the authorities and a multitude of the faithful, endeavouring to live this moment of peaceful joy around the Mother of God as a significant moment in the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. At the beginning of the third Christian millennium, may they entrust themselves to her, "the image and the beginning of the Church, to which she remains vitally united by her communion with the Redeemer" (ibid.), so that God will grant a fresh season of the Spirit to each Christian community. May believers look to her with gratitude for the gift of a clear, deep faith, which as a Mother she continues to inspire in her children, and with the awareness that "it is not possible to think of living true devotion to Our Lady if not in full harmony with the Church ... which has the role of verifying the legitimacy of the various forms of religious devotion" (ibid.).

The peoples of the Veneto have always asked Mary, Mother of Mercy, who from Monte Berico protects beneath her mantle all her children in their personal and community trials, even in the most difficult and troubled periods of history, to be tender and loving, and have received her help and protection. Her peaceful presence, especially in today's changed situations of social and economic well-being, is an invitation to believers to be ever worthy of her love and to profess their faith in Christ courageously. As the Mother of Life, Mary urges every member of the faithful to accept the gift of life with wonder and gratitude, from conception to its natural death. Mary also asks everyone to be compassionate to those who knock at the door of their home because they need forgiveness and reconciliation, support and fraternal solidarity.

4. Let us turn with trust to the Mother of Divine Mercy! May the centenary celebrations for the crowning of Our Lady of Monte Berico be a favourable opportunity for a more generous proclamation of the Gospel! May Christ's message, which in distant times spread from Aquileia, Adria and Concordia and the ancient Roman cities of Padua and Verona, and continues to do so, now receive a new impetus in every community of the Triveneto.

"May Mary, Mother of the Lord, who from this shrine became the model and support of the countless priests, religious and lay people, who went to the most remote corners of the earth to proclaim and bear witness to revealed Truth, continue to raise up generous workers of truth and charity; may she inspire in all hearts openness to the divine call; may she give new missionary zeal to the young people of the Churches of the Triveneto.

"To your heavenly protection I entrust the Pastors, the religious communities, the missionaries and catechists, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the young, families and, in particular, those who are experiencing moments of suffering or difficulty.

"O Blessed Virgin, from you I invoke the grace of deep apostolic zeal and full communion for all the faithful of the Churches of the Triveneto. To you, Our Lady of Monte Berico, I commend the beloved Italian nation, so that it will live in prosperity and peace and know how to be an instrument of lasting concord among the peoples.

"Mary, Mother of Mercy, support us on our way to the heavenly homeland!".

In the hope that the centenary celebration will yield abundant spiritual fruits, I gladly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to Your Eminence, to the Archbishops and Bishops of the Triveneto, to the region's clergy, religious and lay people, and entrust its efficacy to the intercession of the heavenly Mother of the Redeemer.

From Castel Gandolfo, 22 August 2000.


Saturday, 26 August 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. In coming to Rome for your Jubilee pilgrimage, you wanted to include a stop here in Castel Gandolfo to greet the Successor of Peter. Thank you for your affectionate thought! I am grateful for the visit and extend my cordial welcome to each of you.

You come from various regions; you bring with you the inner desire to participate more intensely in the special spiritual favours of the Holy Year and have decided to renew your commitment of faith to the Son of God, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we are celebrating.

I first of all greet Archbishop Enrico Masseroni of Vercelli, Archbishop emeritus Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Bishop Giulio Nicolini of Cremona, who have led the pilgrims of their respective diocesan communities. I greet all those who have accompanied them: the priests, consecrated persons, pastoral workers, families, young people and all who share the same passion for the Gospel in their daily pastoral activity. Through you, dear brothers and sisters, I extend a cordial greeting to your respective Dioceses.

2. Dear faithful of Vercelli, your visit to the holy places, to the memorials of the Apostles Peter and Paul, has a twofold purpose. It is an intense moment of prayer on the eve of the resumption of diocesan activities in their various forms, and is, at the same time, a significant act by which you intend to confirm together, as pastors and Christian people, your shared fidelity to Christ.

On your return, a "pastoral September" awaits you, a month of meetings and planning to focus on several joint apostolic programmes. First, you have at heart the activity of parishes, called to be true and proper frontiers of evangelization that can adapt to changing social situations. In fact, the life-giving power of the Gospel, which can renew the lives of all who are prepared to accept it, first passes through this important ecclesial link. This task requires courage and prudence, a holy life and tireless dedication to proclaiming the Good News through catechesis, liturgical life and the witness of charity.

Another goal of your efforts is to continue on the path you have been taking for three years for a pastoral activity focused on families, which are "sent" to evangelize other families.

The recent, unforgettable World Youth Day also shows you how important it is "to speak of Jesus Christ to the world of youth". I hope that the "school of youth ministry" to which you have given life will increasingly be an instrument for helping the younger generation to draw close to the Redeemer, and that in him they will find the deep meaning of their commitment and the inexhaustible source of their happiness.

Speeches 2000