I urge Catholic communities to be places of authentic reconciliation and to bear energetic witness to justice and peace in their structures and their relationships with their members, remembering that "if the Church is to give witness to justice, she recognizes that whoever dares to speak to others about justice should also strive to be just in their eyes" (Ecclesia in Africa ).
The witness of the Church as a community must go hand in hand with the commitment of each of her members. Lay people who are humanly and spiritually well formed, therefore, must take their place in public life in order to be the salt of the earth. Everyone must also remember that he is called to live a holy life, to be an authentic and credible sign of God's love in the world.
5. Turning to my Brothers in the Episcopate and to all the people of this beloved continent, I repeat my heartfelt appeal for hope. In the difficult situations which you are experiencing, rays of light are not lacking; the Lord has not abandoned you! To build the reconciled world for which everyone longs, it is primarily up to Africans to take charge of the future of their nations. I again invite the international community not to abandon Africa. I know the efforts that have already been made, demonstrating true solidarity. These efforts must be pursued and made more effective, particularly by the cancellation or reduction of the national debt of the poorer countries.
My thoughts turn affectionately to the countries suffering from war. I strongly urge all who are responsible to seek paths of reconciliation without respite and with sincerity, and to see that the peace agreements do not become commitments without a future but are effectively applied for the common good of their peoples.
6. During this Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the recent canonization of Sr Josephine Bakhita is a cause for joy and confidence, not only for Sudan, still sorely tried, but for all of Africa. The path she followed in her personal life can and must become a living sign for the whole continent: from slavery to liberation and to total human and spiritual fulfilment. With all the other African saints and blesseds, she will not fail to intercede for her country and for the fruitful outcome of your Assembly's work.
Dear Brother in the Episcopate, I entrust you and all the other members of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar and their diocesans to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Queen of Africa, as I cordially impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 4 October 2000.
Saturday 7 October 2000
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!
1. Quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum! (Ps 133,1). Today the psalmist's joy, an echo of the rejoicing of the children of Israel, is our joy. The sight of so many Bishops gathered together from every part of the world has not been seen since the times of the Second Vatican Council. Our gathering today takes my mind back to those years of grace when the presence of God's Spirit was powerfully felt like the thrill of a new Pentecost. It is beautiful that the Great Jubilee has provided a fitting occasion for so many of us to come together. The fraternal communion that binds us through episcopal collegiality is also fostered by these signs.
I thank you for the sentiments of communion that you have expressed to me through dear Archbishop Giovanni Battista Re, who at this time, after years of service as my close collaborator in the Secretariat of State, has taken up the sensitive and important office of Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. I also express my gratitude to Cardinal Bernardin Gantin and Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves for the valuable work they accomplished with diligence and wisdom at the head of this dicastery.
2. At first sight today's meeting could seem superfluous, since each of you has fully opened himself to the grace of the Jubilee and accompanied your own faithful to various Jubilee sites in your Diocese and nation. But we felt the need for a celebration that would be totally our own, so to speak, in order to increase our commitment, and even more so, our joyful gratitude for the gift of the fullness of the priesthood. It was as though we had heard once again the invitation that one day the Teacher addressed to the Twelve, who were showing the weariness of their apostolic work: "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (Mc 6,31). Coming to Rome today is certainly not withdrawing to a lonely place! In compensation, at the See of Peter's Successor each of you can feel at ease, as though in your own home, and together we can all have an hour of spiritual "rest", gathered around Christ.
For the moment you have left behind your pastoral cares to spend some time in spiritual renewal at a special meeting with those who, like you, carry the sarcina episcopalis. By this action you have also stressed your sense of being members of the one People of God, on your way with the other faithful to the definitive encounter with Christ. Yes, Bishops too, like all Christians, are on their way towards the homeland and are in need of God's help and mercy. You are here in this spirit to implore with me the special grace of the Jubilee.
Thus we can experience together all the consolation of the truth stated by St Augustine: "For you I am Bishop, with you I am Christian. The first is the title of the office I received, the second is by grace; the first implies danger, the second salvation" (Sermo 340, 1: PL 38, 1483).
3. Dilexit Ecclesiam! (Ep 5,25). At this moment Paul's words to the Ephesians spring from our hearts as Pastors; they remind us that our Jubilee is first of all an invitation to measure ourselves by the love that beats in the heart of Christ. We look to him, the eternal Son of God who, in the fullness of time, became man in Mary's womb. We look to him, our Saviour and Saviour of the whole human race. We look to him who, by the Incarnation, became in a certain sense the "kinsman" of every human being. The range of his love is as vast as the world. No one is excluded from his loving gaze.
Open to the world, Christ's love is at the same time a love of predilection. Universal love and love of predilection do not contradict each other but are like two concentric circles. It is through his love of predilection that Christ gives birth to the Church as his Body and his Bride, making her the sacrament of salvation for all. Dilexit eam! Today, with all the People of God, we feel touched anew by this loving gaze.
In that dilexit Ecclesiam each of us finds the model and strength of his ministry, the foundation and living root of the mystery that dwells in him. As men conformed sacramentally to Christ, the Shepherd and Bridegroom of the Church, we are called, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, to "relive" in our thoughts, in our sentiments, in our choices, the love and total self-giving of Jesus Christ for his Church. In short, love for Christ and love for the Church are one indivisible love. In this diligere Ecclesiam, which imitates and shares in the dilexit Ecclesiam of Christ, we find the grace and commitment of our Jubilee celebration.
4. The supreme purpose of the dilexit Ecclesiam is clearly indicated by the Apostle: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her" (Ep 5,25-26). So it is with our episcopal service: it is meant to serve the holiness of the Church.
All our pastoral activity has as its ultimate goal the sanctification of the faithful, beginning with priests, our closest collaborators. It must therefore aim at inspiring in them the commitment to respond promptly and generously to the Lord's call. Is not our own witness of personal holiness the most credible and convincing appeal that the laity and clergy have a right to expect on their way to holiness? It is precisely "to inspire in all the faithful a true longing for holiness" that the Jubilee was proclaimed (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 42).
We must reflect anew on what the Second Vatican Council says about the universal call to holiness. It is not by chance that the Council addressed the Bishops first of all, reminding them that they must "carry out their ministry with holiness and eagerness, with humility and fortitude; thus fulfilled, this ministry will also be for them an outstanding means of sanctification" (Lumen gentium LG 41). It is the image - as we see - of a holiness that does not grow alongside their ministry, but through their ministry itself. A holiness that develops as pastoral charity, finding its model in Christ the Good Shepherd and spurring every Pastor to make himself an "example for the flock" (cf. 1P 5,3).
5. This pastoral charity must give life to the tria munera in which our ministry is carried out. First of all the munus docendi, that is, the service of teaching. When we reread the Acts of the Apostles, we are impressed by the fervour with which the first band of Apostles abundantly scattered the seed of the Word by the power of the Spirit. We must recapture the enthusiasm for preaching felt at Pentecost. In a world which is experiencing a sort of inflation of words as a result of the mass media, the words of the Apostle can only be distinguished and make headway if they are presented with all the brightness of the Gospel as a word filled with life. Let us not be afraid of preaching the Gospel "opportune et importune" (2Tm 4,2). Today especially, among the many dissonant voices that spread confusion and doubt in the minds of the faithful, the Bishop has the serious responsibility to make things clear. The preaching of the Gospel is the greatest act of love for man, his freedom and his thirst for happiness.
Through the liturgy, the source and summit of ecclesial life (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 10), this same charity becomes a sign, a celebration and a prayer. Here the dilexit Ecclesiam of Christ becomes a living remembrance and effective presence. In this work more than in any other, the Bishop's role appears as the munus sanctificandi, the ministry of sanctifying, through the active presence of the Holy One par excellence.
Lastly, the Bishop's charity must shine in the vast field of pastoral leadership: in the munus regendi. Many things are asked of us. In all of them we must act "as a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him, as a true father who excels in his love and solicitude for all" (Christus Dominus, CD 16). It is a service of love that must neglect no one, but must pay special attention to the "lowliest", with that "preferential option for the poor" that, following Jesus' example, is the expression of both justice and charity.
6. The Jubilee, dear Brothers, is the time of the "great indulgence". The serious responsibilities that are entrusted to us and the many difficulties that our episcopal ministry encounters today make the awareness of our spiritual inadequacy more painfully acute, and so our prayer for the Father's indulgent love must be stronger and more insistent. However, the mercy that we receive from Christ's sacrifice, made present each day in the Eucharist, fills us with the firmest hope. We must proclaim and give evidence of this hope to a world that has lost or distorted it. It is a hope founded on the certainty that Christ is always present and active in his Church and in human history.
It can seem at times, as in the Gospel episode of the calming of the storm (Mc 4,35-41 Lc 8,22-25), that Christ is asleep and has left us at the mercy of the turbulent waves. But we know that he is always ready to intervene with his almighty and saving love. He continues to say to us: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16,33).
We are sustained in our efforts by the closeness of Mary, the Mother whom Christ gave to us from the Cross, saying to the beloved Apostle: "Behold, your Mother" (Jn 19,26). To her, Regina Apostolorum, we entrust our Churches and our lives, opening ourselves with trust to the adventure and challenges of the new millennium.
Dear Sons and Daughters of Guatemala,
1. It is a joy for me to meet you who have come to Rome to celebrate the Great Jubilee and so to share, as brothers and sisters in faith, this profound experience of reconciliation with God and neighbour. With the significant act of entering through the Holy Door, the Church invites her faithful to leave behind every trace of sin, to taste God's infinite mercy and, thus encouraged by his grace, to turn their gaze to Christ, the only Saviour of the human race. For this reason the Jubilee strengthens and gives new ardour to our hope by freeing us from the burden of past slavery and allowing us to raise our eyes to the heavens where, as in the starry sky shown to Abraham, we see the immeasurable greatness of the divine promises and the authentic future of liberated humanity.
2. You wished to experience this in your hearts as children of the Church and as a national community that wants to walk in solidarity with all the people of Guatemala. I therefore cordially welcome Archbishop Víctor Hugo Martínez Contreras, Archbishop of Los Altos-Quetzaltenango-Totonicapán, President of the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala, as well as the other Bishops and the many people who have made their Jubilee pilgrimage to Rome in order to visit the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I invite them to be inspired by the example of these great Gospel witnesses, who were faithful to the point of shedding their blood for it, so that they can face the demands of the new evangelization of your country with renewed energy.
I would also like to extend a cordial greeting to the Ambassador to the Holy See, who has done so much to make this national pilgrimage possible, as well as to the other representatives of Guatemala in Rome and the Guatemalans living in Italy who have wanted to celebrate the Jubilee with their compatriots. I urge them to make the most of their legitimate patriotism, in order to promote the common commitment to building a better future for all the people, free from internal tensions and discrimination, concerned for the needs of every individual or group, strong in adversity and creative of new areas for the civilization of love. This will be a precious fruit of the Jubilee, for it will open the door to new hopes of transforming the world so that, by the grace and power of God, "swords will be beaten into ploughshares and the clash of arms give way to songs of peace", as the Prayer for the Jubilee says.
3. May God abundantly bless your commitment of fidelity to God and to the Church, and may the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Assumption, with her motherly care watch over the graces you have received and the good intentions of this pilgrimage. From my heart I call upon her to protect and accompany you, as I gladly give you my Apostolic Blessing.
1. At the end of this intense moment of Marian prayer, I wish to offer a cordial greeting to all of you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, and I gladly extend it to the many faithful who are with us this evening here in St Peter's Square or have joined us by radio and television.
As we gathered in Rome for the Jubilee of Bishops, the First Saturday of the month of October could only prompt us to pray together at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, whom the People of God venerate this day with the title Queen of the Holy Rosary.
In particular, our prayer this evening takes place in the light of the "message of Fátima", whose content helps us to reflect on the history of the 20th century. To reinforce this spiritual perspective, we are fortunate to have in our midst the revered image of Our Lady of Fátima, which I have the joy of welcoming back to the Vatican, in this solemn setting, with my Brothers in the Episcopate and with so many priests, religious and faithful who have gathered this evening in this square.
2. We have meditated on the "glorious mysteries". From heaven where the Lord has taken her, Mary ceaselessly directs our gaze to the glory of the Risen Christ, in whom the victory of God and of his loving plan over evil and death is revealed. As Bishops, who share in Christ's sufferings and glory (cf. 1P 5,1), we are the first witnesses to this victory, the basis of sure hope for every individual and for the whole human race.
Jesus Christ, the Risen One, has sent us into the whole world to proclaim his Gospel of salvation, and in the course of 20 centuries the message has spread from Jerusalem to the five continents. This evening our prayer has spiritually united the human family around Mary, Regina Mundi.
3. In the context of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, we wanted to express the Church's gratitude for the motherly care that Mary has always shown to her children on their pilgrimage through time. There is no century or people in which she has not made her presence felt, bringing light, hope and comfort to the faithful, especially the lowly and the poor.
Trusting in her motherly care, at the end of our Eucharistic concelebration tomorrow we will collegially make our "Act of Entrustment" to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This evening, while meditating on the glorious mysteries of the Holy Rosary, we prepared inwardly for this act, taking the attitude of the Apostles in the Upper Room, gathered with Mary in unanimous and united prayer.
For each of you, dear Brothers, and for your ministry I have invoked and am invoking the special intercession of the Mother of the Church. May she always assist you in the difficult yet exhilarating task of bringing the Gospel to every part of the world, so that every human being, beginning with the lowliest and the poorest, will receive the Good News of Christ the Saviour.
Sunday 8 October 2000
1. "Woman, behold your Son!" (Jn 19,26).
As we near the end of this Jubilee Year,
when you, O Mother, have offered us Jesus anew,
the blessed fruit of your womb most pure,
the Word made flesh, the world’s Redeemer,
we hear more clearly the sweet echo of his words
entrusting us to you, making you our Mother:
"Woman, behold your Son!"
When he entrusted to you the Apostle John,
and with him the children of the Church and all people,
Christ did not diminish but affirmed anew
the role which is his alone as the Saviour of the world.
You are the splendour which in no way dims the light of Christ,
for you exist in him and through him.
Everything in you is fiat: you are the Immaculate One,
through you there shines the fullness of grace.
Here, then, are your children, gathered before you
at the dawn of the new millennium.
The Church today, through the voice of the Successor of Peter,
in union with so many Pastors assembled here
from every corner of the world,
seeks refuge in your motherly protection
and trustingly begs your intercession
as she faces the challenges which lie hidden in the future.
2. In this year of grace, countless people have known
the overflowing joy of the mercy
which the Father has given us in Christ.
In the particular Churches throughout the world,
and still more in this centre of Christianity,
the widest array of people have accepted this gift.
Here the enthusiasm of the young rang out,
here the sick have lifted up their prayer.
Here have gathered priests and religious,
artists and journalists,
workers and people of learning,
children and adults,
and all have acknowledged in your beloved Son
the Word of God made flesh in your womb.
O Mother, intercede for us,
that the fruits of this Year will not be lost
and that the seeds of grace will grow
to the full measure of the holiness
to which we are all called.
3. Today we wish to entrust to you the future that awaits us,
and we ask you to be with us on our way.
We are the men and women of an extraordinary time,
exhilarating yet full of contradictions.
Humanity now has instruments of unprecedented power:
we can turn this world into a garden,
or reduce it to a pile of rubble.
We have devised the astounding capacity
to intervene in the very well-springs of life:
man can use this power for good, within the bounds of the moral law,
or he can succumb to the short-sighted pride
of a science which accepts no limits,
but tramples on the respect due to every human being.
Today as never before in the past,
humanity stands at a crossroads.
And once again, O Virgin Most Holy,
salvation lies fully and uniquely in Jesus, your Son.
4. Therefore, O Mother, like the Apostle John,
we wish to take you into our home (cf. Jn Jn 19,27),
that we may learn from you to become like your Son.
"Woman, behold your son!"
Here we stand before you
to entrust to your maternal care
ourselves, the Church, the entire world.
Plead for us with your beloved Son
that he may give us in abundance the Holy Spirit,
the Spirit of truth which is the fountain of life.
Receive the Spirit for us and with us,
as happened in the first community gathered round you
in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts Ac 1,14).
May the Spirit open our hearts to justice and love,
and guide people and nations to mutual understanding
and a firm desire for peace.
We entrust to you all people, beginning with the weakest:
the babies yet unborn,
and those born into poverty and suffering,
the young in search of meaning,
and those suffering hunger and disease.
We entrust to you all troubled families,
the elderly with no one to help them,
and all who are alone and without hope.
5. O Mother, you know the sufferings
and hopes of the Church and the world:
come to the aid of your children in the daily trials
which life brings to each one,
and grant that, thanks to the efforts of all,
the darkness will not prevail over the light.
To you, Dawn of Salvation, we commit
our journey through the new Millennium,
so that with you as guide
all people may know Christ,
the light of the world and its only Saviour,
who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
1. I wish to extend a cordial welcome to each one of you, dear Hungarian pilgrims. With fraternal affection I greet Cardinal László Paskai and Archbishop István Seregély, President of the Hungarian Episcopal Conference, whom I thank for the noble words that he wished to address to me on behalf of those present and of the entire Church in Hungary. With them I greet my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, who are leading you in this special experience of faith and grace.
My respectful greeting also goes to Ambassador Pál Tar, whose presence offers yet another proof of the positive collaboration between the Catholic Church and the State authorities in your country after the difficult years of communist dictatorship.
Thank you for this visit, which renews and strengthens the ancient fidelity of the Magyar people to the See of Peter! Thank you for the affection that you show me again on this occasion!
2. Your national pilgrimage began in front of the Sacristy of the Vatican Basilica with the blessing of a plaque. It recalls the place where the first house for Hungarian pilgrims was located, a house founded 1,000 years ago by King St Stephen, who wanted it to be near the tomb of the Apostle St Peter precisely because he wished the Hungarian pilgrims, on coming to Rome, to renew their fidelity and love for Peter. This solemn act fittingly links the two extraordinary events you are celebrating in the year 2000: the Great Jubilee of Christianity and the Millennium of Hungary, which are also the special reasons for this pilgrimage.
You came in a large group to the Eternal City to visit the tombs of the Apostles and to confirm your faith at your meeting with Peter's Successor. Your presence in such great numbers attests to the Magyar people's constant loyalty to the Holy See, which began with Pope Sylvester II giving a crown to King St Stephen and represents a fundamental element of your history and culture.
As I recalled in the Message which I sent to you on the occasion of the celebration of the Magyar Millennium, your "history begins with a holy king, rather, with a "holy family'.... This seed would sprout and bring forth a host of noble figures who would distinguish Pannonia Sacra"; over the centuries it would become "Christianity's bulwark against the invasion of the Tartars and Turks" (Message of John Paul II to the Hungarian People, 20 August 2000, n. 1).
These events left deep marks in your culture, which are expressed in some everyday practices such as the pealing of bells at midday which, since the victory over the Islamic Turks, invites Hungarian Christians to interrupt their work to spend a few moments in prayer. The special relationship binding your people to the See of Peter finds a significant expression in the Hungarian Chapel of the Vatican Grottoes, which I myself had the joy of blessing 20 years ago on the feast of the Magna Domina Hungarorum, to whom you also wished to entrust your Jubilee pilgrimage.
3. The solemn celebrations of the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation and of the Hungarian Millennium urge you to give thanks to the Lord for the wonders he has worked among your people. They also represent a valuable opportunity for conversion and for commitment to building a future that is worthy of your faith and of your glorious past, and finds one of its essential elements in the family.
Today this basic institution of human society is undergoing a difficult crisis, which seems to demonstrate a disregard for fundamental human and Christian values, essential factors for the civil and moral progress of mankind. However it also reveals the profound changes taking place in society, which can be the sign of a new beginning. It is important therefore that Christians view this crisis with confidence and hope. For the complex problems affecting the family institution must prompt believers to rediscover and live the values of marriage and the family as they are proposed by the Church, in order to give a new impetus to building the civilization of love. In this regard, I wish to repeat the invitation that I addressed to you on the occasion of the celebration of your Millennium: "Be conscious of the centrality of the family for a well-ordered and flourishing society.
Promote wise programmes, therefore, to protect its soundness and integrity. Only a nation that can count on stable, healthy families can survive and write a great history, as you did in the past" (ibid, n. 4).
This special care for the family will lead you to promote the culture of life at every level. This culture demands the defence of the human person from conception until death, support for the value of fatherhood and motherhood, as well as recognition of the role played by women in domestic work and in the education of children.
4. The solemn celebrations of the Hungarian Millennium coincided with the 15th World Youth Day, which saw an extraordinary participation of young people from all over the world. A considerable number of young Hungarians also attended that gathering. They wished to share their faith and their search for Christ, the One who gives meaning to life, with their contemporaries.
May the witness of these young people, their enthusiasm and their joyful faith be a sign of hope for everyone, instilling courage and urging us not to be afraid of the future.
May their presence in your churches also open a horizon full of promise for your homeland and be the harbinger of a better future.
5. Dear Hungarian pilgrims, I hope that, strengthened by the grace of the Jubilee, you can build in your nation a more just and fraternal society, worthy of your faith and of your deep Christian roots.
With these wishes, as I entrust you to the maternal protection of the Magna Domina Hungarorum, as St Stephen once did, I impart to each of you and to the beloved Hungarian people a special Apostolic Blessing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I cordially greet you on the occasion of the pilgrimage of the Pro Petri Sede Association. In this Jubilee Year you are continuing your tradition of coming to bring the Holy Father the donation of generous benefactors in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, thus uniting the charity of the universal Church more closely with that of Peter's Successor.
The Jubilee is an invitation to conversion of heart, in order to return to God and to experience deeply the love of our heavenly Father, who welcomes us and wants to make us a holy people. We are called to radiate this love we receive from the Lord to those around us, thus bearing witness to our faith, which is an eloquent sign in the eyes of the world.
From this standpoint, your action is particularly important and necessary in showing God's mercy; it stems from "charity, which opens our eyes to the needs of those who are poor and excluded" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 12) and spurs us to live as brothers and sisters, beyond differences of race, culture and religion. Your action belongs in this context. I am sure that your association's generous benefactors know that by this gesture they are extending a hand to the poorest of the poor so that they can get back on their feet, live in dignity as befits their nature and take greater charge each day of their own development, so that brotherhood and solidarity will continue to grow among all people. Sharing is also an important task in furthering justice and peace.
I ask you then to express my deep thanks and gratitude to all the members of the Pro Petri Sede Association and to the faithful of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands who, by welcoming the poor and the stranger, are living the Gospel ideal of spiritual and material sharing. As I entrust them to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom we particularly honour in this month of the Rosary, I cordially grant my Apostolic Blessing to all.
Thursday, 12 October 2000
1. I am particularly pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to the Holy See.
I appreciate the respectful words you just spoke to me, Mr Ambassador, as you recalled a post you previously held in Rome at your embassy to Italy. I thank you for the messages you have conveyed to me from His Excellency the Governor General and the Prime Minister; I would be grateful if you would express my gratitude in return and my cordial wishes for their mission at the service of their fellow citizens. Permit me to recall here Mr Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who has just died. He served his country for many years and I would like to pay homage to his memory.
2. As you have just mentioned, I wanted the next World Youth Day to take place in Toronto, thereby offering to all the young people of the world, especially to those of the vast American continent, the opportunity for a new experience of faith and ecclesial encounter. I would like to thank the Canadian authorities and the local Church for the support they have given this proposal and for the warm reception of this invitation, a welcome that is part of your country's tradition and culture. The recent World Youth Day celebrated in Rome during this Jubilee Year, which you have just recalled in particularly touching words, is a pressing invitation to the Church and to national communities at all levels of society. Last August, in fact, today's young people expressed, more strongly than at the previous meetings, their desire to lead a good and happy life by turning to God and serving their neighbour.
This reminds us of the attention we must pay to youth, to their intellectual and professional formation and, more generally, to their human, moral and spiritual education. It is especially important to teach them the value of life, of all life, from conception to its natural end, for life is God's gift and we are not its masters. Many technical procedures lead a large number of our contemporaries to think that what is scientifically feasible is also morally acceptable, especially regarding the techniques of human reproduction. Science, which is a valuable help, can never be the sole criterion of moral discernment merely because it opens up new possibilities, the power of man over man, and, in a certain way, a mastery of living things.
You also know the Holy See's concern and the Church's commitment in your country to pass on to young people the principles they need to lead a personal and social life based on essential values. It is important that a country's educational community as a whole be mobilized so that not only is knowledge transmitted to future generations through teaching and witness of life, but also appropriate behaviour and the values that make it possible to recognize the deep meaning of all life, as well as the principles needed for discernment, decision-making and concrete human action. In particular, it is essential to give individuals, young people and adults, the ability to judge the value of their decisions and personal actions, for they must take responsibility for them before those who may ask them to account for them in public life.
3. In this spirit, all the authorities concerned must aid and support the institutions and people involved in the educational system, while offering parents the possibility and means to choose places where they can have their children educated in a way that corresponds to what they are seeking; no one, in fact, can replace parental responsibility in this area, and the national community can only act in a subsidiary way. Consequently, this conjugal and family institution, as the basic cell and essential structure of society which no other structure can replace or enjoy an equal footing with, must be given a privileged place in political and economic decisions. Parents, father and mother, who are the first teachers of their children, fulfil a very important mission in their regard. It is they who are responsible for their spiritual, moral and civic education; to fulfil it properly, they must be fully recognized, supported and backed by their leaders. In the same way, religious groups, recognized by the legitimate authority, must be able to make their contribution to the educational system, in order to instil fundamental values and religious principles in young people whose parents so wish, while respecting freedom of conscience.
4. Canada is a large country and is made up of many different human groups which contribute to the nation's richness. It is important that all the cultures, some of which are among the oldest on the continent, be fully recognized and be able to play an active part in social life, with respect for their specific qualities and a natural concern for fairness and fraternal solidarity. Indeed, to respect these cultures, whose members are called to act in harmonious accord, is to further the development of individuals, understanding among all the country's constituents, social cohesion and the integration of the nation's vital forces so that everyone can work for the common good and the building of society. In particular, constant attention is required for all those in society who are becoming poorer and poorer and are excluded from the economic networks. In this same perspective, your compatriots are called to show ever greater care in welcoming foreigners; I encourage them to work so that every person without home or land may, with the help of others, regain his full dignity and lead a life that corresponds to this dignity. Concern for immigrants, especially those who come from the poorest countries or regions where conflicts are occurring, is a requirement of national and international life. No one can leave his neighbour without help or a place to settle, so that he can eat, be clothed and educated, live on his land and have all he needs to lead a decent life.
5. From this standpoint, the year of the Great Jubilee is also a particularly fitting occasion for Christians and all people of good will to increase their solidarity with their brethren in the poorest countries; through significant efforts to reduce the international debt, wealthier States should also support the public life of these countries by sending them qualified people who can contribute their help, for a limited time and with profound pedagogical concern, to a better organization and sounder administration of political, economic and social life, while respecting the specific features of the nations concerned. I also appreciate your country's commitment to peace and the fight against anti-personnel landmines; these still claim too many victims throughout the world, especially among children, who will always remain physically marked by the irresponsible decisions of warring countries to attack indirectly the defenceless civilian populations. In this Jubilee Year, when Christ invites us to be more and more responsible for one another, I once again appeal to the international community to do its utmost, wherever it may be necessary, to remove these fearful weapons as soon as possible from the areas where they are buried and to put a total halt to their manufacture.
Human beings are the world's greatest wealth, and to attack even one of them threatens all humanity.
6. Your presence at the Vatican gives me an opportunity to extend a cordial greeting to the Bishops and to all the Catholic faithful of Canada. I encourage them to live their Christian life faithfully with their pastors. In this way they will find the strength to bear renewed witness among their compatriots, by their words, their actions, their faith and the Gospel values by which they live. You know, Mr Ambassador, of the Church's long experience, especially in the areas of education, the family, health and charitable activity. In Canada, as throughout the American continent, the faithful work continually with their brethren, and the Catholic Church intends to participate fully in national life, in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation with all people of good will and in her own specific role.
As you begin your mission as Canada's representative to the Apostolic See, I offer you my best wishes. I can assure you that those who work with me will always give you a warm welcome and the attentive understanding you may need to fulfil the mission entrusted to you.
Through you, Mr Ambassador, I cordially greet His Excellency the Governor General, the Prime Minister, all the authorities and the entire Canadian people, as I extend my best wishes for happiness and prosperity to everyone.
I ask God to grant his blessings to you and your loved ones, to the embassy staff and to all your compatriots.