Speeches 2001 - Thursday, 17 May 2001


Thursday 17 May 2001

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,3). It is special for me to greet you with these words of the Apostle Paul. I greet and thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini, your President, for his address to me and in particular for the birthday wishes, together with the other Italian Cardinals, the Vice-Presidents and the new General Secretary.

On this happy occasion of your general Assembly, I wish to express to you, and through you to the entire Italian Ecclesial Community, my sincere gratitude for the exceptional contribution you made to the successful outcome of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which was an extraordinary season of grace for the whole Church. I especially intend to thank you for the generous efforts for the 15th World Youth Day: more than two million young people, of whom a large number were Italian, came to Rome in those unforgettable days, a testimony of how lively the faith is and of how deeply ecclesial belonging is felt among the new generations. The young people from other nations, they too arriving in huge numbers, experienced the capacity of the Italian Dioceses for hospitality nourished by love.

2. The central themes of your Assembly are the pastoral directives which you plan to offer the Church in Italy for the decade just begun. You have very opportunely linked these directives closely and organically to the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, which I signed at the end of the Holy Year. In it I indicated the fundamental and essential points of reference for the life and pastoral ministry of the Church, impelling the faithful to fix their gaze on the face of Christ. From this contemplation it is possible to draw a renewed enthusiasm in following the Teacher and the inspiring energy for that far-reaching work of evangelization and inculturation of the faith, necessary and urgent in a world marked by radical challenges and profound changes.

Brothers in the Episcopate, I thank God with you for the spiritual and pastoral dynamism that characterizes the Church in Italy, for the witness of fidelity and apostolic zeal offered by priests, who are so close to the individuals and families entrusted to their pastoral care, for the generosity with which many men and women religious live their specific vocation in contemplation, in evangelization, in education, in service to the sick and the marginalized. And how can we forget those Christian lay people, often gathered in associations and movements, who are developing a growing awareness of their baptismal vocation, taking on their own share of responsibility for the edification of the Church? With constant effort they strive to give life to authentic Christian families and to offer a convincing witness at work and pursuing studies, in social, economic and political activities.

However, the tendency to live "as if God did not exist" is widespread also in Italy, and is often emphasized and disseminated by the media, with serious risks for personal and collective moral formation. It is part of the Pastor's mission to teach right doctrine clearly in matters of faith and morals and to sustain and encourage all those initiatives which can be held out as a valid alternative to these tendencies. You know, Brothers in the Episcopate, that the Pope is at your side in the witness you bear to the truth and to the love of Christ. He is at your side in your efforts to foster and spread a Christian-inspired culture and lifestyle, also through the mass media.

3. The Pope shares with you an affectionate concern for the common good of this beloved nation that, after having passed through a decade of strong contrasts and changes, needs stability and concord to be able to express its great potential in the best way.

A crucial factor for the present and future destiny of Italy is without a doubt the family: on it, then, your attention is rightly fixed, as is also apparent from the important National Meeting of Families which you have scheduled for 20-21 October. If God so wills, I shall be delighted to participate in it. It is necessary to expand the pastoral care of families, not limiting it to the period of marriage preparation or the care of some specific group. It is indispensable that families themselves play the lead more and more in evangelization and social life, so that their genuine features are preserved and their role adequately recognized. I therefore renew the request for the protection of family rights based on matrimony, without confusing them with other forms of cohabitation. I sincerely hope that a coherent policy for families will be realized, which can sustain them in their essential duties, starting from procreation and the education of children.

The commitment to the family is inseparable from the commitment to protecting human life, from conception to its natural end. Today, with the development of biotechnology, the frontiers are widening, which requires our watchful presence and courageous proposals for the truth about man. Brothers in the Episcopate, the accusations made to us today of defending positions already outdated are destined, sooner or later, to give way to the recognition that the Church has known how to look ahead and discern, in the light of Christ's Gospel, what is indispensable to true human progress.

4. In turn, the education of the new generations is our fundamental pastoral concern. Our parishes, meeting halls and associations render a valuable service in this respect, which should be supported and increased. Moreover, the task of schools is crucial. May the Church offer the most convinced collaboration, also through praiseworthy religion teachers, for the improvement of the entire Italian scholastic system. May she renew a strong appeal so that effective scholastic parity will at last be achieved, overcoming old concepts of State control in order to go forward in the light of the principle of subsidiarity and of appreciation, also in the scholastic context, of the multiple resources of civil society.

Then it is impossible to build the common good without an outlook of concrete solidarity, primarily expressed in developing new job possibilities, especially in those geographical areas, mostly in the South, that are still heavily afflicted by the evil of unemployment. Faced with ever more acute situations of poverty, which involve many families who were previously able to lead a normal life, our ecclesial communities are called to be directly involved, while pressing for more diligent and concrete attention from public institutions. This applies in particular to that difficult but dutiful work of welcoming immigrants, for which many outstanding testimonies are offered by Christian volunteer organizations.

5. Brothers in the Episcopate, while the construction of the "common house" of European peoples continues, even among various difficulties, I ask you and your Churches to be present in this undertaking of historic importance, with those riches of faith and culture that are proper to the Italian people. Thus, as is written in the Declaration that I published jointly with the Orthodox Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, "the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be preserved inviolate", without giving in to the tendency "to transform certain European countries into secular states without any reference to religion". In effect, this is a "retraction and a denial of their spiritual legacy".

I thank you, moreover, for your constant generosity to the poorest countries and to those where the Church has suffered persistent persecution. In particular, I deeply appreciated the initiative you took to reduce the foreign debt of some nations, thus favouring enlightened decisions on the part of the Italian State.

Brothers, I assure you of my daily prayer for you and for the communities entrusted to your pastoral service. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, may they be strengthened in faith and grow in communion and in the courage of the mission. As a sign of my affection, that the Lord may grant you these gifts, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the Italian people.





Friday, 18 May 2001

Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great pleasure to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Nepal to the Holy See. I am grateful to His Majesty for the greetings which you have conveyed in his name, and I reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace of your country and the well-being of your fellow-citizens.

Your Excellency has referred to the Holy See’s efforts in the field of international relations to build a world based on the culture of peace, fraternity and religious values. The Holy See’s activities in this area are motivated by the particular nature of its religious and humanitarian mission, which underlies its concern for the integral good of every human being. The new Millennium is an invitation to peoples everywhere to look to the future with hope and to cooperate in building a world in which all the members of the human race can occupy their rightful place and live in peace and harmony.

The challenges facing the international community in this regard are immense. Unspeakable suffering has been caused by the tragic sequence of wars, conflicts and instances of genocide which have affected various parts of the world, even in the recent past. Yet these tragedies should not discourage people from working to overcome the factors which produce them: the desire to dominate and exploit others, ideologies of power, exaggerated nationalism and ethnic hatreds. The cause of peace, today as always, should be at the very heart of our efforts to improve the lot of humanity and guarantee a better future for the coming generations.

Peace is possible, but only "to the extent that humanity as a whole rediscovers its fundamental calling to be one family, a family in which the dignity and rights of individuals – whatever their status, race or religion – are accepted as prior and superior to any kind of difference or distinction" (Message for the Celebration of World Day of Peace 2000, No. 1). A shared conviction that humanity is a single family should lead to a greater acceptance of legitimate political and cultural differences, and produce a united will to work for respect and reconciliation between groups wherever relations have been marred by hostility and conflict. It is not merely the absence of war which ensures true peace; peace calls for fairness, truth, justice and solidarity. A greater sense of fraternity among the world’s peoples, which finds concrete expression in gestures of solidarity and commitment to authentic human development, is necessary in order to overcome excessive economic and social inequalities and the corrosive effects of distrust and pride.

Fortunately, the conviction is being ever more widely accepted that an essential condition for peace is respect for the dignity of the human person and for human rights. Only when the unique value and the rights of the person are recognized, safeguarded and promoted is the social fabric truly strengthened, the priorities of individuals and nations properly ordered, and the quality of international relations improved. Human rights are inscribed in the very nature of the person and reflect the objective and inviolable demands of a universal moral law. They are not conferred by society or the State. They precede laws and agreements, while determining their value and correctness. The future of the human family requires a common acceptance of the universality and objectivity of human dignity and rights, if the world’s peoples are to have the possibility of engaging in meaningful dialogue for the genuine good of all. From this there follows the duty incumbent on the State to defend the moral and spiritual dimensions of life, without which human beings can neither reach fulfilment nor build a society which respects their transcendent nature.

Recognition of the spiritual and transcendent dimension of human life and of the right to religious freedom is at the very heart of the structure of human rights. Due attention to that aspect leads to greater awareness of the inalienable worth of the human person, greater openness to others, a more just and humane society, and a wiser and more responsible use of resources for the common good. Your own country, with its ancient spiritual traditions and religious patrimony, is blessed with a wisdom capable of offering insights and inspiration for a balanced development, respectful of the common good of all its citizens.

In this regard, the Catholic community in Nepal, though small in numbers, is happy to play its part, through its spiritual mission and its work in the areas of education, health care and social assistance. Its members seek no special privileges, but only the guaranteed freedom to follow the dictates of conscience and freedom to practise their religion openly and peacefully in a spirit of respect for the followers of other spiritual traditions.

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that during the term of your mission the friendship and understanding which have characterized relations between the Kingdom of Nepal and the Holy See will continue to grow, and I assure you of the full cooperation of the various offices of the Roman Curia. Upon yourself and your country I invoke abundant divine blessings.





Friday, 18 May 2001

Madam Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Tunisian Republic to the Holy See.

I thank you for your courteous words, and I would be grateful if you could convey to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali my cordial wishes for himself and his compatriots. As I remember the warm welcome I received during my visit to Tunis, I ask the Most High to grant all Tunisians to continue their efforts with a view to building a supportive and fraternal nation where each person can find a fitting response to his proper aspirations and live in justice and peace.

2. In your address, you emphasized Tunisia's attachment to freedom of conscience and the free practice of all religions. The Tunisian peoples' generous tradition of hospitality and the respect they offer their guests are indeed well known and honour the whole nation. I am delighted with the part your country has played for many years in establishing a sincere dialogue between the cultures and religions. This commitment is an important contribution to building ever stronger relations between the human and religious communities. In fact, just as I wrote in my Message for the World Day of Peace of 1 January 2001, "Dialogue leads to a recognition of diversity and opens the mind to the mutual acceptance and genuine collaboration demanded by the human family's basic vocation to unity" (n. 10). If this dialogue is to continue and to develop in the truth, it is indispensable that the States guarantee to all their citizens and all who live in their territories full religious freedom, thereby respecting the conscience of each individual who must be able to choose freely and responsibly with regard to religious matters, safeguarding the common good.

3. As you know, the respect and dignity of the person in all life's contexts is an essential principle of the Catholic Church that must guide those responsible for public life. Furthermore experience shows that ignorance of the transcendent value and fundamental rights of the human person can only lead to violence and instability.

If it is to become a constitutive and constant element of social life, respect for the person must be inculcated from the earliest age through education to which everyone, boys and girls, must have equal access. I am pleased to know that in Tunisia a considerable effort is made to give all young people access to knowledge. It is necessary, in fact, to help each one to fulfil his personal, human and spiritual capacity. However, education must also open spirits to solidarity and mutual respect between individual persons and between human and religious communities, for the promotion of the individual must go hand in hand with the service of the common good. In this way there will develop a renewed awareness of human dignity and the inalienable character of the fundamental rights of every person. From that moment, every citizen must be able to exercise the rights inherent in his human dignity and freely contribute to the social and political life of the national community, enabling each to put his skills at the service of society.

4. The current situation in these past weeks, especially in the Holy Land, shows the need to work with ever more daring to promote peoples' right to live in peace and safety. I would like to say once again that violence cannot solve the problems of coexistence among peoples; it can only make their solution even more difficult. The search for justice in mutual trust and in conformity with the international laws alone can help lead humanity on paths of true peace, where the rights of each people to life and development are respected. I encourage the efforts your country has made in harmony with the international community to break new ground in the quest for peace and solidarity among nations everywhere in the world, but particularly in the Middle-East.

5. Through you, Madam Ambassador, I would like to extend a cordial greeting to the Bishop of Tunis and to the entire Catholic community of your country. I know their attachment to Tunisia, their esteem for its culture and their desire to continue a sincere and fraternal dialogue with the believers of Islam. At the beginning of this new millennium, I take this opportunity to invite Catholics to grow constantly in their faith, in deep communion with one another and with the whole Church, so that through their witness of life at the service of God and their brethren they may be daring artisans of peace and brotherhood, respected by all.

6. As you begin your mission, I offer you my cordial wishes for the noble task that awaits you. Be assured, Madam Ambassador, that you will find here with my co-workers, the attentive and understanding welcome you may need.

I cordially invoke an abundance of the Almighty's Blessings upon you, your family, and the people and leaders of the Tunisian nation.





Friday, 18 May 2001

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to receive the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to the Holy See. I thank you for your gracious words and for the greetings which you bring from President Lennart Meri, and I ask you to convey to His Excellency, to the Government and to the people of Estonia my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the nation.

I have cherished memories of my visit to your land in 1993. In welcoming you today, I would like to return to themes which I addressed in Tallinn and which have become still more pertinent in the meantime. It is clear, as you have said, that both Estonia and Europe as a whole have come to an important point of their history. The future will greatly depend upon the effective construction of a culture of human rights which embraces individuals, families and peoples, since each of these is a vital element in the structure of human well-being and freedom, such that if any one of them is disregarded the whole suffers.

In the first place, the rights of individuals must be recognized and protected, for unless the fundamental rights of every person, from the greatest to the least, from the strongest to the weakest, are accepted as transcendent and inviolable, prosperity will be illusory and the foundations of society unsound. To claim that these rights are transcendent is to say that they have their source in God, in whose image the human person is created, and are not conceded as a privilege by any human authority. Therefore, the function of human authority is to provide whatever protection is needed to ensure that this truth is respected.

Yet individual rights, if left in a vacuum, degenerate into a false culture of freedom set against the common good, and this cannot be the way forward for society. Individual rights must serve the common good, and vice versa. This means that the next step in shaping a culture of human freedom is unconditional respect for the rights of the family.

Very rightly, Mr Ambassador, you have asked how we should educate the young in order to inculcate in them a sense of "life's real and eternal values" and awaken in them "a new understanding of charity". The question is vital, and the answer is not simple. But it is clear that the prime hearth of that education must be the family, which is why I have written that "the future of humanity passes by way of the family" (Familiaris Consortio, FC 86). The task of rebuilding the moral and spiritual fabric of society now appears more complex than it did ten years ago. Economic reconstruction remains important of course, but unless it is accompanied by a rebuilding of the values which ensure sound family life, new forms of materialism will inevitably follow. If Estonia can work effectively for an economic development which goes hand in hand with promotion of the family, then it will grow in the moral stature essential for the well-being of its own citizens and for the building of a better Europe and a better world.

The culture of rights which must ground development embraces not only individuals and families, but also peoples. The health of the international community is evident in the way it respects the rights of less powerful peoples and smaller nations. Throughout your history, the rights of the Estonian people have often been disregarded. Happily, these rights have been reclaimed in more recent times, so that once again Estonia stands in the community of peoples as an independent nation, with a distinctive culture which is an enrichment for all. As you have said, Estonia can now "view the world in broader terms", no longer constrained by the desperate struggle to survive, but looking to give and receive within a community of nations in which the rights of all peoples are recognized and protected.

In speaking to the world of culture in Tallinn on 10 September 1993, I stressed the need for freedom to be linked to solidarity, and national identity to a culture of dialogue. What needs to be recognized is that the true and rightful identity of a people is perfectly compatible with an openness, in which differences are accepted as a source of mutual enrichment, and in which tensions are resolved not through conflict but by negotiation based upon mutual respect and concern for the truth of the issues involved.Given recent developments in your country, which, as you say, has sought "to establish firm and fair democratic structures", there is every reason to hope that the future of Estonia will be bright. That is my prayer for the nation, and I assure you that the Catholic Church in your land, though small in numbers, will continue to help build a future worthy of the noble Estonian people.

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your commitment to the diplomatic task which you begin today will help to strengthen the bonds of understanding and cooperation between Estonia and the Holy See. I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. With every good wish for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon you, your family and the people of your beloved land.





Friday, 18 May 2001

Mr Ambassador,

As you come to the Vatican to present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zambia to the Holy See I am pleased to offer you a cordial welcome. The greetings which you bring from your President, Dr Frederick J. Chiluba, are much appreciated, and I would ask you kindly to convey to him the assurance of my prayers for the well-being and prosperity of the nation.

In response to your remark that no efforts should be spared in the quest for peace, I wish to express my satisfaction at your country’s willing involvement in the pursuit of peace, an activity which you undertake not for yourselves alone but also for your neighbours and the international community at large. Zambia’s endeavours in this regard are indeed worthy of praise, and a particular word of commendation should be addressed to President Chiluba for his personal role in the continuing negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Lusaka Protocol has laid the foundation for a much hoped-for breakthrough in the peace process. In all of this, your nation’s commitment to the cause of peace is an eloquent example of concern and action which are a distinguishing mark of a truly civilized and human society.

It is true, as you have observed, that the active involvement and support of the international community is a necessary component of any peace initiative, if it is to meet with success. In fact, lasting peace — whether at national, regional or global levels — will never be achieved unless world leaders recognize that the interdependence by which all nations are linked demands the renunciation of all forms of economic, military or political coercion and the transformation of suspicion and enmity into cooperation and trust. In other words, what we are talking about here is an authentic solidarity between individuals, peoples and nations.

This concept of solidarity means that no one — especially nations and international organizations — can remain indifferent or inactive in the face of violence and war, torture and terrorism, the arms race and all that compromises peace. Rather it calls upon all who truly seek peace, and in a particular way those who serve in specific institutions, to work together to promote an extensive programme of education aimed at overcoming attitudes of egoism and hostility, bringing about in its stead a true culture of peace and solidarity.

In speaking of your country’s commitment to work for the cause of peace, you have also recognized the Holy See’s efforts in this same area. Indeed, it is precisely the task of fostering understanding and advancing development and peace among peoples and nations which inspires the Holy See’s diplomatic activity. The Church, to be sure, has been entrusted by her Divine Founder with a religious and humanitarian mission, different in nature from that of the political community, but open nonetheless to many forms of cooperation and mutual support. In accordance with this mission, the presence of the Holy See in the international community is directed solely to seeking the good of the human family: working for the cause of peace, for the defence of human dignity and human rights, for the integral development of peoples; in a word, working always and everywhere to promote that solidarity which joins peoples in the bond of brotherhood. This is a task which derives necessarily and perennially from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is a responsibility shared by all Christians.

The Catholic Church will always be a willing partner in the continuing task of making this solidarity a reality in the worldwide family of man. She will likewise continue to make a specific contribution to the building up of Zambian society, and I am grateful for Your Excellency’s appreciative words about the role played by the Catholic Church in this regard. She considers her apostolate in the education of youth and adults, in the staffing of hospitals and clinics and the provision of health care for the poor, in the offering of programmes of social development and human promotion as essential elements of her religious mission. Of course, she wishes to carry out this work in harmony with others who are active in these same fields. Cooperation between Church and State and among all citizens regardless of religious confession is of great importance in advancing people’s intellectual and moral education. Thus they will be enabled to build a truly just and humane society, one that will eventually extend beyond national boundaries to embrace all peoples.

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your mission will serve to strengthen the ties of friendship and cooperation already existing between Zambia and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities I offer you my prayerful good wishes in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Zambia I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.





Friday, 18 May 2001

Mr Ambassador,

1. I welcome you with pleasure on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guinea to the Holy See.
I was touched by your kind words showing your country's attachment to spiritual values. Would you kindly convey my cordial good wishes to President Lansana Conté, for the accomplishment of his important office at the service of the nation. I warmly greet all the Guinean people, asking God to guide them and support them in their efforts to progress on the paths of human and spiritual development. May the Most High grant them all to live in peace and tranquillity!

2. As you have recalled, Mr Ambassador, for several months your country has been confronting serious problems of security on some of its frontiers and must generously welcome numerous refugees who are fleeing the episodes of violence in the neighbouring countries. In the face of all this suffering, it is urgently necessary that authentic peace be rapidly established in the region so that the peoples may at last return to their land and live there safely. If this is to happen, an awareness must develop everywhere that humanity is called by God to form one family. Creating harmonious relationships between individuals and human groups in each nation as well as among all nations must be a priority, especially for those whose mission is to govern peoples and keep the peace. I warmly hope that in Africa, a continent wounded by so many episodes of violence, everyone may be courageously committed to creating conditions of true reconciliation, to put an end to all the fratricidal wars once and for all.

3. However, as I have already had the opportunity to recall, "There is no true peace without fairness, truth, justice and solidarity. Failure awaits every plan which would separate two indivisible and interdependent rights: the right to peace and the right to an integral development born of solidarity" (cf Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2000, n. 13).

At the beginning of the new millennium our world continues to be marked by many contradictions, one of the most blatant of which is that of entire peoples grappling with living conditions that do not respect their dignity as persons, while the privileged profit greatly from the immense possibilities offered by economic, cultural and technological growth. Here I would like to renew my appeal for solidarity in favour of the most underprivileged countries, especially on the African continent.

Indeed, while many nations are confronted by the new problems posed by globalization, it is necessary to be creative, to rethink international cooperation and to succeed in establishing a real culture of solidarity. Thus, while fostering a sense of universal moral values, particularly by fighting all forms of corruption, it will be possible to contribute to the development of the less economically advanced countries and enable the greatest possible number to benefit from the results.

4. In your country, relations between Christians and Muslims are generally good and collaboration with a view to the common good is usual. It is right and necessary to affirm national unity. The different religious communities which make up the country should seek increasingly to make the most of what unites them, without denying what separates them, in order to improve the daily life they share. The consolidation of brotherly relations among all the citizens involves the requirement of a sound education for people, especially for the young generations, in accepting and respecting others. As I recently had the opportunity to affirm, "It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence" (Address at the Ummayyad Mosque, Damascus, 6 May 2001, n. 3).

5. On this happy occasion, Mr Ambassador, may I offer my warm greetings to the Bishops and Catholics of your country. I wholeheartedly encourage them in the following of Christ, so that the Great Jubilee, which they celebrated enthusiastically, may bear abundant fruit for the greatest good of their families and all society. May they continue in collaboration with their compatriots to work enthusiastically to build a society that is more and more fraternal and welcoming to all those who are suffering or in distress.

6. At the time when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See, I offer you my best wishes. Be assured that you will always find here with my co-workers an attentive welcome and cordial understanding.

I sincerely invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon Your Excellency, your family, the Guinean people and its leaders.

Speeches 2001 - Thursday, 17 May 2001